All posts by recgolfer

The Importance of Iron Play

1. There is a chapter in the book, The Search For the Perfect Golf Swing, titled, “Long Approach Shots — Where Tournaments are Won”.

By “long approach shots”, they meant shots between 130-220 yards. The indicator is proximity to the hole. The closer, the better, obviously.

There is another chapter on driving which concluded that length counts most, but I won’t go into that here.

2. My favorite Tiger Woods quote was when he said his irons were his offensive weapons. Yes, he made some putts, but they were putts his irons gave him the opportunity to make.

3. My favorite golf quote of all time comes from Percy Boomer’s book, On Learning Golf: “It is true that if you cannot putt, you cannot win, for no hole is won until the ball is down—but good scores are only made possible by good play up to the green.”

4. This article, which came out in Golf Digest today, explains why Collin Morikawa is so good. Big hint: it’s his iron play.

You’ve no doubt read the comment that his dispersion with a 6-iron is the same as the average Tour pro with a pitching wedge.

5. I was a decent iron player even at the time when I wasn’t all that good at anything else, and one thing that got me into single digits was becoming a very good iron player.

Any questions?

Professional Handicaps

Want to know how good PGA professionals really are? The chart below shows their handicaps from 2016 to 2000. They’re pretty low.

To put plus handicaps into perspective, it is said that there is a greater difference between a 3 and a +3 that there is between a 3 and an 18.

If a plus handicap is a new idea to you, it works like this, roughly. Take the course rating and subtract the handicap. So if your local course is rated 70.0, and a pro’s handicap is +8, their expected score would be 62.

That’s not exactly how it works, but that gives you the general idea.

The average index is +5.4. The best index achieved as Ricky Fowler’s +8.4.

It all works out to the fact that they’re playing a different game than we are.

(Click to enlarge)

A Single-Digit Golf Swing

Want to see what the golf swing of a single-digit player looks like? Go to this post, the video shot in 2010, and take a look at how I was swinging when I played at that level.

It’s nice-looking swing, simple, effective. It doesn’t hit great shots, but it hits good shots, one after the other.

I look at this video often to remind myself that I don’t have to have breathtaking technique to play good golf.

I look at this video often to remind myself that this is how I play golf.

This swing is my golfing personality. There is no need to mess with it.

This swing works. All I have to do is this and I can play good golf.

When you get into an extended spell of playing well, hopefully because you have gotten unstuck and are now playing at a new level, make a video of yourself swinging.

I guarantee you will come back to it sometime later to remind yourself of how simple it all was, and how simple it needs to be now.

The Natural Placement of Your Hands on the Golf Club

Golf instruction books speak of three orientations of the hands when taking a grip: strong (the Vs between your thumbs and forefingers point outside your trailing shoulder), neutral (the Vs point at your trailing shoulder), and weak (the Vs point at your chin).

These are grip categories, however. They should not be taken as actual ways to set your hands on the club. How you do that is an individual matter that should reflect the natural orientation of your forearms. *

Instructors often talk about the clubface getting out of alignment because the hands turned the clubhead, but they do no such thing because they can’t turn. It is the forearms that turn, carrying the hands with them. This is not a trivial distinction.

When the forearms start out in their natural position, they will stay there (unless you disturb them) and return the clubface to the ball square. If you address the ball with them out of position, they will return to their natural position during the first few feet of takeaway, very likely without your being aware of it. There goes your shot when it has just barely started.

Stand with your arms hanging naturally by your sides. Notice where the backs of your hands are facing. They must face the same way when you put your hands on the club, which in turn puts your forearms in their natural position.

In the pictures below, of an actual golfer (me), you can see that my hands hang differently. This is because my forearms are not built identically. So, when I take my grip, I need to have a strong left hand and a neutral-to-weak right hand.

If you have trouble with the clubface being either open all the time at impact, or closed, and have tried everything to fix it without success, consider that the only problem is with your grip. It’s not your grip.

Try this analysis and correction on your own and see if your shots don’t straighten out. The technique described in this earlier post provides extra insurance.

You might find as well that the swing feels kind of effortless because you are not forcing your arms to move in a way they don’t like.

* The only instruction book I have found that mentions this point is the chapter on the grip in Al Geiberger’s book, appropriately titled, Tempo.

Notes From a Round of Golf

To hit a good opening tee shot, look at your grip to be sure you have placed your hands on the club correctly. When you swing, make sure you apply good rhythm and tempo. Do just those two things and you should be O.K. Actually, do this before every swing for the first two holes while you’re getting settled in. Actually, do this all day.

Two hundred and sixty yards from the green? Put away the fairway wood. You’re going to take two shots to get there no matter what, so make them easy shots: two 8-irons, a 7 and a 9, etc. Unless you are really good with them, I don’t know why you would hit a fairway wood from the fairway anyway.

Do you have a five-foot putt that looks like it will run straight into the hole? Walk to about thirty feet away and look again. Now you can see that the green is a little higher on the right than it is on the left, and only from back there can you see it. A putt that looked straight really breaks left, and now you know.

You know how some of the pros take the club part way back and look at the clubface? They’re looking to see if the face turned out of square in their takeaway, which is easy to do. Checking yourself this way might be a good habit for you to adopt.

Take Your Course Game to the Range

Yesterday I went out to play nine holes. That might not sound like an earth-shaking statement, but because my immune system is compromised I haven’t played, except for a few rounds on an executive course, since February of last year.

I have been practicing all along, and can hit the ball pretty well, but that is different than playing. Which is the subject today’s post.

What I have been practicing are the mechanics the swinging the golf club, chiping, and putting. But I had not been practicing the act of making a golf shot. Those are two very different things.

When we complain that we can’t play like we practice, not understanding that difference, I believe, is the likely cause.

When we hit a shot on the golf course we have to pay attention to these things:
– Focus our mind what we are about to do
– Decide where we’re going to hit the ball to
– In many cases, decide how we’re going to hit it
– Decide which club we’re going to use
– Set up: grip, aim, stance, posture, ball position
– And finally, hit the shot.

Do you practice all of that at the range? Or just the last one, hitting one ball after another?

If practice is just ball-striking, we are not preparing ourselves to play the game.

Yesterday I hit five bad shots that turned a 40 into a 46. None of them were the fault of bad ball-striking. The fault was in not paying attention to the things that surround ball-striking, because I hadn’t practiced them enough.

I know how to do everything on that list. But I had not practiced doing those things enough, and in sequence, so they had become habits. I would forget to do one or two, or not do them correctly.

If you just want to go out and bat the ball around and have fun in a pleasant surrounding with your friends, go right ahead. There is value in that.

But if you want to shoot low scores, you need to practice in such a way that you make a habit of all of golf. Not just the hitting-the-ball part.

A Half Hour at the Range

(…or thereabouts)

I went to the range today, to work on hitting the ball on the center of the clubface. That’s not something you just do. You do a lot of things right and then you get that result.

So the two right things I made sure I did were to have my hands ahead of the clubface at impact, and swing with the right rhythm and tempo for me.

I bought a bucket of 33 balls. I had brought a 52-degree wedge and a 6-iron.

I started off with the wedge, hitting with a half swing. I made about four or five practice strokes before I hit a ball. After hitting three balls, I sat down to take a break. I figure that if you keep hitting ball after ball you fall into a groove and stop concentrating. Learning stops.

After having hit about fifteen balls, I picked up the 6-iron and went through the same thing—lots of practice swings, hands, rhythm and tempo. The first shot was fabulous, the second shot was awful because I got ahead of myself, so I reined in my mind and hit two more beauties.

That was enough so I gave the rest of the bucket to someone else. When you’ve accomplished was you set out to do, there is no point in going on.

Over to the practice green, where I was all alone as I usually am there. I hit four chips with the 52 to a target 9 yards away, which is the calibrated chipping distance for that club. Then I went out with my putter and putted them out.

Putting practice: one three-footer (dead center), one 30-footer using TAP (the ball stopped one foot past the hole), and it was time to call it a day.

It had been 117 degrees in Salem the day before, and even though it cooled down to 91 today, that’s till too hot for me.

—–

I’ve been coming up with some new things I have never seen before that are working out well, so I’ll be making videos to share them with you.

Weight Shift in the Golf Swing

From time to time you read about shifting your weight during the forward swing.

Stand up with your feet the same distance apart as in your stance. Now turn to your right, keeping your feet in the same place, and “shake hands” with someone standing at your right side, using your left hand. Your can lift your left foot so only the toe stays on the ground.

Now turn to the left and do the same thing with your right hand.

Did you notice that the first time your weight moved to your right foot and the second time your weight moved to your left foot, and that you didn’t deliberately shift your weight, but it just happened?

That’s all you need to know about weight shift.