Two days ago I suggested that you might find it rewarding to spend a year starting over and learning to hit the ball the right way instead of putting patches on your mistakes. Let me spend today’s post talking about what it means to hit the ball the right way. That means to hit the ball on the center of the clubface every time.
To get consistent results you have to hit the ball consistently. There are many variables you can put into your shotmaking, but there must be one constant that those variables play off of, and that constant is hitting the ball on the center of the clubface.
If you want a good short game, you don’t build it around a bagful of shots. You build it around a predictable response every time you hit the ball, and the only way to do that is to hit the ball off the same spot of the clubface every time. Then you can add on variables that make the ball do this or that, but you know that when the ball does something different it was because of the variable you added on, and not from missing the strike.
It pays to know how far you hit your irons, but if you hit the ball on different places on the clubface each time, you will never be able to take advantage of that knowledge to get the ball close to the pin.
We all know about putting, don’t we? Every piece you read on putting that goes into it in any depth stresses the importance of hitting the ball on the sweet spot. You might have the perfect stroke for a twenty-foot putt, but if you miss the sweet spot, the ball will only roll eighteen feet. And off line.
If you can hit the ball on the center of the clubface every time, you don’t have to practice very long to get your feel for a particular shot. Hitting the ball all over the face leaves you confused at the range and guessing on the course.
So if you want to take me up on the one-year program, spend it doing this. It is the end of the golf stroke. Swing mechanics are the means. To learn ball-striking with this end in mind, you will have to swing the club correctly, no matter what the shot is. You can’t hit the ball consistently on the middle of the clubface without doing a lot of other things right at the same time.
Start with your putter and see if what I just said isn’t true. By the time you have developed a stroke that lets you hit the ball on the sweet spot consistently, you will also have developed a stroke that returns the clubface square to the starting path and moving in line with it. It can’t happen any other way. Then transfer that awareness to the rest of your game, one shot at a time, one club at a time.
Let me end with a story about Ben Crenshaw. This is from the days when metal drivers were being introduced to replace wooden drivers. A rep approached Crenshaw with the pitch that the metal driver would make it a lot easier to hit the ball off the sweet spot. Crenshaw took the driver out of his bag, showed the rep a worn spot on the center of the clubface about the size of a dime, and said, “I don’t have any trouble hitting the sweet spot.”