Category Archives: Gold Post

How I Stopped Shanking Pitch Shots

For the longest time I would shank pitch shots. Not constantly, but occasionally, and I never knew when one would pop out.

I tried everything I could think of to fix it. Nothing worked. So I gave up and signed up for a lesson.

The pro said, “Let me see you hit a couple.” So I hit four or five 65-yard pitches as pretty as you please.

Then he said, “Hit them half that distance.”

I did, and sure enough, on the third try, the ball went shooting off low and to the right.

I turned to him said, “There it is!”

He said, “That wasn’t a shank.”

I said, “Then what was it?”

He said, “Your clubface was wide open.”

“You’re opening the clubface when you take the club back, and sometimes you don’t get it closed, so the clubface is still wide open when you make contact. The ball goes where the clubface points.”

So he taught me a radically a different pitching stroke that I’m not going to try to describe to you because this YouTube video with Lee Trevino shows you exactly the stroke the pro taught me.

If you shank pitches there’s a chance you are really doing the same thing I was doing and this is the cure.

Watch how Trevino doesn’t break his wrists when he takes the club back at 0:38. There is NO WRIST SET. The shaft and the left arm are in a straight line (3:27). That is the key.

This is a Steve Stricker video. Watch the whole video, it’s short, but pay attention at 1:10. No wrist set, as he says.

It is said that the long pitching stroke is a miniature swing. Not true. Not true at all. They are entirely different strokes and need to learned separately.

These are the key feelings I have identified after working on this shot for several months. The left arm (right arm, for you lefties) stays straight when you take it back. That arm feels like it is reaching out to the side, not swinging up in a circle.

The club feels like the shaft is sticking straight out to the side and the wrists have not broken at all. If you look, you will find neither of those things are true, but it will feel like they are.

Then you turn and swing the arms/hands/club assembly through the ball without changing any of these feelings I have described. Without changing the feelings. But do not force them.

Not only do I not hit those shooters anymore, but I am deadly accurate. If I get lined up at the pin that’s exactly where the ball goes.

You can do that to.

——-

Note: Some of you are having trouble seeing the videos. They show up just fine on my iMac. Here are the links to the videos. If you can’t see them in the blog, let me know, tell me how you are viewing the blog, and I will try to fix it. Thank you very much.

“https://youtu.be/JbkLDwa1Nxc”

“https://youtu.be/0NYjM5UkxZQ”

How to Sink a Certain Kind of Putt

Most of the things I discover about putting come from hours spent on the practice green. Every so often something goes click. This one, however, comes from my back room, where I knock the ball around for a few minutes every night.

It’s about sinking the putts that you just have to sink–short, no break. Just straight in the hole. Yet, those can be the hardest ones, for some reason.

This is what I noticed. I had been imagining a tiny line between the ball and the hole, and hitting the putt so the ball rolls along that line. That’s a lot of pressure

But what popped into my head that night was a band, as wide as the putter, going to the hole.

Not only that, but I saw that if you line up the toe of the putter with the corresponding edge of the hole, so that if the putter could magically slide across the green to the hole, the absolute toe would graze that edge of the hole, which would square up the putterface to roll ball into my rubber “hole” dead center.

In the photo, the thin red line lines up of the toe of the putter with the outside edge of the hole, and the transparent red band is what the putterface stays square to–a much easier image to believe in that a tiny line going from the ball to the hole.

So forget about the hole, forget about the ball, just make your stroke to have the putter face stay square to the band and the ball goes in. Easy!

As for lining up the toe of the putter with the outside edge of the hole, it might seem like this would not be exact. But if you try this out, and the putterface is not square to the hole, you will see clearly that the toe is not “pointing” to the edge.

I think this works because you are squaring up the entire surface of the putterface rather than a small point on the surface. And to tell the truth, I’m not even sure you can square up a point to something.

I tried out this method on a putting green and found it to be reliable up to about 15 feet.

[Update: With practice, you can use this technique on breaking putts, too, by learning how much to line up the tip of the putterface outside (R to L) or inside (L to R) the hole.]

The Natural Placement of Your Hands on the Golf Club

NOTE: A Basic Golf Swing is now available that develops the comments below in full, and more, in both words and video.


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.

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 books I have found that mentions this point is the chapter on the grip in Al Geiberger’s book, appropriately titled, Tempo, and Phil Galvano’s Secrets of the Perfect Golf Swing.

Ten More Yards with your driver

Everybody knows by now that the faster your clubhead is moving when it hits the ball, the farther the ball will go. F=ma, after all.

If you poke around the Internet you will find that in the range of swing speeds you now have, 1 more MPH will give you about 3 more yards of carry. So if you can get 3 more MPH, you’ll get almost 10 yards more carry.

So why don’t you just swing a little harder and get the extra speed? Well, it’s not that easy.

You’re probably already getting the highest swing speed you can get right now. Everyone has a limit, you know. And then trying harder means, for most people, putting out more effort, which usually ends up lowering your swing speed because of the extra tension you put into the harder swing.

And that, folks, is the key to getting those 3 MPH.

(Right now I feel like the coach in Chariots of Fire who told Harold Abrahams he needs three more yards and he can show Abrahams how to get them.)

If tension slows you down, the opposite of tension, relaxation speeds you up. What we’re going to relax are your arms, the parts of your body that do the actual swinging.

Stand up in your address position, but without a club in your hands. Let your arms hang down and swing them gently from side to side.

Notice how free and easy it is, and how all the movement is in the shoulder joint. The joint itself does not move.

Now stand up and swing both arms up and over your head, and let them fall straight down again so they swing behind you, just as if you were in a large stadium doing the Wave.

Just go back and forth, swinging freely, feeling as before all the movement in the joint but not of the joint.

Now ask yourself, do my arms feel like this when I swing a golf club? Especially in the forward swing?

I would bet they don’t. But if they did, those relaxed arms would swing faster perforce, and there you would have the extra speed you want.

How much more? I don’t know exactly, but there will be more. To put this technique into practice you have to trust that a relaxed swinging motion will send the ball farther away than a muscular hit will.

Which is true.

4 Cornerstones of the Game

There’s a golf blog I recommend you give a look to, called 3Jack Golf Blog. It concentrates on professional tournament golf, but occasionally has instructional relevance for us. Find it at https://3jack.blogspot.com/.

One post that struck me presented Richie’s analysis of the telling skills for professional golfers. He called them the 4 Cornerstones of the Professional Game.

They are,

1. Driving Effectiveness
2. Red Zone Play (175-225 yards)
3. Short Game shots from 10-20 yards
4. Putting from 3-15 feet

Players that rank average or better in all four these areas do well on the Tour. Recreational golfers who do well in these area will do well overall, too.

Driving Effectiveness is a combination of length and accuracy. For us, accuracy would be more important than length, but don’t discount distance. My par rate is clearly related to being the fairway. I don’t think about distance, because the ones I hit straight are my longest drives.

I would reduce the yardage of Red Zone Play to 125-175 yards for recreational golfers. This is about hitting greens from distances we can realistically have a chance. I once wrote about the yardage gap for recreational golfers, the distance from 175-200 yards that we don’t have a realistic chance of hitting the green with any consistency. Take a look at that post.

By the way, I have this rule of thumb for hitting greens. It is just my guess, with no data to back it up at all, but it makes sense to me. Add a zero to the number of the club you are using. That is the percentage of greens you should hit with that club.

The standard for a 9-iron then is to hit 90% of greens, and with a 5-iron, 50% is a reasonable expectation. Thinking along these lines can help you plan you approach to the green, as in what are my chances of missing, and if I miss, where is the best place to do that?

Numbers 3 and 4 are obviously just as important for us, without modification, as they are for the pros. The short game metric is measured in yards from the green, not from the hole. Putting? How many putts from 3-15 feet do you sink? Just two more per round would help, don’t you think?

I know these cornerstones sound obvious, because when you take them out, there isn’t that much of the game left. Long-range pitching, bunker play, and approach putting is about it.

But you might want consider concentrating on these four areas in your practice sessions and see how it works out. I’m focusing on #3, because those are great places from which to steal a par, and there’s no reason I can’t get good with those shots. Or you, for that matter.

My Chipping Stroke

In the summer of 2012, following two back surgeries earlier that year, all I could do was chip and putt. So I decided to start over with that and learn how to do them both the right way, not the way I had fallen into on my own.

I had a chipping lesson that June. I said to the pro, “Pretend I’ve never hit a chip shot before and tell me how to do it from the ground up.” That’s exactly what he did.

Whenever I have a golf lesson, I take notes afterward. I wrote down the points he made on chipping, practiced them a lot, because, remember that’s all I could do at the time, and I became a very good chipper.

I looked through the blog and found out that I had never posted the points he taught me. They don’t really substitute for a lesson, but here they are anyway. I hope you can make something of them. There are six.

1. Setup: The ball is in the center of your stance, weight is slightly left, the clubshaft leans slightly left. Light grip pressure, grip down to the metal for control.

2. The wrists break back slightly when the club goes back. Do not overdo this.

3. Swinging forward, the shaft and the outside of the right thigh feel like they are moving forward together.

4. The right knee continues breaking through the shot. The right heel comes off the ground little bit.

5. The hips turn. There is no slide. The left hip moves straight back, not around.

6. The wrists are straight again at impact and do not break further (the right hand does not pass the left). The clubface ends up facing the sky.

As I have said earlier, think of sliding the sole of the club underneath the ball, not so much on hitting down on the ball. There is a bit of that, but do not emphasize it.

If you perfect this stroke, and calibrate a number of chipping clubs, getting up and down from greenside will become your expectation.

Your Ideal Golf Swing Tempo

It’s funny how you can hear the same thing over and over again and it doesn’t make sense until something happens that just makes it click.  That happened to me a few days ago when I was watching Tiger Woods hit a few tee shots.

On every tee, His GOATness took two relatively slow, graceful practice swings—swings any one of us could make.  I would hurt myself if I swung at the ball like he does, but I am right in there with his practice swing.

Which gave me an idea for my game.  Hit the ball with my practice swing.

I know, everyone has heard that a thousand times before, but watching Tiger’s practice swing next to his real swing made me finally comprehend what that advice really means.

His practice swing is slowed way down so he can feel everything.  He’s checking all the marks that he pays attention to along the way.  What those marks are is not important.  That his swing is error-free is important.

Now he is good enough to step on the gas with a ball in front of him and still make an error-free swing.  We are not.

I would suggest that before each shot the recreational golfer take a few unhurried, perfect practice swings, and use THAT SAME SWING for hitting the ball.

That will provide the time to hit all the marks that are important for making a successful swing.

You will not rush yourself through your swing and miss some of your marks, or more importantly, force the club out of position by making your body keep up with itself, and fail to.

Many amateurs have a problem getting their weight onto their left side before impact.  Swinging slower gives them time to do that.

Many amateurs throw the club at the ball from the top.  Swinging slower makes it easier to hold onto their lag and release it naturally at the ball.

Swinging slower makes it easier to swing from start to finish rather than from start to impact.

And so on.

I wrote in my Living Golf Book that your ideal tempo is the fastest you can swing through impact and consistently hit solid shots off the center of the clubface.  For many recreational golfers, that isn’t nearly as fast, or as forceful, as they now swing.

Will you lose distance?  Maybe, at first, but when you have settled into hitting the center of the clubface, that distance will come back AND you will be much straighter.

Sounds like a good deal to me.

The swing you make before you hit the ball is the same swing to hit the ball with.  There should be no, zero, difference between the two.  Hopefully it is an unforced swing that leads to your finest shots time after time.

Triangulated Approach Putting (TAP)

Often I will try something out for a few weeks and if it seems to be a good thing I will write a post about it. This one is different. I discovered it in 2015. I didn’t want to let you know about it until I was sure it was sound.

It is.

The method, which I call Triangulated Approach Putting (TAP), will revolutionize your approach putting.

The commonest reason you three-putt is that you leave your first putt too far from the hole. You get the distance wrong. TAP lets you leave that first putt right beside the hole. It is almost scary how good you will get.

TAP is based on this axiom: For any length of putt, if the length of the putting stroke is the sole distance generator, there is one, and only one, length of stroke that will send the ball that distance.

TAP shows you how to find the length of that stroke. I’ll explain the theory first and then get into the fine points.

In the diagram below, you see a line from the ball to the hole. That is the baseline of a triangle. The spot marked apex is where you stand to find the length of stroke. An imaginary line on the ground from the ball to the apex is the eyeline. The line from the apex to the hole, not being a factor, and is not labeled. Distances are exaggerated for clarity.

lateral bend stretch

The apex is located at a standard spot, half the length of the baseline and offset three paces to the left (to the right for left-handed golfers). These distances are adjustable.

Stand at the apex and set up your stance to face the baseline directly. Turn your head to look at the ball. The eyeline is an imaginary line on the ground that comes straight from the ball to you as you look at it. Swing your putter back and forth while looking at the ball. Make a stroke such that the clubhead intersects the eyeline . That length of stroke will send the ball the exact distance from where it now lies, to the hole.

That’s the theory. Here’s the practice.

(1) The length of the swing must be the sole distance generator. You cannot add any “hit” with your hands. That would be introducing another variable, which we do not want to do.

(2) You must hit the ball on the same spot of the putter’s face every time. The sweet spot is best. Erratic contact in this regard plays havoc with how much energy is imparted to the ball, and thus how far it goes.

(3) The speed of your putting stroke must be constant. Otherwise, you will unknowingly impart more or less energy to the ball, again affecting the distance it travels.

(4) The location of the apex is not fixed.
(a) If greens are slower or you are putting uphill, the apex must be more than halfway to the hole–point (A).

(b) If greens are faster or you are putting downhill, the apex must be less than halfway to the hole–point (B).

(c) Your putter can make a difference. If you are consistently leaving putts too long or too short, stand more or less than three paces from the baseline–closer to make putts go farther, or at more remove to make them travel shorter.

(5) An essential point is remembering the length of the stroke. After all, you have to walk over to the ball to hit the putt, and in that time you might forget. While at the apex, make several strokes that intersect the eyeline and pay attention to how that stroke feels to your body. There might be a slight stretching somewhere in your back, or your arms might brush against you in a certain way. When you get to the ball, recreate that sensation.

(6) Hit the ball with trust. TAP works if you let it.

Regarding the adjustments in (4), the more you practice TAP, the more accurate your adjustments will become.

Use TAP when distance is more important than line. How far from the hole that switch gets made is up to you, but ten feet is not too close.

I have tried this method on different practice greens, on different courses, and after I have adjusted to the conditions it always works.

You could take out all my posts from 2009 to date and nothing would be missing because you can read all of it somewhere else. I have just been adding emphasis or perhaps clarity.

But TAP is new. There is nothing remotely like it to be seen anywhere else. If you want to save strokes on the green starting almost overnight, here’s how. No kidding.