Category Archives: shot-making

The Sound of Impact

For years I have been trying this idea and that to try to find simpler and more reliable ways to swing a golf club.

At the same time, I have been listening, because that’s what I do a lot, and find that my best shots always have the same sound at impact.

Recently I turned that around, the same sound makes the best shots.

Now, I am letting my search for the perfect sound guide how I swing the club. I am getting my best shots much more frequently as a result.

Without going into any detail about how I am doing this, I will say only that it takes a certain amount of hand-eye coordination to pull it off. But not much. Enough to get the results I am looking for, but not so much that it isn’t easy to repeat.

So anyway, that’s just a thought. Strive to have your hits make the same sound and see what you get. (But it has to be the right sound.)

[Note: see also, The Ball Is Your Target]

The Putter Is a Rescue Club, Too

Have you ever found the ball under a tree and the only way out is to chip under low-hainging branches?

A few weeks ago, I hit a drive off the fairway and right beside a tree with low-hanging branches. I mean a foot off the ground.

I thought I could hit the ball under those branches and back into and down the fairway by taking my 5-wood, playing the ball back to deloft the club, and hitting gently.

Didn’t work. The ball hit a branch and dropped straight down. A chip into the fairway that I now had room for had me hitting four right about here instead of hitting three well down the fairway.

A few days ago, I got into the same dilemma but behind a green. My only shot was toward the hole, because anything sideways would have been going from bad to worse.

I thought, I need even less loft, and the light bulb went on. My putter! With only about 4° of loft, a firm putting stroke would keep the ball low and get it back in the fairway.

So, I took out my putter and hit the shot. I was about twenty yards behind the green, and unfortunately hit it just a bit too hard. The ball got under the branch with room to spare, but ran onto the green like an out of control freight train going downhill.

I won’t say what happened next, but later in the round I had the same problem again! Out comes the putter, and this time don’t hit it so hard. I didn’t. My shot from green-high got under branches and rolled on to the green.

Remember, it’s a firm stroke, somewhat like you might make in hitting a 50-foot put. It is not a whack. If you try it that way, you are likely to mishit the ball and end up somewhere else where you don’t want be.

Now I have a new trouble shot, and so do you.

The Easiest Way to Draw or Fade

There are so many ways to hit a draw or a fade. I want to give you probably the easiest way to hit either shot. They both involve your right thumb (left thumb if you play left-handed).

In his book Five Lessons, Ben Hogan said:

“School yourself when you’re taking your grip so that the thumb and the adjoining part of the hand across the V–the part that is in the upper extension of the forefinger–press up against each other tightly, as inseparable as Siamese twins. Keep them pressed together as you fix your grip, and maintain this airtight pressure between them when you fold the right hand over the left thumb.”

He said the reason is that it lets the right hand be strong where it should be strong (which is not in the thumb and forefinger, in his opinion).

This pressing of the right thumb against the side of the hand has another effect which no doubt pleased Hogan but that he didn’t mention. It is an anti-hook move.

The pressure between the two freezes up the right wrist somewhat so it cannot unhinge freely through the hitting area and close the clubface. It actually delays the closing of the clubface to produce a fade, the shot Five Lessons was all about creating.

And it’s true. The next time you go to the range, press your right thumb against your hand and see what happens.

Now if you want to hit the opposite way, a draw, loosen the connection between the thumb and the hand. Place your thumb on the shaft so there is a gap between the thumb and the side of the hand. The wider the gap, the looser your wrists.

The pictures below show my normal grip, draw grip, and fade grip.

NORMAL DRAW FADE

Try that and see what happens.

You will have to adjust your aim to account for the curving of the ball, but that’s all. Your swing stays the same. Just a little movement of the thumb one way or the other is all it takes.

You can use this technique to your advantage to stay away from trouble off the tee. Move the thumb away from the trouble to ensure the ball doesn’t curve toward it.

For example, if there is trouble on the right, move the thumb on top to the left to produce a right-to-left shot. Hold the club a bit looser than usual with the same hand.

To avoid trouble on the left, move the thumb on top to the right and hold the club a little tighter than usual with that hand.

An Easy Way to Fade or Draw

Fading or drawing the ball, can be made very complicated, or quite simple. The easy way involves the right thumb (left thumb for left-handed golfers).

To fade, take your grip with your thumb resting against the hand. That is, eliminate the gap between the two. This stiffens your wrists which causes you to be late squaring the clubface at impact.

Ben Hogan described his grip in his book, Five Lessons, as having the thumb and hand pressed tightly against each other. This is a fade move, and as we know Hogan did everything he could to avoid hooking the ball.

I would not recommend tight pressure. The different location of the thumb will be enough.

To draw, do the opposite. Widen the gap between the thumb and the hand. This loosens the wrists, squaring the clubface early.

This is not to wrap the thumb around the handle, but just to move it a bit farther away from the hand than usual.

Of course, you will have to adjust your aim appropriately.

Try it!

This trick is courtesy of Vivien Saunders in her book, Advanced Golf, a book you really should own and study.

Many clubs one distance drill

Being able to play golf at a top level is all about knowing how to control the club. Last week I gave you a drill designed to teach you how to control the clubface, in order to be in command of trajectory and curvature.

This week the drill is about controlling distance.

One of the things my pro taught me to do, or rather, suggested I learn (teach myself) how to do is to be able to hit a ball a given distance with three different clubs.

For example, hit the ball 125 yards with a 9-iron, 8-iron, and 7-iron. Can you do that?

There are uses on the course for each of these shots, but what this was was another way of being able to control my swing.

So I learned how to do that.

Perch Boomer, a legendary teacher and author of On Learning Golf, the first book ever written about the feel of the golf swing, talked at one point about a drill he accomplished once after considerable effort.

I’m going to quote at length from that part of the book because it makes the point of what becoming a golfer really means. Or as Johnny Miller would say, a player. [Boomer’s emphasis follows.]

“We can play—or we should be able to play—the three-quarter shot with the full swing or a full shot the three-quarter swing. I realize that this conception may be difficult to grasp, but it lies at the root of the superiority of the really great golfer.

“I say a really great golfer because there are many well-known and successful players who can play nothing but full shots; a controlled shot is right outside their golfing range. Yet the great golfer plays every shot controlled, that is he plays every shot with what he feels to be the correct degree of power not at full pressure. This control is the secret of his greatness.

“The test of a golfer’s control is in his ability to play a shot of 70 yards with every iron club in his bag. Think that out; it will give you an idea of what control of power really means. Every shot will be played firmly, but the power applied will obviously have to be varied greatly with the different clubs.

“I do not claim but I was ever a great player but I did teach myself to perform this tour de force, for a tour de force it is. It took me most of my golfing life to learn how to do it. ‘And why,’ you may ask, ‘should you expect us ordinary golfers to be able to do a thing which it took you, an expert, your lifetime to learn?’ Well, I did not say I expected you to be able to do it . . . what I do say is that understanding how it is done and endeavoring to do it yourself will give you a real conception of controlled power in the golf swing.

“In my opinion we cannot lay too much stress upon this matter of getting the right conceptions. It is surprising what you can get people to do once they clearly understand what it is that has to be done. To reverse this, I contend that many of us are playing bad golf not because we are incapable of playing good golf but simply because we are thinking of golf in the wrong way.”

So there you have it. 70 yards with every iron club. Not with part swings, but with full swings of varying power. Boomer played in the long iron days, so you will have to throw in your hybrid irons.

This is the hardest drill in golf. Being able to do it isn’t everything, but making the effort to is.

I’ll end with a story about Ben Hogan, who one day at Shady Oaks was accompanied by an annoying out-of-town golfer who had worked his way into the gangsome.

The guy was a pretty good golfer, and on the 6th hole, they both hit their tee shot about the same distance. Hogan was away and hit into the green, 10 feet left of the pin with a 7-iron. The Guy said, “What club did you hit?” Wrong question.

Hogan asked his caddy for a ball, took a club out of his bag, and hit it just right of the hole. He asked his caddy for another ball, took a different club out of his bag, and hit just left of the hole.

“I hit an 8, a 7, and a 6.”

Point made, and there weren’t any questions for the rest of the day.

Nine Shot Drill

About ten years ago, I told my teaching pro that I needed to get out of the rut I was in and play golf at a higher level.

What we worked on was my swing. It wasn’t reliable. I could not predictably control the ball. I just hit and hoped. Most of the time it worked out well, but too many times it didn’t.

He gave me five lessons, and gave me the homework of hitting about 100 balls three times a week. This was a three-month process, and when I was finished, golf had become a different game.

He also showed me the nine shot drill.

You might have heard of it. The picture below shows you nine shots. The one in the middle is your standard hit-it-straight shot. The one in the upper right is your standard fade, and the one on the lower left is your standard draw. You might be able to hit those three on command already.

But there are six others that are not so obvious. Few golfers know how to hit them, let alone knowing that they can hit them.

I knew how to hit the first three shots, but the pro left me to figure them out the others on my own, which I did, and learned a lot about what worked, and what didn’t work, in the process.

I won’t go into how to hit them here. That’s a chapter in a book, and not a blog post. Besides, that would just spoil your fun.

The purpose of this drill was not to turn me into a “shotmaker.” Rather, my pro wanted me to learn how to control my swing. If you can hit all those nine shots, you can certainly hit the one in the middle reliably, and really, that shot, medium straight, is all you need to play good golf.

But here’s the real challenge if you want to try it after you have learned how to hit them all: hit those nine shots with nine balls. No do-overs. And you say in advance, “I’m going to hit this one,” and that’s the one you hit.

Here’s Johnny Miller talking about it.

If you can do this, you have complete command of your swing and you have accomplished the second-hardest drill in golf.

I’ll tell you what the hardest one is next week.

An Easy Way to Fade or Draw

There are several posts on this blog on how to fade or draw the ball. They all work, but the methods I presented are all somewhat mechanical.

Today’s method, a more intuitive one, was mentioned in an earlier post on the subject (method five). I want to develop it more here.

When the ball fades, it is because the clubface was open to the path. Another way to say this is that the heel of the club went through impact before the toe did.

Drawing the ball is the opposite. The clubface is closed to the swing path, so the toe of the club goes through impact before the heel does.

Looking at it that way, to get either effect, take your normal backswing, and on the way down, think “heel first” to fade, or “toe first” to draw.

Your unconscious mind adjusts your lower hand on the handle accordingly during the forward swing. No conscious effort on your part is required, or should be made. If you try to guide your hand, the rest of your swing will suffer.

Let your unconscious mind take care of it, and swing at a pace that allows the adjustment to be made in time and not get overpowered.

IOW, slow it down if you have to.

One adjustment you will have to make in your setup is to aim to one side of the target or the other to allow for the impending curvature, but that’s the only one. From there, make your regular swing right along your stance line.

Like anything, this method takes a bit of practice. The practice is to think the appropriate thought and then stay out of its way and let it happen.

That might not be easy to do at first, so don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first two times you try. Remember that it’s a mental thing, not a physical thing.

Bonus: If you have been thinking ahead, you would know that to hit a straight shot you might think, “face first” to send a square clubface at the ball.

Shaping Your Golf Shots

I’ve written several times on how to hit fades and draws, and this one is probably my best post on the subject.

There are other ways to get this done, though, and you should be acquainted with a few of them. The ones I am going to talk about today involve the hands.

Let’s review the problem to be solved. To fade, the clubface must be open to the swing path. To draw, the clubface must be closed to the swing path.

Here are several ways to get that done with your hands alone.

When you set up, your right palm (left palm for left-handed golfers) faces a certain direction, and you can feel the orientation of that palm against the club and in relation to the other hand. I wrote about this a few weeks ago.

When you take the club back and through and that feeling of orientation doesn’t change, you will hit a straight shot, all things being equal.

To hit a draw, feel like your palm has turned toward the other hand just a little bit as you bring the club into impact. That “just a little bit” part is important. Don’t overdo it.

To hit a fade, do the opposite. Feel as if the right palm has turned away from from the other hand and you come into the ball.

Note: this does not mean the hands have gotten closer together or separated. They stay as united as they were at address.

If you have feeling of the palm having moved, you will get it right. If you actually move the palm, you will overdo it and hit a slice or a hook, which you don’t want.

Another way to get this done is by altering the orientation of your hands during the takeaway.

When you take the club away, your forearms naturally rotate. Retard the rotation slightly and the clubface closes. Over-rotate slightly from normal and the clubface opens.

From there, hold that orientation throughout the backswing and forward into the ball.

A third way is a different way of looking at the first way. To draw, turn your right palm down as the club comes into the ball. To fade, turn the right palm upward.

A fourth way is entirely mental and relies on giving your unconscious mind instructions and then staying out of its way as it tells your body what to do.

If you look at your hands as they approach impact, the right palm faces somewhat upward, squares up at impact, and appears to turn and face downward following through. It is as if your hands are rotating. They aren’t, though. It’s the forearms that are rotating, but you get the idea.

To fade, think about delaying the rotation until a touch after impact. That will leave the clubface open at impact. To draw, think about rotating a tiny bit early. The clubface will then be closed at impact.

A fifth way is to swing back normally, and on the forward swing, to fade, think of the heel of the clubhead leading the clubface into the ball. To draw, think of the toe of the clubhead leading the clubface into the ball.

These thoughts will be felt in a subtle movement of the right hand of which there is no need to control deliberately. The shift will happen by itself and hopefully give you a controllable amount of curve.

Five ways to think about working the ball. Five ways of saying the same thing, probably. Pick one and work on it.

The benefit of these methods is that you can use the same setup and the same swing and still be able to move the ball. The more things you do that are the same, the easier golf is.

But to do something different with the ball, you have to change something that you do, which means you have to practice until you own that change.

Drawing and Fading

Look at the two pictures below.   Because there is a bunker near the pin, you really don’t want shoot straight for it.   It would be better to start the ball closer to the center of the green and curve it into the pin.   If the curve doesn’t come off, you’re still OK.

In picture 1, you see how to set up for hitting a draw.   Aim your stance at the target (yellow circle), aim the clubface to the right of it (blue circle), and swing through the ball toward a spot even farther to the right (red circle).

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You may click the picture to enlarge it and see this more clearly.

Even though the clubface is open to the target line, it is closed to the swing line, and the ball will curve to the left.

To fade the ball, set up a show in picture 2.   Aim your stance to the left (red circle) of the target (yellow circle), and aim the clubface between the two (blue circle).   Swing through the ball toward the red circle.

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The clubface will be open to the swing line, start off to the right of it, and curve further right toward the target.

In both cases, it is most important that you think of hitting the ball straight toward the red circle.   Do you see where the tree line in the background drops down to a low point behind the red circle?   That is where you should think of hitting the ball, in each case.   Your setup and swing path will curve the ball in the direction you want it to go.

If instead you have the target in mind, you could unconsciously try to steer the ball in the direction you want it to go, ruining everything.

Don’t get too caught up by the circles being unevenly spaced here.   They might or might not be the exact positions for your golf, but their relative positions and their proximity to the pin are.   Hit little draws, and little fades, not big ones.

Approach Shot Accuracy

Here’s a rule of thumb for recreational golfers regarding iron play.

Take the number of the club and add a zero to it. That’s the percentage of the time you should hit the green with that club.

With a seven-iron, you should hit the green seventy percent of the time. Five-iron, fifty percent. And so on.

If you can achieve this, and you play from the right set of tees, you should score pretty well.