It’s time to vote!

I know this is a golf blog, but I also know there are things more important than golf and this is a forum I can use to talk about them. Voting is one.

This is it. The November election has arrived. Or should we say, with a record number of early voters, it ends today.

I hope you have made your plans to vote, either at a polling station or by a mail-in or absentee ballot.

If you have an early ballot, check with your county office to find out how to turn it in.

And turn it in as early as you can. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Once more–vote! Your vote does count.

And for your reward, there will be a post that is actually about golf on November 4th.

After all, this is a golf blog.

[November 4, 6:00 a.m.] THANK YOU FOR VOTING!

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.

Bob’s Living Golf Book – September 2020 Edition

The September 2020 edition of Bob’s Living Golf Book is now online.

There are three major additions, minor revisions, and lots of refinements. Enjoy!

A2. Swing the Clubhead Squarely (new)
A3. Swing the Club With Your Hands (added material)
B8. Set-up Procedure (new)
D8. Relaxation (added material)
F4. Triangulated Approach Putting (simplification)
G22b. And Then There Are the Really Good Guys…and Gals (fun stuff)
H2. Your Scoring Potential (rewrite)
J. Summary (new)

Play well, and have fun.

Farewell to the Redlines

Ten years go I bought a used set of irons, Ben Hogan Apex Redline from 1989.

They are wonderful clubs, probably the best irons the Hogan brand made.

I played wonderful golf with them. These are the irons that helped me get to single digits.

But to get to the point, they have to be put away. I got them off eBay, and everything on eBay has a Stiff shaft. Ten years ago I could swing a Stiff shaft. Now, I can’t.

I went to the range a few days ago with the 6-iron and had to work so hard just to get a passable shot out of it. It shouldn’t have been that difficult.

Today I went to the range again and took the 6-iron from the set of 1999 Apexes, which were custom built for me in 2003 and have Regular shafts.

It was like night and day. They swung easily, smoothly, they worked with me. They’re in the bag, the Redlines are out.

So farewell to old friends. I knew that someday I would have to switch back to the 1999s again, and that day has arrived.

But not to worry. I hit this killer fade with them that is going to make flagsticks very afraid.

U.S. Open Preview 2020

Winner: Bryon DeChambeau by six shots over Matthew Wolff.

This week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot in New York is just the tonic for this golfer. When I was a young golfer I imprinted on this tournament, sometimes called the National Open back then.

It was the greatest tournament in the world. “U.S. Open champion” was the greatest title to hold. The Masters was still a springtime novelty, the British Open hadn’t been discovered in this country, and the PGA was something of a head-scratcher.

Winged Foot is where Bobby Jones sank an impossible downhill breaking 12-foot putt in 1929 after having lost a commanding lead in the final round, to tie Al Espinosa and win the next day in a playoff. Jones said later that if he had missed he would have given up competitive golf. Today the members will challenge you to hit that putt. You can’t sink it.

Then there was the Massacre at Winged Foot, where the USGA got its revenge in 1974 for Johnny Miller shooting a 63 in the final round to win at Oakmont a year earlier. Hale Irwin won at seven over par.

It was the site of the most famous fonebone in recent U.S. Open history as Phil Mickelson had the trophy in his pocket on the 72nd tee and made a double bogey to lose by one to Geoff Ogilvie. Let’s not forget Colin Montgomery, who took four to get down from the fairway on the same hole also to lose by one.

Here are a few sites you might want to go to to get an idea of what the pros are up against this week. It ain’t pretty.

Official web site

Every hole at Winged Foot West

Seven important shots at Winged Foot

Playing the drivable par-4 sixth hole.

Bryson is going to bomb it.

Players comment on the course.

I think the course will produce a winner who follows what used to be U.S. Open formula–hit straight off the tee and putt the lights out. It should be fun to watch.

[Note: DeChambeau hit only 23 of 56 fairways, a U.S. Open records. So much for hitting straight off the tee.]

Arriving (II)

A year or so ago I posted an article on the importance of arriving–getting the ball up to or past the hole when you hit a shot into the green. That was all based on theory, with a generous assist from the writings of Vivien Saunders.

Now I have some actual data. Yesterday I was prowling around the Internet (why is that word capitalized, anyway?) looking for data on the average leave for recreational golfers’ shots into the green because I was writing about the interplay of swing improvement and short game and putting improvement. What I found forced me take a U-turn and revisit arriving.

The image below is a chart of the dispersion of the AMA (average male amateur) from 160 yards away. What I don’t know is whether the dots represent shots hit only by male golfers who are of average skill, or if the dots show the average compiled by male amateurs regardless of skill. That difference probably isn’t relevant to the point I’m making in this piece, though.

I divided the chart into a sixteen-cell grid. Four columns separate shots that missed left, hit the green left, hit the green right, and missed right. Four rows separate shots the missed long, hit the green long of center, hit the green short of center, and missed short.

Because the green is round and not square, there are a few shots in the corners of the four grid cells for hitting the green that did not hit the green, but I accounted for those.

An eyeball inspection shows two things: most of the shots that missed the green missed short, and most of the shots that missed short were on line to hit the green.

Here are the actual numbers, which I got by counting the dots:

I won’t make your eyes glaze over by throwing bunch of numbers at you. You can make whatever you want to out of what’s in the table. I will say just two things with numbers that I already said with words.

(1) Eight out of ten of the shots in the chart finished short of the center of the green (GS+S). That means that only two out of ten shots into the green finished beyond the center of the green.

(2) Of the 574 shots that finished short of the green (S), seven out of ten of them (411) would have hit the green if they had been hit far enough: S: GL+GR.

What does that mean? Four out of ten of all shots hit the green (green cells). If you push the shots in the (S: GL+GR) cells into the GS row, now over six out of ten shots will have hit the green: (S: GL+GR) + (GS: GL+GR). The actual percentages here are 38% and 64%.

If you apply these percentages to every hole (which doesn’t match reality, but this is all the data we have) you get 6.8 and 11.5 GIR, respectively. THAT’S ALMOST FIVE MORE GIR JUST BY HITTING ENOUGH CLUB INTO THE GREEN.

And that is just getting the ball onto the green, never mind getting the ball onto the green past the hole.

Maybe some of the shots at the green that ended up short were mishits. Well, not maybe. Were. But that’s only a small portion of them, and not enough to take away from the following point.

The average male amateur (that’s you) can GREATLY increase the number of greens he/she (you) hits JUST BY USING ENOUGH CLUB.

Why doesn’t that happen? Either you don’t really know how far away the green/pin is, or you don’t really know how far you hit your irons, or do know but base club selection on how far you are capable of hitting that club rather than how far you usually hit that club. Or you don’t take your lie into count. Or the wind. Or the condition of the turf. Or how you’re hitting today. Or the green is elevated.

All of those are easy problems to solve. They do not require you to be one bit better of a ball-striker than you are now. They just require you to think.

Maybe you won’t get five more GIR. Maybe four, maybe three. But you’ll get more.

I’m not going to listen to any excuses.

Bob’s Living Golf Book–August 2020 Edition

The August 2020 edition of Bob’s Living Golf Book is now online.

I don’t have any major new essays, only additions and clarifications that I like to put in when I don’t think I have expressed myself clearly. That is the benefit of online publishing–no edition is final.

There is one thing I have been working on for a number of weeks now that I am really excited about. I put up a post a few weeks ago about squaring up the clubface at impact.

The best way to have the clubface square at impact is to keep it square throughout the swing and I, at about the time I posted, came up with a way to do that. This is something to be added on that post, not to replace it.

I have never read this or seen it on YouTube. It is a product of my natural genius. (Ahem!) It involves grip pressure, but a different kind of grip pressure. It’s the blue paragraph in section B3. I wish I had known this twenty years ago.

Play well, and have fun.

How to Square up the clubface at impact

For almost two years, I would say, I have been working on a swing principle I discovered that has to do with keeping the clubface square at the start of the swing.

I’m certainly not the first one to have ever discovered it, but I knew from the first moment that it was true and correct.

For all this time I did not know how to extend that startup principle into the whole of my golf swing. I did not know that I was trying to incorporate that principle into a swing that was not designed to accept it.

Which meant I couldn’t tell you about it.

Now I can.

Instruction books show pictures of how the clubhead should be oriented when you have taken the club back to the place where the shaft is parallel to the ground. These pictures show the sole of the club pointing straight up in the air, perpendicular to the ground.

That is entirely incorrect.

At that point in the swing the sole of the club should be parallel to the axis of rotation of the swing, which is the spine angle. The clubhead taken back parallel in this way will be leaning forward a bit. That looks closed, but it is really square.

The pictures in all those books are showing you how to open the clubface at the start of the swing, which might partially explain why so many people slice.

If you want to confirm this for yourself, get into your setup, take the club back to where the shaft is parallel to the ground, and with the sole of the club pointing straight up and down.

Now stand up straight without adjusting your hands. The clubface is open, isn’t it?

A few weeks ago I came across a video by Mike Malaska which (a) confirmed that what I had found was right, and (b) showed me how to integrate that principle into my golf swing.

This next video of his shows you how to practice this technique, starting at 3:40.

For my entire golfing career I could not explain how the clubface got back to the ball as square as it was at address. All I could say was it’s something that just happens, which is no which explanation at all. On some days it happened for me, on other days it didn’t, and I thought, that’s the just way golf is.

Now I can explain how the clubface gets back to the ball square, and now I’m in control of it happening.

You can be, too. It’s really easy.

Election 2020

I know this is a golf blog, but I also know there are things more important than golf and this is a forum I can use to talk about them. Voting is one.

The November election is 95 days away.

If you are not registered to vote, register today. Or next week.

Covid-19 developments could make voting in person on November 3rd problematic, impossible, or just plain risky.

Therefore, if you do not live in a state that intends to allow voting by mail, request an absentee ballot.

I am not, and will not, advocate for any candidate. Who you vote for is your business, not mine.

I am only reminding you that being able to vote, and getting your vote counted, could be difficult this year in ways it never has been.

Plan now. And vote!

Thank you.

Little Differences That Make a Big Difference in How Well You Play