The Number One Approach Putting Drill

Hi, there!

You didn’t really think I was going away for good, did you? Heck, no.

I’m still here, but I will devote my efforts solely to making videos.

In fact, there is a new one on YouTube right now.

It’s called The Number One Approach Putting Drill, and it is. Spend fifteen minutes with this drill a couple of times a week and you will become a deadly approach putter.

The Recreational Golfer Signing Off

I started this blog in 2009 with a post about fixing the FedEx Cup, which I think is still relevant.

At the start I posted twice a week, and though now it’s just once a week, that’s still a LOT of posts.

Actually, that’s enough posts. I realize I’ve run out of things to say.

So [deep breath] I will no longer be adding new material to the blog. This is my final post.

The blog isn’t going away, it will stay as it is. You can come here and read it to your heart’s content. If you haven’t, I would suggest prowling in corners you haven’t explored to see what you might find.

I’ll leave you with one final tip that is the essence of everything I have written about playing better golf: Good golf is not be gained by training your body to do the same thing every time. It is found by training your mind to do the same thing every time.

Thank you all for being readers over the years. It meant so much to me to investigate things and write them up for you.

Play well, and have fun.

How to Get Good at Golf

You spend so much of your precious leisure time playing golf, there’s no reason why you should not become as good as you can.

The way not to do it is every time you go to the range to practice hitting balls for a bit, chipping for a bit, putting for a bit, then going home.

That’s taking on the whole game at once, which easily leads to frustration.

Do this instead. Choose one part of the game and concentrate on it. Take chipping, for instance. That’s the easiest shot to get good at.

Get a lesson on how to chip, practice what you learned, and concentrate on it until you are good at chipping.

Then knock off the rest of golf one part at a time.

The confidence you build up by getting by being good at one thing will carry over to the next thing and eventually to your entire game.

Mickey Wright 1935-2020

Mickey Wright, IMO the greatest female golfer of all time, died today of heart attack in Florida. She dominated women’s golf in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Coming out of San Diego, she was one of the game’s greatest champions, winning 82 tournaments including 13 majors in a career cut short by injuries.

Ben Hogan said she had the finest swing he ever saw. See it below.

She wrote an instruction book called Play Golf the Wright Way, a book I refer to often.

See notices:
GolfWorld

New York Times

Golf Channel

GolfWRX

Golf Digest

GolfWorld tribute

A Key to Hitting a Golf Ball Straight

There are lots of things you have to do hit a golf ball straight. If there were only a few, everybody could do it, and we know that’s not the case.

I want to talk about just one of those things today, and it’s something I have never read about anywhere.

The clubface is a proxy for the right hand (left hand, for left-handed golfers). The right palm, however it is oriented on the handle, controls the orientation of the clubface throughout the swing.

Try this once. Grip a club and put the right hand loosely against the left, like you probably do now. Without moving the right hand to a new place on the grip, just wiggle it from side to side.

See how loose the right hand is, and how much freedom it has to wiggle in either direction? Notice how that’s enough to get the clubface out of alignment.

If the right hand wiggles a bit to the right (clockwise) during the swing, the clubface opens. If it wiggles a bit to the left (counter-clockwise) during the swing, the clubface closes.

It’s hard to sense the right hand moving this way during the swing, and believe me, once the alignment has been upset, you won’t get it back in place before you hit the ball.

We solve this problem by making sure the right hand cannot wiggle at all, so the clubface stays in its original square orientation.

How do you make sure there’s no right hand wiggling? Easy!

When you place your hands are on the handle, turn the left hand slightly to the right so the left thumb presses gently into the pocket formed by the right palm. Left-handers will press the right thumb into the pocket formed by the left palm.

Or if you want to, you can turn your hands tightly toward each other.

Try that and see how it feels.

Since the right hand feels the pressure, if it relaxes and drifts rightward that release of the pressure lets you know right away something is wrong.

Also, the right hand can’t wiggle leftward because the left hand already will let it go no further.

What we now have is a right hand that’s stuck in place, and that’s what we want.

They key to making this work in the swing is for the light feeling of the hands pressing against each other to be the same, unchanging, throughout the swing. That’s your sign that the right hand is behaving itself.

So now you have this part of hitting the ball straight taken care of.

Your Next Golf Lesson

This is your next golf lesson.

Schedule a lesson and tell the pro you want to learn these three things:

1. What do I do if I can miss left, but I can’t miss right?

2. What do I do if I can miss right, but I can’t miss left?

3. What do I do if I absolutely have to hit the ball straight?

The answers will all involve things you need to do with your swing. I had this lesson about nine years ago, and it is one of the most useful lessons I ever had.

how to get good

Golf is a vast game. There are more different kinds of shots to be hit than anyone can master, much less a recreational golfer for whom golf is a part-time hobby.

Yet, when we practice, we hit a bucket or two of balls, spend a little time chipping around the practice green (if you can find one that allows chipping!) and spend a few minutes putting.

And wonder why we don’t get better at it.

To explain why, I would like to refer you to this interview with Bill Evans, a legendary jazz pianist, talking about this very problem in regard to learning his craft.

Listen.

That’s it, isn’t it? We try to take on all of golf all at once and as Evans said, that only leaves us confused and with nothing to build on.

If you’re reading this post, odds are you aren’t a beginner. You have been playing golf for a while and have your own ideas of how to hit the various shots that are necessary.

But if sometimes they work and other times (most times?) they don’t, there’s work to be done that won’t get done by going to the range one more time and doing what I described above, one more time.

Or however many more times.

You have to pick one thing and work on it until know what you are doing and are really good at it, before you move on to something else.

Let’s start with greenside chipping. This is the easiest shot in golf to get good at.

Get a lesson. If you taught yourself to chip, you really don’t know how to chip. I had been playing golf for over fifty years before I had my first chipping lesson. Nothing the pro taught me was what I had been doing, and what he taught me worked.

Next, prepare to spend fifty hours practicing what you learned. If you have a full-time job, it might take you three or more months to get to the range for that much practice.

And when you get to the range, practice chipping only. Don’t worry, your swing won’t go away. It’s just that if you hit a bucket of balls first you will use up some your concentration on that and that’s not why you came to the range.

Keep going, not until you reach being good, but have settled into being good. You know what you are doing and you know you can chip close from anywhere. Then you can move on to something else.

Choose from pitching, bunker play, putting, short irons, medium irons, fairway woods or hybrids, driver (save the driver for last–it’s a distraction, and you don’t need a driver to play golf, anyway.)

Take these skills one at a time. Spend the time it takes to learn how to do each one the right way so you’re good at it. As Evans said, make your practice real and true.

I promise you be playing a different game than before.

After you have these basics down, then you can move on to working the ball with your swing, learning a variety of short shots, and so forth, and all of it will work because you are building them on a solid foundation.

Cypress Point Flyover

The one golf course I would love to play on most is Cypress Point on the Monterey Peninsula.

Golf Digest made a flyover video of the course. None of us will ever get near the grounds, so this is your chance to see one of the finest and most beautiful golf courses in the world.

Click here to watch the YouTube video.

Jim Nantz narrates. (That’s a warning for some of you.) He goes on for a while at the start of the video. The flyover begins at 1:22.

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.

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