Anyone Can Hit a Long Ball

This is the title of an article by Mickey Wright in the February 19, 1962 Sports Illustrated. I recommend that you read it.

The link goes to the SI vault, where entire issues are archived. At the web page you get to when you follow the link, click on ORIGINAL LAYOUT. Then click on the number 96.

That will send you to a reproduction of the original magazine. The article begins on page 35, but it is worth your while to get there page by page to see what SI used to be like and what kind of features they have. In the following issue there would be an article on the fiberglass vaulting pole which had just been introduced to much controversy as John Uelses was the first person to vault over 16 feet. Notice that horse racing and wrestling are covered. At the right time of year so was yachting.

Pay attention to the golf ads. On page 13, Wilson Sporting goods, back then major player in the golf equipment world as well as all sporting goods, has in its ad the announcement that it has introduced the first fully matched set of golf clubs. At that time, this was really new and something special.

Also the Wilson Staff golf ball was the Pro V1 of its day. MacGregor, another major sporting goods company put out the ball the Jack Nicklaus played. His contemporaries wonder how many additional tournaments he would have won if he had had a decent ball to play with.

I always liked to read For the Record and Faces in the Crowd (read about Louis Moniz), on page 83. The weekly college basketball write-up like the one beginning on page 84 is sorely missed. In season, major league baseball and college football got the same treatment.

See also the letter to the editor on page 88 titled, A Hole In 10. And after that one, read about Terry Baker, the finest athlete Oregon has ever produced. I saw him play football twice and basketball once.

Anyway, Wright’s article is full of good advice, and browsing through the magazine is great fun. I’ll leave you with her thought that anyone can drive the ball 200 yards if they do what she says. In the early 1960s, 200 yards was a long drive for a recreational golfer. How times have changed.

You Can’t Hit a Golf Ball Straighter Than This

A number of years ago, when I experimented with a new swing idea every week, instead of every other week like I do now, I tried out something I came across in a golf forum–the Lee Trevino swing.

You know, wide open stance, odd takeaway, odd lurch through the ball. At least that’s what it looked like to me.

The forum post quoted from his description of the swing in an issue of Golf Magazine, so I tried it. It took a few weeks to get it down.

But the proof of a new idea is the golf course, not my back yard.

I played nine holes with this swing, and had one of three ball flights: straight, straighter, and straightest, right where I was aiming. I never got Trevino’s fade, just absolute straight. No complaints.

I have never hit the ball so straight for such a prolonged period. I think I only flubbed one shot. It seemed so easy.

Unfortunately, and there is always one of those when things are going well, when I was finished playing my back hurt. After a practice session in the back yard, my back hurt. So all that adds up to letting a real good thing go, because it wasn’t worth it to me.

But then, I had a bad back already, so maybe if your back is all right you can figure out this swing and use it for your own on a tight hole where your only option is a straight drive, for example.

This is the GM description (emphasis and comment are mine):


Here is a simple method that will help you develop an accurate left-to-right shot


Golf Magazine, December 1979

“I almost always “push” the ball. That’s the easy way to think of my fade, as a push/fade to the target. Very little can go wrong: Your wrists can’t roll over and surprise you with a snap hook. You don’t have to worry about releasing early or late, because, in effect, you don’t release at all. And you don’t need to fret about a “double cross” aiming left and hitting farther left by mistake. With my method, the ball drifts to the right every time.

“To begin, make sure your shoulders, hips and feet line up to the left of your intended target with the shoulders slightly less open than the hips and feet. Aim the clubface at the target, open to your body alignment. Play the ball about one to two inches inside your left heel and start the club back along the target line. This will put the club on an inside path in relation to your body.

On the forward swing, shift your hips laterally toward the target and swing the club down on the target line, holding your release and keeping the clubhead on the target line well after impact. [And you don’t turn your hips until after you have hit the ball.] You should have the feeling of swinging very much inside-to-outside and in fact, you are.

” ‘Inside out?’ you might ask. ‘Doesn’t that cause a draw?’ Yes, it does, but only when your swing is inside out in relation to your target line. This swing is inside out in relation to the body alignment, but straight back to straight through in relation to the target line (see illustration). You won’t draw the ball with this swing. If anything, you will contact the ball after the club has swung down and back to the inside on the forward swing, thus putting a slight left to right spin on the ball.

“So you have two big pluses here: First, you have an inside to outside attack in relation to your body. This is much more powerful than the outside-to inside swings that many amateurs use to fade the ball. Second, you have the club moving down the target line, producing either a straight ball or slight fade. You can’t beat that combination.

“Here’s a trick that might help you understand this a little better. After you set up, imagine that there are three golf balls in front of the one you’re about to hit (see illustration). For the fade, you want to hit through all four balls. This will force your right shoulder down rather than around on the downswing, with your arms extending toward the target on the follow through. Keep in mind that the right shoulder doesn’t dip. That would cause fat shots. Instead, the shoulder simply swivels underneath the chin. As a result, you will hold your release, keep the club moving down the target line, and push the ball to the hole, with very little sidespin.

“I have, however, encountered one “problem” among people who have tried this method. They say to me, ‘Lee, when I swing your way, I hit the ball way to the right.’ I just tell them, ‘Aim farther left.’ Don’t open your stance more; just shift your entire orientation to the left. In other words, rather than aim the clubface down the fairway or at the pin, aim it at an intermediate target more to the left and shift your body alignment farther to the left as well. There’s no rule that says you have to aim down the middle. Line up for the trees on the left and push it down the fairway. It’s easy, when you know for sure that you can hit the push/fade.

“The beauty of the balls in a line image is that you can use it to draw the ball, too. For the right to left shot, line up your body parallel to the target line and aim your clubface at an intermediate target to the right, to allow for the draw. Then, simply think of picking off the first ball in line, the real ball, without touching the three imaginary ones. This brings the right shoulder and club up quickly in the follow through, and whenever the club and shoulder move up, they go counterclockwise as well, which closes the clubface. Result: a draw.

“Try my method. You’ll see how easy it is to fade and draw the ball. You’ll always know where the ball is going. And in golf, there’s no substitute for accuracy. I can vouch for that. A key to hitting consistent, solid fades is to keep the right shoulder moving down under the chin through impact.”

Razor-Sharp Chipping

Most golfers think that a greenside chip should get the ball close enough for a one-putt, and hope it happens.

Some golfers practice chipping with the goal of getting and down every time.

Only a few golfers practice chipping with the goal of getting the ball in the hole. These are the good chippers.

When you practice chipping, have about a dozen balls beside you. Pick a target close to you, say ten feet away. If the practice green doesn’t have a hole close enough to the edge of the green, throw down a rubber “hole.”

Now practice sinking every chip. Practice not getting them close, but in.

Once you get really good at that, move your target a bit farther away from you–twelve feet. Get really good at sinking chips from that distance.

Move steadily outward as you improve.

What you are doing here is re-training your mind to see a chip as a shot that goes in. When your mind starts understanding a chip like that, that’s when they start going in on the course, and if they don’t, they’re kick-in close.

It’s not a matter of confidence or belief. It goes way beyond that to, “Chips go in! That’s just what they do!”

Try it.

The Ball Is Your Target

If you have been reading this blog long enough, you know I go off in odd directions from time to time. I try to do things differently because anybody can do things the same way.

Where I really have fun is in doing things they say you shouldn’t do. Most of time when I try it, I find out why you shouldn’t do it.

But every now and then I find out that they’re all wet. This is one of those times. At least it is for me.

Everybody says the great players are in love with their target–that fairway out there, or that spot on the green. Yes. I agree. The problem as I see it is that they are referring to their target as something a long way away where the ball is supposed to go.

Let’s just hold on for a second and think about this. Sure, I want the ball to go someplace over there, but what do I have to do get it there? (This is not a trick question.)

I have to hit the ball! Doesn’t that make THE BALL my target? I don’t see how you can say otherwise.

Actually, my target is not even the ball. It’s a spot on the ground one inch in front of the ball.

If I hit that spot with the sole of the club, the ball compresses against the clubface like they all talk about, the ball takes off like a rocket, and I get great distance in the direction I intend.

That kind of impact has a unique sound and feel I know you have experienced many times before.

So instead of building a swing that delivers that perfect impact as a byproduct, WHY NOT GO DIRECTLY FOR WHAT YOU WANT? Why not build a swing that starts with that sound and feel and works outward from there?

It’s not hard to do.

Try this drill, which teaches you to focus on and hit the spot where the sole of the club should first contact the ground—about one inch in front of the ball.

The point is, after you start the club forward from the end of the backswing, to be aiming at that spot on the ground in front of the ball. Make it your conscious intent to hit it with the leading edge of the club and let your swing adjust to that end however it does.

Work on it with your 7-iron, everybody’s favorite practice club.

What about your driver? Set up leaning your torso slightly toward the right (toward the left, for left-handed golfers) and put the same swing on the ball. The lean will cause you to miss the ground and hit the ball on an upswing, which is just what you want.

Golf Is a Game of Perfect

There’s this guy named Bob Rotella who is the cat’s meow among golf psychologists. He seems to have helped a lot of touring pros to play better. More power to him.

I finally read one of his books, the famous one, I guess, Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect. I’m sorry to say I came a way quite disappointed.

First of all, the title is all wrong. If you don’t expect to hit the shot you planned on, which is my definition of a perfect shot, then choose another shot that you do expect to come off as you planned it to.

I mean, do you step up to the ball and expect to hit a mediocre shot, or a lousy shot? Really?

And what is “perfect,” anyway? It all depends on what you are capable of.

Touring pros aim for a spot on the green about the size of a throw rug, and they have the skill to hit it.

Me, I just want my ball to hit somewhere on the green and stay on it. That for me is a perfect shot, given my skills.

The trap, and what he is probably addressing, is that while we (should) expect to hit a perfect shot, we get disappointed when we don’t.

The skill every golfer needs to have, from hacker to pro, is to pick a shot you believe in, hit it, see where it ends up, and start thinking about the next shot. Period. No more than that.

No sense of uncertainty as you are about to swing the club away. No emoting because the ball went somewhere else. No wondering if your game is falling apart because you hit one bad shot. And so on. None of that.

That was the whole point of his book, and it’s a good point. It can’t be said often enough.

But where the book fails is though he tells you what to do, he is silent on how to do it.

It’s as if he had written a book of golf swing instruction that says you need to hit the ball with the clubface square to the swing path and the swing path going toward your target, the end.

Good advice. How about telling us how to do that?

Well, the mental game is the same. “What to do” is not “how to do.”

Just as you don’t get a good swing for the asking, and you don’t acquire good mental habits for the asking. You have to know how to get them and then develop yourself long those lines.

[WARNING: Massive product promotion coming up.]

There is only one book on the mental game that I know of, and I have read a lot of them, that goes beyond telling you what to do and also tells you how to develop your mind so you can do it.

It is my own book, The Golfing Self. It contains exercises that if you do them train your mind to maintain your concentration for the entire round, every shot, so you have your best chance of hitting perfect shots.

(You get the book as a free download on this site. Hard copy at Amazon.)

150 Yards and In

Harvey Penick has a short bit in his Little Red Book titled “Long and Short.” The point he makes is that you should spend most of your practice time on your 150-yard shot, using whatever club that is.

This is best advice I have ever seen for the strength of your overall game.


Penick says, “There’s no reason why the average golfer should take more than three to get down from 150 yards.”

That’s exactly right. You should expect to hit the ball onto or beside the green and get down in two from there or closer.

To be able to expect that, not only does your swing need to produce accurate shots, you have to be able to chip and approach putt quite well, too.

I should mention the driver. If you are money with an iron from 150 yards, that same swing will put your tee ball in the fairway reliably, too.

That’s how being good from 150 yards affects the overall strength of your game.

How important is the 150-yard strategy?

By adopting it as the basis of my game I became a single-digit golfer.

The Importance of the Finish of Your Golf Swing

What you do as you swing into the ball dictates the position you will be in at the finish of your swing.

To say it another way, to get to a particular finish position, you have to do certain things swinging into it.

When you don’t hit the ball to your liking, you can try correcting the things you do before impact, or you can take a different approach.

Try to finish the swing in a different way. Aim to be in a different position than you normally are when the swing is done. That will automatically force you to do something different beforehand to get there. That might be the only corection you need.

Example. I am a right-to-left golfer, often to a fault. I don’t know what a slice looks like. I am, however, on first-name terms with duck hooks.

Whenever I hit one of those disgusting shots, at the finish my hands are pulled way over to the left and the clubshaft is almost horizontal.

The solution? I aim for a finish that has my hands up high and in front of me, and the shaft is almost vertical. By swinging with getting to that position mind I automatically do different things beforehand to get there and get a straight shot out of it.

If you’re a slicer, maybe you need to end up with your hands more around you than up in front of you–the opposite of my correction.

Try it. It might be just that simple.

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]

Three Ways to Read Subtle Breaks in the Green

Sometimes you have a makeable putt that you think must break, but you can’t really tell if it goes left or right. There are three ways you can read the green to find out.

The first way? Back up. Way up. Get about 30 feet from the hole. From that distance, breaks get revealed that would be unnoticeable from right behind the ball, especially when there is no local slope, but the entire green is tilted one way or the other.

Second, when you look at the putt from the side, which you should do routinely to check on uphill or downhill slopes, also look to see if the green is sloping toward you or away from you. A green sloping toward you will of course break in that direction, and vice versa.

The third way is the best one. Stand up behind the ball, take a sidestep to the left, and have a look. Now get back behind the ball, take a sidestep to the right, and look again.

From one side you will see the green looking the same as it does from behind the ball, but from the other side it will seem like you are looking into a slope.

So if you see that slope when you step to the right, for example, you know that the putt will break left to right. If you see the slope when you step to the left, the putt breaks right to left.

This video tip shows you how it works.


Big election coming up. Of course I care which way you vote, because I would like all of you to agree with my point of view. But that you vote is much more important.

If you don’t vote, and you don’t like how things turned out, don’t come cryin’ to me. Or the rest of us. All the way until the next election.

As for the registration table, the election is 26 days away.

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