Monday, January 9, 2017

The Mental Forward Press

One of the most difficult things to do is to begin a motion smoothly from a complete stop. In golf, we want to take the club away without a jerk or without putting tension in the body.

At one time, the way to do this was to have a forward press. This would be a slight movment toward the target that the backswing could play off of, hopefully in a rhythmic way.

The trouble with a forward press was that unless it was done carefully, it could get the golfer and the club out of position before the club was taken away, to the detriment of the shot that followed.

Now days we don’t hear much about forward presses. If you watch the professional golfers, you don’t see very many of them with one. I guess that move is out of favor.

But the problem remains. How do we solve it? By having a forward press that is more in the mind than in the body.

This is what I think we should do, ideally: start the swing with a reverse waggle. Instead of taking the club back, with just then hands and wrists, like a traditional waggle, raise the clubhead a bit and swing the club forward, toward the target, by the same amount. Then flow right back into the backswing and come down into the ball.

That makes the swing a three-step movment, not two. It sets you up with perfect rhythm, and keeps you relaxed throughout the swing. Unfortunately, since the club is not next to the ball at the start, it might be difficult to find the ball accurately at impact.

But you can take a practice swing like that, if you want to. It’s not unheard of. Then, address the ball, and do the reverse waggle in your mind, and, following the same rhythm as in the practice swing, take the club into a relaxed, flowing swing.

It’s still a three-part swing. You merely did the first part in your mind.

If you try this, you might find your body responding to the initial mental movment in some way. That’s O.K., just ignore it. Focus on the mental feeling as you get your swing started.

Another benefit of the mental forward press is that it will take your mind off any anxieties you have of the shot you’re about to hit. Anything that helps you in that department is all right.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Best Posts of 2016

I put up fifty-two posts in 2016. Not counting the four for the major championships previews, I gave you forty-eight ways to improve your game.

Well, maybe not so much as that. Sometimes I know I’ve come across something that truly works and will make a big difference. Other times I look back and say to myself, What was I thinking?

But because it will be very difficult for you to go back and find the good ones, I’ve done it for you. These are the best posts of the year, the ones I think will help you out the most in hitting better shots and lowering your score.

February 7
A Basic Golf Skills Inventory

February 14
What Made Me a Good Golfer

March 6
The Way You Take Your Grip

March 27
A New Way of Practicing

April 10
The Vertical Dimension of Impact

April 13
Swing Speed

May 5
A Tempo Feeling

June 9
Keeping Golf stats

July 4
A Back-Friendlier Golf Swing

September 18
Make More Short Putts

October 9
The Right Way to Create a Golf Swing

October 23
Your Stance

November 6
Getting Good Around the Green

December 18
The Two-Week Health Rule

Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

What to Work on during the Winter

If you live in a place where you can’t play during the winter, like I do, spend your time these next few months working on these things that will make a world of difference in your shot-making.

Grip: Whatever your grip is like, practice to make it be the same every time you pick up a club. Little changes in how you place your hands on the club make a big difference in how the clubhead meets the ball.

Ball position: For balls hit off the round, and hit off a tee, find the position that lets you hit your best shots. That position might be farther back in your stance than you think it should be.

Rhythm: The ratio of the backswing to the downswing is 3:1. Practice to make this your habit. This is the same as learning to be patient when you swing. What gets rhythm out of whack is rushing.

Impact: Your hands must get back to the ball before the clubhead does. See my video lesson for a drill that shows you what that means and shows you how to teach yourself to do it.

Putting: Yes, putting is shot-making. Practice at home to find a stroke that brings the clubhead into the ball square to the starting line and makes contact off the sweet spot of the putter’s face -- every time. It will take daily practice and a lot of experimentation to figure this out. By the time you finish, you will likely have a very different stroke than you had before.

You can practice all of these things at home, except the second one, which you should be able to figure out after one trip to the driving range. Then practice at home by taking an address with the ball in that exact spot.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Two-Week Health Rule

This week I’m going to take a break from talking to you about golf. I’m going to talk instead about something that could save your life.

Rule: If one day something is wrong with you and it doesn’t clear up by itself in two weeks, go to a doctor to begin a process of diagnosis.

Two years ago, in November 2014, I followed that rule, as I have done for many years. While diagnosing my complaint, an imaging study revealed a tumor.

By the sheerest bit of luck, not only in timing, but also in the location of the tumor, I was diagnosed with cancer at a very early stage. So far the treatments have been successful and my prognosis is good.

The doctors said the original complaint was nothing to worry about and it cleared itself up in six weeks. Had I waited it out, I would not have known about the cancer until it had become quite advanced.

I have talked to several cancer patients whose disease was also found by the merest accident.

There are many reasons why people don’t go to see a doctor. They are afraid of what might be found. They know what it might be and are afraid of the treatment. They don’t have time to be sick right now. I don’t go to doctors and I’m OK so far. And so on.

I can’t argue with these reasons because they are sincerely felt. All I can say is, go see the doctor anyway.

I’m not trying to be alarmist. The next time you feel something is off, it’s probably not anything big. But then it might be. You never know.

So you have two weeks. Then you go see the doctor. O.K.?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Going From the Range to the Course

The driving range is about hitting shots. The golf course is about scoring. Here’s how to make the first one easier to bring to the second one.

1. Pick a target for every shot. Not a direction, but a spot on the ground where you want the ball to land.

2. Go through your entire pre-shot routine before you hit the ball. Don’t swing at the ball until you have the feeling that this will be a very good shot.

3. For the next shot, pick a different target.

4. Change clubs after every three shots.

5. Take a break every now and then. Get out of your groove before you resume.

6. Hit some fades and draws. Hit some high shots, some low shots.

7. Develop a shot for when you just can’t go right. Same for when you can’t go left. Same for This one has to go straight, distance be hanged.

8. Make it fun. Make hitting golf balls something you enjoy, not something you work at.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

More on Grip Pressure

Two weeks ago I talked about the importance of having light grip pressure. I wanted to put up graphs comparing the grip pressure of a professional golfer with that of a mid-handicapper, but I couldn’t find them in time for publication.

Well, while prowling around the house a few days ago, looking for something else, I found the book that has the graphs.

So here they are.

The graphs are taken from a paper titled, Evaluation of Golf Club Control by Grip Pressure Measurement, by D.R. Budney and D.G. Bellow, reprinted in Science and Golf, A.J. Cochran, Ed., 1990.

Golfers swung a club with three transducers built into the grip to measure left hand pressure, right hand pressure, and pressure under the left thumb.

The first graph shows the grip pressure throughout the swing of a professional golfer. Notice that in the early stages of the swing, pressure at all places is quite light.

Pressure rose during the backswing in the left hand and thumb, and peaked in the right hand and left thumb during the downswing. Notice the drop in pressure in those two spots at impact.

Left hand pressure reached its peak just after impact.

The next graph is of an 11-handicap golfer. Pressure is grater from the very start. The patterns of peaks and drops occur at roughly the same places as for the professional golfer, but there is much more pressure at every point.

The amateur golfer is holding the club much tighter.

These graphs show that no matter what the grip pressure is at the start, it will tighten during the swing as the club moves faster and faster.

Keeping the pressure light at the start will minimize peak pressure, keeping as much tension as possible out of the hands and arms, leading to a more fluid and controlled golf swing.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Slow-Motion Golf Swings

Golf is a game of constant maintenance and correction. Once something works, we want to find a way to keep it working. We also know that eventually we will ease out of our groove, and we have to find the way back in.

One very good way to do both of those things is with slow-motion golf swings. The golf swing happens so fast, and out of our sight, that it’s not really possible to know exactly what’s going on. By slowing down, we can feel clearly what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong.

And that’s the whole point - to feel what is going on. We can’t see what we are doing, but we can feel it.

The feels we are looking for are the ones that bring the club back square and on plane, and return the clubhead to the ball with the desired impact geometry, and, hopefully, with a good amount of speed.

The best way to teach your unconscious mind* what those feels are is to practice swinging slowly.

The slow-motion swing allows you to verify the feels of what you are doing right.

If anything gets out of whack, you can sense it right away. That is feel of the wrong movment. Even though it might be your habit, it needs to change.

If you need to make a correction, its feel might be odd, but because the slow swing allows you to carefully monitor what is going on at all times, you’ll know it’s right.

Maybe you’re working of a slight change. Practice it in slow motion first, to make sure you’re doing it the way you want to, and you’re not still doing what you’re trying to get away from.

I’m not saying that there is now no reason to have a lesson, but there is a lot you can diagnose yourself so that when you get that lesson, it will be fine tuning, rather than going back to basics.

Pay your money to learn what you can’t figure out by yourself.

The first time I heard about this trick was on a Golf Channel Playing Lessons With the Pros episode featuring Brad Faxon. He said he, and other touring pros, did this all the time at the range, for the very purposes I described above.

Now that it’s rainy weather and you don’t get to play much, and it gets dark early so going to the range after work isn’t really an option, try working on slow swings at home. Get a lesson and spend the winter getting everything in your swing lined up right.

*Most people use the term “subconscious mind”, but my psychologist friends say “unconscious mind” is correct.