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.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Note on Grip Pressure

After you get a general idea of how to swing a golf club, it becomes a matter of paying attention to the little things, that fine tuning which makes all the difference in the world.

One of the little things is grip pressure, which means having a light grip pressure.

In Jim Flick’s book, On Golf, he says in his section on grip pressure, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of secure but light grip pressure. If you gain nothing else from this book, I hope you come away with respect and appreciation for correct grip pressure.”

The night before Greg Norman was to win his first British Open title, Jack Nicklaus, who was not in contention, advised Norman to keep an eye on his grip pressure the next day, since it can tighten up under the stress of competition. That’s all Nicklaus mentioned, because he knew that was the only thing he needed to say.

How light should your grip pressure be? It can be too light. Then the club would move around inside your hands during the swing. A slightly off-center hit could twist the clubface, costing you distance and direction.

Sam Snead’s advice to hold the club like a little bird isn’t good advice. I’ve held a wild sparrow in my hands, and that’s way too light for swinging a golf club.

The key is how firmly you hold the club at the start.

Sole a club, say a 6-iron, and take your grip with just enough pressure to pick up the club without it drooping in your hands.

The grip should feel like it presses gently into the pads on the inside of your fingers and palms.

Your hands will tighten a bit as you swing, but swing and practice just keeping them from tightening too much. This is a feel thing. When you practice, err on the side of too light a grip.

It’s easier to know you have to tighten up a bit more than to know you have to loosen it up a bit.

Also to be attended to is the condition of your grips. If they are worn smooth, or are dirty, they will slide around in your hands, causing you to hold on too tightly just to prevent that. Make sure they have a tacky feel.

Here’s the difference grip pressure makes for me.

When I hold the club too tightly, my right wrist gets tense and unable to move. That gets my hand jammed up against it, and the clubface closes on the backswing. The result is a hook with my irons, and a duck hook with my driver.

When my grip pressure is light, my wrist can bend the way it is supposed to on the way back, keeping the clubface square. The result is very straight ball flight.

If you lighten up your grip pressure, that little thing can have the affect of opening up your swing, and better shot-making.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Swing Faster by Relaxing More

The pursuit of distance makes us do damaging things to our swing, mainly because of swinging harder. The surest way to get more distance is not to swing harder, but to hit the ball off the center of the clubface. That takes a lot of practice, which I encourage you to do.

There is another way to get more distance that is easy to do and doesn’t require any changes to your swing. That way is to be relaxed during your swing, thereby increasing your swing speed.

You might have found out that putting lots of strength into your swing also puts tension in your muscles which actually slows down your swing rather than speeding it up.

What I want you to do is take an iron, say a 6-iron or a 5-iron, and make your swing without a ball in front of you. Listen for the sound the whoosh makes as the club goes through the impact area.

That sound is an indicator of how fast the club is traveling. The higher the pitch of the whoosh, the faster the clubhead is moving.

You don’t have to buy any of devices you see on TV that measure your swing speed. The sound of the whoosh will tell you everything you need to know.

Just try a more muscular swing now, to show yourself that it won’t do any good. The pitch will be the same, or even lower.

Even if the pitch does go up, ask yourself what you are doing to clubface control. Odds are you’ve made clean contact more difficult to achieve.

Now set up and relax your grip to just enough that you can swing and keep the club under control. Try this a few times, relaxing your grip more each time, and keep it relaxed throughout the swing.

You might be surprised at how lightly you can hold the club and still control it.

Now relax your arms and swing a few times. Relax your torso. Relax your legs. Get your entire body relaxed, maintaining that relaxation as you swing.

I am sure you will find the pitch of the whoosh rising, proving that you are swinging faster.

More swing speed is generated by more relaxation, not by more effort. Practice this, learn to trust it.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Getting Good Around the Green

Lately I’ve been going to the range about three times a week. I hit my bucket of balls, but what I really want to do is practice around the green.

This is a practice green where you’re allowed to chip, and I do it. One wedge, a putter, and one ball. Chip the ball, putt it out -- just like you do on the course. No do-overs with the chip, either. Not wanting to have to leave a ten-foot putt for an up and down gets me to focus.

How am I doing? I get up and down almost every time. I’m not trying to brag here, to tell you how great I am. I’m trying to tell you that if you practice something often enough, you learn and you get good at it.

All that putting I have been doing at home the past few months, and the chipping I do at the range, is paying off.

And there’s this -- chipping is the easiest stroke in the game, the easiest one to get good at. There is no reason not to be good at it. Just put in the practice. Getting a lesson won’t hurt, either. Chances are your chipping stroke could stand a little fixing.

If you practice regularly starting now, by springtime you can own the green. All you have to do is put in the work.

Let me say one thing to inspire you about getting good.

An amateur will practice until he (or she) learns to do it right. A professional practices until he can’t do it wrong. No one is stopping you from practicing that much, and if you do, it will pay off like you won’t believe.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

How I Putt (II)

A few weeks ago I went over my putting setup and stroke in detail. It's one thing to putt on your carpet at home. It's quite another to putt on live greens. This post is about how I get the ball in the hole.

For makable putts, of eight feetish or under, I am definitely challenging the hole. Putts around 15 feet and longer I am just trying to get the ball near the hole so luck can take over.

For the in-between distances, it depend on how I'm feeing that day. With a twelve-foot putt I might be go for it one day, or just try to get it close on another.

In any case, I use a spot putting system. When I line up my putt I will pick out a spot on the green about two inches in front of the ball. Dave Stockton likes one inch, but that's too close for me.

When I putt, all I'm concerned about is making that two-inch putt. Then, with the right pace and a good read the ball will go in the hole.

I find if I don't spot putt, but think all the way to the hole, I end up trying to steer the ball in, and that seldom works.

As for pace, you learn that only by practicing. I practice pace a lot, with 20- to 40-foot putts, because that is the way to avoid three-putt greens. I like to the ball to end up within five percent of the total distance.

The same goes for green-reading. You can only learn that from practice. So practice!

Good putting is as much in your mind as in all the technical matters. The one thought I have heard good putters talk about and which really works is this: as you are about to make your stroke, you cannot care whether the ball goes in the hole or not.

Get prepared for the putt, and think only about making that two-inch putt. As for the actual putt, you will either make it or miss it, and some of the difference is up to the putting surface, which you have no control over. You can hit the perfect putt and it might not go in.

So do all that, and apply the mechanics you learned in your back room, and practice!, and you'll be a much better putter.

And what do I mean by practice? Spend as many minutes on the putting green as you do on the mat hitting balls.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How I Putt (I)

A few weeks ago I mentions that I was practicing a lot for short putts and am getting REAL good at them. I’ve been putting in my back room since the middle of August, several times a day, and have refined my technique fairly well. The description that follows might get you thinking in detail about how you make your putting stroke.

First of all, I use my four-finger interlocking grip. This grip prevents one hand other other from dominating the stroke. Both hands work as one unit. My grip pressure is very light -- just enough to keep the putter from flopping around in my hands.

The ball is about two inches inside my left heel. I don’t pay much attention to where my feet go, but they almost always end up perpendicular to the target line, with the right foot more forward than the left by a inch or two.

Because I haven’t found the placement of the feet to be important, I place them before I aim the putter. I don’t want to aim the putter and then have the aim altered when my feet move.

I aim by placing the putter in front of the ball and aligning the face using a mark I drew on the topline of the putter.

I make sure the putter shaft and my forearms make a straight line. This causes me to arch my wrists upwards a bit. The effect is to make it easier to take the putter straight back and through. When your wrists are lower, you take the putter back and through in an arc, which is a less accurate stroke in my opinion.

Once I’m aimed, I put the putter behind the ball and make my stroke right away.

The takeaway is slow. That way I keep the putter swinging on line. I know that face angle is more important than swing path, but swing path still counts for something. By keeping the putter on the right path, I ensure all the more that the putter face stays square.

I also imagine that it is the sole of the putter that is being taken away from the ball. This make the takeaway smoother, preventing me from jerking the putter back.

The stroke is fairly short, straight back and straight through. If you hit the sweet spot, you don’t need a long backswing to get the ball to the hole.

I do what Gary Player wants us all to do -- keep your head down and not lift it to look as soon as the ball has been struck. Believe, me, this helps.

I am in continuous movement. The entire procedure, from setting my putter in front of the ball to aim it to hitting the ball, takes less than ten seconds.