Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Approach to the Golf Swing

This is how I go about swinging a golf club. There might be a something in here that will help you.

I take the approach that I am going to swing the club as gracefully and smoothly as I can. I eliminate any desire to hit the ball. The ball is just an object in the way of the swing, and quite honestly, I forget about it while I’m swinging. There’s room for only one thing in your mind at a time, and if it’s the ball, you can’t be feeling your swing.

After I have picked my target and feel how I want to swing, I walk up beside the ball and begin setting up. From the time I start walking up to the ball until the finish of my swing, there is a feeling of movement in my mind, and actual movement in my body, both of which never stop. Never let anything, especially the movement in your mind, come to a stop. This is very important.

I also eliminate the concept of “distance” from my thinking. The merest hint of “distance” makes you force your swing instead of relying on it. All I want to do is to swing the club. It’s the club’s job, not mine, to take care of where the ball goes.

I put my club down behind the ball and line up my stance. I take the club back in a brief waggle and set it down so very slowly behind the ball, so there is still movement. If you watched, you would say I set the club down and stopped moving, but there is still an imperceptible movement going on. At that point, I gently take the club away to begin my swing.

I take the club back at a leisurely pace, not slow, but not rushing. The end of the backswing and the start of the downswing is one motion, not two.

The crux of the swing is what happens during impact. The setup, backswing, and the first part of the downswing are all designed to put me in a place to swing through the ball with a square clubface, on line to the target, and with as much speed as my swing can generate on its own.

Starting the swing down, it is vital that I continue to stay slow, turning in one piece to where momentum can take over. When my swing approaches impact, I feel my hands ahead of the clubhead, pulling the clubhead through the bottom of the swing arc on a straight line toward the target, and keeping the clubhead low to the ground as it continues past the ball, relying on the loft of the club to get the ball in the air.

The less physical effort I put into the swing the more accurately I strike the ball and the farther and straighter it goes.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Gap in Your Golf Game

Unless you are a very good player, there is a gap in your golf game that you likely cannot close. That gap is between your 4-iron/24° hybrid/7-wood and your driver. Within that space, recreational golfers generally do not have a good chance to hit greens and make pars.

The solution is to judge the conditions carefully if you have a long shot into the green. When there’s no real trouble around it, then go for it IF you can get there with a club you get into the air easily.

(Having said that, if it’s a club you don’t get into the air easily, maybe it shouldn’t be in your bag at all.)

If you miss the green, you’ll at least be hole high with a chip onto the green for a par putt and a sure bogey. Nothing wrong with that.

What if there’s trouble in the form of bunkers, water, tall grass? Now it might make sense to play short to a long chipping position. In that case, hit the shot with the longest club you have confidence in.

That way, you’ll eat up a lot of yards, be in front of the green with a good lie and a chance, again, to chip on for a par or a sure bogey.

If you have a gap like the one I’m talking about, and I do, it’s best to think of the longer clubs as advancement clubs -- clubs that get your ball down the fairway without the risk of losing strokes.

Or, you can go one step farther and not even put them in your bag. That way, they will never get you in trouble.

I like a light bag, so I carry only 10 clubs. The set starts off with driver, 24° hybrid, 6-iron and on down stepwise to a 56° wedge and my putter. No 5-iron? I hit it well, but not often enough to carry it.

I hit my driver 220 yards. With a 175-yard second, I can reach the green on all but the longest par 4s. Long par 3s are hard to hit anyway, so playing short and safe works out better than playing long and into trouble. Par 5s are three-shotters, and 395 after two shots leaves a short iron into the green.

I’m not asking you to play wimpy golf. Not at all. I‘m suggesting that you be realistic about how to play from long distances so you don’t lose strokes needlessly.

The pros play golf one way. We play it another. When you’re ready to hit into the green from 200 yards without courting disaster, you’ll know.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

One Swing Tip, One Mental Tip

Between clubs?

Rule: When between clubs, take the longer club and grip down. Then make your normal swing.

Don’t try to hit the ball harder, because you don’t have to, and for sure don’t ease up, because that’s like hitting the shorter club.


One of the things that made me be a better golfer is that I don't care where the ball goes after I hit it. If it goes here, or goes there, I just get to my ball and play the next shot, whatever it is. Fear of where the ball might go makes you do silly things with your swing. I don't let silly things happen to my swing.

Consider this point well.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stepping Off Yardages

Very few of us are good enough to worry about whether, from the fairway, the pin is 160 yard away or 158. I'm not, but around the green, two yards makes a world of difference to me.

I don't assume my pace is one yard long when I step off a shot. I know exactly how long it is.

I went to a baseball diamond and walked off the distance between third and second, counting my steps. I walked back to third, counting again just make sure.

It took me 35 steps, and to cover 90 feet (30 yards), that's 6/7 of a yard per step.

I made up a card that I keep in my bag showing how far I walk with any number of steps from 1 to 20. If I take 11 steps, that’s 9.4 yards.

When I walk off short pitches, chips, and putts, I know exactly how far it is. That's one step closer to hitting the ball stone dead.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Forefinger Interlock Putting Grip

I was at the range a while ago fooling around on the putting green. I like to try different things out there and see what happens.
Remember in the British Open a few weeks ago, the amateur Paul Dunne had this putting grip where both hands were side-by-side?

I thought I’d try that, but I couldn’t make it work. There wasn‘t enough of the putter grip in my fingers to control the club when I swung it. But I didn’t want to give up, so I tried and interlocking grip with my right forefinger between my left middle and ring fingers.

That didn’t work. I still didn’t have control of the grip. There’s one more finger to go, I thought, so I put my right index finger between my left index and middle fingers. Bingo.

That brought my hands neatly together and put the grip in my fingers the way I was looking for. I call it the Forefinger Interlock grip. (You heard it here first.)

Notice in the second photo how close together my thumbs are. The right thumb nestles into the pocket of my left palm, and the pad under my left thumb fits right on top of my right thumb. The effect is that you hold the putter entirely in your right hand. The left hand provides stability.

Both thumbs point directly down the shaft.

Notice also how square my hands are. I don’t try to do this, it’s just what happens when I take this grip. That’s where my hands end up.

One of the problems with a standard putting grip, where one hand is lower on the shaft than the other, is that you have two hands that you have to keep working together so one hand, usually the left, doesn't run off and do its own thing.

That problem disappears with the Forefinger Interlock, that problem goes away because all you have down there is one clump of hands -- one thing moving the club, not two. In this way the putter face does not twist out of square. You get a swinging stroke, not a hitting stroke. Your hands are taken out of the stroke entirely.

Results? I’m putting just as well on average days as I did on good days. Because my hands are not involved in the stroke, I’m more relaxed mentally. That gives me more confidence, which leads to better putting.

So. Is the Forefinger Interlock the grip of the future? The grip that will take five strokes off your score? The grip that will take the Tour by storm? Maybe.

But it is definitely something for you to try. Can’t hurt, and it might help. A lot.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Golf Rangefinder Tip

If you use a laser rangefinder on the golf course, you get an accurate distance to the pin. It would be nice to know where the pin is in relation to the center of the green, though. A location indicator attached to the pin, or on the 150-yard marker, if they're used, is only an approximation.

As you're approaching your ball, and before it's your turn to hit, find a sprinkler head with a yardage affixed and stand right above it. Shoot the pin and compare the difference between the yardage to the pin and the yardage shown on the sprinkler head.

If the sprinkler head yardage is higher, the pin is nearer to the front of the green. If the sprinkler head yardage is less, the pin is nearer to the back of the green.

Most of the time we are short with our approaches (but that's another post). If you know because of what you just found out that the pin is toward the front of the green, you might what to take a longer club to make sure your ball gets to the green.

If the pin is behind the center of the green, you can take less club and hit an easier shot, knowing that you still have enough club to get the ball onto the green. Remember, most greens are at leasts 30 yards deep, which gives you plenty of room for error.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Swing Up With Your Driver? Really?

The advice you read these days is that your driver should be arcing upward when it makes contact with the ball. True enough for recreational golfers. There are some instructors, though, who would have you learn a swing separately for your driver so that could happen.

I won’t argue with them, because they might well be right in that that would be ideal way to play golf. But, recreational golfers who have time to make one trip to the range per week, and play one round of golf per week, don’t have the time to develop two swings. Getting good at just one is hard enough.

So here’s what you don’t have to do to be swinging upward with your driver.

- You don’t have to deliberately swing up at the ball.

- You don’t have to tilt your stance away from the target when you set up to the ball.

- You don't have to tee the ball higher or tee it up way forward in your stance.

None of those things. All you have to do is use your normal stance and your normal golf swing.

I figured this out when I was working on my swing with a 6-iron and no ball. I found that the club kept hitting the ground about thee inches in front of where the club was at address.

This means I would have hit a golf ball lying on the ground while the club was still going slightly down, like we're supposed to. But three inches isn’t that far in front of the ball. After that, the club would have to start arcing upward.

I laid out a few alignment rods as shown in the picture. The orange rod points to the center of my stance, where I would place the ball for an iron shot. The tee peg points to a spot three inches in front of that, marking the bottom of my swing. The yellow rod points to the ball on a tee, even with the inside of my right heel.

As you can see, the yellow rod lies well in front of the bottom of my swing (tee peg). That means when the driver bottoms out three inches in front of the orange rod, it has plenty of time to be arcing upward when it contacts the ball.

When I started swinging normally at a teed-up ball, using the same swing feelings that I do when I swing an iron, the ball just took off.

Remember, all the clubhead has to be doing is moving a few degrees upward. By using your normal swing, that will happen.

One swing is hard enough to learn. Fortunately, that one swing is good enough for everything.