30 Day Challenge: Wedges – Day 13

The last couple of days of practice have been really productive. Yesterday I worked on pitches from about 15 to 30 yards with 60 degree wedge and today I worked on bump and runs with a 9 iron from the same distance.

With the 60 degree, I worked on controlling both the distance and the trajectory. I found that to hit good shots (i.e., those that stopped within 5 feet of the hole), I really needed to control both the trajectory and the distance very well. The margin for error was pretty small. I was able to get a lot of them close, and I learned how to get better contact. That shot will be important when I have little green to work with and need some height to get over a bunker or a thick patch of rough etc.

Today I really enjoyed working on the bump and runs with the 9 iron. One of the best thing about it was that I could hit them from further off the green than I initially thought. Which gives me some confidence going into future rounds of golf. The other great thing about bump and runs is that it is a very forgiving shot. The ball doesn’t need to travel very far in the air which makes it easy to control. I also found that it was overall a very forgiving shot. I could miss my target by a yard either way and still end up with a good result.

As I said it was surprising to see how far from the green I could be and have an effective bump and run.

To take part in the 30 day challenge: wedges, click here.

30 Day Challenge: Wedges – Day 5

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/images/Kenn7g.JPGThe last few days of practice were pretty much rained out by one of the seemingly many tropical storms that’s hitting the north east.  Luckily the skies will clear up for about a week.

I continued to practice short shots at the range, devoting 80% of the bucket of balls to them.

The positive thing is that my distance control is becoming better.  I can get pretty close to the distances I want with virtually any club.  For example there is a green out on the range at 126 yards.  I can hit it pretty consistently with the following clubs 52* sand wedge, PW, 9i, 8i, 7i.  I’m finding that although the 52* can get it there, in fact it can land at about 130.  It gets a super high ball flight.  It’s one of those shots that’s much better if there is no wind.  I’m finding it’s easier to hit consistently with the pw or even 9 iron because the trajectory is more controllable.  With those clubs, the shots feel like half shots almost, but the trajectory is nice, and the ball gets a lot of spin, though I’m not trying to put a lot of spin on it.

I’m still working on accuracy.  Although I’m getting a good feel for the distances, I tend to miss a bit left or right depending on the target. I think that’s simply a matter of working with it.  It continues to be a lot of fun and I know my accuracy will improve.  I’m not missing by much, so that is exciting.

I hit the last 20 balls with some longer irons, hybrid, and woods.  My rhythm was better and I hit some fantastic irons and some really good hybrids.  The driver is the one club that continues to give me a bit of inconsistency but I’m not too worried about that as I don’t need to hit driver all that much to play well.  Still, it would be nice to get the driver in better shape.  I hit some great ones and some poor ones, but even the poor ones would be in play.

I also felt something interesting on my best shots.  It felt as if time slowed down at the top of the backswing.  It was kind of strange, but it also felt really in sync.

Control distance with trajectory

http://www.protee-united.com/images/stories/golfsimulator/screenshot-17.jpgThere are many excellent reasons to learn to control your distance with trajectory.  Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Not every shot is a full shot.  The more you can learn to master partial shots, the more control you’ll have approaching greens.
  2. Dealing with the wind.  Lower trajectory shots fly better in the wind and are less likely to be taken off line.  Have a short shot and it’s a windy day? Take more club and use a partial shot to take the wind out of play.
  3. Helps your short game.  Partial shots are all about feel, control and imagination, learn to do this and it will make your wedge game and short irons so much more effectively.  It will also open up more of the green enabling you to play safer shots to tucked pins and still get the ball close.
  4. Learn solid contact.  Partial shots require you to stay within yourself.  The more you practice these the more you’ll learn to feel how a solid shot feels.  Trust me, it transfers to your long game and full shots and makes you a better ball striker with every club.

Take the 30 day challenge: wedges and learn how to control your irons and wedges with more imagination and creativity.  You’ll learn valuable things that will help your entire game and make you a better player.

New 30 Day Challenge – Wedges: Day 1

This next challenge is all about your wedge game.  When you watch the PGA Tour, any event, try to pay extra attention to the wedge shots being played.  Not, the coverage will be a bit skewed because it will generally be showing the best players in the world, who are playing their best golf.  But if you pay attention you’ll see that not everyone is hitting fairways and greens.   For professional golfers who are having a bad ball striking day, their wedge game can keep them in the tournament and even save what would be a very good bad round, and make it an acceptable round.

One of the things you’ll notice is that they control distance through trajectory.  The type of shot they play with their wedges depends on their lie, their line into the green, and the amount of green they have to work with.  This determines whether they are going to play a high soft shot that lands near the pin, or a low runner that rolls up somewhere near the flag, or even a shot that leaves them 10 to 20 feet from the pin if there is a lot of trouble near it.

So part of what this new challenge will teach you is how to create different trajectories with your wedges so that as you play you can see new options for you.  A mistake many people make is that if they have 125 yards to the pin, they’ll pull out their 125 yard club and hit a full shot.  It may not be the right choice, and usually isn’t.  But because amateurs never really practice different trajectories they don’t really see the other options.  They try to hit everything as a full shot.

I went to the driving range yesterday with this in mind.  I reserved 20 balls for my long game and 80 for my wedge game.  I picked out several targets from 60 to 125 and proceeded to try different trajectories to each one.  At first it wasn’t easy.  Since I hadn’t really done this, it was challenging to know how far to hit it.  It took most of the bucket to start getting  a feeling for how each wedge (and actually even my short irons all the way to a 7) could be used to hit those various targets.  Once I started to get the hang of it, it was a lot of fun.  I probably landed a low percentage at the correct distance, but I wasn’t that far off and I’m excited to become better at it since I understand what it will do for my ability to score on the golf course.

After hitting all 80 balls, I switched to my long game and hit a few balls with each club all the way to driver.  What I noticed was that everything felt a bit more in sync.  And my long game seemed to be more accurate.

After the driving range I went to the short game area to work on shots of 15 and 30 yards.  I had a blast playing them from all kinds of lies and it started to build my confidence.  I was doing the same thing with the 3 different trajectories and it just seems to open up your imagination.  I even put some balls in the trees and was able to get a majority of them on the green, some quite close to the pin.

In many ways, I found this type of practice much more rewarding than strictly long game practice.  It exercises your imagination and forces you to play different kinds of shots.  All in all day 1 was a success and I look forward to see how this practice affects my scoring and play on the golf course.

To join this challenge click here.

Jim Furyk talks about being a feel player

Furyk plays an approach shot to the 7th at Copperhead during his  fine opening round.Furyk plays an approach shot to the 7th at Copperhead during his fine opening round.

After his win at the Copperhead Golf course at Innisbrook, Jim Furyk spoke to Michael Breed on Monday night’s “The Golf Fix.” Jim Furyk mentioned that his father has been his only coach throughout his career and that Fuyk considers himself the least mechanical player on tour.

Here are some of the things he said when asked about being a feel player.

“I let my dad worry about the golf swing, for me its a feel issue.  I worry about setup and putting myself in a good position.”

“I may be the least mechanical player on tour”

“The golf swing happens in maybe a second and a half.  I’m not a connect the dots player…  It’s about you’ve got a very small amount of time to make a golf swing…  Your mind can do some pretty magical things…  Relate the club face to a feel…  It’s repeatable because it’s natural.  I never broke down the swing and tried to do things that felt uncomfortable or unnatural.”

What Furyk talked about is absolute gold.  It matches a lot of what I talked about in the 30 Day Challenge.  He let’s his dad worry about the swing.  I think it’s the same thing other feel players say.  They don’t want to know the details because it doesn’t help them make a repeatable swing.  Furyk went on to say that he can’t think about all the pieces and retain his feel.  The conscious mind can only handle so much, when you cram it with a million swing thoughts you are going to get inconsistent results and you are going to lose feel.  It’s amazing watching Furyk because he does appear to be mechanical.  He has very exacting pre-shot routines. But then you hear him talking it’s all about feel.

He goes on to say that “your mind can do some pretty magical things.”  That is a great quote.  By letting your mind focus on the feel, it can really do wonderful things and execute great shots.  The problem most people is that they never really learn to tap into it.  Getting away from technical positions, video, and all those swing thoughts, can really free up your creativity and allow your mind to feel the golf swing, rather than trying to “connect the dots” as Furyk puts it.

The last point I want to make is that he never did things that felt uncomfortable or unnatural.  When I look at the swings of most golfers they really do look uncomfortable.  They try to twist their bodies into certain positions because that what they think they should be doing.  The reality is that those uncomfortable feelings are there to tell you that you are not doing things right.

I’ve had instances where an instructor told me to get into a certain position.  The idea itself wasn’t wrong, but forcing myself into the position was.  I needed to find a way to get into that position in a way that felt was natural.  Once I did that, it made perfect sense and I was able to feel it and use it effectively.  But the important point is that I found a way to get into it naturally.

30 Day Challenge now complete

Thank you to everyone who has tuned into the 30 day challenge.  It has been a blast.  And just so you all know, this is the first in a number of challenges, all to help you become better golfers.

This challenge for me was not easy.  For the past 7 months or so, I had really become a video swing analysis junkie.  It took 30 days off video to see what that actually had done to my game.  My feel after the challenge has dramatically improved.  What does this mean, really?

It means that I’m not trying to get into specific positions.  I’m not thinking about technical swing thoughts, and I’m much more in touch with what my body is feeling.  It also means that the shots I create feel like an extension of me, rather than feeling like I got lucky and hit a shot solid.  My imagination and creativity has also improved.  I don’t just to try to blast my irons or woods as far as they will go.  Instead I’m focused on shot making.  I visualize the shot, feel in my hands what that shot should feel like, and repeat that feeling on my swing.  It is astounding to me how the shots turn out when I do this process right.  The nice thing is that even when they don’t turn out exactly right, I can feel what happened.  This makes making any corrections that much easier.

The correction can be as simple as feeling the shot better.

What else has happened over the 30 days?  My club head speed has gone up consistently.  My driver speed is now in the 110 range consistently, and I also hit the center of the face consistently.

My irons are also better, and my six iron swing speed is in the 93-94 mph range, which means I have to upgrade my shafts in my irons.  The Mizuno fitting system recommended Dynamic Gold x100s for me.  I’ve never really played DG so I’m excited about what those might to for my game when I get my irons reshafted.

The biggest change is my outlook on the game.

The game seems so much simpler.  I was on information overload before starting this challenge.  That is greatly reduced.  It is amazing what it feels like to be on a golf course without thousands of swing thoughts swimming in and out of my head.  It’s liberating and it makes it so much more fun.

Overall this has been a terrific experience and I’m excited about the upcoming challenges.  Keep reading to find out when the next one starts, you won’t want to miss it.

Also, I will continue to help anyone who is doing the current 30 day challenge.  Please post your questions on the facebook page.  Also, sign up for the 30 day challenge newsletter.  There are a lot of exciting things coming up.

30 Day Challenge – Day 26 – 1st Round of Golf

Today I played my first round of golf since starting the 30 day challenge.  I recorded my performance using the method from shotbyshot.com.

So how did it go?

Statistics for the day:

GIR: 9

FW: 8

Feet of putts made: 15 feet (including 10 1 putts from 4 feet or less).

Average Distance to the pin: 13 ft.

Handicaps for the round:

Long Game: 6

Chip and Pitch: +1

Putting: 1

Sand: none

I ended up shooting a 1 over par 73.  The wind was blowing about 15 to 20 MPH and the temperature was in the mid 50s.

I am very pleased with the way the round went.  Hit some gorgeous drives, kept the ball in play, and chipped it great, leaving myself a lot of tap ins for par.  I did have a double bogey on the second hole and a bogey on nine, but I got one back on the next hole with the first of my two birdies for the day shooting 1 over par for the front nine, and carding an even par 36 for the back nine.  The back nine was bogey free.

I’m very excited to see what the game holds.  I felt like I was able to use my imagination on the course much more, and I also felt like I played smarter, within myself and my abilities.  Hit 8 fairways, 2 missed fairways still left me with good shots, and I was left with 4 bad lies after the tee shot.  Two of those four led to bogey or worse, and the other two led to par.

On the course I also felt more at ease.  I didn’t have a lot of swing thoughts coming in as I was really focusing on feeling the shot.  Very few shots went perfect, but my misses were not very punishing and allowed me to stay on track.   My short game also felt a lot sharper even though I haven’t been on a practice putting green since November.  I think I was just able to see and feel the shots much more than I have been able to in a long time.

Sign up to take part in the 30 day challenge and play your best golf.

30 Day Challenge, Days 22 – 25

snowrange

This is how my driving range has looked throughout most of this 30 day challenge.

With the weather starting to warm up I’m starting to see more accurate carry distances and I’m very excited for what the season holds.  I continue to make progress with my ability to execute the shots I see in my minds eye.  My irons are especially strong in that regard, although I feel like I’m starting to overpower the shafts a bit.  Still, that is god news even if it means that I’ll need to reshaft soon.

The most significant change I’ve seen in the last few days is that getting into the ready position has become so much more natural which is having a positive impact on my confidence.  Being reasonably confident that I’m set up well to my target and the ball makes it so much easier to swing freely.  This ready position also allows me more more freedom in visualizing and executing shots.  My body feels like it allows the ball to get in the way of the club face and it does not fight itself as much.

The only place I do feel a bit of conflict remains with the driver.  It is certainly much improved from when I started the challenge, but it does have room for appointment.  Still my misses are manageable and continue to get better.  Part of it could also have been that I have a new shaft in my driver (Project X Graphite 7B3).  It does seem to kill the spin, though I haven’t been on trackman with this new setup yet.

The temperature was in the mid 50s and it was beautiful.  I may try to get 18 holes in tomorrow, even though it won’t be quite as warm.  It’ll be interesting to see how the 30 Day Challenge translate to the golf course.  My game feels so much better and I don’t feel the need to watch video anymore.  I feel like I can make any corrections I need to based on what I feel.  I know what feels right, and I know what doesn’t, and it just seems so much better than trying to adjust to a position on a video screen.  For someone who was so big into video analysis, that last paragraph was a bit weird to write, but that’s how I feel now.  It is liberating.  I also feel less dependent on my instructors as well.  They will be there for check-ups and questions, but my game feels really good.

To start your own 30 Day Challenge click here.

30 Day Challenge – Day 21

It was a cold driving range session. The heated bays were closed due to some work they were doing on them and we were very exposed to the wind out on the mats.  Most of the snow was thankfully gone, and I heard that the course may open a week ahead of schedule, which was great news to me.

After warming up I was able to continue most of my good ball striking from the day before.  I was unable to hit driver as it was an irons only day at the range due to work they were doing on the left side of the fence.  For the most part I was able to shape shots at will and given the high wind conditions I felt my distance control was pretty good.

One of the things that was different today was that I didn’t strike the shots until I felt ready.  When I did finally feel ready, it felt as if my heartbeat had slowed way down, and it was like being almost in a meditative state.  The feeling in my hands was amplified and I felt more committed to the shot I picked out.  It was very interesting, and I’d never really felt that before.

To sign up for the 30 day challenge.

Here are other 30 day challenge posts.  You can see my progress in the posts below.

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30 Day Challenge – Days 19 and 20

Yesterday’s driving range session was very different from today’s session.

Yesterday, although I hit a lot of quality shots I had some trouble keeping my focus which led to some inconsistencies, especially with the driver.  I think I started to take the results for granted and I my consistency dropped off.  The other thing that happened was that I found it more difficult to focus on the process and on the feeling in my hands and as a result my consistency dropped off.

Today was a different experience.  My sole focus in this session was to feel the shot in my rehearsal and reproduce the feeling without worrying about ball flight.  This idea got me back on track.  I found that when I was able to focus on the feeling both in the rehearsal and with a golf ball that I got that consistency back that I had missed yesterday.  When I was not able to recreate the feel I had rehearsed, I didn’t even have to see the ball to know where it went, I could feel what my hands did and knew whether I pulled it, hooked, pushed or faded it.  It was very interesting.  Yesterday, I didn’t know where my misses were going and I had to watch the ball, and today, I knew exactly where my misses were going by recognizing the feeling in my hands.

I came to the realization that to be a good ball striker all I need to do is feel the shot, and recreate the same feeling with the golf ball.  That’s it.  The challenge of course, is actually recreating the feeling consistently, but it sure is a simpler way to play the game.  So the things that can hurt my ball striking are those that take me away from seeing and feeling the shot, and reproducing the feeling.