Preview: Sky Caddie SGX

SkyGolf will be releasing their new flagship GPS the SkyCadie SGX to the public on March 15th.  It will have some new features that can truly help make better decisions on the golf course and improve confidence.  These developments should help golfers to improve their games.  See the press release here.

One of the basic ways that GPS units help golfers is by providing them with accurate distance information.  However, golfers need more than distance information in order to make good decisions, especially when approaching the green.  The SGX’s new or improved green features should give golfers the information they need to approach greens with more confidence.

IntelliGreen Pro provides distances to green contours, false fronts, and any other point on the green.  Although it is not available on all SkyCaddie courses (including the course I play), for those courses that it is available it should be very helpful.

I’m most excited about seeing the “Smart Club” technology in person.  If the SGX can deliver on its promise to track club data (club used, distance hit) etc, that could really help the average golfer.  It would provide and easy way for people to really know how far they hit each club.

Currently, tracking that information by hand is certainly doable, but tedious.  I imagine that few people actually do it, and when they do, they may fall into the trap of only writing down their best shots.  The SGX could provide players with more accurate data as it could capture every shot.  One could potentially track it over time and see trends, etc.  This could take some of the “ego” out of the game so that players can make decisions based on realistic data.

Overall the SGX unit looks promising.  It appears SkyGolf is serious about helping golfers to actually improve their golf games.  They also seem to be responding to their competition by pre-loading the unit with 30,000 courses.  All of this competition between GPS manufacturers should end up enhancing this game we love.

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TrackMan: A valuable teaching tool


I had an opportunity to get on TrackMan today.  If you have not had the opportunity to try it I highly recommend it.  Sterling Farms, in Stamford CT will let you get on the TrackMan launch monitor for $110/hr.

What a great experience!  Trackman is much more advanced than I had thought based on what I’ve seen on the Golf Channel.  It is so much more than just getting your launch numbers.

I was really surprised at the amount of information that it generates, especially when you see the teaching modules for it.  Along with tracking the golf ball, it also tracks the clubhead through the impact zone.    The 3D club view is awesome and it was truly eye opening to see what the club was doing through impact in a way that video analysis just can’t do.

The teaching modules in TrackMan can show you things that you really can’t get in a regular teaching session because everything the instructor describes can be shown on the screen and in 3 dimensions.  In a short session I was able to make some huge improvements in my swing and ball compression.

Review: BirdieTurf

BirdieTurfIf you have been looking for a portable, quality golf mat solution the BirdieTurf could be your answer.  The system consists of two mats, a stand mat with a rubber surface and a grass mat.  Recently they changed the product so that you received two mats with the grass surface.  This review is about the first version, but the important thing is the quality of the hitting surface.

Range Mat Comparison

So how does this mat compare to range mats.  There are few different types of range mats depending on the type of range.  Some ranges have very thin hard mats.  Those are the harshest on the body.  Most public driving ranges that I have been to have a thicker harder mat with little give, but are a step above the thin mats.  With those two types of mats, they are often so hard they provide little realistic feedback.  A shot hit fat could easily appear to be a quality shot because of the way the club bounces of the mat and into the ball.  Those mats don’t allow you to hit down and through the ball and if you have a digger type swing that normally takes a divot, those mats can end up causing you pain in your wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

The nicest range mats have a softer grass surface that feels more natural and allows you to hit down and through the ball.  Those mats are pretty rare at commercial driving ranges.  I have seen these only at a prestigious private golf club.  The mats there really do feel like hitting of a lush fairway, they allow you to hit down and through the ball, they give you realistic feedback, and you can put a tee anywhere you want.

The BirdieTurf feel is somewhere between the nicer range mat, and the private club mat described above.  Although it does not really let you hit down and through the ball it does feel soft on the wrists, elbows and shoulders.  It is a higher quality mat than you will find at most commercial driving ranges.

The BirdieTurf is very portable and solidly built.  Each half of the two piece system measures 32” by 22” and weighs 19 lbs.  It will not slide during swings.  Each mat also has a heavy duty carrying handle, making them ideal for a backyard driving range, or even taking to your local park with a sleeve of birdie balls.

Zen Chili Rating for  BirdieTurf

3 Zens out of 5

• Soft mat means less for fear of injury
• Practice anywhere, especially with BirdieBalls
• Easy on the wallet

5 Chilis out of 5

• Solid Construction
• Good feel and feedback
•Soft grass surface
• Will not slide
• Great for full swing, and chipping

To learn more about the rating system click here.

The mats come with a heavy duty universal tee that holds any type of normal tee.  I would suggest using a plastic tee like a zero friction tee if you are going to hit drives off this mat as the tee holder has a solid bottom and a wooden tee could break, leaving the wooden part embedded in the holder with no chance of getting it out.  Plastic tees are less likely to break like that.  The tee that comes with the mat is removable and you can replace it with your own rubber tees or even something like the DuraTee.

High Quality Mat, excellent value

Overall this is an excellent mat system for the price.  It has a soft feeling surface that won’t injure you the way most commercial range mats do.  It is portable, so you can take it anywhere and work on your game.  You could even take it to your local range to hit off a better surface if you don’t like the mats they have.  While it doesn’t have quite the feel of the mats that allow you to hit down and through, it is surprisingly close.  Even when I went after it with a steep swing, the mat felt softer and had more give than your traditional range mat.

BirdieTurf product description at the BirdieBall website.

Review: Tour Striker Pro

According to the website for the Tour Striker:

Finally! A simple training club that intuitively promotes the essentials of Tour quality club head to ball impact!

One percent of golfers strike golf balls correctly. The Tour Striker and Tour Striker Pro training clubs will intuitively help you understand leverage and how to apply the club head to the golf ball in the same manner as the best players in the world. You will gain command of the elusive skills required to compress a golf ball. Best of all, this is not a temporary solution!

Allow the creative golfer inside you to enjoy the game once and for all. You can learn how to have world-class impact conditions and strike golf balls purely, accurately and with great control.

Tour Striker Models

The Tour Striker Pro is the pro version of the Tour Striker, a training aid designed to teach a player to hit the ball with a forward shaft lean and the hands ahead.

Pro Vs Regular Tour Striker
Pro Vs Regular Tour Striker

Here’s the tour striker compared to a regular iron.

Tour Striker vs an iron
Tour Striker vs an iron

Side view of the tour strikers:

Tour Striker Side View
Tour Striker Side View

Photo source:

The only way to get the ball up in the air hitting this club is to have a forward leaning shaft at impact.  If the shaft is straight up and down or leaning away from the target at impact, the ball will fly very low or simply roll on the ground.

Using it on the Right Surface

It is very important that when practicing with the tour striker you are on either very firm closely mown turf or a hard mat.  In fact the best test for your ball striking abilities with the tour striker come when using a lie board.

If you attempt to use the tour striker on fluffy grass or a very soft mat like the Country Club Elite (CCE) mats that allow you to hit down and through the ball you will negate the benefits of the tour striker as the soft grass or mat will allow you dig in to ground and hit a decent shot without the forward lean of the shaft.

I can use Range Mats again (but only for this)

One of the interesting results for me of using the Tour Striker Pro is that using this club actually gives me an incentive to use the hard mats at the range near me.  If you read this blog you know that I am not a fan of range mats.

For normal iron practice I intend to continue to use my CCE mat as that simulates a lush fairway and gives me great feedback on the quality of the strike, but for working on the shaft lean and hands forward at impact I can use the range mats, but only with the Tour Striker.

Once you are on the correct surface the Tour Striker shows its true value.  I consider myself a pretty good ball striker.  Over the past few months as it has gotten colder in the northeast I have not only kept my distances the same in the colder temperatures but have actually increased them as my technique has improved.

Still, the tour striker showed me that I had some work to do with the shaft lean as I hit a number of low worm burners with it.  However, the majority of shots I hit with it were fairly acceptable with a few exceptional ones.

During my practice sessions I alternated using the Tour Striker Pro and my irons and the feedback was great.  My iron playhas improved over the past few months, and I think continued and regular use of the Tour Striker will take it to new levels.

The quality is product is excellent.  It appears to be manufactured to pretty high standards.

I consider the Tour Striker Pro to be a valuable addition to my practice toolset.

Which Tour Striker to Get

“The Regular Tour Striker is targeted for mid-to-high handicap golfers and slower swing speeds (under 90 mph with driver), while the Tour Striker Pro is geared for dedicated practicers with higher swing speeds. We also offer a Tour Striker for women and younger players who wish to improve their game.”

I agree with this description.  If you are mid to high handicapper you will struggle with the Tour Striker Pro.  For the lower handicap players the Pro model adds the right amount of challenge.  The leading edge of the club does look pretty high.  It is a pretty cool and rewarding sensation to see this high leading edge hit a nice high soft shot that carries forever.

On the range I introduced a friend of mine to the Tour Striker and watched him hit a few balls.  It very quickly forced him to make a few adjustments but then he started hitting some great shots.  When he went back to hitting his own irons I could see that the adjustments had carried over and he hit the ball on a better trajectory with a slightly more penetrating ball flight.

If you have a flippy swing where you try and scoop the ball to get it in the air, the Tour Striker will definitely help you to change that.  Be prepared for a bit of frustration as you make the adjustment but the end result will be worth it.

Take a look at the slow motion shot below.  You will see a very nice iron strike.  The shaft is leaning a bit forward, the clubhead hits the ball first, then the ground.  A phrase I was told to remember this was “Hit the little ball (the golf ball), before the big ball (the earth)”.


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Review: EEZ-Read Putting Aid

I’ve been using the EEZ-Read putting aid since this summer and I have found that used properly it can be an important aid to help with putting.

The EEZ-Read is according to the manufacturer:

Place the EEZ-READ precision level on the green, and it shows you exactly how your putt will break. Renowned golf instructor Butch Harmon calls it “one of the smartest putting aids I’ve ever seen. It’s simple to use and perfect on those putts where its tough to read the break, particularly those under twenty feet. This practice aid will definitely shave strokes off your game and build your putting confidence.”  Solid stainless steel watchmaker’s base. Easily fits in your pocket. Named “Best New Product” 2008 PGA Merchandise Show.

Essentially it is a level that allows you to see the direction of the break and the severity of the break.  In order to use it effectively you need to spend some time with it and understand how the severity of the break on the EEZ-Reader translates to break on actual putts based on distance from the hole and speed.

One of the first things I noticed when I began practicing with it is how much I was over reading break on putts.  What to me looked like a big break turned out to be a smaller amount of break than I anticipated.

The was pretty valuable right there.  By making that adjustment I was quickly holing more putts.  Although I still have a tendency to over read the break I can catch myself.

One of the best ways I think to use it is to pick out a putt and try to imagine what reading the EEZ-Read is going to give me.  Once I figure that out, I actually put the device on the green and check.  How did I do?  Did I read it correctly?  If not how much am I off by?  And how I can see that break better?

The last one is important because that allows you to start to train yourself to see the breaks better.  When you look at a misread and you figure out why you misread it, it becomes easier to get right the next time.  I typically take two reads when I’m practicing.  The first read is from about halfway between my ball and the cup and the other read is about 6 inches away from the cup in the direction of my ball.  I will take more reads if the putt is on a ridge or crosses the ridge.

The EEZ-Read will not tell you anything about grain.  So if you putt in Florida on Bermuda grass you still need to understand how the grain will affect your putt, but this device has no way of telling you that.  The smoother the green, the better the device will work.  If the green is too bumpy, the readings can be thrown off by bumps on the green.  Lastly you can’t use the device in tournament play, or when posting an official round as that is against the rules of golf.  However for practice rounds or practice sessions I find it a very useful device to use.  It is inexpensive, small and effective.  I highly recommend using it to get a better understanding of how to read greens.

EEZ-Read Website

Winter Golf Practice – Get the most out of it

So you live in colder part of the country.  Maybe there’s snow on the ground, maybe there isn’t but the temperature outside doesn’t make you want to hit the golf course.  And it’ll be a while before spring arrives and melts the snow.  What do you do to improve your game.

Actually winter golf practice can be extremely productive.  Imagine that spring time comes around and not only are you not rusty but you feel like you’re ready to play the best golf of your life.  Here are the essentials you need to make this your best winter practice session.

1. A quality golf mat

Nothing is more frustrating than hitting golf balls off rock hard mats at the driving range.  They don’t provide realistic feedback.  They don’t allow you to hit down and through the ball.  The tees may not be adjustable or they are those rubber tubes.  Yech!,

Getting a quality golf mat for your house will offer you some great practice time.  You can hit down and through, you won’t injure your self and you won’t wear holes in the carpet.  Look for a mat that is thick enough to hold normal tees, and allow you to hit down and through the ball.  I recommend the Country Club Elite Golf Mats.  You can find a review of them on my reviews page.  Make sure that you pick a stance mat so that your feet are at the same level as the golf mat.

If it can hold tees than you can create a gate practice hitting through it and do other drills involving tees.  Plus it’ll give you real feedback.  You know when you would have hit it fat and you can practice getting the right amount of turf.  You can also put a sock or a piece of cloth an inch behind where you would put a golf ball and practice hitting the turf, but not hitting the sock.  This will ingrain the right feeling of taking a divot after the ball.

Get a Video Camera

A video camera will really allow you to see what you’re swing is doing.  I recommend one of the newer cameras that record on to memory cards.  The reason is that on the card, each video is an individual file.  There’s no rewinding or fast forwarding through video tape, and you can copy selected (or all) clips onto your computer for further analysis.  The newer cameras also feature slow motion mode.  My camera can do 240 frames per second.  The beauty of it is that I can really see exactly where the club is throughout the entire swing.

Once you have your camera, you can do a few things.  You can take video from behind you.  This is called a down the line shot (or DTL).  You can also take a Face On (FO) video. Both angles are very useful for swing analysis and seeing faults.  It is very rewarding to see your faults, work on them, and watch as they disappear. Also, get a tripod.  You will need it.  It makes things so much easier.

A Net

If you have the mat and you have the camera, your next best swing analysis tool is a net.  A net allows you to hit actual balls without fear of breaking valuable objects, or putting holes through walls.  Get the sturdiest net you can get if you are going to hit actual golf balls.  Cheap nets have been known to break and allow the golf ball to actually break through the netting.  You don’t want that to happen.  You want a net that can handle golf balls.  If you’re not hitting actual golf balls, you can hit something like the almost golf ball or birdie balls into the net (see the review of BirdieBalls from the reviews page).  These should puts less strain on the net.

The benefit of the net is that you are hitting something.  It’s not just a practice swing and for most people there is a difference.  Hitting something forces your body to react the way it would on the golf course.  This is will make the videos that you analyze more meaningful.

A putting cup or a home putting green

With a putting cup you can practice putting off carpet.  The benefit of doing that is that you can practice a solid stroke on level ground.  You want to know that you’re putting stroke will put the ball on the right line. The downside of putting on carpet is that you don’t know how fast it is.  Without a stimp meter you don’t know what speed you are grooving your putts for.  Odds are that the greens you play on will be significantly faster or slower depending on the type of carpet.  I would recommend that most amateurs practice on a putting surface that closely resembles the courses they play the most.  If you play on public or municipal courses anything around 10 on the stimp meter would be excellent.  If you play at private clubs that have faster greens, putting on a surface with 11 or 12 on the stimp meter would be better for you.

Home putting surfaces do not have to be expensive.  On the website, they have putting surfaces starting at under $100 that can be either 10 or 12 on the stimp meter depending on the options you choose.

The other thing to look for is that the ball drops into a cup.  It doesn’t have to be a big drop but it should drop in.  Putting cups with a steep slope are unrealistic for this reason.

A home putting surface also allows you to create breaks.  This is ideal.  You can practice flat putts and breaking putts on the same surface, and at speeds that are similar to the courses you play on.  What could be better than that?

Take out your video camera and record your putting strokes too.  You’d be amazed at how much you can learn from watching your putting stroke.

A Simulator

Finally, if you have some extra cash lying around, a simulator greatly complements all of the above.  I recommend the Dancin’ Dogg Optishot.  There are several different manufacturers that make simulators.  P3SwingPro is another.  These are fun, allow you to play full rounds with friends, or even have driving or closest to the pin contests.  Plus they tell you important information about your swing.  They tell you things like club head speed, path angle, club face angle and more.  These are great fun and can definitely help you improve.

Do you know your yardage gaps?


There is a very interesting thread over on GolfWRX about Ryan Moore’s set.  He doesn’t have his irons stamped with the traditional iron numbers.  Instead he has them stamped with the loft of the club.

What we’ve been told is that this gives him a very consistent yardage between clubs.  He is a real feel player and this helps to visualize the type of shot he wants to hit to get it close to the pin.

I would like to know my yardage gaps better but I don’t.  For the amateur golfer it is not as easy to get them.  Here’s why.

  1. We don’t often accurately know how far we hit each club.
  2. We’re not as consistent striking the ball as the pros, there is a greater difference in distance between our poor and solid strikes.
  3. We’re typically forced to hit poor driving range balls instead of the usual balls that we play with.
  4. Little access to a good launch monitor.
  5. If we play public courses, we can’t just go out and hit shots and measure them because we’ll hold up play.

Without accurate knowledge of our yardage gaps how are we supposed to plan our set makeup and of course how are we supposed to plan our shots to the greens?   I think this is one of the reasons that I’ve heard pros say over and over that amateurs under club.  Knowing your yardage gaps and your distances with each club enables you to plan your shots and factor slope, wind and temperature with confidence.

There’s a psychological benefit to knowing this information as well.  If you know the information, and you know that the club you selected is the right one, then you can more confidently setup and strike a good shot.  However, if you’re uncertain that you have the right club because you might have too much or too little club, that uncertainty will be expressed in your swing.  You may compensate for under clubbing by swinging harder, or you may decelerate if you feel you have taken too much club.

What are the solutions to getting your yardage gaps checked?

  1. Rent some time on a launch monitor.
  2. If you belong to a private club, then go when it is empty, bring a laser range finder, or a gps with a shot marking feature, and hit shots with each club.  Measure both your solid and your mediocre shots and see what the difference is.
  3. Write down the information that you get and understand it.  Are your yardage gaps consistent?  Do they make sense for your game?
  4. Seek out a teaching pro and get confirmation that your distances and yardage gaps make sense.  The pro can make some recommendations for you to get some of your clubs bent, or may recommend adding hybrids or wedges, depending on how your numbers came out.

Get to know this information and it will help you on the golf course.  If you have a forced carry, then you need to know what club will get your ball safely to the next shot.  If there is trouble behind the green, you need to know which club will get you on the green, but take the back of the green out of play.  Get to know your yardages and your gaps and you can make smarter decisions on the golf course.

Review: Orange Whip Trainer

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you know that one of the things I was working on was having my actual swings look like my practice swings.  I received a suggestion to try the Orange Whip Trainer because it helped other golfers with this issue.

The Orange Whip Trainer is, according to the manufacturer:

The Orange Whip is the ultimate golf swing trainer and fitness tool for today’s golfer and athlete. It is versatile, dynamic and the most effective swing aid on the market. Consistent use of the Orange Whip will improve your golf swing and provide an essential core-muscle workout. The elegant design combines a counter-weighting system and flexible shaft that work together to promote the natural golf swing motion unique to each individual. The Orange Whip will help you find your ideal swing plane, create “tour pro” lag, achieve perfect sequence of motion, and promote balance that’s supported from the ground up. Your strength, flexibility, and swing speed will increase, and your shot-making will become more accurate and consistent.


As you can see the Orange Whip Trainer comes in three different sizes (Called the Orange Whip Hickory, Golden and Trainer) to accommodate juniors, people under 5’6″ or beginners, and men or taller women.  I have the trainer.

Orange Whip Trainer: • For – Designed for men and taller women.
• Length – 47.5 inches in total length, approximately 45″ actual swing length (Men’s Driver)
• Weight – The total weight is 1.75 pounds.
• More Info – Simulates Driver motion. Recommended Whip for Core Fitness and Flexibility.
• Ideal Whip for Balance and Tempo enhancement

You begin using the Orange Whip with some stretching exercises.  The Torso Twist is done by standing with your feet flat and your arms out in front of you with your palms up and the whip held in the middle of the trainer.  You then begin to twist to one side, then the other.  It is a very nice stretch.  From there you can do the wrist hinge (videos for these are all on the website) with each arm.  As a trainer for strengthening golf muscles I think it does a great job.  You get a very nice work out with resistance, in just the movements/muscles that are needed for the golf swing.

Starting the full swing drills gives you a whole different kind of workout with the Orange Whip.  The full swings really allow you to work on tempo and transition, two elements that I think most golfers don’t really know how to practice.  All too often we simply go to the range and hit balls, hit and rake, hit and rake.  Heavy clubs I think are excellent for doing certain kinds of tempo work.  The resistance they offer ensures that you don’t rush the transition.  I have a small weighted club that I have used for winter training and while it is adequate for working on the transition I think it falls short when it comes to the complete swing.  On the downswing, the heavy clubhead almost feels too heavy.

The flexible shaft of the orange whip seems to address this concern for me.  The orange ball at the end is heavy, but the flexibility of the shaft allows me to build up speed on the downswing naturally, and it can really go fast.  I think this is what they refer to when they say that it can build “pro” lag.  I could really feel the sense of lag, with the orange ball trailing behind my hands and then whipping through the impact zone.

Since you can’t hit balls with the Orange Whip you need to be aware of that when transitioning to hitting balls.  You want to remember the feeling but recognize that your clubs will be different.  I think this definitely takes some practice but the results are worthwhile.  Using the Orange Whip and videoing my swing I have seen substantial changes in those practice sessions.  When I feel what I rehearsed with the Orange Trainer on my actual swings with a ball the results are good.  This is not however a short term solution.  I think the orange whip like anything else in golf requires some dedication, you can’t just use it once and expect miracles.  However, over time I believe it does accomplish the goals described by the manufacturer.  I’d be curious to use the the smaller whips and see if it would be make a difference with my irons.  I do find that the long whip is difficult to use for the shorter 3/4 type swings in an iron shot and it would interesting to see what the results would be with a smaller whip.  For work with the driver, tempo, and fitness I think the Orange Whip is a training aid that any golfer can benefit from.

Review: Country Club Elite Golf Mats

Country Club Elite Golf Mat

I recently ordered the small (20″ x 30″ ) Country Club Elite golf mat from Real Feel Golf Mats.

I’ve heard about a lot of mats that promise to give you the lush feel of hitting off a fairway and being able to “take a divot”.  I was a bit skeptical but I knew I needed to try it.  The mats at my local range were so hard that I think I was developing tendinitis in my shoulder.  At home I had a small Hank Haney mat that I hit off and it was really getting chewed up.  The mat was only 1/4″ of an inch thick at most and I would find little tufts of mat all over the floor that needed sweeping up.

I knew when I took the first swings that this mat was different.  When you hit into it, you get this real resistance as the club digs into the mat.  It handles fat shots realistically.  I find typical range mats provide a false sense of security because you can hit the ball so fat and because the club just bounces off the mat you can still end up with decent contact.  It’s not like that on the golf course.

I like being able to stick tees into it because I can practice drills like the gate drill where you put a couple of tees in the ground and have the club go through the gate.

CCE Mat with Tee

The 99 dollar 20×30 mat was perfect for me because I already have a stance mat.  If I didn’t have a stance mat I would definitely have needed to buy one as you really want to be on the same level as the CCE Mat.

The experience of hitting off this mat is really a lot like hitting from a nice fairway and more importantly you really do get a feel for hitting down and through the ball.  I also feel it making a big impact on my body.  It is a relief hitting off this mat.  My shoulder feels much better.  Overall I rate this mat a 5 out of 5.  The quality is outstanding and should hold up to years of use unlike the Hank Haney mat which gets shredded within weeks.

Below is a picture of the shredded up Hank Haney mat.

Hank Haney Mat

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You don’t need to reshaft to lower your spin rate

So an interesting thing happened the other day.  I popped into my local club builder because I had been thinking of switching out a shaft in a driver and I needed to a pick up a three wood that was going to go into Adams for repair.

We started talking about why I wanted to change the shaft in the driver and before I knew it I was on the launch monitor hitting some balls.

He looks at my swing and starts making some suggestions about releasing the club.  Lo and behold my spin rate drops from a high of 5000 (the average was closer to mid 3k), down to an all time low for me of 1758.  Same club and same shaft.   Wow!

On the launch monitor that equated to a baby draw (from a fade) and about 60 yards more distance.

I’ve started to practice this and I’ve finally figured out how to release the club.  The results from my home simulator are that my club head is coming into the ball much more square or even a degree or two closed, path from the inside, and club head speed is going up.  And it all results in some nice draws or pretty much dead straight shots.  Pretty good results so far.  I can’t wait to see how they translate on the course.

I was having trouble releasing because my left elbow wasn’t folding easily after impact.  Once I isolated that and concentrating on having that happen the release happened naturally.  It seems to really be giving me some nice pop.