Amazing distance gains – without switching clubs

Things continue to go well on the range. Today I was simply shocked at how long (for me) I was hitting the ball, and at times I just to had to laugh, I couldn’t believe it.

Things continue to go well on the range.  Today I was simply shocked at how long (for me) I was hitting the ball, and at times I just to had to laugh, I couldn’t believe it.

I’ve got two 3 woods and I’ve been trying to decide which to keep in the bag.  I though today might be a fun day do that test.  I must say I’ve also been tempted by the distance claims from TaylorMade golf for the Rocketballz line.  The two 3 woods are an Adams 15 degree superfast from 2 years ago, and a nike VR pro from last year at 13 degrees.  The Adams has an X-Stiff shaft, while the Nike has Porject X 6.0.

Amazingly the both had similar launch angles, with the Nike actually launching slightly higher.  How was the distance?  Normally, the range I go to has a high fence that starts at about the 240 yard line.  My typical 3 wood would carry just short of that and hit the fence on one bounce, or maybe reach the start of the fence.  Today, I had a number of shots that struck the middle of the fence, normally a place reserved for my driver.  I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced 3 woods that solid.

I credit the work I’ve put in this winter on my fundamentals.  Namely I’ve been working with the Powerchute to improve my timing, sequencing, and fitness.  I can’t say enough about it.

Interestingly I’ve been considering getting fit for new clubs.  Not sure I need to do that for my 3 wood.  I did manage to find a winner, the Nike VR Pro 13 degree outperformed the Adams and I’m happy to say that it’s going to take its rightful place in my bag.  In addition, I was hitting all my irons incredibly solid.  It was a phenomenal practice session and I hope things continue well.

Rickie Fowler – He gets it

Watching Morning Drive this morning, I was in total agreement with the comments that Brandel Chamblee (@BrandelChamblee) made about Rickie Fowler.

“You understand the best way to play golf, this is my opinion, is to go out there and try to hit shots…You know,it’s the big lie to me, that you can go out there and swing perfectly.  And I understand why guys do it.  I mean literally they’re trying to play this game in the most organized fashion, there’s so much money out there, and if you can stay on tour a long time, you can get ridiculously rich. So what are you gonna do? You’re gonna work out, you’re gonna get a sports psychologist And you’re going to take all these lessons ’cause you want everything to be perfect. And Rickie’s like ‘No, I’m gonna go out and I’m gonna hit golf shots. I’m gonna hit it high, I’m gonna hit it low, I’m gonna draw it, fade it.’  And I know it’s because of the way he was taught the game. His teacher was very much into hitting golf shots. And that’s why he plays fast.  Because he’s not out there thinking about a pre-shot routine, and he’s not out there thinking about swing mechanics. He’s out there thinking about golf shots.”

There’s a ton of wisdom in what Brandel said this morning.  This is why Rickie is the future of golf.  And I think he is going to stun us with what he is going to accomplish in his career.

I want to contrast this style of play with Tiger Woods.  And my intention is not to bash Tiger but to look at differences.

Tiger Woods when he was dominant could hit every shot in the book and then some.  He created that famous stinger and it appears he doesn’t even have that shot any more.  Tiger said he is thinking about his swing and swing mechanics now before every shot and it looks that way.  When he gets off track, he goes into repair mode, and it’s mechanics, mechanics, mechanics.  The artfulness seems to be have left him, at least for now.

On the other hand, Rickie Fowler (and several other players, most notably Bubba Watson), look like golf artists.  They see shots, and they hit shots.  They use the golf course as their canvas and they create masterpieces of golf.  Plus they’re really fun to watch.

So where does this leave us (the amateur golfer)?  Well, for one, I know when I’m playing my best it’s when I’m seeing and hitting shots and when I’m not thinking about mechanics.  There are times when golf seems so much easier.  Conversely, when I’m playing poorly, it’s all about mechanics.  The swing ends up feeling like it’s separate from me. And it feels forced.

If you’ve read this blog for a while you know that I’ve moved away from mechanics to a feel based approach, where I not only see the shots I’m trying to create, but try to feel what it’ll feel like to hit them.  And every shot is unique and feels differently.  This makes golf more fun, and the end result for me has been better scores, more fun, and not having to practice as much.

Other posts about Rickie Fowler:

Pro’s slow motion swings

Rickie Fowler – a result of Consistent Coaching

Stuck in a slump?

Lessons from Riviera

Watching the coverage on both Golfchannel and CBS, I was surprised to see how short the ball was flying at Riviera.  Considering it was in the best shape that the announcing team has ever seen it, it must have been a combination of the low temperatures, sea level and kikuya grass, that shortened the distances for the pros.

I was honestly shocked at the number of shots that were coming up short, as well as the clubs that players were using.  One a shot of 160, you’d normally expect 9 irons, however, not only did we see a lot of players using 8 irons, but even 7 irons.

The drives on the 290 yard par 4 tenth were coming up short even from an elevated tee.

The lesson here, be careful with your club selection and really take into consideration factors such as the temperature, sea level and local grasses.  Short shots at Riviera were made worse by the sticky kikuya grass, that made the ball hop straight up or even backward.

Considering as amateurs we don’t often get to play on courses in PGA tour conditions (fast fairways and greens), it’s no wonder as amateurs we often underclub.  If we let our egos control our club selection we’re likely to come up short and get into trouble.

How to make swing changes stick

Recent experience has taught me that you need two things to make swing changes stick.  Practice and time.  Now while these may seem self evident there is more going on behind the scenes in the subconscious mind than meets the eye.

We’ve all heard the phrases “Practice makes perfect” and “Perfect practice makes perfect”.  We all know that tour players have practiced all their lives to get the level they are at.  The thing is that they are not always practicing the same things in the same way.  They have built up enough skill level, that as they dial one thing in, they can work and address another part of the game.

What am I getting at?

As amateur golfers we don’t have the luxury to practice to practice like a tour player.  In fact, for most of us, we rarely get to practice.  I’ve tried to combat this by investing in some things that bring the practice home, and while that does address much of the problem, there is another part of practicing that has to be thought through as well.

That is, practicing the right things in the right way.

If you’ve had a lesson with a golf pro, they probably got you to do so some things that felt a little strange.  And if you’re like most golfers, you probably forgot about that feeling very shortly after and didn’t really practice it.  The end result is a wasted lesson, and no step forward in your progress.

I think part of the reason we forget to practice those things is because they feel so strange.  And when that happens, we are less likely to use it.  Combine that with very few practice sessions and it is virtually inevitable that you will forget what you learned.

How I’ve been practicing differently

I’ve been focusing on the things I have learned, and how strange they feel.  The thing I’ve realized is that I don’t necessarily need to be doing full swing. Initially what I start out doing is conditioning my body to get used to how that feels.  That position, swing thought etc, that feels strange, is often a big key to getting to the next level.  However, it’s hard to practice because it feels so strange.

Every day, I focus on something like that, that feels a bit strange.  It could be the forward press in putting, it could be the feeling of holding on to your angles and your lag, it could be a feeling that you don’t sway when you turn, or not laying off the club too much etc.

These things feel weird because they are not a part of your swing.  You need to get used to them, you need to get comfortable with them.

Making amazing progress

It’s amazing the things that happen once you start to integrate these things into your swing.  Not only do they become a part of your swing, but as you really integrate them, they take on their own strength.  They become a part of your swing that you can count on, that you can trust.  And when that happens, your swing changes and your results change.

So when your instructor gives you a piece that feels a bit strange, hold on to it, work with it, make it a part of you and you will be rewarded with a more solid game.

Practice Games

Now that it’s getting colder in the North East, I find that when I go to the practice area at my golf course that there is no one there.  The place is deserted.  Still, I want to keep getting better so I’m spending a lot of time.  I’m using a couple of practice games that make practice really interesting and add some significant challenge.

I call the first game:

Pin Seeker

The objective is to get the ball as close to the hole without going more than gimme range past.  Here are the rules.

For every shot that lands on the green, but stays on and short of the pin you get 1 point.  Every shot that gets within 3 feet you get 3 points.  Every shot that hits the pin or goes into the hole, you get 5 points.  However, for every shot that is past the pin and more than 3 feet away, you lose 2 points.

Play this game, it will really sharpen up your pitching, chipping.

Another great game to play is:

Leap Frog

Pick a pin on the green to hit to.  The first shot must land short of the pin, but on the green.  The objective is to see how many balls you can get between the first ball and the pin with each ball having gone past the previous shot.  Start with a PW and move to your more lofted wedges.  It’s trickier than it sounds and it’s a good way to learn distance control.  If you really want to challenge yourself, play this game out of the bunker.

This should give you some really good practice, add some pressure, and begin to recreate situations on the golf course.  You’ll see your skills sharpen, your distance control sharpen and your feel improve.  Give these games a shot and let me know what you think.

Get to know your tendencies

While I’ve been playing pretty consistent golf, I have not been practicing my long game as much.  I think one of the things that happens when you play a lot of golf without going to the driving range is that you can start to get into some bad habits.  For me, it was with my setup.  I noticed it yesterday in my first driving range session in a while.

The first thing I noticed was that my setup didn’t feel right.  After a bit more careful thought I determined that it was my shoulder alignment.  My shoulders were a bit open.  I had to consciously set myself up properly and once I did that my shots straightened out bit and the ball would start either right on line, or slightly right of target and draw back in.

I think it’s important to know what our tendencies are and to try to develop better habits.  My shoulders opening up at address is a tendency that I have and it creeps back in if I don’t watch my setup.  It can also creep into my putting and send putts off line.

However knowing that it is a tendency allows me to be on the lookout for it and the place to make those changes is on the practice tee.  If you build good habits on the practice tee you can take them to the course.

Often when you read about tour players going to see their instructors, you might notice that they talk about working on their fundamentals.  Setup, grip, ball position, etc.  Even tour players can let their own tendencies creep into their game and a good instructor will notice that happening and begin to correct them.  I read recently that Kenny Perry was having some problems with his driving.  He was getting stuck and had the club coming from too far inside and as a result he was losing distance.  His ball position with the driver had slowly crept for forward.  Once he recognized that, he was able to get his ball position back into a better place for him, and his driving improved.

30 Day Challenge – Day 5

Practice in the tundra

Well not a tundra, but the driving range was covered in about 6 inches of snow, and more snow was coming down as I was hitting balls.  I turns out I was the last customer before they closed for the day.  To top it off , the heat was not working.

So what did I do?

I hit balls.  I hit one large bucket of balls and kept focusing on my hands and shot shape.  The past 4 days I was practicing with only a lob wedge, 8 iron and driver.  Today I got a little bit more variety.  I hit some 5 irons as well as a fairway wood (4w to be exact).

I find it truly amazing that what I do with my hands has so much of an effect.  I tried a very interesting little drill.  With the driver in hand, I alternated between hitting high cuts and high draws.  So I would hit one high draw, then one high cut and rinse and repeat.  It was pretty cool.  I had never had this amount of control with the driver.  Occasionally my high draw, would go straight and not really draw back, and occasionally the high fade would stay a bit left.  Still I was not disappointed by that.  I was thrilled that I could get as much consistency as I did.

The driving range really did look pretty covered in a blanket of snow.  Problem was that I couldn’t see where the balls landed.  Still I was very happy with the trajectory and shot shapes I was able to create.  Interestingly the 2 hybrid gave me the most trouble.  I’m not sure why.  But the 5i was beautiful to hit.

Managing Expectations on the Golf Course

WF

Have you ever been so excited to go to the golf course because your practice sessions have been going great?  You tee it up, and wham, OB. Uh oh, this could be a long day.

Expectations can lead to frustration on the course.  Managing them properly is the best way to play your best golf.

Golf is played one shot at a time.  Anything that takes you out of that is asking for trouble.  Coming to the course with expectations that you are going to play great because you were striping it at the range can lead to disappointment.  If you don’t manage your emotions properly, that disappointment can quickly escalate and throw your entire round off.

The hardest thing in golf is to maintain the one shot at time philosophy.  It’s so simple in concept, and yet so difficult in practice.  Why is that?

I think the heart of it is that we are emotional beings.  We aren’t robots who can turn off the emotion.  But we don’t need to be robots to be successful either.  We can use our emotions to help us.  After all playing from feel is essentially playing from emotion.  When you play from you feel, you are feeling the shot, and going with what feels good, right, etc.  It’s a positive emotion that you have chosen the right shot.  So it’s actually based on emotion, but it’s not reactive.  This is using emotion proactively to play well.

The opposite side of the spectrum is reacting to bad shots, reacting to pressure poorly, reacting to your range session.  Reacting emotionally takes away from being in the moment, seeing the shot, and feeling it.

The more technical we are, the more reactive we can be.  Bad shots, tend to drive us to analyze, what went wrong, what happened, I was hitting it so well before, where did my swing go.  These thoughts happen, and the response, well my stance, my grip, did come over the top, did I tuck in my elbow right, did I get the right wrist hinge, did I turn my back fully….etc.

I think a better response is to say “Did I see my target clearly before taking the shot?”, “Did I feel the shot before I hit it?”, “Did I factor wind, slope, lie and temperature into my calculations?”.

So how does this relate to managing expecations?  Simply, your expectations, good or bad, take you out of the moment if not managed.  Whether you were striping it on the practice tee or not, you need to treat each shot as a single event.  Step outside the boundaries of the expectation and say, what do I want to create here?  Visualize, feel, and swing.

I’ve heard stories of tour players playing a brand new course, sight unseen, who ended up with a great round.  When they talk about it, they say things like “Well, I didn’t really have any expectations.  I haven’t played the course before, and I didn’t know where the trouble was.  So I just went at it, one shot at a time.”

Pulling with the left side to eliminate the weak slice

In the same way that someone is right handed or left handed, a golf swing can be dominated by either side.  Most amateur swings are right side/arm dominated.  You can see this in the over the top moves and the flipping action of the club face.  This is typically considered pushing and results in a weak slice.

Conversely a golf swing can be more left side/arm dominated.  This is typically called pulling and results in more consistent ball striking, and improved golf ball launch conditions.

Both ways can be effective provided the player plays to their tendencies or has practiced enough to know what the swing is going to do. However, I think left side/arm dominated can be more consistent based on the work I have done with my swing, and from what I see from the average golfer.

I’ll refer to left side dominated swings as pulling, and right side dominated swings as pushing.

A swing with the left side of the body pulling can be more consistent for a number of reasons.

  1. Flipping is less likely.  The left arm/hand alone is not strong enough to overcome the huge forces created in the golf swing in order to flip the club.  If you try to flip the club with the left hand only, it is very awkward and unnatural.
  2. A swing with the left side pulling will more easily clear the hips allowing the club head to more consistently come into the ball square.
  3. Pulling low and left creates an impact condition with the shaft leaning forward and allows a golfer to compress the ball more easily because the long lever of the left arm and golf club remains stable.
  4. This type of swing leads to a more consistent and fuller release, thus adding distance while maintain accuracy.

If you have a pushing type of swing, where the right side of the body dominates, the 4 points above will be more difficult to achieve consistently because the right hand has to make those things happen and the body is fighting with itself.

If you are unfamiliar with the pulling sensation, do the left wrist supination drill for a while and try to feel which side is more dominant.  Once you can identify which side of your body is dominant, try to do the drill consciously forcing the left side to be dominant.  It’s not easy to do, but I think it is well worth doing.

Video showing Taly – eliminating the flip

I came across this video on YouTube and I wanted to share this.  For those of you who read the review of the Taly Mind Set, I wanted to provide a real world scenario of how it used to help golfers improve their swings.  In this video Lynn Blake, the famed TGM teacher (The Golfing Machine), has a clinic and each student has a Taly Mind Set.  Take a look at how he teaches and what he teaches.  It is simple but effective.  Similar to the drill I talk about in the article on achieving left wrist supination.

Enjoy and of course let me know if you have any questions about this.