Lesson 11-5

Lesson 11/5/2009

I’ve decided that over the winter I’m going to get some lessons and refine my swing.  My goal is more consistency and accuracy.  I think I’m already long enough that I don’t need to worry about distance as much as accuracy.

We worked on a few different things today:

Backswing

On the backswing I need to get my swing a little flatter.  The swing thought is to get my hands over my right heel.  This puts me on a better plane.  At first it felt strange.  It felt really flat, but what it did was it gave me a more compact backswing.

Downswing

On the downswing I need to keep my right heel down on the ground longer.  It was kind of weird at first.  I need to do this because I have a tendency to almost stand up on my right toes and it throws my weight toward the ball.  When that happens, the only way for me to save the swing is to make an over the top move.  By keeping my right heel on the ground longer, it keeps my weight down, and back, and allows me to come from the inside more easily.  It also allows me to keep my spine angle intact.

The next thing is that starting the downswing I need to feel as if I’m bringing the handle straight down toward my right heel again.  This will also prevent an OTT move and allow me to come from the inside.

The Target

It seems that my target was the ball, or just behind the ball.  This is a bit problematic because it also encourages a steep movc into the ball.  The best target for me is approximately 3 or 4 inches in front of the ball and slightly on the arc outside of the ball.  Max gave me an drill to do where I have a ball in my normal position and a ball at the target, I set up to the normal ball, then just before I start my swing, I knock it out of the way and try to hit the other ball.  During the lesson it resulted in very solid contact.  I will work on this on the range before my next lesson.

Overall it was an excellent lesson.  I think I’ll be able to get a solid work done this winter. I have six months until the new season officially starts.  That’s a lot of time to make some strides.

Simulator up and running

So I finally setup the simulator.  This will be my practice “facility” for the winter.  I will get actual rounds on course when the weather cooperates.

The nice thing about the simulator is that it tells me a few keys stats about my swing.  It tells me the swing path (inside out, straight or outside in and by how many degrees).  It also tells me whether the club face is square at impact or how many degrees closed or open it is, and it tells me my club head speed at impact.

In my practice session today I have confirmed through hard numbers that indeeed the over the top move is basically history.  9 out of 10 swings where either coming in straight or from the inside.  10 percent were coming in from the outside but only by 3 degrees, which is not too bad at all.

The one thing I did notice consistently which bugged me is that on 8 out of 10 swings my club face was open.  Most of the time it was open less than 8 degrees (which is still too much), but every once in a while I’d get one open 12 degrees or more.  Really annoyed me.  On a 160 yard shot, 12 degrees open face will send the ball 12 yards right of target.  This is something I will definitely work on.  I want the club head coming in square, or maybe even a degree or two closed through impact, with an inside out swing.

Interesting discussion on Golf WRX

I’ve been discussing the psychological effect of the ball on the swing over at GolfWRX and some very interesting things have come up.  I want to synthesize the best nuggets of information from it, but I recommend reading it.

The Psychological Effect of the Ball on GolfWRX

Ben Hogan helping with the OTT issue

Today I had a very good ball striking and ended up hitting a lot of greens.  Here’s what I did that I believe made a huge difference.

In “5 Lessons” Ben Hogan writes about keeping the left arm tight to the chest on the downswing.

So I started playing around with this.  How tight do I keep it there?  What’s the best way to do that?

One of the reasons I thought to do this was that I noticed on my OTT actual swings that the arms begin racing towards the ball.  And I thought, hmm, if I keep my left arm tight to the chest as long as possible, then the arms can’t race ahead.

So I videotaped some swings then I went to bed last night.

This morning I got up to play around.  The course I went to had no driving range, so I couldn’t warm up the swing that way, but I knew the one swing thought that I would keep in mind througout the round.  Keep the left arm tight to the chest.  I used a little visualization on my swings, almost feeling as if the left arm got superglued to my body at the top of the backswing.

I felt super-connected throughout the swing, and even though I had my share of errant shots, I was striking the ball more solid than usual, especially with the driver where I hit a few enourmous drives on a cold day into the wind a lot of the time.  My irons were really crisp and I felt the way I did on my practice swings.  I meant to do the post swing analysis where I rated the shots on how close they were to my practice swing, but I forgot to do that.

Tomorrow I will go to the range with the camera and hit some balls like this, but I have a feeling that it will be good news.

Today’s round

Today I had an intersting round.  I started off on the first hole with a tee shot that almost went OB, left me with a 180 yd shot to the green, hit a five iron to about 12 feet and sank the putt for birdie.

I proceeded to have a bit of an up and down day with my ball striking, but my putting was pretty good.  I only needed 29 putts today, and I sank several 10 -15 foot putts to save par.

I had a few shots where I really felt that I was able to match my actual swing with my practice swing, and on those I hit the ball as pure as winter snow. Throughout the round, after hitting each shot I would rate it on a scale of 1 to 5, to how closely the actual swing matched the practice swing, with 1 being the most different and 5 being an exact match.  I had my fair share of 1s and 2s, but I noticed that anything at 3 or above was always a good shot.  On the 7th hole, I had a 145 yards to a back pin, with a slight uphill lie in the rough behind a bunker, and an elevated green.  I took my practice swing with an 8-iron, and it felt just right.  I was able to match the swing perfectly, and ended up 4 feet from the cup for birdie, and I sank the putt.

On a few holes early in the back 9 I got a bit out of synch and it showed.  I sprayed some shots and got very frustrated for about 3 holes.

I shortened up my backswing, and I was able to get some 3s and 4s and right the ship.  I came to 17, which required a carry of about 210, to a back pin at about 223.  Into the wind I hit my 2 hybrid, and got on the green in regulation.  It was a pretty pure shot that managed to hold the right side of the green.  I gave that shot a 4.  I hit a poor putt that left me with about 12 feet to go.  But I was able sink hat 12-footer for my par.  A 3 is always a good score on that tough hole.

On 18, after a poor drive, I was in the rough on the right side, roughly 250 from the green (par 5).  I hit a decent 2 hybrid but ended up in the fairway bunker, with about 120 into the wind for my 3rd shot.  I shanked the bunker shot and ended up about 30 yards right of the green.  I needed a 5 in order to get up and down from there.  I took my 60 degree lob wedge, and took a nice short practice swing.  It felt right.  I did the exact same swing when I hit the ball and I ended up about 10 feet from the pin with a downhill putt.  I sank the putt to finish with a par.

I wanted to write about these shots because they showcase what I’m trying to achieve with the practice swing and actual swing challenge.  Up above you can see why I believe that retraining the hit impulse, and becoming consitent with having my actual swing match my practice swing is a game changer.

Are practice swings unnecessary?

It’s amazing how I keep learning so much at the practice range.  Today I had another mind blowing experience.

I always thought that the reason I came over the top was because I was trying to hit the ball hard.  Which, intellectually, makes sense.  Practice swings feel loose and easy, the goal being to feel what you want to do.  Put the ball in front of me and I want to hit it as hard as I can.  Right?  So an OTT move is caused by overswinging.

I don’t believe that is the cause for me.  I believe the cause is somewhat more elusive.

I did an experiment and recorded three practice swings with the driver, a slow one, a medium speed one, and a 100%, pedal to the metal swing.  The results shocked me.

Before watching the video I  imagined that the first swing would have none to maybe a slight over the top move, the middle one might have a noticable move, and the fast one, with the highest clubhead speed would have a very visible over the top move.

May I have the envelop please?…

There was no noticeable over the top move in those swings at all.  No matter how hard I swung, if I wasn’t hitting a ball, I had no over the top move.

Let this sink in for a second.  No matter how hard I swung my practice swing (i.e. trying to get the club moving as fast as possible) there was no over the top move.

I did another little experiment.  This time I would take a very short and slow practice swing, and then tried to do the exact same slow practice swing but actually hit a ball.  Time after time, the practice swing was beautiful, but as soon as the ball was there, there would be an over the top move.

It’s the ball.

Well, actually, it is my reaction to the ball.  When I’m hitting an actual ball, the feeling in my body is different (although it shouldn’t be), and the swing is different (although it shouldn’t be).  I think the change happens even before I hit the ball.  As I steup up to the ball, and set my club behind it, there’s a different sensation.  I’m not sure how to describe it, but I’m not feeling as loose.  I’m a little more deliberate in my movements.  I’m not trying to do that but it happens, and I noticed it.

I know that I shouldn’t be hitting at the ball, but that the ball should just get in the way of my swing.  But it doesn’t feel that way.  Whenever I see my swing on video hitting a ball, I am just shocked and amazed that I can hit as well as I can, because the swing on video looks so flawed to me.

So, I have discovered I have two completely different swings.  A practice swing, and a hit the ball swing.  They feel different, they have different goals, and this could be part of the problem.  My practice swing does not end up being a rehearsal of my actual swing, it just ends up being a repetition of my practice swing.  Are practice swings unnecessary?

Dr. Joseph parent in Zen Golf talks about getting ready for a shot.  He says that you should do a programming swing.  This is not a full  swing, it is done slowly, and allows you to program in a specific movement that you want to have happen.  He says it should be done slowly so that you feel your muscles do the movement that you want to happen in your full swing.  Then you trust that you’re programming move will be incorporated in you swing, and you swing.  I think this is worth practicing with.

How to build more clubhead speed with less effort

I think that many of us, because we want to hit the ball far, end up with an over the top move.  We are trying to use our muscles to speed the club head.  So we start down quick.  There are two problems with this:

Problem #1

We can’t sustain it.

If we start down quickly, we need to sustain it otherwise we end up slowing down before we get to the ball.  This leads to an actual decrease of clubhead speed.  If we were able to sustain the acceleration with our core turning quickly out of the way we would be ok.  However most of us don’t have that kind of core strength or flexibility.  Since we lack that flexibility and strenght, we then must allow our body to to catch up to the swing.  However the way that we do this is we allow the swing to slow down to match up with the core.  If we did not slow the swing down we would probably pull hook it.

Problem #2

We are working against gravity.

Gravity is our friend and if we allow it to work with our swing we can actually create a ton of clubhead speed.

If we allow gravity to help us accelerate the clubhead then we can begin to feel a gradual acceleration, resulting in actually much greater clubhead speed than rushing down at the ball.  But we can’t really feel a gradual acceleration because the downswing happens in such a short time.  If we can’t feel a gradual acceleration how do we create it?

Allowing gravity to speed up the clubhead

Rather than thinking of creating it, we need to allow it to happen.

As we reach the top of our back swing, the club slows down then comes to a stop, then changes direction.  This is the point at which gravity can help us build club head speed.  As our arms drop, the the club head lags somewhat behind them.  If we don’ rush it and we don’t tighten our muscles then we can allow the rest of our body to contribute to the club head speed we are generating.  If we don’t force it, we can allow our arms to remain supple, instead of tightening the muscles.  Supple arms generate more clubhead speed.  As we allow the clubhead to lag, gravity acts on it, and our body rotation, multiplies the speed.  It becomes like a bull whip, where a simple, not quick motion, ends up creating a ton of speed (so much speed that it breaks the sound barrier and you hear that CRACK!).

Because we are not rushing with our arms we don’t need to slow the core down to let the arms catch up, in fact we can increase core rotational velocity leading to more speed.  At this point it is a matter of allowing gravity to work, trusting that it can move the club head faster than our muscles.  In short if you are rushing down from the top you are working against gravity and slowing down the clubhead.

The Practice Swing/Actual Swing Dillema

I have been talking about this issue now for a while.  I wanted to show exactly what is going on so that you see the extent of the problem.  I also want you to keep in mind that with the actual swing, I still manage to hit the ball reasonable long and straight.

I would love to hear opinions on what you think is causing this, and of course I am very open to suggestions on how to fix it.

Practice Swing

Actual Swing

The hardest thing to do in golf

The hardest thing for me to do in the entire game of golf is to have my actual swing look like my practice swing.  This is the one thing that I believe will completely transform the game for me when I achieve it.

I had an awesome practice session today.  Recorded a lot of 9-iron swings and driver swings.  The same thing that I’ve written about kept happening over and over.  I would have a beautiful practice swing, and I would follow it with an over the top swing.  There were several times when I could have sworn that my actual swing matched the practice swing, until I looked at the video.  On those shots were I thought I nailed it, I hit some really solid iron shots.  But when I checked the video, still an over the top swing.  Ugh!

When it came time to hit driver, I knew I was going to be over the top, the only question was how much over the top.  I still managed to hit some bombs.  Long, straight and with the right trajectory, from an “ugly” OTT move.

Tim said that it takes 10,000 swings to ingrain a golf move.  I’ve heard other theories.  60 reps a day for 21 days.  Don’t know which is true.  What I do know is that a practice swing is easy and a thing of beauty, and then you put a ball in front of me and I have this urge to HIT IT.

What shocks me is that even with an OTT move I hit the ball as solidly as I do.  I wonder if it is going to take me months or years to change this.  I know this is a key to great golf.

Play like you

I have a little unique move in my swing.  I haven’t seen anyone else do it.  I don’t think it’s wrong, per se, but it is unique. On the backswing, I let my head rotate with my torso, then when its time to start the downswing, my head quickly rotates back forward, like it was at address.  It seems that when I try to keep my head from rotating at all, the dreaded OTT move shows up, and when I let it rotate, it doesn’t show up.  I hit a lot of great shots today letting it rotate.  Like I said, I have never seen anyone else with this move, but a lot of great players, have their own way of doing things.  If it works right.  Maybe this is an important part of my swing.  Besides getting rid of the OTT move, this quirk in my swing, also gives me a lower ballflight.  I think that’s because I’m coming in a lot shallower. I was a bit surprised at how straight many of my shots were today.

When you look at the PGA tour, a lot of great players have unique moves.  Look at Jim Furyk, JB Holmes, Camilo Villegas, Lee Trevino, Jack Nickalus, etc.  I don’t think my goal should be to have a text book swing, I think my goal should be to have the best swing, that I can have, based on my body type and what what works best.