Saturday, November 23, 2013

Starting with Golf


One of the reasons golf is such a great game is that it can be a social activity or individualistic. You can play it by yourself as a solitary being walking through the early morning dew with the smell of freshly cut grass wafting across the grounds. Or maybe one prefers strolling the beautiful fairways late in the evening while the warm air stills and the sky turns a brilliant combination of red and orange as the sun begins to set. 

Golf is also a great way to socialize with your friends and a place to make new contacts as well.   It might be heading to the practice range to hit a few balls with a friend or grabbing some lunch with three buddies then heading out for a competitive round on the links. Or maybe it's the ultimate social golf outing; playing in a fundraiser golf tournament. A mix of a hundred or so golfers wearing outrageous outfits, maybe partaking in a libation or two, but everyone having a great time ready to spend the day with friends and the excitement for what the day may bring. Looking forward to the possibility of the perfectly stuck golf shot or the hole out from far off the green or just knowing that you have the day off from work in a beautiful setting.  

However, getting started playing golf is not always the easiest thing in the world. It seems to be much more enjoyable when doing it with a friend or a group. The golf course can be an intimidating place to those not used to being there. Where is one supposed to go first? Who is in charge?  It often feels as though everyone else knows what is going on and it can be an embarrassing or uncomfortable prospect to be the only one cluelessly walking about. But on the whole golfers are very helpful and inclusive people. They want to share their knowledge and feel that they are helping. Remember, that everyone started in the same place and we all remember very vividly our first days on and around the golf course as a novice. And helping someone else through that initial process is actually very satisfying. 

There is definitely a different language and culture around the golf course so it's important to have help from someone that has been there before like a PGA professional.  When getting started it is very important to have good fundamentals that will carry you through your golf life. So get started the right way and join a group or take some friends and sign up for a few starter lessons with a PGA Pro.  Forming and/or deepening friendships around a common activity can keep you motivated and engaged and make the entire process much more enjoyable. 

Golf is truly a game of a lifetime. A game where a beginner can play with an expert, where young and old can walk the fairways together. A game where pure enjoyment can be felt playing alone, with family and friends or with a complete stranger. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bunker Play

Becoming a better bunker player out of green side bunkers first starts with understanding how the golf club must work through impact to get the ball up and out of the sand and onto the green.

The fault I see in most players that struggle out the bunker is the effort to try and "lift" the ball out of the  sand to get it up and over the lip.  Generally, its because of a short backswing and a big follow through.

The fault here is that often times a big follow through allows a player's weight to go backwards away from the target resulting in the club making contact with the sand too far behind the ball and actually starting to come up as it's getting to the impact area.

Remember that all good solid shots require the club to be traveling down as it goes through the impact area, even out of green side bunkers.  When the club enters the sand too far behind the ball (say 8" to a foot) then the result is either a heavy shot where the wedge digs into the sand and the ball doesn't get moved but a few feet or the wedge skips off the sand and blades the ball into the bank of the bunker right in front of you.

Depending on the weight of the sand (light and fluffy or heavy and packed) the wedge should enter the sand between 1 and 3 inches behind the ball and continue down as it goes through the impact area only coming up after the ball has come out of the sand.  That is why you rarely see professionals taking big follow throughs as the come out of green side bunkers because it is easier to get proper contact with the sand and a descending blow with a shorter follow through.  






Good bunker players are good because they can control how far behind the ball they hit each time, in other words how much sand they take with ball to control trajectory and distance and spin.

One of the best ways to practice this is with the Bunker Line Drill.  Draw a straight line in a practice bunker and straddle the line favoring it slightly towards your front foot.  Take practice swings with the goal of initially hitting the sand on the front edge of the line.  Really good bunker players are very consistent with hitting the front edge of the line.


 Practice this for awhile and see how good you can get at it before putting a ball down.  When you can get really consistent hitting the front edge of the line getting out of bunkers will seem easy.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Great Putting



Just finished watching Golf Channel Academy featuring Brad Faxon on putting.  Very interesting listening to his thoughts on  putting and how to improve as a putter.  He opened the segment saying that he would much rather be a good putter than a good ball striker. Not many people say that. It really does get overlooked how important putting is to your golf score.  There is no way to shoot low scores without holing putts no matter how good ball striking is and making putts keeps those scores from going too high when ball striking is not good (unfortunately most of the time!).

It was nice to hear Brad get more into the art and feel of the putting stroke than just pure mechanics.  As players and teachers it is easy to get focused on mechanics while practicing/teaching and often that mentality gets carried onto the golf course.  Getting locked up by mechanical thoughts on the golf course can certainly rob a person of feel, because of added tension, which can lead to poor speed control, which leads to misread lines and three putts, especially on long putts.

When a player that is really wrapped up in mechanical thoughts on the golf course misses a couple of makeable putts early in the round confidence can go right out the window.  There is a feeling that the "system" isn't working and the player is lost for the rest of the day trying many different ideas to hopefully make something!

That doesn't mean there is no time for mechanics but that "practice" truly needs to be left for the practice green and forgotten once on the golf course and playing for score.  Once on the golf course there should only be "feels" when putting.  Maybe its relaxing the hands, or slight forward press to start the motion, or make sure to follow the ball with your eyes right after contact to the hole.  Those types of thoughts are good because you can still stay relaxed and it can actually help you stay in your routine throughout the day.  Remember you don't need to stay still or keep your head down....you just need to watch the ball.  If you do that, all other movement will be ok.

So remember to leave time in your practice to just make putts.  Great putters aren't born they are made.  There are no great putters that don't spend a lot of time on the practice green making putts.....from all lengths!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Look Long Term

This is a post from my good friend Thomas Petersson.  He is currently playing on the Asian Tour, but has basically been on the road for the past 4 months. Being on the road that long can really mess with your head. It is easy to lose focus on long term goals and focus just on immediate results, like missed cuts for example.  That's why it's important to write down your long term/ultimate goals and look at them periodically, then adjust short term goals and course of action when necessary to stay on track toward the ultimate prize.  Like Thomas says, its important to trust the Process!  It is easy to let the ego take over when you aren't performing the way you think you should be and that can sabotage everything you are working towards.  This is the difference between being a process-oriented golfer and an ego-based golfer.
Well said and good luck TP!


You can follow Thomas at www.thomaspetersson.com and www.asiantour.com. 


"After enjoying two weeks off following my last stretch of tournaments, I am now ready to head out on another one. This time it's three events in a row on the Asian Tour, starting in Chiangmai, followed byNew Delhi and Manila


As a professional golfer, it is essential to have a long term mindset when it comes to golf and golf practice. This became very obvious during my last 4 events; an interesting month of golf for me as I narrowingly missed all 4 cuts. It wasn't that I played poorly, but I wasn't able to make anything happen during the tournament rounds. And that was frustrating. The first tendency is to panic; to ask yourself: what is happening, what can I do differently, how can I make more birdies tomorrow? But when you take a step back, you realize that you have to approach it from a long term perspective. 


When designing a practice regimen, you have to look at three things: 1. Where are you right now? 2. Where do you want to be? 3. What are you going to do to get there? And this is what people refer to as "the process". When you surround yourself with people you trust; with teachers you like and that inspire you and help you remember what's important and what's not; when you can trust that the things you are working on are the right ones; then you can trust "the process". The process of getting better. To reach beyond your current ability. To push through fears and doubts, to reach a level that was previously unattainable. 


This means that even though you are really happy or very disappointed with a round of golf, you have to let that round go and focus on what you need to do to get better. That's why you still practice after a round even though you just shot 63 and couldn't miss a shot. And that's also why you practice after a round of golf you were not very happy with. Because you know where you're at, and you know where you're going. 


So even though I was disappointed with the short term results of my last stretch of tournaments, I take great pride in the fact that I stayed patient and that I kept my cool. I have my drills, that are measurable, and I can see that I am improving. By trusting this process of getting better, I can even out the very emotional highs and lows that come from playing professional events, and take refuge in the really satisfying feeling of knowing that I am improving. And now I can't wait to tee it up in my next events. "

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

More Distance

This is a quick article I wrote for California Golf Magazine:


SWING FASTER



There are two basic requirements for more distance with the driver off the tee: solid contact and fast swing speed. Now it doesn't do much good to swing really fast if it makes you mis-hit the ball, so your first priority while hitting a golf shot is to have good posture at set up and maintain balance throughout the swing into the finish.

It is important when increasing swing speed that it be done away from the ball with this drill.  Take your driver and turn it around so you are gripping close to the club head and swinging the grip end. Now make a big turn back and swing the grip end trying to make the swoosh sound as loud as you can. Continue to make the sound louder and louder with each swing. This will help teach you to swing the club faster....but don't forget your good balance!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fixing The Slice

The majority of golfers that come to see me about the full golf swing have trouble with slicing the golf ball.  It can be a high right curving shot or a low screaming banana ball.  In either case the ball curves too far to the right and loses a lot of distance.  There are two components to a slice: path of the club going to the left of the target and the clubface aiming right of the target at impact.  This “over-the-top” swing will produce divots that are deep and aimed to the left of the target.  While both components, the path and the clubface, will have to be changed to hit a straighter ball, it is necessary (and usually easiest) to fix the clubface first.  Remember that the clubface has the biggest influence on the ball and the ball always goes where the clubface is aiming at impact. On every shot the ball flight will tell you how the club was being swung through impact.  So at the very least you know that if the ball slices way off to the right then that’s where the clubface was aimed.  There may be many reasons that the clubface is open at impact such as the grip, alignment, tension etc, etc.  The cure is to figure out what a square clubface feels like and then find a way to practice so that you can consistently “square” the clubface at impact.
 
There are a couple of good places in your practice swing to check the clubface position. The first place to check is halfway into your downswing.  Take a slow motion practice swing but stop the club halfway into the downswing.  Check the clubface and see if it is “open” as in picture A. 
pic A














If it is then the clubface will probably be aimed right of the target at impact causing a slice or a push.  See if you can get the clubface to look like picture B.  You may have to change your grip slightly to achieve this position and that’s ok.
pic B














The second checkpoint (and most important spot) is at impact.  After you have stopped and checked the club halfway into the downswing, continue slowly bringing the club to the impact position and stop.  Again, check to see if the clubface is square to the target or if it’s open (aimed to the right).  If the clubface is still open try this practice drill to help square the clubface.  Find a bag or cart tire, or even the bottom of your golf bag.  With SLOW ½ practice swings, hit the bag with the “toe” of your club making contact first as in picture C. 

pic C













Practice this drill several times then hit a couple of balls.  This practice drill over emphasizes the closing of the clubface through impact so the golf ball should go left initially.  If the ball doesn’t go left right away then continue with the practice drill until you can easily get the ball to finish left of your target.  As you get more and more comfortable and can trust that the ball will go left it will be much easier to then swing the club on a path towards the target and not “over-the-top”.  Your divots will become shallower and will point more towards your intended target.  Remember, that in order to stop the slice you will need to change two things; both club face and swing path.  Eventually, you will get the feeling of controlling the clubface a little better and will have success stopping your slice if or when it starts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Short Game Practice

Over the past few years I have been fortunate enough to play in two PGA Championships (Hazeltine and Whistling Straits). It was a great opportunity for me to get close to a lot of great players at once and see how they play and prepare for top competition.
One thing that becomes apparent over and over again while playing in these professional tournaments is how good those guys are at chipping and putting.  Even the best ball strikers in the world must get the ball up and down around the greens 4 to 8 times a round to have a good score.  While practicing the short game may not be as fun as hitting balls on the driving range it will definitely have a bigger influence on lowering your scores in the future.  And I don’t think that you even have to spend the majority of your time on the short game, just don’t forget to do SOME short game practice when you go out to the golf course. 

Try this routine: the next time you go out to hit balls go to the practice green first.  Pick a spot just off the green for a fairly simple chip and throw down 5 balls.  Continue to chip and putt the balls until all 5 balls are in the hole.  You only have to re-chip the balls that you don’t get up and down.  Once that task is complete go to the range and hit as many balls as you want.  If you get to feeling up to it then do the same up and down drill after your time hitting balls.  This little extra time, consistently spent on your short game will certainly improve your scores.