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I’ve shared my putting woes with you here, so now I want to share some new insight into that part of the game that I have just gained.
I’ve always been a “range rat” – I just love hitting balls and learning more and more about my swing. As a result, I’ve always been a pretty solid ball-striker. My driving and iron play have been my strengths my entire golf life. It probably goes back to the advice my father gave me when I was very young. “There’s nothing wrong with your game that another 5,000 practice balls won’t fix,” he would repeatedly tell me. And I took that to heart and pounded balls by the hundreds daily it seems.
But I’ve never applied that same philosophy to my putting. Duh. I’ve been struggling with the yips, and have had plenty of advice on how to beat them, mostly unsolicited. But this past week, two things I have learned in my life seemed to come together to give me a new perspective.
First, last fall I had the opportunity to listen to a full day presentation by Dr. Rick Jensen, renowned sports psychologist. Part of his topic was on the subject of “you’re not good enough to choke.” What he meant was that most are too quick to apply the “choke” label, when what really happened is that the golfer didn’t have his or her skills polished to an adequate level. It was a very interesting angle on the subject. I highly recommend his books.
The other piece of the puzzle came in a small book that I received over the weekend. In “How To Make Every Putt”, Dr. Joseph Parent advocates practicing your putting like you do everything else. Work on your fundamentals, where a hole is not even in the picture. Approach learning how to make solid, sound putting strokes like you do making solid, sound full swings.
So, putting these two together, I took my 100-ball bucket to the practice green Tuesday afternoon and hit about 500 putts. Various distances, no target . . . just making good solid strokes, evaluating and correcting, until I felt my routine and technique were gelling to something I could count on. It was as much fun as going to the range, to be honest. A concentrated practice session that was totally focused on the process, not the outcome.
Yesterday, before our tournament practice round, I took that same drill to the practice green. I put down six balls and putted them different distances, but never to one of the holes on the green. Just practicing my technique and routing, rhythm and tempo. Then I finished my putting warm up by making about 15-20 putts of not more than 2 feet. I wanted fresh feedback of the ball going into the hole.
The result was one of my better putting rounds in recent history. The tournament starts today and I’ll let you know Tuesday how this carries into competition.
It’s that time of year where clubs and courses are starting their tournament calendars. And that puts your game on another level. Bobby Jones said that there was golf and tournament golf, and they’re not much alike. I think he’s right.
Pressure does strange things to people, and it is best illustrated when you put your game on display with something on the line. Some people like to gamble on the golf course. It’s totally different playing a friendly game for a few dollars than it is to have a hundred or more on the line. And some people rise to the pressure better than others.
We saw that on television on Sunday. The best players in the world hit some shots that probably made you scratch your head.
How does Tiger Woods hit a pop-up dead pull on 14? Then follow it with a clutch birdie? How do these guys dunk short 9-iron and wedge shots on 17? Even at their level, the nerves can tighten and put you all out of sorts.
If you like to play tournaments, just understand that your game will be under a different kind of pressure than your regular daily game, even if you play for considerable wagers. There’s just something about it. But playing for something every time you are on the course does help prepare you for the pressure of tournament golf. If you don’t like gambling on golf, find other ways to put pressure on yourself. Challenge your performance with something you like or dislike . . . mowing the grass, doing dishes, household chores, etc.
The key is that you have to subject yourself to pressure in order to get comfortable with it.
Or, Just How Good Are These Guys?
In my writings recently, I’ve inferred that the tour professionals are maybe not quite as good as we are led to believe, at least from the shorter ranges. Granted, you see them hit lots of shots that just cover the flags, but remember that the television broadcast is very selective. They get to scan the video of every shot hit in an event and sort them to show you the best ones. The only mediocre-to-poor shots that you get to see are the ones hit by the leaders in the final holes.
I offer as Exhibit #1 the shot that Rory McIlroy hit on #7 at Augusta a few weeks ago. He was dead center of the fairway, 121 yards from the hole and yanked it 45-50 feet long and left, into a greenside bunker that shouldn’t have even been in play for that hole location. He made bogey and fell further down the leaderboard on a hole that should have yielded a good birdie putt at least.
That happened because Rory apparently doesn’t have that shot. It was a “bad number” for him, as they say too often. In examination, you’ll see that he carries a pitching wedge that goes 135-140 and a 54* wedge that goes 105-110. He genuinely doesn’t have that 121 club. And that just amazes me.
Exhibit #2 is one you can watch the next few days. The 17th at Sawgrass has been notorious for years. Diabolical. Stunningly difficult. Why? It’s 135 yards, for Petes’ sake? A golfer making his living on the PGA Tour should be able to hit a shot into the middle of that green 99% of the time at worst. Shouldn’t he?
But the stats show something entirely different. Tracking all 4,363, shots from 2003 until last year show that a full 11% have been dunked. More than one out of ten. You’ve got to be kidding, right? This is tracking all shots, over all four days. And for four years – 2005-2008 – the percentages were 15%, 13%, 21% and 15%. That blew me away. It’s a pitching wedge or soft 9-iron shot. For the best players in the world at the time. And they dunk as many as one out of five into the pond?
Tiny target you say? Of course it is. It’s supposed to test the best players in the world. But at 3,900 square feet, it’s roughly a 70-foot circle. If you aim at the dead center of the green, you have to hit it more than 35 feet off line, short or long to miss it. My bet is that most of the shots are missed short and right.
So, have fun watching these guys then think about how you might fare on that hole. How many out of ten do you think you could hit somewhere on the green? From 135 it should be a pretty good number.
I’m hoping this one lights you guys up a bit. Let me know what you think about this opinion, and what topics more related to helping you score you’d like to see me address in the coming weeks.
Continuing the topic of power leaks, the second most common I see is a very inefficient first move from the top of the swing. Almost all recreational golfers of mid- to high-handicap begin the downswing with a move of the club with their hands – more typically, their right hand (for right hand players). What this does is make the body turn follow the attempt to move the club with the hands.
What counts most in generating maximum clubhead speed through impact is a progressive application of power from the top of the swing through the ball. A good follow-through is the result of that action.
At the top of the backswing, you should have coiled your body with a sequential backwards extension of your arms . . . which turns your shoulders, which turns your hips and shifts some of your weight to the inside of your right/back foot. To swing properly requires a slight pause at the end so that you can reverse this entire action.
The first move from the end of the backswing should be a lateral slide of your body core to get “stacked” over your left foot. This will drop your hands and the club inside, where your upper right arm is close to your side. The knees remain flexed.
From this position, you can begin to rotate your body core, from the hips to the shoulders, because your mass is centered over your left foot. The arms and hands, and therefore the club are pulled down and through the impact zone.
I use the analogy that the golf swing is a pulling motion, because you have – in effect – a chain with several links. And you cannot push a chain!!! The club is a fixed link, as are the forearm, upper arm and chest. The connections – wrist, elbow and shoulder joint all are variable. If you push the middle of this chain with your right hand, what has to happen? It breaks down. So if you pull this chain through impact, from your torso, the other links have to follow the first more consistently. Does that make sense?
If you want to add power to your golf swing quickly and easily, get that grip right, then focus on holding on lightly, primarily with the last three fingers of the left hand, and pull the club through impact. Thinking that way will encourage your body to lead that entire action and you will generate more clubhead speed with less effort than you ever believed imaginable.
To get the feel of this, do it on half wedge shots. Get your pitching or gap wedge and make half swings, feeling the end of the backswing. Start down by shifting your weight to your left/lead side and turning your body core through. Let the body lead the arms and the arms lead the hands. Hold on lightly and just let it happen. You’ll feel the sensation of effortless power that might get the light bulb to go on.
One of the things I like the best is when a friend or stranger asks me to take a look at their swing to see if I can help them. I never get into the “lesson” business, because that is the domain of our golf staff at the club. But I have spent a lifetime in this game, and have studied the golf swing pretty relentlessly. I also have been blessed with a pretty good eye.
So, the other day, I was out hitting some balls in the afternoon, and a good friend from the club (who’s a huge fan of SCOR4161 and the other custom work we’ve done for him) asked if I’d take a look at where he is losing power. Darrell is a big guy and a good player, but not nearly as long as you would think he’d be. He plays with the “big dog” money game, which has a few really big hitters that can be quite intimidating.
I’ve played with Darrell enough to know exactly where his power leaks were, so when he came out to the range, I watched him hit a few and dropped the first one on him. “It’s your grip!”
He, like so many amateur golfers, was holding the club too far out on the end, and much too high in his palms — not low in the fingers like you should. I’ve always been of the opinion that the grip is the most important fundamental in the entire golf swing. Without a solid and fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, the rest of the swing cannot function at its best. Hogan thought it was so important, he dedicated a whole chapter of “Five Lessons” to the subject.
You’ll see the occasional pretty good scorer at the club with a funky grip, but you never see a bad grip on tour. The golfer who has mastered a great grip is the most teachable there is.
In my opinion, the grip is only ‘personal’ to a small degree. Whether you like to overlap, interlock or use the full finger grip (not baseball!!!!) . . . whether you like to rotate your hands a little stronger or weaker . . . the fundamentals are the same, and they aren’t negotiable.
The club has to be in your fingers to allow the “lag” that builds power, and to allow or even force the optimum release of the club through impact. The last three fingers of the left hand have to control the club so that it can be pulled through the impact zone. The right hand hold is limited to the curling of the two middle fingers around the grip, and neither set of forefingers and thumbs should be engaged much at all. One of the best drills for any golfer is to hit balls with the right forefinger and thumb totally disengaged from the grip. Google “Hogan grip photos” and study them!!!!!!
So, with the changes in the grip I had Darrell make, he immediately began ripping drivers 15-20 yards further downrange than he had. The ball flight and even sound of the ball off the driver was more impressive. So we went out to play a few holes to see what happened.
Historically, Darrell is only 5-10 yards longer than me at best, and sometimes I outdrive him. But not anymore!! On those five holes we played late that afternoon, he consistently flew it out there 20-25 yards past my best drives.
And that made us both really happy!!!
Next Tuesday, I’ll talk about the second in this series on Power Leaks.
This is kind of a follow-up to last Friday’s post about working with the junior players, who all seem to want to just swing as hard as they possibly can. What I was trying to impress upon them is that the golf swing can be a very powerful transfer of energy from the body, through the club, to the ball, but it is an action of grace and timing, not brute strength or application of power. The simple goal is to have the clubhead moving as fast as possible at the moment of impact (not all the way through the swing) and that process has been studied and perfected long before now.
When it comes to making the golf ball go a long way, there are a lot of elements at play. We know, for example, that hitting the ball in the dead center of the clubface . . . right on the single tiny sweet spot . . . optimizes the transfer of energy. Even a miss as small as ½” can cost 8-12% in distance loss on a driver. That’s the equivalent of at least 15-25 yards for the average length player. So, the quickest way to add 20 yards to your drives is to slow down and hit the ball more solid.
Another thing we know – thanks to the modern launch monitors – is that optimizing spin and launch angle also have a dramatic effect on how far a driver can propel a golf ball. And research shows that average or typical golfers are not launching their drives anywhere close to the optimum numbers. Their launch angles are too low or too high and almost all have spin rates that are much, much higher than the tour professionals. That’s mostly a matter of technique.
Another key factor is the golf ball itself. I’ve been told by golf ball “experts” who really know their stuff that only about 5% of recreational golfers generate the clubhead speed necessary to compress the “tour” golf balls that represent well over half of total golf ball sales. In other words, for the vast majority of you, that ‘premium’ ball you are playing is also costing you distance. The Bridgestone approach to the RX and RXS is in the right direction.
But, all those elements taken into consideration, it comes down to clubhead speed at impact. And the majority of golfers are not optimizing that variable. In my opinion, that’s mostly because they are swinging so hard that they do not get the clubhead moving as fast as it could at that prime moment in the swing. The good news is that this is one of the easiest things to work on by yourself. One of the best drills for learning how to unload the club at precisely the right moment is to reverse the driver in your hands, holding it just below the head, and swinging it to hear the “swoosh” right at impact. If you do this over and over, you’ll figure out how to build up to that point, so that you can literally hear the acceleration of the club to that magic moment.
Most golfers that are swinging too hard try to get the club moving too fast at the start of the downswing, so they will hear an elongated but less dynamic “swoosh” that lasts most of the downswing. Those that have a more fundamentally sound swing — beginning the downswing by a shift of their weight to the left/lead side, followed by a strong rotation of their body core, pulling the arms, hands and club through impact – will hear a more compressed and louder “swoosh” in the impact zone.
This little drill of holding the club backwards and learning how to compress and optimize the “swoosh”, can do more for your driving distance than just about anything. It allows you to experiment with trial and error until you get the audible results you want.
Try it and see if it doesn’t change your perception of just what the golf swing is all about.
I had a great time yesterday afternoon with the son of one of my friends from the club. I never had kids so I totally missed what my father cherished most – time teaching his boys about golf, shooting/hunting/fishing, and just about life. So I’m always thrilled when a youngster asks for my help.
We have a group of 13-15-year-olds at our club that have really taken to the game. They are out most afternoons after school and on the course all the time. My request to give Zane some time ended up being extended to three of his buddies as well, so it was a little overwhelming, but also fun to see these four get after it.
The first challenge with these kids is to get them to quit trying to hit the ball so dang hard. They swing from their toes on every shot, whether it’s a driver or sand wedge. And they think they hit the ball much further with each club than they do. So my first advice is to just s-l-o-w—d-o-w-n. Take your time, be relaxed and loose. The game is ONLY about scoring. No one cares how you do it, or how far you hit an 8-iron or driver.
It worked out great the first hole, as I got Zane to just slow it down and hit it easy . . . and he outdrove his buddy Jack, who they all think is “long”. Hmmm. From there I got him to just smooth a 4-iron down the fairway (it’s a par 5), then he relaxed a sand wedge up to about 15-18 feet. When he drained the putt for a very rare birdie, my point was made very clearly. He went on to par the next two holes, following my advice, but faltered with a pulled approach into the water on 17. He kind of gunched up 18 by getting into the woods and continuing to try “hero” shots, rather than pitch to the fairway and go on, but he seemed to learn a lot about just playing the game.
We did spend some extra time around 14 green, our second hole, showing them that the sand wedge is generally not the best choice around the greens, but to learn how to look at all their options. I showed them how to hit a long chip shot with a pitching wedge, 8-iron and even a hybrid – things they hadn’t ever dreamed of. “Learn how to score”, I told them. No one cares how you do it.
My first and last advice to these guys was to quit watching the PGA Tour and start watching the LPGA. I’m always preaching that all of us can learn a lot more about the game by watching the ladies, as their timing and kinetic sequencing is dang near perfect. On that subject, I was visiting with former LPGA player Kelli Kuehne a while back and she shared some interesting data from Trackman. According to Kelli, in research they’ve done, the average clubhead speed for an LPGA player is 95 mph, and that’s the same as the average club 5-handicap player. Pretty interesting. And I don’t doubt it a bit.
So, I’m making a commitment to give these kids what they want from me in the way of time and attention and see if I can’t help at least a few of them really learn how to play the game, instead of just smashing the ball as hard as they can.
I shared my putting miseries with you guys last week, and so I thought I’d offer this follow-up. We had our first big club tournament this weekend, and that is the first time I’ve put my new/old putter “under fire” so to speak. And, to be honest, I was a little wobbly again. But I had the most interesting thing happen in the last few holes Sunday, I thought I’d share with you.
On the Saturday two-man scramble format, I wobbled on a few short putts, but my partner came through more often than not, and we shot 6-under, even though we left more than a couple out there that we’d like to have back. That put us in second place, and paired with the leaders for Sunday’s better-ball format. I spent some extra time on the putting green before Sunday’s round to try to get some confidence back.
So, Sunday, we are hanging with these guys. Other than the two-putt birdie on the short par-five, we were both making lots of pars, other than the complete bungle we made of our second. Then I went “wobbly” again, missing two 4-foot birdies in a row on our 9th and 10th hole (result of two stuffed SCOR wedge shots I might shamelessly add). On the 11th, I stuck a 6-iron to four feet for the third short birdie putt in a row. Then something strange happened.
As we approached the green, our course superintendent drove up to “check on the leaders”, and was behind the green as it came my turn to putt. But rather than get more “yippy” with this added “pressure”, I found myself grinding down a bit more, focusing on making the putt rather than thinking of missing, and hit it center cup. Whew.
Two routine two-putts followed, and we came to our 14th, where I faced a crucial par save of about 10 feet. With our lone ‘gallery’ still watching, I drained that one, too. Hmmm. Made another clutch two-putt on the long par three 15th, a little downhill 30-inch slider. By the 17th, we have about 3-4 carts of golfers surrounding the green and I center-cut another crucial par save of about 8 feet. Now to 18, and I center-cut a 17-18 foot birdie, the hole looking like a bucket to me. Not something I see that often.
So, like the analyst that I am, following the post round congrats and adult beverages, I turned my mind to trying to figure out why I began to putt better . . . rather than worse . . . as we drew our small crowd. And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
What I have been doing over these small putts is thinking of missing them. Putting from fear. But when I began to be “watched”, I realized (after the fact) that I changed my focus. I stepped up my intensity, and thought of making these putts, rather than missing them. And the more we were watched, the more I focused . . . and bore down . . . and made clutch putts.
And that’s what all good putters do. And what I always do on tee shots, approach shots and greenside recoveries. But haven’t been doing on my putting. Hmmm, again.
So, I’ll let you know how this goes, but I’m going to try to just change my whole approach to putting and grind a bit more. Block out any negative thoughts, and focus only on making the putt. And not assign so much importance to them that I’m afraid of missing.
I’ll let you know how this works out in a month or so, as I have two member-guest events in the coming four weeks.
Until then, I’d sure like you guys to send me some topics that are on your mind for me to address.
Before I start today’s article, let me bring you up to date on the Destiny Project. I told this story of a “blast from my past” last week. The Destiny putter was the first I ever designed, and launched my career that has included over 100 putter designs, wedges, irons . . . even persimmon woods! But the culmination of this career is the revolutionary SCOR4161 precision scoring clubs – a total re-invention of the short end of the set that delivers proven improved performance for golfers of all skill levels.
But the Destiny started it all, and you can have one of the only 15 that will ever be made available. To see how this putter is made, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kayvn4Qwwkw
And to get one of your own, with all proceeds going to charity, here’s the link to the ebay auction — http://www.ebay.com/itm/Destiny-Putter-/111054916408?pt=Golf_Clubs&hash=item19db638b38.
Now, on to today’s subject . . .
Putting A New Putter in the Line-Up
I’ve been struggling with my putting for some time now, so badly that I even have taken a deep dive into the yips. Like happens to all of you, the more I fought the yips, the worse they got. Putts under 5’ became more daunting than a 200 yard approach over water. I got more and more deeply wound up into the mechanics of putting, which put me deeper into a funk.
I’ve always putting with center-shafted, and/or face-balanced putters, as I believe in that technology. But two weeks ago, while rummaging through my putter archives, I ran across a putter we did at Reid Lockhart, working with Ben Crenshaw to exactly duplicate his most favorite Wilson 8802. We even developed new shaft technology and a shaft/head marrying device that delivered feel like the old “Headspeed” shaft that Ben loved. When we did that putter back in the late 1990s, I putted with it a little, but mostly it was for Ben.
So, just for grins, I took this old “Ben Crenshaw by Reid Lockhart” putter out and spent an hour or so on the putting green. Since it handles totally differently than what I’ve always used, I forgot all about mechanics and just focused on gripping it light and hitting putts at the hole. And it was amazing. My lag putting was extraordinary and I began to look at the hole from 3-10 feet with only positive thoughts. I was making everything. So it went into to the bag.
My last three rounds, putting with “old technology” and a putter that feels and handles nothing like I’ve used the past 25 years, have been the best three of the last year or more. My putting is even earning accolades around the club, quite the opposite of what I’ve earned the past few years.
My point of all this is that sometimes a radical change can do you good. If you are struggling with your driving, iron play or putting, go to your archives (most of us have some old favorites in the closet) and pull a sub. Put the regular starter on the bench for a while and see what happens.
If you get half as positive a result as I have, you’ll be ecstatic.
Well, another Masters, another wonderful, but sometime wild week. I hope you all enjoyed the finish, one of the best in Masters’ history to me.
Adam Scott’s clutch birdie putt on 18 to take the lead was awesome, only to be outdone a bit by Cabrera’s unbelievable approach to only a couple of feet to tie. Wow.
Then for them both to hit such tremendous approach shots to 10 on the second playoff hole, and for only an inch either way to keep the playoff from going to 11. Wow, again.
All in all, another great Masters, as we’ve come to expect every April.
So, now on to the Tiger debacle. The noise is deafening, and the tilt seems to be only determined by whether or not you are a fan of his or not. Those who are say that justice was done. Those who aren’t claim the opposite, that he should have been DQ’d, even if he had to do it to himself.
Here’s how I see it. First of all, he took a willful action to violate the rule regarding the proper drop. I feel certain it was an unknowing breach of the rule, but his action to drop further back than the rules allow was definitely willful, as he expressed to the press after the round. Tour professionals are supposed to know the rules. Period. He didn’t, so he was wrong.
The so-called “HDTV rule” was instituted as a result of a couple of instances where home viewers “caught” golfers in un-willful and unknowing breaches of the rules, i.e. a ball quivering, a blade of grass moving in a hazard. The ensuing rule allows the committee the ability — but does not require them — to waive the DQ penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. This wasn’t the case in the Tiger situation.
But the bigger picture is whether or not the TV audience should be involved in the outcome of an event at all. They don’t have that influence in any other sport. We’d never see the end of a basketball or football game if they did, as there are multiple infractions on every play.
I say the USGA and all other rules-making bodies should simply rule that any infraction that is only caught by the TV audience is considered not to have happened. Period. That would make the future so much smoother.
I didn’t watch a lot of the tournament, but did see a clip of Rory McIlroy hitting a wedge approach from 121 yards, and leaving the shot at least 45-50 feet long and left, in a bunker. I was appalled. How can a tour professional miss a 121-yard shot that badly? Really???
Here’s why that can happen. Rory only carries three wedges, a PW of 47, along with a 54 and 60 degree wedge. His “textbook” distance with his PW is about 135-140 and his 54 maxes out at 110-115. So he didn’t have that shot, essentially. His 20-25 yard gap between these wedges caused him to have to grip down much more than he’d like, and then still try some kind of serious manipulation. And he botched it. Like so many others.
Why do these guys not avail themselves of more technology and options at the short end of their sets? Most carry 5-6 clubs that go over 200 yards, and only 3-4 that go less than 150-160?
Very puzzling to me.