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I think what makes putting so frustrating and difficult is that we put lots of pressure on ourselves to make “everything”, because it seems like the pros do. And it always seems like there’s one guy in our group who’s winning because he’s making “everything. But the biggest killer to a smooth and effective putting stroke is tension, and that comes from putting pressure on ourselves to make every putt.
I was reading the other day about one of the tour players – can’t even remember who – and his success on putts from 5-10 feet. The article said he was among the tour leaders at that range with a 61% “make” percentage. Really? So, the best players in the world are making just over half their putts from 5-10 feet, and you think you should make them all?
What happens when we start putting pressure on ourselves like that is that we get very focused on the mechanics of the stroke, rather than just “making the putt, dammit”. And that generally starts us into a downward spiral of tension, correction, tension, more correction, etc. Which eventually makes the hole look like a thimble and causes more misses, frustration, tension . . . well, you get the idea.
So that brings me to the title of today’s article. We played in a charity scramble last summer and one of my golf buddies’ mantra for the day was “putt like you don’t care”. I thought it was a very cool way to keep himself loose and focused on the hole and the idea of making the putt, rather than allowing the tension and pressure of making the putt get in the way of the calmness and looseness that good putting requires.
I’ve always found that the best putters that I observe have almost nothing in common. Very diverse selection of putters, completely different putting styles, mechanics that really don’t look that good . . . but they all do one thing the same. Every good putter I’ve ever known really thought they were going to make every putt. They never had a doubt that they’d make a good stroke. The never doubted their read of the break or speed. So they had not one negative thought in their head. And that allows them to “putt like they don’t care”. Except that they do.
The best putters are those guys who find the last shot on every hole the most exciting. The one that can finally get the ball in the cup is the one that counts the most. A great putt can make up for a bad drive, a so-so approach or a chip or pitch that really wasn’t all that stellar. But that last stroke on every hole is the great redeemer. It makes it all OK.
I remember my Dad – who was a great putter – had a saying after he kind of chopped up a hole and then saved par with a great putt. He’d always offer up, “Well, that’s three of those and one of them.”
So, the next time you are out on the course, give “putt like you don’t care” a try. Ease up on the expectation that you have to make any putt, and just putt it to make it.
If you don’t, fine. But I’ll bet you sink more than you’ve been making.
As you all know, I’m a big believer in practicing the short game, and hit lots of little half chips and pitches on the range and around the practice green. That’s where you practice technique until it becomes ingrained. But I recently had a reader ask about how to practice actually pulling off those shots under playing or competitive pressure. As Bobby Jones said, there’s “golf” and then there’s “competitive golf”, and they really don’t have that much in common.
We see it every week on the PGA Tour. As the ads say, “these guys are good”, but how in the world do golfers of this skill level hit some of the ugly shots we see in tournaments each week? It’s really simple, and Mr. Jones sums it up nicely. Hitting shot after shot on the range is quite the different prospect than pulling of “that” shot just when you have to do so, coming down the stretch of a major, or needing to get it close to beat your buddies.
The only real way to practice under pressure is to put yourself in situations where you have that real pressure on you. Playing for more money than you might find comfortable. Tournaments. In front of people who you’d like to impress. All those situations will cause you to tense up, maybe forget your fundamentals, get a little quick . . . things that make bad golf shots happen. The more you are there, the more you get accustomed to performing in those situations.
But you can practice performing under pressure. You just have to determine what things will make you grind. I worked with a young player some time back who I was trying to get to slow down his swing and focus on solid contact and hitting fairways. So our deal was that if he missed a fairway, he had to run after the cart to his ball. And after a while, he got tired enough to slow his swing down and make solid contact.
You can do the same in your practice drills. Make yourself “pay” for bad shots – pushups, sprints, etc. all might work. Or get a buddy and chip for dollars, pitch for dollars . . . those kinds of things. Anything you can put on the shot that will make you pay for a miss will improve your ability to perform when the pressure is on.
Find your own “punishment” and build it into your practice routine. It will pay off for you on the course.
OK, you all know that I’m “the wedge guy”, and that I’m a firm believer that your route to lower scores is going to be at the short end of the set rather than from the tee. But this industry is driven by the noise around drivers and big companies’ endless promises of hitting the ball further. I received an email the other day from Pat in Yorktown, VA, a reader who is trying to make sense of the claims by the driver makers. It is so good, that I’m going to re-print it here:
Recently, driver technology has been working on generating more clubhead speed to get more distance by improving aerodynamics to lighter clubs to shaft length, etc. If we look at the simple physics formula: F=ma (Force = mass times acceleration), by increasing clubhead speed of a standard driver head mass, I can see how distance can be increased. But if we can increase our clubhead speed by 3-4 mph with a mass that may be 25 grams lighter, I can’t see how the math works out to increase the force we put on the ball to get more distance. Besides that, swingweight would change and that can affect the rhythm, tempo, and timing to square the clubhead and strike the ball solidly and accurately. I hope you can elaborate on this topic before I run out and buy the latest and greatest driver with all the promises and marketing hype. Thanks.
Well, Pat, I think you nailed it pretty well here. If we make the driver lighter so you can swing it faster, we’ve also reduced the mass with which you are making impact, so what’s the gain? For weekend and other regular-guy golfers, I’m betting it’s not much. The driver market has been driven by technology for decades now, and they have all pretty much pushed the envelope as far as the USGA will allow. But they surely cannot admit that, can they? They have drivers to sell.
In my opinion, unless your current driver is over 5-6 years old, there’s not going to be much distance improvement available to you with the newest whiz-bang model. In fact, I’ll bet that each and every one of you hits drives with some frequency that are super-long, and that’s because every once in a while you get all the hitches and idiosyncrasies of your swing just right and make dead solid perfect impact. And it’s no secret that even with the most advanced drivers in the market today, a miss by ½” will cost you 7-9% of optimum distance. And a miss by ¾” will increase that loss to 12-15%.
But just for fun, you should see what 15 more yards would really do for your scores . . . if that was even “for sale” out there in the marketplace. The next time you play a recreational round, after each drive, pick up your ball and walk it 15 yards further down the line it was traveling when it came to rest. Whether it was headed straight down the fairway, or towards the OB stakes, water or bunker . . . 15 more yards, OK?
My bet is that it would not change your scores even one stroke for the better. But I’d sure like to hear what you guys find out with this little experiment.
Well, it’s Friday and I’m going to tee off on a disturbing trend I see in the golf equipment industry – that of using launch monitors to fit and SELL golf clubs. The latest “victim” is a dedicated young golfer at our club, who went through a fitting and purchase at a major retailer just last week. He’s in the 8th grade, practices his short game diligently and has tons of potential. I have given him lots of attention and he thinks it’s very cool to know someone who is in the golf club business.
So, back to our story. On Thursday, he tells me he got a new set of irons, after being fitted at this major retail store. He was all pumped up that he hits this new 7-iron “154 yards”. Now, this kid is about 5’2” and weighs 119 pounds, and there is no way he hits a 7-iron 154 yards, I’m telling ya. But he’s been served a double dose of extra strength “major brand, launch monitor Kool-Aid” and is just sure that this is the absolute truth.
So, we went out and played a few holes yesterday afternoon, and quickly determined that he hits this new 7-iron about 130 . . . 135 tops. But this obsession with power and distance has him swinging from his heels on every club, from driver to wedge. To me, he’s gone backwards from where he was last summer, because he has devolved from scary straight to all over the lot. He’s swinging just too damn hard at the ball.
Besides not coaching this kid to throttle it back a bit, the first 100% “miss” by the so-called fitter was that this kid has a strong right hand and fights a hook. But the fitter puts him in a super game improvement club with a big offset and under-slung hosel, both of which promote a right-to-left ball flight. The second big miss, in my opinion, is that he puts the kid in a steel R flex shaft, instead of something lighter. I think because that’s what he had in stock, but that’s just a guess.
My point of all this is that you need to proceed with caution when being fitted, especially if that’s being done indoors with a launch monitor. Those things are not entirely accurate, and it’s no big secret in the trade that they very often “crank them up” at demo days and fittings to impress you with how far you are hitting this new driver or any other club.
Yes, I’m a wedge guy, but this obsession with distance is not helping golfers . . . any of you. If you want to see just what that new driver might do for your game, try this experiment. Go play a round of golf, just for “science”. When you get to your ball after each drive, pick it up and walk it 15 more yards on the line it was taking. Not further down the hole, but on the line the ball was taking when it stopped. 15 yards, OK? Sometimes that will mean a full club shorter into the green from the fairway. Sometimes it will mean past the trouble. But other times it will put you in that unreachable bunker, or all the way into the hazard, or out of bounds.
Do this little experiment, take the good with the bad, and let us know what that extra 15 yards did to your scoring, OK? I’m hoping we get hundreds of you to do this – we’ll take the story to the major press if you do.
Let’s go, guys!
I don’t often use the blog as a forum to talk about our products, but I’m getting tons of questions about bounce in general and our V-SOLE in particular, so I’m going to dive into the intricacies of wedge soles this morning. Let’s start by making sure we all are talking the same language when we talk about “bounce”.
Very simply, bounce refers to the sole of a wedge. If you hold the wedge up in front of your face so that you can look right down the sole . . . a worm’s eye view, so to speak . . . you will see that the sole takes a downward angle from the leading edge where it meets the face, to the trailing or back edge of the sole. This angle is called “bounce”. This angle, measured in degrees, combines with the width of the sole to give any wedge its playing characteristics. Wedges with a relatively steep angle are called “high bounce” wedges – they work best from softer sand and fluffy lies because the higher bounce rejects the club from the turf more aggressively. Those with a lower bounce angle are more suited to tight lies and firm turf, wet sand, etc. because the sole doesn’t reject as much.
“So Called Pro Grinds”
Some wedges are making their way onto the market with what the makers call “tour grind” or “pro grind”. These typically have material ground away at the back of the heel and toe areas, with the promise that this allows the leading edge to stay lower when you lay the face open. Well, if you have the short game touch, finesse and skill of Phil Mickelson, that might be fine. But doing that compromises the wedge significantly as you’ve also removed some of the heel/toe weighting in the club, and you’ve made much less of the sole in play when you are just hitting a “normal” wedge shot. Any good wedge should have plenty of sole engagement with the turf – that’s the whole idea of bounce in the first place.
Besides their remarkable touch and feel, skills and imagination, tour pros also have several tour vans following them each week. If the turf conditions change, or it rains . . . they simply go in and get new wedges for that week’s event. You cannot do this. You need wedges in your bag that can handle anything you encounter, from hole to hole, shot to shot, and course to course. It puts great demands on your wedges, and that conundrum led me to invent the patented V-SOLE almost 20 years ago.
“One Sole That Does It All”
Yes, it’s a bold claim, but thousands of golfers over the past 20 years will testify that it’s true. The patented V-SOLE does what it does, because it combines the best of both worlds – low and high bounce. The main part of each SCOR wedge sole has a low bounce, so it can handle the tightest of lies. But each wedge also has a very high bounce angle in the first ¼” of the sole, behind the leading edge. This make sure that the wedge can never dig into the turf on shorter shots, or when you have the club forward pressed a bit.
The best thing is that you don’t have to think about it. These two angles are always working together to give you the performance and forgiveness you need in your short game. Yes, I said “forgiveness”. The V-SOLE’s characteristics let you get away with things you won’t get away with using other conventional wedges. It won’t dig into the turf as much . . . it won’t skip into the ball as much on tight lies . . . . and it allows us to put the right amount of sole into play on every shot as is possible.
So, I hope that answers your questions. You can learn more about the patented V-SOLE and bounce in general on the scorgolf.com website.
Rhythm, Tempo & Timing – What’s The Difference?
Growing up I always heard these three terms applied in my golf lessons. My Dad and home professional both felt like these were key elements of a functional and sound golf swing. But I hear too many golfers toss them around like they were interchangeable. They are not! So, let’s dive into these three very basic fundamentals of a solid and repeating golf swing that will serve you well.
I was taught that the rhythm of your swing was the smoothness of the motion, from the time you move the club away from the ball until you finish your follow-through. The goal is to have a series of motions that blend together into one synchronized “swing”. Too many golfers that I see are so deliberate on their backswing, that they move the club almost painfully slow for at least half the backswing . . . maybe all the way to the top, then lurch at the ball with something that looks like a cross between a lunge and a stab. A swing like this is lacking in rhythm.
What you are seeking is a movement of grace and seamlessness. From the initial move of the club away from the ball, you want to feel and look effortless, smooth . . . so that the entire swing is a continuous motion of increasing power and effectiveness. Don’t let your swing become a series of “mini-swings” or movements, but make it a symphony of many pieces working together to produce ONE simple, smooth and functional move through the ball.
Tempo – The pace of the action.
While all good players have a very similar rhythm to their swings, there is no one correct tempo that produces great results. Ben Hogan, Tom Watson and others have played the game with a quick tempo that produced great results. The rhythm and timing of their movements were impeccable, but they did it all at a much quicker pace than many of their peers. Sam Snead and Freddie Couples are at the other end of the spectrum. Those beautiful flowing and seemingly effortless swings are beauty in motion. So, which is better?
You have to play the game with a swing tempo that matches your life tempo. For example, I’m a fast-paced guy. I walk fast, talk fast and have one foot out of the cart before it stops rolling — so my swing tempo is much quicker than one of my best buddies who I don’t believe has “hurry” in his vocabulary. Alan is methodical, takes his time with everything. And his swing reflects that with its syrup-y pace and tempo. He delivers the clubhead with a lot of power which doesn’t look like it – kind of like Freddy, Sam and Ernie Els.
The point is that you have to swing the club with a tempo that matches how you do everything else in life – or you’ll fight it forever.
Timing – How it all comes together.
While rhythm and tempo describe how the swing looks, timing defines how it works. For any golf swing . . . of any tempo . . . or any rhythm . . . to deliver consistent results, all the pieces and parts have to happen in the proper sequence. This is what’s called timing. It is independent of rhythm and tempo, but reflects how the pieces of the swing come together to work as a well-oiled machine. And timing gets knocked out of kilter by the littlest things, usually self-inflicted.
You see trouble left and subconsciously block the hands a bit through impact to avoid it. You want to turn the ball over a bit, so you over-initiate the rotation of the forearms through impact. You missed the last putt right, so you give it a little “hitch” just before impact.
You get the picture, I think.
Rhythm, Tempo and Timing. These are the basics. Think about how you can make yours better, and share with us, OK?
Terry Koehler, AKA “The Wedge Guy” was invited as a guest presenter to the International Clubmakers Guild at the 2012 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL. Watch a few highlights of the presentation and hear Terry’s thoughts on club design, the new USGA rules on grooves, and the future of the short game.
Since you readers have gotten active sending me ideas for articles, one that has come up several times is the “argument” that is ongoing about the best approach to the short game:
Should you use one club and learn lots of different shots, or should you learn one swing technique and use multiple clubs to get the results you are after?
My answer is . . . yes.
Since I like to call upon movies and books for reference, this one is like the movie City Slicker, where Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch, is probing the trail boss, Curly, about the true secret of life, and gets the answer, “It’s just one thing”. So Mitch asks, “What is that one thing?” and the old curmudgeon replies, “That’s what you have to figure out for yourself”, which leaves Mitch totally befuddled . . . until the end of the trail ride.
So, the answer to this age old question about the short game is the same – you have to figure out which works best . . . for you. Let me break down the pros and cons of each.
One club, multiple swings. The proponents of this approach claim that if you learn how to do many things with one club, it will make you a better short game practitioner. I really don’t doubt that at all, but the key is “if”. Will you spend the time around the practice green and on the course, learning multiple techniques with that one club so that you can make it fly low and run out when you have lots of green to work with? Hit it higher and softer when you have a bunker to carry or close cut pin? Hit the low spinner, one-hop-and-stop shot when it’s called for?
If you are going to learn all the shots with just one club, you HAVE to invest the time and practice to learn them all and ingrain them so that you can call each of those various swing techniques when needed.
One swing, multiple clubs. This is another tried-and-true approach to building a solid short game. It relies on you learning just one basic chipping and pitching technique and then selecting the club that will give you the desired ball flight and run percentage for that shot you face. Its strength is that you don’t have to spend as much time learning many different techniques, but you do have to invest the time to learn what different clubs do in the relation of ball flight to roll. But overall, this approach to the short game takes less time to achieve a reasonable level of proficiency.
If you learn what your single technique will produce with each of your wedges and short irons, you can dissect any shot into the right club to get the job done.
Multiple swings, multiple clubs. If you want to have a top level short game, you will learn several swing techniques and then learn what each of them produces with various wedges and short irons. You can hit lower shots with controlled spin with your lob wedge, while also knowing how to hit semi-flop shots with your gap wedge. Having this vast array of “arrows in your quiver” will give you plenty of options for any shot you run into on the golf course.
The key is to select a method that matches the amount of time you are willing to invest to learn it to perfection. The short game will present you with a dozen or more opportunities every round to save strokes or attack the golf course.
The better you are within 50 yards, the better golfer you’ll be. Period.
First of all, thanks to all of you who sent in questions this past week. I received dozens and have been sorting through them for ideas for articles. There are some good ones that require a full article and I’ve set them aside, but today I want to address three topics that came up repeatedly from you guys.
What Golf Ball Should You Play?
This was probably the most asked question, and my answer is simple and consistent. All golf balls on the market today are plenty long . . . but your scores will reflect your ability to control the ball with the wedges and putter. So, play the ball that feels the best off the putter and spins the best on your short shots around the green. And for Pete’s sake, do not think you need to play the hottest ball on tour . . . unless you are a tour-caliber player. If you lose 2-3 balls a round, or more, it’s senseless to tee up a Pro V1 or other $50/dozen pellet. You won’t get the benefit of the top-shelf golf balls until you are consistently breaking 80, in my humble opinion. Save yourself some dough, play a more reasonably priced ball and spend the extra buying a bucket of that same brand from one of the used ball companies, so that you have a short game shag bag.
Bunker Play Dilemma
I had several questions relating to how to deal with the variety of sand most recreational players find from course-to-course, and from bunker-to-bunker on the same course. The tour players have the privilege of playing the same texture of sand almost every week, and it’s manicured to PGA Tour standards – moist and firm. You’ll see very few fried eggs, plugged lies, etc. out there. The TV audiences like to see these guys work magic from bunkers, and they do.
But the rest of us might encounter anything and every kind of sand, even in a single round of golf. You need wedges that can handle them all, and a technique that you believe in. For the former, I’ll brag that only SCOR has that sole – it is patented, and we guarantee its performance. You know where to find it.
For the latter, there are as many bunker tips and techniques are there are teachers, it seems. I encourage you to research my archives, read elsewhere online and in books, watch videos and try them all, until you find one that seems to work . . . . for you. Then spend time in the practice bunker drilling it into your head and getting confidence in your skills.
It all boils down to the shaft, and you will improve your short game touch by pulling the heavy and stiff steel shaft that came in your wedges, and replacing it with something more similar to the shaft in your irons in weight, material and flex. If you play graphite in your irons, match that in your wedges. Ditto for light steel. But for better feel, get the next softer flex than your irons, tip the shaft a little and you’ll have a great improvement.
Or spring for a set of SCOR4161s!
Thanks for the questions this week and keep them coming. I’ve got a lot of writing to do.