Finally we get to part 2 of practicing. Jack Nicklaus use to say you should always practice with a purpose. This blog will explain what’s the purpose of practice. This is what you should expect from practicing and why you should go to the practice range.
1. It is the best the thing to do for your golf muscles. Even if you work out, a golf swing is so unique, that the only way to really get those golf muscles in shape is to swing that golf club. You get to hit a lot of shots in a very short period of time.
2. Practicing is a way to learn. Beginners learn the basics of the swing. Once you start playing awhile this is the place to learn to hit the ball low, high, left to right, and right to left. Many players don’t think they have the capabilities to hit these shots but if you do not try them on the practice range you will never get better. This is also the place to learn short game shots.
3. Experimenting. There are certain aspects of the golf swing and address position that have to be very exact. You will never be a good player if you have poor posture at addrees. However, there are many things you can change at the address position that can have a positive impact on your game. Turning your hands on the grip a little to the right or left can help you square the clubhead. Playing from an open or closed stance can have a positive effect. Remember, Ben Hogan the great fader of the golf ball played all the longer clubs the driver down to the 4 iron with a closed stance. If he had followed normal golf thinking he would have hit all shots from an open stance. Ball position is another area which can be moved around. Playing the ball a half ball forward or backward in your stance can make a big difference in how you hit the ball. These are all things you can try on the practice tee. All you have to lose is strokes.
4. Checking those static positions in golf. Remember 85% of golf swing problems happen before you swing the golf club. This is the place to check posture, alignment and distance from the ball. You can not do this enough.
So there are the reasons you should go the the practice range. Just remember practicing is not playing, practicing is not playing, practicing is not playing.
Yesterday we went to Beaver Valley Golf Club which is about a 35 to 40 minute drive. It was another unbelievable March day with plenty of sunshine and temperatures near 80. The course plays 6300 yards from the back tees to a par of 72. It is a very interesting golf course that has some very difficult and long par 4’s but the par 5’s are short and easy. They also have par 4’s that are almost driveable and the par 3’s are all solid golf holes. The greens were running a 5.2 and for early in the year were very smooth. The course is hilly and not very narrow but there is trouble to be found with enough trees and water. The fairways and rough were good. The only negative more for the course than for us, was despite the beautiful day they were not very busy. We got there at 9 am and left at about 1:40 and I don’t think there were more than a half dozen foursomes that went out during that time. Because the course was not busy there was no hot dog at the turn. I had played this golf course before about 6 years ago but I liked it a lot better this time. Is it worth the trip? I would say if you do not have to drive more than 50 minutes then yes. We had a threesome today. I had a bad front nine but settled down on the back and shot 80. Tony was in midseason form with a 72 and Pete shot 78. I am back to hitting the ball much better, but now I have to get my brain in order and hopefully the scores will come. A very enjoyable day for March 21st. Sixty four courses down and twenty six to go.
Those that are expecting part 2 to practicing, will have to wait as we took advantage of this unusual March weather, to get in course no 63. We went to Cranberry Highlands Golf Course which is about a 35 to 40 minute drive. While it may be a little unfair to rate the condition of a golf course this time of year, we could not pass up the winter rate of 30 dollars with a cart. This golf course was built by the municipality of Cranberry, Pa., and they give their residents very reasonable green fees. They charge a much higher than normal rate for non-residents. Under clear skies and temps in the 70’s it was a beautiful day for golf. This golf course plays about 6500 yards from the tips to a par of 70. I have played this course in the regular golf season and it is usually in very good shape with greens that are good, but no spectacular. Today, early in the season, the fairways and roughs were very good and the greens were bumpy barely running a 5 on the stimp. This golf course has many interesting holes, and is designed very well. The course is not overly narrow but it has many good challenging holes. If you are a Cranberry resident, this is a great golf course to have near your home. For those of us not in Cranberry, then this golf course,although very enjoyable to play, is not worth the trip unless you are fortunate enough to get the winter rate like we did today on a nice day.The hot dog at the turn was just ok, as it was another one of those fat hot dogs that your not quite sure is cooked all the way through. The condiments were good with a very tasty mustard. We had a threesome today, with Pete and his nephew Matt. I took a backward step in ball striking today as this was my 3rd 18 hole round of the year and I just could not get it going. I was chipping and putting pretty well or my score of 84 would have been worse. Pete shot a nifty even 35 on the front but staggered in with a 43 for a 78 and Matt shot 95 getting the early season kinks out. Even though this was a discouraging day of ball striking, I still think I am on the right track with this latest swing thing so to speak. I think any time you are doing something that is so totally new even though you have some early success, you are going to have a setback. The practice blog will be coming soon. Maybe I should go out and practice. Anyway, 63 courses down and 27 to go.
Today I am going to discuss practicing, that thing that we all do to improve our games. Everything I am going to talk about today, pertains to people that have played the game for awhile. Certainly, anybody who is just starting to play golf is going to have to hit balls and practice to learn the game. The biggest myth about practicing, is that there is a way to bring your range game to the golf course. In fact there are books and articles that say, let me show you how to bring your range game to the golf course. These same people, probably have some nice swamp land in Florida, that they would like to sell. Let me just say, so everyone can end their frustration, that it is impossible to bring your practice range swing to the golf course. What would you think of an article that would claim that it would show how to bring your interstate driving into the neighborhood. You would think that the author of that particular article had lost their mind. Thats the way to look at practice. On the range you are hitting shots every 40 to 60 seconds even if you are taking your time. On the golf course you are lucky if you are taking shots every 5 minutes and sometimes the time between shots will be even longer. There are so many differences between hitting balls at a range, and hitting them playing golf that there is not enough space in this blog to go through them. Its just like driving your car on the interstate at 65 to 75 miles an hour in open or even somewhat conjested traffic and getting off the interstate and driving in your local neighborhood. If you even tried driving 65 to 70 miles an hour you would either get arrested or kill somebody before you got very far. This idea of practice not equating with results is not new. Even the pros will talk after a really low round that at the pactice tee they couldn’t seem to do anything right but then when they got to the first tee something just clicked and they started to hit the ball great. The reverse will be true when somebody else has a bad last round and talks about how great they were hitting it on the range and then when they got on the first tee everything just fell apart. Even in other sports you will hear the losing football coach talk about how his team seemed to have a great week of practice only to be blown out 31 to 7. Players get very frustrated when they have a really have a good session at the range the night before and then when they play, the game just gets worse as the day progresses. So forget it, practicing is not going to automatically make you into a better player and it is not surprising. You should play a least 3 times as much as you practice if you want to have any chance of improving. Its not that your practicing wrong or the wrong things, its that you can not fool your brain into thinking that the two things, playing and practicing have anything to do with each other. The brain knows that when you hit a bad shot on the practice tee that you are going to pick another ball up and make the adjustment right away without moving. On the golf course you are going to have to chase that errant shot and the next time you have exactly that same shot may be 24 holes from now. So should we practice at all. Of course we should and in the next blog I will tell you how to get the most out of it and what the true benefits of practicing are.
Now I am going to discuss the one thing I tried with my golf swing, that when I started doing this, I described as possibly real meat. I did this longer than the other things I described in the last blog. I ended up the last 5 rounds of 2010 and the first 9 rounds of 2011 trying this technique. Even though the golf swing is a fairly unique endeavor there are other sports that golf is compared. The first one that comes to mind is baseball. Hitting a baseball and even pitching with it’s wind up and follow through, is often compared to the backswing and downswing in golf. In both instances there is a shift of weight from a back foot to a forward foot. You could say the same thing in throwing a football, slapping a hockey puck and serving a tennis ball. In all of those examples anytime the weight is shifted from the back foot to the front foot the head moves with it. All except golf, where the head is held back, as you shift your weight to the forward foot. I thought why not try letting the head go forward the same amount as the forward shift of the hips that usually is the initiating start of the downswing. The hips slilde about 2 to 4 inches forward and then they start to turn, with everything else, the shoulders, arms and hands following. Traditional golf teaching says to keep your head back as the lower body is moving forward. This to me is a totally unnatural act,and I think is a big reason that people never really get off their right side. You are trying to get the lower part of your body to do one thing and your upper body to kind of hang back. I started letting my head come forward right along with my hips. The number one benefit of this move was that I really maintained my spine angle coming through the ball. The only thing I did to compensate for the move forward was to play the ball a little more forward in my stance, about 2 balls. When I first started to do this on the course the results were very good especially with the driver. Not only were my drives a little longer but the accuracy of my driver was amazing. However my iron play was rocky at best. I tried different ball positions and other things but the irons remained very inconsistant. Sometimes the transition got a little jerky and obviously as time when on the results were just not there and I stopped doing the moving the head forward with the swing. The only thing I will say about this technique it took a lot of strain off the back. I’m doing something right now, that seems to be working quite well, that is a little more traditional, but what I call the first true anchor of the golf swing. In other words to think of one thing that would control the entire golf swing. Another end of season find that I have had to stew over all winter but play time is right around the corner so we will see what swing no. 312 brings. In the next 2 blogs I am going to talk about practice which seemed to stir a bit of interest. In the first blog I will tell why it is impossible to take your range swing to the golf course and then what’s the real purpose of practicing.