The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

The blog is back after about 3 weeks and today we are going to take the wrists from the top of the swing to impact. I did not try to get into gray areas when it came to the position at the top. I judged the player to be open, square or closed. I would not argue that some players that I called open or closed, somebody else may say they were square. The two extreme positions of open and closed at the top are club face pointing to the sky when closed and the toe pointing to ground when extremely opened.  The model golfer swing is square throughout and that is what I used for a comparison.

Of the 61 swings I looked at, there were 31 that were square, 15 that were open, and 15 that were closed at the top of the swing. If the players maintained that position all the way through impact then the players that were open and closed would wind up hitting big right to right slices or big pull hooks. Obviously this is not what pros do. There is manipulation of the club head to produce a good shot. The players that are closed at the top have to rotate the toe of the club in a clockwise direction to begin to square the club head. The opposite is true of the open at top. They need to rotate the club head in a counter clockwise direction in order to square the club head. You can open the club more  than you can close the club at the top of the swing, so there can be even more manipulation club head from the open position. These are the elements of what the wrists are doing during the golf swings of professional golfers. I will go into specific examples in future blogs. I haven’t drawn any conclusions because I haven’t been able to take much of this to the golf course, because of the holidays and I have been felled by a mild cold. Even though the weather has not been too bad, when you get to my age you don’t take any chances with the weather, when you are feeling a little under the weather.

Speaking of the holidays, which were great, I must relate two stories. First I was in San Diego for one week, from Dec. 22 to the 29. With the exception of one day, it was warmer in Pittsburgh, than in San Diego.  That may never happen again.  My grand kids got the X box for Christmas. One of games they got was the PGA tour one with Rory on the front. That’s the answer to golf, just put the game on the easy mode and you will be shooting in the 50’s for 18 holes  every time. My 6 year old grand son hit ball extremely well. The game can be set up for a Tour event. Here is what he liked to do. Even though he could hit the ball well, his favorite thing to do was to hit the ball on purpose into the crowd. On the game this would send people ducking and the ball would hit people in various places. He would get the biggest kick out of this and just laugh and laugh. A new perspective in golf. In future blogs I will be looking at some individuals players and try to make sense out of those very interesting wrists.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

While there is still some golf left to be played in the Burgh, my game continues to flounder in the fall. This week, I am going to write about something I read in another blog, about how hard to hit putts. The Grateful Golfer asked the question, do you play your putts to die at the hole, or do you try to hit them 8 inches past the hole. Most of the respondents replied, that they play their putts to die at the hole. The Grateful Golfer also mentioned the Pelz philosophy of putting the ball 17 inches past the hole, which according to Pelz’s data, gives the ball the best chance of going in. I have a little different take on how you should think about the speed of the putt. I feel it depends on the length of the putt. I break my putts down into three arbitrary lengths, and have a different thought process on each putt.

Let’s start with putts over thirty feet, or approximately 10 steps. First of all, I try to make every putt. I am not an advocate of trying to get the putt within a 3 foot circle. I believe in the small target theory. Even though I am trying to make the putt, this is when I am trying to die the ball at the cup. I know my chances of making such putts are slim, so trying to die the ball at the cup gives me the best chance of not 3 putting, and a few will find the promise land in the bottom of the cup.

On putts that are between five and thirty feet, is where I adopt the Pelz philosophy, of getting the ball 17 inches past the hole. These putts have a greater chance of going in at that speed, and you want to make every effort to give them the best chance of going in.

Then there are the putts that are 5 feet and under. This is where I try to take a more aggressive attitude and get the ball to go in with a little more speed. The ball will usually hit the back of the cup. Here is a good drill to get the experience of doing this on the golf course. On the putting green start with a 3 foot putt that is fairly straight. Have 2 balls, one you are putting and the other one just about 3 inches directly across from the other ball the same distance. With the first ball make the putt with a nice speed going into the hole. You don’t want it going so fast that it hits the back of the cup and pops up in the air but you want to feel it dove in the cup or  hit the back of the cup. Then step up to the second ball and try to hit the putt with the same speed, but miss the cup on purpose to see how far this putt goes past the hole. You will probably be surprised how far this putt goes past the hole. Most likely it will be 2 to 2 and 1/2 feet. Then try to make the putt coming back. This will better prepare you  for the consequences of missing a short putt with an aggressive speed. Then do the drill with short breaking putts and at various distances under 5 feet.  With this aggressive attitude you should make a lot more of those little knee knockers.

These distances are certainly arbitrary and you can set up you own distances for each of the three philosophies. Certainly those philosophies will change on extremely down hill putts. By adopting a speed philosophy based on the length of the putts, should result in better putting stats.

The Goofy Game of Golf Trying to Execute the Answer

The blog is a day late, because of good old March Madness, and a busy golf week, where I played 3 1/2 rounds. It was a very productive and learning week, for one so early in the season, so lets get to it

On Tuesday, I walked 9 holes at the Mt. Lebanon , under some harsh conditions, with temperatures in the low 40’s, and some strong winds. The very first tee, gave the example of thinking just a little too much, and not following the open mind plan. The first hole is a 160 yard slightly downhill par 3, that on this day was playing into a stiff wind. The first part of my thought process was very good. With the cold temps, and the strong against wind I took out my 7 wood on a hole I can hit with an 8 iron on a nice warm summer evening. But then I thought just a little too much. Instead of aiming dead at the pin, I thought with the first swing of the day, that I would be a little stiff, which would make me hit a little more of a fade than I usually do. I aimed about 5 yards left of the green, swung and hit it dead straight, 5 yards left of the green. The rest of day was not bad, but due to the conditions and a bulky putter the day was a ho-hum 5  pars and 4 bogeys.

On Wednesday, I went to Scenic Valley, and even though the temps were only in the mid 40’s,  plenty of sunshine made this day almost pleasant to play. My ball striking that day just evolved into playing a little draw, especially with the irons. My shots were going just slightly right to left. Since this was not a major misdirection, I decided to play the draw, instead of what I would usually do for shots that go way left. In a previous blog, I wrote that I would aim left and my swing would make an automatic correction. Since this slight draw was acceptable I played for it and this worked quite nicely.  I made 3 birdies but followed each birdie up with a bogey on the next hole. The one thing that cost me this day was that the wind was in a unique direction for this course and I failed to allow for it.The perfect example of being asleep at the wheel. My short game and putting were ok and managed to shoot a 77

On Saturday I went to Village Green and with temps in the 50’s under overcast skies and gusty winds I managed to play a very good round. My ball striking was spot on and I sunk a long putt on the very first hole for a birdie and I made a lot of 3 to 6 foot putts and shot a very nice 3 over 74. I made some poor decisions down the stretch due to wind and maybe just a little fatigue. I hit some great approach shots and if I had been putting a little better I might have shot even or better.

Yesterday it was back to Scenic Valley, with temps barely in the 40’s but with plenty of sunshine and not all that bad wind wise. However I was out of sync all day, and with the combination of some bad breaks, bad thinking, mediocre putting, and losing the concept of executing the answer I shot a lackluster 82. What do I mean by losing the concept. For the first time since finding the answer, I got back into the problem of trying to make my body do something, instead of allowing it to do what was necessary to hit the shot.  For about 11 and a half holes I was striking the ball pretty well. Then I got into some very poor ball striking for 2 and a half of the next 4 holes. Most of this was due to playing the wrong type of shot and then making my body move to what I thought I had to do in order to execute the shot. I should have kept more target oriented and paid attention to what my body did to play the shot.

After this week, this is what I have discovered. The short game and putting are going to require more than just the grip to get some real improvement. The grip is still a flexible and important part of finding your best short game and putting method but there is going to be a little more than that involved for sure. The early season shows how rusty your golf thinking can really be. I will have to do better in avoiding the trap of trying to fall back on what I was doing the day before. That was another reason for the poor score  on Sunday. Even though I already knew this, it is really hard not to do, especially early in the season. I have a new way of handling uneven lies, which there are plenty in western Pa. If this continues to work well, I will reveal it in a future blog. Despite the Sunday glitch the season has gotten off to a very nice start. My Saturday round was highlighted by an eagle chip in on the par 5 13th hole. This week looks good for some more golf on Tuesday and Wednesday. The weather get’s a little iffy toward the end of the week but we will wait and see. Progress is being made, I think, I hope , I pray, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! See you next week.

The Goofy Game of Golf Trying to Execute the Answer

Well, it is March 15th and the golf season has begun, with 18 holes of golf under some pretty brutal conditions, with temperatures in the upper 30’s, and just enough wind to make it just a bit colder. But you can tell spring fever is in full bloom, because when I left the course around 1 pm there were some 30 cars in the parking lot. It’s a good feeling when you  your not the only crazy dumb ass playing out there. Despite the conditions it was like I had never left the golf course. I drove the ball really well and the rest of the game stayed together enough to grind out a 78. I can’t say that I learned much on trying to execute the answer, but it was just real good to get out, and play some golf, after a two and half month lay off. I went into the round with my new open mind, but I must admit I went back to this little cold weather flat swing I developed late last year, playing under similar conditions, and it worked really well. It’s not to say that some old swing methods won’t work but again you don’t want to force the issue.  The weather is looking better in the beginning of the week so I am hoping to walk 9 holes tomorrow, play 18 Tuesday afternoon. The rest of the week is looking iffy but I might get another round in over the weekend. I am hoping to get the 8 courses in this year to get the number of courses I have played within 90 minutes of my house to the even number of a hundred. The round itself was boring with 12 pars and 6 bogies. Came close a couple of times getting the first birdie of the year but it was not to be. See you next week when hopefully I will have more to report on executing the answer.

The Goofy Game of Golf Executing the Answer

Naturally it is winter in the Burgh and not much happening on the golf front. In order to execute the answer you have to play the game and that is not happening in the near future. I thought I would write about two subjects today. The first one is one of the things I tried this past year to connect the mind and the body that work for a least a few weeks and to discuss a little more about trying to execute the answer in the short game and why I think the grip is the ticket.

The thing I did about in the middle of the summer that worked pretty well for awhile, was to swing at the ball as hard as I could, while maintaining my balance. Now I didn’t do any Happy Gilmore swings, but I went after the ball pretty hard. Let’s face it I thought this was the ultimate mind body connection. The body is always wanting to swing hard, but it is the mind that is telling us to keep it smooth, and at less than full throttle. Sam Snead said he felt he swung at about 85% of his power. Well for about 4 weeks I went at it full throttle, and the results were not bad. What was amazing, was I didn’t notice a great deal of increase distance with my woods, but I was hitting my irons a lot further. I would hit my 8 iron about 170 yards, with accuracy. I was scoring pretty well and I felt the game was really becoming fun. I don’t remember all the reasons I quit doing it, but I do remember it became physically taxing, and it was getting hard to control distances and finesse anything. For awhile though, the mind and the body were really connected.

Here is the reason that I think the grip may be the key in finding your that day short game and putting method. Lets look at all the putting methods. Here are the basics: The long putter, the belly putter, left hand low, claw grip, split grip, and for a lack of a better term the conventional method. There have been probably other bizarre methods, but with the exception of possibly the belly putter, these methods have one thing in common. They all change the position of the hands on the putter. One thing that may be interesting would be to use a 36 inch long putter but grip in the same way the players grip the long putter. It would be like a reverse claw grip. You would take your left hand and grip the top of the putter with the elbow pointing at the target, and the right hand would be more or less in the standard grip. This could be a solution for these guys once the long putter is banned. In trying to find your that day putting or chipping method you would grip the club in the most comfortable position for that day and the grip would change from round to round. Only time will tell if I have lost my mind, but it did work for 27 holes. I will be in San Diego next week to meet the new grandchild and who knows might get a little golf in. See you next week.

The Goofy Game of Golf Trying to Execute the Answer

Today I am going to discuss the attempts I have made on trying to find the “that day method” for both the short game and putting. I am talking about shots that are just around the green and not pitches of around 30 yards or more. For those shots I think you can still use your full swing method for the day.  Speaking of short game how about Tiger Woods. I have only listened to a few of the comments concerning Tiger’s short game problems, but I have not heard anybody say the dreaded word. Tiger has the chip yips. Some of the commentators have said that it could be mental. DO YOU YA THINK? As a man who has battled the chip yips off and on for the last 2 years, you can practice all you want Mr. Woods but you have got the biggest challenge of your career coming up. Maybe Tiger can find the cure for the yips and help all of mankind. Wouldn’t that be something. I guess the other question might be would he tell us?

Now getting back to finding the best method for shots around the green and putting on the day you are on the golf course. There are some unique challenges. On one occasion, I started off my round with some great ball striking and hit the first 10 greens in regulation. The 11th hole was a 190 yard par 3 and i pulled my shot about 5 yards left of the green. So here I was 11 holes into the round and my first short game shot of the round. Since I have started trying to execute the answer in all three phases of the game, my putting has been mediocre. What was interesting is, that I never  had a really bad day on the greens, one of those 38 to 40 putt rounds which really ruins the way beer tastes.  My chipping and short pitching around the greens was also just mediocre and yips were few and far between. Both chipping and putting are very simple procedures with very little body movement, unlike the golf swing which has a multitude of body actions which can give many feels.

What I am about to explain I only did the last 27 holes of golf I played and I usually don’t reveal this kind of stuff without a lot more playing time doing something. This is more of an up to date progress report and this could change as new season develops.  My last round in San Diego my chipping and short pitching were excellent to good and then my last 9 hole round was my best putting round since finding the answer. In previous rounds  trying to find my “that day method” to chip and putt always involved trying get a feel of what my body was doing just like my full swing. What helped get better results in those two areas of the game was to get a feel for what my hands were doing. I used a unique grip in both the short game and putting. I’m not going into what these grips were, just yet, but I allowed my hands to do what they wanted to on the golf club just like I allowed by body to to what it wanted to do on the first swing of the day. These grips were nothing exotic or weird, they were just different from the way I usually gripped the club when I putted and chipped.

Here we are on Super Sunday again and just like Christmas, since the Steelers aren’t playing I will be glad when its over. Unlike last year, I don’t see a blowout but defense wins championships and unfortunately I think Seattle wins it 20-10. I would say unfortunately too, if I thought New England was going to win. See you next week.

The Goofy Game of Golf Executing the Answer

This week I am going to delve into the full swing, and how to go about finding your that day golf swing. What is interesting is, that since I have found the answer, I have had very few really bad ball striking days.  I have had enough of an issue at times, that I think I have found a process that will get be back on track faster than usual. This process goes against some of things that have been said about how to manage a round. The standard advice is to play the mistake. In other words if you start out by slicing the ball, then you should just play the slice. Of course it is just the opposite if you are drawing the ball a little too much. Then the advice is just to aim a little more right to allow for the right to left movement. I have found many times, if I follow this advice I just wind up hitting a bigger curve. Let’s go back to two times my ball striking was not good.

The first one was about 6 weeks ago at Lindenwood and I started out the round by hitting everything high and to the right. Now there can be lots of reasons why you hit this shot. This is one of the most common misses we see on the PGA tour. I do not think it is important to know why this shot happens. Look, if Greg Norman and Butch Harmon couldn’t figure it out, who am I to try? It took me 8 holes to come out of my funk and what got me out of it? I tried to hit ball  from right to left and all of a sudden I started hitting the ball much better. Essentially what did I do? Even though I was hitting everything right, obviously in order to hit a hook  I started to aim to the right. In other words I was aiming at my miss and hitting a draw. Now I could go into a lot of swing theory here on why this worked, but who cares.

My next opportunity  to try out the theory was in my last full round at Benardo Heights Country Club in San Diego. I did not have my clubs and I was playing in a little best 3 out of 4 event and the first hole is a solid 400 yard+ par 4 that doglegs to the right. With the normal first tee chitters. I pulled my first drive left with not much hook on it, got a decent kick to the right and was still in play but about 230 from the center of the green. I only had a 17 degree fairway wood in the bag. I did not hesitate for one second. I aimed about 20 yards left of the green, took my “normal” swing, making sure I stayed down through the ball and hit this nice little low fade that rolled right up into the middle of the green. The next hole I aimed a little left again and hit the ball right where I was aiming.  On the next hole a par 3, I aimed left again and hit it left of the green, right where I was aiming. The rest of the round I aimed right at the target and hit the ball pretty straight all day. On my good shots I was aware of what my body was doing and did not try to change anything, even though at times I thought my swing was out of balance.

Let’s go though the process. You must approach the first tee with an open mind and no preconceived  swing thoughts. Picture your shot from behind the ball. Take the opening practice swing and feel the motion of your body. Get comfortable over the ball, pick out your target and make a swing being aware of what the swing felt like but not trying to control it. If the results are good, then continue with that feeling and do not over analyze it. If you hit it left then aim left on your next shot. If you hit it right then aim right on the next shot. I feel this is correcting the problem not playing for it.  We usually all have a basic shot. Some of us hit the fade and some of us hit the draw. For me it is the fade. So if I have to aim left of the target on my next shot then I feel that I will take a normal swing. But if I have to aim right of the target then I feel have to try and draw the ball. It should be the opposite for someone who normally draws the ball. I have not had a lot of time to further prove this process, so how I feel about finding your that day golf swing may change, but for right now I think this is it. So if you are in a golfable area give it a try and let me know. Next week I will discuss putting and the short game which I have had even less time to figure out but I think I may have something. Will also discuss some more things about the full swing.  See you next week.