Golf: Are The Good Shots, Just Luck?

We have all had runs of good golf shots. When I hit a few good shots in a row, one of my favorite sayings is ” I don’t know where they come from, and I don’t know where they go. The reason I say this is because good shots seem to come out of nowhere. You can see this on the pro tour. I remember the 1987 Masters when Corey Pavin was in contention after 2 rounds but blew up in the 3rd round, being 10 over for the round, going into the 18th hole. For whatever reason CBS decided to show him playing the last hole of this horrific round. He hit a beautiful drive around the bend, then hit an iron about 5 feet from the pin and make the putt for a final birdie to shoot 81. These good shots can follow any type of pattern or length. They can be at the beginning of the round, the middle of the round or the end. Good shots may last from one good shot, to hitting good shots for up to 5 to 10 holes. Rarely do they last longer than that, never spilling over into the next day. There is no question that something clicks and all of a sudden, we are hitting good shot after good shot. If we are working on something or trying something new, we think that this is it, having found the lifelong swing fix or swing move. But somewhere along the round the good shots disappear quickly, and we are left with that what happened feeling.

Let’s work backwards and see what the reasons are given for why the good shots disappear. I’m not saying that I believe these are all true, but all have been written up in many golf articles. One of the big reasons that good shots end is if you start out a round really well. Then you start to become too aware of your score and the shots become more significant, which causes tension, and the bad shots start to happen. There can be other times when something seems to unclick so to speak due to the circumstances of the shot. This affects your concentration with a bad shot as a result. No one gives a reason why you lose your concentration, you just do. Sometimes the good shots go all the way to the end of the round. You leave the course invigorated and may be playing the next day. You get to the course all fired up and promptly slice your drive right into the woods, starting out 5 over par for 3 holes. Sometimes the good shots may be brief. You play 11 holes lousy but on the 12th you smash a drive and birdie 2 or the next 4 holes. You get to the 16th tee with all the momentum in the world and proceed to go bogey, bogey, double bogey to end a nice 4 hole round. This may be considered letting adrenaline getting the best of you and again losing your concentration. Is any of this really true? Before we draw any final conclusions, let’s take a look at why we start hitting good shots in the first place.

There are again plenty of reasons given why we start hitting good shots during a round. It could be that the new swing thought or supposed fault that we have corrected is now allowing us to strike the ball better. Some people feel that good shots start to flow when we stop caring so much about where the ball is going. This seems to be true concerning putting. If we have more of a devil may care attitude and do not think about making the putt or the significance of the putt, we have more of a chance of making the putt. Sometimes a shot just fits our eye, feels simple and the result is a good shot that can start the flow of good shots. There are thoughts as to why we may find our game during a round, but the bottom line is this, it is always related to some kind of physical move that we are going to control, that is related to a specific skill set. Some of us may have a better skill set than others, but we are controlling the ball to the best of our ability. Could there be another reason why these shots seem to come and go?

Could just plain old luck be the reason that our games just seem to come and go. Earlier in the blog I wrote that something just clicks, and you begin to hit good shots. Could it be that you have a perfect distance for one of your irons? Could it be that the ball is sitting perfectly whether in the fairway or rough? Could it be that you have an easy target for the first time today? Maybe the wind has died down. You could be hitting a club that you really like to hit. Whatever it may be, once you hit the good or great shot, the brain and body have now connected to this feeling of a good shot. Even that swing flaw you have, somehow has compensated in a way that allowed you to pull off the shot. With that feeling of the great shot you go on to play X number of holes really well. Then your luck simply runs out. Is there a way we can figure out when this is going to happen and how we can deal with it. I think we can, and I will deal with that in the next blog. In order to move forward, you must believe that luck is the primary factor here. It is a little hard to swallow considering how much time is spent practicing and working on one’s game. Even though there is the old saying I would rather be lucky than good, luck always seems to get a bad rap. Many players are embarrassed at being “lucky”. But luck is a huge part of golf and not just in bounces and where the ball ends up. You may need luck just to hit the ball with instruments that Winston Churchill said, ” Were singularly ill-designed for the purpose”. I don’t think you are going to get much of argument about golf clubs, even today.

Golf: Let’s Get Started

Golf has had a resurgence in play, thanks to the pandemic. Because of this, golf has gotten a little lazy in promoting itself and encouraging people to play. Anyone who wants to start playing golf has one big problem, when to try and get on the course. In order to learn and play golf you have to find good instruction. Between the internet and knowing other people who play golf, this is not hard to do. After taking a few lessons, what is the process of actually getting out and playing. You don’t want to go out at a peak playing time if you are just starting out playing. There is the fear factor of making a fool of yourself in front of a lot of people. Golf is a game of patience. Patience is the most important thing you can have when starting out playing the game. In order to play golf, you must be willing to take baby steps. This is the best way I know to get started and to continue to play this great game.

Once you take a couple of lessons and you feel you can at least hit the ball, then the driving range becomes your best friend. You can play an entire round of golf right on the driving range tee box. Once you are warmed up then start your round on a course that you have seen or get a course score card. Start out with your driver, if it is appropriate, and hit your opening tee shot. Continue to play the hole as best you can. One of the keys to learning how to play is to not take any shots over. If you hit a bad shot or hit a shot only a few yards count it just as you would if you were playing for real. Use the appropriate club for the shots just like you would on the golf course. Continue that process until you are within 10 yards of the green or on the green. Many driving ranges have putting greens and short game areas. Once you feel you made it on the green or close to the green then make a note of where you think you are in relation to the pin. Once you have completed the 18 holes then go to the short game area and finish the hole beginning with number 1. I would say you would need to do this for at least 7 to 10 trips to the range. Once you feel confident that you are hitting the ball ok then you are ready for the next step.

It’s time to hit the course. The first course you should play is a par 3 course, which means that all the holes are par 3’s. The length of the holes could range from 60 to 220 yards. This could be a disadvantage if you are hitting your driver over 200 yards because you may not get to hit your driver. You will experience the rest of what golf has to offer with an increase in the short game and putting. Most Par 3 courses are not that crowded and are pretty straight forward in the design of the holes. Your next step up would be to play a 9 hole course or an executive course. These courses are usually shorter, but they do have par 4 holes and some 9 hole courses have par 5’s. On these courses you will be able to use your driver and your game can continue to progress. When starting to play the game one should play these types of courses for about 20 to 30 rounds. You will be able to improve your game in a relaxed atmosphere, at your own pace.

To determine if you are ready to play a regulation golf course, you should at least be playing close to bogey golf on the previous types of courses. Most golf courses have different tees to play from. You should pick the tees that will make the course play around 5500 to 6000 yards. That is plenty of length to experience all facets of the golf game. For women that should be around 4500 to 5000 yards. When you are scoring in the mid to low 80’s then it might be time to try and stretch out the length of the golf course out a bit. There are many times that courses are less crowded. Usually in the middle of the day between noon and 2 pm are times when the course will see a lull in the action. There are some courses that may not be popular for various reason. Maybe they are difficult to get to or the condition of the course may not be that great. When starting out this can be to your advantage where you can play somewhere and not feel rushed. You can take your time and work on your game. Driving a little further to play a course that is not that crowded is well worth it.

Golf is a much more demanding sport on the body than most people realize. There is a lot of twisting and turning when making a golf swing, even when making a beginner’s poor golf swing. Golf can be difficult to learn and play and you must be ready to go through the proper levels of learning and playing in order to enjoy the game. Every area of the country has plenty of golf facilities that were described earlier. Think of it as learning to crawl before you learn to walk. Think of it as going through the education process. Starting at the elementary level and working your way up to the college level. Golf has a lot to offer and if you take your time in learning the game and play the game at the appropriate place, then golf does not have to be a good walk spoiled.

Golf: Trouble With The Irons

All my scoring problems for the 2022 golf season could be traced back to having a horrible year with the irons. I would have my normal share of problems with putting and the short game once in a while, but even my yips were not as much of a problem. My driving continued to be the best part of my game, which amuses me now, because in my younger days it was the worst part of my game. I have been playing these irons for 2 and 3/4 seasons now. These irons are unique in two ways when compared with my previous sets. They are graphite, with regular shafts. I have always played steel shafts when it comes to irons and have used stiff shafts. The irons I have now are the Titleist AP 3 irons. They are investment cast irons, which most of my sets have been forged. They also have very strong lofts for the individual irons. I look at them as a 1/2 iron stronger. In other words, my 8 iron is more like a 7.5 iron. Because of their uniqueness and my problems, I thought of giving up on them and getting a new set of irons, every golfer’s solution. For the time being I have ditched that idea and will give them one more year.

During the season I had some really bad spells hitting irons. In fact, in one round, it was so bad that I did not hit one green in regulation. A record that can only be tied but never broken. There were other rounds where I hit the green only 2 or 3 times. This does leave you with many birdie opportunities. One problem, of course, was I did not make solid contact. I was consistently inconsistent. During the same round I would often hit irons thin and fat. I had some rounds where my contact would be good but had terrible direction. That would be inconsistent as well. All within one round I would hit shots left and right of where I wanted the ball to go. I tried many things to try a correct the problem, most of them were pre-shot. I tried to move the ball back in my stance, stand closer to the ball, and play my hands much more forward. None of these things seem to make any difference. One of the more frustrating aspects of this whole ordeal, was I would go through periods where I hit my irons well. These periods would be mystifying and would not last that long, but I would go maybe 2 or 3 rounds with some very good iron play. These rounds kept my index below 7. One method that seemed to work to some degree was aiming more left of the target. This got me to hit the ball on a more descending blow and I would make solid contact. This would work for a while but then I would eventually hit everything left, right where I was aiming. I also have developed a mental block that I have had with these irons, almost from day one, that I have not been able to overcome.

I am able to hit these irons a lot further than any irons I have ever owned, even for an old guy. This is the typical scenario that leads to a very bad iron shot. It really does not matter what iron it is. I will use the 7 iron for an example. I have a distance that I think is too far for the 7 iron. This may be due to the conditions, the lay of the land, or the lie of the ball. Simple enough, just use the 6 iron. Then for whatever reason instead of swinging the 6 iron easily I have this mindset that this may not be enough club, or if I really hit it will be too much club. Needless to say, the shot turns out to be a disaster. Sometimes when I am going through this bizarre thought process I will drop back to the 7 iron, really smoke it, and wind up short. Now once in a while the 7 iron will get there to produce a good shot. This scenario does not happen every time I hit a bad iron shot. I hit bad irons when I have had no doubt about the club selection. But that issue is strictly mental and no amount of swing or set up changes are going to correct it. So, what’s next.

This has been the worst ball striking issue I have ever had in over 50 years of playing. In my own brainwashed way, I have made a swing change. I instituted this in my last round, with some mixed results. That last round was my 75 caused by my best putting round in about 5 years. In my brainwashed mind I attributed most of my bad shots in that round, on trying something new with the swing. Because of the weather I have not played since, but it does look like we might be able to get out the next couple of days. Hopefully I can get two rounds in. I know the conditions will be far from perfect but that should not affect my iron play if I am striking it well. Hopefully I will see some light at the end of the tunnel on this horrific period of iron play.

Golf: We Are Brainwashed

Playing golf can be one of the most frustrating endeavors known to man. Everybody wants to improve their game which means that they want to improve their score. Some of us took up the game when we were young. I started playing at the age of 8. Others did not take up the game until they were adults and in the case of one of my newer golfing buddies, he did not take up the game until he was 73. Many people take up the game only to quit after so many years of trying to improve and get better. Many people do get to the point where their handicap is in single digits only to get stuck there seemingly for the rest of their life. Some of these people quit due to this apparent lack of progress. One of the problems in golf is that our faults do not seem to be consistent. Our game seems to change from round to round. One round we cannot drive the ball. The next round we seem to have trouble with our iron game or our short game. Another round we just putt horribly. Even within these problems, the issue is not consistent. One round we may be hooking all our drives and the next topping drives. Irons may be hit fat one round and then thin and to the right on another. All of these things seem to happen out of the blue. The reverse can happen also. One time when I was in the throes of one my worst periods of the chip yips, I had a round where I had spectacular chipping. I put every chip, which there were many, within inches of the cup and wound-up shooting one over par. The bottom line is this. Whatever the problem may be with our games we want it fixed. Believe me that is no problem for golf instructors.

No matter what the problem is, slicing, hooking, fat shots, top shots, pulled shots and even the yips, there is somebody out there that can fix it. There is always a constant with these fixes. The first constant is that the fix is easy. The results are guaranteed. Sometimes there will be multiple ways to fix the same problem. You can easily find these on the internet or go to a local pro and the fix will have the aforementioned elements. You know what? Most of the time the fixes will work. The instructor will change something in your set up or swing and sure enough the problem seems to get resolved. The other thing that gives these physical changes more validity is you will read or hear about a top tour pro changing something and voila wins a tournament. It makes no difference that whatever the change was, does not seem to work forever, or another problem crops up in your game. It makes no difference that the pro you read about who made the change and won a tournament, has now missed the cut in his last 6 event. We are all brainwashed, including yours truly, into thinking that we need to make some change in our swing or technique to get better or solve a golf problem. We just cannot get over this philosophy even when we know that it is not a viable or permanent solution to our golfing woes.

There is no question in my mind that the reason our golf games remain stagnate and we do not get better is the brain. At one point in this blog, I went through a long period of playing and writing about what I called 100% mental golf. However, I really could never do it. There was another phase of my golfer education where I thought the game was 50% mental and 50% physical. I had very logical thinking when explaining my reasoning. I wrote that you could have the best mental attitude and course management, but if you swing and golf fundamental were bad you would not be able to score. You could have the perfect golf swing and fundamentals. but if your mental attitude was bad and your course management was unsound, then you would not score either. Naturally it probably is somewhere in between. I think we all have had this experience playing golf. We are having a bad day striking the ball. All of a sudden, we hit a spectacular shot that ends up about 3 to 6 feet from the pin. The opposite can happen also in a good round. You’re hitting the ball very well and in the middle of the round, you hit a horrible shot, that causes you to make double bogey. I have a saying when I finally hit a good shot in a round. I don’t know where those good shots come from, and I don’t where they go. So, what’s a golfer to do. These problems with our games are not going away. Be aware that most of your game’s problems are mental. Probably close to 90%. That is the first place to go when considering bad shots. Remember more of the mental feeling on good shots. Look for pre swing problems before you go anywhere else. Your good shots are not accidents. They are the result of a functional golf swing and a well-planned shot. Bad shots are usually from not planning shots, self doubt, and trying to do shots beyond your capabilities. Try to undo the brainwashing by looking at your swing as a last resort to improve your game. Next, an in-depth look at my struggles with the irons.

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Golf: Yes, I Am Still Playing

I have not written anything about golf since the end of March. Since many times I have written about quitting the game, some of you may have thought that I had finally come to my senses and quit. I am not that smart. I played a lot of golf this year as usual, with 137 rounds recorded. The handicap season will be over around November 15th and the weather is bad this week, so it is very unlikely that I will be getting in any more handicap rounds. I finished the year with an index of 6.1 after starting with a 5.2. My year was typically up and down but having my index go up almost a full stroke shows that it was mostly down. There were some highlights and one of them shows just how goofy this game really is, but we already know that.

I play in a 9-hole senior league on Wednesday mornings, and they have various events. One is the 4-club event, where you can only play with 4 clubs. It is held twice a year. I missed the first one last year but in the 2nd one I shot 37 and won the low net. This year in the first one, I completely fell apart and shot 50. Then in the second event, I parred the first two holes and 3 putted the 3rd hole to make a bogey. From that point on I almost made every putt I looked at to go birdie, par, par, par, bogey, birdie to shoot 35 and win going away. The four clubs I used were driver, 8 iron, gap wedge, and putter. What is amazing is that those were the best 9 hole rounds I had each year. Just another example of you know what. The other goal each year is to try and shoot my age, which is now 72. I did have a 71 last year to do it for the first time. I came close this year, but no cigar. I did on consecutive days put two nine-hole rounds together of 36 each. Late in March I had one of those freaky early in the year rounds, where everything goes right, and shot 72, but at the time I was still 71. I won’t turn 73 until April so there is some time left. We did win a scramble in the nine hole league and another 3 man low net event. Other than that, my year was pretty mediocre, as I went through some long stretches of poor scoring.

I had 15 rounds over 85 and 2 rounds over 90. Though I did not feel that this was much of factor, I had a weird thumb injury on Father’s Day Saturday. It was unusually chilly for mid June and I was not dressed well enough for the temperature, so I did feel cold when I teed off the first hole. I was only going to play 9 that day because the course was very crowded. The very first swing I hit a drive that was a low hook that started right and curved back to the middle of the fairway. I felt this pain at the base of my left thumb, when I made the swing. It got worse quickly, and I tried several methods to alleviate the pain. I finally came up with just wrapping my left thumb around the club much like a baseball grip. Even though this felt awkward it worked pretty well and I hit the ball ok with no pain. The pain slowly went away over a period of about 4 to 6 weeks, and I went back to my normal grip. Rest did not really seem to help and even though the injury occurred swinging a club, playing and swinging the club did not seem to make it worse. Whatever it was, it went away pretty much entirely, and I continued on my inconsistent way, the rest of the season. The worst part of my game was my iron play. I really could not figure it out, and even though I would have periods where my iron game was back on, for the most part I just ruined many a great drive, with some very poor iron shots. Needless to say, my play on the par 3’s was not very good. I continued to battle the chip and putting yips but overall, they were not a major factor in my scoring woes. My driving was by far the best part of my game. Anytime you run into a scoring slump, one of the big factors is just how bad some of your shots are. I would hit some of the most horrible shots in the middle of rounds, that were not going all that bad. I did finish up on a high note last Thursday before the weather turned bad. I shot 75 that was entirely due to a spectacular putting round. They are always fun and do not come along all that often. I had 23 putts, with only 9 putts on the front nine and had 0 putts on 3 holes. If I had been striking the ball at all, I would have shot my age. The weather is not looking good for a while, but I am sure there are at least 3 more rounds out there before the year ends, which will put me at the 140 count. I tried many things to help me with the irons and other aspects of my game, but none of them really panned out. Like always, there was a few things I thought I learned about this goofy game, and I will pass them along in future blogs. For a 72 year old, being able to play 140 rounds in a golf season, was by far the best part of 2022. See you on the links.

Golf: Why Is It So Hard?

It looks like the surge in golf play due to the Covid pandemic may be coming to an end. It’s too early in the year to evaluate how many people will be playing golf. However, I base my opinion on a visit to a local golf repair shop. This shop takes used clubs on consignment and sells them to the public. The last two springs have been pretty slim pickings because of many people either taking up golf for the first time or playing again after not playing for many years. During the height of the pandemic, golf was about the only thing you could do. The last two summers have seen more play than normal. There were what I called Covid foursomes. These were beginning players that had no idea how to play or what the game was all about. I visited the shop last week to get a couple of grips put on my clubs and the used club racks were filled to the brim. There were more clubs there than I have ever seen and I have been going there a long time. The fact remains that many people take up the game of golf, and after a year or two of playing, will quit the game. There are other stories of people who have played the game for years, and then after being so frustrated with their games, finally just throw in the towel and quit for good. What makes this game so difficult? I have always been hard on golf instruction, for not being very good at teaching the game and this is, indeed, a factor. There are, however, several things about golf that has nothing to do about trying to hit the golf ball, which makes the game unique, but also very difficult. Winston Churchill may have summed up golf best when he said, “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever-smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purposeā€.

The first thing that makes golf so difficult is you are trying to hit a target with an object, and you are not able to look at the target. This is not lost on all of instruction. Some advocate that you look at the target and as soon as you look back at the ball you start your swing right away without delay. This sounds all well and good, but you still really have the same problem, you are not looking at the target when you are in the act of trying to hit the target. I feel this is even worse than trying to hit a target with your eyes closed. Think of any other situation where you are trying hit a target. Every time, you are looking at the target. I am a little surprised that putting while looking at the hole is not more popular. Tennis is similar, but the target is in the same place and distance every time. There are 18 times in golf, that you hit the ball off the tee ground. On a golf course that has 4 par 3’s, 4 par 5’s and 10 par 4’s, that means that the other 18 full swings will most likely be totally unique shots. Not only will they have different distances to the green, but the lie of ball, the lay of the land, and the environmental conditions will all be different for all of those 18 shots. Let that one sink in for a while. In fact, I am thinking about it, and I think I will quit the game. What kind of swing are you going to groove for those kind of shots? Let me clue you in, you are not. You are going to have to make 18 adjustments for 18 shots during a round of golf. If you do not make those adjustments, you will hit the ball thin, fat, left, right, short or long of your target, depending on what adjustment you failed to make. Some shots, you may have to make 2 or 3 adjustments from your normal swing. The more slopes and hills a golf course has, the tougher all this becomes. Even if you have played some relatively good to great shots, you then have to deal with the nightmare called putting. Putting has nothing to do with the golf swing. Putting is to golf like a bowel movement is to eating. You have to do it but it is not near as enjoyable as the first part. Putting can save a hole or ruin a hole with no in between. Other than a club face coming in contact with a ball, putting has absolutely nothing in common with the process of hitting a golf ball. There are entire books just dedicated to putting. The worse part, it looks maddingly simple. Finally, there is the way that golf can just play havoc with your mind. It can get to the point where your body just simply does not function. It would be like putting a fork in your eye when you are trying to eat, or pouring something into a glass and missing the glass completely. In a nutshell, golf completely controls your being. It can be the scariest thing about golf and would make anybody quit the game.

If you continue to play the game after reading this, is there anything you can do to try and make such a powerful game more enjoyable. The short answer is no. Resignation may be a better word to use and cultivate when trying to play golf. What makes golf a great game is that everyone wants to help each other, even a competitor. Golfers seem to root for their fellow golfers. The game is the definition of good intentions. However, there is that little devil inside of all of us that does find some pleasure when the greatest players in the world hit some of the worst shots ever known to man. When those same players miss that 2-foot putt with a twitch of the putter that they could not possibly duplicate on the practice putting green, you shake your head and think it happens to them, too. Even though these players are millionaires, golf still makes their bodies do things that they just can’t believe and did not think was possible. This game is hard, and technique has nothing to do with it.

Golf: You Cannot Overswing.

If you look up the definition of overswing, it says trying to swing a bat or club too hard. By that definition, you can overswing in golf. However, overswinging in golf is defined as trying to take the club too far back on the backswing. Anytime the club head goes below the horizontal level at the top of the swing most instructors will call this overswinging. They use all kinds of excuses, like great hand eye co-ordination or lots of practice, to explain why some top players seem to overswing and still have had a lot of success in playing golf. The list will include John Daly, Phil Mickelson, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Nancy Lopez, Brooke Henderson, Tom Watson, and Gary Player to just name a few. Golfers of the 1920’s 30’s and 40’s had a tendency to have very long backswings. Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Lawson Little, Ted Ray, and Tommy Armour all had swings that went well below horizontal on the backswing. Because of calling overswinging a fault, it has caused many a golfer to have way too short of a backswing. Golfers have developed many ways to restrict the backswing because of this belief that you can overswing. This simply is not true. There is a much more of a tendency to not complete the backswing, due to being anxious about trying to hit the ball. In my view a nice long backswing aids in making the transition from backswing to downswing. Before we get into the benefits of realizing that you cannot overswing, let’s look at what “causes” overswinging, and how you can “correct” it. Unfortunately, I am going to have to be rather redundant in order to prove a point.

The breaking down of the left arm is not overswinging, it is the breaking down of the left arm. Over cocking the wrists is not even a fault but it certainly is not overswinging. Picking the club up with the arms is not overswinging, it is picking up the club with the arms. Loosening of the grip at the top of the swing is not overswinging, it is loosening of the grip at the top of the swing. Overturning of the hips I do not consider a fault, but it does not lead to overswinging. The collapsing of the left knee toward the ball is not overswinging but is collapsing of the left knee toward the ball. Not making a nice turn and coil on the backswing is not overswinging but is not making a turn on the backswing. If you overswing, your clubhead at the top of the swing will point to the right of the target and this will make you have a tendency to come over the top on the downswing. Watch the videos of Jack Nicklaus in, Golf My Way, and you will see his club cross the line, and points to the right of the target. I don’t think Jack came over the top on too many shots. All the things, and there are more, that I have just listed are things that “cause” overswinging. All of these things are significant faults, but they do not lead to overswinging, because overswinging does not exist, therefore is not a fault. You could correct every one of the above faults and by definition you could still easily overswing. In fact, all the pros that we mentioned had none of these faults. You could demonstrate every one of those faults and still not overswing. I think it is much more detrimental to your game by even thinking of trying to restrict your backswing in anyway. It causes the downswing to be rushed, and in order to make a shorter swing work, you must swing with a faster tempo, which is never a good thing for the average golfer. Now let’s look at the things that I do not consider faults, that really contribute to a nice long backswing that winds up being easy on the body and allows you to hit the ball powerfully and yet smoothly.

There is always going to be limitations on how far back a particular individual can take the club back on the backswing. The other thing that dictates the length of the backswing is the length of the club. The shorter the club the shorter the backswing. Swinging with different clubs is a subject for another blog. Fully cocking the wrists will help you make a much longer backswing. Sometimes this full cocking of the wrists is called the collapsing of the wrists, when trying to correct overswinging. The more you can cock your wrists the more of a snap you will get at the bottom of the swing, and this will increase you clubhead speed. To know how far you can comfortably cock your wrists, from your address position, simply pick the club straight up, using only your wrists. Get the feel for that and then simply turn your body as you would for your backswing, and you should be able to get the correct feel at the top of the swing. In order to have a nice long leisurely backswing you need to turn your hips as much as you can on the backswing. Golf instruction will say that you can overturn your hips. This is simply not true. You can turn your hips as much as you want as long as your weight stays on the right side at the top of the swing. Keep your grip nice and firm at the top and there should be no problem with a long backswing. Having a long backswing is the best way to have a nice easy tempo. It is the shorter backswing that requires a much quicker tempo. The quicker your tempo the more well time your swing must be. That is what requires more practice than anything, timing your swing. Don’t do anything that you think is going to restrict or inhibit your backswing. Just wind it up as much as you can in a nice easy fashion and then just start the backswing nice a slow with the hands coming straight down from the top. Your ball striking should improve, and your body should be able to swing the club much easier with less stress on those joints, tendons and muscles. See you on the links.

Golf: More on Starting the Downswing.

The handicap season ended this past Sunday in Western Pennsylvania, with me adding two more rounds in the seventies, to end the season with a 5.2 index. I started the season at 4.9 but before I changed the way I started the downswing my index had climbed to 6.9. Of my last 20 rounds I now have only 2 rounds posted in the 80’s. This is by far the most consistent golf I have ever played. I have not shot any real good rounds but my 14 rounds have been between 74 and 79. As I discussed in my previous blog putting as had a lot to do with my sudden improved scoring, it always does. If you don’t putt, you do not score. Despite all the practice, swing changes, and obsessing we do about our golf swings, putting remains the most important part of the game. It is one of many reasons that this game is so goofy. I know that many of you like to think that greens in regulation is the most important stat, but if you can not finish the job, then the score will not reflect your better ball striking. Striking a golf ball, and controlling where you want it to go, can seem like a very hard skill to learn, while putting seems so simple and easy. Until you accept that putting is the most important part of the game, you will always be frustrated when it comes to golf. It doesn’t mean that you can hit the ball all over the place, and shoot par or better. It is important to find an efficient and easy way to make contact with ball. The first move to start the downswing has always been a little controversial, with many well know instructors advocating different ways, to do one of the most important fundamentals of the golf swing. Let’s look as to why this is, and what many believe is the proper way to do it.

One of the basic principals of the golf swing, has always been, the downswing starts before the backswing is fully completed. There is video proof of this, and I am not going to dispute it. However, when you try to do this in the golf swing, it usually leads to poor results. This is something that just happens naturally, and you do not have to really think about it. Here are some of the many recommendations on how to start the downswing, that you will see in many instructional articles or videos, by well know instructors. A slight forward movement of the hips, with the hips turning. Kicking in the right knee toward the ball. If you lift your heel on the backswing, then placing the heel back on the ground should initiate the downswing. Begin straightening the left knee. Shifting the weight to the left side with the lower body. Dropping of the right shoulder with the arms following. There are other suggestions but these are the ones that are seen most often. What they all leave out of course, is the hands. The one thing that actually connects you to the club. It is the one and only thing, that allows you to feel the clubhead. The great fear in golf, is that you will use your hands to soon in the swing, and lose your power. The solution to the problem, makes it seem that you should not use your hands at all, or try to throw them in at the last moment. The idea is that the body will control the hands. Allowing the hands to initiate the downswing, by pulling straight down from the top of the backswing, no matter where that top of the backswing is, let’s the hands control the body, and forces the shifting and turning of the hips. Doing this method, will get your hands where they are supposed to be, at the halfway point of the downswing, and you will begin to make much more solid contact with the ball. It is a most simplistic method. Hands pulling straight down and then firing away with no inhibitions. This method works for all shots, from short game shots, to chipping and bunker play. Once you activate the hands for the second half of the swing, you will see that the game is going to become much easier. This will stop you from throwing your hands at the ball, which causes the over the top action of slicing and pulling. It will also stop you from having a too shallow of an angle of attack, from the hands being to far inside during the downswing. It has improved my ball striking immensely and should do the same for you.

Golf will be sporadic from this point on until about the middle of March. Hopefully, I will be able to get out and continue to improve this downswing method. As I progress or digress, which ever it may be, I will continue to update via the blog. Have a great holiday and do eat a lot of turkey and enjoy!

Golf: New Putting Philosophy

Any time you have a period of good scoring, putting always has to be an integral part of it. I have done many putting methods, and have battled the putting yips. One of the most unusual methods I did, was allowing my body to move during the stroke, when one of the basic fundamentals of putting, is to keep your body, dead still. This method worked extremely well, and helped bring me out of a slump, that had been going on for over a year, in 2017. I eventually went back to a more conventional method, once the move the body method, seemed to be no longer giving me, the desired results. My putting philosophy has always been rooted in two principles. First, it is not the putter, it is the puttee. I rarely switch putters, and when I do, it is to a similar putter. I have a Ping Anser Dalehead putter, that was made in the late 1960’s. When I did switch, it was to a regular Ping Anser, made in the same time period. I was usually desperate, when I made the switch, after weeks of very poor putting. My second principle was to stick with a particular method of putting during the round. I have changed this philosophy based on an experience that I had about 6 weeks ago. I always liked wrist putting and decided to go to the wrist pop stroke one day and it worked beautifully on a day that I was playing in a group skins. However the next time I played, under a less pressure situation, I yipped miserably, and went back to the arm and shoulder method, around the 7th hole and putted much better the rest of the round. This all led to a new putting philosophy.

I now change putters often, when I consider my putting just mediocre. The second putter is a putter made by Tour Edge, which is similar to the Ping Dalehead but is a little bigger and slightly heavier. I go back and forth between the two putters. Over the last 12 rounds the longest I have putted with the same putter is 3 rounds. I am not saying that I would not putt longer, but I only putt with the same putter when I consider that I have had a good to excellent day putting. I also, can use two different putting methods during the round, based solely on results, and sometimes just a sense of what I should do. My one method is the modern arm and shoulder stroke, that is used by the vast majority of players today. I use a normal width square stance. My second method is a wristy pop stroke, with a slightly open narrow stance. It seems that this stroke works best on greens that are a bit faster and on downhill putts, but that is not in stone. I always start the round with the wrist pop stroke. I continue with this method until I feel I have made a really bad stroke or had a yip. Then I will go to the arm and shoulder stroke, possibly for the rest of the round but there can be exceptions. If I feel that I have yipped with that method or made a bad stroke I will go back to the wrist stroke. I could use the same method for the entire round if the results are good. To help explain this better, let me go through my round of last Sunday, where I shot a nice 75. I started with the wrist stroke and canned about a 25 foot putt for birdie on the very first hole. I continued with the wrist stroke for the entire front nine, making 2 nice par saves from about 6 to 8 feet. I yipped one putt in on the 7th hole from about 6 feet and was ready to change, but on the 8th hole, I had a very downhill 20 footer, for birdie. I like the wrist stroke on downhill putts, and almost made the putt. However on 9. I had a nice 12 foot birdie putt, and made a really bad stroke. On 10, I went to the arm and shoulder method, and even though I 3 putted the 10th hole, it was from about 70 feet. Both putts were good and the strokes were good, with a bad read on the second putt causing the miss. On 11 I missed a 10 footer for par, but it was also a good stroke. I then made 10 to 12 foot putts, on the next 2 holes to save par, with the arm and shoulder method. I used it on the next 3 holes, including making a 2 foot birdie putt on a par 3, that I did not yip. Then on 17, I had this 10 footer for par, with a slight left to right break, that was slightly downhill. I just had the feeling that I should use the wrist stroke. This isn’t a fairytale, so even though I hit a very good putt, it broke just a little more than I thought and burned the left edge. On the 18th hole I had about a 50 foot putt for birdie, and with the arm and shoulder method I canned that bugger to end a very good day on the greens.

Only time will tell if these things that I am doing will become a permanent part of my game. It has been a pretty good stretch of golf to say the least, and that always feels good. Pulling straight down, and I can not overemphasize the word straight here, has had a major impact on my over all ball striking, and short game. The fact that I have been using this method for the last 12 rounds, is remarkable, in and of itself. I should be back in the saddle, so to speak, this coming Wednesday, and will see if my game continues to thrive, with my new vision added in there, for good measure. I will continue to update as the year comes to an end.

Golf: Maybe Sam Snead Was Right After All.

Before I get to the subject of today’s blog, and the resurgence of my golf game, after a very frustrating season, I must take personal moment. This past Tuesday I had cataract surgery on my left eye. My left eye is my only good eye, with my right eye only seeing fuzzy images, that for some unknown reason, is not correctable. Needless to say, I was pretty uptight about the procedure, even though I have a great surgeon, and this is a pretty routine procedure. I am happy to report that 3 days post op, everything is fine, and my vision is better than its been in 3 to 4 years. I am cleared to play golf, this coming Wednesday, and can not wait to see, if I can see a ball land on the green. Before the surgery, I could not see the ball on the green from a 100 yards. I still have to take it easy for a few more days, but it seems that I am not going to have any complications. Complications from this surgery are rare, but there is no solace in 1000 to 1 odds, if you are that one. Now, on to the surprising turn around in my game.

I have broken 80 for 12 consecutive rounds. I have had two 79’s, three 78’s, one 77, four 75’s and two 74’s. There have been three things, that have been the key factors in my improved play. First, I have tried to get into a more balanced position at address. I like to feel that my weight is evenly distributed over my feet, and I make sure that there is no pressure on the balls of my feet. This is nothing new, you do not want to get your weight falling forward to your toes. I am just more aware of my feet at address. By doing this I am getting a little closer to the ball. The biggest factor is the new way, that I start the downswing. The traditional way of starting the downswing, is by making sure the lower body initiates the movement, with a turning of the left hip, and a distinct shift to the left foot. However, back in the fifties, Sam Snead and few other pros, wrote about initiating the downswing by pulling down with the left hand. In fact, Snead even went so far as to write, that you should pull down with the last two fingers of the left hand. This type of instruction was often ridiculed by other well known instructors of that era, and in the future. Tommy Armour in his book wrote, “Chick Evans, years ago, when he was an excellent player, described the feeling as that of pulling a bell cord. That’s the way Sam Snead describes it. Confidentially, I think that all the bell cords Chick and Sam pulled Sunday morning wouldn’t disturb many sleepers”. There were many others who criticized this advise over the years, because they felt that starting the downswing with the hands, would cause the average golfer to over use his hands, and bring the clubhead into the hitting position too fast for the body to catch up, resulting in many pulled or sliced shots. In fact, this criticism caused Snead to change his downswing advise to a turning of the hips, in some of his later instructional writings. Well Sam old boy, I am afraid you may have been right after all. Now, many times the way a swing feels, may not be what is actually happening. What was not emphasized enough, by the pros that advocated the pulling of the left hand in initiating the downswing, is that the feeling should be one of pulling straight down from the top. By pulling straight down, rather than feeling that the hands are moving toward the ball, will automatically push the hips forward, and start the turning and weight shifting process. I have utilized this straight down pulling action from the top for all of my shots, including, bunker shots, short pitches, and even chip shots. The easiest way I know how to describe it, is you get to the top of the swing, and pull the left hand straight down to the ground. Once I started doing this, many positive things started to happen.

My swing became more balanced, all the way to the end. My short game improved dramatically, and I had very few yipped chips, and short pitches. My bunker game slump came to an end. I began to work the ball much better, especially moving the ball from left to right, in a controlled manner. All of this resulted in improved ball striking, and better scores. Naturally, you are not going to see improvement in your scores unless you are making putts, and that is the final change I made. This will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog. I have made some philosophical changes in my putting and it does seem to be working. You will find out tomorrow, how I am now succeeding on the greens. I do not know how long any of this is going to last, but for right now it feels really good. Oh, and by the way, I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW.

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