Golf: The Address Position.

The last golf blog was about the grip. Now, I am going to discuss  addressing the ball. There is a little more to it, than what Ed Norton told Ralph on the Honeymooners, when he said “Hellooo Ball”.  However, there’s not quite as much to it, as some people would like you to believe.  There are some basic principals to follow, but when it comes to how you stand up to ball, there are lots of personal preferences you can apply.  A lot of this will be dictated by how you hit the ball, and in what direction the ball is going. Some of what you are going to do will be dictated on how you want to hit the ball, also.  It’s mostly what you do, before you take your swing, that will dictate how successful you will be, with the upcoming shot.  So I will look at the address position in two sections.  The basic principles, or things that you must to do, in order to hit the ball solidly, and in the direction you want it to go. Then in the second section I will look at parts of the address position that you can experiment with, that will suit your swing better.

My favorite phrase for addressing the ball, is you must be comfortable, and at ease when standing up to the ball.  You do not want to stand too far away from the ball, but on the other hand, you do not want to feel you are crowding the ball either. Since standing too far away is by far the most common problem, I would suggest trying to crowd the ball, and then backing off from the ball, until you feel that you are comfortable.  Your arms should hang loosely down with your left arm or lead arm fairly straight but not rigid.  The right arm will be folded slightly and fairly close to your right side, if not even slightly brushing the right side.  You will have to bend over at the hips to get down to ball, and your knees will have to have some flex in them, and not feel locked.  The most important part of addressing the ball, is how you have your weight distributed, over your feet.  Because you are bent over at the hips, the tendency is to feel the weight head toward the toes. You must avoid this at all cost.  In my view the best way to distribute your weight is to feel that it is dispersed evenly under your entire foot, and you should be able to wiggle your toes. Some people like to say to have the weight over the arches, but the arch of the foot is  not on the ground technically, and I do not like getting the weight too far back over heels, either. So, feel like your weight is distributed evenly over your feet, and this is the best way to maintain balance during the golf swing, which is one of the most important factors when swinging a golf club. You must make sure you are aiming correctly at this point. The easiest way to do this is too pick out a spot in front of the ball, in the direction you want the ball to go, and aim the club at that.  Then adjust your body into the correct address position. The final thing you must do, is to keep moving and stay relaxed.  I like to picture the baseball player, when he is batting. While he is waiting for the pitch, he is always moving and fidgeting.  He is never just standing still, and that is what the golfer needs to do.  You can not start smoothly from a static position.

Now that the basics are out of the way, there are three  things that you can experiment with when addressing the ball. Where to position the ball in relationship to your body.  Your probably all right to place the ball anywhere from your left toe, to approximately the middle of your stance.  An easy way to think about it, is to not go to the right of your nose. Moving the ball back and forth between your left toe and nose can help you make more solid contact with ball. This can help you if you are hitting shots fat or thin.   It can also help if you think you are hitting the ball too low or too high. No matter what the problem, move the ball  around, and you may stumble on the answer.  The only time you want to move the ball closer to your right foot, is if you are trying to hit a very low ball into the wind.  Another place you can experiment, is how wide you make your stance.  Again experiment with various widths for various shots and you may find some answers to poor shot.  I am not an advocate of starting with the widest stance for the driver, and getting your feet closer together for the higher number clubs. Do not get locked into that process.  Try different widths for different clubs, until you find what works best for you.  Remember, we want results here, not predetermined widths for certain clubs.  Finally you can experiment whether or not you want your stance square, open, or closed. Again do not get locked into preconceived ideas about closing your stance for a draw, and opening your stance for a fade. Hogan faded the ball with a closed stance for the driver.  There may be some technical aspect of your swing, that you could care less about, that may allow you to hit straighter shots, from open or closed stances.  You will never find out, unless you try to hit the ball from various stances.  Even though the swing is not the thing, I will discuss the swing in the next golf blog.  Meanwhile, when it comes to addressing the ball, go crazy man go crazy.

Golf: The Grip

The grip you are looking at is  Sam Snead’s, one of the greatest golfers of all time.  Sam was noted more, for that long graceful swing, that gave him one of the longest PGA careers of all time.  In my opinion, he also had, one of the best grips in golf.  He was the perfect example of what I call the classic grip.  There were two things that made this grip classic. The line made by his thumb and the base of the forefinger, commonly called the V’s pointed more toward the right shoulder than at the chin or the right eye.  Second, those two V’s ran parallel to each other. Ben Hogan was the first top player, to introduce the grip, where the  left thumb was more on top of the shaft. In the Hogan grip, the right hand was also  more on top of the shaft, with the V’s being close to parallel again. Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods,in their respective instructional books, put the final touches on the grip. This is what I call the modern grip.   They keep the left thumb on top of the shaft, but they place their right hand on the club, a little more like Sam Snead, and therefore the V’s are not parallel.  The grip is one of the basic fundamentals of golf.  You can not play good golf, without a good grip.  There is no question, the grip has evolved over the years.  Here are some other elements of a good grip. The grip needs to be firm, but you do not want to feel you are squeezing the club. That’s why the waggle is so important.  A nice rhythmic and long waggle should give you the right grip pressure.  The hands should feel snug together with no gaps.  I do not think it makes much difference, whether you overlap, interlock, or have all four fingers of the right hand  on the golf club. Results and comfort should dictate that. There are lot’s of other variations on the way the pros grip the club, and I am not going to write about all that. There are plenty of places to go, to get good instruction, on how to grip the golf club, when making a full swing. I want to discuss a different way to utilize your grip.

This will be my experiment over the next 2 to 4 months, depending on how it goes, and how much golf I will play.  I started it yesterday, as we were able to play 18 holes, under not too bad of conditions, and the first round went rather well.  There has always been this resistance in the golf teaching community to use the grip as a way of working the ball, from right to left, and left to right.  There is the unwritten rule to never change your grip.  In my view, it is much easier to change your grip, rather than make swing adjustments, to work the ball in a certain direction. It is quite simple.  When you want to work the ball from left to right or hit a fade. use a grip that has your left thumb on top of the shaft and your right move on top of the club.   When you want to hit it right to left or a draw, then you turn your left hand, so you are seeing at least 3 and even 4 knuckles, when you look down at ball, and your right hand is more underneath the shaft. Get committed to the shot by aiming enough left for the fade and aiming enough right for the draw.  Of course, the rule of thumb is to work the ball away from trouble, not at trouble. By using this method, you never really need to make any swing adjustments,  and your hand action will curve the ball in the desired direction.  We will see how this experiments works over the coming months, and I will keep you posted.

 

 

Golf: When is a Fault a Fault

It has been one month since I have written anything about golf.  I have  played 2 rounds, since the last blog, thanks to some of the up and down weather, we have been having this winter. Nothing major to report on my own game, and was just happy to get out, and play once in January, and this past Monday, in February. No matter how good we play, we are always looking at our swings, and feeling, that in someway, we have some kind of flaw, in the way we swing a golf club. Even when I was trying to do, what I called 100% Mental Golf, I would find myself, still trying to think about my swing, and make it “better”.  I am not as bad as I use to be, because I can play the game without swing thoughts, during the round, but I still think about, what I could do to improve my swing, when I am off the course.  I continue to do this, even though I know, there is nothing I can do to improve my swing. My swing  is my swing.  With an index now, of 4.7, thanks to the new handicapping rules, my swing can not be all that bad. Yeah, that’s one way to lower your handicap, have the USGA,  just change the rules. No practice is necessary, which I don’t do anyway. Can a single digit handicapper, have a swing flaw that is keeping them from improving. My guess is they do not.  Some instructors, when talking about golf swing flaws, often like to use the Jim McLean term, “death move”.  This is a term used to describe a flaw in the golf swing, that keeps you from hitting the golf ball with any accuracy, or even hitting the golf ball at all.  Depending on what year it is, there are anywhere from 21 to 25 death moves, described by  Jim McLean. Do you really think so? I doubt it.  I tried to find these death moves on the internet and some of them are not death moves at all.  One of them is being shut faced or closed at the top of the swing.  Dustin Johnson and Lexi Thompson give back all your money, because there is no way you could hit the ball that well, and be as  shut faced at the top, without some non-conforming help. There are other  moves mentioned, but are they being done by anybody, who has played  the game for awhile, and shooting below 90, not very likely.  Yes, these moves are being done by beginners, but if they are getting any lessons at all they are all easily correctable.

Are there swing faults, that are keeping players from improving their game? Well, maybe, but I am having my doubts, more every day, and my new hero is Matthew Wolff, on the PGA tour, and he has already won a tournament. He no doubt, has the worse golf swing, in the history of tour. The only one that is even close, is Miller Barber of the 1960’s.  Because he has won a tournament, and drives the ball a long, long way, all anybody wants to talk about, is how great his swing is, and all the good things he does. The golfing public would be so much better served, by showing and emphasizing all the things he does wrong, from the standard golf swing techniques.  I would say that he does at least 7 of the so called death moves. I am not being critical  of Mr. Wolff, or his swing. I am being critical of what everybody his saying about his swing and how it could be the swing of the future.  Are you kidding me?  There have been articles that state, that there are things in Matthew Wolff’s swing,  that the average golfer should try and incorporate in their own swings.  I would say, if the average golfer tries to do this, he will probably wind up in the hospital, in traction.  Everybody is eventually going to have a golf swing, that they can call their own, if they let it happen, and it will serve them well.  Once you get to a certain point in playing golf, there should be other things you concentrate on rather than your swing.  The bottom line is this.  There are no faults, in anyone’s golf swing, that is keeping them from improving. Once you realize that, you will improve, at a rate that you may not believe.

Golf: The Mind

This blog is about the mind, not the brain, and there is a difference. Boy, is there a difference. If you look up information about the mind, you will get a large variety of ideas and theories.  What I found interesting is, if you start with googling the brain, you will get mostly, if not all, academic and scientific sites.  If you google the mind, you will get philosophic sites, and some of the other two sites.  The mind has much more debate, about where it is,( yes not everybody thinks it is in the brain), about what it does, and how to control it.   The mind seems to encompass all facets of life, the past, the present, and the future. Most sites seemed to be interested in what the mind can do with the future.  The mind can change the way you eat, behave, and perform various activities relating to work and recreation.  These are all related to changing thought processes and attitudes. Mind control is discussed at various sites, ranging from brainwashing, hypnosis, and marketing ploys, to affect the mind.  On the other hand, the brain sites are much more scientific and discuss the functions of the brain.  We have learned a lot about the brain, over the last 40 years because of advance neuro imaging, which shows which parts of the brains are functioning, when we are thinking, or performing simple tasks. However, all this brain imaging has at times led us down the wrong path concerning how the brain really works, and has not helped us much in answering questions about the mind.

There have been plenty of books on the “Golfing Mind,” and these books could be classified as books on the mental game of golf.  These books discuss a variety of subjects.  They range from visualization, planning of the shots, first tee preparation, positive thinking, and handling pressure, to name just a few.  But does all this have anything to do with the mind.  Before I started reading all these sites on the mind, my answer would have been a 100% positive yes.  After looking at some of these sites, I am not too sure  these golf mental processes have anything to with the mind.  The other question is, what controls the mind?  On the site wikiHow, there is a list of things you can do to control your mind.  They are various things but all of them are related to thoughts. Now where do thoughts originate from?  That can have many answers, including nowhere.  As you can see these questions can go around and around with many perspectives and answers.  But the bottom line is this, do we, as golfers, really care, or should we be concerned with this? This time the answer can be an unequivocal, no.

After pouring through numerous sites on the brain, the mind, and thoughts, here is one man’s view, on what all this means for the golfer.  I think you can forget about a lot of the so called mental preparation that would go into playing a round of golf.  If you like to do these things, plan your round, visualize shots the day before, pre game relaxation exercises, then go ahead. They are not going to hurt you game at all, but probably, they are  not going to help much, either.  Listen, it’s always good to not beat yourself up, think positively, and have an upbeat attitude on the golf course, no matter what happens. This not only can make you a better golfer, but a better person to be around. No one wants to play with a grouch, who gets upset at the first bad shot of the day.  Is there one thing that you can count on from the mind?  In my view yes.  I  believe there is one thing that you can count on from the mind.  I am 100% sure of this. I do not have proof of this, or articles I can reference, because there are just as many articles, that would refute what I am about to conclude.  I think the mind controls the body 100%.   It controls the body so well, that it can even tell us what not to do.  It’s not like our thoughts.  It’s not like the old story, about telling  a person to think about anything but a white elephant in the room.  What do they think about, the white elephant. If your mind tells your body not to do something then it will not do it.  By the same token, if the mind tells you body to do something, it will do it.  I will explore this further in future blogs, and how it applies to playing golf much better.  For now, let this sink in and believe it. The mind controls the body.  The mind controls the body. The mind controls the body. Am I trying to brainwash you? Never mind.

Golf: The Brain

This blog could be the blog about making a blog.  It started out looking at one particular area and then turned into it’s current state, a mixed bag of end of the year thoughts, and highlights. Confused, you should be on my end of this blog. Like most stories, let’s start at the beginning.  The original idea for this golf blog was to look at the right brain, and see if we use the right brain  enough, when we are playing golf. The difference, between the right brain and the left brain, is that the right brain is the more intuitive side, and the left brain is the more factual side.  The left side tells you, this is a pen, and your right side tells you how to use it.  There are lots of articles, and even books about right and left brain dominance, some of which, I have read.  It was thought, that people could be more right brain dominate, and others could be left brain dominate.   I am not going to expound any more about this subject, and  how this affects an individual, because in researching this theory, I found out this is all hogwash.  Boy, do I wish I hadn’t read those books, that proposed the left right brain theory.   More up to date data shows that there is more communication between the left and the right brain than was thought previously.  Even though the right brain may be more intuitive and creative, it is being shown that the left brain may still be driving the bus. This so called dominance of one brain over the other is simply not true. This shot a hole in the idea that maybe we are not as intuitive as we should be on the golf course, especially if we are left brain oriented . This is found in an internet course called Brain Myths Exploded, lessons from Neuroscience.  It is an 11 hour course and I am about half way through it.

Considering, that I am still thinking that this game is 100% mental, once you reach a certain level, I find all this new information on the brain very interesting. Instead of this idea, that one side of the brain is dominating the other side of the brain, maybe it is the lack of communication of the two sides, when we are playing, that causes us to play so poorly at times, or to hit a particular bad shot. This could be saying the say thing as the domination factor,  just in a different way, but I doubt it. Lack of communication is not the same thing as dominance. Meanwhile, unless we get some unusual weather here in the Burg it may be awhile before I get to test out any of these theories. The brain probably is the most important club in the bag when it comes to playing golf. We just don’t know how far we can hit it, yet.

On a more personal note I am headed to San Diego for Christmas with the grandkids and family.  Looking forward to that trip, and seeing everybody.  I was able to play a few more rounds of golf, since the end of the season golf blog.  I wound up playing 135 rounds of golf this year, which is more than last year but just a little shy of my record of 150 rounds.  It will be tough to break that record, because  a lot of 36 hole days were played that year, and I think those days are behind me.  I think I can still play 36 holes in one day but not on a regular basis like I did 3 or 4 years ago.  The weather was better this year, which helped in getting more rounds in, than last  year. My most recent round was highlighted my a near hole in one.  On the 17th hole at Ponderosa I hit a cutting 7 iron about 140 yards into a cold wind that stopped about 3 inches behind and right of the hole.  It was a close call for hole in one number 6.   It has been a good year over all and I hope that I continue to have good health and be able to play this goofy game as much as I want. There may be one more blog before the end of the year but if there is not, Happy New Year, and see you in 2020.

 

Golf: The Race to the CME Globe

This week is the final event of the LPGA tour, their tour championship, with the winner taking home 1.5 million dollars.  If you are a sports fan, and not a big golf fan, you would never know it.  I checked seven internet sports sites, ESPN, Yahoo, Fox, Sports.com. MSN, CBS, and NBC, and none of them had a lot to say about the event, and no leaderboards on Thursday or Friday.  I looked at all the sites on Thursday morning, Thursday night, and Friday night, and things were pretty sparse.  I looked at the home page of these web sites.  On Thursday morning  ESPN had a preview article, about 10 stories down, Sports.com had an article only two rows down, and there was nothing about the event on the other sites.  Thursday night ESPN had a story about one of the rookies playing and NBC sports had an article about the leader.  No leaderboards were to be found.  Friday night ESPN had an article about the Korda sisters, and Sport.com had a story about the leader. The rest of the web sites had nothing related to the event.   This was on the main pages of the web sites, and I am sure if you searched the web site, you could have found a leader board, but you did not have to do that, for the current men’s event.  The most surprising lack of coverage was the NBC site, since they are televising the event  LIVE on Sunday.  The Golf Channel showed the first two rounds and today’s round on tape delay.  Let’s hear it for the Golf Channel, real  supporter of the LPGA tour.  This is the season finale, one of the biggest events on the LPGA tour with it’s biggest winner’s check.  So why the lack of coverage?

Maybe, they are trying to keep it a secret, that the 1.5 million dollar winners check is a very nice sum, but it is still just .1 the amount that the PGA Fedex Cup champion won.  One of the problems is that all these web sites seem to have their own product to sell.  Fox sports is the worse, as they plug their shows through out the web’s home page.  Not much room for the LPGA there.  Plus the U. S. Women’s Open had one of their lowest ratings of all time on Fox this year.  ESPN is into the NBA.  If some one in the NBA doesn’t get what he ordered on his pizza, it will be on the ESPN web site.  CBS is into the NFL, and  again any little story about football is going to be on the website.  This Sports.com website is nothing but ads, although they said the most about the tournament, which is not saying much.  MSN just seems to flounder around showing things that happened 3 days ago.  But the mystery is the NBC site, that has a golf channel section.  Very little coverage of a an event that they are going to televise against the NFL on NBC and Fox, tomorrow.  Maybe they just feel that no matter what they do, nobody is going to watch, ( I am by the way), so why promote the event, and look even worse, when nobody watches.  Then there’s the Golf Channel, with tape delay coverage on the first three days.  They are showing the men’s tournament live and they should be doing the reverse, but this is what happens when men make decisions concerning women.   Speaking of men making decisions for women, the LPGA decided to extend their television contract to end at the same time as the PGA tour in 2021.  Somehow they are going to try and make some kind of all encompassing deal  with the networks.  Men helping out women. Come on ladies, when has a man ever helped a woman without expecting a lot in return.  If that deal goes through, maybe the LPGA will have to caddie at some PGA events.

Of course at times, the LPGA has been their own worse enemy.  When Michelle Wie was one of the hottest commodities in golf, they refused to let her play because she was too young.  Then their previous commissioner wanted everybody to speak English, good God.  Even though the last woman commissioner was a disaster, they should get a women to lead the organization, and go out and make their own television deal.  They need to market their product much better.   In this day and age you should not have to search the sports sites to find something about the LPGA tour.  They have great players, play exciting golf, and are much more pleasing to watch, than those old fogies on the Senior Tour.  Yeah that’s right I wrote senior not Champions.  That was a nice marketing idea by that tour, to keep people from realizing that these guys have a hard time tying their shoes.  So, Ladies take charge and get your tour on the sports map where it belongs.

Golf: Season Wrap Up

Even though there is golf yet to be played in Western Pennsylvania, the handicap season ended on November 15th and the golf will be hit and miss for the rest of the year. It is time to look back at the golf season of 2019 and see what was good, bad, and indifferent.  This was the year of 100% mental golf, and it was neither a success or a complete failure. I learned some things, but in the end, did not make much progress in improving my game.  I started the year with a 4.1 index and ended with a 4.8.  My highest was 5.2, and the lowest, other than my start, was 4.2.   Before I summarize the year, lets break down each section of my game for 2019.

Driver.  This was the best part of my game.   I would have a bad driving day once in awhile, but for the most part I drove the ball well, and kept my driving distance steady, and did not lose any distance this year.

Fairway wood.   Contrast this with the worst part of my game.  Fairway woods gave me the most problem for the year.  I bought some new 15 degree clubs, and they made things worse, and I went back to my old Orlimar fairway woods, of 16 and 20 degree, and this seemed to help some.  It was with the 15 and 16 degree clubs, that I had the most trouble getting the ball airborne.  This part of my game contributed a lot, to seeing my index go up .7 points.

Irons.  I had a fair year with the irons.   I changed to Titleist AP3 irons with regular graphite shafts.  Theses clubs had strong lofts so a 5 iron was like hitting a 4.5 iron.  These clubs gave me such increased  distance, that I had a hard time adjusting.  I did have some really good days with these irons and will continue to play them.  Even though I have been playing them, since Mid May, I still feel I am going through a learning process with them.

Short game.  This part of my game improved.  I got rid of the chip yips ( another blog) and I am getting better around the greens.  My sand game is still bad but hoping for improvement. One of the things that have helped me is, I went back to using a 60 degree wedge with zero bounce.    This club is the old Cleveland 485 60 degree wedge.  I acquired the club about 2 months ago and have been doing betting around the greens. I use to play this club all the time, and I am glad I went back to it.   Will discuss zero bounce more in another blog.

Putting.   This was the most inconsistent part of my game.  Most recently I have had a good run of putting, which has helped with some low scores, but not quite enough to offset some bad ball striking.  Again getting rid of the yips on the greens has helped immensely.

To summarize, the biggest problem I had this year was where my bad shots went.   I had a very prolonged slump in golf, that started at the end of 2015 and lasted until about June of 2017, and this was the same problem, except then it was much worse.  I had about 10 to 15 rounds in 2016 and 2017, where I did not break 80, but my handicap score was between 76 and 79 due equitable stroke control.  I had the same thing happen in 2019, but not as often. When you top a ball 80 yards, or hit it so far off line, that its in the woods, scoring goes out the window.  My fairway wood game was this bad.  I would hit some iron shots, and  trap shots, that were just as horrible.    So that will be the first goal, to hit better bad shots.  Easier said than done, but I will give it a try.  Now to 100% mental golf.  I am still undecided about how to split the game up between the mental and physical side, and I hope to come up with a solution soon.  First I thought it was a 50-50 split.  Then, I went all the way over to 100% mental, and still think that is possible.  It is difficult to remove the physical side of the game entirely.  Maybe I should go a long with Yogi Berra, when he said, baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical. The older I get, which is getting pretty old, I feel that golf will be that mystery game,  I will never solve.  Maybe in Wonderland, tornado anyone.