The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

This week I am going to break down to the bare bones the best way to go about trying to hit a golf ball. Those of us who have played this game for a long time know there is so much more to this game than just making solid contact with the ball. Those of us that are just starting out this can be a formidable task. Even for us that have played the game for awhile, there can be times when this is difficult to do. As I go through the process I will reference the dates where I discuss each step in more detail.

The very first principle is that 85% of all bad shots are caused by what you do before you swing. This is not to imply that the golf swing is not important. Let’s say that all of a sudden you got 15% less of a paycheck or your car got 15% less gas mileage. You would be upset. The swing is still a factor but it’s not as important as many people think it is.

There are four things you have to do before you hit a golf ball. 1. Grip the club. 2. Create a stance in relationship to the ball. 3. Aim the clubhead. 4. Have a posture. The first two can very quite a bit according to personal preference, strength, and ability. Aim and Posture have to be done one particular correct way or hitting a golf ball will not become reality. (1-8-2012)

The Golf Swing. The swing is not the thing. (12-2-2011). There is only one principal of the golf swing: The belly button must pass the ball on the downswing before the arms (1-22-2012). The wrists are going to do whatever they are going to do, don’t think about them, just know what they are doing (1-6-2013). The shoulder turn is the controlling factor of the golf swing(1-13-2013, 1-20-2013, 3-9-2014, and 3-16-2014).

Two other things related to hitting the golf ball: Practice (3-10-2012 and 3-25-2012). and my take on Ben Hogan’s Five Fundementals of Golf, it will save you a lot of heartache (12-9-2012.

As I wrote at the top of the blog there is so much more to the game of golf than hitting the ball, but this is the first step. If you follow the principals above then you will be making solid contact in no time.  See you next week.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

The  blog today is coming from San Diego, and I was able to get the first round of the year in. Thanks to some great putting I was able to shoot a nice 76. I was even par after 14 holes, but staggered  down the stretch with double bogey, bogey, par, and bogey. I lost the mind body connection for sure. Today will be the second video about the shoulder control golf swing and how to deal with trying to control the arms. About 2/3rds through the video  I transpose downswing and backswing but you will get the jist of what I am trying to say. Since Holly Sonders was not helping me with the video there was no do over.

Next week I will break down the bare bones of trying to hit the golf ball.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Lets hope this video is worth about 450 as I explain one of the basic elements of the shoulder swing. The video is shot in the golf room, where all the brilliant ideas of the last 3 1/2 years have evolved.

As you can see, the shoulder rotation will control the legs in the golf swing. The right shoulder turning down to start the downswing will automatically kick that right knee in toward the ball. Next week I will dissect the arm movement and one other subtle element of the shoulder control  swing.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

This week I am going to review the last 2 years of my playing this goofy game. Why the last 2 years? There is quite a contrast between the years, which has led to the conclusions of trying to find the mind body connection. 2012 reinforced my belief that the key to the golf swing is, that it must be controled by the turn of the shoulders. That the enemy of the golf swing is the arms and the legs. I am going to discuss this more next week, as I review this concept, with some added information from the original post. This is not a method. This is not a swing change. This is just a different way to execute the swing that you have. By allowing the shoulders to control my swing, I hit the ball and scored the most consistant I ever have in some 50+ years of playing this game. There were two other interesting things that happened that year. I developed the chip yips and I finished the year on a down note by not breaking 80 on 7 out of the last 8 rounds I played. I had various excuses for this poor finish, and none of them were right. This poor finish did not affect my handicap as they were all after October 31, when we stop turning in scores. I considered the year a great succes and my handicap dropped from 5.1 to 3.2.

As I was heading into the 2013 golf season I was ready to tackle the mental side of this game full force, since I felt I had the physical side down. I have already written about some of the mental experiments I tried during the golf season, with some pretty disasterous results. I knew there was going to be some trial and error just like trying to find a key to the golf swing. Naturally my game suffered some, but at times it suffered greatly. Twice during the season, once in a tournament, I did not break 90. If someone would have wanted to bet me that I would do that once let alone twice, I would have lost everything I owned.  My handicap went up to a season ending 4.3 but it was even higher, back into the 5’s at times during the year. However, this year I finished stronger by shooting my last 7 out of 8 rounds in the 70’s. Nothing spectacular but the consistancy came back and I started playing much better, in less than ideal conditions. I was able to do this by paying more attention to the physical side of the game. In other words I got closer to getting the mind and the body connected and to the conclusion that even for a good player the game is 50% mental and 50% physical.

As I head into the 2014 golf season that will be the concept that I hope to prove or disprove. Again this will be a trial and error procedure. What is great about golf is that the numbers will tell the story. See you next week.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Last week I wrote about how golf instruction has been more of a reactive profession, rather than a proactive one. It reacts to someones success and tries to incorporate that person’s technique into normal instruction. I used the example of Jack Nicklaus and his ” flying right elbow” at the top of his backswing. Today I am going to discuss things that some great players did that golf instruction has not incorporated in fundamental teaching.

Three of the all time greats Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, and Bobby Jones, all had this little quirk, where they turned their head to the right, so essentially they were only looking at the ball with only  their left eye. Despite these players great careers, this has never developed into something that the average player has been told to do. Maybe it should.

Two of the great faders of the golf ball, Lee Trevino and Paul Azinger hit these very controlled and highly successfull left to right shots, while using a very strong grip. Now we know how they did this, by developing swings that held on at the end and did not turn over the wrists. But any instruction book will talk about weakening your grip in order to move the ball from left to right. But maybe their method is easier.

I have mentioned this one before, but the great Hogan, another great fader of the ball,  used a closed stance for all his longer clubs down to the 5 iron.  The only time he squared his stance was for the 5 iron and for the more lofted clubs he began to open his stance. Golf instruction advocates a square stance, and to fade the ball, an open stance for all clubs.   The closed stance is recommended for hooking the ball. Maybe not.

All these areas, are things that need to be explored. There are other examples, but it is hard to explain sometimes, why some things are quickly picked up and incorporated in the teaching of golf, while other things are ignored or thought for some reason not to be important. Over the next few weeks, I am going to write about my last 2 years of playing, what I think is the most important part of the physical side of the game, and how all this ties in to keeping the mind and the body connected, which will be my main goal of 2014. Lets just hope I don’t lose my mind in process. 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

With winter blazing away here in the Burgh, I am going to discuss golf instruction today, and what I see is one of its biggest problems. Has golf instruction been proactive or reactive. In other words has golf instruction come up with new ideas to help people play the game better or does it react to an individual’s succes and incorporate it as a proper way to play the game. Let me give an example when golf teaching reacted to a players success.

As you headed into the golf season of 1962, one of the basic fundementals of the golf swing, was that the right elbow should remain fairly close to your side at the top of the backswing. It was a given, that this was the only way you were going to be a consistant ball striker. In fact, golf instructors would term this.”the flying right elbow fault” and all the problems that it would cause. Then along came Jack Nicklaus and his quote flying left elbow. Many golf gurus felt that Jack’s elbow would keep him from being a truly great player. Even after winning the 1962 U.S. Open in Arnold Palmer’s backyard and the 63 Masters, golf experts would talk about that elbow when he missed the cut at the 63 U.S. Open. Naturally, as Nicklaus’s record became even greater, his flying left elbow now became an asset. The teaching world started saying that by allowing his elbow to get further from his side that this increased Jack’s arc and helped him create so much clubhead speed. The modification from this point on, was that it was all right for a player to let his right elbow get away from his side at the top of the swing, as long as his elbow was pointing to the ground and it returned to his side at the start of the downswing. However, is this something that the average golfer should strive to do? I am not too sure.

Now I am going to switch gears, and talk about who golf instructors don’t want you to emulate. Bob Ford, the well known pro at Oakmont Country Club, the sight of many USGA tournaments, wrote an instructional book, where he writes about the Uncle Charlie syndrome. We have all known Uncle Charlies. This is a player of any age but ususally around middle age or older, who for lack of a better term, does just about everything wrong when trying to hit a golf ball. He will have a poor grip, bad address position, and has a swing that ususally ends up with his left foot coming off the ground and winding up straight across from his right foot. However, Uncle Charley hits the ball pretty well, gets about 230 out of a drive, keeps the ball in play, has a pretty good short game and shoots between 80 and 85  consistantly and even breaks 80 once in awhile. What Mr Ford’s point is, that even though Uncle Charlie can do this, he is an exception and this is not the way to play golf, if you really want to get better.  But what if an “Uncle Charlie” won a tour event or even a major, and went on to a long and successful career on tour.  Now I know this might seem extreme, but would golf instruction find a way to put a good spin on letting your left foot come off the ground at the end of the golf swing. Food for thought. Next week I am going to discuss some subtle things that the great players have done, that for some reason golf instruction seems to ignore.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today’s blog will be about one of the all time greats Slammin Sammy Snead. If he had won one or two U.S. Opens, he probably would be in the discussion of the all time greatest golfers. Even with the Open blemish Snead is always mentioned in the top 5 or 6. His graceful swing was a thing of beauty and allowed him to win 3 Masters, 3 PGAs and a British Open on his only trip over there. Hogan also won the British on his only trip. It makes you wonder how many majors these two would have had if they had made the trip yearly like everyone does now. Even though Snead’s swing was graceful and powerful he did have some flaws. In the book The Venturi Analysis, here is Ken Venturi’s take on the Snead swing.

On strictly the technical side, Sam’s swing is not as classic as it looks. He sets up with his feet a little closed and the clubhead aiming slightly to the right of his target, then gets the ball onto target by delivering the club to it on a path a little outside than on which he took it back. This is a pull, and you probally know from experience that a pulled ball is a stronger more powerful shot than one hit with clubhead moving from in to out. Sam can make this move without hitting many shots off line to the left because he gets his right shoulder lower at impact than it was at address and because he clears his left hip a little more than ususal. Other golfers who swing this way might look a little jerky, but Sam does it smoothly and almost effortlessly.

Venturi also goes on to write that Snead benefitted from having longer arms than normal and being double jointed. Last week I wrote about how the average golfer will aim right of the target, and then make what I called a violent move over the top, but jerky will do, which results in a pulled shot. What I find interesting is that Venturi says the moves that Snead makes keeps him from missing the shot left. Nothing is ever said that aiming right, even if it is “slightly”, will cause him  to have to do something from missing the shot to the right. Sam Snead in the early sixties wrote 3 instuctional books. In none of those books does he acknowledge that he has that type of swing. He does talk about having a closed stance for the driver, but Hogan did the same thing for a fade with the driver. In fact, in all of Snead’s books he tells the reader that the best shot is the straight shot. When I teach beginners, and I ask them to aim at a target that is only about 50 yards away, about 80% will aim right of the targer, 10% will aim left, and 10% will be right at the target. So whats the point of all this. I am not too sure. I always thought that the reason most people aim right of the target is because they are to the side of the ball and that causes the illusion of aiming at the target. We have all felt the power of the slightly over the top swing and the increase distance it produces. So could aiming a little right of the target be a more natural way to play the game. I don’t know. Did Snead know he was aiming right. In other words did he have a good mind body connection, or was this just the way one of the greatest self taught golfers of all time, just happen to hit the ball.   We’ll never know. Next week I am going to discuss another great one, which will lead us to what I think is the biggest problem in golf instruction today.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, here we are on Super Bowl Sunday, and yes I will give my fearless prediction at the end of the blog. Last week I discussed what I called the biggest mind-body disconnect in the history of golf, at the 86 Masters. Today the subject will be a much more common disconnect that the average golfer makes. If you don’t buy into the problem that I am about to discuss, then I suggest you find a golf course where you can sit at a clubhouse that is directly behind the 1st or 10th tee and watch about 10 to 15 groups tee off. What you will see is what I consider one of the most common problems in trying to hit the golf ball at the target. The golfer aiming anywhere from 10 to 30 yards right of the targer. Then when making the swing, at the last minute there is a violent over the top move, which results in a shot that lands left of the target. So, what is going on here.

One assumption is that the player is not aware that he is aiming that far right. However, I have had two instances where trying to correct this, the player said ” I can’t believe that now I am aiming at the target, and the most famous quote which is heard many times, ” I just can’t do this. Maybe there are other players that are aware that they are aiming that far right and just try to make the correction with the swing. Now lets look at the possible results when starting at this position.

Make a good swing: The shot will end up the appropriate distance right of the hole

Make a good swing but make a roll of the wrists: This might create enough of a draw to get the ball on target

Make an over the top move with the upper body: This will either get the shot back on line or result in a shot that ends up left of the target.

Make an over the top move combined with an open clubface: this will result in a left to right shot that may get the shot back on line.

At the outset I make the assumption that most players are not aware that they are aiming that far right. Most of them will try to make a correction move anyway. So where does this come from. Some might argue that it comes from the subconscious mind and they may be right. I think it is the body trying to make the correction. If it was the subconscious mind, then I think the result would be consistantly better. This is the obvious mind-body disconnect. The mind thinks it is aiming at the target but in reality the body is aimed right of the target. In other words the mind has no idea what the body is doing. If the mind has no idea what body is doing at address, how is it going to know what the body is doing when it is in motion, consciously or subconsciously. However I still think this is open to debate. In order to correct this the mind and body have to stay connected. That is the problem to be solved. Next week I am going to write about one of the all time greats who made a career of aiming right but did he know it.

Now for the mandatory Super Bowl prediction. I think it is going to be a much lower scoring game that anticipated. Seattle 16 Denver 10. But I did not ask my body.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

This week I am going to discuss the mind-body connection. First lets look at one of the biggest mind-body disconnects in the history of golf. It happened in one of the most memorable majors of all time, the 1986 Masters. We are going to look at only two players, Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros, and one hole, the par 5 15th. So lets look at the timeline.

Nicklaus is on the 15th tee and Seve is on the 13th green with about an 8 foot eagle putt. At this moment Jack is -5 and Seve is -7.

Jack hits a great drive right down the middle and as he is walking down the fairway, Seve makes the eagle putt to go nine under par.

Jack is 204 from the pin and hits a 4 iron within 12 feet and makes the putt for an eagle to go to -7

Seve hits the drive of the day on 15 and is only 198 yards from the hole. Nicklaus has birdied 16 to go -8 and is trailing by 1 shot.

Seve also takes out a 4 iron and makes a horrible swing and pull hooks the ball right in the middle of the lake, not even close and goes on to make a bogey, which is a 3 shot swing on this one hole.

Jack Nicklaus goes on to win the Masters with a birdie on 17. Even though Seve and his caddie, who happened to be his brother, had plenty of time to make the decision on a club selection for the second shot into 15, there was enough doubt to cause the mind-body disconnect. The result was a very bad swing and an even worse result. Lets say that Seve was absoulutely sure that 4 iron was the right club. He was totally committed to the shot. His mind and body were perfectly in sync. What would have been the result. He would have smoked that 4 iron and quite possibly would have flown the green and maybe would have even put the ball in the back lake. But he would have hit a solid shot. That is the difference when the mind and body are connected and when they are not. The mind-body connection does not mean that you are never going to hit a bad shot or miss a putt. It does not mean that you are going to go out every time and be in the mythical zone. The Zone is another subject all together. What the mind-body connection does mean, is that it gives you the ability to execute the present shot or stroke to the best of your ability. How is this accomplished? I do not know. Over the next few weeks, I am going to give more examples of the mind-body disconnect, discusss if this mind-body connection even exists, and talk about a lot of theory.



The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

It’s freezing in the Burgh with no let up in sight. We have had some brief moments in January where you could get out and play, but it has either been raining when the temperatures have risen, or I just couldn’t get out because of prior commintments. In recent blogs I discussed the first four mental A’s, Anxiety, Anger, Acceptance, and Awareness.  Today I am going to discusss the final mental A, Adjustment. When you are playing this game there will be two adjustments you will have to make.

THE BIG ADJUSTMENT:  This adjustment is related to getting out of bed. How do you feel. How is the weather. How has your week been going. How is this golf day going to go. Many times, things can go badly right at the outset. Here in Western Pa., despite what you are told on TV, the weather is very unpredictable. You may go to bed expecting one thing and get up seeing another. You may go to bed feeling fine and get up with a headache, a stiff back, or just not feeling right. When you get to the course there may have been an unexpected delay, or somebody in your group is late. These are all things you must be ready to deal with if you are going to get the most out of your golf game. Its almost always a bad thing if on your golf day, you have a commintment to be at a certain place at a certain time after your round. Sometimes it may be best just not to play. These are things, just to name a few, that have nothing to do with golf, that can have a huge impact on your golf game.   You must be able to adjust your thinking and expectations, depending on how all these variables are impacting your mind.

the small adjustment: This is the adjustment you must make on a shot to shot basis. As you go through your routine for each shot, chip, and putt, you must feel that you are totally ready to execute the stroke. If you feel misaligned, your address position is bad, or there is doubt about the stroke in any form, then your chance of executing a good shot is remote. Getting in that “just hit it anyway” mode will spell disaster. That’s the mode when you feel that something just isn’t quite right, but you hit it anyway.

There are your two adustments that you are going to have to make if you are going to play to the best of your ability. Now lets look at how the other four A’s affect this.

The bad A’ s: Anger and Anxiety. If your upset or anxious about things going on outside of your golf life, then the BIG ADJUSTMENT will be always difficult to do. Depending on how things are going it may be best not to play until these things can be dealt with. You must find a way to block these things out to really enjoy your game and do your best. If you get angry or anxious over the results of your shots then the small adjustment will very rarely be accomplished.

The good A’s: Acceptance and Awareness. If you are aware and accept the fact that many times life is not perfect, and can deal effectively with life’s challenges, then THE BIG ADJUSTMENT will be easier to accomplish. If you can do the same thing with the results of your shots, then the small adjustment will become part of your game.

Next week I will begin discussing the mind-body connection, by writing about what I consider the biggest mind-body disconnect in the history of golf, at one of the most memorable tournaments of all time. Meanwhile stay warm, and by the way, instead of coming up with these catchy names, like POLAR VORTEX, why don’t you just figure out a way to predict the weather better, WEATHER CHANNEL See you next week.

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