The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

It’s been about a month since the last blog and I have been playing at about a 4 to 5 times a week clip.  It looks like the 18 month slump is officially over.  Since the last blog my handicap has dropped from 6.9 to 5.4 and 14 of my last 16 rounds have been below 80, although I did have a run where I shot 4 straight 79’s, but hey, that is breaking 80.  It is a far cry from last year where I went a full 8 weeks without breaking 80. So what has changed.

Naturally, what has improved tremendously is my putting.  I am no longer putting with this more unconventional method, but it does give me something to go back to, if I really start to have problems again.  I will write about this method in future blogs, if I continue to find success on the greens .  I have change three things in my long golf game.  I am much more cognizant of where I am aiming.   I am more aware of my posture and the distance I stand from the ball.  I have changed my take away or the first 18 to 24 inches of my swing. At any televised golf tournament the standard and practically only shot of the golfer when he is making a shot, is from behind the player. For whatever reason I started noticing that tour players seem to take the club away from the ball just slightly different for every club in the bag. For the driver they seem to take the club just slightly outside the line and for every club going down they start to move a little more to the inside. Just to break in down into sections: Driver just outside the line;  Fairway metals straight back;  long to mid irons slightly inside the line; short irons and wedges inside the line.  My theory is this.  By taking it outside the line on the driver this promotes the ability to give a more sweeping action on the downswing.   Moving inside the line more quickly on the wedges promotes a more downward swing, which creates the down and through action needed for these clubs.  I do not know if I am right or not, but since I have started having a take away that is a little different for every club, my ball striking has improved 100%, and distance has increased by 15 to 20 yards with the same equipment. Then I did one other thing on the physical side of the game.

I became Jim Furyk.  What does that mean?  Jim Furyk’s dad was a PGA professional and allowed Jim to swing the way he does because he felt a natural swing will hold up under pressure better than a manufactured one.  Let that one sink in for awhile. That may be one the greatest statements ever made on the golf swing. I will discuss this more in future blogs, but let’s just say that I am now swinging my natural way with all its faults and nuances. For 6 weeks, I have played with no swing thoughts and no swing fixes.  I have become Jim Furyk.  I am still having some problems with the chip yips but even they have improved. I consider that part of the mental game, which I will save for later.  Will I continue to improve? Who knows. I will say golf has become much more fun, since I have freed myself up to just let er rip. To be continued.

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, its been two months since the last time I have blogged about my game. I have been playing the same amount as usual, about 3 to 4 times a week. Since the first of April I have played 26 rounds, with some 9 hole rounds thrown in. The golf, overall, has been mediocre at best and sometimes pretty horrible. I have had about the same number of rounds in the 80’s and 70’s. At least no more rounds in the 90’s although one was close, 89. My four tournament rounds have all been in the 80’s with one birdie in 72 holes.  Naturally, I have been trying all sorts of things to bring me out of this funk, that I have been in, since the middle of March. I have had just enough good rounds, one 74 and two 76’s, with a couple of 77’s and 78’s thrown in, to keep my handicap in the mid 5’s. The new rule about not counting rounds when you play alone is also helping. So with heading into the summer months here is what I think may bring back.

If there is one thing I have learned through this down time is that the swing is not the problem. That can be said about any golfer with a single digit handicap, and any pro tour golfer. The proof of this is the current analysis of Jordan Spieth’s golf swing. Spieth has had some 4th round issues since his infamous Masters collapse. Naturally, this has led Spieth to be on the slow motion camera more than any golfer in history. Watch his right knee, watch his left knee, watch his follow through, and blah blah blah. This past week Spieth wins the Colonial. Now let me ask you something. Did he really hit the ball any better in this 4th round than the 4th rounds where he did not close the deal? HELL NO. What he did do of course, is putt better than humanly possible for the last 10 holes, plus a chip in. How much do you think that had to do with his right knee or left knee. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Here is the final conclusion. One of my mantras even 6 years ago has been that 85% of all bad shots are caused before you start the swing. I revised that just last year to 90%. Now I can say with certainty that it is 100%. I am talking here about golfers with single digit handicaps. There are some swing fundamentals, of course. If you are shooting in the 70’s then you have that down pat. There are so many things you can do wrong at address. I will discuss these in future blogs, especially if I am right about this. I can tell you that this is all I will be working on in the next few months. As I always say the numbers never lie, so we will see what happens. Maybe this game is not as goofy as I think.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, it’s been 25 days since the last blog, and a lot has happened. I have been able to play 8 rounds of golf, which makes 11 for the year. This is the most I have been able to play, this early in the season. Now, here are the scores, and hold on to your hats. 76, 90, 92, 94, 90, 85, 78. Yes, that’s right 4 straight rounds in the 90’s. I haven’t had a stretch like that since I was probably 13 yrs. old. Now, some of this was due to experimentation, but I have done this before, and never saw scores like this. The first 90 score even had 2 birdies. These scores could not be blamed on the weather. The conditions weren’t perfect but they weren’t that bad. The scores can not be blamed on early season rust. You can see, I shot a 76 which featured a one under 35 on the back nine. As usual there was something to be learned and there were some interesting facts from these horrific rounds.

The first thing was my over all reaction to these rounds. I did not fret or worry about them at all. You might think that this is real easy to do because it is early in the season. Let’s  see how you react, if you did this in June or July. But this is four straight rounds in the NINETIES. Two of the rounds were partially due to some horrendous putting of 40 putts each. It made me aware of how easy this can happen and how a prolonged slump can be just around the corner.

I don’t know if I really needed to be made more aware of this, but it really brought home the fact that it’s not where your good shots wind up but it’s where your bad ones go. During this 4 round stretch I hit a lot of quality shots, but I hit a lot of horrible shots, that ended up in hazards and entirely off the golf course. The quality shots caused some swing experiments to last longer than they should have.

Because of this bad stretch, I found a major swing flaw that I had, and I mean major. I will discuss this in a future blog, but let’s just say for now it started my small comeback in the last 2 rounds. The 78 was highlighted by quite a bizarre finish. The last 6 holes went like this: Birdie, Double Bogey, Birdie, Double Bogey, Par, and a 30 yard pitch in for an Eagle.

Lastly I would like to write about two golf related items. Naturally the Masters is coming up and I am anxious to watch it as much as anybody else. Do I think I know who is going to win? Hell no. My bold prediction is this. The scores will be high. Any time the Masters scoring record is threatened they set the course up to be impossible the next year. Just look it up. I don’t think this will be an exception. So expect another U. S. Open kind of Masters and I think that is a damn shame. Do I think the best golfer in the world will win the Masters. NO. WHY. Because the best golfer in the world won’t even be playing in the Masters, Lydia Ko. Chew on that for awhile.

 

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today I am going to discuss the other two things that I thought had real potential to help one’s golf game, but turned out to be, just dust in the wind. The first one was the mind body connection. It was initiated by the old argument of how much is this game mental, and how much is it physical. My contention is that it is a 50-50 split, but there is a definite disconnect between the mind and the body in many instances, which will cause bad shots, or poor results. I discussed these instances about two years ago and I am not going to write about them today but the goal was to find a  way to keep the mind and the body connected. It was a fruitless effort, but one that I still think maybe worth pursuing. Then last year I tried to find what I called, your that day golf swing. In fact, I thought this was the answer. It went something like this. You should go into each round with an open mind, and not be influenced by what went well in the last round. I even had a cute little saying, “abandon that swing thought before it abandons you. Needless to say this was not the answer for various reasons that are not worth going into.

So that was the past and I am ready to move on from those acid trips,  as I head into the new golf year. What am I going to do now? Well, as usual I have some ideas. One of my many mantras has been 85% of all bad shots are caused by things you do before you swing. At the end of last year I amended that to 95%.  I am going to try to prove that theory. I am going to do some unique and different things at address that go against some traditional golf teaching but is much more aligned with the way the body is supposed to move. I am going to continue to take a hard look at how the wrists function during the golf swing.  I am beginning to feel that this is a big key on good solid ball striking. I have already played four 18 hole rounds, and three 9 hole rounds this year, and so far have made no progress on the above. I have been fine tuning some things, that may prove to productive.  As this year progresses the better I do, will mean that progress is being made and there will be more blogs. That is one thing about golf the numbers never lie.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today I am going to discuss some of the things I have tried over the last five and a half years of writing this blog, which I hoped would make this game easier to play. There were three, that I named, the shoulder control swing, the mind body connection, and finding your that day golf swing, which I thought was the answer. Over the next 3 weeks as golf season get’s closer and closer I will  discuss each one, and where I went wrong.

First, the shoulder control golf swing, that I introduced in January of 2013. I even did two videos on the subject in March of 2014. The shoulder control swing is exactly what it says, in that the turning of the shoulders can control all aspects of the golf swing. By folding your arms across your chest, and making a golf swing, your legs will move perfectly, and of course with your arms folded across your chest, they are have nothing to do with your swing. I played with this swing for almost 2 years and had some really good success. I shot one of my best rounds, during the time of the blog, and struck the ball quite well. I had some problems trying to adapt this method to my short game and putting. I struck the ball well, but I did have problems trying to work the ball with this method, particularly trying to hit a draw. It was during the 2014 golf season that I began to abandon this method, although I would go back to it for brief times, even in the 2015 season. So what was the problem? It was those damn arms. Here is one of the simplest, and yet one of the  most frustrating keys to the golf swing. On the downswing, the belly button has to pass the golf ball before the arms. Do this and you will hit a quality golf. Here is where I made the mistake. Turning the shoulders does actually control the leg action. When you make a correct shoulder turn on the backswing and downswing the legs have to move in the correct way. They literally have no choice. When you release the arms from across your chest and place you hands on the golf club, the shoulders no longer can control those pesky arms. You have to make a conscious decision to do so. Bobby Jones said it best when discussing putting and keeping your body still. Trying to keep your body perfectly still, can create too much tension in the stroke, so he advocated relaxation, and if the body moved a little bit so be it. By TRYING to keep the arms out of the swing, and mostly being unsuccessful anyway, just became too much of a distraction.  The shoulder control swing is a great teaching aid and drill on how a golf swing should really feel, when the arms are not involved.

I played the first round of the year about 12 days ago at Scenic Valley, and if I was even having the slightest doubt that this was a goofy game, the first round of the year ended all of that. The first drive of year was a low right liner that went about 180 yard that left me no shot to the green so I laid up to the right about 20 yards short of the green. I hit a great pitch to about 3 feet and made the putt, par. The next hole I hit an ok drive, hit wedge in about 12 feet below the hole and made the putt, birdie. The third hole an uphill par 5 I hit a fair drive, a 2 iron over the water, and another wedge in about 15 feet and made that putt, birdie. Now I have played Scenic Valley a lot over the last 10 years and I have never been 2 under par after 3 holes and here I was 2 under on the very first round of the year in February with temps in the low 40’s. Needless to say I got back to reality in a hurry with a double bogey on the next hole, and did manage to scrape it around to break 80 with a 78. Had not hit a ball in 2 months and birdie 2 of the first three holes. Goofy, you got that right.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

After last week’s blog about the wrists and what the PGA pros do to manipulate the club head, let’s just say we have only just begun. This week I am going to discuss the half way back position. That is the terminology I am going to use for when the club head is parallel to the ground, half way back. Nobody allowed the club to get to an open position at this point in the swing, even though there were 15 players out of 61 that got the club face open at the top of the swing. To review, there were 21 players that were square half way back, 17 were slightly shut, and 23 that were shut. So what conclusions can be drawn.

Obviously, whether it be consciously or unconsciously, no player wants to fan the club open early in the swing.  My thinking is that by opening the club face early in the swing, it  would have a tendency to make the swing really on the flat side. You would get a lot of forearm rotation early in the golf swing, which apparently is not a good thing.

I think some of the shut face positions are due to a natural tendency to want the club face to continue to look at the target line for as long as possible. I see a lot of beginning golfers get in this position half way back.

There were only 12 players or about 20%, who were both square half way back and at the top of there swings. This to me would be the ideal way to swing and I am sure would be the way most instructors would try to teach. Eighty per cent have some variation on the square and square method. You have to wonder how much of this is consciously done or is this something that players work on and just can not seem to correct. Surely they know that they do this with all the video they watch of their swings.

Within this 80% group, there has to be a lot going on to make some of the moves they make from the half way back position to the top of the swing. So lets look at the three that make the biggest moves, that is going from the shut position half way back to open at the top. There were 3 players  Ray Floyd, Colin Montgomery, and Jack Nicklaus who did this and I mentioned last week that Ben Hogan went from slightly shut to wide open. All four had pretty distinct swings with Floyd’s being the most unorthodox. Again it’s pretty hard to draw any conclusions from those 4 players about why their hands and wrists worked the way they did.

In conclusion, the lesson to be learned here is don’t start opening the club face until you get at least past the half way back part of the backswing. That is even if you want to open the club face at the top but that will be discussed in later blogs as we get to the top of the swing and bring it back to the ball. Heading to San Diego to see the grand kids for Christmas, so it will probably be about 2 weeks before I continue the wrist study.

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today’s blog is inspired by the blog, All About Golf by Brian Penn. It was a post about whether or not to start the swing with an early wrist break, or go with the more traditional one piece takeaway. The post also contained a video by Nick Faldo, showing an early wrist break drill or precocking the  wrists and then starting the golf swing. This set the wrists in a square position and maintained them in the square position throughout the swing. My comment at the time was that I thought the wrists were the most misunderstood part of the golf swing. I did a blog a few years back on wrist cock and came to the conclusion that they are going to do what they are going to do and not even think about them. Well, after studying 61 golf swings from all era’s I found many surprises when it comes to what the wrists do in the golf swing. I studied two places during the back swing when it came to the position of the clubhead. One was when the club shaft is parallel to the ground and the second at the top of the swing. I always believed, that  whatever  position  the club head was in, parallel to ground, that it would be in the same position at the top of the swing, but this was simply not true. But before we get to the raw data, we must discuss how the wrists function and move. Even this has some debate about it.

The wrist is capable of the three sets of distinct movements. Flexion and extension, supination and pronation, ulnar deviation and radial deviation. Supination is described as turning the palm upward and pronation is turning the palm toward the ground. However you can not do this without turning the forearm. The debate is whether the forearm turns the wrist or does the wrist turn the forearm. It really does not matter but it makes Hogan’s term about supinating the wrists at impact incorrect. What Hogan should have written is that the wrist should be flexed at impact. Even though the wrist is capable of 6 distinct movements only 4 of them are totally independent of any other part of the arm.

Studying 61 tour players swings, men and women, here is what they did at the two positions of the swing. First when the club was parallel to ground, 21 players had the club head square, 17 slightly shut or closed, and 23 had the club face shut. Nobody had the club open parallel to the ground. At the top of the swing I judged the club to be square, open or closed. I did not try to break it down any further because it was just too difficult. There is a video of what is called “the model golfer” who is making the perfect swing. He looks like a Star Wars character, without the helmet.   His position half way back and at the top of the swing   is square, and I used this in my comparison of how players had the position of their club face at the top of the swing. Of the 21 players that had a square club face  parallel to the ground , 12 were still square, 7 were open, and 2 were shut faced at the top. Of the 17 players who were slightly shut faced at the parallel position, 9 were square, 5 were open, and 3 were shut at the top. Of the 23 players who were shut faced  at the parallel position, 10 got back to square, 3 moved to  open and 10 remained shut at the top of the swing.  Here is what I consider to be the big surprises.

I fully expected Ben Hogan to be open at the parallel position because he is so open at the top. In fact he is by far the most open at the top of any golfer, with that toe of the club pointing right to ground. However at the parallel to ground position he is slightly closed or shut faced. He goes from that position and gets it wide open at the top. No wonder he had to practice so much.

Tiger Woods. Tiger has had 5 different golf swings. His 97 Masters swing, the 2002 Butch Harmon swing, the 2007 Hank Haney swing, the 2013 Sean Foley swing, and his current swing and I don’t know who the hell his coach is now. I have to have a little levity, this is a long freaking blog. Despite all these coach and so called swing changes Tigers club position at parallel to the ground and at the top has always been the same, slightly shut to square. One swing I watched from 2015 he may have been square at the half way back position. Essentially, no coach really changed the position of Tiger’s club face during the course of his swing despite other swing changes.

There is no rhyme or reason as to who does what. There are hookers who are at any of the 9 positions and there are faders  of the golf ball who represent any of the 9 positions.

Jack Nicklaus and Luke Donald had swings that were from instructional videos. On their instructional video they were both square and square. However on videos when they were in the heat of competition Nicklaus would be shut to open and Donald would be slightly shut to square at the top. Draw your own conclusions

I was surprised by how many shut faced golfers there were. Two of most shut faced at the top were Lexi Thompson and Dustin Johnson. These golfers have had great success on their respective tours and I am sure that their swing coaches know that they are this closed at the top. You have to wonder why they don’t try to go to a more square to square method. Would it mess them up that much and if the answer is yes, then a better question would be why.

I have a feeling that I have just scratched the surface on what  the wrists really do during the golf swing, and why do the great players lets theirs wrists go all over the place. We all can’t turn like Ricky Fowler or Rory, but it seems simple enough to be able to keep the club face square throughout the swing. However, is this really important or necessary for good ball striking. At this point I am not drawing any conclusions on what I have been seeing on wrist action and the golf swing. The only conclusion I have drawn so far is  that nobody truly understands what role the wrists should play in the golf swing. In future blogs I will look at some swings specifically and who falls into each grouping. One thing for sure, when you see a slow motion analysis of a swing, don’t pay attention to Peter Kostis, when he is talking about spine angle or how quiet a player’s legs are. Watch that club face at those two key postitons of the back swing. Too be  continued, I am tired.

The Goofy Game of Golf Trying to Execute the Answer

It’s been two weeks since the last blog, with the first week being a week of grand kid fun. There was the celebration of my daughter’s birthday who happens to be born on 7-7-77. I should remember that even in my old senile days. One of the days we all went bowling and that was an interesting experience. I haven’t bowled in about 25 years or more and bowling uses an entirely different set of muscles. I had a hard time finding a ball that would fit my thumb. Now, I don’t have that unusual  size of thumb but even with a 16 pound ball there were some thumb holes that were too small. I had to use one that was too big and in trying to hold on to the ball I got a cramp in my hand that lasted 3 days. It was a good thing golf was on the back burner for awhile, because I don’t think I could have played anyway. Then, the two older grand kids six and eight stayed overnight and I got introduced to mindcraft a game that they love, and I still really don’t know what the hell is going on. I will be going to San Diego at the end of September and you better believe I will figure it out. It was a great 8 day visit.

This week it was back to golf, where my slow but sure comeback is continuing. The rounds this week were 77, 75, 76, 80, and 76. The 80 was yesterday at Fort Cherry where par is 70 and it was by far the worse round of the week.   This round was caused more by poor thinking and some off putting, but the ball striking was not much worse than in the better rounds. My 76 today was again marred by some bad thinking as I had 4 birdies, but 2 double bogies kind of crushed the possibility of this being a really good round. I am back to the shoulder control swing with some modification, and this re-learning of this swing has delayed progress on finding your that day golf game or swing. I have had my best putting stretch in a long time and that does help the score to say the least. As the physical side of my game gets more comfortable I expect to apply this to helping me find my “that day golf swing. I felt I had to get back to something, as bad as I was playing and scoring. The last two weeks have felt that I am back on track. The weather here in Pittsburgh has not helped much either, as this has been one of the wettest summers on record and the golf courses are paying the price. It has been a challenge to keep the courses playable. I have one more week of regular golf and then I will be hitting the tournament trail in full force. Beginning in August and to the end of September I will be playing in about 10 tournaments. So the answer will be executed or it will be my golf game that will go to a watery grave.

The Goofy Game of Golf Trying to Execute the Answer

Trying to execute the answer has proven to be much more difficult than I anticipated to say the least. The weeks scores continue to be horrible ranging from 76 to a wonderful 89 but I think I may have discovered the folly of my ways.

When I first came up with the answer, which is finding your “that day golf swing” as quickly as possible, it was at the end of the golfing season last year. I came up with a method of accomplishing that goal which I discussed in previous blogs. The main principal of that method was to start each round with an open mind about your swing and feed off the results of the shots and make adjustments. Because it was at the end of the golfing season I played most of my golf at Scenic Valley, but it would not have made any difference what golf course I was playing, it was the fact that I was playing the same golf course. Obviously when you play the same golf course the opening tee shot is exactly the same. Once I started this process of trying to execute the answer my scores were very good and ball striking improved dramatically.  One of the few times I did not play well is when I went to Lindenwood and my ball striking was not as good for 8 holes, until I started to draw all my shots and I played the last 10 holes 1 over par. This should have been a tip off right there but I am a slow learner. I did go out to San Diego and shoot a very good round, but its opening tee shot has similar characteristics of the opener at Scenic Valley. Because the opening tee shot was the same all the time, I don’t think I was being as open minded about my golf swing as I thought I was. Now, I don’t think this is even the way to go about finding you “that day golf swing”. The opening tee shot of a round is very important. It’s not to say it is round maker or breaker, but it is important non the less. I have hit great opening tee balls and have had bad rounds, and on the other side of the coin, had a very bad opening drive and shot one of the best rounds of my life. But because of playing the same opening tee shot, I think this led me astray on how to execute the answer. I still feel you should abandon that swing thought before it abandons you, but I think there is a different way to go about doing it.

The way I felt going into this season is, that if I was playing as bad as I am playing right now, I would be getting ready to shut everything down including the blog. I have a little more than half the season to go, and with this new direction to take, I am going to continue to plod along and see what happens. With golf it is easy to see if you are going in the right direction, all you have to do is look at the number.

The Goofy Game of Golf Trying to Execute the Answer

It’s been two weeks since the last blog and not to much positive has happened. The golf has been mediocre at best, with score ranging from mid 70’s to the mid 80’s with no end in sight. It appears executing the answer is going to be just as difficult as finding the answer. I am going to discuss one interesting thing that I am doing with some positive results.

In some areas of the country, this is not a concern, but in Western Pennsylvania playing from uneven lies is an every day problem. The basic lies are uphill, downhill, ball below your feet and ball above the feet. The general advice has been to play the slope. If the ball is above your feet you are suppose to aim to the right of the target and allow the ball to draw, right to left. If the ball is below your feet then you are to aim to the left and allow the ball to go from left to right. A  lie that is downhill will go from left to right and an uphill lie will have a tendency to be pulled, so you aim a little right.  Now there are all kinds of address position adjustments that you make for each lie and any instruction book will go through them and many of you already know this. What I have been doing the last two months with some pretty good results is trying to fight the slope. If the ball is below my feet I will aim a little right of the target and try to hit a draw. With the ball above my feet I will aim a little left of the target and hit a fade. The result is a shot that travels pretty straight or does draw or fade a little bit. This move has been particularly effective when the ball is below my feet. The shot flies a little lower but is very straight and carries much farther than the typical way you play a shot that is below your feet. This has also worked well for the ball above your feet trying to hit a fade, and trying to draw the ball off a downhill lie. Where it has been a little less effective is on the uphill lie and trying to hit the fade, but it’s not been bad. So try this, you may like it, remember fight the slope.

Needless to say the last 3 to 4 weeks have been pretty frustrating and discouraging but trying to find your that day golf swing will continue. I have one 36 hole tournament this week and another 18 hole tournament later in the week. I am not brimming with confidence right now but you never know. That’s why I call this game goofy.