The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, its been about 2 months since the last blog with good reason. My game has completely hit the crapper. I went the entire months of June and July without breaking 80. I am still playing about 3 to 4 times per week and I am in good health physically. Mentally I think I’m OK but death is looking pretty good right now. Just kidding. I finally did break 80 three times so far in August. So whats been the problem. Well a couple of experiments went very bad, obviously and one I stuck with for about 3 to 4 weeks because it looked like it might be worth something and it was worth about 800 dollars in lost bets, and tournament fees. Right now I am going back to a swing that I used from 1986 to 1994 and have had some success but my putting has been really bad. Its like anything else when you hit a period this bad its always something. I am not discouraged and just keep repeating the mantra there’s a reason for everything.

So while I was out there the hacking away, the USGA was making fools of themselves at both the men’s and women’s Open. There’s been plenty written about both events but here is what has to happen in golf, whether it is the PGA tour or major USGA events.  To make my point lets go to other major sports. Let’s look at football, namely the NFL. The New England Patriots are the playing Cincinnati Bengals and lets rev up the stakes a little bit and say it is a play off game. About midway through the 1st quarter the New England player returns a punt 75 yards for a touchdown down the sidelines. Because of camera angles and players bodies, even on instant replay the player looks like he stays in bounds, and the touchdown stands. New England kicks the extra point and kicks off to the Bengals for a touch back. Cincinnati runs one play gains 3 yards. Now all of a sudden it is brought to the attention of the TV booth that a side line camera man has a still shot which shows that the runner on the punt return barely hits the out of bounds line at the 20 yard line. There is a brief time out and the referee makes the announcement of what just happened and declares that the touchdown and extra point will be taken away from New England and the game will continue with the Bengals 2nd and 7 on the 23 and the score 0-0. Now as ludicrous as this sounds this is exactly what happens in golf time after time and this is what has to change. At the very least golf has to assess any penalty before the players start the next hole. This idea of golf trying to go back in time and undo grievous mistakes is ridiculous and really makes the game  worse not better. The way they informed the players of the rules infraction at the Women’s Open, you could argue that the USGA put the fix in to make sure that Lang won the event. You don’t know what was going through her mind at time when she thought she was tied for lead. She may have been feeling fatigued and may have tried a riskier shot to make birdie to end it right there. If Nordqvist had known she was 2 shots down at the 18th tee box she would have hit the riskier driver off the tee to try and reach the green in two. Inadvertent rules infractions happen all the time in golf. Do I think Anna Nordqvist should have been penalized for barely touching that grain of sand, absolutely. But she should have been penalized before she stroked her putt on 17 or not at all. Until the ruling bodies of golf realize that golf is played by human beings, and mistakes happen that should not be corrected 15 minutes to 24 hours after they happen, the game will always be tainted.

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

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

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

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

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

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.