Sunday, March 30, 2008

Strategic Planning

The Masters Tournament begins next week and with it the unofficial start of the golf season for all northerners, so in honor of the new season the professionals at the United States Golf Academy have this advice to help you shoot your lowest scores ever.

There are three strategic ways to improve your golf scores. The first is to shorten the golf course by improving your driving distance. Second, find the swing tempo that produces the most predictable distance for each club from the fairway. Successful shots to the green come not from your ability to hit the ball far, but your ability to predict how far you will hit the ball. Finally, you must create a reliable short game strategy and stick with it. So let’s start the season by finding some extra yardage off the tee.

Driver Distance
We use a ball fight monitor called Trackman at our schools. You might have seen it used on recent television broadcasts. Trackman radar actually maps the entire flight of a golf ball, just as radar is used to track a storm or airplane. Because of the accuracy of this technology, we are able to find the right launch and ball spin conditions to maximize driver distance regardless of club speed. In fact, without controlling these conditions additional club speed is wasted.

Finding the optimal launch and spin conditions for an individual player comes in two parts: First from achieving the correct angle of attack or how the club approaches the golf ball and then finding the right driver to match that set up. The typical golf ball leaves the golf club at a vertical angle of 9 to 15 degrees. This is called the launch angle and is achieved from a combination of the loft built into the driver and the angle the club swings through the golf ball. Trackman shows us that regardless of driver loft, the longest drives occur when you hit up on the ball slightly, at an upward angle of three to five degrees. For many of us this means teeing the ball higher than usual and playing the ball more forward in your stance (more to your left for a right handed player and more to the right for the left handed). In any golf swing, the club moves back and up, down through the ball, and then back up in the follow through. By moving the ball forward and teeing it higher, we strike the ball later in the swing, when the club starts back up. It is important to note that this does not require a change in the way you swing the club. It is much more about when and where you strike the ball.

Next week we will discuss how to enhance this technique by finding the right driver for you. In the meantime, if you have any questions I encourage you to contact me at or better yet come visit us at the United States Golf Academy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Fast Track to Lower Scores
Putting is golf’s dirty little secret, a game within the game. In a typical round of golf you will use a putter anywhere from 20 to 40 times. For some who struggle, maintaining sanity becomes an issue, but all is not lost. At the United States Golf Academy we have devoted a great amount of time and resources studying the art of putting. To verify the results of our study we use Science and Motion PuttLab, an ultrasound device that measures 28 parameters of the putting stroke and is accurate to a millimeter in distance, one thousandth of a second in time, and one tenth of a degree in rotation, or the opening and closing of the face. After analyzing almost 6000 putting strokes we have come to the following conclusions:
There is no perfect method. A long time ago I heard a Hall of Fame golfer credit the key to his success to the fact that he didn’t waste any time looking for the perfect method, he spent all of his time perfecting his method. We all are completely unique. None of us process information the same way. We perceive things differently visually. What seems fast to one is slow to another. We come in a variety of shapes and sizes. So to think that there is one style or method to emulate is probably not very productive
Traditionally, there are three different ways you can learn to putt. One of the most common is to mimic a robotic model of the putting stroke. It is from these models of “perfection” that many putting aids are built. Another way is to mimic a successful player. While we all desire for the same levels of success, because of our differences it is not likely we can copy our way to success. The third is easily the most dangerous and unfortunately the most common. Many of us take every suggestion we ever read, watched, or worse suggested by our playing companions and create a layered strategy that is often becomes more confusing than successful. The confusion comes from the fact that we rarely discard what we try. We are much more likely to just keep adding layers.
The first concept of successful putting is to realize that over 80% of the influence on the direction the ball leaves the putter is determined by the face of the putter at impact. The ball basically goes where the putter is pointed at impact. Less than 20% of direction is from the path the putter swings. No one that specializes in putting instruction disagrees with this concept, yet, the majority of instruction and teaching aids focus on the path. For example, a putter travels on a perfect path, exactly on line but the face is open only 1.5 degrees to the target at impact. You will miss the putt on the right edge of the hole a ten feet.
Developing an understanding of controlling the face is the first step in changing your success on the green. When you miss a putt, relate the direction the ball went to the putter face and not the putter path and you will start to make the proper corrections to improve your putting.