Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pick your Spots.

At the United States Golf Academy our approach is simple. We are going to do what ever necessary to help you lower your scores. While the how and why of swing technique is important, even a perfect swing will not automatically help you shoot lower scores. Why? Because of the importance of the short game, the shots inside 100 yards, shots played around the green and putting. The fastest way to lower scores is improvement in these areas.

A basic problem in creating a short game strategy is understanding the difference and relationship between air and ground. How far should the ball fly and how far will it roll? Too many of our students consider only the distance between themselves and the hole and that is not enough. The following are some steps to follow that might help you get closer to the hole.

Does the upcoming shot require a low or high trajectory? Look at the shot and try to imagine the best way FOR YOU to get the ball close to the hole. What would the shot look like if you hit it high? What would the shot look like if you came in low? Obviously there will be some bias based on your preference or ability. Some prefer to carry the ball to the hole, some have more success playing lower shots that roll out more. ONE CHOICE IS NO BETTER THAN THE OTHER!! What matters most is you make a choice.
Once you have made a trajectory choice you must now choose the spot where you need the ball to land. This is critical. Whatever club you choose will have a ratio of air to ground. For example my 52 degree gap wedge on a level surface will roll just about as far as it flies. My pitching wedge is closer to 1/3 air to 2/3 ground and my 58 degree wedge is more like 2/3 air to 1/3 roll.

Knowing what club to play and where to land it a personal decision, so when you get a chance to practice try the following experiment. Without any target hit some shots with different clubs using the same length swing and tempo. Watch how the ball reacts. How far did it fly and how far did it roll. This will go a long way to helping you choose the right club and spot to land the ball to improve your short game.

Golf Swing Speed

In our initial interview with the students of the United States Golf Academy we ask a number of questions about the new student’s goals. Without exception the most common request is for more club head speed. Longer drives and using shorter clubs into the green is the desire of just about every player we meet. While finding more club speed is a good thing, I normally suggest it is easier to be more efficient with the speed they create.

Using the data from our Trackman ball flight monitor we know at sea level, with no wind and normal ground conditions a player with 90 mph of club head speed under optimal conditions can hit a golf ball 256 yards with a driver. It is a very rare occurrence that the average player comes anywhere close to that distance. In other words they can generate the club speed just don’t use it very well.

A great measuring stick to check the efficiency of your swing is to find a facility that can accurately measure the golf ball speed at impact. The ratio of club head speed to golf ball speed is commonly called the smash factor. For example, at 90 mph the fastest ball speed obtainable is 135 mph. The smash factor is then 1.5 as 135 is 1.5 time faster than 90. Under perfect launch conditions this would create the 250+ yard drive. However, the average smash factor at the Academy is probably closer to 1.4. So the 90 mph player with a smash factor of 1.4 creates a ball speed of 126 mph rather than the 135 for a distance of 239 yards or 11 yards shorter with the same club head speed.

The slower ball speed can come from a variety of reasons. But all of the reasons come from what is most simply described as a glancing blow at impact. The clubface is open to the path, the angle of approach is too steep, or you just don’t hit the ball with the center of the club or any combination of those factors and others.

So the solution is not to look for more club speed

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Plan for Better Scores.

In this day and age of endless information we realize our students come to visit us at the United States Golf Academy as much for clarification as information. They have read and watched and listened to a point of confusion. “I am thinking too much,” is a common complaint. Our answer is usually the same, “It is not that you are thinking too much, it is that you think at the wrong time.” Way too many missed shots are caused not from a lack of talent or skill, but a lack of planning. The following is basic guideline on how to plan for more successful golf shots.
Before you ever strike a shot there are a couple of questions you have to answer. The first is quite simply; “Where an I going?” Make a conscious effort to choose the place you want your golf ball to be to play the next shot. This is rarely the flag!!! When playing a hole we need to know how many shots it is reasonable to expect to reach the green. If you miss a spot then begin a new plan. We then need to know the expected landing area for each shot and once those decisions are made we can ask:
So we now have a basic plan to play the hole. Now, how do we deal with the shot at hand? To answer this question we need to know the distance to the target, and then chose the club and type of shot that will best get us to our destination. This choice can be as simple or as complicated as your skill level allows. Regardless, you need to make a choice and stick with it.
So we have described the task at hand and how to complete it, now is the time to just do it. Set the chosen club behind the ball, point the club the direction you would like the ball to travel; set your feet and swing the club. In that order! Don’t think about where and how as you have already decided that when you step up to the ball. If there is anything we know for sure is that you can’t make any of the prior decisions while you are in motion. Just trust your judgment, and swing the club.