Saturday, September 19, 2009

Late Season Tip

A frequent customer of the Academy stopped in this week. As we were chatting, he made the comment I hear far too often. “I am getting ready to put the clubs away for the season”, he said. This was not some great revelation; I hear similar comments every day. But some reason, hearing it from him struck a nerve. This person had put serious time and effort into getting his game to another level this season. He had made an equipment change, and worked very hard on developing a routine and some consistency in his swing. He analyzed his putting stroke and developed a method that was best for him, and not a copy of a method that worked for someone else. To sum it up, he had made himself a better player, and had a plan to become a greater player than he ever imagined he could be at the beginning of the summer. When I questioned his logic of putting the clubs away, his response was, “Winter is coming, whether you like it or not. What else can I do?”

Don’t put the clubs away. At least keep them where you can pick one up and pretend you’re playing golf. Now is the time to break some bad habits, most of which are not found in your golf swing, but in your preparation to swing the club. So, every once in a while, as you walk through the garage, practice your routine. Take a club and pretend you are going to hit a ball at a spot on the wall. If you can do this on a tile floor that can show you parallel lines, even better. Go through the motions of preparing to hit a shot, even to the point of starting your backswing (take it away slowly). Remember to work from the ball back. Aim the club first, then check your grip, align your shoulder s, and finally, take your stance and set your feet. I cannot stress enough the idea of placing your feet after everything else is lined up. If you can break the habit of planting your feet first and twisting into position, you will eliminate a number of problems. For example, the problem of where the ball is positioned in your stance is solved because if you set up in the proper sequence, the golf club will tell you the appropriate place to stand. If you can make your pre-shot routine a habit this winter, I promise a fast start next spring.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Birthday to the King

If you follow the golf world at all, you are probably aware that Arnold Palmer turned 80 years young on September 10th. As hard as it is for me to believe he is 80, it is harder still for me to believe it was 28 years ago this summer that I went to work for him at Bay Hill. When a guest of the United States Golf Academy sees some of the pictures on my office wall of the two of us, their first question is always the same: “What was it like working for him?” So as an answer to that question and my way of a birthday tribute to him, I thought I would share a couple of personal stories.

Mondays were practice days for Arnold and my day off. I knew if he was home, I could expect a phone call at around 9:30a.m., asking what my plans were for the day. In all my years of working for him, I never missed a practice day, but he always called and he always asked, just like every time was the first time. He never assumed or took anything for granted. So we would spend Mondays together. He would hit a few and then ask what I thought. If I offered some advice, his reply was always the same: “Why?” It took me awhile to realize that it was his way of teaching me. If I offered a thought on what he was working on, I had better be prepared to explain myself. Even today, when I give a lesson, I am always sure to know why I am offering the advice. So I share that advice with you. Never try something new with your swing without a clear and sensible reason why, and if the source of the advice can’t answer the question, don’t try it.

Those who know me well have been subjected to hundreds of Arnold stories. But my favorite is one that is very recent. As part of his birthday celebration, the Pittsburgh Pirates had Mr. Palmer throw out the first pitch at a recent game. I saw him on television and so I called his office the next day to leave him a birthday message and congratulate him on looking good on the throw. His secretary Gina accepted the congratulations for him, and shared that he had been practicing on making a good pitch for a couple of months. At 80 years old and with all his accomplishments, the King is still working to make his best effort, and for those paying attention, still teaching.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Venting Frustration

There has been a great deal of discussion recently about certain professional golfers verbally venting frustration using inappropriate language. In response, I have some advice on how to deal with two of the most common causes of these extreme emotions, guaranteeing relief and avoiding the embarrassment of an ill-timed phrase.

Missed Putts
Always remember that a missed putt is totally the fault of the golf club and never the player involved. It is also a well known fact that the club in question is deaf, and so no amount of yelling at the club will produce satisfactory results. It will only cause an increase in blood pressure so great that the next tee shot is sure to slice off into the woods ( see dealing with an unruly driver ). The best way to deal with a poor performing putter is to wait quietly until the end of the round, tie the putter to the back bumper of your automobile and drag it home. I promise you will feel better. If the putter is damaged beyond use, bring it to the Academy and we will fit you to a new one. It is important to bring the old one along so the new one can see what happens if it misses a putt. Fear is a great motivator for putters.

Dealing with Unruly Drivers
In most cases, it is unfair to blame the driver for a missed tee shot. As we explained earlier, a missed tee shot is often the result of a bad putt on the previous hole. So it is entirely fair to blame the putter for all missed tee shots other than one that would occur on the first hole. This is usually a result of a driver that has low self esteem. How would you feel if you were twice as big as you were ten years ago? The best thing you can do is leave the head cover off your driver. Show it you are proud to be associated with it and you are not going to hide it from view. This will make the driver feel better and make it your friend rather than your enemy like that scoundrel putter.

If the previous advice doesn’t work, try this. Laugh at the bad shots, be proud of the good ones, and if you happen to be playing for ten million dollars in the FEDEX CUP, remember how lucky you are and try to show the game and the fans a little respect.