Thursday, April 22, 2010

Remember the Basics.

I have a German colleague and mentor, who is probably one of the smartest people in the world. Over the past few years his research has involved golf and in particular the study of the motion of putting. A year or so ago I asked him after all of the study and work had he discovered a secret to playing golf. He said that he had. I was in great anticipation of some remarkable insight when he shared that the secret was, and I quote, “To get out of your own way”. I went on to thank him and suggest that was no great insight and I could have figured that out for myself. His reply was brilliant, “So why don’t you use it?” So in honor of my friend, here are some tips to help you get out of your own way.

Find the bottom of your swing. The most important fundamental in golf is positioning your body so that the ball is at the apex of the arc of your swing. This is more easily achieved if you will use the club to tell you where to stand rather than placing your feet first and searching for the ball. Remember when preparing to make a shot, the sequence is club to the ball first, and feet last. Not feet first and twist your upper body to position the club. This seems like a simple tip and it is something that every accomplished player understands, but, even with this knowledge, most of us will revert back to our feet first habit.
Swing the club, instead of trying to hit the ball. Since most of us don’t have the ball in the correct position when we swing, we have learned to try and hit at the ball rather than swing the club and let the ball get in the way. Most struggling players come to a stop at the ball rather than swinging the club all the way to the finish. This slows you down at impact and the effort to steer the club often puts the club in a twisted position at impact, causing directional problems even if we do get the club on the ball. End result – short and crooked.

So now you have been reminded of the two most important fundamentals. What do you do with them? This is the getting out of your own way part. The next time you play or practice, try this. 1. Set the club behind the ball and point the face at the target. 2. While you are looking at the clubface and without moving the club, take your stance so your body is perpendicular to the face. 3. Make a full swing! No hit, no try, no what ifs, just swing. Don’t judge the results, just keep doing the same thing. The results might shock you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Driver Fits

One of the most popular services we offer at the United States Golf Academy is a 30 minute session on how to find the correct settings for your new adjustable driver. We think that the invention of the adjustable shaft for drivers could be one of the most beneficial technological advancements we have seen. Unfortunately, like all good things it depends on how you utilize it.

The most common problem we see is a player that slices the ball off the tee. When you use technology to solve the slice you limit your ability to get better. Why? Golf is a side on game and the spin of a draw golf shot best matches the rotation of the swing and golf club. In other words the best golf swings produce a right to left ball flight for right handed players and the opposite for lefthanders. All good players can draw a golf ball, although they may chose not to, while poorer players often play a fade or slice because that is all they have. So as an example of a techno fix, you buy a driver with a draw bias, or an adjustable driver set to a closed position, to correct the slice. Then you come to one of our schools to improve your swing. Unfortunately, our job is now to teach you to hit the ball left with your new driver, because your best golf swing when using a draw bias or closed face driver, should hit the ball left. That is what the driver is built to do! It is a tough assignment because as we see an improvement in your swing, you see the results of a ball out of bounds left. You think we have lost our minds because we are encouraging a swing technique that produced poor results. Because we are all result oriented, you fall back to a swing that steers the ball into the fairway sacrificing the speed and potential distance you could utilize with the better swing.

The advantage of an adjustable driver is that it allows us to improve your golf swing and enjoy good results, without having to buy a new driver every time we see some progress. We start with an adjustment that gives you the best results for that day. If it is a bias for a draw, good! Keep working on your swing to hit a bigger draw. When the ball flight is out of control adjust the driver to a new setting that has less bias. Don’t stop there. Keep going! You will know you have gone too far when you can’t hit anything but a low push or fade. We call this technique “bending the left out of the shot” and what you will see is an increase in distance every time you can make an adjustment away from a draw bias.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Major Grooves

The Masters Tournament begins this week and because of its status as a major tournament and tradition it is always a very significant golf event. For me, this year’s event is more important than ever and not for the reasons you might think. This will be the first major tournament held where the players will be required to play wedges without the benefit of the high spin grooves. The new wedge regulations have been the topic of debate at the United States Golf Academy since the rule was announced. How much impact will the change have on professional players? So far the results on tour have been mixed, with some examples of miss played shots around the green, and wedges shots that fly unpredictable distances due to the lack of spin, but the Tour players have not yet played conditions like they will face at Augusta.

While it is not something the everyday player gets to experience, there is no question that playing in major golf events has been easier because of the increased spin created by the modern milled grooves. The penalty for hitting a tee shot in the rough is lessened because the high spin grooves allow the players to have more control out of longer grass. But maybe more important is the difference in the control a tour level player has when playing green side shots. Over the past few years I have seen hundreds of shots from around the greens at the Masters that would not be possible without the help of the golf club. The speed and firmness of the greens combined with the reduction of spin will make for some very difficult up and downs. Even if it is subtle, a couple of feet here or there can really make a difference when you play a golf course with greens like Augusta. Five feet is a lot tougher than three. Next week we will discuss the effect of spin on the everyday player’s wedge shots from the rough and around the green. So your home work for this week is to watch some of the tournament to have a better understanding of the pros and cons of spin groove wedges.

Another reason I think the tournament will be important is a sentimental one. This year is the first that two of the game’s greatest players and gentlemen will be the official starters of the event. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus together again and even if it is only for one swing, it will do the game a lot of good to see them together. These are two guys who professionally always judged their actions on what was best for the game, rather than what was best for them. As a former employee of Arnold, I know of a couple of instances where he walked away from some very lucrative opportunities simply because he felt they were not in the best interests of the game and I know Jack did the same. I hope seeing the two of them together will remind the fans how great the game can be. Maybe this is a tall order for just one swing, but I think these guys are up to it.