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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Harry Vardon on the Search for the Perfect Putter

I stumbled across this paragraph in Harry Vardon's 1905 book The Complete Golfer. Vardon here talks about carrying two putters, but what he says applies equally well to the modern search for the perfect putter. Vardon was positively anal about details, about getting things right, so this is an interesting take on "finding the perfect putter."
I have stated that the golfer may carry two putters in his bag; but I mean that he should do so only when he has a definite and distinct purpose for each of them, and I certainly do not advise his going from one kind to the other for the same sort of putt. There is great danger in such a practice. If he is doing very poor putting with one club, he will naturally fly for help to the other one, and the probability is that he will do just as badly with that. Then he returns to the first one, and again finds that his putts do not come off, and by this time he is in a hopeless quandary. If he has only one putter he will generally make some sort of a success of it if he can putt at all, and my private belief is that the putter itself has very little to do with the way in which a golfer putts. It is the man that counts and not the tool. I have tried all kinds of putters in my time, and have generally gone back to the plainest and simplest of all. I have occasionally used the aluminium putter. It has much to recommend it to those who like this style of implement, and Braid always does very well with it. The Travis or Schenectady putter, which was so popular for a short time after the Amateur Championship last year, owing to the American player having done such wonderful things with it, I do not succeed with. When I try to putt with it I cannot keep my eye away from its heel. But the fact is, as I have already indicated, that you can putt with anything if you hit the ball properly. Everything depends on that—hitting the ball properly—and no putter that was ever made will help you to hole out if you do not strike the ball exactly as it ought to be struck, while if you do so strike it, any putter will hole out for you. The philosophy of putting is simple, but is rarely appreciated. The search for the magic putter that will always pop the ball into the hole and leave the player nothing to do will go on for ever.
I'm not going to dissect what he says here; it's really pretty clear, isn't it? But I'll pull out a handful of quotes that sum up his opinion.
My private belief is that the putter itself has very little to do with the way in which a golfer putts. It is the man that counts and not the tool.
That's pretty straightforward.
But the fact is, as I have already indicated, that you can putt with anything if you hit the ball properly.
Given that he just finished saying that he struggles with a particular type of putter, this strikes me as a very interesting statement. It appears that, while he says you can putt with anything if you hit the ball properly, he also admits that your ability to putt can be affected by things other than your ballstriking. That particular putter that gave him problems? He said he couldn't keep his eyes off the heel of the club. So we have to assume that if the club doesn't look good to you, you won't hit the ball well.

Finally, he says:
The search for the magic putter that will always pop the ball into the hole and leave the player nothing to do will go on for ever.
In other words, there is no such thing as the perfect putter, folks. If you want to putt well, find something that looks good to you and then learn how to hit the ball properly. That appears to be the Vardon approach, and he was known as a deadly putter back in the day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Ghost of Frisbees Past (Video)

I've been using this image for years, but GC's Virgil Herring actually made a video of it! So here, take a look...



The Frisbee image is deceptively simple. It creates a lot of important positions in your swing automatically, but many of you will find it difficult because you keep trying to rotate your forearms. (Tsk, tsk -- haven't you been paying attention to me? That's BAD!)

Bear in mind that you probably won't be using your dominant hand to "throw the Frisbee" in this drill. Right-handed golfers should hold the Frisbee in their left hand, left-handers in their right. But if you want a quick way to learn how to unleash on the ball while keeping the clubface square, this is a drill you should be working with.

One note: In this drill, the Frisbee won't be parallel to the ground at impact. It should be tilted toward the ground, on an angle that matches your lead forearm, to match your swing plane. If you try to get the Frisbee in the "flat" position you use when you actually throw one, you'll be bending your forearm upward at impact -- and that's bad form in a golf swing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Reminder About the Valentino Dixon Story on GC

This link is to a Golf Digest story about the 27 Years: The Exoneration of Valentino Dixon show that will air on GC tonight.

Valentino Dixon

I won't reprint here all the details that you can simply read over at Golf Digest's site. And I'm sure that many of you have seen the previews being aired on GC.

But I think this sounds like a pretty cool program. It shows how simple things like art and golf can help someone deal with unspeakable injustice, among other things. And perhaps it reminds us just how important hope is -- something that we all need to be reminded of, especially at this time of year and when our world faces so many problems.

27 Years: The Exoneration of Valentino Dixon airs tonight at 8pm ET on GC.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 South African Open

Winner: Louis Oosthuizen

Around the wider world of golf: The team of Patton Kizzire and Brian Harman won the QBE Shootout (aka the Shark Shootout); and Adrián Ploch won the III Malinalco Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Louis Oosthuizen kisses South African Open trophy

It was a toss-up as to which event I would cover this week. The golf is a bit thin this time of year, after all, and I want to find the best story. With teams like Kevin Na/Bryson DeChambeau, Harold Varner III/Bubba Watson and Lexi Thompson/Tony Finau in the field, the QBE Shootout had the potential to be the big story.

Alas, it was not to be. The big story was Louis Oosthuizen's breakthrough in Johannesburg. It was big enough that Louis was reduced to tears and virtually unable to do an interview afterward.

Why? Because (1) he broke a nearly three-year win drought by (2) finally winning his own national Open. He hadn't even played the event since 2011. He started the final round with a three-stroke lead, and lost most of that before laying down a six-stroke victory -- which, by the way, tied the record.

Yeah, pretty big stuff.

King Louis has been fighting back problems for a while. You probably know he travels with his own mattress, simply because one bad night in a hotel can ruin a tournament. And yet that sweet swing of his continues to look as if there's nothing wrong. The TV analysts blame his win drought on a balky putter, but I think constant physical problems cause confidence problems that are much harder to beat.

This week, Louis finally beat them. And it's my great pleasure to award him yet another Limerick Summary. He's been away from the winner's circle for too long.
It’s been three years since Louis’s last crown…
But Louis refused to stay down.
Now his best win in years
Brought this home boy to tears
And he stands tall with well-earned renown.
The photo came from this page at europeantour.com.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dan Martin on Clubface Control (Video)

Want to bend it like Bubba? PGA instructor Dan Martin has a drill that can teach you the basics.



Don't be fooled -- this is a deceptively simple drill. It forces you to think about impact position rather than swing mechanics.

There are no elaborate adjustments to your address position with this drill, although you might find that changing your ball position can help. Like Bubba, you're thinking about where the clubface is aimed when you hit the ball, regardless of where your body is aimed. It's about mindset -- deciding where the ball will go in the same way that you might hit a tennis shot or hit a baseball. In both of those sports, you tend to set up the same way each time, and you change where the ball goes by changing where you contact the ball relative to your body.

Let me explain that just a bit.
  • If you set up square to a target and hit the ball when it's straight in front of you, in the middle of your stance, you have a good chance of hitting it straight.
  • If you set up square to a target and hit the ball when it's a bit closer to your lead foot, a bit forward in your stance, you have a good chance of pulling it (the starting line for a fade).
  • And if you set up square to a target and hit the ball when it's a bit closer to your trailing foot, a bit back in your stance, you have a good chance of pushing it (the starting line for a draw).
If you change your ball position when you try these shots, you can use less wrist action -- which can be inconsistent -- and use your wrists, forearms and elbows all together as a unit.
  • Both elbows straight = straight shot.
  • Lead elbow bends, trailing elbow stays straight = pull shot.
  • Trailing elbow bends, lead elbow stays straight = push shot.
You might say this drill helps you think less about where your body is going but think more about where the ball is going. It helps you become more target-oriented.

And if you do it enough to learn how to control the direction of your shots, you'll be able to hit more fairways when you need them. That's the kind of knowledge that can lower your scores!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Tommy Armour on Playing Sloping Lies

This is a short section from Armour's book How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time, first published back in 1953. I want to call your attention to something you've probably heard many times before but didn't quite understand.
On a downhill lie through the fairway, the first thing to know is that you'll probably slice the shot, so aim the shot well to the left.
Take a slightly open stance and play the ball a bit farther back from the line off the left heel than you would play a shot from a level stance. Have your weight slightly stronger on the left foot.
As you are going to slice, you'd better take a club one or two numbers stronger than you'd play for the same distance from a level lie.
Play an uphill lie from a closed stance and allow for a slight hook by aiming to the right of the pin. Use the same club you'd use on a level fairway. Have the ball only a little bit back of the line out from your left heel and in address and all the way through have the accent of your weight on your left foot.
When you have a sidehill lie, and the ball is lower than your feet, follow the same technique as outlined on the previous page for a downhill shot. Conversely, on a sidehill lie where the ball is higher than your feet, use the same method of playing the shot that you would use on an uphill lie.
First let's sum up what he says.

On a downhill lie OR a sidehill lie where the ball is lower than your feet:
  • aim for a noticeable slice
  • slightly open stance
  • ball a bit farther back in your stance than normal
  • weight slightly on lead foot
  • use a stronger club than you would for a level lie (for example, for a normal 7-iron shot use a 6- or 5-iron)
On a downhill lie OR a sidehill lie where the ball is higher than your feet:
  • aim for a slight hook
  • slightly closed stance
  • ball about the same position in your stance as normal
  • weight slightly on lead foot
  • use the same club as for a level lie
Now here's what I want to point out. You'll notice that Armour tells you to open your stance slightly and play for a noticeable slice OR close your stance slightly and play for a slight hook. That sounds like you're going to play a slice or a hook, right?

But you aren't. The trick here is that you AREN'T TRYING to play a slice or hook. A normal swing is going to slice or hook off these lies without any help from you. You just need to aim for it.

So why open or close your stance? Won't that add to the slice or hook?

No, it won't. You open or close your stance slightly to make sure you stay steady enough to make a normal turn through the ball -- with a downhill lie you need to open your stance a bit to keep your balance (there's more weight on your lead foot automatically because of gravity), while on an uphill lie you need to close your stance slightly to avoid falling backward (again, because of gravity) and pulling the shot.

So don't try to slice or hook these sloping lie shots. Just make sure you aim for the curves, because they WILL curve without any help from you.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Jeff Ritter Teaches You to Channel Seve (Video)

Seve did it with a 3-iron. Jeff uses a 7-iron to make Seve's pitching technique a bit easier to learn. This is a good start on learning to "create" with any club in your bag!



I've read enough about Seve's technique to know this is how he did it, but it's definitely easier with a 7-iron.
  • Widen your stance.
  • Squat down a bit.
  • Lower your hands.
  • Lay the face open (to use the bounce).
  • Use your hands to "throw" the clubhead.
Jeff explains throwing as making the clubhead move faster than your hands, as opposed to dragging the clubhead with your hands ahead. You'll need to stay relaxed if you want to get the smooth fluid motion necessary for success.

Master this technique and you'll be able to create higher trajectory pitch shots with any iron in your bag, which will make more pin positions accessible to you. Make Seve proud!