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Friday, August 18, 2017

How Far Do Your Chips Fly?

This is a tip I found in Dave Pelz's Short Game Bible. It came from pages 214-215, in section 8.8, No Backspin. Actually, it's a couple of tips -- one Dave mentioned, and one I noticed in the accompanying drawing.

Please note that this book was published in 1999, so pitching wedge lofts may have changed a bit. Nevertheless, this may help some of you chip it closer.

Dave's tip is that if you chip the ball with it placed farther back in your stance, you increase backspin but reduce your accuracy. He set up his little putting robot Perfy and used three ball positions -- centered in his stance, one ball width back and two ball widths back.

What he found is that the ball chipped from the center of Perfy's stance flew higher and rolled straighter after it hit the ground than either of the other two ball positions. That's a useful thing to know -- if you have a choice, a chip shot with less backspin will probably have a better chance of going in than one with more backspin.

Now let me add what I noticed in the drawing, In his illustration, Dave added numbers showing the average carry and roll with each of the ball positions. The numbers are interesting:
  • In the chip from the centered ball position with a PW, the ball carried the same distance that it rolled. In other words, if you carried the ball about halfway to the hole, it would end up very close.
  • And the chip from the ball position that was two ball widths back rolled about twice as far as it carried. In other words, if you carried the ball about a third of the way to the hole, it would also finish very close.
In my opinion, it's pretty easy to mentally divide the distance to the hole in half. That makes this a very simple way to judge how far to carry your chip shot if you center the ball in your stance.

And while it's not quite as easy to estimate one-third of the distance, that two-ball-back position is a useful one if you need to put some backspin on the shot.

So there are a couple of tips that might help you get those chips closer and leave yourself shorter putts. Depending on your PW loft, it might be another club that gets the job done for you. But at least you've got a starting place to experiment.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Second Leg of the North Carolina Swing

It feels weird to write that, because we don't usually have a North Carolina swing! But after playing Quail Hollow last week, the Tour moves to Sedgefield CC in Greensboro, about 90 minutes up the road (and maybe 30 minutes east of my home).

Kevin Kisner

This is the last chance for players to make the FedExCup Playoffs, so many of the big names -- who have already done so -- aren't playing this week. Kevin Kisner is the highest ranked player in the field (9th in the Cup standings) and is playing because he likes the course and hopes to improve his position. His wife Brittany expects their 2nd child during the 3rd Playoff event, and no doubt Kevin would like the option to skip that event if necessary.

According to PGATOUR.com, the point total needed to reach the Playoffs this season is lower than usual, estimated to be between 352 and 363. That's nearly 100 points lower than usual, due to a reweighting of the points as well as four multiple winners this season. That should open up the possibilities for -- depending on how accurate the points projection is -- as many as six players to jump into the Top125.

GC coverage starts this afternoon at 2pm ET. Only 14 points separate #125 and #132 on the points list... and Sam Saunders is #127. I suspect a number of fans will be following him closely.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Welcome to the Solheim Cup

Finally! It's time for the rematch!

The 2015 US Solheim Cup

Tony Jesselli's preview is up at his website, and the official site is at this link. (You can pick Team Europe or Team USA from that page.) The event will be held in West Des Moines, Iowa and the course is nearly 6900 yards long, which is long for an LPGA or LET event.

At this point, each team has at least one questionable player.
  • For Team Europe, Suzann Pettersen is dealing with some back problems, and her status is uncertain enough that Vice Captain Catriona Matthew has been practicing.
  • And for Team USA, Lexi Thompson is dealing with a virus that caused her to cancel her presser on Tuesday.
We don't know if anyone else is dealing with sickness or injury, but losing either player could play havoc with pairings this weekend.

The coverage starts Friday on GC at 9am ET. While I'm pulling for the US team -- I am an American, after all -- I'm not so sure that either team has an advantage this time. During the last Cup, an unexpected turn of events in one match completely stole home field advantage from the Euro team. Given the length of this course, I suspect the matches could turn on something equally small, although I doubt it will be a controversy like the last one.

Of course, not knowing is half the fun, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Learning from Justin Thomas's Swing (Video)

A couple of years back, David Leadbetter did an analysis of JT's swing for Golf Digest. I'm going to suggest a drill that might help you gain some accuracy without sacrificing distance.



If you compare JT's wrist set at the :13 second mark (top of the backswing) and the :14 second mark (halfway down), you'll see that his wrists are not fully cocked at the top and are only at 90° halfway down.. and they lose that cock very quickly. This is part of the reason why he's so accurate -- at least, he's accurate for someone who swings as hard as he does!

When you eliminate the extremes of wrist cock at the change of direction, you eliminate a lot of your inaccuracy. (I'll come back to this in a moment.)

Then, if you check out JT's lead arm as he nears impact, you'll see that he keeps his upper arm close against his chest. This helps him to better square up the clubface.

What I want you to do, as you make your downswing, is try and get your upper arm close to your side when you hit the ball. Perhaps the best way to do this is to think about rolling your upper arm down, across your chest, so your lead elbow is almost against your side at impact. This not only helps you square the clubface, but it forces you to keep turning your shoulders through to your finish.

This drill -- making a full swing without a full wrist cock at the top and then hitting the ball with your lead arm and elbow close to your side -- will help you learn to square up the club at impact. As you get better at it, you can start letting your wrists cock more at the top. With a little practice you'll be able to create a lot of clubhead speed while still squaring the clubface.

In addition, this can form the basis of a go-to shot (if you don't have one). As I said earlier, this move eliminates a lot of inaccuracy. When you absolutely have to get the ball in the fairway, using this drill just might be the key.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 PGA Championship

Winner: Justin Thomas

Around the wider world of golf: Ben Silverman won the Price Cutter Charity Championship on the Web.com Tour; and Sophia Schubert won the US Women's Amateur. The final round of the ATB Financial Classic on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada has been delayed.

Justin Thomas with PGA trophy

It's possible that some of you don't know where "the Green Mile" came from. Let me clue you in, because it's particularly appropriate to today's post.

The Green Mile is a novel by Stephen King, as well as a movie starring Tom Hanks and the late Michael Clarke Duncan. It's set in the early 1930s, at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary. And in that prison, Death Row has been nicknamed "the Green Mile" because of the green linoleum leading from the cells to the electric chair. The story is about some miracles that happened on the Green Mile.

Granted, with all the rain this week, only the greens at Quail Hollow played like linoleum... but the final three holes were a walk down Death Row for a lot of dreams, especially Sunday afternoon. Players would get themselves into position... and then they walked the Green Mile. And just as the inmates at Cold Mountain would face electrocution at the end of the Mile, most of the pros faced their own brand of shock was they finished their rounds.

Except for Justin Thomas. After a miraculous birdie at the par-3 17th, he stood on the 18th tee with a three-shot lead. And he had learned enough from his loss at the US Open that he was prepared this time, avoiding the big mistakes being made by the other players to get his first major.

This season we've seen JT come of age as a player. Perhaps he's not yet as accomplished as the other "young guns" his age, but he's learning. The son (and grandson) of PGA Teaching Pros has claimed the major that probably means the most to his family. And with the support of his friends -- who were waiting to congratulate him at the 18th green -- there's no reason to believe the miracles will stop now.

There's no telling what might happen over the next couple of months. Justin might get on another roll, like he did earlier this season, and make some waves during the FedExCup and Presidents Cup. Or he might have the standard "slowdown" that often follows a first major win. But one thing's for sure...

He picks up his fourth Limerick Summary of the wraparound season. That's a miracle in and of itself!
The Green Mile’s about execution,
Where no player gets absolution
For the poor shots he hits.
While it gave the best fits,
We could all see JT’s evolution.
The photo came from this page at sun-sentinel.com.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Bobby Jones Putting Stroke (Video)

A few days ago I posted a quote from the book Bobby Jones on Golf, from an article called Importance of a Smooth Short Game. Dana left a comment about how helpful a section from my book Ruthless Putting, where I explained Jones's putting stroke, had been.

So here's a segment from the Jones video series from the 1930's, How I Play Golf, that focuses on the basics of his putting stroke.



Jones was very left-sided -- that is, he focused on how his lead hand affected the stroke -- but the stroke works the same if you control it with your trailing hand. If you want to see how it works, just try to create the same smooth hand and wrist action you see in the clip.

The big thing I'd like you all to pick up from this short segment (just a bit over 3 minutes long) is how relaxed and fluid Jones's stroke was. His stroke is so unlike most modern players! He doesn't lock his lower body in place, but he doesn't force it to move either. It's easy to understand why he was such a good putter -- being so relaxed made it easier for him to get his speed correct.

It's interesting to note how Jones "waggles" the club. He touches the ground in front of the ball, then in back of the ball, and then he strokes the ball. That particular motion doesn't work for me, but the principle is sound. Find a way to relax your hands and arms before you putt, and you should make a smoother stroke.

And remember his advice: "The whole idea, it seems to me, is to do the thing in the simplest and most natural way." As long as you don't get sloppy about it, the more natural your stroke feels, the easier it should be to repeat the results.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Bobby Jones on Enjoying the Game

A very short post today, but one that might help some of you who are thinking too much about your swing. It comes from the book Bobby Jones on Golf, from the end of an article called simply Golf as Recreation.
The best single piece of advice I could give any man starting out for a round of golf would be "take your time," not in studying the ground, and lining up the shot, but in swinging the club. Strive for smoothness, strive for rhythm; but unless you are something of an expert, save "monkeying" with your hip turn, your wrist action, and the like, until you can get on a practice tee where you can miss a shot without having to play the next one out of a bunker. [p181]
Jones isn't advising you to forget about fundamentals. Rather, he wants you to trust that you've learned them in practice and that they'll be there during the round. Practice on the range, play on the course.

Relax your hands and arms, relax your hips and legs. Forget about consciously trying to cock your wrists, or consciously turning your hips. If your shoulders don't turn as much as you think they should, that's okay -- turn as far as you feel comfortable, without forcing it. You'll probably be more stable over the ball that way as well, so you'll probably make better contact.

Look, at first you're going to think that the ball won't go anywhere. (In that case, move up one set of tees until you find out.) But you'll probably hit it straighter. And as you get more comfortable with your swing, you'll start to pick up some distance. And you'll score better. You can work on your swing at the range.

Not everyone can follow this advice. But when you're on the course, try to enjoy yourself and see what kind of score you post when you're just having fun. You might be surprised how much better you'll play.