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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Surprise Tip to Avoid "Getting Stuck"

When you study swing mechanics as much as I do, sometimes you experience a moment of serendipity. That is, two separate things that you thought had no connection suddenly slam into each other... and a little light bulb appears over your head. That happened to me Monday.

Dustin Johnson at top of backswing

Michael Breed was on Morning Drive -- as he often is -- and was talking about DJ's change of direction at the top of his swing. Many players, Breed said, don't get a full shoulder turn like DJ. Instead, their shoulders stop and their arms just keep going, trying to make a longer swing. As a result, Breed said that their trailing elbows move too much behind them and they simply can't return them into the proper position in time to make their downswing. Their elbows literally "get stuck" behind them.

That's when my little light bulb lit up, and I decided this tip might help some of you.

In past posts I have mentioned that some players and instructors recommend pushing your trailing hand away from your head at the top of your backswing. This is supposed to help you keep more width in your swing, which should help you get more distance.

But on Monday morning I realized that, if you push your trailing hand away from your head at the top of your backswing -- that is, if you try to straighten your trailing elbow a little -- then your trailing elbow CAN'T move behind you at the top. Just try it. If you push the club away from you at the top of your backswing, your elbow HAS to move back into the proper position.

Lights suddenly went on. Voilà! No more getting stuck!

Mechanics don't get much simpler than that, folks. If you're getting stuck on your way down, just try to push your hands away from your head at the top. You'll get your trailing elbow back into position without any trouble at all. Problem solved.

I love serendipity.

The photo came from this page at

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Genesis Open

Winner: Dustin Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: A number of these tournaments are co-sponsored events, but I'm just listing the largest sponsor because some have as many as three! HaNa Jang won the ISPS HANDA Women's Australian Open on the LPGA; Brett Rumsford won the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth on the ET; Fred Couples won the Chubb Classic on the Champions Tour; Andrew Putnam won the Panama Claro Championship on the Tour; and José de Jesús “El Camarón” Rodríguez won the 70 Avianca Colombia Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Dustin Johnson with Genesis Open trophy

The Wild West -- at least, California used to be the Wild West -- was primed for a showdown between the man with the badge (Jason Day) and the upstart gunslinger (Dustin Johnson). But the man with the badge ended up with wet powder and just couldn't get a shot off.

Looks like there's a new sheriff in town, pardners.

Don't give me that sour look! You may not care for my "high noon" metaphors, but you have to admit it: The battle for the top spot in the world rankings has at least resembled the legends of the Wild West lately. And the golf world was ready, even anxious for that showdown. After all, all Jason needed was a Top3 finish but DJ had two runner-ups in the last three years.

Then the rains came. And came. And CAME some more. Bunkers flooded. Trees fell. The final day was a really long, really tiring one. Jason Day finished T64.

And Dustin Johnson finished first in the whole world.

We could be debating how long DJ will hold the top spot for weeks or months or even just days. As far as I can tell, there are only two certainties here. DJ adds yet another Limerick Summary to his growing collection... and there's a nice soft bed calling his name. I hope he wakes up long enough to read the verse:
Enthronement as World Number One
Was certain, once J. Day was done.
DJ held it together
Through wind and wet weather—
Now a warm cushy bed sounds like fun!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Some Thoughts on Cotton's Tire Drill

Yesterday I posted an old video of a lesson from Henry Cotton. The video focused on a drill that involved hitting an old tire with an iron. Cotton said it was to strengthen the hands and forearms for better ballstriking.

I have some thoughts on the drill and why you might want to try it. Here are several segments from scenes in the video, each showing a student hitting the tire. In each photo, the club is either making contact with the tire (2) or is bouncing off after contact (1, 3). These guys are really pounding those tires!

Various views of the Cotton drill

You'll notice that in the most vigorous hit (1), there is no reverse pivot. Although the student isn't shoving his hips forward, the way most modern instructors say you must (slide and turn!), he is clearly transferring his weight to his lead foot. That's not as clear in the other two photos because of the viewing angle (plus the student's stance is narrow), but there's no way the tire in the last photo is lifting off the ground if the student is moving backward.

NOTE: "Using the ground" doesn't have to mean that you shove your hips toward the target. If your legs and hips are letting you apply force toward the target, you're using the ground. Just look at how strong the first student's stance is as he pounds that tire!

One very important thing you should pay attention to -- in all three shots -- is that the upper part of the lead arm is close to the chest. This isn't something the students are trying to do; it's just the result of using the hands and arms to hit the tire solidly.

Many of you struggle with "chicken-winging" or just having your lead arm separate from your body at impact. The reason is that you aren't turning your shoulders into the shot. You can see that turn in all three photos. Again, using the hands and arms to hit the ball is creating that turn. The students aren't consciously trying to make it happen; it just does because IT HAS TO.

And in the last two photos, you can clearly see that the wrist of the lead hand hasn't flipped over. Instead, it's either flat or slightly bowed. That's also a consequence of using the hands and arms to hit the tire.

All of these things happen AUTOMATICALLY when the students actively use their hands and arms to hit the tire.

When my instructor taught me a tire drill many years ago, he didn't teach me to hit the tire hard. Rather, he used the tire as if it were an impact bag, to teach me to square up the club at impact. (It worked, by the way.) But it's clear that Cotton's tire drill will do this as well, as evidenced by the bowed wrists at impact.

As I said in yesterday's post, you need to ease into this drill or you could hurt yourself. It's a strengthening drill, so you have to give it time to work. (In the section of the video where I found the last two pictures, you can hear Cotton tell his students to start gently.) But it's pretty clear that this drill could teach you a lot of correct swing motions without you needing to obsess over mechanics. I plan to work with this drill myself, simply because I like the concepts it ingrains.

And, as I also said yesterday, it just looks like a lot of fun!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Golf Lesson with Henry Cotton (Video)

I'll come back to this post at a later time, because I discovered this video quite unexpectedly and wasn't ready to write extensively about Henry Cotton. But Cotton, who is considered one of England's three greatest golfers -- the other two being Henry Vardon and Nick Faldo -- was the man who most emphasized the use of the hands in the golf swing.

This video, which is apparently from 1986, shows one of Cotton's favorite drills for strengthening your hands and teaching you the correct way to use them at impact. I read once that Cotton could hit a driver over 175 yards with either hand. Yes, you read that correctly -- using only one hand at a time!

There is also a link below this video on its YouTube page, which I'm including here. This link takes you to a page that documents a wide variety of instruction on using the hands, dating from 1900. It includes the above video, and the number of great players quoted here is amazing.

While some of it overemphasizes forearm rotation -- remember, many of the early quotes come from the days of hickory shafts, when the club shaft itself twisted during the swing (we call that torque) -- there's still a lot of useful stuff there for modern golfers.

The one thing I'd like to add to this video is this: If you decide to try this version of the tire drill, take it easy at the beginning because it would be very easy to hurt yourself if you get too... ambitious too soon. It's meant to help strengthen your hands and forearms, so you need to start slowly.

But I have to admit, it sure looks like a lot of fun!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Jerry Kelly Makes the Leap

Well, it finally happened. Jerry Kelly has joined the Champions Tour and will make his debut this week at the Chubb Classic. And he said that he doesn't plan to jump back and forth -- this is his new home.

Jerry Kelly

This looks to be a good year for the Champions Tour, given the rookies who'll come out his year. Jose Maria Olazabal made his first appearance last week and, although he only finished T41, his -5 debut is a good start for a favorite player who has struggled with so many health problems. David Toms also played last week and posted a T23, at -10. And Steve Stricker will turn 50 next week.

According to this lengthy article at, Kelly has been planning for this move since he was 40. Check out this quote from the article:
Kelly is right where he wants to be. He said he identified the over-50 circuit as a goal of his as early as the age of 40. He would play often, make cuts, cash checks, keep his card and climb the career money list. The top 70 players on the PGA TOUR all-time career money list are eligible to play on the PGA TOUR Champions, and Kelly sits comfortably at No. 30.
Now THAT'S planning ahead! He said he realized that, with his lack of length, he wouldn't be able to keep up with the young guys forever.

Of course, that begs the question of how well he'll actually play on this tour. After years of playing a lot of tournaments to make sure he qualified for it -- but only winning three times -- can he really compete with these guys? Again, here's a quote from the article:
Kelly is hardly a bomber off the tee, but he is extremely accurate with his driver. In his final full season on the PGA TOUR in 2016, he ranked 174th in driving distance but third in driving accuracy. He also ranked 66th in greens in regulation but fourth in proximity to the hole. 
What does it all mean? It means he hits fairways nearly all the time, and when he hits greens, he hits it closer than the guys he’s playing against. Don’t be surprised if it’s a recipe that leads to victory in his first season.
I don't know how soon he'll win, but I'd be willing to bet he's going to enjoy himself.

The Chubb Classic starts today at 11:30am ET on GC. And yes, both Jose Maria and David Toms are teeing it up too. It's a good week to watch your favorites!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Bernhard Langer Putts without Anchoring (Video)

When I saw this GC clip on Wednesday morning from Bernhard Langer, detailing how he putts without anchoring that long putter, I knew I had to post the video as soon as it was available.

The key is his posture. By making sure his spine is straight and pulling his shoulder blades back to create a very erect posture -- perhaps even a bit more erect than you would normally want to stand -- he's able to stabilize his upper body and make a turn that keeps the putter on line.

This is a case where Bernhard's demonstration will tell you more than all the words I could write. For those of you who really want to keep using a long putter, this video should be all you need to get the technique down and maintain it.

Leave it to Bernhard Langer to figure this out. I wonder if Scott McCarron is using the same technique with his long putter?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Michelle Wie Finally Gets to the Claw

Well, now you have something to watch for at the Women's Australian Open this week. It appears that Michelle Wie has finally gone to the claw.

Golf Digest has a short article about it, including Wie's responses to questions about the change. The gist of it all is that the tabletop method is out -- at least for now -- and the claw is in. But as we all know, Michelle is an inveterate experimenter. I wonder how long this change will last?

BTW, the first round of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open is listed to start at midnight ET tonight and run until 6am ET tomorrow morning, then there's a highlight show (at least that's what it appears to be) at noon ET tomorrow.