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Saturday, November 18, 2017

2018 LPGA Q-School Will Look More Like the PGA Tour Version

This is a big deal, so I'm linking you to a Golf Digest article that goes into more detail. But I'll try to summarize it here.

Georgia Hall

Currently the LPGA Q-School has three stages -- two stages of 72-hole stroke play followed by a third stage of 90 holes of stroke play (with a 72-hole cut). The field is made up of the top 15 and ties from the Symetra Tour, any players in the Rolex Rankings Top40 plus the 80 and ties who made it through Stage 2.

Starting next year, that's history.

LPGA commish Mike Whan says the new version will still have the first two stages BUT the final stage will be replaced by what he calls the Q-Series -- two 72-hole events in different places, separated by three days. There will be no cut and the scores will be added together.

There will also be a change in the field. Here's how Whan summed it up:
“When we go to [2017 Q School] stage three in a week, you'll probably have 80 or 85 players in that field that came from stage two,” Whan said. “In 2018, I'll bet that number will be somewhere around 20 to 30, maybe 20 to 25 that will come from stage two. So what that means is you can still go Stage 1, Stage 2, Q Series, LPGA card. But that will be a much tighter funnel and harder to do. The superstars of the time will still get through that, but generally speaking most players will get to stage two, play a year on the Symetra Tour and play their way on to the LPGA.”
The article breaks the new field down this way:
  • Roughly 25 players from Stages 1 and 2 of Q-School
  • Players ranked 101-150 on the LPGA
  • Players ranked 11-30 on the Symetra Tour
  • Top 5 collegiate players in the country (via the GolfWeek rankings)
  • Players ranked in the Top100 in the Rolex Rankings but not already on the LPGA Tour (that number has not yet been determined)
In other words, this will be much more like the new PGA Tour system that funnels players through the Web.com Tour, except the LPGA will use the Symetra Tour. While I understand this decision, I do think it puts some new responsibility on the LPGA.

Simply put, the Symetra Tour doesn't pay anywhere near the prize money that the Web.com Tour does. If the LPGA wants to make the Symetra Tour a viable alternative to the current Q-School, they need to find some way to raise the weekly purses on the Symetra Tour. Otherwise this change may backfire on them, as it's a much greater burden to play a full season of tournaments with minimal purses than to ante up the cash for a three-week Q-School.

But if the LPGA can solve that problem, this should help them better prepare the rookies for life on the LPGA Tour...

Although given the high level of play we've seen from rookies over the last few seasons, I can't imagine why they think that's needed.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Claude Brousseau on Giving Up Control (Video)

GC posted this drill from instructor Claude Brousseau that teaches you to gain control of your swing by giving up control. Sound crazy? It's not. It's about learning how to trust your natural movements.



What this drill teaches you is what instructors used to call "feeling the clubhead." By using this drill, you'll learn how to feel pressure changes in the shaft at the change of direction, which is caused by the clubhead's reaction to gravity as it changes direction from backswing to downswing.

Really, it's much easier to feel than it is to explain.

By taking your trailing hand off the club's handle and placing it on top of your lead hand, those pressure changes will be focused on your lead wrist. Brousseau wants you to swing slowly because, if you aren't used to it, your first experiments with this drill might HURT if you swing fast. You don't want to injure your wrist, so take it easy to start!

Once you get used to this, however, you'll be able to speed up your swing. Why? Because this drill teaches you how to feel the rhythm of your swing. Once you start to feel it, you'll learn how to move with it and create more speed with less effort.

Btw, you may be surprised to find that this drill helps you square up the clubface better than you usually do. That's because the natural movement of your lead arm will square up the clubface if you don't impede it. That's where the often-heard advice to "control the club with your lead side" comes from. But actually, you just need to let both hands and arms work together... which is exactly what this drill teaches you.

Try it without a golf ball at first. When you feel more comfortable with the drill, try hitting some golf balls. I think you'll have fun working with this drill, and your ball striking will improve.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Exciting World of Exaggerated Teachings

The Square-to-Square Golf Swing coverGolf Digest has published an intriguing article at their website called Is This the Worst Golf Instruction Book of All Time? with the subtitle We should know—we published it. That book was called The Square-to-Square Golf Swing and it was written by Dick Aultman. It was based on concepts espoused by Jim Flick -- yes, THAT Jim Flick -- and Flick became a major proponent of the method. The article follows the history of the rise and fall of the method.

Eventually Flick disassociated himself from it because it embarrassed him so badly. Even good teachers make mistakes!

I think this article can really help you understand why golf instruction is often so complex... and why such problems aren't limited to just one method.

In fact, the problems are typically just exaggerations of standard golf teachings. The swings have been designed to eliminate specific problems that golfers face, but they create other problems that have the unintended effect of complicating the swing. Most often the method requires an unusual amount of strength to do it consistently.

About halfway through the article, Golf Digest has performed a great service by listing a number of method books that, while they are great for certain players, tend to overcomplicate the swing for most golfers. I'm going to summarize the main ones they list, but you'll want to read the article to get the whole story.
  • Hogan's Five Lessons: To quote the article, "...it has been a disaster for anyone who lacks Hogan's need for an anti-hook swing..." I've mentioned this often in this blog because it's my biggest criticism of Hogan -- if you don't already have a duck hook, you have to develop one or you'll slice the ball off the face of the earth. There's a lot of good in Hogan's book and I've done many posts focusing on those points, but I've also tried to point the exaggerations out.
  • How to Perfect Your Golf Swing: I've often mentioned Jimmy Ballard because of his focus on connection, but Ballard did overemphasize the move off the ball onto your trail foot in the backswing. Some of my instructor Carl Rabito's recent teaching has used this move as well, but the drills he used to teach me "back in the day" didn't use that move at all. It's easy to get stuck on your trail leg if you get too caught up in this move.
  • The Stack and Tilt Swing: Another book with a lot of good teaching in it, but it can create the opposite error from Ballard. Bennett and Plummer want you to keep your weight more on your lead foot during your swing, which can create a reverse pivot. Sean Foley uses a lot of these principles in his teaching. Again, this doesn't mean he's a bad teacher, but the method can cause problems for a lot of players.
  • Natural Golf: Get a Grip on Your Game: This is one of the books focusing on Moe Norman's techniques. I happen to have this one, so I can tell you that it focuses a bit too much on creating a hammer blow to hit the ball. It can substantially change your fundamentals so, while it's fun to experiment with, it can cause problems with your normal swing if you aren't careful.
  • The Golfing Machine: I believe this is the method Bobby Clampett used, and Bryson DeChambeau is a big believer in it. Golf Digest points out that this method isn't a self-teaching approach, so bear that in mind.
Again, let me repeat: In no way is this a condemnation of these various approaches to the golf swing. It's just a reminder that, as a general rule, NO METHOD IS FOR EVERYBODY. But this article can help you identify where you might have problems if a particular method isn't working for you.

And knowing what causes the problems is the first step to fixing them.

Take some time and read the article. I think you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Learning from an Old Golf Swing (Video)

The swing belongs to none other than Walter Hagen. Hagen won two US Opens, four Open Championships and five PGA Championships (it was match play back then). Hagen is third on the list of all-time major winners, topped only by Nicklaus and Woods.

Why am I posting this? Because this video shows Hagen in Europe in 1928, which means he was using hickory shafts. Although the USGA okayed steel shafts in 1924, the R&A refused to allow them until 1929. That means the swing you see in this video was made with hickory shafts.

You may have seen a lot of weird-looking hickory swings, but you won't see that with Hagen. There's a lot you can learn from this sweet move!



A few notable things you might find consider:
  • Hagen starts his backswing with a slight forward turn of his hips. That makes the start of his backswing a reaction; he isn't starting from a "frozen" position over the ball.
  • Note the full shoulder coil, almost Daly-esque in its length. There's no tension there!
  • The footwork is very simple -- the lead heel comes up off the ground and is then replanted, his hips move back freely and he turns freely toward the target. There's no sway during his backswing, no exaggerated slide forward, no leaning backward at impact. He just "steps" to turn away from the target, then "steps" to turn toward the target. Very simple and natural-looking.
  • Finally, just look at how relaxed he appears to be all the way through the swing. He's not straining for distance, although he was considered one of the longer hitters of his day. He just makes a long, rhythmic swing that moves pretty fast!
Again, Hagen is using a hickory shaft. Most players think you can't swing a soft shaft with any speed, but Hagen is a great example of how wrong they are. Watch and learn... then give it a try with your own clubs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The LPGA Season Finale

Unlike last week's Charles Schwab Cup point reshuffle on the Champions Tour, the LPGA's Race to the CME Globe point reshuffle isn't really that controversial. No player has been so dominant on the LPGA this season that they should be viewed as a clear-cut favorite.

That doesn't mean that the CME Group Tour Championship won't be a wild ride however.

CME Group Tour Championship defending champ Charley Hull and caddie

As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event over at his site. I'll simply mention that the event returns to the Tiburón Golf Club in Naples FL and that Charley Hull is the defending champion.

The storylines are many and varied this week. Again, rather than try to summarize them all, let me give you some links to LPGA.com articles:
One thing that becomes very obvious as you read these things is that the final list of this season's winners will be much different than last year's. In Gee Chun could win the Vare Trophy again, but otherwise we're definitely in for a change. The analysts can argue whether that's good for women's golf or not, but I think it makes for a more interesting finale.

The one thing that disappoints me is GC's decision to tape-delay the first three rounds of the event. Only the Sunday finish on ABC will be shown live. GC's tape-delay coverage begins Thursday at 4:30pm ET (same for Friday and Saturday). ABC's live coverage begins Sunday at 1pm ET.

Still, if this event lives up to the rest of the season, the CME Group Tour Championship looks to be a can't-miss spectacle.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 OHL Classic

Winner: Patton Kizzire

Around the wider world of golf: Shanshan Feng became World #1 with her win at the Blue Bay LPGA; Camille Chevalier won the Hero Women’s Indian Open on the LET; Branden Grace won the Nedbank Golf Challenge on the ET; Kevin Sutherland got his first Champions Tour win at the Charles Schwab Tour Championship -- which, btw, also gave him the Schwab Cup; Julian Etulain won the NEC Argentina Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Satoshi Kodaira won the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Golf Tour; and Micah Lauren Shin (from the US!) won the Resorts World Manila Masters for his first Asian Tour win. And if I've read the translations correctly, Ji Han Sol won the ADT CAPS Championship on the KLPGA and Mami Fukuda won the Itoen Ladies Golf Tournament on the JLPGA.

Patton Kizzire with OHL trophy

You would think we'd learn by now. Just because you play lights-out for the first two or three round doesn't mean you can keep it up for the rest of the week. Especially when you have to play 36 holes in one day, dodging bad weather when your game is showing a bit of rust. That's basically what happened to Rickie Fowler this weekend.

Of course, it probably wouldn't have mattered if Patton Kizzire hadn't come ready to play. It looked like the pressure was affecting him a little, but he's been learning how to deal with it for a while now.

Yeah, Patton came ready to play.

Did he do anything spectacular? Well, nothing more than Rickie did at times. Let's face it -- the young guns all have the game to burn you when they're firing on all cylinders. However, Patton did it well enough to keep Rickie at bay on the final nine. And we'll be talking about his scramble from that awkward lie beside the fairway bunker on 18 for weeks!

When you're trying to get your first Tour win, "well enough" is a huge accomplishment.

Every player has his (or her) own path to the winner's circle. No matter how good they are when they come out on Tour, that path can't be predicted by anyone. And just because Patton finally got his first win, that doesn't mean "the floodgates will open" for him.

But I wouldn't want to be the guy who bets against him. Congrats, Patton, and here's what may be the first of many Limerick Summaries. You earned it!
Rickie turned out to be a bit rusty;
He left too much work for his trusty
Old putter to do.
So Patton broke through
For his first win. His play was quite gutsy!
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Shanshan Makes History

I'll make this short.

Last week I did a post about Shanshan Feng's swing. I talked about how simple it is and how much you can learn from it.

And then over the weekend she did this at the Blue Bay LPGA in China.

Shanshan Feng with Blue Bay LPGA trophy

Do you understand? Shanshan was the first Chinese player, male or female, to win a major (the 2012 Women's PGA Championship).

She was the first Chinese player, male or female, to win an Olympic medal (the bronze in Rio).

Now she's the first Chinese player, male or female, to become #1 in the world rankings.

And she's done it with a very simple swing. She's not the longest hitter but she hits a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. She's an average putter who has good days and bad days.

But she's got three LPGA wins and 12 Top10s this season, and 22 worldwide wins in her career. She enters this week's Tour Championship in third place, which means she can take the Race to the CME Globe with a win. And she's done it all in an age of long hitters.

I'll let you figure out what you can learn from all that. I'll just congratulate Jenny Money on her latest conquest.