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Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Dozen Swings, Analyzed

It's been a while since I've done an in-depth analysis of a pro's swing, primarily because it's getting much easier to find useful ones online. For example, Golf Digest has put up a series of pro swing analysis videos (it's up to 12 at the time of this writing) all done by David Leadbetter.

The 12 swings belong to:
  1. James Hahn
  2. Bill Haas
  3. Sergio Garcia
  4. Patrick Reed
  5. Justin Thomas
  6. Jordan Spieth
  7. K.J. Choi
  8. Charles Howell III
  9. Chad Campbell
  10. Carlos Ortiz
  11. Tony Finau
  12. Stewart Cink
The link at the beginning of this post takes you to the Spieth analysis but I'm embedding the one for Patrick Reed here, simply because I think Patrick's swing is more unusual.



Now these analyses aren't perfect. For example, David doesn't mention that Patrick has that weird slide with his lead foot in large part because his left ankle is stiffer than that of many players. Still, the information is extremely useful and covers a wide variety of players whose swings represent many different approaches -- for example, Justin Thomas gets a tremendous amount of distance despite being a relatively small person while Tony Finau is tall yet hits the ball farther than many other players his size. There are rookies like Ortiz and veterans like Cink. And Jordan is very young while K.J. is... well, beginning to think more about the Champions Tour.

Whether you're a Leadbetter fan or not -- and I know most of you have faves and non-faves among the better-known teachers -- he's a very knowledgeable instructor and you just might pick up something useful that you can easily incorporate into your own swing. You may even enjoy it just because you're curious about the variety among successful Tour swings, so take a few moments to check them out.

And speaking of Leadbetter... no, I haven't forgotten about his new book The A Swing. I'm nearly finished with it and will put up a book review shortly.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Blair O'Neal from the Thick Greenside Rough

Yes, it's another Sexiest Shots in Golf video from Golf Digest. This time Blair is showing you how to get the ball up and down from thick greenside rough, which is something we all find ourselves in far too often.



Look, I know you've heard this before: Play this shot like a bunker shot. And Blair tells you how to play this as if it was a bunker shot:
  • Take a high-lofted wedge.
  • Open your stance slightly.
  • Open the club face.
  • Put the ball forward in your stance.
  • Hinge your wrists early.
  • Release the club head as you hit the ball.
But you need to make sure you understand that last one. If you're used to thinking like a chipper then you're used to trying to keep your hands slightly ahead of the club head. NOT HERE! You want to hit the ground a little behind the ball and you want the club head to start passing your hands just before you hit the ball. And when you fling the club head past your hands, that gives you more club head speed.

Let me repeat that: The bounce of the wedge should hit the ground just behind the ball and the shaft of the club should be vertical when it does. That means your hands are just behind the ball as well, and the club head will whip past your hands as it contacts the ball. I can't emphasize that enough. That lets you use the full loft of the club and makes the ball climb up quickly so it will come down softer, and the speed will give you a bit more spin to help it stop even faster.

Blair doesn't mention -- although it shows in the video -- that this isn't a full backswing shot. This is a pitch shot; your hands only go waist high or a bit higher on the backswing. However, your hands go almost to a full finish. That's because you want as much speed and height on the shot as possible, so you don't want to restrict your finish in any way.

One other quick note: This tip assumes that the ball is nestled down in the rough. If the ball is suspended in the grass above the ground, you'd need to do essentially the same things without the bounce of the club hitting the ground because then you'd go right underneath the ball. But in that case you'd have more options and might be able to choose a simpler shot. Blair is showing you a worst-case approach here.

Just make sure you practice it a few times before you try it on the course.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stanford Takes the Prize

Yesterday I wondered if the finals of the NCAA Women's Golf could possibly match up to Tuesday's play.

The winning Stanford team and Baylor's star Hayley Davis

As it turned out, they did. It all came down to the last match between Stanford's star Mariah Stackhouse and Baylor's star Hayley Davis. The two went after each other, making some amazing shots on their way to extra holes. Here's the wrap-up video from GC. It includes some of the big shots, including the almost miraculous shot Davis made from the hazard on 16:



It was a rough loss for Baylor, yet this is a young team whose previous best finish was 16th. Clearly they'll have a lot to be proud of, once they get over the immediate heartbreak of the loss.

One last bit of business: The Marathon LPGA Classic (formerly known as the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic) awarded two spots in their event. One went to the winner of the stroke play portion of the event; that went to Alabama's Emma Talley. The other went to one member of the winning team; Stanford decided that would go to junior Lauren Kim.

Now the men take over at Concession Golf Club -- a practice round Thursday, four days of stroke play and then two days of match play, just like the women. We'll see how they handle this tricky track!

The photo came from this article at golfchannel.com. There's also a fuller explanation of some of the great shots the two stars hit in their epic match.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How Much Better Can the Finals Be?

I'm talking about the NCAA Women's Golf Division 1 Finals today, of course. Baylor and Stanford will face off today in match play to determine the winner.

But it's hard to believe it could be much better than the semis on Tuesday.

The Baylor Bears celebrate making the finals

Stanford finished off USC in fairly standard fashion... that is, if you consider falling way behind at the start and rallying in the final holes to win in a very decisive manner "fairly standard." Stanford has never won a national championship; their best finish is a runner-up in 2001.

Baylor drew defending champion Duke... and it all came down to the match between Duke's Lisa Maguire and Baylor's Lauren Whyte.

You need to understand: In the 4-day stroke play portion of the event that determined the eight match play teams, 84 players contended. Maguire and Whyte finished 83 and 84, respectively.

But those two players went 24 holes and played some of the most amazing recovery shots you'll see in any competition. Both women did themselves (and their schools) proud as Whyte sealed the deal for Baylor, a fairly young program whose players have never finished better than 16th in three appearances.

If Tuesday's matches were any indication, today's finals should be fantastic. GC is carrying the coverage live. Pre-game starts at 1pm ET and the official coverage begins at 3pm ET. And in case you missed the semi-finals, it looks like GC will re-air those at 9:30am ET, before the live coverage. Check it out if you missed it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Annabel Rolley on Tee Height

I know you know the standard answer for how high to tee the ball for a drive -- you want it high enough so half the ball is above the top of the driver.

But Annabel (from Golf Channel Academy) says there's a bit more to it than that. Here's her explanation of how to find the best tee height for you.



First she tells you where to hit the ball on the driver face. You may think it's the center of the face but NO! You want to hit the ball slightly above the center of the face to get the best launch angle (and therefore the most distance).

While the "half of ball above driver" is a good starting point, the attack angle of your swing can affect how high you should tee the ball. Annabel gives a complete explanation in the video so I'll just give you the basics:
  • If you tend to swing down on the ball, you want to tee the ball a bit lower to keep from going under ("skying") the ball.
  • If you tend to swing up on the ball, you want to tee the ball a bit higher to keep from going over (thinning or "skulling") the ball.
You'll need to experiment a bit on the range to find out exactly how much higher or lower you should tee the ball, but this little tip could help you make much better contact with your driver... and that means more distance!

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational

Winner: Chris Kirk

Around the wider world of golf: With what we might call an "An-slaught" of birdies, Byeong Hun An destroyed the field at the BMW PGA Championship on the ET; Colin Montgomery did an equally impressive number on the Champions Tour field as he defended his Senior PGA Championship title; Danny Balin won the Guatemala Stella Artois Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Justin Shin won the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open on the PGA TOUR China; Melissa Reid won the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open on the LET; Haruka Morita-WanyaoLu won the Symetra Classic on the Symetra Tour; and Yumiko Yoshida won the Chukyo Television Bridgestone Ladies Open on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Chris Kirk

They needed little life jackets for the golf balls at Colonial on Sunday. Tour officials said the course couldn't take any more rain. In fact, it was so wet that they declared "lift, clean and place" not just from the fairways but from the rough as well!

The result was a course without any defense... and a whole bunch of golfers ready to shoot at every single pin. At one point there were 15 players within 2 shots of the lead. But it seems that, even with soft greens, the final 3 holes at Colonial are just as hard to birdie as the legendary Horrible Horseshoe (3,4 & 5).

And in the end, parring those 3 holes wasn't good enough for pursuers Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth or Jason Bohn to make a playoff... but it was good enough for leader Chris Kirk to win outright.

There's really not a whole lot more I can add to Chris Kirk's performance. He's one of those players who isn't flashy, who doesn't stand out from the crowd and isn't a media darling BUT just lets his clubs do the talking. And those clubs talk much louder than anything I could say. I will simply say that he is solid and doesn't flinch when the pressure is on. Because of that strong mental game (and really smooth swing) he now has 4 PGA Tour wins and is one of the winningest players over the last few years.

It's also why he has another Limerick Summary to add to his collection:
Despite all the rain, greens were speedy.
The chasers got just a bit greedy
And tried to do too much.
But Chris Kirk came up clutch
And got his fourth win, yes indeedy.
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Now for the Golf Digest Golf Ball Hot List

About a week ago I did a post about Golf Magazine's Golf Ball Guide. The problem was that I couldn't find that buying guide online (and that hasn't changed).

However, Golf Digest has released their Hot List for golf balls... and it IS online. It consists of 32 slides. Balls are broken down into 3 groups -- $25 and under, $26-$35 and over $35:
  • Of course the over $35 balls come first. They start on slide 2.
  • The $26-$35 group starts on slide 10. This is the biggest group.
  • The $25 and under group starts on slide 24.
And all balls are ranked in 4 categories -- performance, innovation, feel and demand -- on a 1-to-5 star scale.

Golf Digest golf ball sales chartThere is also a link on the first slide for an article that "addresses five questions" they say might change your choices. Make sure you check out that article, which is at this link. The five questions are:
  1. Are the most expensive golf balls really that much better than the less-expensive ones?
  2. Do tour players play the same balls for sale at my golf shop?
  3. Recent start-ups sell "tour balls" with multiple layers and urethane covers that cost less than the traditional $40-plus a dozen. How?
  4. How should I determine my price point for golf balls?
  5. How do I test a ball or get fit for one?
The answers really might surprise you. For example, nearly a third of Tour players don't use a stock golf ball -- that is, you can't buy the exact ball they use at your golf shop. Their balls are tweaked for their respective swings.

But that last question about how to get fit for a ball is important. They recommend you start by hitting balls on a launch monitor -- I suspect that will help you thin down the likely options -- and then test the balls you like on the course, particularly for short game performance.

If you didn't get to check out the Golf Magazine guide because you couldn't get hold of a print copy, at least this Hot List is easily accessible.

And the photo showing that two-piece balls are still the biggest sellers came from the "five questions" article.