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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Countering a Push-Slice

Last week I did a post about Patrick Reed's driver swings. One of those swings was something Patrick calls a "slinger hook," which is just another name for a push-hook. That's when the ball starts on an in-to-out path -- that is, the clubhead swings out across your aimline -- and the ball then curves back across the aimline. It's a like a giant half-circle that swings around your body. If you aim correctly, the ball curves back toward the target.

In the comments I promised Phil I'd do a post about push-slices, those nasty shots that start out on an in-to-out path BUT continue to curve AWAY from you, rather than around you. The result is that no matter what you do, that ball ain't never gonna land near the target! For a righthander the ball ends up in the weeds on the right side of the course; for lefties, it's deep in the left rough.

The image below this paragraph shows the nine potential shot shapes you can hit if you're a rightie. Number 7 is Patrick's slinger hook, number 9 is the push-slice.

The nine shot shapes for righties

And the image below this paragraph shows the nine potential shot shapes you can hit if you're a leftie. In this case, number 3 is the slinger hook, number 1 is the push-slice.

The nine shot shapes for lefties

Now, the difference between the slinger hook which Patrick uses to great effect, and the push-slice which nobody gets any good out of, is the clubface angle.
  • In the slinger hook, the face is CLOSED relative to the path.
  • In the push-slice, the face is OPEN relative to the path.
Very simple, actually, and you would think it would be easy to fix. But that's not always the case. The cause can vary with each player.

The most obvious fix would be to take a stronger grip at address, and if you're doing everything else correctly during your swing, that would likely fix it. Too many players have other problems to say that for sure, though.
  • Believe it or not, something as simple as standing too far from the ball can cause you to push-slice. It creates an overly dramatic in-to-out swing that delays your clubface from closing on time.
  • Likewise, you can have your ball teed up too far back in your stance. You won't have enough time to square the clubface before it reaches the ball.
  • Some players slide their hips too far forward (toward the target) during their downswing, causing them to lean backwards at impact. That square clubface you had at address is now open because you tilted your shoulders back and opened them. But players with overactive hands sometimes flip the club and create a HUGE slinger hook that goes deep into the opposite trees. this is sometimes called "getting stuck."
  • You have no doubt heard that good players reroute the club on the way down and flatten their swing plane. That does happen for many players. But one problem instructors sometimes overlook is that you can flatten your club plane too much -- called "laying it off" -- and open the clubface on the way down. If you make a strong hip drive on the way down, you can end up lifting your trailing elbow while your hands drop down. I know about this problem firsthand; it took me months to track it down, and during that time I hit the ball both ways -- push-slices and pull-hooks. It's a nasty problem!
  • And you can simply swing your arms out too far from your body during your downswing. Specifically, your lead arm gets farther from your body than it was at address.
Each of these has a solution, of course.
  • If you're standing too far from the ball, just stand a little closer.
  • If the ball is too far back in your stance, move it a little more forward.
  • If you slide too far forward, think "down" instead of "slide" to start your downswing. The basketball drill is a great way to work on this. I periodically remind folks of this drill. You can find the basketball drill in this post.
  • If you flatten your swing too much as you start down, the basketball drill is also good for this one. Since it eliminates some of the forward slide, it also redirects your leg drive more "into the ground."
  • And if you're swinging too much in-to-out, you can use the old "glove under lead arm" drill. There are a number of similar drills, all of them concerned with connection. Some use a glove or towel held under your lead arm during your swing. And here's a post with a video of Ben Hogan's connection drill, which teaches connection with both arms.
Those are simple ways to eliminate problems that can cause an open clubface. And if they don't cure the problem, then and only then should you consider strengthening your grip. It's too easy to twist your shoulders open when you strengthen your grip, so you don't want to make big changes there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The New LPGA Event

This week the LPGA welcomes a new event to the schedule, the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. It's been a decade or so since the Tour was in Los Angeles, and they return to Wilshire Country Club, a historic venue that has hosted the LGPA, PGA Tour and Champions Tour.

Shanshan Feng, Inbee Park and Lexi Thompson

You can catch Tony Jesselli's preview at his website. Tony notes that this is the strongest non-major field of the year thus far, even beating out the Kia Classic which has the advantage of being the week before the ANA. He also notes that the only reason this event didn't match the majors is because the top players from other tours, who usually play majors, aren't in this event.

Clearly the ladies are excited to be back in LA!

The continuing battle for #1 in the Rolex Rankings will be in the news again this week, with Shanshan Feng maintaining a very slim (.38 point) margin over Lexi Thompson and Inbee Park. One good week -- or one bad round, as Inbee experienced last week -- could put one of them well over the top of the others. That will be worth keeping an eye on!

Natalie Gulbis is making a rare appearance this week as well, after receiving a sponsor's exemption into the event.

Here's a small bit of trivia for you: HUGEL is a South Korean company that makes beauty products -- I can't help but think that's part of the reason Natalie was chosen to receive an exemption -- and their primary product is none other than botox.

And just so you know, JTBC is the LPGA's Korean TV partner and a previous sponsor of other LPGA events.

This will be another primetime event, with coverage starting Thursday night at 6:30pm ET on GC. And since the three primary challengers for #1 in the world are teeing it up, at a brand new venue for most of the players, this could be a very compelling event.

But then again, haven't all of this year's events been compelling?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Kaylin Skovron and Michael Breed's Driving Tips

Golf Digest posted a couple of articles with simple driving tips that you might find useful.

The first is from an article by instructor Kaylin Skovron called 5-Minute Clinic: How to Make Swing Adjustments for Different Shots. It has a number of different tips but the driving tip is simple.

Kaylin Skovron driving setup tip

She recommends a change to your driving setup to get more distance. As she puts it:
To get the best launch and spin with a driver, play the ball forward in your stance and hit up on it. But if you have it aligned with your front heel (above, left), and you're still hitting it too low (and often crooked), play it even farther forward so the ball is lined up off the toes of the front foot (above, right). Address it with your feet together, and then step away from the target with your trail foot. Now you're set up to launch it higher—and hopefully straighter.
It won't work for everybody; it depends on your swing mechanics. Still, it's worth trying out.

Once you get set up for more distance, you need to get a bigger swing. Michael Breed has a short article called One Driver Swing Thought for Longer and Straighter Drives... and it's a simple one. Just keep your trail arm straight for as long as possible in your backswing.

I'd better explain this one a bit.

Michael Breed halfway into takeaway

This photo looks like a pretty stiff-armed takeaway, doesn't it? It's misleading. It just LOOKS that way because Michael hasn't bent his trailing elbow. If you try it with a club, you'll find that you can stay pretty relaxed for quite a long time as you make your backswing, even though your elbow isn't bending.

"Keeping your trailing elbow straight for a long time" is one way to keep the club farther away from your head at the top of your backswing. Players like Annika say this is a primary swing thought with them.

Bear in mind that your elbow WILL bend at the top of your backswing. Michael probably can't get much farther than the photo shows without bending his elbow. But at the top, instead of a 90° angle, it'll be more like 75° or so. IT'S STILL BENT, just not as much. It bends a bit more as you start down, which helps you keep your wrist cock later into your downswing, and that gives you more distance.

Don't overdo the bend on the way down. It always feels as if your trail arm is straighter than it actually is, so if you try to feel a right angle bend you'll probably smack your shoulders with the club shaft! If you stay relaxed and just feel as if your trail arm is staying at about the same angle, you'll probably get the result you want.

And between these two tips, you may be able to pick up some extra distance without too much effort.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 RBC Heritage

Winner: Satoshi Kodaira

Around the wider world of golf: Brooke Henderson won the Lotte Championship on the LPGA; Atomu Shigenaga won the Token Homemate Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; Steve Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on the Champions Tour; Cristobal Del Solar won the 87 Abierto OSDE del Centro on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Jon Rahm won the Open de España on the ET.

Satoshi Kodaira with RBC Heritage trophy and plaid

This is why I always list the winners from the Japan Golf Tour, folks. If somehow you missed Satoshi Kodaira's play in his appearances here in the States, you would at least know his name from his six wins "over there."

And Satoshi's experience playing under the less-than-ideal conditions that overseas players often face showed when the rough weather came in Sunday. That's not a putdown of the Japanese -- or any other -- courses. But US courses often receive care that would be unrealistic elsewhere on the planet, simply because of all the money that sponsors invest here.

Still, when bad weather shows up on any course, near-perfect conditions are almost useless. After all, you can't control the wind or stop the rain... even if you're Augusta National.

Satoshi didn't expect to win when the day started. He was six shots off the lead, and he went out -- and finished his round -- an hour before the leaders. That hour may have given him a slight advantage; he shot a lower score than any other player in contention except Bryson DeChambeau, who matched Satoshi's 66. The problem was that DeChambeau was a stroke farther back.

And then Satoshi faced off against Si Woo Kim in a three-hole playoff, where Satoshi's putter didn't seem to care that he couldn't hit the ball close. He won by sinking a putt nearly four times as long as Kim's.

For American fans, the good news is that we'll get to see more of Satoshi. For Tour players, the bad news is that they'll get to see more of Satoshi.

And for Satoshi, the good news is that he gets his very first Limerick Summary. And while some may feel that's just a lot of hot air, at least it won't make his putting any harder!
An hour he waited. The weather
Came in, but he kept it together.
Kodaira hung tough
Though the putting got rough
And his pars came from outside the leather.
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Martin Hall on Getting More Distance (Video)

Hall did this video last week to help older players get more distance, but not understanding how to use your hands and arms keeps a lot of players from hitting it out there. This video is a very simple explanation of how it works.



Okay, there are two parts to this, and if you're too fixated on swinging around your body you'll never get the hang of it.
  • First, you cock your trailing elbow up and down.
  • Second, you cock your lead wrist up and down.
That's it, folks. It really doesn't get any more complicated than that. It does assume that you will get a decent shoulder turn on your backswing and in your finish, but a "decent" amount of turn doesn't have to be huge. These moves create a more upright swing plane, and that means you can get by with a little less shoulder turn than you can with a flatter swing plane.

And yes, I have more videos to help you. I've posted them in past posts, so here are the links.

The first post teaches you how that upward cocking motion creates your "top of backswing" position. It's called Using Your Hands in the Takeaway and it features K.J. Choi's instructor Steven Bann. As I said, it will help you understand how that upward cocking action creates the so-called "textbook" position at the top.

And the other post is called Jim Flick on the TWO Pendulums in Your Swing, which I also referenced in the Nick Faldo post from yesterday. That "L-to-L" drill is a great way to learn that lead wrist upcock motion that Martin Hall is talking about.

Yes, I know I recommend a lot of drills over and over, but that's because they are proven drills that teach a number of skills and they work for almost everybody. Work with them and you'll find out for yourself.

And in this case, you'll pick up some extra distance, even if you aren't particularly old. Yet.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Nick Faldo on Tempo (Video)

This short video from Nick Faldo has a number of drills to help you improve your tempo. What more do I need to say?



Note that he differentiates between a slow swing and a smooth swing. This is something that many players never understand. As Nick says, you can make swing after swing and each can be smoother than the one before... but there's a limit to how slow you can swing and still keep anything like a usable swing.

Nick suggests watching the pros, picking someone whose swing is similar to yours and then trying to mimic it. This is a good thing to do, even when you aren't swinging a club! I find that watching a player swing and then trying to feel that swing in my imagination makes me much more sensitive to the tempo of my own swing.

The first drill is to hit a number of shots with the same club -- he suggests a 6-iron -- starting with a pitching motion and then trying to make each shot just a bit longer than the last. You may remember that this was one of the competitions on the old Big Break show.

Nick also recommends counting during your swing to help your tempo. I have to say, I've never had any luck with that one -- counting ruins my ability to swing smoothly. It may be that I get too mechanical as I try to match the count. However, I find that humming a song -- NO WORDS! -- as I swing can help me swing more smoothly. Just a thought to consider if the counting doesn't work for you.

Then Nick has you hit shots with your feet together -- heels almost touching -- using the old L-to-L swing drill. (Here's a post I did with videos showing two versions of it.) This is a classic drill that instructors have recommended for years. That's because it works. ;-)

And as his last drill, Nick suggests taking five different clubs, hitting three balls with each, and trying to keep the tempo the same with each shot. (Nowadays you can tape the shots and compare them after you hit them all.)

So there you have a variety of tempo drills from a six-time major champion. It's hard to go wrong with that kind of advice!

Friday, April 13, 2018

The New Patrick Reed Mental Game

Today I'm linking you to Tim Rosaforte's GC article on how Patrick Reed prepared for the Masters last week. This is a more detailed look at the process he followed than the What Patrick Reed Did Differently This Week post I put up last week.

Patrick Reed and his brother-in-law caddie Kessler Karain

Here's something that particularly stood out to me:
These were not the typical practice sessions you see before major championships. Instead of playing the course, they walked the course, letting groups play through. Kirk estimates that Reed only hit 30 shots, but must have putted 5,000 times in the eight-hour shift on Wednesday. Reed took copious notes in his yardage book, indicating the pin placements, fall lines, wind directions and the best shot shapes for every scenario. At 7 p.m. ET, one of the club’s assistant pros came out to politely inform them that the course was closed. As Kirk remembered it, “The kid said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but I’ve got to ask you guys to leave.’”
Only 30 shots, but thousands of putts over eight hours! That's some serious prep on the greens.

The article is an in-depth interview with Reed's coach Kevin Kirk, and it's a great reminder of how tough it can be at Augusta. Reed enlisted the sports psychologist who helped the NBA's Golden State Warriors win their two recent World Championships in 2015 and 2017. And Rosaforte has details on Reed's practice sessions and such.

A fascinating read (Reed?) about how a guy that few gave a chance to win became the newest Masters champion. Great work by Tim Rosaforte.