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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Tim Weinhart on Practicing Your Wrist Hinge (Video)

Since I've been writing about the importance of using your hands more in your swing -- and since Bob Toski recommends practicing your hand action with shorter swings -- I'm posting this Golf Channel video from instructor Tim Weinhart showing one way you can practice wrist hinging with pitch shots.



His idea about practicing your pitching motion by using an underhand throwing motion is just one of many ways you can do it, although it's a very natural approach. It will also force you to slow down your change of direction because of the weight of the club. Even in a swing that develops a lot of speed, the change of direction is usually slower than you would expect.

However, I will point out something that few instructors will ever mention, even though many of them would recommend this drill wholeheartedly. Note that when Weinhart throws that golf ball with an underhand motion, he's holding the ball with the thumb, middle and index fingers of his trail hand. As I pointed out in yesterday's post, that's where you would put the grip pressure in a classic swing.

The best short game players have always based their short games on classic swing technique. Part of the reason modern pros have to practice so much is because they use two different swings in their game, whereas a classic player like Bobby Jones only had to practice a single swing technique for every shot he played. In his foreword to the book Bobby Jones on Golf, the famous golf writer Charles Price (who wrote for Golf World, Golf Magazine AND Golf Digest during his career) wrote:
It would be the most natural assumption in the world to think that during those eight years Bobby Jones did little other than play golf. In reality, Jones played less formal golf during his championship years than virtually all of the players he beat, and he beat everybody in the world worth beating. Excepting the three seasons when he journeyed either to Scotland or England for Walker Cup matches and, while there, the British championships, he spent most of the tournament season playing inconsequential matches with his father and an assortment of cronies at East Lake, his home club in Atlanta, where his interests and activities ranged far beyond matters of golf. Often, he would go for months on end without so much as picking up a club. Instead, he studied mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, got a degree in English literature at Harvard, dabbled in real estate, and then attended law school at Emory University. Midway through his second year, he took the state bar examinations, passed them, and so quit school to practice. As a result of these off-course activities, Jones averaged no more than three months a year playing in, and going to and from, tournaments and championships. (pp ix-x)
That might be something you want to consider when practicing your short game using this underhanded throwing technique. Classic technique tends to require less practice to maintain it, so try using the classic method of gripping when you pitch and see if it helps improve your feel and consistency.

Who knows? If you get good at it, the technique might even work its way into your full swing.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

How You Squeeze the Club's Handle Matters

In yesterday's post I referred you to an article by Bob Toski on why it's easier to learn to play golf if you use your hands more. In my post I wrote the following:
Most teachers would say that Toski is teaching a classic swing and that the idea of "controlling the motion with the lead hand" is no longer correct. This shows a complete lack of understanding about the differences between a classic and a modern swing:
  • If you have a classic swing, it feels as if the TRAILING hand controls the swing, although both hands are working together.
  • If you have a modern swing, it feels as if the LEAD hand controls the swing, although both hands are working together.
Why the difference? Because of the shaft flex. The classic swing uses a very soft shaft, so the trailing hand is the pivot hand; the trailing hand relaxes a bit at the top of the swing to control the flex. But the modern swing uses stiffer shafts, so the lead hand is the pivot hand; it keeps tension on the shaft so it will be forced to flex against the trailing hand.
If you understand what I was talking about, you'll be better able to decide if a golf tip you hear is something you can actually use. So today I'm going to explain in more detail what this means.

And yes, there will be photos at the appropriate spots.

Since I mentioned that shaft flex is important to this discussion, here's a very brief history of shafts:
  • Although hickory (soft) shafts were the standard, club designers were looking for something better because hickory was inconsistent. They actually experimented with steel (stiff) shafts in the late 19th Century!
  • It wasn't the shaft flex that made hickory shafts undesirable. Rather, it was the excess torque, the twisting motion of the clubhead during the swing (that is, the face would open and close, even if you kept your hands perfectly square). Soft modern graphite shafts don't have this problem, so a classic style of swing can work very well with modern equipment.
  • Steel shafts didn't catch on everywhere until the R&A finally voted to allow steel shafts in competition in late 1929. So, for a while, both types of shaft were used in competition.
  • It took players quite a while to figure out how to best use steel shafts because they were so stiff. Sam Snead said the switchover was the hardest thing the pros ever had to do.
  • Byron Nelson is generally regarded as the one to discover that stiff shafts required more leg drive to properly load the shafts, around the mid-1930s. He used downward leg drive; it was Ben Hogan who popularized the forward leg drive often taught now.
As you may have guessed, the physical change required an equally drastic change in mindset. Although a classic swing and a modern swing look mostly the same -- bear in mind that many classic swingers also used quite a bit of leg drive -- it's the way the hands function that changes how the swing actually feels to a player.

Alright, are you ready? Here's the first photo:

The difference between where each swing applies pressure in the grip

This is taken from a photo of Rory. The first thing you should notice is that a classic swing grip looks just the same as a modern swing grip. The change is a matter of which fingers are actually holding the club.
  • THE CLASSIC SWING uses SOFT SHAFTS and puts grip pressure in the thumb and index finger of the TRAIL HAND.
  • THE MODERN SWING uses STIFF SHAFTS and puts grip pressure in the last 3 fingers of the LEAD HAND.
As you can see, although your grip remains the same -- and it doesn't matter whether you use an overlap, interlock or baseball grip -- the two swings apply pressure at opposite ends of the grip. This creates a difference in how wrist cock -- the "hinge" of the swing -- behaves in each swing. And as a result, this has a dramatic effect on how each swing feels.

Let's start with the classic swing:

How the wrists 'hinge' in the classic swing

Since the classic swing actually grips the swing with the thumb and forefinger of the trail hand, the cocking (or hinging) of the club happens at that end of the grip. The club is actually held by the thumb and fingers of the trail hand AND the thumb and forefinger of the lead hand. Meanwhile, the last 3 fingers of the lead hand allow the butt end of the club to move slightly upward at the top of the backswing, then they apply a bit of light downward pressure to load the shaft during the downswing. This has two effects:
  • It allows the player to prevent overflexing of the shaft, which makes consistent impact more difficult.
  • It also increases the player's ability to "feel the clubhead" because the head movement is transmitted quite clearly down the softer shaft into the 3 relaxed lead hand fingers. I can verify this from my own practice.
You might think this would make it hard to keep a firm grip on the club, but it's just the opposite. Harry Vardon described the grip as being vise-like, and I can confirm that it takes very little grip pressure to lock the club in place. The relaxed grip in the final 3 fingers does NOT result in "regripping" on the way down, simply because those fingers weren't gripping the club to begin with!

And because the club actually cocks (or hinges) at the "thumb end" of the trail hand, it feels as if the trail hand is actually controlling where the clubface is pointing at impact. In reality, both hands are controlling it but you feel the main pressure in your trail hand.

Now let's look at the modern swing:

How the wrists 'hinge' in the modern swing

Whoa! Things changed up pretty quickly there! The hinge now moves all the way to the butt end of the club, while the trailing hand creates a lever fulcrum -- felt as a slight upward push -- as the club starts down. This is a power move designed to force that stiffer shaft to load. (In comparision, the soft shaft doesn't need us to make it load. Rather, we're trying to stop it from loading too much.) As a result of this, it feels as if the lead hand is controlling where the clubface points at impact -- although, again, both hands are doing it.

To get that fulcrum action during your downswing, you don't actually push up on the shaft. That upward motion is caused by the extra leg action. Your trail hand is just trying to hold its position relative to your lead hand, because otherwise the extra downforce could hurt your lead wrist badly. As a result, it feels as if you're pushing upward.

That's enough for today, I think. Take some time to digest this before we go any further. I think you'll find it helps clear up a lot of confusion about what you're trying to do when you swing.

And it's important to understand this post before you can understand what players like Jason Day and Rory McIlroy are doing... why it takes so much practice, so much time in the gym, and why it often makes their backs hurt. Again, we'll talk about that later.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bob Toski on Why You Must Use Your Hands to Swing Well

Today I'm just recommending an instructional article because it will take some time to read but it covers some material I'll be focusing on in the near future. It's a Golf Digest article by Bob Toski about how modern science says our brains learn to swing a golf club.

Bob Toski swinging a club

Toski says modern golf has adopted teaching methods that make it too hard to learn a natural swing, and he has the science to prove it. Then he gives you some ways to practice that will help you swing better by utilizing that science. I want to quote a short section of the article -- and this is a very short section, because this is a very thorough article -- that catches some of the mindset he's teaching:
We believe in simplicity. We have a saying that describes our method in one sentence: "If the club is OK, your swing is OK!" If your hands move and function properly, your swing will be effective because the clubface mirrors the hands. This is a simple concept that's true for any problem that might arise in the swing.
When most golfers practice these days, they have no plan for how they're trying to improve. For example, control in a golf swing does not begin by making full-motion, full-speed driver swings, as we see so many golfers doing on the practice tee. At high speeds, the brain performs only what it already knows, so no change or improvement is taking place. This type of careless practice simply ingrains the problems you're having.
Remember this phrase: An ounce of touch is worth a ton of brawn. Developing control over the club should start with the simple swings on and around the greens. You must crawl before you walk and then possibly run. Beginning with small swings will help you feel the momentum of the club. Learn to associate the swing with an ease of movement and flexibility, a simple flow back and through. Start with a balanced grip, the club in your fingers and your grip pressure light. As an overall thought, control the motion with the lead hand; the brain will direct the trailing hand to support the lead hand implicitly.
Let me point out three important thoughts just from this short section:
  • If your hands move and function properly, your swing will be effective because the clubface mirrors the hands. This is why Bubba Watson is so accurate despite weird stances and awkward-looking swings. He knows where the clubface is pointed because he concentrates on getting his hands to face his target.
  • For example, control in a golf swing does not begin by making full-motion, full-speed driver swings, as we see so many golfers doing on the practice tee. At high speeds, the brain performs only what it already knows, so no change or improvement is taking place. (The emphasis is mine.) That's self-explanatory, don't you think?
  • As an overall thought, control the motion with the lead hand; the brain will direct the trailing hand to support the lead hand implicitly. This whole paragraph is loaded with solid teaching! But what I want to point out is something that is often missed in Toski's teaching.
Most teachers would say that Toski is teaching a classic swing and that the idea of "controlling the motion with the lead hand" is no longer correct. This shows a complete lack of understanding about the differences between a classic and a modern swing:
  • If you have a classic swing, it feels as if the TRAILING hand controls the swing, although both hands are working together.
  • If you have a modern swing, it feels as if the LEAD hand controls the swing, although both hands are working together.
Why the difference? Because of the shaft flex. The classic swing uses a very soft shaft, so the trailing hand is the pivot hand; the trailing hand relaxes a bit at the top of the swing to control the flex. But the modern swing uses stiffer shafts, so the lead hand is the pivot hand; it keeps tension on the shaft so it will be forced to flex against the trailing hand.

Don't worry if that seems confusing, because you don't need to understand it to use your hands the way Toski is recommending. (Almost all of you are using a modern swing. I speak from experience here. If you were using a classic swing, you'd know it!)

Like I said, I'll be writing more about this in the coming days but Toski is someone whose teaching you should at least consider listening to. He's around 90 years old now, but he used to be a professional golfer. How good was he? Well, remember how Byron Nelson won a record 18 tournaments in 1945? Toski won four of the ones he didn't win that year.

That's a guy who knows what he's talking about. Read the article.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Beef's New Arby's Commercials (Video)

The Arby's logoI guess most of you know that Andrew "Beef" Johnston recently signed a sponsorship deal with Arby's. They've already made three commercials with him, and you can find all three of them in this Golf Digest article. But I decided to post one of them here.

One of the commercials is a strange one with Beef saving a fox from hunters, and one has him putting a ball down a staircase while an older man rides up on a motorized chair. But I chose the one with his five-year-old niece in it. She's cute.



The word is that Beef ate at an Arby's a few weeks back and fell in love with the place. (Trust me, I understand. Arby's is one of my favorite places to eat.) So for my overseas readers, let me tell you just a bit about Arby's since it doesn't have any restaurants outside of the US except in Qatar and Turkey.

Arby's was started in 1964 and it's one of the largest fast food restaurants we have. They don't sell hamburgers, never have. Arby's became known right from the start for their sliced roast beef sandwiches, and over the years they have branched out with all kinds of sandwiches, subs and gyros. They sell roast beef, bacon, turkey, chicken, ham, corned beef, smoked brisket, angus steak, even fish.

But to this day they still don't sell burgers.

If you want to know how good the food is... I have a friend in Brazil who, every time he visits us, the first place he wants to go is Arby's. If you visit the US, you simply have to go to an Arby's or you have missed something special.

Anyway, about that voice at the end of the commercial, the one that sounds kind of like James Earl Jones saying "We have the beef!" -- That's not something they started after Beef signed up with them. They've been doing that for a few years now. If you remember the old "Where's the beef?" commercials that Wendy's used to do back in the 1980s... well, Wendy's and Arby's were owned by the same company for a while. This "We have the beef!" campaign started not long after Arby's was sold.

So this was a tailor-made opportunity for Beef. Arby's gets a very popular sports figure... and I bet Beef gets unlimited roast beef sandwiches.

I don't blame him. I'd have taken the deal as well. ;-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Tour Championship

Well, it's finally here -- the final event of the FedExCup Playoffs. The Top30 players tee it up at the Tour Championship at East Lake.

FedExCup trophy

Of course, the big news this time is that the nines have been reversed. Instead of finishing on the par-3 18th, which forces the players to squint into the sun, they'll finish on the par-5 9th, in hopes of creating a little extra drama at the finish.

And just who will create that extra drama? Let me remind you who the Top5 in the rankings are, the guys who "control their own destiny" and will win both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup if they win this week:
  1. Dustin Johnson
  2. Patrick Reed
  3. Adam Scott
  4. Jason Day
  5. Paul Casey
Perhaps a little different line-up than we expected a couple months back, but all are definitely playing well.

And now that you've been reminded who the "controllers" are, here are my "5 to Watch" that I look to make things interesting:
  • It's impossible to leave Dustin Johnson off of my list. It's not just that he's playing the best golf I can remember, but he has finished in fifth place here twice in the last three years. (Remember, he took that 6-month break at the end of 2014 and didn't play.) East Lake sets up well for him and he's playing better than ever -- hard to bet against him.
  • Paul Casey hadn't been to the Tour Championship in a while until last year... and he made it count with a T5 of his own. Now he's coming off a great comeback year and two solo runner-up finishes in the last two Playoff events. Yeah, I like his chances.
  • Ryan Moore got bitten by Crooked Stick at the BMW. In fact, it's been the BMW that kept him out of the Tour Championship for a number of years now. But he's played much better this season, including a win at the John Deere.. And with a week off to compose himself and a potential Ryder Cup pick on the line, I think he'll step up and finish this season off right.
  • Matt Kuchar has the Olympic bronze medal and a T4 at Crooked Stick. Simply put, he's due.
  • And as my flier, I'm taking Roberto Castro. I know, he's only #21 so his chances to win the whole things are long. Castro hasn't been to the Playoffs, let alone the Tour Championship, since 2013. But he was T9 that year. I think he'll be running on adrenaline this week, and that makes him a threat. He can still win the Tour Championship, you know.
I left off a number of players I would have normally considered, but I think the schedule this year has taken its toll. For example, Rory's won a Playoff event but been otherwise inconsistent. Jason's back concerns me. And Jordan may be the defending champ but he seems a bit off his game to me -- not that he's playing badly, but I'd feel better if he wasn't so erratic lately.

I'm not saying that they won't contend and even win. Any of the Top30 could put up the numbers this week. I'm just saying that I'm not confident enough to pick them this time around.

And don't forget about that Ryder Cup pick, just dangling out there, waiting to be claimed by somebody. If that counts for anything, watch out for Daniel Berger and Bubba Watson.

But me, I'm going with Paul Casey to finish just one spot better this week and take it all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Should Tiger Be Love's Last Pick?

Since last week when Matt Kuchar suggested that Tiger "was rumored" to be a possible last pick for the US Ryder Cup team -- I believe the exact quote was "That would be legend. Dary. Legendary." -- the idea has been a subject of debate in the media. Was Kuchar joking or could this be a real consideration for Davis Love?

I've been thinking about it... and I'm not so sure it's not being considered.

Before you laugh me off, hear me out.

Tiger and Davis

You've probably heard the arguments that Tiger would draw eyes to the Ryder Cup -- especially the eyes of those sports fans who rarely or never watch golf, and potentially even the curious viewers who rarely if ever watch any sport. And Tiger is supposedly aiming to return at the Safeway Open, which is only two weeks after the Ryder Cup, so some have suggested that two weeks earlier is no big deal.

Charlie Rymer pointed out that Tiger need only play one match at the Ryder Cup, that being the singles. He also suggested that Tiger could be paired with Dustin Johnson, who probably doesn't need a partner to beat most two-man teams that the Euros could field. This would give Tiger a chance to "hide" somewhat if his game wasn't as good as he hoped.

I think some of these arguments have some value. Let me explain.

Charlie's point that Tiger only needs to play one match -- and that a good partner could cover some less-than-stellar play -- does point out something important here. If Tiger comes back as planned at the Safeway Open, he'll be hoping to play four straight 18-hole rounds. But the Ryder Cup would allow for some flexibility, and Davis Love might well like these options.

Nothing says Tiger has to play five matches. He could play just the singles match, or he could add one or two other matches, one per day. Bear in mind that most matches don't go a full 18 holes. Plus four-balls would be the least demanding on his game and, with a good partner, he could hide a bit if necessary. So Tiger could play the first day, decide whether to play the second day or not based on how his back felt, then play the final round singles.

That's a maximum of three rounds, probably less than 54 holes total. It would give him a chance to ease his back into the daily grind of competitive golf, and also give him a chance to ease his mind back into the mental grind. If Tiger feels he'll be ready to play in two weeks, it would be a great way for him to come back and a real treat for the fans. And it would probably be a major emotional lift for the team, all of whom want to see Tiger back in action.

Please understand: I'm NOT saying that Tiger SHOULD be the final US pick. All I'm saying is that the idea is not as silly as it initially sounds, and that it actually offers some attractive benefits to both the US team and to the Ryder Cup as a whole.

Do I think it will happen? In a word, no. Davis Love has too many good options to choose from and, no matter who he chooses, he'll still have Tiger right there in the team room. If Tiger's focused on being a vice captain and not on playing, EVERYONE can benefit from his strategic and analytical abilities. To my mind, the team benefits more this time from his availability as a mentor than as a player.

But stranger things have happened, folks. A Tiger pick could really change the whole dynamic of the Ryder Cup for everybody, especially since it's being held here in America.

I won't be surprised at anything that happens this time around.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Evian Championship

Winner: In Gee Chun

Around the wider world of golf: Paul Broadhurst won the PGA TOUR Champions' Nature Valley First Tee Open on the Champions Tour (Michael Allen and Patrick Fernandez won the team title); Francesco Molinari won the Italian Open (his second!) on the ET; Michael Thompson won the Albertsons Boise Open at the Web.com Tour Finals (and yes, Andrew "Beef" Johnston won enough money to secure his Tour card); Brendan Jones won the ANA Open Golf Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour; Paul Barjon won the Freedom 55 Financial Championship on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Nate Lashley won the Copa Diners Club International on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Charlie Saxon won the Ping An Bank Open on the PGA TOUR China; and Christine Song won the Garden City Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour.

In Gee Chun with the Evian trophy

Lydia Ko won the Rolex Annika Major Trophy... but she didn't even sniff the lead at the Evian Championship. Neither did Brooke Henderson, Ariya Jutanugarn or Brittany Lang, the other major winners this season.

In fact, if it hadn't been for all the damp weather, most of the field wouldn't have had any sniffs at all.

In Gee Chun won this event on Saturday. Nobody else got close to her new 54-hole record of -19 (Annika held that record and In Gee smashed it by FIVE STROKES). In fact, nobody got close to her on much of anything. She even beat the men's major scoring record by a stroke. If you're interested in all the records she either tied or broke this past week, just check out his summary article from LPGA.com.

Only So Yeon Ryu really made a run at her, but her 66 came up four shots short. (Yeah, I know that Sung Hyun Park tied Ryu for second, but if Ryu could rack up a -5 in those conditions, it seems that a long hitter like Park should have been able to muster something better than a 69.) When all was said and done, no one else was within six shots of Chun.

When she checks the Rolex Rankings this morning, In Gee Chun will find herself at #3, the highest-ranked Korean player on the planet. But not even that can compare with getting a Limerick Summary. After all, it's not every week that I get to do one for an LPGA winner!
No, the rain couldn't stop In Gee Chun—
In just three rounds, the battle was won!
Even as the rain fell,
Record scores did as well
Till the best in the game were just stunned!
The photo came from this page at LPGA.com.