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Saturday, December 31, 2016

How Bobby Jones Hit a Controlled Draw Off the Tee

Consider this the companion post to yesterday's post about how Jones hit a controlled fade off the tee. This also comes from John Andrisani's book The Bobby Jones Way, published back in 2002.

And believe it or not -- and I know those of you who struggle with a slice will have trouble believing it -- but compared to the fade, this draw is actually a simpler shot.

As you might suspect, Jones teed the ball higher when he wanted to hit a draw. That's a common modern tip for hitting long drives, since it helps you hit the ball with an upward but flatter swing. However, while most modern instructors recommend teeing the ball so half of it is above the top of the club, Andrisani says Jones teed THE ENTIRE BALL above the top of the club! I'm not sure USGA-legal tees are tall enough for that.

However, if you use your 3-wood for this tee shot -- and most pros tend to do that, since draws fly considerably lower than a straight shot so the extra loft helps -- the modern equivalent would probably be to just tee the ball as high as you can.

When Jones addressed the ball, his setup sounds like a Jack Nicklaus setup. (Not a surprise, since Nicklaus was a huge Bobby Jones fan.) However -- and this is contrary to the typical modern advice on how to aim -- Jones aimed his clubface directly at his target and then closed his stance only slightly. That means your feet, body and grip are aimed for a slight push BUT the clubface is aimed at the target.

Let me add something here that Andrisani doesn't. Yesterday I said that Jones wrote in one of his own books that he liked to play the ball about even with his lead heel. Well, Jones did that pretty much all the time, no matter what kind of shot he was playing.

So if you try this draw technique, try playing the ball forward as well. It should help you get the clubface square or even a bit closed at impact, which slicers generally struggle to do. With the ball teed so high, you shouldn't have any problem getting solid contact, even though the ball is forward in your stance.

Other than that, you're just making a normal swing.

I know the Jones technique sounds a bit strange when compared with most modern instruction. But if you've been struggling to hit a draw, this technique just might be what you're looking for.

Friday, December 30, 2016

How Bobby Jones Hit a Controlled Fade Off the Tee

This comes from John Andrisani's book The Bobby Jones Way, published way back in 2002. I think this might be a shot many of you will like, perhaps because you already struggle with slicing off the tee. This technique could help you get it down to a more controllable fade. But because equipment has changed since the book came out, I have a couple of suggestions for slight adjustments to the technique..

The Jones technique incorporates four basic adjustments:
  • Tee the ball so its top is roughly even with the top of the club.
  • Open your stance slightly (take a normal square setup, then move your lead foot back a little bit so it's farther from your target line).
  • Weaken your lead hand grip (that is, turn your hand so your lead thumb is a bit more on the target side of your grip).
  • Address the ball so it's a bit more forward in your stance. (Andrisani doesn't mention this, but Jones wrote in one of his books that he liked to play the ball about even with his lead heel.)
Let me explain why Jones did some of these things.

If you tee the ball a bit lower and put it more forward in your stance, it encourages you to shift your weight instead of falling backward at impact (that's a reverse pivot).

Opening your stance helps with weight shift as well, but it also gives you a slight out-to-in swing path that helps create that fade. (I know, many of you come over-the-top and don't want that swing path, but stick with me. We'll come back to that in a minute.)

And weakening your grip lets you relax your hand pressure and still keep the clubface a little bit open. Remember, Jones used his hands a lot -- as I've talked about recently -- and this allows you to swing more normally when you do. And you WILL, if you pay attention to the next bits.

First, equipment has changed since 2002, let alone since the 1920s. Instead of your driver, use your 3-wood for this shot. It will be easier to pick the ball off that lower tee height while still getting the ball up in the air. (If you get good with the 3-wood, feel free to try the driver. But the 3-wood is a much easier club to hit.)

Then I want you to practice this shot with the L-to-L drill from this post. The L-to-L drill teaches you to use your hands more easily as well as shift your weight more smoothly and create more clubhead speed. The combination of the drill and the 3-wood should get your downswing more on plane, and that will help cut that slice down to a much more controllable fade.

Look, Bobby Jones set some records that still stand today. Anything we can learn from him is probably worth learning!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Paula Creamer's Anti-Sway Drill

Paula Creamer posted this on her Instagram account a couple weeks back. I actually found it through this Golf Digest article, where they (with help from instructor Jason Guss) tried to figure out exactly what she was trying to learn with it.

The whole idea of standing on an unstable surface to improve your footwork and balance is nothing new, of course; you can find any number of such drills from various instructors. But you don't often hear players say that they're doing these drills to improve their shoulder coil. (Note Paula's hashtags #thatshoulderturn and #thathipturn.)

The nice thing about this version of the drill is that it's a really cheap version. Many folks have (or know someone who has) extra bits of 2x4 laying out in the garage. And if not, a 2x4 is extremely cheap at a building supply store.

So here's yet another version of the balance drill you can add to your practice arsenal.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

For Those We Lost in 2016

Monday I mentioned a few of the golf figures who died in 2016. I said then that I was only mentioning a few, like Peggy Kirk Bell (pictured below).

Golf Digest posted an article with a much fuller list of those we lost this year, so I wanted to give you all a link to it. There were so many I missed -- like Manuel de la Torre, the Spanish instructor I often mention in posts -- and I wanted to make sure that they got mentioned.

Peggy Kirk Bell

The Golf Digest list includes not only golfers (pros and amateurs) and instructors, but course designers, caddies, businessmen, writers, photographers and tournament hosts, among others.

This is a week when we look back over the past year. These folks deserve to be remembered.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mike Malaska on Controlling the Clubface

A few days back I did a post about how Jim Flick taught hand and arm action. In that post I included some videos from Mike Malaska on using the L-to-L drill to improve your swing.

Here's a video where he demonstrates how your hands control the clubface. This works well in tandem with the L-to-L drill.

My teacher Carl Rabito taught me hand control with a drill similar to the one Malaska uses at the start of this video, except we only worked on curving the ball and hitting it straight -- no trajectory control. (I was having trouble getting the ball up in the air, so I didn't need to hit it low!)

Please pay attention to what Mike says in this video. You don't control the clubface with your body and ESPECIALLY NOT WITH YOUR HIPS. That's like trying to drive your car from the back seat -- very inefficient.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Draws to a Close

Crooked Stick at sunset

One last Limerick Summary for 2016. So much happened this past year -- the Olympics; the Ryder Cup; "Mr. 58" (Stephan Jaeger); "Mr. 57" (Jim Furyk); the new DJ Rule; the deaths of Arnold Palmer, Dawn Coe-Jones, Cristie O'Connor (Sr. and Jr.), Peggy Kirk Bell, and caddie Ian MacGregor (that's not a complete list, obviously, just the best-known); and major breakthroughs by DJ and Henrik Stenson, just to name a few -- there's no way to cram it all into a single limerick.

So I decided to add a single picture. What do you think?

There's an entire page of "Photos of the Year" at this link over at I chose the photo above, of Crooked Stick at sunset, not just because it's tied to two of the big events (DJ's major and the DJ Rule) but because a sunset seems appropriate for the end of the year. (It's also a bit stormy-looking, but that's been a topic this year as well, hasn't it?)

So, with the new year only a week away -- and the SBS Tournament of Champions just a few days later -- I offer up this simple goodbye to one of the most eventful years golf has seen in quite a while.
Just a little more holiday cheer
And then golf's coming back—never fear!
Wave the old year good-bye
Then we're off to Hawaii!
Just one more week left till it's here.
As I said, the photo's from this page at

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Move Over, Mac Daddy Santa!

Everybody's seen Tiger's "Mac Daddy Santa" photo. But in case you missed it, here's Andrew "Beef" Johnston's parody, aka "Mac Beef Santa."

A photo posted by Andrew 'Beef' Johnston (@beefgolf) on

I have no words. But I wonder if he leaves Arby's roast beef sandwiches in the stockings?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Annika's Keys for Fairway Woods

While many of you can't get out and play right now (much of the US is dealing with near-arctic temperatures), that doesn't mean you can't gather tips that might help when the weather gets better. Here are the five keys Annika Sorenstam gives for hitting your fairway woods better from page 107 in her book Golf Annika's Way.
  • Start with the shaft nearly vertical at address, and position your hands under your chin to promote a wider, more circular swing arc.
  • The first 18 inches of your swing should resemble the last few inches prior to impact, with the clubhead sweeping along the ground.
  • Don't think about hitting the ball; just let it get in the way of your swing.
  • Make more of a "U"-shaped swing versus a "V"; do not take a divot.
  • From uneven lies, align your hips and shoulders parallel to the slope.
Here are a couple of extra observations from Annika's book.

When she says the shafts of your fairway woods should be nearly vertical, she means when viewed from face on, not down the line. (That's probably obvious to most of you, but I'll mention it anyway.) That also means, although she doesn't say it outright in these tips, that she positions the ball ahead of the center of her stance at address.

When she says that she positions her hands directly under her chin at address, that doesn't apply to her driver (her hands are farther from her body) or her irons (her hands are closer to her body). That's a tip specific to her fairway woods.

And all of those things -- vertical shaft, forward ball position, hands under chin at address -- are what create that sweeping motion during the takeaway and just before impact. This also influences her fourth tip. If the clubhead is sweeping along the ground, you won't take a divot.

The other two tips are pretty good advice when hitting any club in your bag, not just fairway woods.

And there's one other interesting note about Annika's book which I had never really noticed before. There's no section on hitting hybrids. The reason why is pretty clear when you read the fairway woods section -- Annika LOVED her 7-wood. She hit it about the same distance as her 3-iron and was also a strong long iron player, so she didn't really need to use a hybrid.

I love my 7-wood too. And if you try Annika's tips, you may find that your fairway woods become favorites as well.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Feherty Proves He's No Poet (Video)

In case you missed it, here's David Feherty reading the Christmas classic A Visit from Jack Nicklaus.

I hope David plans to stick with his day job. I do the bad poetry around here!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Jim Flick on the TWO Pendulums in Your Swing (Videos)

The late Jim Flick was well respected in the golf community. He was one of those teachers who seemed able to help almost anybody because he used such simple images to teach the basics.

In his book Jim Flick on Golf he gave a very simple explanation of how to use your hands and arms in a golf swing to create speed. I bet you've heard this explanation before but I'd also bet you didn't really understand it. Let's see if we can change that today. Here's how Jim put it in his book:
There are actually two pendulums at work. The first is formed by the hands and wrists cocking, uncocking, and recocking. The second is created by the forearms and upper arms swinging from the shoulder sockets.

My former colleague from Golf Digest school days Peter Kostis called them the first swing and the second swing. I think of them as two pendulums.

What permits the two pendulums to work together is the combination of the weight in club head, centrifugal force, the good old law of gravity -- and the golfer. These pendulums supply about 80 percent of the distance in your golf shot -- provided the swinging elements of your body drive the turning elements and not vice versa.

If your grip pressure is too tight, the weight at the end of the club is restricted from doing its job.

If you try consciously to turn your shoulders and shift your weight, you destroy the natural harmony of those two pendulums.

If you try to accelerate at impact and follow through, well, you know what happens there. [NOTE: This is a reference to an earlier section in the book. If you TRY to accelerate, you interfere with the natural motion and actually lose clubhead speed.]

But if your posture is good, and your grip pressure -- fingers secure, arms relaxed -- is correct, you give those two pendulums a chance to work in harmony. (p58-59)
Alright, the two pendulums are the one stretching from the clubhead to your hands, and the one from your wrists to your shoulder joints. Your wrist joins the two of them together, and act as the pivot point. When your wrists are fully cocked, the clubhead-to-hands-to-shoulder-joints stretch looks like an L shape.

No doubt you've heard of an 'L-to-L' swing. It's a common way to learn pitching technique. You swing your hands back to waist high (an L with the club shaft pointing straight up), then they straighten out as the clubhead hits the ball, and finally they form another L in the followthrough (again, with the shaft pointing straight up). Here's Mike Malaska, who worked closely with Jim, demonstrating how this works.

Please note that Mike isn't trying to drive his lower body when he does this. The club's motion pulls his upper body around, and then his upper body pulls his lower body around. As you gradually get out to a full swing you'll start to use your legs more, but it'll be a very natural leg drive -- you won't be thrashing at the ball. (Mike refers to this added drive late in the video when he mentions "using the ground.")

Let me anticipate a question here: When you do this drill at waist high, your wrists will cock as your hands slow down at waist high. When you make this move in a full swing, your wrists will cock as your hands slow down near the end of your swing. It's the change of direction that creates the wrist cock. Got it?

Okay, here's a bonus video with Malaska teaching you how to use the L-to-L drill to learn shot shaping. I bet A LOT of you will be working with this one!

Using the L-to-L drill will help your swing in so many ways, including improved balance, better footwork and weight shift, and eventually longer distance for less effort. This is a post you'll want to bookmark in your browser and come back to again and again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Shotshaping Tip from T.J. Tomasi

This post will be very short because it's just a tip. It's from T.J. Tomasi's book How to Break 90, which I've quoted from before. (Remember the post on level fives?)

This is a tip on how to hit more fairways by shaping your tee shot -- specifically, it's how to be sure you hit a fade when you need a fade and a draw when you need a draw.

When you need to hit a fade, tee the ball a bit lower. This encourages you to make more of a downward stroke on the ball, which Tomasi says will also cause you to swing a bit from out-to-in. I'm guessing it would also help to tee the ball an inch or so farther back in your stance; that might help you leave the face open a little bit.

When you need to hit a draw, tee the ball a bit higher. Not so high that you go under it, he says, but a bit higher than normal. He says this will cause you to swing a bit more in-to-out. And again, I'm guessing it would help to tee the ball a bit farther forward in your stance, to give the clubface more time to close a bit before you hit the ball.

I would also advise testing this tip on the range before you take it on the course. I've heard this advice from other instructors besides Tomasi, but not every tip works for every player. Still, if it gives you a go-to shot when you need it, it's worth trying it.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Thomas Pagel on the Teeing It Up Podcast

I'm skipping the Limerick Summary today. After all, there's been no new golf this past week (nor will there be any for the next two weeks), so three generic Limerick Summaries in a row just seems a bit ridiculous to me.

USGA's Thomas Pagel

Instead, I'm passing out information. You may remember I did a couple of posts on the new DJ Rule a couple weeks back, and in this one I mentioned Jeremy Shilling. Jeremy hosts the Teeing It Up podcast on iTunes, and he messaged me to let me know that he's going to have Thomas Pagel from the USGA on today's podcast. (That's Thomas in the photo above.) They're going to talk about the DJ Rule, among other things.

The podcast happens this morning and, as soon as Jeremy sends me the links, I'll update this post so those of you who are interested can find it quickly. I should get them sometime today.


Okay, here are the links.
If Jeremy gets me a link directly to iTunes download -- apparently there's a technical issue with it right now -- I'll add that to this list.

The podcast is about 16 minutes long.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

In Case the Hands Drill Confused You...

After posting yesterday's post with the hands drill late on Friday night, I was laying in bed and suddenly realized that some of you might be confused by something in the one-piece takeaway drill that the hands drill was piggybacked on. Hopefully, today's post will eliminate that misunderstanding and you'll get the full value from both the OPT drill AND the hands drill.

When I design a drill with a specific purpose, sometimes I forget that the players using them may not recognize the why behind it. And while players learning an OPT may have understood the why (I mentioned it briefly in the original post), those of you who just focused the hand drill may not. So here's the explanation.

The OPT drill was designed to teach weekend players the correct feel for this position, as illustrated by the photo of Paula Creamer in the OPT drill post:

Paula Creamer's one-piece takeaway

Many players have trouble getting into this position because they slide their hips away from the target. Many instructors call that a sway, and it's a bad thing. It  happens when players don't brace against their trailing leg properly. Among other things, it prevents you from creating a good shoulder coil, which hurts your distance.

In addition, some players move their shoulders away from the target also, which makes them lean backwards and contributes to problems like slicing.

And both of these problems cause a faulty weight shift, which magnifies the other problems.

In order to teach a proper OPT, I needed to teach players how to maintain correct posture as they turned away from the ball. The way I did that was to have players straighten up during the OPT drill. The reason is that we turn and coil and shift weight properly every day, because we're used to doing it when standing erect.

So I had players straighten up to make their turns and then bend over again so they were in the correct takeaway position at the point Paula is demonstrating in the photo. Then, after they were used to the correct feel, they could just make a normal takeaway.

You may be wondering why I used that drill to set up the hands drill, since most of you using the hands drill weren't worried about making a correct OPT. That's a good question!

And here's your good answer:

If you make an incorrect weight shift during your takeaway, the hands drill becomes unbelievably difficult. If you want to see what I mean, forget the turn for a minute and just try to lift the club up from your address position -- as in the Bann video in the last post -- but try to lift it while bending even lower as you do. You'll have to really exaggerate the lift just to get the clubhead off the ground!

Swaying with your hips or moving your shoulders too far sideways during your takeaway creates the same sort of problem. Doing the OPT drill will prevent that.

You've been told to make a wide takeaway to keep the clubhead low to the ground and to create width in your swing. But most of you will do that by making a faulty weight shift, then you'll lose your width at the top of your swing. Width at the top of your swing is much more important than width at the start of your swing, simply because you don't hit the ball with your backswing. If you have width at the top of your backswing, you'll create width during your downswing. Stretching your arms during your takeaway doesn't create width; coiling your shoulders properly does.

Let me repeat that: If you have width at the top of your backswing, you'll create width during your downswing. Stretching your arms during your takeaway doesn't create width; coiling your shoulders properly does.

Use the OPT drill to learn the waist-high position of a correct takeaway -- which will create a proper weight shift to your trailing side -- as demonstrated by Paula in the photo. Then practice doing the hands drill from your address position to Paula's position. That will give you the most success with the least effort.

I hope that clears up any potential confusion I may have created with yesterday's post. Golf is really pretty simple; it's when you try to explain it that it gets complicated. ;-)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Using Your Hands in the Takeaway, Part 2

In yesterday's post we looked at the theory behind adding some hand power during your takeaway. Today I'll give you a drill that will help you apply that theory.

I hope you spent some time using your hands to position the club over your trailing shoulder WITHOUT turning your shoulders, as Manuel de la Torre explained in the book quote and Steven Bann demonstrated in the video. We'll start with that, then we'll add the rotation.

If you take your address position and just raise the club until your hands are roughly waist high and the shaft is parallel to the floor, that's a very simple move to do. If you avoid excess tension in your hands and forearms, you'll probably find that your upper arms stay pretty close to your chest and your forearms move upward and outward a little.

While de la Torre says that your wrists don't move when doing this, that's not entirely true. The reason is that your wrists actually flex downward a little at address, because of the weight of the clubhead. When you lift the club, your wrists return to more of a neutral position -- which means that, if you straightened out your fingers, you'd see them move upward so they form a straight line with your forearms. That's the natural position for your wrists when your arms and hands are relaxed.

Now, if you click on the Some Useful Post Series button up under the blog header, you'll find that one of the listings is Dexter's Coming Over-the-Top and the third post in that series is labeled as the one-piece takeaway post. (I'm just going to abbreviate one-piece takeaway as OPT from here on out.) While that post has a picture of Paula Creamer after an OPT, there is no diagram showing the drill itself.

Here are copies of the drill diagrams from my Stop Coming Over-the-Top Quick Guide, one for righties and one for lefties. This drill is intended to help you learn what the correct position feels like. But you'll notice that the first thing you do is lift the club, the way you just did when you copied Steven Bann.

Right-handed diagram of one-piece takeaway drill

Left-handed diagram of one-piece takeaway drill

You should also notice that the toe of the club still points up at the waist high position in this drill. That's intentional. Believe it or not, this position has actually rotated the clubface open just a little. You don't want much clubface rotation during your swing because the natural bending of your elbows creates more rotation than you realize.

This position matches the "lifted" position you created when you imitated Bann's video. If you use the instructions from the Dexter's Coming Over-the-Top #3 post to get used to this halfway back position, AND THEN you start swinging the club back while imitating Bann's "lift" as you turn, you'll start creating a lot of motion with your hands.

Here's an important thing to note: When you add the rotation during the drill, it should still feel as if you're lifting the club straight up, toward your head. It will probably feel weird at first, but this is how your hands SHOULD feel if you're turning and lifting correctly. (Remember, your trailing elbow bends to create the necessary rotation during a full swing. It will feel as if your forearms aren't twisting at all.) Many players rotate their forearms during the takeaway, which messes up your swing plane. The technical term is that the club gets "laid off."

You may wonder how you'll know that you're doing it correctly. It's very simple, actually. When you lifted the club without turning, the club probably started to feel heavy as the shaft became more parallel to the ground. BUT when you do this OPT drill with the hand lift, if you try to stop at the position shown in the diagrams, YOU'LL PROBABLY HAVE A LITTLE TROUBLE DOING SO. Your hands will stop but the shaft may swing on up to a 10:30 or even an 11 o'clock position. That's from the extra momentum your hands are creating.

Why is this important? There are several reasons I could give, but this one should suffice for now. Many of you have trouble keeping your club on plane during your backswing. That's because your takeaway is too slow... but the trick is that you don't increase the speed by turning faster. You create the extra speed with your hands. Practicing this drill will help you learn to do that.

It will also make the club feel lighter as you reach the top of your swing, which makes it easier to change direction at the top, which helps increase your downswing speed, which can increase your distance. But that's a whole 'nother topic, which the old-time players called "feeling the clubhead."

So there you go, Dana. That's the way you learn to use your hands properly in your takeaway. If you have more questions, just leave a comment and I'll try to give you a usable answer. ;-)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Using Your Hands in the Takeaway (Video)

A couple days back Dana left a comment on an old blog post from 2010 called Manuel de la Torre on Arm Swing. In the comments I had mentioned how the old hickory players used their hands to start their backswings and that I could post a drill if the commenter was interested. As it turns out, the commenter from 2010 wasn't... but Dana is. So let's take a look at it.

This post will actually spread over a couple of posts, since I have a lot more material on my blog to refer to now, material that may make the drill I mentioned easier to understand. You need to understand the basic principle at work here (today's post) before I can teach you to use the drill properly (the next post). Okay?

The original post started with the late Manuel de la Torre, who taught a swing based in some of Ernest Jones's teachings (his book was published in 1935), who in turn adapted his method to steel shafts from the old hickory shaft techniques. So let's start with what de la Torre said about the hands in his book, Understanding the Golf Swing. Let me pull something from the old post's comments that I copied from that book, simply because you need to know what he means by "hands" and "arms" to understand what he's saying.
Earlier in the text (on page 51) he specifically defines the arm as "...that portion of the extremity from the shoulder to the elbow, the rest of it to the wrist is the forearm."
Are you clear on that? de la Torre separates your arm into arm, forearm, wrist and hand in his teaching. So when you see ARM in this quote from his book, he's talking about your arm above the elbow. And when you see HAND he means your hand separate from your wrist. Got it?

Okay. Here's the quote from his book. Bear in mind that he's writing for right-handed players, so you lefties will need to substitute "left shoulder" for "right shoulder" in the first paragraph:
To produce the backswing, the player must swing the clubhead back with the hands (both hands) toward the right shoulder so that when the backswing is completed, the club is over the shoulder. The hands must be used because a coil has to be created in order to be able to generate the desired speed. The hands must be used exclusively to swing the clubhead from the ball to the end of the backswing, where the arms take over and swing the entire club to the end of the swing.

When your hands swing the clubhead in the backswing, be sure that as soon as the clubhead starts to move, everything moves with it. Clubhead and shoulders start together, stay together, and reach the end of the backswing together. The rest of the body will respond automatically if it is relaxed.

Notice that when referring to hands and arms, the plural is used. Both hands are used in the backswing and both arms are used in the forward swing.

If a player would take the address position and lift the club vertically to place it on the shoulder, the hands would be used to make this movement. No other part of the body would be considered.

You should make no effort to cock your wrists in the backswing. When a player attempts to cock the wrists, they must be cocked in the plane that corresponds to the club being swung. This would be just another "moving part" making the golf swing difficult to produce.

The wrists are cocked by the club being swung over the shoulder. It is a natural reaction to that motion. It just happens. (p50-51)
There's more, but it gets into the downswing and such, which is more than we need for this discussion.

He's got some interesting stuff in here. Let's take it piece by piece.
  • According to him, your hands make the backswing and your upper arms make the downswing. This isn't a distinction that most instructors would make, and it's probably just how he understands the motion -- you know, the way he feels it when he does it.
  • He says the hands must be used in order to create a coil -- that is, a shoulder coil. He says the shoulders turn because the hands move the club. That might be a bit confusing, so it deserves a closer look.
Imagine for a moment that you took your address position but, instead of holding a club, you just put your hands together. If someone took hold of your hands and just pulled, they could pull your shoulders around into the coiled position you had at the top of your backswing. And since your arms would be pretty relaxed -- after all, the "puller" is doing all the work -- both of your elbows would stay pretty straight as they did it. This is the idea that de la Torre is describing; that's why he emphasizes that both hands and both arms have to work together.

Many instructors actually teach a version of this, although you probably didn't realize it. Have you heard teachers talk about trying to keep your trailing hand as far from your shoulder as you can at the top of your backswing? That's the same idea, except they're talking about pushing your hands away from you with your arms while de la Torre has your hands pulling your arms and shoulders around.

Likewise, when he says that everything moves together, this is what most instructors call "keeping the club in front of you" during your swing. But again, they're trying to push the club back while de la Torre has your hands pulling you around.

And that's where most of you will get tripped up as you try to wrap your mind around this. How can your hands pull your shoulders around? You can understand if another person grabs your hands and pulls them, but how can your hands pull you around when they're only attached to your arms? Hands don't just move on their own!

Here's the trick: During your swing, your hands are holding your club. Your club has weight and, if you start it swinging, the club's momentum can pull you around. And that's what he's describing in the last three paragraphs I quoted.

Here's a video I've posted more than once. Steven Bann is K.J. Choi's coach, and in the first minute or so of this video he demonstrates almost exactly what de la Torre is describing. Take a look, then I'll explain a bit more below the video:

Now this may just be the way I feel this movement, but I'd say the lifting motion Bann is making (and de la Torre is describing) is actually caused by bending the elbows ever so slightly. Some of you may feel it mostly at your shoulder joints, some may feel it at the wrists and some may even feel that the fingers are causing the lift. Technically, it's probably started by the fingers since the clubhead has to move first and your fingers are the closest part of your body to the clubhead.

At any rate, it's a very slight movement that starts the club moving upward, and then the club's momentum starts helping your arms move upward, so you feel as if you're just trying to move along with the club. That's what happens until the club shaft points straight up in the air.

de la Torre says you don't consciously cock the wrists. The wrists don't cock until you get to the top and the club starts to move from that vertical position and literally falls toward your shoulder. Gravity makes your wrists cock as your arms slow down. (They HAVE to slow down or you'd smack your shoulder with the shaft. That can be painful!)

You make the same sort of movement when you pick up a glass of water or just about anything, really. (Hopefully you aren't swinging it up over your shoulder and throwing water everywhere, but the motion is the same.)

Now, when Bann separates your backswing into an upward move and a rotational move, that's the key to letting your hands start your backswing. Tomorrow I'll teach you how to combine the two into a smooth backswing. Today, just get used to that upward move that Bann shows you, and then coil your shoulders so you can feel the position at the top of your backswing.

Yeah, you heard me. Practice taking your address position and lifting your club up over your trailing shoulder, then turn to the side. You've probably practiced stranger things before!

UPDATE: The next post in this series is here: Using Your Hands in the Takeaway, Part 2

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Butch Harmon's Reverse Step Through Drill

I couldn't resist posting this, simply because it shows why weekend players get so confused. Plus, if you've struggled with Gary Player's step through drill, why not step away from the target with this drill from Butch Harmon?

Butch steps backward

Essentially, Butch has you set up with a narrow stance -- roughly a foot wide -- then step back with your trailing foot as you start your backswing. The idea is that you'll naturally push toward the target as you start your downswing, hence shifting your weight to your lead foot and improving your weight shift. No more reverse pivot.

As for the Player VS Harmon drill debate, I'm not telling you that one is better than the other. It all depends on whether you need the "rocking" motion that this drill sets up or not, to get that shift to your lead foot.  My advice? If weight shifts and reverse pivots are a problem for you, try them both and use the one that gives you the desired result.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Anders Mattson on Putts Against the Fringe (Video)

Since bad weather is freezing a lot of the US, I'm searching for practice routines and such that don't require a golf course or a range. Today I've got a putting tip from GC's Anders Mattson for when the ball is against the green's fringe, and I'll tell you how to practice it indoors.

Anders has three possible ways that you can play this shot, and he recommends using the one that you feel most comfortable with.
  • Grip down on the putter handle and hit the equator of the ball with the sole of the putter. Simple enough.
  • Turn the putter so you can hit the ball with the toe of the putter. As he notes, some putters have a rounded toe that won't work. (He mentions mallet putters, but I have an old Spalding -- my fave, named Morgana -- and the toe of it is too round for this method.)
  • The old faithful "putt with the leading edge of your wedge" method, which many players use as a drill to improve their impact.
The first and last are essentially the same technique but using different clubs. If your "wedge edge" is rounded, that may be trickier than using the sole of your putter. Of course, the heavier sole of the wedge may help you get through the grass better if your stroke is a bit low.

Now, how can you practice this indoors? Use a towel to simulate the fringe. Just fold up a towel so it's roughly half the height of a golf ball or a bit less, lay it on the floor and place the ball on the floor against the edge. It's soft enough to "give" a bit if you "take too much fringe" with your swing, and you can adjust the height of the "fringe" by how many times you fold the towel.

Best of all, you can throw your "fringe" in the washer when it gets dirty. What more could you ask for?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

T.J. Tomasi on Muscle Memory

I have a copy of an (I believe) out-of-print book called The 30-Second Golf Swing, by T.J. Tomasi. It was published around 15 years ago, so it's not unusual for a book that old to be out-of-print. (Everybody's always looking for the next magic technique, right?)

To be honest, I can understand why this one went OP. The technique seems overly complicated to me, a complex procedure that you go through before, during and after each shot that will hopefully eliminate thinking about the wrong thing at the wrong time. Don't get me wrong -- the concept makes sense to me. This particular implementation just seems overthought.

However, Tomasi says something in the first chapter that I think most weekend players -- and perhaps a few pros -- need to realize:
Once you learn your swing, it's in your brain for good. Unless there is a brain injury, it's in there and you won't lose it, as in, An hour ago I had my wallet and now it's gone forever 'cause I left it on the airplane.

Studies in motor learning show that once a skill is learned it is never forgotten. Furthermore, after a year without practice, the performance level returns to 80 percent after ten days of retraining. So your swing is in there all right, just like other motor skills such as shoe tying, bike riding, running, and swimming. You cannot forget them because they're captured in neural networks. Rather than thinking in terms of forgetting how to swing, I suggest that there are circumstances that deny you full access to the motor program called your golf swing. Your "A Swing" -- the one that fires on all cylinders when your game is under control -- is temporarily unavailable. (p7)
Obviously his "30-Second Golf Swing" technique is about maintaining full access to that motor program, which is what a pre-shot routine is supposed to do. (Tomasi's routine is more than just pre-shot, of course, or it wouldn't need an entire book!)

But what I want you to remember is that your golf swing is in your brain for good. That's why, after a particularly tough stretch on the course, you can simply put those misbehaving clubs away for a week or a month and the problem miraculously fixes itself. According to Tomasi, even a year away won't wipe the imprint from your muscle memory -- you'll just need some time to get used to the feelings again.

As the weather gets worse and you have fewer chances to get out and play or even practice, this is something you need to remember. A few moments spent swinging a club in the garage or backyard every few days may be all you need to keep your swing "fresh" in your mind until better weather returns. A few moments spent mentally practicing your swing -- that is, just imagining how it feels to swing a club -- may do the same job. And once you can play again, it won't take all that long to get it back in shape.

Because your swing doesn't leave you. Lydia Ko may have spoken more truth than she realized when she said her clubs simply "got tired of her" and needed some time away during the off-season.

Don't beat yourself up this off-season, during the bad weather. Your swing isn't going anywhere.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters

Winner: Shanshan Feng

Around the wider world of golf: Sam Brazel won the UBS Hong Kong Open, cosponsored by the ET and Asian Tour; the team of Harris English & Matt Kuchar won the Franklin Templeton Shootout; the team of David Duval & step-son Nick Karavites won the PNC Father-Son Challenge; and Marcelo Rozo won a playoff at the Malinalco Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Selfie of Shanshan and trophy

The subject of this week's Limerick Summary was very easy to choose. There's only one event where I felt that real history was made, and that was at the LET's final event of the 2016 season.

Annika Sorenstam won the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters twice in her career, and she was the only lady to do so until Shanshan Feng came along. It's not often that someone manages to beat a record that Annika set, but "Jenny Money" has done so. Since 2012, here are her finishes at Dubai: FIRST, 5th, FIRST, FIRST, FIRST.

Yes, you read that correctly -- four wins in five years, three of them in a row.

This event was shortened to three rounds after the unexpected death of caddie Maximilian Zechmann, who collapsed on the course during the first round and died. Max was popular with both the male and female players, and the field was too distraught to continue that day. It was a good decision; play was clearly affected for the next couple days. Few low rounds were posted.

Until the final round, that is. Shanshan began the day at -2, five shots off the lead of Felicity Johnson. But Johnson struggled to a 75 that last round and, although other players put up good scores, only three scores in the 60s were posted. Charley Hull moved up to second place with a 65, and Hannah Burke's 69 got her a T23.

But Shanshan went absolutely nuts. She was -4 after four straight birdies on holes 2-5, added three more on 9-11, and one final birdie at 14. She finished with a bogey-free 64 to seal the deal.

This has been a breakout season for Feng. I hate that term -- it gets so overused -- but it does fit. Since her surprise bronze medal at the Rio Olympics late this summer, she's won four times on three tours... and two of those were her first-ever back-to-back wins.

Yes, 2016 was very good to Shanshan Feng. And now it gets her a Limerick Summary of her very own, to go with the shared Olympic verse she received earlier. Have a nice holiday, Shanshan!
In five years, four wins have been wrung
From the desert by hard-charging Feng!
Her relentless last round
Was enough to take down
Her third straight, when 'twas all said and done.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Lydia/Leadbetter Split

Besides the new DJ Rule, the big news this past week was Lydia Ko's split with David Leadbetter, her teacher for the last three years.

Lydia Ko and David Leadbetter

Everybody has their own ideas about why this has happened, although you could say it was just par for the course. Lydia has now officially changed caddies and instructors in the last couple of months, and word is that she's going to change equipment soon (from Callaway to PXG). This kind of thing really isn't unusual in the pro ranks -- male or female -- and it's not like she hasn't done this sort of thing before.

But Lydia hasn't played all that well since the Olympics. You can read this reprint of a recent Golf World article by Jaime Diaz that speculates on a variety of possible reasons for the split, as well as a Golf Digest post from Ryan Herrington this past week that suggests declining play may be the reason.

Among those possible reasons given are:
  • dissatisfaction with Leadbetter's 'A Swing,' which was supposed to help Lydia get longer and more accurate (she declined in both distance off the tee and GIR this past season)
  • tensions with her caddie
  • increased competition from players like Jutanugarn and Henderson
  • burnout, and
  • other possible but unnamed distractions.
Are any of them to blame? It's anybody's guess. Given that she's been experimenting with swing changes that look more like her old swing, the 'A Swing' seems a likely culprit, although she did win her first two majors while using it. It may have proved too difficult for her to stay in form over a long period of time.

My own experiments with the 'A Swing' when the book came out roughly 18 months ago convinced me that it isn't for everyone. I was unable to make the swing correctly even once, despite understanding the concepts and working some with the drills in the book. With such a busy year due to the Olympics, Lydia may have simply got tired and couldn't muster the necessary concentration to perform the swing consistently. After all, the 'A Swing' is noticeably different from her old swing.

It wouldn't take much to push me toward a possible case of temporary burnout as the primary reason, given the fact that Lydia stated after the Tour Championship that she intended to get away from golf for a while. (Diaz's article includes her famous quote: “Month off. Don’t touch my clubs. I think they are sick of me too.”) And it's probably coupled with the realization that her old swing seemed to work well even when she was tired.

Perhaps it's no more than a desire to simplify. Take a month off, clear the cobwebs out of her head. Don't touch the clubs for a month, then come back to practice with the old swing that she knows so well with new equipment. Start the 2017 season with a new caddie, a fresh voice in her ear.

But then again, maybe this isn't such a mystery at all. Lydia's birthday is April 24. She'll turn 20, no longer a teenager. Maybe, just maybe these are her first steps toward reinventing herself as an adult and she feels the off-season is the best time to do it.

Hmmm... It works for me.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The DJ Rule, Part 2

Usually when I do a post like yesterday's about the new "DJ Rule" I don't expect much feedback. I often get a comment or two but not much else.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself in a friendly Twitter conversation (it's nice to know those really do exist!) with Jeremy Shilling and Missy Jones. Among other things, Jeremy hosts the Teeing It Up podcast on iTunes and Missy is on several rule committees, including the USGA, NCAA, LPGA and AGA.

Personally I find Twitter very frustrating because it's hard to convey nuances of meaning in 140 characters. So I've decided to do a second post on this topic, just to talk about the "whys" behind my thoughts. (Actually, I guess this is my third post since I did one called I Can Fix the "Ball Moved on the Green" Rule back in August.)

Before I start, I should emphasize something Missy said, which is (and I quote) "Give it some time to be ironed out. The process and interpretations take time." This is only a local rule at this point, a part of what Thomas Pagel calls an example of the "rule modernization changes" which the USGA hopes to implement going forward.

Having said that, let me put in my own two cents' worth, in hopes of making a positive contribution to this process. I'm afraid the post turned out longer than I intended, because it always takes longer to explain WHY than HOW.


First, remember that this rule only affects balls laying on the putting green, not in the fairway or rough or hazards. My August post also suggested possible ways to simplify those rules, but they're not important to this post.

As far as it goes, I like the USGA's new "prototype rule," especially removing the penalty for accidentally moving the ball. I think that's smart. Nobody intends to cause trouble for themselves by moving the ball. If they were really trying to gain an advantage, they wouldn't call the rule on themselves!

But my contention is that the rule doesn't go far enough, because it doesn't deal with the problem that really caused the USGA and R&A to create this local rule, which goes into effect 1 January 2017. As I wrote in yesterday's post about this new rule:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the problem has been that players said they didn't cause the ball to move. Doesn't the rule -- as worded -- mean that the player has to say that he or she DID CAUSE the ball to move in order to replace the ball without penalty?
This isn't just a matter of a rule being difficult to enforce. It's about the PERCEPTIONS of the game that the rule causes, as well as the PRACTICALITIES of the rule's assumptions. Those are what I want to talk about today, because I think they are being ignored when they're actually at the root of the problem.


Jeremy quoted Mike Davis as saying that the USGA had been put in the awkward position of judging DJ's intent, which it didn't want to do. I agree with him.

But the new rule wouldn't have changed what happened. Here's a short version of what would have happened with the new rule in place:
  • OFFICIAL: Did you cause the ball to move?
  • DJ: No, I didn't.
  • OFFICIAL: Then we have to determine if something else could have caused it to move...
Wait, isn't that basically what happened anyway? If the player insists they didn't cause the ball to move, the new rule has no effect on the procedure!


Presumably this new 'rules simplification initiative' is, in part, about making the game more attractive to new golfers. But what did TV viewers considering the game see?

The player (in a sport that prides itself on self-policing) called attention to a ball movement that no one could see without severe enhancement of HD footage. If DJ had said nothing, it's unlikely anyone would have noticed, but he followed protocol and told his playing partner. The official came up. The player said he didn't move the ball. The official at the hole agreed.

Then a four-person rules committee halfway across the grounds, that wasn't personally at the spot of the supposed infraction, started studying the video footage and they said, as reported by,
"As we looked at the video we had concerns," Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of Rules and Open Championships, said on-air during the Fox Sports broadcast.
They then overruled DJ AND THE ON-SITE OFFICIAL and levied a one-stroke penalty.

What did TV viewers learn from this?
  • The rules are so complicated that the player can't even know if he breaks them without outside help. Viewers unfamiliar with the game won't know that the player needs a ruling to know whether he plays the ball as it lies or moves it back... and that making the wrong choice is a penalty.
  • The rules are so complicated that even the on-site official can't be sure he's making a correct ruling... so officials don't enforce rules, they merely offer opinions that may or may not be correct.
  • The rules are so complicated that a rules committee, the members of which aren't even at the scene of the ruling, is required in order to make decisions... and their decisions overrule the people with actual firsthand involvement.
  • Perhaps most damning of all, golfers claim that they are self-policing... but the ruling body doesn't accept their explanation of what happened. "We had concerns" in the quote above basically means "we didn't believe that what he said was what actually happened." You can argue that saying "we believe he lied" is NOT what the ruling body meant (and I'd agree that it doesn't have to mean that), but it IS how the majority of the viewing public probably understood it.
Tell me.. if you're considering taking up a game and found that you were expected to call penalties on yourself BUT that your version of events (or even those of an on-site official) weren't sufficient for the rules committee, would you want to take up the game? I don't think so.

But it's even worse when you consider the practicalities involved.


The Rules of Golf exist to provide a level playing field for all competitors. Players call penalties on themselves for the same reason -- they don't want to gain an unfair advantage over the field.

BUT WHAT CONSTITUTES AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE? To me, this is where the proposed rule falls far short of its goal. Let's go back to DJ's ruling.

The fifth hole at Oakmont Country Club is a par-4 that played roughly 382 yards, according to this page. DJ's ruling concerned a ball that moved  -- as do the vast majority of rulings this rule is intended to address -- AT MOST one-quarter of an inch. The original putt was, what, maybe two feet?

Take a yardstick and lay it down on the floor. Along one edge place one golf ball 24 inches from the end, on the other side place another golf ball 23.75 inches from the end. Can you tell me that you truly believe that quarter-inch had ANY effect on the makeability of that putt?

Let me rephrase that. Can you tell me it mattered AND KEEP A STRAIGHT FACE WHILE YOU DO?

For the vast majority of players this proposed rule would affect, a moving ball has moved "a dimple" or "an eighth of an inch." A MOVEMENT THAT SMALL HAS NO MEASURABLE EFFECT ON THE GAME. And yet we'll waste 10-20 minutes determining what caused the ball to move and whether it should be replaced or not.

Perhaps such things somehow make very traditionally-minded golfers and rules officials feel that "the integrity of the game is being preserved" in some way, but what do you think potential golfers watching this unfold on TV think?

I suspect the word insanity is probably involved.

The problem is that we haven't distinguished between meaningful rules and meaningless rules. We want to argue "it's the principle of the thing" when, in fact, the problem is an obsession with perfection where perfection can't possibly exist. As Bob Rotella said, "Golf is NOT a game of perfect," so we should accept that and make our rules accordingly. That's the only way we're going to successfully simplify them.


To make a useful rule that can be easily and consistently applied in a fair manner, we need to examine our assumptions about that rule. I actually have two suggestions and, while I believe the second one is the better one, I doubt that any of the rulemakers will seriously consider it.

Missy noted in one of her tweets that proximity, time and action have been the factors by which Rule 18-2 has always been interpreted. But perhaps, given the new local rule -- which eliminates the penalty -- we should reassess which of those factors still matter. Without the penalty, these factors now only determine whether the ball is replaced or not.

I question how important any of them are now, now that there's no penalty.

My first suggestion, from the post I did back in August, is simply to set a threshold for proximity. I suggested that, if you moved your putter within one ball width of your ball before it moved, you are deemed to have moved it. If you didn't, then you are deemed NOT to have moved it.

This is a simple solution that could be easily verified on video, if need be. And players would know beforehand -- "If I sole my putter behind the ball and then it moves, I moved it. Just replace the ball." After all, since the new rule removes the penalty, the only question now becomes whether players replace their ball after movement or not.

That's simple. It's easy to determine, easy to enforce. Forget time and action and anything else -- if you placed or moved your putter within one ball width of it, you moved the ball. Players know immediately whether to replace the ball or leave it where it came to rest. And since every player knows the distance between putter and ball that determines it, it's fair to everybody. We spend ten seconds instead of ten minutes on this, and we get on with the game.

But back then I was trying to make the penalty easy to assess. Now, since the USGA and the R&A have removed the penalty, I believe there's an even simpler solution.

My second -- and preferred -- solution is even simpler: If your ball moves on the green after you've marked it, for whatever reason, simply replace the ball and get on with the game. Look, there's no penalty either way, right? And if you were able to mark the ball in the first place, then there's a solid place for the ball to sit, right? Then replace the ball and replay it from that spot, the way you originally planned. That's fair to everybody.

And if conditions have changed and the ball will no longer stay put, we have other rules that regulate that, correct? Rules like "place the ball on the nearest spot where it WILL stay" and "suspend play until the course is playable again." If those circumstances come up, we're already prepared.

But in my opinion, since the penalty has been removed, there is simply no longer any need for complicated rules regulating unintended ball movement on the green. One or two unambiguous sentences can do the job from now on.

And that's my two cents.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Does the DJ Rule Get It Right?

A lot of interesting things happened Thursday, like Lydia Ko splitting with David Leadbetter, Lexi playing at the Shootout, and Bryson DeChambeau's new "sidesaddle" putting technique. But I guess we should stick with the big news of the day:
Yeah, they may call it "a local rule modifying Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1" but we all know what it is. It's an attempt to avoid any more debacles like the one at Oakmont. But will this rule actually do that?

I'm not so sure. Let me explain.

For those of you who missed it, here's the short version of the new USGA and R&A rule:
“Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 are modified as follows:

When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment.

The moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.

This Local Rule applies only when the player’s ball or ball-marker lies on the putting green and any movement is accidental.

Note: If it is determined that a player’s ball on the putting green was moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity, the ball must be played as it lies from its new location. A ball-marker moved in such circumstances is replaced.”
You can read the full text here. The reason it's only a local rule is because they're making this change outside of the official rule update cycle, so they can't make it a "full" rule yet. GC posted the following infographic about the rule on their website.

DJ Rule infographic

It sounds great, doesn't it? If a ball on the putting green gets moved accidentally, it's replaced with no penalty.

So why am I still concerned?

No one has really paid attention to the wording of this rule yet, have they? Reread the short version of the rule that I posted above, and pay special attention to my emphasis:
When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved BY the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the problem has been that players said they didn't cause the ball to move. Doesn't the rule -- as worded -- mean that the player has to say that he or she DID CAUSE the ball to move in order to replace the ball without penalty?

Because if "wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity" caused the ball to move, it must be played from its new position. If the ball is replaced under those conditions, Rule 20-7 levies a 2-stroke penalty on the player.

So the rule -- as worded -- requires either:
  • the player must say THEY CAUSED the ball to move in order to replace it without penalty OR
  • we STILL have to determine whether the player moved the ball or not in order to avoid the penalty for moving a ball that's in play.
This rule -- as worded -- only helps the player who says, "Yes, I caused the ball to move." So unless players suddenly want to start taking responsibility for ball movement, it doesn't sound to me as if this will solve the problem.

That is, unless the USGA and the R&A felt the real problem was that the players weren't being honest about causing the ball to move in the first place. And that's a whole different kettle of worms, isn't it?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Don't Forget Lexi at the Shootout

Today is just a reminder that we've got some history going on today. No woman has played in the Franklin Templeton Shootout since Annika played with Fred Couples back in 2006.

Today Lexi Thompson becomes only the second woman to do so.

Greg Norman and Lexi Thompson

Lexi tees off with Bryson DeChambeau, and the two will be the youngest team in the event. Also, while I'm unsure whether Annika played from the men's tees, Lexi will. I'm looking forward to seeing how she does, since that will make it a level playing field.

I'm betting she'll do pretty well, given that she grew up competing with her brothers.

According to GC's TV schedule, there will be a Pre-Game Show at 1:30pm ET with the official coverage beginning at 2pm ET. It should be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Long Drivers May Soon Be "Getting the Shaft"

Please forgive the pun but I couldn't resist. Mike Stachura over at Golf Digest just did a post concerning a potential new limit on shaft length.

Brooke Henderson and her 48-inch driver

Here's the deal: The USGA and the R&A are considering a new limit on the legal length of golf club shafts (not putters), capping the allowable length at 46.5" instead of the current 48". Apparently they informed the manufacturers a couple years back that they were going to study the possibility, and contacted them again less than two months ago that they (the ruling bodies) were going to propose the shorter length.

You can read the whole story at this Golf Digest link. There's more to it than just "we're thinking about lowering the limit" but it would affect a few golfers like Brooke Henderson, who currrently uses a 48" driver. Brooke grips down on the handle, so the effective length of her driver is probably about the standard length. I suppose she could get the same feel with a standard length shaft that's been counterweighted. Still, any change is still an adjustment -- assuming that this rule change actually goes through.

I find this very interesting because Stachura believes it's an attempt to eliminate one possible way for golfers to buy extra distance, even though this option has yet to be used by most golfers. I don't have a problem with that, as I think we put too much emphasis on distance and I also believe that the extra shaft length is generally detrimental to a player's game anyway. (Again, most players don't grip down the way Brooke does.)

But I do wonder how it might affect the yearly long drivers competition, as they generally try to use USGA-legal equipment.

So this is another potential rule change that bears watching. For most players, it's going to be a non-issue, even if they're professionals. (Brooke Henderson is an exception, of course.) But it would be nice if the ruling bodies moved as quickly to de-complicate The Rules of Golf as they do to regulate equipment that most players don't even use.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

(Un)Realistic Expectations

Today I thought I'd post my impressions of Tiger's first event back after all the surgeries. I'll try not to go off on a rant, but I do want to mention a problem I see when it comes to assessing Tiger's progress.

Golfweek has a great illustration of this in an article they posted just hours before I wrote this. (The photo came from this article as well.) Apparently the oddsmakers in Las Vegas now have Tiger at 20-1 odds to win the 2017 Masters... and Henrik Stenson at only 25-1.

Tiger at the Hero World Challenge

Yes, Vegas says Tiger is a better bet to win the Masters than Stenson. It makes no sense, although it's possible Vegas is just trying to make Tiger unappealing as a longshot bet, in case he should make a lot of improvement by April. You wouldn't want gamblers betting on Tiger at, say, 40-1 and then have him start winning a lot in March.

But that's the point. No one would realistically expect Tiger to be a favorite in April for any reason other than "he's Tiger Woods."

GC admitted to the same bias early in Thursday's broadcast. Patrick Reed had hit just as many bad chips as Tiger, but nobody was "worried" about Patrick's chipping simply because he isn't Tiger. And while the players who have been playing with Tiger made it clear that they thought Tiger's performance was nothing short of amazing, Brandel Chamblee & Company were acting like Tiger was playing horrible golf.

Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh with Brandel because he's been (in my opinion) overly critical of Tiger in the past. But let's just say he seemed less excited about Tiger's performance than the players actually on the course were. For example, given the broadcasts I saw, Tiger's short game was at least as good as the other players at Albany and much better than it was at the 2015 Wyndham. Brandel seemed unwilling to concede even that much.

But I digress. My point is that Tiger is no less human than the rest of us just because he's Tiger Woods. No one believed quarterback Payton Manning would play better than Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers when he came back from neck surgery just because he was Payton Manning. In fact, his own team was unwilling to even give him a chance to prove himself. Payton did in fact lead a different team to a Super Bowl win... but it was three years later.

My own belief is that Tiger played extremely well for a man who, 12 months ago, had trouble walking and who questioned if he would even be able to play again. Let me list the positives I saw.

First off, he finished 72 holes and posted a decent score for someone who hadn't been in competition for 16 months. (I would also say he hadn't had a healthy back for at least 2.5 years.) He clearly had problems with being out of shape both physically and mentally, but he left the course each day walking normally, not fighting back pain. Those are major accomplishments and, despite the critics' continued quoting of Tiger's "I always play to win" comments, they were clearly in line with Tiger's own expectations as well.

Note to critics: "Playing to win" simply means you play your best each day, to try and give yourself your best chance to win. Tiger made it clear that he gave it his best shot each round, but understood from the start that his current best was unlikely to win the event. Remember in the pre-tournament presser when he said he was playing to win but that Bubba's 2015 score "would be a tall order"?

But again, I digress. Back to the positives...

Tiger's short game and putting were much better this week than they were when we last saw him. They still need some work, sure, but they looked pretty good after a 16-month layoff. So did his iron game, despite playing a new ball in windy conditions. There's a reason his best round came on the one day the winds laid down!

As for the driver, I don't think it was fair to say he had a two-way miss. During any given round, his miss was pretty consistent. He missed left on Thursday, didn't really miss on Friday, missed right on Saturday and mostly left on Sunday when he was clearly running out of gas. Given how much he's talked about getting used to his new driver and needing to make adjustments, that (plus his lack of conditioning) was probably the main reason for his misses. I like most of what I saw.

Let me voice one more disagreement with Brandel. He said that Tiger's right (trailing) hip was too high and that it was affecting his timing. I think he has that backwards -- Tiger's timing is off and that made it look as if his trailing hip was too high.

Without getting into a lot of mechanics here, Tiger seems to be going more upright with his new swing -- a sensible move to minimize back strain. An upright swing requires a slightly slower change of direction than the flatter swing Tiger has used since he worked with Haney. Changing direction a bit too soon limits the movement of his trailing hip as he starts down, and that's why it looks to be a bit too high. Tiger's timing was better Friday than the other days, and his hip moved just fine. To quote Tiger, he "just needs more reps."

And that's ultimately what it comes down to -- Tiger simply needs more playing time before we can tell what his final swing will look like. Jordan Spieth said the critics should give Tiger a year before they start criticizing, but I think it could be as much as two years before Tiger's body has a chance to fully recover and his nervous system adjusts to the new "feel" of his swing. After this much time, Tiger isn't returning to his "old" body. His body will now react to things differently, and he seems content to take his time and let nature take its course.

That's why I still believe he's going to beat Jack's record. As long as he gives his body time to heal completely, that amazing golf mind of his will figure out a way to get that new ball in the hole.

I think that's a totally realistic expectation.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Hero World Challenge

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama

Around the wider world of golf: Mukesh Kumar won the Panasonic Open India on the Asian Tour; Sang-Hyun Park won the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup; one of my fellow North Carolina boys, Harold Varner III, won the Australian PGA Championship on the Australasian Tour/ET; Brandon Stone won the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the ET; Nathan Lashley won the Shell Championship (by 10 shots!) on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and you can get all the info on the LPGA Q-School at this link. Jaye Marie Green was the Medalist (for the second time!), while Sedena Parks, Mariah Stackhouse and Mel Reid all got full cards for 2017, as did Katherine Perry, one of my NC girls. Aditi Ashok and Bronte Law got partial status.

It appears that once some players get a Limerick Summary, they just get greedy! Such is the case with Hideki Matsuyama, who picks up his third LS of 2016.

Of course, the big news this week was the reemergence of Tiger Woods. While the analysts may not agree on how well Tiger is playing -- and I plan to post my own feelings tomorrow -- the players themselves, who should have a good idea of what he did, made it clear that they were impressed.

For our purposes today, what matters is that Tiger didn't win.

Neither did Henrik Stenson, although the Big Swede certainly tried. He made a serious run at Hideki, who entered the final round with a 7-stroke lead. Conditions were tough enough that only Bubba managed to score better than Henrik, by a single shot. But even though Henrik was five shots better than Hideki in the final round... well, seven strokes is more than five.

Hideki had nothing to be embarrassed about, though. I don't think he'd ever had a solo 54-hole lead before, so it's a new strategy to learn. He did well enough to take the trophy, and I suspect he'll be happy with that for now.

In the meantime, he can head back to Japan and spend the holidays with his family, secure in the knowledge that he has moved up to #2 in my RGWR and gotten his 3rd Limerick Summary of the year. Merī Kurisumasu, Hideki!
Though Tiger was causing the stir,
Both he and the field would concur
That Hideki's attack
Left the field so far back
That his grip on the lead was secure.
The photo came from the front page at

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Anders Mattson on Face Angle (Video)

This is an interesting video from GC's Coach of the Week Anders Mattson on controlling your misses by altering your club's face angle. But it's interesting because of his approach, which might actually simplify this for many of you.

How does he simplify things here? Ironically, it's because he uses the terms left and right to help you aim, rather than open and closed or fade and draw.

Normally, I use open and closed or fade and draw when I post instructional articles. That's because those terms for the shot shapes are the same for both lefties and righties. Using the other terms lets me use the same instructions for both players.

But a leftie's fade goes left while a rightie's fade flies right. Using right won't create a fade shape for both players.

However, Mattson isn't talking about shot shapes here. He's merely talking about which side of the fairway (or the green) you want the ball to miss on... and the right side is always the right side, regardless of whether you're a leftie or a rightie!

So, when you're deciding on a safe shot, realize that you often won't have to think about shot shape at all. Just decide which side you want to miss on, aim the clubface in that direction, and make your normal swing. It may not be pretty, but it may keep you in play... and that's the important thing.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

How Tiger Prepares for a Round

This tip was posted at Golf Digest's website on Thursday, but GC mentioned Tiger doing this before his second round on Friday. Since it seems to have worked both days, we might as well take a quick look.

Tiger making a driver swing

This is a very simple, very quick tip that makes so much sense. And according to Butch Harmon, he's been using it for a long time:
“He’d practice the drive he wanted to hit off the first tee as his last swing before leaving the range. He did it every single time.”
The post then recommends that you take three balls and go through your entire driver routine with each ball, exactly the way you'll do it when you tee off on the first tee. The idea is to visualize and actually feel the shot you plan to hit, then take it to the course.

However, we can add an extra guideline that isn't in the article. We can add it because Tiger didn't follow that rule Friday and GC's commentators noticed it. You see, Tiger only used one ball for that driver swing on the range, then walked away... and striped his first drive right down the middle.

Apparently the three-ball guideline is only for days when the first ball doesn't feel right.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Visualization Tip from John Toepel Jr.

The late John Toepel Jr. was a former PGA Tour pro and president of Concept Golf, a company in the Raleigh-Durham area of NC. I have a book he wrote called Golf Can't Be This Simple: The Swing (I also have another book by him called GCBTS: Playing the Game) that has some interesting ideas in it.

One of the coolest things in the book is a visualization tip to help players who have trouble getting the ball off the ground, especially with long clubs. The tip is simply this:
If you have trouble getting the ball off the ground, try to hit the ball no higher than knee level for about a hundred yards.
I know that sounds weird, but obviously he isn't talking about hitting the ball so it rolls along the ground. What he wants you to do is hit the ball so it flies at knee level for around a hundred yards or so.

The key here is that Toepel says it won't. Instead, you'll get a solid shot with a proper trajectory.

Doesn't sound very helpful, does it? Yet Toepel says it has helped his students. Why would it?

Think about this for a moment. As Toepel points out, many of the best ball strikers come from windy parts of the world like Texas and Scotland, where they're forced to keep the ball low.

When players try to hit the ball up in the air, they usually try to hit the ball on the upswing, the way you would hit a ball on a tee. But if the ball is sitting on the ground, an upward strike means you hit the ball thin. You want to hit the ball with a slight downward strike... and that's the natural thing to do if you try to hit the ball low.

Toepel suggests that you try to hit every club low, even if you're trying to hit a wedge over a tree. He says to set the clubface and ball position for the shot you want, but hit the ball with the idea that it will fly knee high. The loft will get the ball up, but the attempt to hit a low shot will create the necessary solid contact to get that result.

So if you're having trouble hitting solid shots that get the ball off the ground, try to hit the ball so it flies knee high for a hundred yards or so. You might be surprised how much your ball striking improves.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tee Times for Tiger & Co.

Let's face it: Tiger's tee time is probably the biggest news today. And in case you didn't hear, he tees off at noon.


But he's not the only player in the Hero World Challenge, so here are the tee times for all 18 players in the field. All times should be ET.
  • 11:10 am: Bubba Watson & Rickie Fowler
  • 11:20 am: Jimmy Walker & Brandt Snedeker
  • 11:30 am: J.B. Holmes & Zach Johnson
  • 11:40 am: Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson
  • 11:50 am: Jordan Spieth & Matt Kuchar
  • 12:00 pm: Patrick Reed & Tiger Woods
  • 12:10 pm: Dustin Johnson & Brooks Koepka
  • 12:20 pm: Hideki Matsuyama & Louis Oosthuizen
  • 12:30 pm: Emiliano Grillo & Russell Knox
Initial analyst reaction to Tiger's swing (during the pro-am) was favorable. If he can just play all four rounds without either pain or glaring swing faults for the analysts to nitpick, I'll be happy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Learning Golf with a Grass Whip (Video)

I've run across several videos that teach a basic golf swing using a grass whip and, while many of you will probably laugh at this, I used a grass whip when I was younger (my dad used to have one) and the principle is sound. This particular video from instructor Shawn Clement is one of the better quality ones that I found.

Take a look. It's pretty self-explanatory.

Basically, a grass whip teaches you how your arms and hands work during a golf swing. If you watch, you'll see that Shawn's lower body is working exactly as you would expect, but you don't think about your lower body. What you think about is the hand action that swings the whip, and the leg action happens automatically.

The motion is very similar to the video of a sand shot made by using the Carlton Dance that I posted a couple weeks back, except that the action is more vigorous. Both are great ways to learn what a basic but sound golf swing feels like.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tiger Is on Morning Drive at 8:30am ET

This is just a head's-up for you Tiger fans. GC announced that Tiger is going to be on Morning Drive this morning at 8:30am ET. And that means that, if GC follows their normal routine, the interview from the Hero World Challenge will repeat at 10:30am ET.


And if you're interested, GC is also reporting that Tiger will be paired with Patrick Reed for the first round, and that he'll be playing a Bridgestone ball and (most likely) a TaylorMade driver.

One thing you can count on: We'll be hearing every little detail of Tiger's first tournament this week. I actually feel a bit sorry for Tiger. I know I wouldn't want my first time back to be put under such a microscope!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf

Winner: Denmark

Around the wider world of golf: It was a fairly quiet week in golf. Huilin Zhang won the Buick Open, the season finale of the PGA TOUR China; Yuta Ukeda won the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour; and as I noted yesterday, Aditi Ashok won the Qatar Ladies Open on the LET.

Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen with the trophy

Although the Danish team hoisted the World Cup of Golf trophy on Sunday, it's totally correct to say they won it on Friday.

Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen blitzed the field during the second round with a 12-under 60, beating the best round of the day by a good four strokes. In fact, I think the closest anybody got to that was a 62 by the Swedes on Sunday. There were a lot of good scores shot on Sunday, by a variety of teams.

But none of them played well enough overall to make up for that 60 on Friday. There were three runner-ups (or is that runners-up?) -- France, China and the USA -- but they were all four shots back. Exactly the margin in the Danes' Friday round.

All I know to say is WOW, and to congratulate the Danish team on winning their first-ever World Cup of Golf. They brought the Kingston Heath Golf Course to its knees in cold conditions, and that kind of performance is well worth their first national Limerick Summary:
On Friday, the Danes made their move
When the fourballers got in a groove,
Shooting twelve-under par—
The week's best round by far—
For a first win no team would reprove.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ashok to the System

It's possible you missed this, but it's well worth taking note of the news because it may become very significant very soon. Remember Aditi Ashok, the teenager from India who made news at the Olympics and became the first Indian woman to win on the Ladies European Tour just a week or so back?

Well, she just became the first Indian woman to win back-to-back on the LET at the Qatar Ladies Open. And while there was some buzz about her before, I think it's safe to say nobody saw this coming.

Aditi Ashok receives Qatar Ladies Open trophy

We know about the shock waves Se Ri Pak sent through Korea when she won two LPGA majors back in 1998. We know about the shock waves Shanshan Feng sent through China when she won Women's PGA Championship back in 2012. And the effect of Shanshan and Inbee Park's Olympic medals has yet to be seen... but it will probably be huge.

Aditi's already making waves in India because of her last few months on the world stage. But she'll be in the US soon -- in fact, she may already be here -- because she's playing in the final stage of LPGA Q-School this week. And no matter what happens there, you can bet she'll get some sponosr invites next season. What do you think might happen if she gets a little success over here in America?

Get ready for some Ashok waves, folks. India may have just entered the golfing mainstream.