ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Golf Magazine's New Hybrid Guide

Actually, Golf Magazine's new equipment guide includes reviews of 20 hybrids and 16 fairway woods. And it includes a wide variety of styles -- I've posted the photo of the Ping G Crossover hybrid just so you can see that they included more than the standard 'thick head' clubs.

Ping G Crossover hybrid

Below I've included the links to the four groupings that Golf Magazine created for this guide. Note that Page 1 is the same as the link in the first paragraph of this post:
There are also TWO videos on the first page. After you watch the one about the hybrids, it's followed by a second one about the fairway woods.

As usual, Golf Magazine enlisted players with a variety of handicaps to conduct the tests, in hopes of getting a better idea of how effective the various club designs were. And the testers say that all the club models provided more consistent performance across the board than last year's batch did.

If you're in the market for a new scoring weapon this year, hopefully this guide will save you a little time and money.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Sample of Leslie King's Golf Technique

Jeffrey Jenkins left a comment on my post about Manuel de la Torre's death asking if de la Torre (and Ernest Jones, who was a big influence on him) taught a swing technique similar to a British teacher named Leslie King. I thought some of you might be interested to learn a bit about him.

King taught a method known as the Swing Factory, which he developed back in the 1920s. It's based around a free arm swing -- that is, the arms swing independently of the body and thus pull the body around, rather than the body pulling the arms around. King taught a large number of people, but his most famous student was probably Sean Connery. King taught him how to play for the James Bond movie Goldfinger. King also helped Gary Player and Juli Inkster, among others.

Sean Connery

Here's an old Golfweek article that tells you a bit about King and the folks who continue to teach his swing method. (The school is Knightsbridge Golf School, in London.) In answer to Jeffrey, this article definitely says that:
He was very much on the same page as Ernest Jones, who ran a similar indoor school in New York. Both men believed in the importance of the arms in the swing.
And here's a link I found to a 12-chapter how-to booklet on King's swing technique. I've only browsed it but it looks very interesting. And since it appears that none of King's original instruction manuals are available here in America -- at least, all of Amazon's listings were for out-of-print editions -- this may be the best way to learn about what he taught. (There are some books by Steve Gould and DJ Wilkinson, however. You can find the list at the Knightsbridge site.)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Brady Riggs on Hitting a Stinger

Here are Brady Rigg's tips on how to hit a stinger off the tee, from Click this link and you can see a video of how to do it. Unfortunately, the site won't let me embed the video.

Proper ball position for stinger shot

Brady says you can use a fairway wood, hybrid or long iron for this shot.
  • Stand a half-step closer to the ball. This will help you trap the ball better.
  • Grip down on your club. That shortens the club and makes it easier to control.
  • Set your stance so your feet are just wider than your hips, not your shoulders.
  • Position the ball about an inch back of the center of your stance. Just look at the photo above.
  • Tee the ball really low, even level with the ground if you're comfortable doing so. Brady says you can hit it off the ground or even kick up a little mound like Laura Davies does. But I'd go with the low tee, simply because you might as well get the best lie you can get.
  • This is the first time I've seen this particular tip, and I'm glad someone finally included it: Instead of gripping the club with the last two or three fingers of your lead hand, grip more tightly with the thumb and forefinger of your trailing hand. When Brady says this is "old school", he means it comes from the days of hickory shafts. He says this will help you square up the clubface, and I agree with that. Just bear in mind that you probably won't be able to hit the ball quite as far, as this is a soft-shaft technique and, unless you're incredibly strong, even a regular flex shaft is much stiffer than they used to use. But since the idea is to hit the fairway and you've already done some things that will reduce your distance, it doesn't matter.
  • Finally, cut off the followthrough to help keep the shot low.
The whole point of the stinger is to make sure you hit the fairway on a tight hole, regardless of whether the wind is blowing or not. It's a worthwhile shot to add to your repertoire.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Manuel de la Torre Dies at 94

I have always respected Manuel de la Torre's approach to golf, and I've mentioned quite a few of his tips in this blog. Golf Digest said he was one of only a few teachers to make their 50 Best Teachers ranking every year since it debuted in 1999.

Manuel de la TorreIt really saddened me to learn he died Sunday in Wisconsin at age 94.

Golf Digest did a short tribute to him that you can read by clicking this link, but I'd like to mention a couple of things I really liked about him.

For one thing, he persisted in teaching a very simple golf swing. His teaching was based on the work of Ernest Jones, who adapted the hickory shaft swing of the early 20th Century to steel shafts. I guess his two most famous professional students were Carol Mann and Sherri Steinhauer, both LPGA major winners and Mann is in the Hall of Fame.

I just loved the way this Spanish teacher -- the son of Spain's first teaching pro -- made things so simple for players. There were no complex drills, no obsession with positions; he always focused on motion and shotmaking. And Golf Digest's tribute gave me a new reason to respect him -- he tried to keep his lessons affordable, especially for junior golfers. (For those of you who wonder, the reason my instruction books are so inexpensive is because I wanted to make them affordable for folks with jobs that don't pay a lot of money -- and that's most jobs nowadays.)

Here's a short video I've posted before, of de la Torre hitting some shots back in 1990, which would have been in his late 60s. He taught a swing that looked this good at that age -- that's a teacher worth listening to!

And for those of you who are interested, there's now a paperback edition of his book Understanding the Golf Swing available. ( Here's a link to the book at Amazon, if you want to see it. It's available from other sources, of course, and I don't get any kind of commission if you buy it. I just really like the book.)

The golf world is going to miss Manuel de la Torre. Rest in peace, Señor.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A PGA Tour Card Is the Real Trick

One of the big buzzwords in golf right now is reactive. It's used to describe a swing made made to intercept a moving ball, and the argument is that golf swings aren't reactive.

Perhaps those instructors just haven't watched Wesley Bryan, one-half of the famous trick shot team simply known as the Bryan Brothers. In 2015 Wesley played his way through Q-School to make the Tour.

Wesley Bryan with El Bosque Mexico Championship trophy

This past weekend, Wesley won his second Tour title at the El Bosque Mexico Championship by four shots. (The other was the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, won in his third start by one shot.) He's won these two titles in only six starts. SIX, PEOPLE! And in doing so he locked up his PGA Tour card for next season.

I'm not sure you truly understand how monumental a feat this really is. Let me give you the numbers:
  • Wesley Bryan has won $260,820 in six starts. He now leads the Tour money list and has locked up a Tour card. One more win gives him the Battlefield Promotion to the PGA Tour this year. In just six events.
  • At the end of last season, Dicky Pride finished fifth for the entire season with $253,057. It took him 15 events to make that much, and no one else in the Top16 of The25 took fewer than his 15 events.
Yet Wesley is best-known for his trick shots, which involves hitting MOVING golf balls. The question is, does his 'regular' golf swing differ much from his 'trick' swing?

Why don't we compare them? Here's a video of the Bryan Brothers in action. Note that brother George usually sets up the shots while Wesley generally hits them. Don't let the GoPro strap-on camera shots confuse you; there's plenty of clear footage showing Wesley's full swing.

Unfortunately, it's hard to find the standard face-on and down-the-line video of Wesley on the golf course. But here are a couple of vids that will give you an idea -- one shows the Brothers playing some match play with some NFL players, the other shows Wesley after his win in Mexico Sunday (shots are mixed in with the interview).

I don't see a whole lot of difference. What I see is a player who stays relaxed when he plays a shot, not one who's fixated on making a perfect swing on a perfect plane.

If you want my suggestion, it might be worthwhile to get a few plastic golf balls -- so you can hit them in the backyard without hitting them a mile -- and practice tossing them in the air while trying to hit them before they hit the ground. Then try to incorporate that feeling into your regular golf swing and see if it doesn't help you get better.

Because Wesley Bryan is proving that reactive swings are not only possible in golf, but extremely desirable. And practicing trick shots is how he got his.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Valero Texas Open

Winner: Charley Hoffman

Around the wider world of golf: Got a lot of winners this week! Wesley Bryan continued to prove he's more than a trick shot artist by picking up his second Tour win this season -- this time, at the El Bosque Mexico Championship; Haru Nomura picked up her second LPGA title this season at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic; John Young Kim won the Guatemala Stella Artois Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Soomin Lee got his first ET victory at the Shenzhen International; the team of Michael Allen and Woody Austin won the Champions division at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf (the Champions Tour event) while Larry Nelson and Bruce Fleisher won the Legends division; Yuta Ikeda won the Panasonic Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; Brittany Altomare won the Guardian Retirement Championship on the Symetra Tour; Austin Eckroat won the Junior Invitational (a big amateur event); and Shiho Oyama won the Fujisankei Ladies Classic on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Charley Hoffman with Valero Texas Open trophy

Charley Hoffman has been frustrated by the Sunday blues lately. Seems he would play himself into position after 54 holes but just couldn't seem to get out of his own way during the last round. How bad was it? He was ranked 200 on the PGA Tour in fourth-round scoring. Add the pressure of the chase pack, led by Patrick Reed, and you could understand if it had happened again.

But it didn't. This time Charley got out of his own way and let his clubs do what they'd been doing every other round he played lately...

Hit fairways. Hit greens. Scramble. Make putts.

Patrick pushed him all the way, forcing him to get up-and-down with a 9-foot birdie putt on 18 to win outright. Charley drained it, pumped his fist, and then accepted congratulations from playing partners Patrick and Billy Horschel.

Look, there were plenty of stories on Sunday, including Martin Piller's attempt to win at Valero while his wife Gerina went after the Swinging Skirts. (The Pillers managed T4 and T3, respectively, which gives Gerina bragging rights not only for winning but for doing it in 30mph winds.) But when Charley finally broke through the barrier to get his fourth Tour win, that's the kind of thing that gives fans hope that they can overcome their own limits.

Besides, it gave me a chance to write Charley a really challenging Limerick Summary. You just don't see multi-syllabic rhymes like these everyday!
All his Sundays of late were forgettable
With performances best termed ‘regrettable’;
It was different this week.
Charley let his clubs speak—
Which made this win a great deal more gettable!
The photo came from this article at

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Shifting Sands of the Rules

I wanted to mention this because it's the kind of question that players often face when they get an awkward lie in the sand. Haru Nomura is leading the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, but she had to get a ruling after she finished. Did she build a stance in the sand at 6?

This is the original report Whit and Karen filed. The one they filed after the ruling was made wasn't up yet on when I did this post, but Haru was ruled NOT to have built a stance after about 45 minutes of questioning and repeated viewings of the video by LPGA officials.

Why was this ruling so difficult? It's because The Rules of Golf allow a player to 'fairly take a stance' when playing a shot. And it appears that a couple of factors were in play here:
  • Haru was unable to keep from slipping in the sand after a typical 'digging in' move, even after repeated attempts. Every time she made a practice swing, her right foot would slip. In fact, if you look at her initial attempt to take a stance -- right around the :58 second mark -- you can see tracks in the sand where her right foot slipped quite a way just by trying to step into the trap.
  • Apparently the officials looked to see if the angle of her foot was noticeably changed by her attempts to take her stance. You hear Karen mention that there didn't seem to be much difference but if her foot looked to be on 'flatter ground' after digging in, they would have likely ruled that she altered the ground and thus built a stance.
That last one seems to be the most obvious way to tell if someone is building a stance, at least on a slope like Haru was on. As long as her foot still followed the slope so that her spikes were holding her in place -- as opposed to a flattened area of sand -- she was allowed to dig in enough to find that solid ground.

I don't think she would have gotten a favorable ruling had the slope been less severe or the sliding of her foot less obvious. Even with those two things in her favor, it still took 45 minutes for officials to make the ruling!

The result is that Haru Nomura has a 3 shot lead instead of a 1 shot lead going into the final round. It was a major ruling that could have changed the way things play out today. Bear in mind that the leader was at -9 after the first round but the current leader is only at -10 after a favorable ruling. And conditions aren't likely to be much easier today.

Remember: You have to be careful when digging into the sand. It's a fine line between a fair stance and a built stance.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Martin Hall on Clubface Awareness

This was on Morning Drive earlier this week but it bears repeating. Phil Mickelson may have made the term 'clubface awareness' a buzzword but Martin Hall did a great explanation of it in this short video.

Here's an enlargement of that glove:

Clubface orientation drawn on glove

THIS IS IMPORTANT. Notice that the toe of the clubface is up in the palm, near the pad of the thumb. It is NOT down in the fingers! If you swing as if the toe of the club is down in your fingers, you're probably going to scoop with the club and hit the ball thin!

Let me repeat this: You have to use your thumb pad to square the clubface, not your fingers. This is a key thing to know if you want to square the clubface properly at impact. It won't take much practice to learn what it feels like to do it correctly.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Secret History of Tiger Woods

Today I'm just giving you a link, but it's one helluva link! ESPN reporter Wright Thompson has spent something over a year doing a piece on the last decade of Tiger's life, since his dad died. It's called The Secret History of Tiger Woods and, unlike so many things that have been written, it's a huge piece -- around 11,000 words -- and Thompson talked to a lot of people who know him, like Michael Jordan and other friends.

Tiger and Notah Begay III

I haven't read the whole thing yet -- as I said, it's huge -- but ESPN had Thompson on some of their shows Thursday and spent an entire episode of Outside the Lines talking to Thompson. And Thompson's take on what Tiger has gone through is very different from what you might expect...
In essence, Thompson said he has been struck by just how much Tiger is like the rest of us. And he said that anybody who learns about what Tiger has been through and doesn't feel compassion for him simply isn't human.
Ironically, Thompson also said he doesn't intend to be an apologist for Tiger. It's just that his investigation found that Tiger is a mass of contradictions just like the rest of us, a introvert who is far more comfortable playing with his kids and the dog or reading a book than being a superstar, a son who struggled with his father's death more deeply than most fans realize.

The piece is, in large part, about the complicated relationship between Tiger and his dad. And between what I heard from the author on TV and what I've read so far, this is a fascinating piece that I have no problem recommending. It's not about Tiger the superstar but about Tiger the human being, and that's unusual.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Danny Willett Talks Equipment

Here's a link to Golf Digest's interview with Danny Willett about his equipment. I found it very interesting because it's a fairly detailed explanation of what clubs he uses and why they're set up the way they are.

Danny Willett

Among the more informative parts of the interview, Danny says that:
  • he doesn't tinker with his equipment very much -- when he finds something that works, he usually sticks with it
  • he doesn't play blades because he doesn't hit them high enough, which is something most amateurs never take into account when they want to copy their favorite players
  • he wants his clubs to look a certain way at address, and he's very particular about it when he gets his clubs set up
He also said the biggest equipment mistakes he sees amateurs make are (1) using drivers that don't have enough loft and (2) using shafts that are too stiff.

Most pros don't go into this much detail about how they choose their equipment. Danny's interview may help you avoid some big mistakes next time you get new clubs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sara Brown Returns to GC

In case you hadn't heard, Sara Brown is back from her maternity leave and will be back on School of Golf tonight. GCA tweeted it last Wednesday and I missed it, but figured she was back after the new SoG promos featured Sara and not Blair, who had been standing in for her.

Sara Brown and Martin Hall

At this point I haven't heard what Blair's going to do. Even if she doesn't have any LPGA, LET or mini-tour events lined up, I doubt that she has any problems finding enough pro-ams, instructional videos and promotional work to keep her busy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

More Prime-Time LPGA Action

This week Lydia Ko goes for her third Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic title in as many years, and again it's in prime-time. (At least, it is here on the East Coast of the US.)

Lydia Ko with Swinging Skirts trophy in 2015

The Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City CA (near San Francisco) is very close to a number of courses familiar to PGA Tour fans -- San Francisco Golf Club, Olympic Club and TPC Harding Park. It was originally designed in the early 1920s by Willie Locke, redesigned in the late 1920s by Alister MacKenzie (perhaps best known for his work on Augusta National), redesigned again in the mid-1960s by Robert Muir Graves, and then yet again in 1996 by "US Open Doctor" Rees Davies.

And Lydia Ko is the only winner it has known since it became the home of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.

As usual, Tony Jesselli has done a preview of the event at his blog, so I won't repeat what he's already done. But as Tony says, this is a strong field -- nine of the Top10 in the Rolex Rankings are in the field (Inbee Park has withdrawn due to a ligament injury in her thumb) and all of the 2016 LPGA winners will tee it up.

One interesting storyline to watch this week concerns In-Gee Chun. After missing a month with a back problem, she has managed to move up to #6 in the Rolex. This has put her in the third spot for the very competitive Korean team, for both the International Crown and the Olympic Team. Sei Young Kim is a mere .12 points ahead of her, and HaNa Jang now sits in the precarious fourth spot .22 points behind. This is a measure of how good In-Gee is playing, as both Kim and Jang have two wins each while In-Gee has yet to win this season.

As I said, this event will be broadcast in prime-time on GC starting at 6pm ET Thursday and it should be a very entertaining event. The last two Swinging Skirts events have gone right to the wire, and this one will likely be no different.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 RBC Heritage

Winner: Branden Grace

Around the wider world of golf: Minjee Lee won her second LPGA event at the LOTTE Championship; Andrew Johnston got his first ET win at the Real Club Valderrama Open de España; Woody Austin got his second Champions Tour win in three starts at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic; K.T. Kim got his 11th Japan Golf Tour title at the Token Homemade Cup; Madelene Sagstrom got her first Symetra Tour win at the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial; Lyle Rowe got his second Sunshine Tour victory at the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open; and Anthony Paolucci got his first PGA TOUR Latinoamérica win at the 85th Abierto OSDE del Centro.

Branden Grace with RBC Heritage trophy

I'm not the superstitious type. But it seems that, if you want to win the RBC Heritage, you want to be 3-4 shots off the lead after three rounds, not the leader. Five of the last six winners have all come from that far back -- only Carl Pettersson won from the lead, back in 2012. Brandt Snedeker actually came from 6 back in 2011.

This "Leader's Curse" has bitten Luke Donald three times now. At least this time he could see it as a positive, since it means his game is back on track after a rough 2015.

For Branden Grace, however, it's just another example of how he plays. After ten wins worldwide and a couple of Top5s at majors last year, it seemed like just a matter of time before he seized his first PGA Tour win. A tight windy course in Georgia turned out to be just the showplace for his abilities. It probably felt like home for the South African, who's used to playing tough courses at home and in Australia. He said Ernie Els told him that this is an event where he could have multiple wins.

Ernie should know. Branden came through his golf foundation, just like Louis Oosthuizen.

Those of us who watch the European Tour have been impressed by Grace for some time now. He already had a win at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters earlier this year, but multi-win seasons have been common for him. And after his great showing at the US Open last year, you now have to pencil him in as a favorite for this year as well.

For Branden Grace it seems that the tougher the course, the better he likes it. I just hope he doesn't mind the ease with which he gets this Limerick Summary...
You want to talk ‘Grace under fire’?
His stock rises higher and higher
With each new event
As his message gets sent:
“Your trophies are MINE to acquire!”
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Minjee Lee Gets LPGA Win Number Two

Katie Burnett came so close to getting her first LPGA win, but Minjee Lee was on fire in the final round of the LOTTE Championship. It was a very entertaining battle between Minjee, Katie and In-Gee Chun.

Minjee Lee with LOTTE trophy

Lee went 6-under on the back nine to shoot a bogey-free round of 64. Katie held the lead most of the day until a bogey at 16 opened the door for Minjee. In-Gee, the defending US Open champ, made got within a stroke of the lead but ran out of birdies after 14. She and Katie tied for second place, one stroke back of Minjee.

Minjee became the fifth player to win two LPGA titles before her 20th birthday. The others are Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Marlene Hagge and Sandra Haynie -- two of the Founders and two of the "New Breed". I think there's something significant in that fact.

Katie should take some positive things from this round, as it was her first time ever with a 54-hole lead and she didn't crumble under the pressure -- she just got outplayed. And just about everybody should feel some degree of fear after In-Gee's finish; despite the back injury, in her four LPGA starts this season she has gone T3, 2, T2 and T2. At this rate, that woman's gonna win one soon!

As for Minjee, she'll be defending her Kingsmill title in about five weeks. She certainly seems on form to do it. With this win she's expected to move up to #12 in the Rolex Rankings, so some good play could certainly put her in the Top10 in time for her defense.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Zach Johnson on Making Better Short Game Scores

Golf Magazine has posted a new instructional article by Zach Johnson on how to score better. Click the link in that last sentence to read the whole thing, but I'm going to focus on his tips for betters short game scores.

Zach Johnson

Zach has three tips for around the green. His first is what he calls his 75% Short Game Secret, which simply means he chooses only shots that he can pull off 75% of the time. When you miss the green, your goal is to avoid making a big number. And the best way to avoid a big number is to try a recovery shot you'll hit well most of the time, not an all-or-nothing shot. Make sure you can get the ball onto the putting surface in one shot.

Second, he always tries to get the ball past the pin with his chip or pitch. He says he usually picks a spot several feet past the hole. Why? Because you'll have to hit the shot with more oomph, and that's going to put a bit more spin on the shot. A solidly hit shot will stop more quickly when it hits the green.

Finally, he says to fall in love with just one of your wedges. I love this tip! Purists say you need to get good with every wedge in your bag if you want to post a low score. Zach says you'll make better shots if you're confident with your wedge, so you should get good with the wedge that you feel most comfortable hitting. Think of it as your go-to wedge.

Zach Johnson is respected on Tour because he almost always finds a way to post a good score. Check out his article and learn a few things from a recognized master.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ray Floyd on How Much Bounce Your Wedge Needs

This is an old clip from GC's 7 Nights at the Academy shows, featuring Raymond Floyd's advice on deciding how much bounce your 60° wedge needs.

This advice seemed almost counter-intuitive to me at first, but it made sense after I thought about it. Normally you would think that tight fairways would dictate using less bounce, simply because more bounce raises the front edge of the wedge off the ground. Wouldn't more bounce make you more likely to hit the ball thin?

However, Raymond says you really do need MORE bounce in this case. Otherwise you risk having that front edge dig too much into the ground and mess up your shot. That's when I realized that the wedge I have always hit best from the fairway is actually one with high bounce, just like Raymond suggests!

But make sure you test the wedge first, because your swing's angle of attack also plays a part. A steeper swing generally requires more bounce than a flatter swing. Raymond always had a fairly steep swing, so that would have influenced his advice as well.

So this is something you might want to consider if you're having trouble hitting good approach shots with your lob wedge. You may actually need more bounce than you're using.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ray Floyd's Ten Biggest Amateur Mistakes

My tagline for this blog is "It's All About the Score." While I cover a number of different things from what happens at different events to how you can improve your swing, almost any player can cut a number of strokes from his or her score by applying some simple, common sense strategy.

Raymond Floyd
Raymond Floyd won 22 official PGA Tour events that included four majors -- two PGA Championships, one US Open and one Masters. (That doesn't include his worldwide or Champions Tour wins; add those and the total jumps up around 66.) He knows a little bit about strategy.

In his 1998 book The Elements of Scoring he wrote that he struggled to become a winner when he made it onto the Tour. It was two years between his first two wins, and another four years before he won for a third time. As he put it. "I didn't run into a lot of players with more ability than I had. But on the tour, I ran into plenty who were scoring lower."

But after he turned forty -- he was nearly 44 when he won his US Open -- he says, "I had come full circle as a player -- from having all the tools but few skills, to having the skill to make the most of the tools I had left." His tools were his physical techniques, and his skill was his ability to use those techniques effectively when he didn't have his A-game.

Raymond includes a list of ten mistakes that amateurs consistently make that sabotage their games. And it was so blunt and easy to understand that I thought I'd pass it on.
  1. Underclubbing
  2. Swinging too hard
  3. Automatically shooting at the flag
  4. Not playing away from trouble
  5. Missing the green on the wrong side of the flag
  6. Trying for too much out of trouble
  7. Trying shots you have never practiced
  8. Panicking in the sand
  9. Misreading turf and lie conditions
  10. Consistently underreading the break on the greens
Then he devotes an entire chapter in the book to these problems, exploring how they show up and why you need to avoid them.

Note that only two of these -- numbers 7 and 8 -- are technique problems. The others are simply a matter of either not knowing your game or refusing to act on what you know. Raymond says that number 4, for example, is typically the result of a player trying to play a shot that he or she knows they can't play (like trying to draw the ball off a hazard when you always hit a slice).

These mistakes are simply the result of refusing to accept your limitations during a round. They add strokes to your score, strokes that you could avoid if you just used a little common sense.

Listen to what Raymond says. Avoid making these mistakes during your next round and see if your score isn't lower.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The LPGA Is Back Tonight

After a week off -- because the ladies wanted to watch the Masters too! -- the LPGA gets back in action today at the LOTTE Championship. With the bad weather that's assaulting many parts of the USA, watching some nice weather in Hawaii will be welcome relief. (Or just irritating, depending on your point of view.)

Sei Young Kim after winning the LOTTE last year

Tony Jesselli, as usual, has a preview of the event over at his blog. And if you were watching Golf Central Tuesday evening, you may have heard that the Ko Olina Golf Club has put a plaque in the 18th fairway at the spot where Sei Young Kim hit that amazing eagle shot in the playoff to steal the event right out from under Inbee Park's nose.

In case you've forgotten the shot, here's the LPGA's video. It shows the chip that got her into the playoff, then the eagle. Kim's own disbelief alone is worth the price of admission:

Anyway, since the event is in Hawaii -- five time zones from the East Coast of the USA -- GC's live broadcast runs in prime time, starting at 7pm ET tonight. (The event runs Wednesday-Saturday because LOTTE is a South Korean company and this schedule suits South Korean TV better.) With Sei Young Kim defending and Inbee Park in the field, perhaps we'll get to see some more fireworks this year!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Get Familiar with Danny Willett's Game

Since a lot of you may not be familiar with Danny Willett's swing or approach to the game, I thought I'd pass on a few things I've either heard or found that may help you understand what he does.

Sequence of Danny Willett during the backswing

The photo above comes from a Golf Digest slideshow of Danny's swing. The slides show him from face-on, and from down-the-line from both the back and front. The most notable thing is his strong lead hand grip, which gives him a tendency to cock his wrists much earlier than coach Mike Walker would like. (Walker says in the slide sequence that they're working to make it a bit later in the backswing, in order to widen his swing.)

The slideshow also notes that Willett used to throw a javelin, and his trailing hand motion is similar to that.

Here's a YouTube video of Danny's swing, just so you can see it at both regular speed and in slow motion. The video shows both face-on and down-the-line views.

In a Golf Digest article that deals with his background as well as his win at the Masters, Danny says this about his swing:
“If you set the club correctly early in the swing, all you really have to do is turn,” says the former Walker Cup player of the swing that stood up best to the pressure of an endlessly exciting Masters Sunday. “It’s that simple. If I get the club in position with my shoulders ‘loaded,’ I can just elevate to the turn then come back down. At my best, that’s all I think about.
“I don’t think my swing is ever going to change in how it looks. But the feeling of it has changed. It feels wider. But when I see it on camera it still looks narrow to me. But I don’t have to think about it really. At first it was a conscious move, but not now.”
And among the variety of things I heard from assorted TV analysts:
  • I wrote in my book Ruthless Putting that you can learn most of the mental things you need at a good church, while in Think Like a Golfer I tried to explain how the language of sports psychology parallels theological terms and how "God talk" often sheds important light on the sports concepts. It turns out that Danny doesn't doesn't use a sports psychologist at all, depending instead on his father's advice... and his father is a retired pastor.
  • Danny is an old school putter who picks a target on his chosen line that's only a foot or so ahead of the ball. As he put it, "Every one-foot putt is a straight putt." It certainly simplifies his approach.
  • And Danny's go-to shot is a slight fade. Although he can move the ball either way, he tends to play his fade most of the time. Although it may have affected his ability to go low on the par-5s a bit during the rough weather (he was only even par for the week), on Sunday he went -2 on the par-5s. And overall, his 54-hole score was even par starting the final round, so his consistency served him well in the tough conditions.
Hopefully this cross-section of Willett trivia will get you better acquainted with Danny. He debuted in my RGWR at #3 this week with a major and two other ET wins over the last year, and he entered the OWGR Top10 at #9 Monday morning. Better get used to hearing his name!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Masters

Winner: Danny Willett

Around the wider world of golf: Brad Fritsch won the Servientrega Championship on the Tour; Samantha Richdale won the Florida's Natural Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; and Erika Kikuchi won the Studio Alice Ladies Open on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Danny Willett dons the Green Jacket

They say the Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday. But that was actually the beginning of the end.

The end of an almost boringly predictable finish to the 2016 Masters. The end of Jordan Spieth's magical walk into Masters history -- at least, in the way he envisioned it. The end of Danny Willett's anonymity in America. The end of a 16-year European drought at the Masters.

After finishing the front nine with four straight birdies, Jordan Spieth had a 5-shot lead and seemed destined to become the first man to win two Masters in his first three tries, among other records. Then that pesky pushed shot that had plagued him intermittently all week ceased to be intermittent. It cost him a bogey on 10, another on 11, and then the inconceivable quad on 12 that killed his Masters run and gave Danny Willett the lead after a birdie on 15.

Give me a bit of credit as a prophet here. While none of my picks for the week panned out -- although DJ did make a run on the back nine -- I wrote this at the end of Sunday's post:
But I'd keep my eye on that group at even. For one of them, a 67 just might be enough to squeak out a green jacket.
Danny Willett was in that group, and he posted a bogey-free 67 to become only the second Englishman ever to win a green jacket. (Nick Faldo is the other. I didn't know that at the time I wrote the post.)

A few Tweeters blasted for Jordan Spieth for appearing devastated during the green jacket presentation, which demonstrates why Coach Herm Edwards constantly tells people that the one rule on Twitter is "Don't press send!". After all, Jordan didn't have any time at all to gather himself; he had to go straight from the 18th green to the presentation. It's sad when we can no longer allow our heroes to be human.

There will be a lot of debate over why Jordan collapsed. I think all of the favorites suffered from the same problem -- it's just a function of being human. All of them wanted this win so much -- and there was so much hype surrounding this first major of the year -- that I think they all just got in their own way. They'll all recover in time, and perhaps they'll all be better prepared at the next big event.

Of course, Danny Willett will have an entirely different problem. The new father will have to find time for his family while juggling all the new sponsors who clamor for his attention. He may decide to take up PGA Tour membership now since he gets a fully-exempt card for a few years. At any rate, I suspect he'll be fine. He handled Jordan Spieth and the rest of the Fab4 plus Friends; this should be a cakewalk! And perhaps he'll even find time to celebrate his new Limerick Summary:
Yes, the end started on the back nine
And for Danny, the end was divine.
After Jordan’s ball sank
When it bounced off the bank,
Danny stepped up and played superfine.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, April 10, 2016

(Possibly) On This Day in History

There are so many storylines going into today's Masters that it can be hard to keep them all straight. Here's a quick list of what history could be made today. I'm only going down to the group at +2 (5 off the lead) because if the wind lays down today as they think it will, it will still likely take a 65 or 64 to come from that far back.

  • Jordan Spieth could become the youngest player to win two Masters, as well as the only player to win 2 of his first 3 Masters. And depending on what Jason Day does, he could regain the #1 ranking as well.
  • Smylie Kaufman could become the first Masters rookie to win since Fuzzy Zoeller back in 1979.
  • Bernhard Langer could become the oldest major winner by slightly over a decade.
  • Hideki Matsuyama could become the first Japanese major winner.
  • Jason Day could win his second major in a row.
  • Dustin Johnson could get his first-ever major win.
  • Danny Willett could get his first-ever major win and become the first European Masters champ since 1999.
  • Lee Westwood could get his first-ever major win and become the first European Masters champ since 1999.
  • Brandt Snedeker could get his first-ever major win.
  • Soren Kjeldsen could become the first Danish major winner, as well as the first European Masters champ since 1999.
  • Daniel Berger could become the first Masters rookie to win since Fuzzy Zoeller back in 1979.
  • Rory McIlroy could become only the 6th player to complete the career Grand Slam.
Historically, the Masters winner generally comes from one of the last two groups and most often from the last group. So Spieth and Kaufman are the most likely winners, with Langer and Matsuyama very real possibilities. But stranger things have happened -- Jackie Burke Jr. came from 8 back to win the 1956 Masters over Ken Venturi.

However, Burke only needed a 71 to beat Venturi's final round 80 by a single stroke.

Likewise, Nick Faldo came from 6 back to beat Greg Norman in the infamous 1996 Masters. Norman did struggle with a 78 but Faldo shot an impressive 67 to win by 5.

In neither case was the winning score better than the third round leading score. And I don't think the leaders are coming back to the pack today.

But I'd keep my eye on that group at even. For one of them, a 67 just might be enough to squeak out a green jacket.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Spieth VS McIlroy... AT LAST!

Look, that alone is worth a post. Jason Day isn't out of it yet, but THIS is the match-up almost everyone wanted to see. (We got Day VS Spieth at the PGA, remember?) And while DeChambeau puts an amateur into the equation just a group back, IT'S SPIETH VS MCILROY! What more could you ask for?

Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy

They tee off today at 2:50pm ET, just before CBS picks up the broadcast. BE THERE!

Friday, April 8, 2016

A Few Surprises

First, in case you didn't hear, Ernie Els did NOT make a 10 on the first hole. He made a 9. That means he didn't 7-putt from under 3 feet; rather, he 6-putted.

I know that's not much consolation to Ernie, but it's one less stroke he needs to make up today if he's going to make the cut at the Masters.

Ernie Els

And I certainly wouldn't write him off. After all, we got quite a few surprises on Thursday.

One of the biggest was Jordan Spieth's bogey-free 66 in 15-20mph winds. BOGEY-FREE! That simply wasn't something you would expect from anybody in those conditions, even with the Augusta greens crew setting things up a bit easier in anticipation of the wind.

Now it's not unusual for someone to shoot a ridiculously low score in tough conditions at any event; it happens all the time. But judging from comments after the round, that bogey-free round has apparently sent shivers through the field. If Jordan can merely hold it together over today and tomorrow, he may start Sunday with a pretty big lead.

Jason Day's even par round (-5 on the front, +5 on the back) was a bit of a shocker. Rory's 70 may have disappointed him a bit since he lost two shots on the last three holes, but he's in the best shape of the Fab4 to catch Jordan.

Of the other players who were talked about before the Masters started, only Justin Rose showed well with a 69. (Note that I said "were talked about". Players like Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Sergio have proven they can play well at Augusta, whether anybody talks about them or not!)

My "5 to Watch" picks didn't fair all that well:
  • Adam Scott (my pick to win), +4
  • Rickie Fowler, +8 (at least I did mention his need to avoid big numbers, which he didn't)
  • Phil Mickelson, E
  • Louis Oosthuizen, E
  • Dustin Johnson, +1
Depending on how bad the weather gets today, all but Fowler have a reasonable chance to make the cut... but perhaps not as good a chance to win. (Bear in mind that Rickie is tied with Ernie. Both men have their work cut out for them.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, the best scores of the day came from players no one was talking about -- Danny Lee and Shane Lowry, both with 68. And 8 of the Top12 (several are tied for ninth at -2) are European, which may also be a function of the wind. This Masters may be the best chance for a European to win since José María Olazábal won in 1999. (Wow, has it really been that long?)

Of course, it all hinges on what the 'struggling' Jordan Spieth does over the next three rounds. I suspect a large cross-section of the field wishes they were struggling like him right now.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Jack Nicklaus on Augusta Course Strategy

Jack Nicklaus has a short article at Golf Digest called What Augusta Teaches You About Your Course. By all means, read it to get some neat coaching on how to recognize and play tough shots on your course. (If you right-click on the image in the article and choose 'View Image', you'll get a much larger version of this drawing so you can read Jack's notes.)

Hole #2 with Jack's notes

But since the Masters starts today, I wanted to point out this little gem about the main trouble spots at Augusta. It should help you anticipate when the players have made a bad mistake:
Strong, fair golf courses have only so many highly penal areas. By my accounting, Augusta National has six shots you can't take off. The tee shot on the par-5 second hole (illustrated above), the second shot on No. 11, the tee shot on No. 12, the tee shot and approach on No. 13, and the approach on No. 15. Miss almost anywhere else out there, and you can recover.
Of course, if the wind is as bad as predicted, there may be a few more trouble spots than these six. But if Jack is correct -- and why shouldn't he be? -- these will cause major problems regardless of the wind.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Hank Haney on When to Take a Divot

When I found this article over at Golf Digest, I was fascinated because this is something I've noticed for a long time -- namely, that many of the best players don't take much of a divot despite how often we're told that divots are important. Hank Haney's explanation in Make a Tour-Quality Divot is a simple one that makes some sense of this apparent contradiction.

Patrick Reed taking a divot

Haney says that many weekend players take divots that merely slow down their swings without creating backspin. You can read the article to get all the details -- it's fairly short -- but here's the paragraph that sums up what he's talking about:
To make better divots, remember that they should be something you're thinking about only with a short iron in your hand. That's when you want to make a descending blow, catching the ball first. On anything longer than a 7-iron, it's OK to make a sweeping swing that produces little or no divot.
Now bear in mind that a sweeping swing can take a divot without sending chunks of dirt and grass into the air. The longer clubs make a shallower swing so they merely skim the ground, rather than digging deep. In addition, a sweeping swing hits the ball on a higher trajectory than a steep swing, so the ball comes down more softly anyway.

Or, to put it another way... While short irons and wedges may take a strip steak, divots with the longer clubs should look more like a thin strip of bacon!

And remember: Backspin is caused more by solid contact than by digging deep. Whether you take a deep divot or a shallow one, you won't get backspin unless you catch the ball crisply first.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Masters

I specifically left Lydia Ko off my "5 to Watch" list last week, and she calmly went out and won the ANA Inspiration. She never had the solo lead until she finished the 72nd hole.

After that, you can only imagine how enthused I am to pick Masters favorites this week. But I suppose my second attempt to pick major winners can't be any worse than it was last week, can it?

Approach to the 2nd green at Augusta

Perhaps you'll view this as cowardice, but I have decided NOT to put Jason Day, Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy on this list. Clearly this isn't because I don't think they can win, but simply because just about EVERYBODY picks one of these three to win. So I'm going to focus on the other potential winners...

And believe me, there are a lot of them. Even leaving Day, Spieth and McIlroy out, this is a tough one to pick. I agree with the folks who say this may be the most wide-open Masters we've seen in years.
  • Adam Scott gets the nod as my favorite this week. With two wins and a runner-up already this calendar year, he's proven that rumors of his putting problems have been greatly exaggerated. And with Steve Williams back on his bag this week, I think the magic may be a bit too much for the rest of the field.
  • While a number of folks are picking Rickie Fowler -- and I think he's playing well enough to win -- the fact remains that he has to avoid the handful of big numbers that he often finds at Augusta. I like his chances as long as he keeps the ball in play.
  • How can I do this list without including Phil Mickelson? Mickelson hasn't won yet this season but he has a second, a third and a fifth, and he's playing better than he has in years. He too has been plagued by occasional big numbers but if anybody can fix that at Augusta, it's Lefty.
  • I continue to believe in Louis Oosthuizen. He has a good history at Augusta and continues to play well. In fact, had the WGC-Dell Match Play only gone four rounds, he might have won that one as well.
  • Finally, my flier pick is Dustin Johnson. DJ has a third, a fourth and a fifth in his last four starts (the WGC-Cadillac was his worst with a T12). But here's the deal: The third and fourth came at Riviera and Golf Club of Houston, and the fifth at Austin Country Club -- all very tight, tricky tracks -- and in each of the two stroke play events he posted -13, which would have won 12 of the last 16 Masters. I'm going with the streaky guy!
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think this year's Masters is ripe for an upset winner. Regardless of what they say, the current Big3 have to be feeling some serious pressure to perform... and that could be a recipe for someone else to sneak in.

Just like Lydia did last week.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Shell Houston Open

Winner: Jim Herman

Around the wider world of golf: Lydia Ko outlasted everybody for her second major, the ANA Inspiration on the LPGA; Andrew Svoboda won the Brasil Champions on the Tour; Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on the Champions Tour; and Ji-Hee Lee won the Yamaha Ladies Open on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Jim Herman with Houston Open trophy

In a very real sense, Jim Herman wasn't even a nobody on Tour. His only pro victory came six years ago at a Tour event in Australia, and he was ranked 191 in the OWGR. He was, in the truest sense of the word, a journeyman. That means most people -- even fairly well-informed fans -- wouldn't have a clue who he is.

That all changed Sunday afternoon when Herman became the third player since 2008 to use the Shell Houston Open to get to the Masters... and the fourth player in that time to make the Houston Open his first PGA Tour win.

Herman had never had a 54-hole lead. He was surrounded by players like Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson -- proven players -- and tied with another player searching for his first win, Jamie Lovemark. Other big names like Spieth, Reed, Schwartzel, Fowler and Mickelson made runs at him as well. The commentators openly wondered how Herman would hold up under the pressure.

He held up just fine, calmly shooting a 4-under 68, which featured a bogey-free 3-under back9 punctuated with an unexpected chip-in birdie at 16. To me, the most impressive thing was his putting, as his stroke seemed totally unaffected by the situation. Time after time he stepped up and swept putts into the cup with a sure, smooth motion. He held it together pretty well.

And while he teared up during his interview, he also managed to hold it all together there until they said, "See you next week at the Masters," at which point his voice simply left him. Everybody understood.

After all, Jim Herman isn't a nobody anymore. He just took down some of the best in the game. Not only that, he made the prestigious list of first-time Limerick Summary subjects:
Another new winner breaks through
And heads for Augusta. Who knew
Jim Herman was ready,
His nerves could stay steady
Enough that his putts would run true?
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Ladies' Major Is... Well, Inspirational

If you haven't been watching the ANA Inspiration, the LPGA's first major of the year, you need to watch it today. It's rare that you see such an amazing leaderboard. I don't even know what storyline to start with.

Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration

Lexi Thompson is on top by herself, but it took a birdie-birdie-par-eagle finish to finally break out of the pack by a single stroke.

I suppose I could start with In Gee Chun, last year's US Women's Open champ, who hasn't been able to play for a month because of a back injury. She was only able to make full swings for six days before the tournament and estimated herself at maybe 85%, but now she's just one shot off the lead.

How about Lydia Ko, who's never played well here being just a shot back?

Perhaps I should mention Ai Miyazato, whose third-place finish at the Kia Classic last week apparently wasn't just luck after all. After a long struggle with her game that saw her drop well out of the Top100 on the Rolex Rankings, she changed the loft of her putter last week and suddenly found her game again. She's just two shots off the lead.

Or maybe Michelle Wie, posting her first sub-70 round of the year to get into the mix.

Or Suzann Pettersen, back near the top after three runner-ups at Rancho Mirage.

There are 15 players within three shots of each other on the leaderboard, and it's a wild mix of major winners, never-before winners and previous winners you may have written off. Here's the Top15:
  • -10 Lexi Thompson
  • -9 Ariya Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun
  • -8 Charley Hull, Ai Miyazato
  • -7 Caroline Masson, Michelle Wie, Sung Hyun Park, Suzann Pettersen, Lee-Anne Pace
  • -6 Pernilla Lindberg, Hyo Joo Kim, Gerina Pillar, Catriona Matthew
And just behind them lurk players like Stacy Lewis. Depending on the weather and how much harder the greens get, this leaderboard could turn topsy-turvy very quickly.

GC is supposed to begin final round coverage around 5pm ET today, before the Shell Houston Open finishes up on NBC. But this is shaping up to be a really good finish, and a great warm-up for the Masters next week. You should think twice before you miss it!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Jarrod Lyle Struggles, Returns Home

While everybody was going wild over Tiger's announcement that he wouldn't be playing the Masters next week -- no big surprise, if you've paid any attention to what he's said in the past few months -- the struggles of another player have been pretty much ignored.

Two-time cancer survivor Jarrod Lyle has gone back to Australia, in hopes of finding his game.

Jarrod, Briony and Lusi

I first caught the news Friday in Will Gray's blog post at the Golf Central Blog, and linked from there to the April 1 post in Jarrod's personal blog. To make a long story short, Jarrod has been struggling to get his game back on track and, with only three more events left to make $283,825 and keep his PGA Tour card, he's headed back home Down Under to see if he can put things back together.

Jarrod says he isn't quitting golf but, after a 79 in the Puerto Rico Open last week, he's demoralized. He's decided to go home early and spend more time working with his coach. And it doesn't hurt that his wife Briony is expecting their second child in a few weeks, so Jarrod will have more time with her and daughter Lusi before the new baby arrives.

Let's all wish Jarrod a successful reboot to his career... and a healthy new addition to his family. Sometimes you just have to go back to the beginning and start again. At least he has a happy beginning to start with!

The photo came from the photo gallery page at Jarrod's blog.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Stan Utley on Impossible Wedge Shots

Hey, this is just a cool instructional article to read. Golf Digest has an article by Stan Utley called Pitch It High from Any Lie. What makes it so cool? To demonstrate the techniques Utley used, here's what he did (and I quote):
"To make a point here, I tried out four extreme playing surfaces: pavement, my back-yard pool, the artificial turf at Arizona State's football practice facility and the desert."
Here's the photo of him hitting from the pool. (I wanted to used the one off pavement but couldn't get the link off the site.) In case you don't see the ball, it's about halfway between him and the left side of the photo, over the rocks but just below visor height. See it now?

Stan Utley pitching from a swimming pool

Utley says it's mostly about setup changes and how you use the bounce of the club; once you learn how the club should interact with the ground, you just need to choose how far behind the ball to hit the ground. Here are the section headings, which briefly summarize the article contents:
  • HARDPAN: Stay Tall and Skid Through Impact
  • SOFT LIES: Give It Plenty of Speed at the Bottom
  • TIGHT LIES: Keep Your Lead Arm Relaxed
  • WASTE AREAS: Learn to Read the Ground
I'll let you read the sections yourself, but even the pictures are cool.

I'm particularly interested in learning to hit off pavement. That may not be so useful, but I bet it'll impress some of my friends.

And no, this isn't an April Fool's joke. It just sounds like one.