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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Honda Classic

Winner: Adam Scott

Around the wider world of golf: Lexi Thompson became the first American to win the Honda LPGA Thailand; Jiyai Shin won the RACV Ladies Masters on the LET; Louis Oosthuizen won the ISPS HANDA Perth International on the ET; and Justin Hueber won the 69 Avianca Colombia Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Adam Scott with Honda trophy

The Champion's Course at PGA National once hosted the PGA Championship, back in 1987. For some reason it continues to believe it's hosting a major.

For the first couple of days it allowed players to believe they could score on it. Over the weekend it ate the players' lunches. And their dinners. And probably finished off their breakfasts this morning.

It's not that nobody could score at all. It's just that those players weren't inside the Top10 on the leaderboard. In the end, although Justin Thomas and Blayne Barber tried to make a run, it was just a two-man race between third-round leaders Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia, good friends who are both playing well... and who haven't won a PGA Tour event in two or more years.

It was Adam who got off to the best start with birdies on two of the first five holes. And although the best he could do was an even par score, he was able to put enough pressure on El Niño to make him struggle. Sergio's game was off just a bit and, after shooting par on the front nine, he was forced to press. In the end, Adam's even par round was enough.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this week is that Scott becomes the first player to win after switching from an anchored stroke since the ban went into effect. His stroke looks as solid as ever, and he's beginning to show up consistently week after week. After a runner-up last week and a win this week, Adam is in position to make a major run later this year.

And of course, he picks up his first Limerick Summary in a couple of years. Good on ya, mate!
The gusts from El Niño were strong
But Scott bucked those winds all day long.
His ball didn’t drown
In his even par round
And his putting refused to go wrong.
The photo came from the champion's wall page at

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 7

In many ways, this is the most important of the posts in this series. If you can wrap your mind around this, you can apply it to almost any style of golf swing and create more clubhead speed.

HaNa Jang entering the impact zone

Most of the time we focus on what I have called sidecock, specifically the way your lead wrist bends sideways during your backswing. Perhaps we focus on it too much. It's important but it's primarily caused by gravity and momentum during the swing -- or at least it should be. As you can see from my much-used photo of HaNa Jang above, the sidecock in her lead wrist is pretty much expended by the time she reaches the impact zone... and the clubhead is still far behind the ball.

Today I'm talking about what I have called backcock, the way your trailing wrist bends back toward your trailing forearm at the top of your backswing. For HaNa -- or any golfer -- to get the clubhead to the ball, the hands and arms have to travel almost parallel to the ground for quite a distance once they reach the impact zone. 2014 Long Drive Champion Jeff Flagg likened it to a baseball player's sidearm throwing motion. Starting where HaNa is in the photo, her trailing hand will be dragging the clubhead into the back of the ball and flinging the clubhead past her hands at impact.

And that flinging action is made using backcock.

I think that much is pretty clear to most players if they just stop and think about it for a minute. (And maybe try the version of the first drill from Post #4 where you keep the club parallel to the ground!) Most of us naturally create backcock at the top of our backswings. It's the result of keeping our lead wrists flat -- or in Dustin Johnson's case, severely bowed -- at the top. Make a backswing of your own and check. You've probably got a noticeable amount of backcock in your trailing wrist already.

The real problem seems to be how to FEEL that we're using that backcock on the way down. Most of us, perhaps because of our focus on sidecock, don't feel the pressure in our hands in a way that we normally associate with the 'sidearm throwing motion' Flagg talks about. Instead, we feel as if we're dragging the club down sideways, with sidecock, and so we naturally try to use sidecock all the way through our downswings.

That's where the problem is, and that's where learning a new way to think about our downswings can help. What we need to realize is that the pressure of the shaft against our hands CHANGES as the clubhead travels from the top of our backswings down to the ball. And that's because our bodies don't turn at the same speed throughout our downswings. Our bodies start out turning slowly and speed up as we near impact.

Let me repeat those two things because they are extremely important for you to understand.
  • The pressure of the shaft against our hands CHANGES as the clubhead travels from the top of our backswings down to the ball.
  • Our bodies don't turn at the same speed throughout our downswings. Our bodies start out turning slowly and speed up as we near impact.
These two things work together. Let's examine them for a moment.

At the top of our backswings, when our swings change direction, the momentum of the club presses against the heel pad of our trailing thumbs or just a bit more into our palms than that. The exact feel depends on the plane of your swing (flatter or more upright), how much shoulder turn you get (more or less than 90°), and whether your trailing elbow 'flies' or not. (Jack Nicklaus had a flying elbow and it didn't hurt him a bit.)

When we start down, that pressure increases a bit. It's because our arms are coming down faster than our shoulders are unwinding BUT the unwinding of our lower bodies and shoulders causes the head of the club to drop behind us a bit. (Well, if you're Sergio Garcia, it's A LOT. But for most of us, it's just a little.) And regardless of whether you call that 'rerouting the club', 'getting in the slot', 'laying the club off', or some other term, it has the effect of moving that shaft pressure more into the palms of our trailing hands. It's a gradual shift caused by the sidecock gradually straightening our wrists as we turn back toward the ball.

Please note that our palms are ALWAYS facing in almost exactly the same direction relative to our upper bodies during this motion. It's just that we feel the club's pressure in a more vertical direction early in the downswing, and in a more horizontal direction from waist level on down.

By the time the shaft is parallel to the ground, our bodies are turning fast and we're well into the sidearm throwing motion Flagg mentioned. We can feel the shaft pressing into our trailing palms as our trailing elbows swing close to our sides and begin to straighten. That's how the backcock we've created is released, flinging the clubhead through the hitting area and smashing the ball into orbit.

Do you follow all that? If you don't, that's okay. The new drill I've been promising you should help you get a good understanding of what's happening.

I'm presenting the drill in three versions, each one building on the previous one. Work your way through them at whatever pace is necessary for you to get the feel. I think you'll have a good idea of what you're doing when you're done... and that understanding will help you when we put it all together into an actual swing in the final post.

Version 1: In this version the shaft stays parallel to the ground until you reach the finish. Don't worry about sidecock at all with this version; both your lead arm and the shaft will be parallel to the ground.

You're going to make a good shoulder turn -- as before, 75-80° is fine -- and let your lead heel come up off the ground. Your trailing elbow will be away from your side when you start this move, and your trailing wrist should have some backcock.

Then I want you to swing forward as if you were hitting a ball teed up at waist level, letting your lead shoulder roll as you fling the club past your body into your finish. You'll get a weight shift to your lead foot, and the club will move upward after you pass the ball position and swing into your finish. (That's the easiest way to slow the club down without hurting yourself, so it should happen naturally.)

For those of you who have played tennis before, this will feel a bit like a two-handed forehand shot. If you're more familiar with baseball, it will feel more like a level swing with a bat EXCEPT that you haven't cocked the bat upward to get speed the way a batter at the plate does. You should feel as if both hands are swinging the club, not just your trailing hand.

DON'T TWIST YOUR FOREARMS AS YOU 'HIT THE BALL'. You want to feel as if you're hitting the ball with the palm of your trailing hand. That's how you hit the ball straight, and it helps you build 'clubface awareness', the ability to know where the clubface is pointed by knowing where your trailing palm is pointed. That's a very important skill if you want to be able to shape shots.

And don't try to swing hard. The point here is to learn how the pressure feels in your hand when you make this sidearm swing. And it WILL feel like a sidearm motion, because that's basically what it is.

Version 2: This version of the drill is almost identical to the first one BUT with one primary difference. It's going to look like you've added some sidecock... but actually this is the 'no sidecock' position. If you made a fist and stuck your arm out like you were going to punch someone, and then you opened your fist and gripped a club with your wrist in the same position, it would look like you've got about a 60° wrist cock. But this is the position players like J.B. Holmes are in when they say their wrists are uncocked. Are you with me so far?

Now take the club back as you did in the first version of the drill -- same shoulder turn, etc. -- but raise your arms until the club shaft is pointed either straight up in the air or at a slight angle over your shoulders, like a three-quarter swing.

After that, this version is performed the exact same way as Version 1, flat swing and all. This should help you get used to the changing feel as the club moves from the top of your backswing down to waist level. It shouldn't feel very different from Version 1 because we haven't really changed your wrist cock -- the relationship of the shaft to your forearm -- much from what it was in Version 1. It's just a longer, more natural movement for a golf swing.

Again, this is going to feel like a sidearm swing.

Version 3: In this final version we're going to duplicate Version 2 EXCEPT we're going to let gravity pull our arms all the way down so we can 'hit' a ball teed at normal height. This will help you get used to how the sidearm swing feels in the more familiar motion of hitting a golf ball.

None of these versions of the drill use any sidecock. This is all about learning how to transfer the feel of a sidearm motion to a swing on an inclined plane, which is all a golf swing is. Do it as much as you need to, as often as you need to, until you understand how to do it easily.

We'll add the sidecock and other bits of the golf swing when we put it all together in the final post next week.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 6

I figure I have three posts left in this series. The final one, which I'll post sometime next week, puts everything together into a swing you can actually use. This post and the next will focus on the other drill I mentioned, where we work out how we're going to get the club from the top of the backswing down to the impact position -- which is what we learned in the original drill -- and how to blend the two into one smooth motion.

JB Holmes downswing sequence

The photo sequence above comes from a post I did back in 2010 on how J.B. Holmes creates power in his downswing. The lines show how he has very little wrist cock but his lead elbow is bent. We're going to focus on the first and third photos today. The third is very close to the position we started the first drill from, as you can see in this photo of HaNa Jang that I've used a lot in this series. (J.B.'s hands are a bit farther into the impact zone HaNa's, but you get the idea.)

HaNa Jang entering the impact zone

The 'downswing drill' we're going to learn is extremely simple. We're going to start in J.B.'s top of backswing position and swing down to HaNa's impact zone position. And to be quite honest, it appears so simple that you may wonder why we need two posts. The start and end positions are very clear:
  • J.B.'s wrists are at basically the same angle to his forearms that they were at address, with his trailing elbow bent.
  • HaNa's trailing elbow is still bent, and she's just swung it down near her trailing side.
It really is that simple. If you swing -- let gravity make your arms and club fall, if you will -- your trailing arm down from the top to your side that way, you'll get the club into position to complete the first drill.

Or is it that simple? If you look at the second photo in the J.B. sequence, you'll see that J.B.'s trailing wrist has bent toward his body on the way down. This is what we call downcock, and it helps create more clubhead speed in our downswing. And you need to understand both how and why this happens.

Hence, two posts.

Let's make sure you understand the terms I'm using, since there are three terms with '-cock' in them.
  • First we have a term almost every instructor uses, and which I've already used in this post. That's downcock, where your trailing wrist bends toward your body on the way down.
  • The other two are terms I created for this series to help me be more clear about how your wrists cock. The first was sidecock, the wrist movement you use if you make a karate chop with the side of your hand.
  • The other I dubbed backcock, where the back of your hand hinges toward your forearm.
In this post we'll talk about sidecock, which is the main cause of that downcock in J.B.'s downswing. Tomorrow I'll talk about backcock, which is equally if not more important and is in part a side-effect of the downcock.

During this series I've mentioned a number of players who create downcock with their downswings -- and yes, downcock is an effect in your swing, not a cause. Sidecock, and the downcock it causes, are both the result of relaxed wrist and forearm muscles being moved by a combination of gravity and momentum. That's not as complicated as it sounds.

If you relax those muscles and move your forearm as if you were using a hammer -- bend your elbow and then change direction without any noticeable pause inbetween -- you'll feel your wrist cock toward your body when you change direction and then cock away from you when your forearm stops moving away from you. If you tense those muscles, it won't happen -- no wrist action at all.

Armed with that knowledge, let's get in a position to start our downswing drill. Turn your shoulders a bit more than you did in the original drill -- 75-80° should be plenty -- and let your lead heel come off the ground to allow it. That will put you in basically the same top of backswing position that the first photo of the Holmes sequence shows.

Now, if you hold a club in that position, and if you relax your wrists and forearms, and if you put your lead heel back on the ground to start your 'downswing', and if you just let your arms fall to around waist high, you should get a little bit of downcock. That's because the weight of the clubhead doesn't want to move at first -- the physics term for that is inertia -- so your relaxed wrists will start to bend toward your body as a result.

Then the club will start to move outward, away from your body, as your hands get near waist high because gravity has your hands moving in a small arc away from you (that's because your hips are going to shift a bit to your lead side as your shoulders start to turn) and the inertia is overcome. The clubhead now has a bit of momentum and wants to keep moving until it straightens your wrists.

With your wrists relaxed, this downcock and change of direction probably won't feel very smooth. In fact, it's going to feel a bit jerky. That's okay. Part of that is because we don't have the speed of a backswing to load the shaft, which would cause the clubhead to have a little momentum in the 'body direction' before we start down.

And it takes some strength to control that initial momentum as you change direction, because you can hurt your wrists if you try to create too much downcock. That's why you see so many variations among the players who create downcock. Inbee Park has a small downcock but big old Jason Kokrak has a massive one. I'd recommend most players -- unless they're male pros who pump heavy iron when they aren't on the course -- stick with a smaller downcock like Park. You don't need a whole lot to get the benefits.

So you can practice this drill, letting your arms and hands drop down to the same position as the original drill -- we'll call it the HaNa Jang position. Here's another photo from my post on HaNa Jang's swing, so you can see it better. (Yes, I know her hips are turned more. But she's only 5'5" tall and is actually hitting the ball with a full swing. You'll do this naturally once you start making the full swing.)

HaNa Jang entering the impact zone, two angles

We'll do the two drills together in the next post. We need to get that backcock working first. Otherwise we'll have trouble getting the clubface to square up at impact. This is enough for one day!

Friday, February 26, 2016

John Cook on Pitching from a Greenside Upslope

I guess I'm on an instruction binge this week. Today I've got some tips from John Cook on how to play a pitch from an uphill lie near the green. And since he recorded this at the Honda this week, it's about playing off Bermuda, which is very grainy.

Cook is using a gap wedge -- not a lob wedge -- and setting his shoulders along the slope. In other words, the slope gives him the necessary loft and too much loft on the club would cause him to leave the ball in the rough.

He's also standing closer to the ball. This makes his swing a bit more upright. If his stroke was more shallow, he'd catch more grass and -- you guessed it -- maybe leave the ball in the rough. You want to find the bottom of your stroke, where the clubhead hits the ground, so you can make accurate contact and catch the ball as cleanly as possible.

While you limit your lower body motion, you want your upper body to keep turning through the shot. Otherwise you're more likely to stick the clubhead into the grain. (You should also keep your shoulders turning when putting, btw. Your lead wrist often 'breaks down' simply because you stop turning and your wrists have no choice but to flip the club.)

Cook also says to lean the shaft forward a bit -- obviously you don't do that too much if you're trying to use the bounce -- and make sure you keep the clubhead moving well into your finish.

And as you get closer to the green -- but still on the upslope -- you go to a lower-lofted club (pw, 9-iron, etc.) and it becomes more of a chip. Cook is using a 7-iron when he gets to a level lie near the green. NOTE: Lower-loft clubs are easier to chip with. I often use an 8-iron when I'm chipping and rarely get mis-hits.

There's more in the video, but those are the basics he covers. Even if you aren't playing Bermuda, uphill lies are usually played into the grain. These are tips you need to know.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

DRILL: Hitting Flop Shots with Your 7-Iron

There was a slightly longer version of this Golf Channel Academy lesson on Morning Drive either Tuesday or Wednesday, and it was such a neat drill that I wanted to post it. In order to help you get better at using the bounce on your wedges, GCA Lead Coach Justin Bruton has a drill where you hit flop shots with a 7-iron.

I know, it sounds preposterous. But watch the video and then I'll give you a few things to watch for when you set up and swing that should help you get the hang of this more easily.

First, in your setup:
  • Your stance is slightly open. Take a good look at the video -- SLIGHTLY open. The idea is to swing just a bit out-to-in; you're not setting up for a big sand shot.
  • The ball is positioned forward in your stance. It appears to be opposite your lead heel. I tested that setup and was able to consistently strike the ground from that position, so it should work fine for most of you.
  • Note that when you split your grip, your trailing hand touches the shaft. Again, don't get crazy -- just one finger on the shaft is fine.
  • Grip the club so the clubface is slightly open. That helps you use the bounce better.
Now, when you actually make the swing, the butt end of the club should point at or just ahead of your belly button when the clubhead hits the ground. That will guarantee that you're using the bounce but not flipping your hands at impact. Not enough hand action makes the leading edge dig into the ground; too much hand action gets the leading edge too high off the ground and makes you more likely to hit the ball thin.

And remember his caution: You probably WILL hit the ball thin the first few times you try this drill. You have to learn the rhythm of the swing. But once you get it, your pitching should improve dramatically.

Best of all, since it uses a regular club and not a training aid, you can use this drill to make a few practice strokes before you actually hit a pitch during your round if you feel a bit uncomfortable. It's hard to beat a drill that can help you right at your moment of need!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

More Late Night LPGA Action

The LPGA is in Thailand this week, which means East Coast coverage here in the US doesn't begin until 1am ET tonight. (I know, technically that's Thursday morning, but since it starts around the time I'll be heading off to bed I call it night.)

I think it's safe to say that the big news this week is Inbee Park's return to action. But let's talk tournament details, shall we?

Inbee Park

The event is the Honda LPGA Thailand, which will be played on the Pattaya Old Course at the Siam Country Club in Chonburi, Thailand. This is the 10th year the event has been played and its 8th time at this course.

This is a limited-field event with only 70 players. (Haru Nomura qualified at the last minute with her win in Australia last week.) According to Tony Jesselli's preview, this is a top-heavy event with 42 of the Rolex Top50, including defending champ Amy Yang (currently #12) and Inbee Park (#2).

And, as I said earlier, Park is probably the main story this week. She has played only one round this year, having withdrawn from the Bahamas tournament with a back problem. Presumably she's feeling okay or she wouldn't tee it up. But she has fallen farther behind Lydia Ko with each passing week and is certainly feeling some pressure to get back in the game.

While almost anybody could be a favorite in a field this small with this level of firepower, I still like HaNa Jang's chances to get her second win of the season. According to Tony, only HaNa and Haru have been in the Top15 of all three events this season... but I checked and only HaNa has two Top5 finishes (a win and a T4). So she's my pick for the week.

As I said earlier, GC's coverage starts at 1am ET tonight. I'll probably fall sleep with the TV on again...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Some Teaching Video from K.J. Choi and Manuel de la Torre

Today's post is basically all video. I've mentioned Manuel de la Torre's book Understanding the Golf Swing before on this blog, and some of you have told me that it was very helpful. So here are some videos that may help you -- and the rest of you who are just curious -- understand his slightly different approach to the golf swing. It's based more on the old Ernest Jones techniques, which are an adaptation of the old classic swing to steel shafts. Every pro uses the Jones stuff to some degree, so it's worth knowing.

K.J. Choi's swing looks especially similar to this and, as you've seen over the last few weeks, it's a very dependable swing. So I've included a couple of Choi videos as well so you can see the similarities in the motion.

First, here are two Choi videos from 2010. I picked them because most of the newer stuff I found is very short, and his swing really hasn't changed much at all since these were made. The first one is a driver swing, the second an iron swing.

Here is Manuel de la Torre hitting shots. See how similar his motion and Choi's are?

Now here's an old Academy Live show from GC with de la Torre. This is back when Peter Kessler was hosting, but it was done after de la Torre's book came out. This is the whole show, nearly 45 minutes, and while the first five minutes may sound like a lot of geometric gibberish, there are a number of useful drills scattered throughout the show that can help you get the sequencing of your swing correct.

The eleventh minute has a particularly useful drill that will teach you the difference between dragging the club across the ball with the face open and getting your hands back to square so the ball will go where you aimed.

This is a really good introduction to what de la Torre teaches, so it's a good way to see if his book might help you without having to buy the book first. It's worth watching the video just to learn the drills.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Northern Trust Open

Winner: Bubba Watson

Around the wider world of golf: Haru Nomura won the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open on the LPGA/LET; Marcus Fraser won the Maybank Championship Malaysia on the ET/Asian Tour; and Erynne Lee won the IOA Championship on the Symetra Tour.

Bubba Watson with Northern Trust Open trophy

Bubba Watson came into this week with eight wins and a kidney stone, among other things. Since he was in Hollywood, he and son Caleb hung out with Justin Bieber, he did a guest shot on the TV show "Girl Meets World", and went to a Clippers basketball game.

Oh yeah, and he played some golf. He won the tournament, in fact. But it didn't look like normal Bubba golf to me.

Bubba is usually a pretty accurate driver. But he only hit half his fairways this week, and in Friday's round he only hit two. Yet somehow he managed to hit nearly 71% of his GIR. And even though his misses looked to be in some pretty bad places -- at least they looked bad to me -- he scrambled really well.

But he putted well. He made a whole lot of putts. And when Bubba putts well, he usually scores well -- which he did this week.

It didn't hurt that everybody else struggled with the softer greens at Riviera. (How often do we say that?) Most of the big names made a charge but just couldn't keep up the pace. For example, Rory McIlroy eagled the first hole but, after that, he had a Sunday he'll be eager to forget. Adam Scott had a rough stretch in the middle of his round; he'll leave Riviera feeling pretty good about his game, especially his putting with the short putter, but he did have a couple of bad holes. And Jason Kokrak, trying to win his first Tour event, came down with a case of brain freeze coming down the stretch after having the tournament under control.

In the end Bubba did what he often does. He came up with crucial shots in crunch time, going -2 on the last three holes to seal the deal.

Bubba's supposed to move to #4 in the OWGR with this win, and I believe he is now second only to Rory for total wins since 2010. And since I started this blog in 2009, I guess this win puts him second only to Rory for Limerick Summaries as well.
First it’s right, then it’s left, then it’s straight,
Then it’s high, then it’s low. Was it fate?
Bubba’s ball zipped around
Riviera and found
One more win he could add to his eight.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Distance Tip from Bobby Jones

If you've been watching the Northern Trust Open, you've been watching some long hitters launch the ball a long way. You've also seen and heard quite a bit of analysis about how the bombers do it.

Ironically, Bobby Jones -- who was pretty long in his day -- had an interesting take on how to hit it long. Even back when he played -- and yes, they did have steel shafts back then, they just weren't approved for tournament play by the R&A until 1928 so some of the pros like Jones didn't play them anywhere -- even then there were some ideas about how to hit it long that we still hear today.

Ideas that Jones disagreed with, btw, and made no secret of it.

Here's a couple of paragraphs from a newspaper column Jones wrote back in the early 1930s. It was entitled An Easy Solution to Extra Yards:
There are two main tendencies which the average player exhibits when he wants to hit hard. First, he is impelled to widen his stance, and second, to place himself further from the ball where he has the feeling that he can really "swing on it." In most cases, too, he will plant his feet firmly in the turf in order to complete what he considers "setting himself" for the stroke. And then he slugs at the ball and wonders why he doesn't achieve the enormous shot he had intended.
If one will take the trouble to observe, he will notice certain things which are characteristic of all true swingers of a golf club. First, that the posture of the body at address is fairly erect and that the location of the ball is near enough so that there is no need to stretch out for it; second, that the feet are not separated so widely that the movement of the hips is restricted and that they are not rooted to the ground. The whole picture will be one of apparent ease and comfort, entirely free from strain of any kind. And this is the beginning of a swing which will get distance and control.
I know some people will say that Jones is only correct when you talk about hickory shafts. They'll say that modern players need more power and you need a wide stance, restricted hip turn, and an 'athletic address position' with the ball farther away from you so you can swing your arms more freely and load the shaft more effectively.

But I keep thinking about how Bubba looks when he smacks it around Riviera. His stance isn't particularly wide. His hips turn a lot and his lead heel comes WAY off the ground at the top of his backswing. And Bubba isn't built like a bodybuilder; he's wiry and has a big swing, not tight with a short swing.

So maybe we should stay more relaxed and move more naturally if we want to get more distance. It doesn't matter whether you look at Bobby or Bubba, it seems to work just as well now as it did then.

The quote is from pages 48-49 of Bobby Jones Golf Tips: Secrets of the Master by Sidney Matthew.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

How Far Can 2mph Take You?

How about a quick informational post?

Here's a chart from Golf Digest's Fitness Friday post on velocity-based training. If you've ever wondered how much distance you gain with a speed increase and an center-face hit with your driver -- and yes, that center-face hit is important for this to be correct -- it looks like every 2mph of swing speed you can generate will give you around 7 extra yards off the tee.

90mph-100mph distance chart

So -- I'm extrapolating a bit here --a 105mph swing with an on-center hit would carry around 274 yards, 110mph would carry around 319 yards, and 115mph would carry around 354 yards. That's how this chart makes it look.

BUT that's not the way it works, is it? At least, those numbers don't seem to match up with how far Tour pros hit it. For example, I checked Dustin Johnson's clubhead speed at this stat page. DJ ranks only 17th so far this year, at 120.54mph. (Poor DJ, only 17th.) But his driving distance, which is 6th on Tour, is 313 yards. (Here's the Driving Distance stat page I used.)

For comparison, Tony Finau, #1 in clubhead speed so far this year, averages 125.35mph and hits it -- wait for it -- 318 yards, which is 3rd on Tour.

And the longest hitter is Gary Woodland at just under 320 yards with a clubhead speed of just barely over 125mph, he's 3rd in that category.

Bear in mind that those numbers are total distance, which includes both carry AND roll-out. Yet the difference between poor old DJ and Gary Woodland is 5mph but still only 7 yards. That doesn't sound nearly so impressive, does it?

So I'd be cautious about obsessing over swing speed numbers. It appears there's A LOT more involved than just how fast you swing the club, and not even the Tour pros have it figured out.

Friday, February 19, 2016

So You Still Can't Activate Your Glutes?

Humor me here -- I have a serious reason for this post. But even I know how funny this sounds, so stay with me.

Ever since Tiger talked about his glutes not activating on the course, it seems the phrase won't go away.

Here's what I find most humorous about the whole thing. I love knowing that after all the TV analysts made fun of Tiger, the fitness guys came out and said Tiger was completely correct and that 'glute activation' was important in a golf swing. Now it seems everybody has a method for activating those stubborn old butt muscles.

Today I'm posting a Golf Digest video with a simple butt exercise you can do without any special equipment -- except your conveniently located kitchen sink. Instructor Ralph Simpson calls them single leg sit backs.

As I said, I have a serious reason for posting this.

While we tend to focus on golf-centric exercises, the fact remains that healthy hips are vitally important for a normal life, whether we're playing golf or not. Strong hips do more than help your golf game; they help you function during the day. And since most of us have jobs where we sit a lot, it's important to find easy ways to keep them strong.

This exercise is something you can do in a few minutes, almost anywhere, several times a day. And since Simpson says this exercise works your butt muscles in a way that normal squats don't, this is an exercise worth knowing.

So this post is for your glutes. Keep 'em healthy and activated!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 5

Back in late 2010 I did a post about relaxed golf swings and I quoted a segment from a Jim Flick book about how a measurement of Bobby Jones's swing, made from a video of him hitting a ball around 260 yards, showed that the downward movement of his golf swing was barely faster than the speed of gravity.

Long-hitting Holly Clyburn entering the impact zone

That actually matches up very well with what I focused on in Part 4 of this series. To better describe what happens with your wrists during your downswing, I divided wrist cock into sidecock and backcock:
  • Sidecock is the downward motion of your swing, the way your hand moves when you make a karate chop with the side of your hand.
  • Backcock is the sideways motion of your swing, where the back of your hand moves closer to your forearm -- a slapping motion, if you will.
And I had you try the most basic version of this drill with a sidecock move that was little more than letting gravity have its way.

Today we'll apply that 'gravity move' to the pitch-length drill from Part 3 of this series.

In principle, this drill should be no different than the one in the last part. You let gravity start your downswing -- that is, just let your hands drop as you start down -- and focus on swinging your hands and arms toward the target. But the additional sidecock created by the longer swing, which points the shaft upward rather than parallel to the ground, may initially cause some of you a little trouble. In the rest of this post I'm going to see if I can't help you get the hang of this move more quickly.

In the last part I had you do the first drill without the 'drop'. You just used the backcock of your wrists to swing the club, keeping the shaft parallel to the ground as if you were hitting a ball teed up as high as your hands. What I want you to do first with this pitch-length drill is to let the club drop until the shaft is parallel to the ground but no farther. From there this drill is pretty much the same as the last one.

What WILL feel different this time is that you will probably feel your lower body moving first, even though my instructions were to feel as if you started your upper and lower body together. This is entirely normal! As I have said repeatedly, it's impossible to start your downswing without your lower body moving first. But when we had everything "under control" in the original versions, it all felt almost simultaneous.

But once you let gravity control the downswing, the acceleration of gravity creates a little 'lag' or 'pause' at the start of your downswing. Make sure you understand this: You don't have to TRY to create that pause if you let gravity take care of the downward motion in your downswing. You want to focus on the forward movement when you swing; let gravity take care of the down.

Once you get the hang of that, then try letting gravity take the clubhead all the way down to the ground while you focus on the forward movement. It may take a bit of practice but stick with it; it'll come. Using a 5-iron and this technique, I can get a loud SWOOSH at the ball when I use this method... and I can do it time after time, even though it's only a waist-high swing. It really does give you a lot of clubhead speed.

I think I'll wait until next week to give you a drill for the top part of the downswing, simply because you need to get this short swing working before you tackle the whole thing. You don't have to hit balls when you start; just make swings in the backyard or someplace where you have room to swing without hitting things. Then try hitting some balls, but don't swing so fast that you can't make solid contact.

Learning to relax during the golf swing is really difficult for some people because they want the CRUSH the ball, and that causes them to tense up. But the real key to speed is moving quickly -- DUH! -- and you can't create maximum speed if your muscles are all tensed up.

We'll stretch it out to a full swing next week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The LPGA Down Under

Good on ya, mate! It's time for the LPGA to head down under to the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open... and that means here in the States, it's time for more prime time golf (well, sort of).

Lydia Ko with trophy

This event will be played at The Grange GC, one of the premiere Sandbelt courses in South Australia. And while Tony Jesselli's Women's Australian Open preview puts the field strength at a mere 31.50% with only 11 of the Top50 in the Rolex Rankings making the trip, many of the players there will make for an interesting event.

Some familiar names like Laura Davies, Karrie Webb and Cheyenne Woods are in the field. Defending champion Lydia Ko will be there, of course, as will Brooke Henderson, HaNa Jang, Charley Hull, Minjee Lee and -- this one is particularly interesting -- Jiyai Shin.

As most of you know, Shin left the LPGA a couple of years back so she could stay closer to her home in Korea. But the word is that she's seriously considering a return to the LPGA and, having won this event in 2013, this might be a good start if she's truly planning to come back.

But I'm going with the hot hand this week -- LPGA hot hand, that is. Although Lydia Ko defended last week in New Zealand, I like HaNa Jang's chances to go two in a row after winning the Coates a week ago.

I said that this will be 'sort of' prime time golf here in the States. GC's coverage -- which will probably be live, given the time difference -- starts at 11pm ET tonight. That's a bit late for prime time but it's a lot better than the 2am and 3am times we've had for overseas golf the last few weeks. I know I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 4

No, this isn't the second drill I promised you in Part 3 of this series -- that post is still to be "sometime later this week." This post (and probably the next one in the series as well) is a preparatory one, to help you perform that drill better.

And I suspect a large number of you need this post. While some of you probably did the pitch-length drill and went, "WOW! That's amazing!" I suspect there were a lot more of you who found the drill to be awkward and unnatural. You understood the basic principles but just couldn't get used to the feel of it.

HaNa Jang entering the impact zone

I've tried to structure this series of posts to teach you much more than one possible way to swing a golf club. I want you to learn some things that instructors often do when they teach but they don't explain. They assume you'll make the connections between those things on your own because these things seem self-evident when you work with them all the time. But of course, they AREN'T self-evident to everyone else. (That happens in all walks of life, not just golf, so don't feel bad.)

One of those things, which I've said a few times in this blog, is that the way you THINK about your swing determines how it FEELS, and the way it feels creates your MECHANICS. That's why instructors often give their students drills with movements that don't actually occur during their swings; they're trying to teach them a feel that will create new mechanics more easily.

In today's post we're going to take the first of the two versions of the drill you learned in Part 1 and Part 3, and we're going to change the way that drill feels by changing the way you think about it. We'll focus on the original drill from Part 1 since that's the simplest version. We're going to change how that drill feels to you by changing your understanding of what's happening. 

I've talked a great deal about wrist cock during this series so far. The above photo of HaNa Jang appeared in the first couple of posts and I mentioned that while we were aiming to have the shaft parallel to the ground at this point, Jang shows that it doesn't hurt much if the shaft gets a little lower. I also mentioned in the last post that bending your trailing elbow while your lead arm stays straight automatically cocks your wrists.

Most of you followed this easily because when you think about wrist cock, you think about what I'll call sidecock. That is, you think of wrist cock as if you were delivering a karate chop with the side of your hand. This is the most obvious aspect of wrist cock and it's what most instructors focus on (or at least, what they talk the most about).

But maybe that's not what we should focus on when we swing. Because if you look at the Jang photo and try to duplicate that position as we did in the first post, you'll realize that your trailing wrist also has what I'll call backcock -- the back of your hand hinges toward your forearm.

If you take the position Jang has in the photo -- which is the position we used as the base for the original drill in the first post -- you'll realize that her trailing wrist has at least as much backcock in this position as her lead wrist has sidecock! The angle between her lead forearm and the club shaft, which shows us the sidecock, is nowhere near the 90° angle most of us try to achieve at this point. But she has very close to 90° of backcock. If you were to reposition the camera so it was above her head looking down at the ground, you'd see the shaft is nearly parallel to her aim line.

Now, from this position -- and this is very important, so make sure you think about this until you can see it at work (take a club and duplicate the motions to help you) -- sidecock simply drops the club straight down to the ground because you don't hit the ball with the side of your hand. Remember me mentioning that in the explanation from Part 2? If not, here's the quote:
UP is also a key concept. Your wrists don't cock away from the target; they cock upward. It's because many players don't understand this that they insist on using such strong lead hand grips.
So why do players use strong lead hand grips? Because they're trying to hit the ball with sidecock... but sidecock isn't what hits the ball. Sidecock lets the clubhead drop down to the ground so it can reach the ball, but it's a mostly vertical movement.

Believe it or not, you hit the ball mostly with backcock. If the ball wasn't sitting on the ground -- if it was on a tee high enough to be level with your hands in this drill -- you would simply make the 'swing' I described in that drill in one plane and hit the ball. You would roll your lead shoulder, straighten your trailing elbow, and end up making a nice weight transfer to your lead foot and leg. And you'd make a level-to-the-ground swing that popped that ball right off the tee.

You're skeptical, I know. So don't take my word for it. Here, from a post I did about getting distance way back in 2010, is a segment from one of GC's old Playing Lessons with the Pros shows featuring J.B. Holmes. I included this in that post because, starting at the :31 mark, Stephanie Sparks notes that Holmes doesn't cock his wrists at the top of the swing:

Now of course, Holmes HAS to cock his wrists in order to create clubhead speed. What she means is that she doesn't see any sidecock. (Holmes does create some sidecock on the way down. By the end of this post series, you will too.) But he DOES create backcock, at the very top of his backswing. HE HAS TO because if he doesn't, he can't bend his trailing elbow and he can't create a tilted swing plane.

So as the first part of our 'rethinking' of this drill, I want you to go back to the original version in Part 1 and make two changes to reflect this new way of thinking:
  • First, I want you to do the 'backswing' that gets your trailing forearm and club shaft parallel to the ground, just the way the post says... but then I want you to swing to the finish while keeping that 'parallel to the ground' position. I think you'll find this feels much more natural.
  • Then, once you feel comfortable with that, I want you to make that same horizontal swing BUT don't try to keep the shaft parallel to the ground. Just let the clubhead drop to the ground as you swing forward. Do you understand what I'm asking? Focus your effort on swinging toward the target, not toward the ground. The movement to the ground JUST HAPPENS, DUE TO GRAVITY. It may take you a few times to get that straight in your mind but once you do, this drill may feel almost effortless... AND SPEEDY. Just don't do this where you might take a chunk out of the carpet; it creates more speed than you expect!
In the next post in the series we'll look at the complete drill from third post. It may be a couple of days before I do that one, because I want you to spend some time doing this 'new version' of the original drill. You need to understand how much different a swing can feel just by changing the way you think about it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Winner: Vaughn Taylor

Around the wider world of golf: Lydia Ko won her third ISPS Handa New Zealand Women's Open on the LET; Thitiphun Chuayprakong won the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open on the Asian Tour; Bernhard Langer won the Chubb Classic on the Champions Tour; and Charl Schwartzel won the Tshwane Open on the ET.

Vaughn Taylor with AT&T trophy

Admit it. You did NOT see this coming.

And before you say that Phil gave it to him -- after all, the best Phil could manage on Sunday was an even par round of 72 -- bear in mind that Phil STILL beat everyone else in the field.

EXCEPT Vaughn Taylor. All he did was shoot a 7-under 65, tied for best of the day with Patrick Reed. And you did NOT see that coming.

Vaughn has been struggling with his game for a long time. He had won events back in 2004 and 2005, and he played on the 2006 Ryder Cup team. But then his game deserted him and he hasn't had a full Tour card for three years. But now he's back on the Tour full time and headed for the Masters. It was a nice Valentine's Day present for his wife and son as well, who he credited for keeping him sane during the depths of the last decade.

Although it may sound like a subplot, Taylor and partner Gregg Ontiveros also won the amateur team competition. Perhaps that helped Vaughn as well, since this is the second win for Ontiveros at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (the first coming in 2012 with Brian Harman). There's nothing like having a little experience in your corner when you're trying to break a long winless streak!

In any case, it's always nice to hear a story with a happy ending. And while this is Vaughn's third PGA Tour victory, it's his first Limerick Summary. So let's give him credit for a job well done!
Eleven long years since he won,
Yet Vaughn Taylor got the job done.
Phil stumbled, you say?
‘Twas Vaughn made him pay
With his late back nine four-birdie run.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 3

Armed with some practice of the simple drill in Thursday's post and the explanations from yesterday's post, you should be ready for the full version of what I have been calling the 'bent trailing elbow' drill. Let me remind you that this is the first of two drills -- this one focuses on how the arms and hands move through the impact zone. The second drill, which I'll post sometime next week, adds the upper part of the downswing.

Just to refresh your memory, here's a photo snagged from a video of Holly Clyburn -- currrently #2 in the LPGA Driving Distance stats, behind Lexi by a mere 4 yards -- showing the position that the drill is helping you learn to swing through. Two notes here: Holly has the shaft angled up higher than many of the pros on any tour, and I didn't use a pic of Lexi simply because her hands and shaft are generally a blur at this point! I can tell you that Lexi's shaft is angled lower, more like HaNa Jang's in the pics in the previous posts, so the exact shaft angle clearly isn't all that important.

Holly Clyburn entering impact zone

So while we're aiming for a shaft parallel to the ground in the drill, don't worry if yours is angled a bit higher or lower.

Many of you have heard instructors like Michael Breed talk about how you want to create the most speed as the clubhead reaches the ball and that, when you do it properly, you will hear a 'swoosh' just past the ball. Once you get the hang of this drill, you will be able to create that swoosh if you want -- even though you're only making a pitch-length swing. (Granted, you wouldn't normally try to make a pitch-length swing that fast. But you'll be able to if you try.) And if your shafts aren't overly stiff and you pay attention, you may even be able to FEEL the clubhead picking up speed.

One last thing before we start: It is important for you to stay as relaxed as you can while you make this swing. Relaxed muscles can move faster, and we're after clubhead speed here. So try to stay relaxed. I know it will be harder at first but you'll learn to relax as you get more comfortable with the feel.

So how are we changing the drill from the first post?

For one thing, we're going to add some shoulder turn. In the original version of the drill we kept our shoulders in our address position; now we're going to make an actual pitch-length swing. But you don't need to test your flexibility here; a 45° shoulder turn is plenty.

This means your hands will come up higher and you'll create some wrist cock.
  • How high should your hands come up? Your lead elbow will be in front of the bottom of your sternum (that's your breast bone), which will put your lead arm almost parallel to the ground.
  • How much wrist cock should you get? Because both elbows remain very close to your sides (see the first post again if you've forgotten), your wrists will cock automatically! If you feel as if you're cocking your wrists straight up -- that's automatic if you do what the first post says and don't twist your forearms -- the shaft will lean slightly toward the target and also lean backward on a slight upright plane. (The explanation for that was in the second post if you need to re-read it.)
In addition, the shoulder turn will automatically create a slight weight shift to your trailing foot and leg. It won't be huge and it certainly shouldn't be; if your stance is about shoulder width, your lead foot will roll slightly to the inside and your lead knee will break a little toward the ball. It's not a huge move -- I'm 5'10" and my lead knee moves maybe four inches, no more.

Your trailing knee and hip should move slightly backwards, not sideways. We want a pivot, not a slide.

That's your backswing.

Now, to start your downswing (and remember, this is a pitch-length swing, not a full swing), you want to FEEL as if you're rolling your lead shoulder AND returning your lead knee and foot to their address position AT THE SAME TIME. I know this goes against everything you've been told -- you've been told to start your downswing with a forward hip slide and turn, right? -- so let me give you a quick explanation why this creates the leg drive you want.
Physics 101: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Or, in golf terms, if your upper body tries to turn one way, your lower body tries to turn the other. That's why you hit behind the ball when your feet slip on wet grass. Your lower body can't resist this law of physics, so it tries to meet your upper body halfway in the downswing.

Most modern golf teaching wants your lower body to pull your upper body through impact. If your lower body moves forward and clockwise (that's a lefty swing), your upper body tries to react by moving backward and counterclockwise. If you don't do everything quite right, the result is called 'getting stuck'. Your upper body is trying to turn away from the ball. (If the movement is particularly bad, you can fall backward and make a 'reverse pivot'.)

What we're doing here is -- using the lefty swing example again -- trying to turn our UPPER body forward and clockwise. Now, when our lower body tries to go backward and counterclockwise, it ends up PUSHING our upper body forward. In other words, the two motions cooperate and we can turn through the ball more quickly.
And we try to feel as if we do them at the same time because... well, it's physically impossible to do them both at once, but the lag between the lower body drive and the upper body move in this pitch-length swing is really small. We're doing it so our bodies just do what comes naturally. After all, how often do you deliberately try to make your upper and lower body move separately?

I should also add that, while too much upper body movement away from the target in a swing is bad, we DO want a little bit. The head moves slightly backward at impact in a good swing -- but only slightly. By feeling as if we start the downswing with our whole body at the same time, that movement should happen naturally. If it doesn't, you'll know because you'll lose your balance and fall forward when you swing. That's a better fault than falling backward... but it's still a fault.

During your downswing and finish, your elbows stay close to your sides in this drill. (Yes, in the finish your trailing arm mirrors what your lead arm did during the backswing. Simple symmetry.) When you roll your lead shoulder, you'll use the big muscles to keep your arms and hands 'in front of you'. Your wrists will naturally uncock because, as your lead shoulder rolls, your trailing elbow will straighten and 'release the clubhead' at the correct time. The speed this creates late in the downswing will PULL you into your finish if you stay relaxed and just let your body go with it.

That's the whole drill. Do it slowly when you start because it's probably going to feel odd. That's because this is a very compact movement; we won't concern ourselves with 'width' until we get to the full swing. Gradually speed it up until you can do it fairly quick and still stay relaxed.

Again, remember that this is only a pitch-length swing. You shouldn't expect to swing as fast as you do in a full swing! But you'll be surprised at how much speed you can create this way if you try. That's the result of better hand and arm action, working in better sequence with your lower body.

But before I end this post, let's go back to the original drill for a moment. In the original drill I had you start with your trailing forearm basically parallel to the ground when your shoulders were in your address position. I still want your arm in basically that same position when you do this full drill -- it's part of the reason you'll have to do this slowly at first. Your trailing forearm stays in basically the same position from the top position of this full drill until your shoulders are square in the downswing.

In other words, your trailing forearm isn't really going to start 'hitting' until you've turned partway into your downswing!

Too many of you jerk your hands down from the top. If you learn to 'delay your hit' with this full drill, you'll start your hands and arms down more slowly and THEN speed up as you enter the impact zone. This is a major part of 'learning to feel the clubhead' and it will do wonders for your short game.

And when we turn this into a full swing sometime next week, it'll pay even more dividends. Have fun!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 2

By now many of you have messed around with the drill I gave you in Thursday's post and decided that I am a total crackpot. Well, I have a confession to make: I only gave you a part of the first drill. Today I'll discuss why I did that and what it should have taught you, because you'll get more from the full drill once you understand these fundamentals.

HaNa Jang entering the impact zone

As I said in that post, how you THINK about your swing is very important, and the way your trailing elbow moves during your backswing is badly misunderstood by most players. I isolated that elbow move -- as well as the lead shoulder move -- so you would focus on them. I put you in a position that virtually all pros get into -- the bent trailing elbow position -- and eliminated your body rotation so you could see exactly what your arms and hands are doing as the clubhead moves down to strike the ball.

And DOWN is a key concept here. Many of you are trying to 'hit down' on the ball, and you've tried everything. But this drill should have shown you that your hands -- and therefore the club -- are moved down to strike the ball in large part by rolling your lead shoulder and straightening your trailing elbow.

UP is also a key concept. Your wrists don't cock away from the target; they cock upward. It's because many players don't understand this that they insist on using such strong lead hand grips. You may think that this 'upcock' makes your swing plane too vertical, but swing plane is created by a combination of factors that include the shoulder roll in addition to your shoulder coil, leg action and overall body movement. The upcock eliminates unwanted forearm twisting and actually makes it easier to square the clubface. I'll explain that more fully when we get to the full swing drill in the next couple of posts.

And let's not forget ACROSS. Given the modern emphasis on leg and body action, you may have gotten the idea that the club is dragged through the impact area totally by hip action. It's true that hip action plays a part, but the drill you've been doing should have shown you that your hands -- and therefore the club -- are moved across your body in large part, again, by rolling your lead shoulder and straightening your trailing elbow.

It's very possible that the whole idea of  'rolling your shoulder' seems a bit confusing. Have you ever cleared off a table by laying your forearm on it and dragging it across the tabletop in a huge arc to sweep things off into the floor? That's the result of rolling your shoulder, and that feels very similar to the move you should make during your downswing.

You may have noticed that many instructors -- and players, when they're asked about what they're trying to do when they swing -- have begun to talk more about arm and hand action. That's because they've realized that something is getting lost in modern instruction -- the truth that a golf swing is a whole body action. You don't immobilize one part of your body while another part makes huge moves -- at least not while you're making a full motion swing. That's how you get hurt. (Exaggeration during a limited-motion drill is different. Every instructor uses that technique.) And the importance of arm and hand action has been overlooked because of the emphasis on lower body action.

Go back to the drill I gave you in the first post and try it again, trying to feel the things I've discussed in this post. This time you should have an 'A-HA!' moment or two. Tomorrow I'll give you the whole drill, which is a slightly longer pitching motion complete with some added shoulder turn and lower body action. You'll get a whole lot more out of it now that you better understand the partial version of the drill.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The LET Season Gets Underway

I know, you were expecting me to gush all over the Pebble Beach event. Au contraire, mon ami! The LET is playing their first event of 2016 this week.

Lydia Ko with trophy

The ISPS HANDA New Zealand Women’s Open is Lydia Ko's home event and she's the defending champion, of course. And since the first round is finishing up as I write this, I can tell you that Lydia is T5 at -3, 3 shots off the lead, and it looks like she'll still be 3 off the lead when everybody finishes. She's tied with her fellow Kiwi, Cathryn Bristow.

While I don't recognize some of the names on the leaderboard, I do recognize first round leader Nicole Broch Larsen. She's from Denmark, won the Helsingborg Open last year, and is one of those players you'll probably be seeing on a Solheim Cup team pretty soon.

I also recognize French player Gwladys Nocera, who has won 15 times around the world and is currently T3 with Pamela Pretswell, a Scottish player I've heard of but whose game I am not familiar with.

Currently in solo second is a new name for me, Justine Dreher, a French rookie on the LET this year. It'll be interesting to see how she holds up against the 'veterans'.

I hate that we don't get to see much of the LET over here in America. If we're lucky, GC will replay the last round or two sometime next week; they don't do that with many of the events. But the fact that Lydia Ko is playing in this one may give us a chance to see some of it.

We can hope, anyway. In the meantime I'll just have to settle for watching the leaderboard change on my computer.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 1

In Sunday's post about HaNa Jang's swing I promised you a drill to help you learn how players like Jang, Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park -- as well as most other tour players, male or female -- create a lot of clubhead speed at impact. However, players like Jang, Kerr and Park are more accurate than most because of how they make this move.

In today's post I'm going to give you a drill that will help you get the bottom part correct. Next week I'll show you how to add the top part of the downswing. Why am I dividing it up like this? Because this is a different way of thinking about how the club moves during your swing, and it's easier if you take it one small part at a time.

Over four years ago I did a post that included this Ben Hogan video. We're going to adapt part of this drill to help you understand the motion of your arms, hands and club at impact. What we're interested in is the first 28 seconds of this video, the part where Hogan keeps his elbows very close to his side. Here, take a look:

We're going to do this drill a bit differently.
  • First, the key part of our drill is how you move your trailing arm. With your trailing elbow kept close to your side, after you take your address position I want you to take the club back by bending your trailing elbow upward 90° so your hands are in front of your trailing hip and your trailing forearm points straight out away from you AND the club shaft is parallel to the floor. I don't want you to turn your body during your 'backswing'. Keep your shoulders in the square position they are at address and keep your lead arm straight. That means I want you to get in the basic position shown in the Jang photo below. Yes, we are exaggerating this move for a reason.

HaNa Jang entering impact zone

Now this isn't a one-piece takeaway, and the club shaft won't be parallel to your target line. In fact, the shaft will angle out away from you, almost like an over-the-top swing plane. We aren't worried about that because, in an actual swing, your shoulders wouldn't be completely square because your body would be turning. We'll take care of that when we add the second drill next week.
  • When you bend your trailing elbow, the upper part of your lead arm is going to ROLL up your chest a little. Many of you think you rotate your forearms during your swing, but the rotation actually happens at your shoulder. This is vital to getting accuracy when you strike the ball because, when you make your downswing, your lead shoulder will roll down the same amount it rolled up on your backswing. Again, I'll show you how that works in the second drill but it's easier to learn it with this smaller drill.
  • Finally, when you "swing" back down to the impact position, your lead arm will rotate back to its original position and you'll automatically get a little forward weight shift. Don't worry that it looks like an out-to-in swing; like I said, we'll take care of that with the second drill. The important thing is that you learn the feel of your trailing elbow straightening out at impact while it stays close to your side during the downswing.
One very important thing you should learn from this drill is that a large amount of what you've been trying to do during your swing should actually happen automatically. For example, the movement we call a 'release' is actually caused by just bending and straightening your elbows at the right time during your swing.

And yes, I know it feels weird. That's because we've taken this small movement out of the complete motion the full swing makes and exaggerated it to learn how it works. But after we add the second drill and you get comfortable with the full swing, you'll find you can open your stance a little, add a little body motion and get a very nice chipping motion with this. But that will come later

For now, just spend some time doing this little drill and getting used to the feel. It's small enough that you may be able to do it inside. With all the bad weather going around, that's a good thing. And remember, you're learning a new way to think about how your swing works.

Do not underestimate the importance of how you think about your swing. How you THINK about your swing determines how it FEELS, and how it feels determines the MECHANICS of your swing. You'll understand what I mean once we get it all together.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Golf Digest's 2016 Hot List Is Out

Just an update for all you players looking for new clubs this year...

Callaway XR16/Pro Driver

Although the website is featuring the fairway woods on the home page, Golf Digest has posted the 2016 Hot List for all the equipment categories:
  • Drivers
  • Fairway woods
  • Hybrids
  • Game-Improvement Irons
  • Super Game-Improvement Irons
  • Players Irons
  • Wedges
  • Blade Putters
  • Mallet Putters
This time they've just posted photos of the clubs on the main page for each category, and you click to go to a longer review of each club. I only took a quick look but I like this guide much better than the  one they did last year -- more info, easier to read.

Enjoy checking out the new Hot List, even if you're just dreaming about new clubs!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Blair O'Neal's Three-Exercise Core Workout

Since it's so cold around the country I decided to go for another workout video tonight. I really like simple ones, workouts with a minimum number of exercises, so you don't have to spend so much time. After all, most of us don't have two hours to spend in the gym.

So here's a video from Blair O'Neal with three posture exercises you can do inside the house.

Blair O'Neal

Okay, three core and posture exercises:
  1. Single leg rear lift (activate your glutes!)
  2. Lunges
  3. Dead lifts (the movement but without the heavy weights)
You can strengthen your core and improve your posture while you're watching TV (and maybe Blair). What more could you ask for?

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama

Around the wider world of golf: Esteban Toledo won the Allianz Championship on the Champions Tour; Sebastian Munoz won the Club Colombia Championship on the Tour; Danny Willett won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the ET; Shaun Norris won the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open on the Asian Tour; Georgia Hall won the Oates Victorian Open on the ALPG; and Ha Na Jang won the Coates Golf Championship on the LPGA.

And in case you somehow missed it, the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in the Super Bowl.

Hideki Matsuyama with Phoenix Open trophy

Rickie Fowler was uncharacteristically emotional after losing to Hideki Matsuyama in an amazing 4-hole playoff. He had hoped that his grandfather would see him win in person. Instead, he saw his grandson in tears.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, it was water of another kind that brought on those tears -- the water hazard at the driveable par-4 17th. An unexpected hard bounce during regulation sent his ball 360 yards into the water behind the green and a pulled tee shot found the water on the left side during the final hole of the playoff.

Admittedly, Rickie's game had been a bit off all day. Had it not been for his scrambling there might not have been a playoff at all.

By comparison, Hideki had a few missed opportunities after an opening birdie but quickly got his game back under control. His bogey-free 67 matched Rickie for score but was much steadier overall. His birdies on 17 and 18 during regulation forced the playoff, and he never really struggled during those final four holes. He has now gotten both of his PGA Tour wins in playoffs.

During the broadcast Johnny Miller suggested that Hideki might very well turn the "Big3 / Big4" discussion into a "Big5" over the next couple of years. If he keeps this up, it might not take that long; this win jumped him up seven slots to #12 in the OWGR.

It also jumped him up to to two Limerick Summaries. Congratulations, Hideki!
They both wasted shots, yes it’s true…
But waste management’s what the pros do!
As Hideki got better
Poor Rickie got wetter
And the man from Japan got Win Two.
The photo came from the Japan Times site.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Quick Look at Hana Jang's Swing

Yesterday Hana Jang got her first LPGA victory at the Coates Golf Championship, an event she lost in a playoff last season after Monday qualifying just to get in the event. In fact, she was runner-up in four LPGA events in 2015. But she was already a major star on the KLPGA with six wins, two of which were KLPGA majors.

And Jang is quickly becoming a star in the US as well, in large part because she's just a fun person. You can learn a little about her in this bio from the Seoul Sisters blog. And according to this ESPN article, she learned to speak English by watching animated Disney flicks. You gotta love somebody who thinks outside the box!

But while Jang isn't tall -- she's only 5'5" -- she still busts the ball a long way. According to her LPGA stats, last year was her shortest year (255 yards, possibly because she was Monday qualifying for so many events) while she typically averages 10-15 yards farther. How does she do it and still hit so many fairways (near 80% most years)?

Here's a YouTube video from 2013, her best year on the KLPGA.

I've grabbed a frame from this video showing a split view halfway down in her backswing, just as she enters the impact zone. I've also grabbed a similar frame from this 2015 video at the CME Group Tour Championship. Here are the two photos:

Hana Jang 2013 swing

Hana Jang 2015 swing

I've isolated this position because I've written about it before as part of a four-post series I did between 11-25-15 and 11-29-15, specifically in this post about Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park getting in this same position. The trick here -- and what I want you to understand -- is that Jang is a long hitter and yet she doesn't have anywhere near as much wrist cock at Kerr and Park at this position. As you can see, the shaft of her driver is NOT parallel to the ground.

It's clear that, while wrist cock is important, it's not nearly as important as most of us think!

In this post about long drive champion Jeff Flagg I included this quote:
WHAT AM I THINKING ABOUT WHEN I SWING? My only real thought is, Right hand and arm drive the swing. That's it. I'm literally trying to make a sidearm throwing motion—like a 3-6-3 double play in baseball. If more golfers swung with the same motion, as if they were skipping stones, they'd pound the ball.
This "bent trailing elbow position" I talked about in the Kerr-Park post and that you can see Jang doing in this one is the same "sidearm throwing motion" Flagg talks about.

I would suggest going back and re-reading the Kerr-Park post (since there's no sense in repeating it all) and comparing it to what Flagg and Jang do. I'm seriously beginning to think this is the position that most speed drills are trying to get you into so you can get distance. I think I know the perfect drill to help you work on it -- once you know what you're trying to learn, that is -- and I'll try to do a post on that next week. This post is long enough already!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Annabel Rolley on the Reverse Warrior Yoga Pose

I know you'll think this exercise is crazy but it's a multi-purpose workout that strengthens and stretches your muscles, plus it increases your endurance. Annabel Rolley calls it a 'Reverse Warrior Yoga Pose.'

I'm not even going to try and describe it. Just watch the video and copy what Annabel is doing. But having tried some specific yoga poses in the past, I can tell you from firsthand experience that something like this can do wonders for you. Because you're trying to stay as relaxed as possible while you do these types of exercises, they let you do an amazing amount of work without hurting you. Over a period of weeks you really will feel a difference.

Go on, give it a try. What have you got to lose?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Rickie Fowler's Four Checkpoints for Solid Iron Shots

Rickie Fowler has already won in Abu Dhabi this year and he's tied for the lead in Scottsdale after the first round. If you've been watching him blast his irons at the pin -- and, more times than not, hit them right where he intended them to go -- and you wonder what he thinks about when he swings, then you might be interested in Rickie's four-point checklist that he gave Golf Digest on how to hit more greens.

The reason this is important is because... well, there's nothing special about it. Anybody can check these four things at any time during their round if they're having problems with their approach shots.

Rickie Fowler flushing an iron

The four tips are:
  1. Make sure your feet, knees, hips and shoulders are square
  2. Check your posture and make sure you're not too stooped over
  3. Avoid overswinging at the top of your backswing
  4. Be sure you're hitting the ball before you hit the ground
These four things effectively check your alignment (1), your spine angle at address and the top of the swing (2 and 3) and your footwork / weight shift (4).

Those are dreadfully simple, aren't they? You may even feel embarrassed to mention them. But in golf, as with most things in life, it's usually the simplest things that trip us up.

And perhaps because they're so simple, Rickie says not to worry about them if your first few shots are good. Why? Because -- and I think this could be a fifth tip -- the fewer things you think about when you play, the better.

We make a big deal of how much Butch has helped Rickie improve his game. But is it really any surprise that Rickie has become so consistent when his approach is this simple?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ernie Els Attacks the Yips

It's been no secret that Ernie Els has been struggling with his putting, so much that he's been missing 18-inch putts. That's not good, especially if you're a pro.

The irony is that Ernie may have found a solution. At least, according to Golf Digest it seems he has.

Ernie Els putting crosshanded at Joberg Open

Apparently Ernie has gone to a regular length putter -- no word on whether it's counterbalanced or not -- and he's putting crosshanded. (For you lefties out there, that's what righties call "left hand low.") According to the post, Ernie tried it last week at Qatar and didn't miss a putt inside 5 feet.

I should point out that Ernie has been putting crosshanded for a bit longer than that -- just look at the photo above. That's Ernie putting crosshanded at the Joberg Open in mid-January and, since he was missing those short putts the week before, I'm guessing Joberg is the 'official' start of the crosshand test.

I don't know why it took him so long to try it, but I hope it keeps working for him since the rest of his game is still so good. And I'm spending a post of my own on this because maybe it will help some of you who are struggling since the anchoring ban took effect.

And in case you couldn't tell, the photo came from the Getty Images site.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Live LPGA Golf Today at 2pm ET

Just a quick reminder for you LPGA fans since the schedule is unusual this week.

Defending champion Na Yeon Choi

The Coates Golf Championship in Ocala, Florida runs from Wednesday to Saturday this week. That means GC begins their FOUR HOURS of live coverage today at 2pm ET. Na Yeon Choi is the defending champion and Lydia Ko starts her season this week.

And if you miss the live coverage, the re-air runs from 6:30pm-10pm ET later today.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Farmers Insurance Open

Winner: Brandt Snedeker

Around the wider world of golf: Younghan Song won the SMBC Singapore Open on the Japan Golf Tour; Hyo-Joo Kim won the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic on the LPGA; Ryan Armour won the Panama Claro Championship on the Tour; and Branden Grace defended his title at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the ET.

Brandt Snedeker with the totally inappropriate surfboard trophy at Farmers

On Sunday, Brandt Snedeker beat Mother Nature.

On Monday, it looked like Mother Nature was going to be a poor loser.

Playing during the horrible conditions Sunday, Brandt was the only player to post a round under par. If I heard correctly, Brandt was 3-under and the other 70 players were 377-over... and a lot of them weren't even finished at the time! (In the end, those other 70 players were 422-over.) Many felt it was one of the best rounds ever played. Brandt finished a single shot off the lead and had to wait 24 hours to find out exactly what that meant.

When play finally picked up again on Monday -- after two more delays -- it looked like the weather would be calm and poor Brandt would get the short end of the stick. And it was pretty calm for two or three holes, but no one could capitalize on that.

So old Mama Nature dropped the hammer and dared them to play as good as Brandt.

They didn't... and Brandt won without hitting a single shot on Monday.

This is really pretty cool. After that awful showing at the Australian Open in December, Brandt won the Shark Shootout with Jason Dufner (last week's winner), then started 2016 with a T3, second in a playoff, and a win. I know there's a lot of time left but Brandt clearly has to be an early favorite for the Masters. All he has to do is keep playing like this.

Maybe he can arrange for a few tsunamis in his schedule.

In the meantime, Brandt can celebrate his first Limerick Summary of 2016, secure in the knowledge that no trees were harmed during the writing of this limerick. (That's because I composed it electronically. Isn't paperless communication wonderful?)
Brandt gave Mother Nature the finger
While the field struggled hard just to linger
Near his smooth 69…
But it did underline
How the course put them all through the wringer.
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at

Monday, February 1, 2016

Farmers Final Round at 11am ET Today

Obviously I can't do the Limerick Summary today because the Farmers Insurance Open got rained out Sunday. Well, actually blown out -- dangerously high winds were even stripping the bark off some of the trees in the area.

Perfect golf weather at Torrey Pines

GC will be carrying the live final round coverage today. Officially it starts at 11am ET but they said Morning Drive would do some pregame coverage starting at 10:30am ET.

During the worst of it on Sunday, Brandt Snedeker was the ONLY player under par with a 69 that put him at -6, tied with KJ Choi and just one shot behind Jimmy Walker. (Clearly Brandt's work with Butch Harmon is paying off!) While the rain may not be a factor today, the wind will. So it will be interesting to see if Brandt's score holds up, especially since those two still have 8 holes to play.