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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

An Incredible Interview with Pete Cowen

Golf Digest has this amazing interview with Pete Cowen, called The Best Teacher No One Knows, a man who many consider to be one of the two best teachers in the game. (Butch Harmon is the other.) I have often used Cowen's thoughts on the swing in my posts, and this interview includes his thoughts on many of the game's top players.

Pete Cowen looking cool

Since I love using some of his thoughts -- after all, he doesn't get a lot of TV time here in America -- I'll give you just one of the interesting things you'll read in this article. He was asked who he thought had the best swing ever, and he said Sam Snead. That resonates with me because I've tried to use some of Sam's technique in my own books. Now listen to WHY he says Sam was the best:
MECHANICALLY, SAM EMBODIED ALMOST PERFECTLY MY CONCEPTION of the full-swing motion resembling a spiral staircase, going back and coming through. Sam's sequential coiling and uncoiling was timeless and without flaw. There was none of this lateral-motion stuff, nor was it simple turn then unturn. Sam's engine was much more dynamic than that. You could imprint a silhouette of Sam, and it would be a great imprint for anyone to follow today. There's only one player today who comes close to matching it, and that's Henrik Stenson. (emphasis is mine)
Cowen is different from many American teachers simply because he doesn't like the modern over-emphasis on lateral motion to start the downswing. And if you watch Stenson swing, you'll see that he doesn't have a lot of lateral movement toward the target either.

As for his thoughts on Hogan... well, I'll let you read those yourself.

This will almost certainly be a controversial article amongst instructors. Trust me, you'll want to read this. It's not just instructive, it's entertaining.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Farmers Insurance Open

Winner: Jon Rahm

Around the wider world of golf: Brittany Lincicome won a playoff at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic; Jeunghun Wang won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the ET; Todd Sinnott won the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open on the Japan Golf Tour; and Andrew Landry won the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic on the Tour.

Jon Rahm and caddie celebrate eagle at 18

After most of the big names left Torrey Pines, the game began in earnest. I don't mean to belittle players like Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Brandt Snedeker or Phil Mickelson. It's just that -- aside from Phil -- Tiger, DJ, J-Day and Rickie garnered most of the attention. But they didn't play the way anybody hoped and, once they were gone, it almost felt as if the golf could finally get underway.

And the names who remained rightfully drew a lot of attention. Defending champ Snedeker was once again in contention, as were Rose and Matsuyama, and Phil was within shouting distance when the final round started. But no one could distance themselves from the field, and even more players joined the fray, like up-and-comers Patrick Rodgers and Ollie Schniederjans.

But somehow, in the midst of it all, everybody forgot about up-and-comer Jon Rahm.

In retrospect, he shouldn't have been ignored that way. Rahm was actually a stroke ahead of Phil, and his resume was easily the equal of any other not-yet-a-winner in the field. And yet he somehow slipped under the radar until an eagle at 13 tied him for the lead, putting him firmly in the mix. By the time he reached 17 he was on everybody's radar... and then the unimaginable happened.

A birdie at 17, and that unbelievable 60-foot downhill putt at 18 that calmly dropped in the center of the cup for an eagle... and a three-shot lead that left the CBS crew stating the obvious: Rahm was likely the winner because nobody was likely to catch him.

And nobody even got close. Rahm, like so many of the young winners this season, tied or set records attached to names like Woods and Mickelson. And, like so many of those young winners, handled the fans and press afterward as if he'd been doing it for years.

Now he can add his first Limerick Summary to his growing list of accolades. Perhaps the European Ryder Cup might want to start looking for some loophole Rahm could slide through...
Jon started the day three behind…
But we all know that Torrey's unkind
To the final round lead.
They were forced to concede
When Jon blitzed 'em all on the back nine.
The photo came from the tournament daily wrap-up page at

Sunday, January 29, 2017

How (and Why) to Choose a Good Golf Instructor

Today I've got a new guest post for you folks. It's from Charles Borden, a freelance writer and golfer at Raleigh NC, a couple of hours east of me, on how to find a good instructor. He loves playing great area courses like the ones in Myrtle Beach, Southern Pines, and, of course, Pinehurst. This article will give you the basics of how to determine what you need from an instructor, interview them to make sure they can really help you, and then assess their effectiveness as your lessons progress.

This is a good article and I hope you pick up some useful tips from it.
Every golfer wants to improve his or her game. Whether you play casually once a month with friends, treat it as a regular weekend activity, or pursue the sport with the aim of winning competitions, it’s always fun to feel your swing working more smoothly and see your scores dropping down. The trouble is that the best way to improve is usually through private instruction, and finding a good coach can be pretty difficult.

In this article we’ll look at how to make that process a little easier, as well as what you can hope to learn once you find the right coach.

Player hitting from rough

Finding The Right Instructor

The process of finding the right instructor involves a balance of self-analysis and thorough exploration. By getting the best possible feel for your own game, locating options in your area, and determining what those options have to offer, you can best ensure that you’ll wind up with a coach who can advance your game.

Gauging Your Game

When you’re considering finding a new golf instructor it may seem as if you should simply leave the analysis of your own talents and abilities up to them. There’s some logic to this, but you should also remember that when you seek out private coaching you’re usually asked to label yourself. Are you a beginner? Are you an experienced player who’s a beginner with coaching? Is your game at the intermediate level or higher? Often, the answers to these questions will help to determine which coach you wind up with, or how that coach approaches lessons.

You can always start by calculating your handicap as explained by American Golf. You’ll need to have an average of your last several rounds of golf on a given course. From that number you simply subtract the course rating (a number that should be available), multiply the result by 113, and divide that result by the slope rating of the course. The result provides you with a numerical representation of your ability.

You should also be prepared to describe your confidence level -- not just in your game as a whole, but in specific aspects of it. Take the time to really consider which strokes and clubs you’re most comfortable with, or which aspects of a course seem to challenge you the most. Basically, the more information you can express about your own game, the better an instructor will be able to assist you. This is wise to consider before you actually start looking for a coach.

Finding Your Instructor

There are plenty of ways to start your actual search for an instructor. If you’re lucky, you may have a friend or family member who’s already using an instructor that he or she would recommend. Alternatively, you may be a member at a course or a club where you have access to private instruction, or can at least get pointed in the right direction. Even these easy methods are often simply pairing you with the most convenient option, rather than a coach who’s necessarily best for you.

More and more, people are turning to the internet for ways to get around that issue and find an instructor who feels like a custom fit. For example, Play Your Course has an online search tool with a database of golf instructors that can help to handpick a coach for a given player based on that player’s set of goals, location, and course preferences. It may sound a bit impersonal, but keep in mind that it’s merely a search mechanism. It is meant to provide you with the best and most affordable options in your area, after which you can start a more specific selection process.

Interviewing Your Coach

In any relationship with a coach or instructor, you’re handing over control to some extent. You’re asking someone to direct your actions and help you improve. That can make it seem like you’re subjecting yourself to a prospective instructor’s approval as soon as you meet. But this isn’t the case! Keep in mind that you’re paying for the lessons and you should have multiple options for instruction. Before you commit long-term to a coaching relationship, you should sit down with your potential instructor and have an interview of sorts. Go over your game (based on the tips mentioned previously for how to gauge your level), discuss your goals, and ask for details of the instructor’s approach. This should help to ensure that you wind up in a productive and enjoyable situation.

What You Can Hope To Learn

Naturally, you’re hoping for an instructor to boost your ability and lower your scores, but this can only happen through improvement in the smaller parts that comprise your golf game. These are just a few areas to keep in mind as places you can expect to see improvement with the right coach.

Proper Preparation

A lot of golfers, and particularly those who approach the sport more casually, tend to simply walk out on the course and start swinging. There’s nothing wrong with this, but a little more preparation can only help. Life Fitness put together a list of golf stretching exercises that can help improve your range of motion, strength, and handicap. As with any sport, it’s necessary to prime your body (and mind) for competition. You can learn how to address this online by reading over tips, but an experienced coach can quickly help you to develop a preparation routine that will help you to be a more comfortable and more successful player.

Swing Mechanics

A good golf instructor will be able to help you with the specifics of your swing, whether you’re driving the ball down range or trying to sink a putt from five feet out. This is the main aspect of the game that most people hope to improve and it’s where your primary focus should lie.

It’s also important to recognize that you need to observe and ask questions where swing mechanics are concerned. You can’t always expect even an expert instructor to simply dissect your game from swing to swing. You should watch him or her play, watch professional players on television, or even record yourself playing golf. This should give you a better idea of what it looks like to be “doing it right,” and hopefully it should help you to be more aware of when something isn’t quite right with your own movements. You can ask about these little imperfections and work them out together with your coach.

Course Management

Finally, you should also expect a good coach to help you with the different factors that go into gauging and managing a course as you play. That means handling different conditions, adjusting to different terrains, and perhaps most importantly, knowing which clubs to use at which times. These are all things that even a beginner can do by feel, to some extent. But you might be surprised at the tips a professional can offer. You may find out that you’ve been using the wrong club for your own skills and tendencies from a given distance, or that you never realized how far out you could pitch a ball onto the green. The right coach will effectively teach you how to read a course.

Without getting into the specifics of your individual game, that’s about it! Of course, the requirements for a good instructor and the lessons you hope to learn depend on your own experience, ability, circumstances, and goals. But in a general sense, these are the things to keep in mind as you start the process of seeking private instruction. Best of luck improving your game this year!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Maybe Tiger Didn't Do So Bad After All

Perhaps conditions at Torrey Pines weren't that easy for anybody this week.

After all, World Number 1 Jason Day shot +3 and missed the cut. World Number 3 Dustin Johnson shot +2 and missed the cut. Jimmy Walker, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and last week's winner Hudson Swafford all missed the cut.

None of them have had three back surgeries, and they've all been playing in tournaments for the last 17 months.

Tiger at Torrey

Perhaps we should note that, although it's Tiger's first missed cut at Torrey, he improved in almost every category on Friday.
  • He hit 10 of 14 fairways (way up from the 4 on Thursday),
  • 11 of 18 GIR (vs 9 on Thursday),
  • made 14 pars instead of 9,
  • 2 bogeys instead of 5,
  • no doubles instead of 1,
  • was over 15 yards longer off the tee,
  • scrambled better (5/7 rather than 4/9, if I remember correctly)
  • and took a couple less putts.
He shot even par on Friday, which only a third of the field could beat.

I'm not saying everything is sunshine and roses in Tiger's camp. He himself said that he doesn't know how his back will hold up when he flies to next week's event.

But I look at where he's been over the last 17 months -- we forget he had trouble walking a mere 12 months ago -- and I see a lot to be optimistic about. Even Brandel Chamblee said some encouraging words Friday, which either means: 
  1. Tiger is making some serious progress or
  2. the apocalypse is upon us. (In which case, you should drop, cover and kiss your a** goodbye.)
All I'm saying is that perhaps it's time to cut Tiger a little slack and stop acting so surprised that he's human. Let's see how he's doing in April before we sound the alarms.

The photo came from Golfweek's Tiger Tracker page.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Belen Mozo's "12 Yards in 12 Minutes" Routine (Video)

Okay. Belen Mozo says you can add 12 yards by doing just 12 minutes of exercises. I'm not so sure I believe that.

But then again, you should be forewarned that these are not easy exercises. Let's take a look.

Okay, she's got four different exercises here:
  • Belen calls these mountain climbers. I've seen a similar exercise called mountain climbers, but they didn't involve the leg crossovers she's doing. Do one set in two minutes, then rest one minute.
  • Lateral vaults. Mountain skiers do something similar to improve their cornering. Do one set in two minutes, then rest one minute.
  • Dumbbell stand-ups. Combines a sit-up and a momentum move from the floor to a standing position. Do one set in two minutes, then rest one minute.
  • Rotational jumps. Four sets -- 90°, 180°, 270° and 360°. Do a two-minute set of each, with a one-minute rest in-between each set.
That's 12 minutes. If you try them, I strongly advise AGAINST doing two-minute sets. In fact, I strongly advise against doing this routine AT ALL! These are going to be hard, even if you try to take it easy. And I mean REALLY easy! If you've never done them, even a few regular mountain climbers are draining. This routine could do serious damage to someone who isn't used to that level of exertion.

So why am I posting this video? Because you need to be aware that, just because a golf pro says they do a routine and a golf magazine posts that routine, it doesn't mean that YOU should do that routine! BE CAREFUL!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Your LPGA and Tiger Reminders

This is just a reminder that both the LPGA and Tiger start their 2017 seasons today.

Pure Silk promo shot

The LPGA live coverage of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic starts today at 11:30am ET, right after Morning Drive's live coverage from the PGA Merchandise Show.

Then Golf Central Pre-Game starts at 2:30pm ET, followed by the live coverage of the Farmers Insurance Open at 3pm ET. Tiger's threesome, with Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, tees off at 1:40pm ET, so they'll be a few holes into their round when Pre-Game starts.

You don't want to miss either, so make sure your clocks are set!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Wall Slap Drill

I was going to do a post about some of the suggested changes to The Rules of Golf, but that can wait till another day.

A few days back, Jean Luc left a comment on an older post called Inbee Park's Pause. The material in that post had helped him -- he had been having trouble with pushed shots -- but he was looking for some help to eliminate some of the wrist rolling the new movement caused for him. He had seen a new book by Jim Hardy called The Release: Golf's Moment of Truth and was fascinated by one of Hardy's approaches to the release. He wondered if I had any ideas on whether it would work.

I don't usually use my comment responses as the basis of new blog posts but, given Jean Luc's positive response to this one, I felt it might help some of you. Jean Luc says the drill I included in this comment felt a lot like the drill in yesterday's Tommy Fleetwood post, but this one is specifically designed to minimize wrist rotation. The comment also explains why I haven't included many tips from Jim Hardy in my blog, although he's clearly been able to help a lot of golfers.

And at the end, I'll add some thoughts so you can use this drill to learn a draw or a fade.

Here, I'll just let the comment itself explain everything:

Jean Luc, I haven't read Hardy's book. And when I found info on the web about the two releases he talks about in the book (at, it seemed a bit contradictory to me -- for example, I'd say the LOP motion is a swinging motion, not a leverage motion, while the RIT motion can be either, depending on your hand and arm action. With no more explanation than I found there, it's hard for me to make hard and fast statements about what Hardy's doing.

That said, let's see if I can give you some help with what you want to do.

Hardy is somewhat controversial among swing geeks because, although much of his material is very helpful, he makes statements that clearly contradict fact. For example, in this GC video:

he says that Hogan's swing is a one-plane swing. But in Five Lessons Hogan himself says:
On the downswing plane, a golfer swings on a slightly different plane than the backswing. THE PLANE FOR THE DOWNSWING IS LESS STEEPLY INCLINED AND IS ORIENTED WITH THE BALL QUITE DIFFERENTLY FROM THE BACKSWING PLANE. The golfer gets on this second plane -- without thinking he is changing planes -- when he turns his hips back to the left at the start of the downswing. (p87)
Hogan says his swing is a two-plane swing in three consecutive sentences, yet Hardy says it's a one-plane swing. So I'm hesitant to get too involved with his theories in this answer.

But I can tell you that what you picked up from my stuff is a two-plane swing. That's why you can finally create a bit of a looping motion. It's a more natural, more relaxed way to unwind rapidly on your downswing.

But you don't have to use a roll release (or a throw release, for that matter) to use the loop move and still square the clubface at impact. Let me suggest a feel drill for you:
  1. Take your address position without a club. Set the palm of your trail hand square to your target line. An easy way to do this is to set up next to a corner wall in your house, so you can lay your palm flat against the wall. Your trail wrist should be cocked backward just a bit, as if you had just slapped the wall. That should feel pretty normal to you.
  2. Now take your lead hand and grasp your trail wrist, as if it was the grip of the club. Your trail wrist is still slightly cocked.
  3. Now "swing" back to the top of your backswing. Don't try to rotate your wrists. With your shoulders turned 90 degrees, your palm will be aimed maybe another 45 degrees farther. Again, this should feel pretty natural.
  4. Now just "swing" down and, keeping your grip on your trail wrist, slap the wall with your trail hand. (Okay, it won't be much of a slap, but that's the motion.) You won't feel any rotation in your wrists, but you'll have to turn your body all the way through. Jimmy Ballard would call this "releasing your body." And again, it's the natural way to swing. It has the added bonus of creating a natural weight shift when you do it.
Experiment with that for a while, then start trying to make a similar move in your backyard with a club. That'll feel a little awkward at first because of the weight of the club. Just do it slowly until it starts feeling comfortable, then speed it up.

And let me know how it goes. I'm betting that you'll start to get the motion you're looking for. Just remember: You don't have to "throw" the club to get that release. The speed you'll learn to develop with the clubhead will create that motion all on its own.

That "slapping motion" I mentioned in the comment comes when the palm of your hand hits flat against the wall on your downswing. But this helps you learn to square your palm at impact, and therefore to square your clubface at impact. And as I said, you won't have to rotate your forearms to reach the top of swing position or on the way down.

Now, if you want to learn to hit a fade or slice with this move, it's simply a matter of changing your foot position.
  • For a fade, OPEN your stance slightly when you set up next to the wall. Now you'll get a slight out-to-in move, but your palm will still aim straight ahead when it hits the wall, giving you a slightly open clubface at impact.
  • Likewise, for a draw, CLOSE your stance slightly when you set up next to the wall. Now you'll get a slight in-to-out move, but your palm will still aim straight ahead when it hits the wall, giving you a slightly closed clubface at impact.
Just alter your foot line and then follow the drill instructions as I described them earlier, and you should develop a pretty consistent draw or fade.

Hopefully this will give all of you yet another option for learning how to shape shots the way you want... and you can thank Jean Luc for it. ;-)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tommy Fleetwood's Wide Shallow Swing

Golf Digest has a new article about how to make a wider, shallower swing like Tommy Fleetwood. Tommy held off Dustin Johnson this past weekend to win at Abu Dhabi.

I want to focus on how you get the feel described by instructor Shaun Webb.

Tommy Fleetwood

Here's how Webb describes the move:
"To get a better feel for this shot in your own game, take out a fairway wood and make swings feeling that your hands don't get closer to your body in transition and into the downswing," says Webb. "This will help widen your route to the ball and shallow the approach of the club. You'll start hitting them high and pure."
It doesn't take much thought to realize that it can't actually happen this way -- that is, your hands HAVE TO get closer to your body during your change of direction and downswing. So how do you FEEL that your hands are doing something that can't actually happen?
  • The key here is that you want to feel as if both arms remain completely straight throughout the swing. I'm sure you've heard instructors tell you that, at the top of your backswing, you want to use your trailing arm to push the club as far away from your head as you can. Annika is one player who says that's what she tries to feel during her swing. This is the feel you're after. If you try swinging the club straight up in front of you without turning your shoulders, you'll learn the basic feeling very quickly.
  • Unless you're very flexible, you'll need to shorten your swing to do this drill. That's because you need a full 90° shoulder coil to get anywhere close to this position, and even then you won't be able to do it once your hands start to move above your shoulders.
  • To keep both arms straight without tensing up and getting stiff, you need to feel as if both hands are doing an equal part of the work. If you were swinging a heavy weight at the end of the shaft, the way the weight would pull your arms outward is the feel you're looking for.
  • Now, you try to swing the club up so your hands are shoulder height. If it was me, I'd say to stop when your hands are only about chest high because it's easier that way. You have to coordinate the shoulder coil and the swing up so both arms stay straight. If you do it correctly, it's very easy.
  • To get the club above your shoulders -- and that won't be by much -- let your trailing elbow bend just a little. Got that? JUST A LITTLE. You only want it to bend enough that your hands can move slightly above your shoulders. That little bend will let your wrists cock.
  • Then, when you start down, that trailing elbow starts the downswing by straightening out.
After that, it's just a matter of swinging the club through impact and up to the finish.

If you do this correctly, your posture will be good throughout the swing and you'll feel less pressure in your lower back. And your weight shift from your trail leg to your lead leg should happen automatically.

You can try hitting balls this way also. It actually pretty easy, although you won't hit them as far as normal. (This drill is a shorter swing.)

Remember: The point of this drill is to help you learn how to keep your trail elbow from collapsing at the top of your backswing. It can really help improve your fairway wood play once you get that feel of width at the top.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 CareerBuilder Challenge

Winner: Hudson Swafford

Around the wider world of golf: Tommy Fleetwood won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the ET; Prayad Marksaeng won the SMBC Singapore Open on the Japan Golf Tour; and Bernhard Langer won the weather-shortened Mitsubishi Electric Championship on the Champions Tour.

Hudson Swafford with CareerBuilder trophy

Once again, a 59 failed to guarantee a victory.

Granted, that's not always the case. But a 59, especially when it doesn't happen in the final round, is often a hard act to follow. Adam Hadwin's 2-under 70 wasn't a bad follow-up, given that only four players managed to shoot better than 68.

Unfortunately for Hadwin, Hudson Swafford was one of them... and his 67 was enough to best the Canadian by one.

Both men were seeking their first Tour win, and the final result was in doubt until the tee shots on 18. Swafford, leading by one, hit the short grass and left a short simple shot to the green. Hadwin found the rough and had to guard against going left into the water. He missed the green but made a great up-and-down for par.

Swafford hit the green, left his birdie try maybe two inches from the hole and tapped in for the win.

It took Swafford nearly four years on the Big Tour to get his first win, despite looking like a can't-miss prospect when he arrived. But despite Jordan Spieth's history, most players do take some time to learn how to win. It's just not that easy to win. (Adam is playing well though; this was his best finish to date. I do expect him to win sometime soon.)

In the meantime, here's a tip from Hudson Swafford that might help YOU: He noted that he has been focused on improving his posture and balance this week, and he credited that for his improved play. It's a simple thing that anybody can work on.

And while you focus on your posture, Hudson can focus on his first Limerick Summary. He won despite not shooting a 59, in case you didn't hear.
Though his scores never sniffed 59,
Hudson probably feels mighty fine!
With his first win on Tour
You can be pretty sure
He could add Number Two anytime.
The photo came from this equipment page at

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Back-to-Back 59s

You may remember back in 2013 when we saw two 59s in three weeks on the Tour. Will Wilcox shot one at the Utah Championship, then Russell Knox shot one two weeks later at the Albertsons Boise Open.

The PGA Tour felt the need to go one better. So now we've got two 59s in back-to-back weeks. First Justin Thomas shot one last week at the Sony Open, and now Adam Hadwin posts one at the CareerBuilder Challenge. (Yeah, Woody Austin had one at the Diamondback Resorts event last week too, but that wasn't an official Tour event. Still impressive, though.)

Even though official rounds in the 50s are becoming more common, I generally try to recognize them... and in this case, it's another historical mark as well. Hadwin is now the first Canadian to post a 59. He's also the first non-winner to shoot a 59. (He may change that today, since his 59 gave him the tournament lead.)

And it makes him the 8th PGA Tour player to post an official round in the 50s, and it's the 9th such sub-60 round. (Remember, Jim Furyk is the only player with BOTH a 59 and a 58.)

Hadwin talked a bit about how it helped to be playing with Colt Knost -- a very relaxed guy himself -- and some amateurs, who helped keep things from getting too intense as he went for that 13-under score. (No 59s have been shot on par-72 courses since David Duval did it at CareerBuilder back in 1999. It's only been done four times in total.) And while sub-60 rounds are becoming more common, it's still unusual enough that most players can really use that 'casual vibe' in their group as they pursue that score.

But the fact remains that sub-60 rounds ARE becoming more common. What should we make of it? I certainly don't think the game is getting too easy! Johnny Miller says it's the result of a lot of things, including course conditions like the condition of the fairways and the lack of wind, and I'm sure that all plays a part.

Still, when it comes down to it, I think the biggest factor is simply that players now know it's possible. They're gonna need the right conditions, of course, but they walk out knowing somebody might put one up this week, this round. And they ask themselves, "Why shouldn't that somebody be ME?"

And this week, it was Adam Hadwin's turn.

Yes, the mind is an amazing thing. So when do we get an official 57?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Phil Mickelson on the Difference Between Flops and Lobs

Secrets of the Short Game book coverThis is something I found in Phil's book Secrets of the Short Game. And it concerns some definitions that not all instructors use the same way.

Some instructors use the terms 'flop shot' and 'lob' interchangeably. Others say they're different shots but can't seem to agree on which shot is what.

But almost all instructors agree that Phil is the master of these shots. So his definitions should be the definitive ones, right?

Here's a short quote that starts the last section of his book:
I chipped for hours in my backyard as a kid but at some point I'd get a little tired of that, so to have some fun I'd hit flop and lob shots. What I call a flop shot is one out of a fluffy lie in the rough where you don't catch the ball cleanly; it comes out without spin, so you use trajectory to control the distance and how softly it lands. A lob is like a flop but out of a lie where you don't get grass between the club and the ball and it comes out with spin. (p185)
Okay, there's a lot in this little quote. Let's break it down.
  1. A chip is different from a flop or a lob. That may seem obvious, but I've read instructional pieces that made lob shots sound as if they were just hard chips. They aren't.
  2. If the ball is in a fluffy lie in the rough where you don't catch the ball cleanly -- which means you can't spin it -- you use a flop. 
  3. If the ball is in a clean lie where you can spin the ball, you use a lob.
  4. You have much more control over a lob shot than a flop shot.
  5. You control a flop shot with trajectory (the height of the shot) and a lob shot with spin.
  6. A lob shot (controlled with spin) flies lower than a flop shot (controlled by trajectory).
Now, pulling a few scattered thoughts from the rest of the section, here's how Phil describes the techniques.

First, the lie. That's what really determines the shot, and there are three main lies:
  • Ball sitting down in tall grass
  • Ball suspended in tall grass
  • Ball on hardpan or a tightly mown area near the green
The first two are flops, controlled by trajectory. The last one is a lob, controlled by spin.
  • On the first two shots, you deliberately hit well behind the ball. That means you're using the bounce on your wedge to hit a flop.
  • On the last shot, you hit down sharply on the ball. That means you're using the front edge of your wedge to hit a lob.
You play the ball a bit forward for a flop, and bit farther back for a lob.

Finally, all of these shots use a long backswing. Phil says flops require more force in the swing, but lobs are more about technique.

Hopefully, next time you're out on the course, this info will help you make a better decision about which shot to use and when to use it. It doesn't sound so confusing once you see it laid out like this.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Butch Harmon on Sculled Chips

Maybe you're not having trouble with this, but I bet a lot of you are. So I'm directing you to this Golf Digest article where Butch Harmon tells you why you scull your chips.

Butch Harmon chipping from the rough

We talk about how tough golf is, but many problems have very simple explanations. Butch says if you're sculling your chips, then you're hitting up on the ball. (I suppose some of you might be topping the ball instead. But if you are, I bet you know it.)

Solution? Lean onto your lead foot (Butch says 75% of your weight, but I can't tell percentages that close), move the ball back to the middle of your stance, cock your wrists up and pull through with your lead hand. And keep your weight on your lead foot the whole time while you make the swing.

The caption under the photo above (with the article) says you should use your sand wedge for the shot in the photo, so the heavy sole can help you get the ball up. But Butch doesn't say whether he recommends the sand wedge all the time if you scull your chips or just from the rough. You can try it on the range and see which works for you.

But the reason I focused on this today is that simple explanation: In all likelihood, a sculled chip means you're hitting up on the ball, not down on it. Knowledge is power, especially when it's very simple knowledge that requires no special talent to use. And knowing that might help you get out of a difficult position on the course with another club, even if you aren't playing a chip.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The European Ryder Cup Finalizes Its Rules

The ET finally announced the changes to its team selection process for the next Ryder Cup.

To be honest, there weren't any surprises. And I didn't expect any.

Captain Thomas Bjorn with the Cup

Most of the changes simply brought their process into line with the current US selection process, which is pretty much standard. It happens frequently -- either the US changes to match Europe, or vice versa -- sometimes because the other side wins, but often because a new problem in the process is exposed. Nothing stays the same forever, after all.

At the last Cup, Europe ended up with a large number of rookies, who didn't perform as well as I expected. The recent explosion of young players caused this unexpected turn of events, so the increase in Captain's picks from three to four (matching the current US process) just makes good sense. We needed to give the Captain a bit more flexibility in configuring the team, and now Thomas will have the same.

Just as a side note, this number has gone up and down repeatedly for both sides over the years. As I said earlier, little adjustments have been common as the teams have searched for the best compromise -- in this case, to balance "earned" spots with "felt need" spots.

Last time, the big change for the US team came with the establishment of the Ryder Cup Committee, to increase the players' voice in the choice of Captains and such. This "leveled the field" somewhat, as the Europeans had handled things that way for years. The big change for the Euro team this time is the change in requirements for European Tour membership, which have been lessened by one tournament and should help the Euros better match the US selection process.

While the reasons are probably clear to my Euro readers, they may be lost on my US readers. Simply put, the US team has full access to all our potential players because we don't have the Tour membership restriction. For example, if Jim Furyk decides he wants Peter Uihlein on our team next time, even though he's a European Tour member, he just makes him a Captain's pick.

Personally, I'd like to see the Euro team given the same freedom but I understand why they don't. They're concerned with keeping players on the Euro Tour -- there are good financial reasons for that -- but it does limit them. Because of that restriction, players such as Paul Casey and Carl Petterson aren't currently eligible for the Cup because they play the PGA Tour. Reducing the number of ET events they would have to play in order to be eligible makes dual membership less burdensome for those willing to try. (Remember, it's not just the number of events; it's the increased air travel for US-based ET players.)

You can read the full text of the changes at this link to and in this summary of the changes at

More Internet Problems

Well, it happened again. The internet sent out before I could finish my post. I'll get it up Thursday morning sometime.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Are Golf Pros Working Out Too Much?

I intended to write about this topic in yesterday's post, but I planned my day badly and ran out of time. However, since GC was still debating the topic Tuesday night, I don't guess I'm too late to toss in my own two cents.

The question is simple: With so many pros suffering from back pain -- and other assorted injuries -- are they putting in too much time in the gym?

The answer, however, is not so simple. I think it's the result of several seemingly unrelated factors coming together at the same time.

I should point out that this isn't a new debate. I have heard that football coach John Madden -- yes, the guy they named the video game after -- once blamed an overemphasis on weight training for an increase in injuries among football players. Similar debates go on in other sports.

But an overemphasis on weight work is almost certainly a factor in all this. All you have to do is look at the types of injuries we see among athletes in general. It is a fact that you can strengthen muscles with weight work, but not tendons and ligaments. They have to increase their strength over time, at their own rate. And we see disproportionate number of injuries among other athletes that aren't muscle injuries, but rather ligament and tendon injuries. (Rory had one of those over the summer last year, remember?)

So clearly we can strengthen our muscles faster than the connecting tissue can adjust. Failing to allow for that is probably one of the factors.

Likewise, the power game most golf pros use now focuses on using stiffer shafts, which they "load" by increasing the leverage they create during the swing. To increase that leverage, you need to focus the movement at fewer "fulcrums" (or pivot points, if you prefer that term), and that creates more stress on those joints.

GC noted in their Monday night discussion that players in the mid-20th Century tended to damage their hips, and that more recent players tend to injure their backs. That's because swings in the style of Snead and Nelson tended to focus on hip turn, while modern swingers tend to restrict hip turn and focus the motion on their lower backs.

So the change in swing technique -- and the stiffer-shafted equipment built for that technique -- is also a factor.

The increased amount of practice time also contributes. In the book Bobby Jones on Golf, Charles Price noted that:
"It would be the most natural assumption in the world to think that during those eight years Bobby Jones did little other than play golf. In reality, Jones played less formal golf during his championship years than virtually all the players he beat, and he beat everybody in the world worth beating...Jones averaged no more than three months a year playing in, and going to and from, tournaments and championships" (p IX-X).
That's significant. The farther back you go, the fewer differences you see between the techniques of the full swing and those of the short game. With the differences that have grown between the full 'power' game and the short 'feel' game, players simply spend far more time on the practice tee than their forebears of a half century ago.

They have to, because they have to maintain two different swings.

Golf is a worldwide sport now. A large amount of time is spent in travel. And while many of these pros can travel in private jets, it still takes a toll when your travel time can take 10-15 hours or more. The pressurized cabin of a jet takes a medical toll on your body, as sitting for that many hours will affect your joints and your body can easily dehydrate. In addition, travel through so many time zones affects your sleep patterns as well

Finally, add the wraparound season to the mix. Players no longer get two or three months (or more) off where they can simply let the clubs sit in the garage for a while. (Well, they don't get it unless they decide to skip a large number of tournaments and put themselves at a large disadvantage in the points races that determine who plays in the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, FedExCup and Race to Dubai. For many players, that's a serious problem.)

So the reason for the increase in sports injuries seems to be a combination of factors:
  • Too much weight work
  • Changes in swing technique
  • Stiffer shafts
  • Increased practice time
  • The effects of increased travel
  • No off-season rest time
So it's not just one thing. It's the intersection of so many seemingly unrelated things that, while they may appear small in and of themselves, multiply the total damage into very real pain.

The solution would appear obvious. Back off a little on the workouts and practice time, move to a less strenuous swing technique that allows softer shafts (that should offset most of the loss of distance the players would expect), and travel and play less often. A simple solution...

But it probably ain't gonna happen. At least, not until somebody tries it and begins to dominate the game the way Tiger did.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

One Reason Golf Instruction Is Often Confusing

This is a very short post but I think something this important warrants it. This is something you always need to be aware of when you're learning how players do things.

I read a new Golf Digest article from Dustin Johnson about playing drives and approach shots. For the most part, it's a very good article... but take a look at this photo from it:

Dustin Johnson making three-quarter swing

In the section of the article about hitting short irons, DJ says "I play the ball in roughly the same spot for each club, centered between my feet." But take a really good look at the photo (you can see it in other photos in the article as well).

The ball is NOT centered between his feet. I suppose it might look that way to him when he's looking straight down from above, but it's NOT centered between his feet. It's close to being centered between his TOES, but you measure the center of your stance from your HEELS.

DJ actually plays the ball slightly ahead of the center of his stance. This allows his downswing to shallow out ever so slightly, even though he's still hitting down. If the ball was actually in the center of his stance, the sharper downward angle of attack would affect his ability to control his ball's distance as well as he does.

My point here is that you need to make sure you study any instructional articles, photos and videos very carefully. Although there's a great deal of useful information to be had -- as there is in this article from DJ -- sometimes small things slip through the editing process. And sometimes those small things can keep you from getting the proper results.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Sony Open

Winner: Justin Thomas

Around the wider world of golf: Chilean amateur Toto Gana won the Latin America Amateur Championship; Woody Austin won the pro division at the Diamond Resorts Invitational, and former pitcher Mark Mulder won the celebrity division; Graeme Storm won the BMW South African Open on the ET; and Kyle Thompson won the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic on the Tour.

Justin Thomas with Sony Open trophy

Say, didn't I see this tournament last week?

Oops, sorry. Justin Thomas won this one by SEVEN strokes. Last week it was only three. My mistake.

I certainly don't mean to belittle this accomplishment, far from it. Justin has finally broken through and got some of the wins we've all been expecting him to get. But he looked a bit tired after the final round, even -- dare I say it? -- a bit unimpressed.

You might think I'm misreading his fatigue. After all, he penned at least one new entry in the record books every round at the Sony Open, putting a bow on the accomplishment by posting the lowest aggregate total ever in an official PGA Tour event. (For those of you who might not know, the aggregate total is the actual number of strokes you took. In Justin's case, it was 253.)

But while I'm sure Justin is both proud of and grateful for his accomplishments this season, I suspect that he also tells himself "it's about time!" His frustration over the last year or so has been evident. While he hasn't expected all the records, he HAS expected the wins.

And he probably expects even more in the next few months.

How long will this last? I don't know. But I don't know if it really matters. For at least the next week, Justin Thomas will have more folks talking about his wins than Hideki Matsuyama's. And he picks up yet another Limerick Summary, which I'm sure was on his "to do" list as well.
Yeah, at some point, his run's gonna end…
But I'm sure all his peers wonder when?
Justin's swing looks so smooth
It appears he can't lose
And it seems every putt's going in!
The photo came from this article at

Sunday, January 15, 2017

FOX, the USGA and the 12-Year Deal

Golf Digest posted a very interesting article by Ron Sirak called TV's $1.1 Billion Problem: Making Sense of Fox and the USGA. I'm giving you this link today because this is an enlightening article about the 12-year broadcast deal between FOX and the USGA and the unexpected problems both have come up against.

Dustin Johnson at the 2016 US Open

Starting in the second paragraph you'll find this:
According to sources familiar with the situation, tensions between the USGA and Fox increased after the network's aggressive handling of rules controversies at the 2016 U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open. There was also significant dissatisfaction within the USGA, sources say, over the fact that Fox and its cable arm Fox Sports 1 (FS1) did not take advantage of a West Coast venue for the Women's Open to push the broadcast deep into East Coast prime time, bringing the women's game much-needed exposure.

The USGA and Fox are saying the right things publicly, but they both acknowledge there have been conversations after 2016's major championships to settle differences. And both sides shot down whispers that they wouldn't mind an early end to the deal, which has 10 more years to run.
This very detailed article then goes on to explain the various "situations" that have arisen over the first couple years concerning the deal, which helps you understand why TV golf is such a difficult sell to many of the networks. It also looks at how event streaming may be affecting TV viewership, and how contracts with -- and proven viewership of -- other sports may be affecting golf broadcasts.

I was impressed with how clearly these issues were explained; Ron Sirak did an exceptional job on this piece. It's a post that dedicated golf fans should read, simply so they will be better informed about the issues that efforts to "grow the game" will face going forward, both in terms of who is watching and what other options they may be choosing instead.

And it just may help you appreciate exactly what Arnold Palmer and Joe Gibbs managed to accomplish when they started GC. We are very lucky, folks.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Martin Hall on Short Game Contact (Video)

This was the first lesson on School of Golf Tuesday night. It's very simple, but it's amazing how much our short games can fall off during the off-season. Here are Martin Hall's three recommendations for better contact during chips and pitches.

Yes, I know every instructor does things a little different. But Martin's three tips will work for almost everybody, and they just might bail you out of a poor chipping day.
  • Use a neutral grip
  • Position the ball in the middle of your stance as measured between your heels, not your toes
  • Hover the club slightly behind the ball instead of grounding the club
And for those of you who don't recognize the name Paul Runyan, he was a small (5'7") PGA Tour player in the 1930s. He won 29 tournaments at all -- 9 of them during 1933 and another 7 during 1934 -- and two of them were majors. His nickname was "Little Poison" because of his short game, and he was a major short game instructor for 75 years!

Runyan practically created some of the standard short game techniques that we take for granted these days. If your short game seems a bit suspect, these tips from Martin might be just the ticket for you.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Justin Thomas Makes History... and a Point about the Modern Game

Obviously I got busy yesterday and didn't post anything after my temporary internet blackout. But everything was back up and running in time for yesterday's excitement. And it made me think.

Justin Thomas displays 'the ball'

In case you somehow missed it, Justin Thomas became the seventh and youngest player to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour. (It's the eighth sub-60 round but Jim Furyk has both a 59 and a 58.) He's the first to shoot one after winning a tournament. He set the new course record at Waialae CC, supplanting Davis Love III's 60.

And by doing so, he made an interesting point about the "new generation" of PGA Tour pros. It has yet to be talked about, but it should be.

After all, his 59 was still only good enough for a three-stroke lead. Think about that for a moment.

We keep wondering who will be the next dominant player or players. It seems as if, almost every week, the commentators have to say "Perhaps we've ignored [fill in the blank] in this discussion." I heard some of that Thursday after Thomas blistered the course, cheered on by playing partners Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger -- players also included in that discussion.

But perhaps we're missing the point. For all our talk about dominant players -- modern or historical -- the fact remains that there have been very few who were dominant for more than a few years. In terms of total number of PGA Tour wins, only ten players have won 40 or more times; on the European Tour, only three players. (Tiger Woods is on both lists.)

I should note at this point that some of these wins count on both tours. For this post, however, I'm going to separate them since some players focus on one tour or the other.

Still, in terms of longevity at this level, few can boast sustained success over a long career. On the ET, only Bernhard Langer exceeded 20 years (22 in total). On the PGA Tour, Sam Snead won over a 31-year period; Jack Nicklaus,Walter Hagen and Phil Mickelson, 22; and Ben Hogan, 21.

And of those, only Nicklaus and Hagen boast double-digit majors -- 18 and 11, respectively. (Gene Sarazen and Tom Watson have the longevity, but neither made the 40 win mark. And Tiger will likely make the list if his back holds up.)

My point is that long-term dominance has never been as common as we seem to think it is. And as the level of golf we see rises, the likelihood of this "new wave" duplicating what players like Nicklaus and Hagen have done is even less likely. If they give us one or two such players over the next 30 years, they will have done extremely well.

It's far more likely that we'll see some players who dominate for a year or two, then fall back for a while. Bear in mind that Tiger has 40 ET wins, 79 PGA Tour wins and 14 majors in 18 years -- and he was winless for a number of those years. If Rory McIlroy, who most would consider the dominant player among the youngsters, were to continue his career at his current rate after eight years, then in 16 years he would have only 26 ET wins, 26 PGA Tour wins and 8 majors.

Even granting Rory a handful more wins and a couple of majors for an extra two years (to get him to an 18-year career), the best of those numbers is less than two-thirds of Tiger's totals, and Tiger has yet to reach the longevity of some of the other players! Yet Rory is clearly one of the most likely young players to reach those legendary numbers.

The logic is simple: There are a limited number of titles available each year, and only four majors, yet we're seeing an increasing number of good players contending for them.

And that means that players like Justin Thomas will be "in the discussion" for a few months or so... before someone else gets hot for a while, that is. We're likely to see cycles of dominating players going forward, each doing astounding things before "cooling down" while the next cycle moves to the fore. We're unlikely to see another dominating player anytime soon.

But I would be amiss not to mention that Justin has proven something else as well -- namely, that it's sure going to be fun watching to see who DOES manage to break out next!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Internet Problems

My internet connection is gone and I'm posting from my cell phone. Hope to get something up later today,

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Simple Diagonal Swing Training (Video)

I'm posting this because these two exercises are supposed to reduce lower back injuries, which is something most golfers need. This Golf Digest video from Ron Kaspriske is also supposed to help you create more power with your swing.

The video is pretty much self-explanatory -- it teaches you to do some lateral squats and twists, combined with some diagonal stretches.

I'll add only one thing to this, and it concerns the weights. You don't need heavy dumbbells or medicine balls. That huge fantasy novel you've been planning to read will suffice, as will a small sack of potatoes or a container of antifreeze (or any liquid, for that matter) up to a gallon. Judging by the size of the weights in the video, ten pounds is plenty for these exercises. (A gallon of water weighs just over 8 pounds.)

Again, let me stress that these two exercises are supposed to help reduce lower back injuries, which means lighter weights are better than larger ones -- especially when you make that diagonal reach. I repeat: Don't overestimate how demanding that move will be, even with smaller weights. If you try this, start with lighter weights, rather than heavier ones.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Joint PGA/LPGA Tournament Buzz

On the off chance you missed it, new PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan did an interview with Rich Lerner over the weekend and casually mentioned a desire to make the SBS Tournament of Champions a joint event with the LPGA Tour.

Rickie Fowler and Jessica Korda at the US Open at Pinehurst in 2014

The exact details of this proposed joint event haven't been explained. At this point, the most likely format would seem to be separate events contested at the same time. That would allow the men and women to play together on the same course, likely in mixed groupings. With each tour's field limited to around 45 players max -- after all, it would be unusual not to have a few multiple winners -- the shorter January days wouldn't pose a problem.

Plus, with the time difference between Hawaii and the mainland US, it would be a primetime event.

Given how often the pros on both tours have expressed their desire for chances to play together, this seems like an undeniable opportunity for everyone involved, from players to tours to broadcasters to sponsors. And since Monahan has already shown a willingness to break with convention -- this year's Zurich Classic has already been changed into a team event -- and since Mike Whan has done little else but innovate since he took the reins of the LPGA, this could happen sooner rather than later.

When it comes to taking the golf excitement meter up a notch, it looks like 2017 might actually give 2016 a run for the money.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 SBS Tournament of Champions

Winner: Justin Thomas

Around the wider world of golf: Things are only getting started at this point. The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic just started yesterday (with a Wednesday finish), and the Morgan and Friends Tournament (sponsored by The Morgan Pressel Foundation to help fight cancer) is going on today and tomorrow.

Justin Thomas with SBS trophy

I don't know if they're shown internationally, but on Sunday night NBC broadcast the Golden Globe Awards. (You know, recognition awards for American and international TV and film.) I think it's appropriate that they fell on the same day that we gave out the first official golf trophy of 2017.

In this case, we recognize an unusually unique performance by one Justin Thomas.

I can hear you now. Justin stumbled a bit coming down the stretch, losing a five-stroke lead and allowing Hideki Matsuyama to get within a stroke at the 17th tee. Then Justin birdied, Hideki bogeyed and, with just one hole left, Justin pretty much cruised to a three-stroke win. What was so unique about that?

It wasn't the margin, although GC said only Phil and Tiger have also won each of two of their first four events in a season by three strokes. (I think I got that right. Sometimes I wonder if the stats guys really have nothing better to do than find unusual combinations of facts like that.) And while this was Justin's second win of the wraparound season -- the other was the CIMB Classic in October -- getting two wins in a season is hardly unusual for a good golfer.

No, the unique aspect is that Justin beat Hideki for BOTH of his wins this season... and he's the only guy to keep Hideki from winning all of his last six starts. So you could call this a repeat performance of sorts. And with both players in the Sony Open later this week, we could see this battle again.

But in the meantime, Justin Thomas will have a few days to savor his first Limerick Summary of the year, his second of the season, and the third of his career. See? The awards are already beginning to add up...
With a field full of winners to start
In Hawaii… guess who played the part
Of the year's leading man?
Fans gave Justin a hand
For a starring role he knows by heart.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, January 8, 2017

REMINDER: The Tour Begins Today

The Tour is experimenting with new schedules this year... and guess who's hitting the season's opening shot?

Greg Norman

That's right. Greg Norman will be hitting the ceremonial first tee shot because this week's event -- the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic -- is being played at the Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course in Great Exuma, which Norman designed. If you'd like to get a preview of the beautiful scenery, you can check out this post featuring a number of photos of the course.

But the biggest news is certainly the scheduling of the event. The first two events of the season are both in the Bahamas and both are running from Sunday to Wednesday, rather than the typical Thursday to Sunday finish. is experimenting with the new schedule in hopes of increasing the Tour's profile. While Sunday rounds may not draw as many viewers since they'll be up against the final rounds of PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events, they will have a virtual monopoly on live golf Monday through Wednesday.

How well will the new scheduling work? That's anybody's guess. But a large number of industry insiders believe that this is a brilliant move by the Tour and, if it's successful, may eventually become the standard for their Tour.

In the meantime, we'll get to watch the first of the experimental events starting today at 3pm ET on GC. It should make for an interesting experiment... plus more tropical scenery for us snowbound viewers over the next few days.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mike Bender's Curve Drills (Video)

I've written a lot lately about learning to use your hands better in your golf swing. This GC video from Mike Bender caught my eye because it's a unique approach to correcting faulty hand action.

The drill for correcting a slice -- gripping your lead hand by REALLY putting your trail hand underneath it -- is very interesting to me. If you wrap your trailing fingers underneath enough that the tips of those fingers are on top of your lead hand knuckles, you won't need much effort to close that clubface!

It works because this drill forces your lead elbow closer to your side during impact, so you use your entire arm to square the clubface instead of only your hand. That's the proper way to do it.

The drill for correcting a hook -- taking a split grip and using your trail hand to aim the clubface -- sounds to me like a sound approach to the problem. But I confess that I've never had a problem with a hook, so this drill may seem more effective to me than it will to some of you.

However, using your trail hand to hold the clubface open is probably the most consistent way to create a fade. Many players instinctively over-rotate their lead forearm when they try to square the clubface with the back of their lead hand, so splitting the grip gives your trail hand more control over the clubface.

I really prefer using drills like the L-to-L drill as your first line of attack for correcting this kind of problem, but these two drills may help if you're really struggling to control a curve. After all, the L-to-L drill mimics a regular swing. I doubt you'll try to hit balls on the course using the grips in Bender's drills!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Peter Kostis on Ryan Moore's Swing (Video)

I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look at Ryan Moore's swing today, given that he made two eagles at Kapalua on Thursday. Here's what Peter Kostis said about Ryan's swing a few months back at the John Deere:

Since I wrote about driving distance yesterday, here's a couple of interesting facts about Ryan. He's 5'9" and averaged just over 283 yards off the tee last year. He's averaging over 306 this week (that's after 8 drives, if you care to know) but that just goes to show how much difference course conditions can make.

While Ryan's move at the top is a bit unusual, there are a number of players who have similar moves. (Though some of the others are more pronounced; Sergio is one such player.) Ryan brings the club up more vertically in his backswing, then really 'lays the club off' as he starts down.

When Peter Kostis says "If you gotta have a major loop in your golf swing, you want it in that direction," he means that Ryan's loop puts his club UNDER his backswing plane on the way down. That makes Ryan tend to draw the ball.

If you make a loop that comes OVER your backswing plane on the way down, you're probably coming over-the-top.

That looping action is more of an old style move from back when players tried to create a 'two-plane swing' -- think about Sam Snead, for example. Many modern players tend to try for a 'one-plane swing' where the downswing plane is almost identical to the backswing plane.

But then again, Ryan Moore has always taken more of a classic approach to golf. And as we've seen over the last year, that old style swing of his is very effective.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Maybe Your Drives Aren't So Short After All

Golf Digest has an incredibly interesting post about how far amateur golfers actually hit their clubs... and the results may shock you.

A driving range

Based on data provided by Game Golf -- you know, the folks who make that wearable shot-tracker gizmo -- here are the average distances gathered from typical amateurs during six months in 2016:
  • Driver: 219.55 yards
  • 3-wood: 186.89 yards
  • 7-iron: 133.48 yards
  • Pitching wedge: 73.97 yards
Driver averages topped out at 250.93 yards for players with a handicap of 4.99 or better. The article has a chart breaking driver distances down by age and handicap.

Golf Digest says this proves that the USGA fears of runaway distance are unfounded -- at least among amateurs -- but they offer no explanation for why these distances are so much lower than the pros. I can venture a guess.

I suspect it has something to do with the number of pros who are six feet or taller.

For example, I'm just under 5'10" and Tiger (at 6'1") is shorter than most of the longest hitters on Tour. Take the difference in arm length between us into account, and I suspect Tiger's arc is probably six inches or more wider than mine. That's gonna create several MPH difference in our club speeds, and just 4mph is good for maybe 30 more yards with a driver.

If you take a few minutes to look over the distance chart in that Golf Digest article, you may find that you're not doing so bad after all. And having realistic expectations for your golf game might help you make some New Year resolutions that you can actually reach.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at the SBS

Yes, it's time for my first "5 to Watch" of 2017. Obviously, this week it's for the SBS Tournament of Champions in lovely Kapalua.

And the defending champion is Jordan Spieth, who won by eight last year.

Jordan Spieth

First, let me give you a couple of links to the site that might be helpful to you fantasy golfers out there. This link will take you to the Field page, where you can find all sorts of social media stuff about each player in this limited field. And this link will take you to the Power Ranking page, where you can read mostly glowing reviews of 15 players.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's get on to my picks.

This is actually pretty tricky, since a number of these players were really on their games when the season ended [oh, maybe three weeks back] and would all be reasonable picks. And remember, the Kapalua course hasn't favored long hitters over short hitters in the past.
  • Jordan Spieth seems to be a no-brainer to me, since he won the Australian Open just a month ago. And since (contrary to popular belief) he had a pretty good year overall, it's hard to believe he won't factor in at the end.
  • Likewise, Hideki Matsuyama won, what, four of his last six starts in 2016? It's certainly possible that the brief holiday break caused him to lose a little of whatever came over him... but I'm unwilling to bet on that.
  • Dustin Johnson won at Kapalua in 2013, and he's coming off the best year of his career. With those wide Kapalua fairways, he's definitely gonna be a factor.
  • Patrick Reed has also won at Kapalua, back in 2015, and came in second to Spieth last year. I know people are talking about his "substandard play" during the fall, but all he did was win The Barclays and then rip up the Ryder Cup, both with partner Spieth and solo against Rory. That's not so substandard to me!
  • And my flier pick... Well, my first four match the Power Rankings, which is unusual for me, so I'm going off the chart with this one. I like Tony Finau to play well on his first trip to Kapalua. I've heard that he's had some off-course issues -- family illness, I believe -- and that disrupted his year a bit. He's also one of the Nike players who had to search for new equipment. But I still think he'll do well this week. The wide open course is tailor-made for his game.
And my overall pick? It's Dustin Johnson, no contest. He just seems to be in such a good place right now, and he's proven that time off doesn't have much of an effect on his game. If he can just putt those contoured greens reasonably well, he could win by as big a margin as Jordan did last year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Bubba's Equipment Change

Player equipment changes, especially in the wake of Nike's exit from the equipment market, are on many fan's minds. Perhaps the biggest news so far had been Tiger's switch to the Bridgestone B330-S four-piece ball. But now we know Bubba has made a change too.

And it's a colorful one.

Bubba Watson and caddie Ted Scott

Bubba has officially changed from the Titleist ProV1x to the Volvik S4, which he'll be playing this week at the SBS. He signed the deal in the last couple of days, and Volvik is racing to get Bubba some colors.

You see, the S4 -- designed for high swing speeds -- is only available in WHITE. But Volvik got some pink ones okayed by the USGA and Bubba will have them this week. And Bubba's really interested in some camouflage and some lime green ones, so those are in the works. (Lime green balls, pink driver...)

Still, while other players are making some interesting changes -- such as Rory going to Callaway clubs, Titleist ball and wedges, and Odyssey putters -- I think Bubba's change may actually have the greatest impact in the equipment market going forward. Most of the other equipment changes we're hearing about concern former Nike players. Bubba was with Titleist, not Nike.

But more importantly, Bubba simply doesn't change equipment. He finds something he likes and tends to stick with it. He says that Volvik is willing to let him have some input, and that's important to him -- which indicates that Titleist wasn't willing. Interesting.

In any case, the company that claims to have the longest balls just had one of the game's longest hitters decide that's not good enough. It remains to be seen whether adding Rory to their stable of players offsets losing Bubba.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Limerick Summary: The New Year Begins

Winners: To Be Determined

The Plantation Course at Kapalua

When I looked it up the word romp on Google, I found definitions like "high-spirited, carefree, and boisterous play" and "a spell of rough, energetic play."

After a few weeks' rest -- or for some players, a few months -- I expect 'romp' to be a good description of what we'll see in 2017.

All the talk when 2016 began was about the young players and how they were dominating the game. But you could make a reasonable argument that the most interesting play -- at least among the men -- came from the older players. (It was a different tale with the women, but the LPGA doesn't tee off for another three weeks yet, so I'll focus on the men today.)

For example, it was Jim Furyk who became Mr. 58.

Dustin Johnson got his first major, to go with a couple more PGA Tour wins.

The Olympic medals went to Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar. Henrik also took the Race to Dubai.

And two of the three biggest duels last year involved older players -- Henrik V. Phil at the Open Championship, and Phil V. Sergio at the Ryder Cup.

But that doesn't mean the youngsters just vanished. The third of those duels was Patrick Reed V. Rory McIlroy at the Ryder Cup. Rory also took the FedExCup.

Hideki Matsuyama blistered fields all over the world for five wins. Jordan Spieth snagged the Australian Open, plus two PGA Tour events. And Jason Day took THE PLAYERS plus two PGA Tour events.

The battle lines between the Establishment and the Up-and-Comers are drawn. Even Tiger appears ready to reenter the fray!

So the first Limerick Summary of 2017 is just a little reminder that, as hard as it might be to believe, we could be in for an even better year than last year. And we've only got to wait a few more days!
Play from last year will be hard to top,
But the youngsters seem hellbent to stop
All the vets in their way.
(Maybe Tiger will play.)
Twenty-seventeen could be a romp!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Here's wishing everybody, everywhere a very enjoyable and profitable 2017.

Happy 2017