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Friday, July 20, 2018

Todd Sones and His Radical Putting Technique (Video)

I said it's radical, but I'm going to take it even farther and teach you what I do. GCA coach Todd Somes wants you to ignore your putter's swing path!



Somes says not to worry about your swing path, just think about where you want the ball to go. But I'm going to take it a step further...

Your putter's swing path doesn't matter!

I mean it. Seriously. Your putter's swing path doesn't matter at all. Here's why:

When your putter is one foot behind the ball, does it contact the ball at all? No. So it doesn't affect your ball there. Nor does it affect the ball from two feet back or six inches back. Which begs the question: Exactly when does the putterhead affect where the ball goes?

ANSWER: From just a fraction of an inch before contact until the ball is no longer touching the ball. That is no more than TWO INCHES, give or take a quarter inch.

Now consider the nature of a putter's stroke. No matter whether your putter travels forward and back in a straight line, or in a gentle arc around your body, there is a short section of that stroke where the putterhead is traveling in a straight line. That section might be as long as four to six inches, depending on your stroke, and the middle of that section is when the putter shaft is vertical.

Which means that, no matter what shape your putter stroke takes, the putterhead travels straight toward the hole in the middle of your stroke, and it does so for long enough to hit the ball on your chosen aim line. All you have to do is get the ball position correct and this will happen automatically, no matter how you swing the putter.

So the real question is... where should you position the ball?

ANSWER: Hold your putter in your normal putting grip and stance, and let your arms and hands hang down so the shaft is vertical. When you do, the shaft is pointing to your ball position. When you place the ball there and take your stance, your hands will be over the ball and the shaft will lean ever so slightly forward.

I've recommended this ball position several times in this blog. It's the simplest way to get a consistent ball position, which means you'll get a more consistent strike. Your stance may be square, open or closed; it just doesn't matter. As long as the ball is in the middle of that little straight section of your putting stroke, the ball will go down your aimline without any manipulation by you. You can focus on your speed.

It sounds too good to be true, I know. But I have a friend who used to be a PGA Tour caddie and, every time he sees me putt, he comments about how solid my six- and seven-foot putts are, and about how little time I take to putt them. That's because I KNOW that, as long as I can see my line, my ball will usually go where I want it to go. Nobody makes everything, but I make enough to feel confident when I stand over the ball. (And most of my misses are misreads. Nobody's perfect!)

Yes, it sounds too good to be true, but it IS true. This isn't rocket science, folks. Don't make your putting harder than it has to be. Ball position is the most important key to better putting. It really is that simple.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Peter Thompson on Hip Turn (Video)

The record for winning Open Championships is six, held by Harry Vardon. But four players are tied with five, one of whom is the late Peter Thompson. So it's appropriate to share some of his swing tips this week.



Since he made this his #1 tip, Thompson clearly felt that hip turn was a crucial part of the golf swing. It was a forgotten fundamental for a while. Players tried to keep their lower bodies almost locked in place, attempting to create more power in their swing. That back-wrecking maneuver is finally being replaced by common sense, but some teachers like Thompson never forgot it.

The keys to note here are that when Thompson's hips turn, the trailing hip actually moves toward the target, not straight back. This causes the trailing knee to straighten during the backswing and then stay pretty straight during the downswing. You often see it in the swings of legends like Arnold Palmer.

This move isn't for everybody -- not all players are comfortable straightening that trailing knee -- but why might you want to try it?

If you have a problem with a sway in your backswing, or if you tend to reverse pivot during your downswing, this more extreme hip turn might help you. Both of those faults happen because you move away from the target and shift too much weight onto your trailing leg during your swing. Thompson's turn forces you to brace that trailing leg, stopping any movement away from the target.

You might think that straightening your trailing knee would steal some power from your swing, but power players like Palmer prove that's not the case. So this is something you might want to try it you're fighting a sway or a reverse pivot. If you'll pardon the pun, winning five Opens certainly gives this tip some legs!

[UPDATE: Well, I guess the joke's on me. I got a note from SJ letting me know that this isn't the Peter Thompson I thought it was, but that it was a good tip nevertheless. I didn't realize I pulled up videos from BOTH Thompsons when I did my YouTube search.

At least it was a good tip. ;-)
]

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the Open

I dread picking just five players this week. The Open is, in my opinion, too wide open to limit the field that much. I can easily pick 15 players who deserve to be seriously considered as favorites.

18th hole at Carnoustie

Carnoustie has never been as hard and fast as it is this week, nor has the rough been so sparse. At least, not in anybody's memory. Nor is the weather expected to be much of a factor at this point. And that means short hitters don't have to worry about hitting long approach shots, and they don't have to worry how far the big hitters hit it. It may simply become a game of "miss the bunkers and make the putts," and that could make for a very interesting competiton.

All of which means that it's very hard to figure out which five players are most likely to win this week. But I'll soldier on and we'll see how I do.
  • Perhaps the hottest player in the field this week is Francesco Molinari. In his last four worldwide starts, Francesco has two wins and two runner-up finishes. As good as Francesco is with his irons, all he needs is for his putter to stay somewhat warm. If it does, he could be lifting the Claret Jug at week's end.
  • Alex Noren is coming off a win at the French Open, as well as a runner-up and two thirds in worldwide starts this season. Alex is a streaky player, and could be in the early stages of a new streak. He's also extremely aggressive, and Carnoustie could lend itself to exactly the kind of game he likes to play.
  • Nobody is talking much about Brooks Koepka. It's worth noting that they weren't talking about him at the US Open either, and we all know what happened there. It's also worth noting that Brooks finished 6th last year and 10th two years before (he didn't play the Open in 2016), and the time he spent on the European Tour includes several rounds at Carnoustie during the Dunhill Links.
  • Since the beginning of 2017 Brooks has the best score to par in majors... and Rickie Fowler is only one stroke behind him; both are pretty far ahead of third place. Rickie has played very well in the Open -- in fact, in all of the majors over the last year or so -- and he's won the Scottish Open before, so we know he's comfortable on a links.You have to think Rickie has a good chance, especially if the wind does get up over the weekend.
  • And my flier is... Tiger Woods. I know most wouldn't consider Tiger a flier at this point, but I've written at length about my belief that Tiger's nervous system still hasn't recovered from the trauma it's experienced over the last few years. He's only had seven months of tournament play, and I just don't think that's long enough for his nervous system to completely recover yet. Because of that, his playing is still inconsistent, and there's no telling when he'll heal completely. When he does, he'll probably make a dramatic improvement -- dramatic enough to win a major. It could be this week... but I simply don't know.
These aren't the only players I think can win, obviously, but I had to pick just five. However, I feel pretty sure that Koepka should be the runaway favorite, no matter who made my list. He knows he doesn't have to play his best to win, and he has more familiarity with Carnoustie than most of the players in the field.

Rickie is my sentimental fave, but Brooks just seems to be more ready to pick up major #3 this week. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

John Cook on Putting at a Links Course (Video)

Since the Open is this week, here's a Live from the Open clip from Monday, with John Cook demonstrating how to putt on a links course when the wind is blowing. This might help you on any windy course, though.



Cook's keys are simple:
  • Widen your stance.
  • Place the ball near the center of your body.
  • Grip down slightly on the grip.
  • Trust your eyes.
I think the "trust your eyes" advice is interesting, especially since -- after setting up with the ball more centered -- John appears to move his ball forward in his stance! Apparently what John sees in this lesson is a bit different than what he says.

This is pretty standard advice, don't you think? But I find Cook's ball position change to be the interesting bit here. No matter how much instruction you hear about how to do something, when it comes to putting, mechanics are no substitute for feel. It's important to make sure you feel comfortable over a putt. If that means you have to break the rules a bit, so be it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 John Deere Classic

Winner: Michael Kim

Around the wider world of golf: Some players won their events outright. Laura Davies crushed the field by ten strokes in the inaugural US Senior Women's Open; Brandon Stone tied the lowest round in ET history (60) to win the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open; Cameron Champ won the Utah Championship on the Web.com Tour; Ben Griffin won the Staal Foundation Open on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Joseph Winslow won the Yantai Championship on the PGA TOUR China; Stephanie Kono won the Donald Ross Classic on the Symetra Tour; and Justin Harding won the Bank BRI Indonesia Open on the Asian Tour. But we also had a couple of playoffs, as Vijay Singh won his first senior major at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship on the Champions Tour; and Thidapa Suwannapura became only the third Thai to win on the LPGA at the Marathon Classic.

Michael Kim with Deere trophy

Illinois was the place for blowouts on Sunday. Laura Davies won the US Senior Women's Open by ten shots, and Michael Kim won the John Deere by eight. What was going on in the Midwestern US, anyway?

Of the two, Kim's was clearly the biggest surprise. Laura has been playing well all season, just not this well. But Kim's game had been... well, nonexistent. Nobody saw this coming, not even him. He had changed coaches less than a month ago, just to get a new set of eyes on his game.

The changes have been quick and decisive.

Kim celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday with his second 64 in as many days (after a 63 on the first day of the event). He couldn't even sleep on Saturday night, but apparently he no longer needs sleep. After three birdies on his first three holes Sunday, it wasn't even a competition anymore.

Not that Kim is complaining.

He said that he felt a bit left out after his fellow members of the "Class of 2011" -- the guys he beat in college -- came out and started tearing up the Tour. You know, guys like Thomas, Spieth, Berger and Schauffele. He's not left out anymore. He got all the perks that come with a victory -- a huge leap in FedExCup points, a full exemption on the Tour, more money than he can fit in his pockets, and exemptions. Oh yes, exemptions -- like the one in next week's Open.

It'll be fun to see what Michael Kim can do going forward. If he's really found the glitch in his swing that was holding him back, he could run up some serious wins like he did in college. But regardless of what the next few weeks hold, he can at least say he picked up a Limerick Summary. What else really matters?
Sixty-three, sixty-four, sixty-four—
But the Birthday Boy had more in store!
Lightning caught in a jar
Sent Kim way under par…
Then he flew to Carnoustie for more!
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Laura Davies on Long Drives (Video)

Since Laura Davies is leading the US Senior Women's Open by five shots going into the final round, this video seemed appropriate. It's from the GCA show featuring Laura with Martin Hall.



Now, you can get all the details of how Laura hits the long ball off the tee just by watching the video -- and I'll be honest, Laura uses some keys that I wouldn't teach because I think they lead to inconsistency -- but they work for her, so you can certainly learn from them. They aren't what I want to focus on in this post.

Instead, I'm calling your attention to how Laura isn't sure about calling her grip a 'strong' grip. She says she thinks that's what it's called, but that "she doesn't follow all that sort of thing." However, that doesn't mean she doesn't know what she's doing. She knows exactly how to set her hands on the club -- that IS the entire point of what she's saying.

Bubba is the same way. He says he doesn't know what he's doing, but he means he doesn't know the terminology to explain what he's doing. If he really didn't know what he was doing, he wouldn't be able to maintain his swing at the level he does, for as long as he has, without a teacher.

What is important for a player to know? It isn't terminology, and it isn't being able to teach others. What matters is that you know what YOU need to do in order to get the results you want. It doesn't matter if other people agree with you or not, as long as you know that it works for you.

That's the biggest thing I believe you can learn from Laura: Do what works for you. And if that puts you in position to win big -- like Laura might do today at the inaugural US Senior Women's Open -- then you get the last laugh. And I'm all for that!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Don't Forget the US Senior Women's Open on FOXSports1 Today

It's only a couple of hours coverage today, starting at 4pm ET, but this inaugural event is shaping up to be pretty good.

Trish Johnson and Laura Davies

You can keep check on the scores at the official USGA website. Of course, I'm a bit excited because of how my picks in my "5 to Watch" post from earlier in the week are doing. While Suzy Whaley missed the cut and my sentimental favorite, Pat Bradley, currently sits at T37, my other three picks -- Laura Davies, Juli Inkster and Trish Johnson are T1, 2 and T1 respectively.

That's right, three of my picks hold the Top3 spots. I know it's only been two rounds, but it's rare for me to do THAT well.

As I said, I just wanted to remind you about the TV coverage this weekend. With only two hours each today and Sunday, you don't want to miss it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Alex Nicolson on Making a Target-Oriented Swing (Video)

While Bryson DeChambeau's shoulder is the big news from Thursday, we don't have any real details on the severity of his injury yet. So I decided to post another teaching video instead. This is an older Golf Monthly video featuring teaching pro Alex Nicolson, who demonstrates a couple of drills to help you smooth out your swing by being more target-oriented.



The second drill is simply a club-throwing drill. I'll leave that one to your imagination, if you need help throwing clubs! Instead, we'll focus on the first drill, which is quite interesting.

In order to make your actual swing more closely match your practice swing, Nicolson recommends hitting shots with your eyes closed!

Yeah, that was my reaction as well. But if you can find a place on the range where you aren't afraid you'll hit someone, there's a lot of value to this suggested drill.

If you focus on a mental picture of your target, you'll be forced to think more about hitting to the target and less about actual ball contact. (Sort of like putting with your eyes closed.) And if you can't see when you're about to strike the ball, you're less likely to tense up and ruin the rhythm and sequence of your swing.

I would advise teeing the ball up so you don't worry about hitting the ground so much, and also starting with a half-swing or even less, to build your confidence that you can actually hit the ball with your eyes closed.

While it is a bit odd-sounding, this drill might actually help smooth out your swing. Anything that helps you gain confidence in your ability to hit the ball solidly should do that, because tension can usually be traced to the fear that you won't. If you struggle with a belief in your swing, it's worth a try.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Martin Hall on Drawing a Wedge (Video)

Here's a technique I haven't posted before, so you can thank Martin Hall for this one. Here's Martin demonstrating how to hit a draw with a wedge.



Most of this sounds like typical instruction for playing a draw with any club. I'll use Martin's description, which is for a righthander, and I'll put the lefthander's version in brackets:
  • Aim the clubface at the spot where you want the ball to finish.
  • Aim your body to the right [left] of your target.
  • Twist your forearms as you hit the ball and follow through to close the face. Martin uses a bucket to demonstrate the motion.
I admit that I don't care for all that twisting. While there are times where extra forearm action is needed -- hooking the ball sharply around a tree comes to mind -- you'd generally like to keep your forearms as quiet as possible. However, hooking a wedge is difficult, so I can see where you might need some extra "stuff" to make the wedge shot hook. (I'll have to try it myself and see, when I get a chance. It clearly worked for Bubba at Augusta!)

However, here's an extra key thought that you may never have heard before, and it might help you when you need to draw the ball with other clubs as well. Martin says you want to keep your trailing shoulder high, which may be a bit misleading. It's more like you avoid dropping your shoulder as much as you normally would. (After all, your trail hand is lower on the grip than your lead hand, so obviously your trail shoulder has to be a bit lower than your lead shoulder -- and it will be unless you do something strange. If you do something strange, you'll probably pull the shot as well as hook it... and that's not good.)

Anyway, this is a good thing to remember when you absolutely have to hit a draw with any club, but especially a wedge. Feel as if you're making a level shoulder turn and that should help you get that extra curve you need. The ball should fly lower and hit the green with a lot of spin.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the US Senior Women's Open

Well, it's about time, isn't it? And since the USGA finally gave the older gals a major of their own, I'm going to make some picks. Welcome to the US Senior Women's Open!

Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley

The US Senior Women's Open will be held at the Chicago Golf Club -- one of the five founding clubs of the USGA, in case you didn't know -- which will be playing at 6082 yards and a par of 73. There's all kinds of info you can get about the event from this USGA fact sheet, especially concerning the course, its setup and history.

I also want to link you to this great article by Beth Ann Nichols about time she spent with Pat Bradley, who will be playing in this event. The official website is this page at the USGA site, which has all kinds of links to the field. And by letting those articles give you the info you need, I can focus on my "5 to Watch" picks.

True, I often say that it's hard to pick winners for various reasons, but it's rare that I can point to a relative lack of playing time. It's true that there's a Legends Tour, but many of these players haven't played competitively for years. It's enough of an issue that the USGA has admitted they're more or less guessing at how to set the course to make an event that's competitive but not overly difficult. I doubt that will be as much of a problem in future years, but it's a reality for the 2018 edition.

Nevertheless, I have found five ladies who I believe have a serious shot at this title.
  • Laura Davies is still playing on the LPGA, so I think she has a real advantage in this inaugural event. Laura's game is not only sharper than many of the other players, but she still has a lot of her length off the tee. (That's just a function of continued competitive play.) And given the form she's shown this year, she has to make my favorites list.
  • The same is true of Juli Inkster, who, while she's playing a more restricted schedule these days, is still an active LPGA member. There is simply no substitute for competitive play, and even a limited schedule with the youngsters has to be good for them.
  • Trish Johnson is not only still active on the LET, but she's a multiple winner on the LPGA Legends Tour -- in fact, she won only a month ago! She too is in good form for this event.
  • Suzy Whaley, the first female officer of the PGA and soon to be the next PGA president, has played against the male pros before and is still very young for this event -- a mere child of 51, thank you very much. Still very active in the game, I think she also comes in with some confidence.
  • And my flier is Pat Bradley. To the best of my knowledge, Pat isn't playing the Legends Tour anymore. But if her nephew, PGA Tour player Keegan Bradley, can be trusted, her mind is as sharp as ever... and her competitive spirit as well. On a 6000-yard track, I can see her making a run at this thing.
My pick -- perhaps a sentimental one, but I don't care -- is Pat Bradley. I've seen her play some with the men on the Champions Tour, and she has more than held her own. I think she'll surprise a few fans this week, and perhaps more than a few of the competitors!

Actually, I believe quite of number of the ladies are in good enough form to take this event. The Legends Tour boasts more than 120 members, so I suspect this event will be much more competitive than many people expect.

The real bummer here is the minimal TV coverage the event is going to get. However, FOXSports1 will provide at least four hours of coverage on Saturday and Sunday, from 4-6pm ET. How can you miss a historic event like this?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the SENIOR PLAYERS

We've got two majors this week, so let's get to it with the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS on the Champions Tour.

Defending champion Scott McCarron

The event is being played at Exmoor Country Club near Chicago, and the defending champion is Scott McCarron. I should note that Bernhard Langer won the three editions of the event before that (2014-2016). so he has been a dominant figure at this event.

Having said that -- and noting as well that Langer is in fourth place in the Schwab Cup, only $300k behind leader David Toms -- I don't feel there's a clear-cut favorite in this major. Of the Top10 in the Cup race, only Paul Broadhurst (in fifth place) has more than one win this season. That hardly makes anyone a betting favorite.
  • However, Paul Broadhurst's two wins include one of the Champions Tour majors, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. He's only $5k behind Langer, in fifth place. And with the Bass Pro Shop tournament also in his pocket, as well as a T5 at the US Senior Open, I have to put him in my "5" again.
  • I won't pick Steve Stricker again -- I checked, he's playing the Deere this week -- but I think I'm going for his Wisconsin buddy, Jerry Kelly. Kelly has 9 Top10s in 13 starts and one win, with a T8, T3 and T2 in the previous three majors this year. I figure he's due.
  • Miguel Angel Jiménez has the best record of anyone in majors this year; he's 1, 5 and T2 so far. It's hard to bet against him since he, like Stricker, continues to play strongly against the young players on the "big" tours.
  • David Toms has been quietly improving this year. He leads the Schwab Cup by only $12k over Jerry Kelly, who doesn't have a major like Toms. But he does have 8 Top10s in 13 starts, and has improved in each major he's played this season. (Yes, he won the last one.) Perhaps he's figured out how it's done on the Champions Tour and can grab another major.
  • And my flier pick... hmmm, who's flying under the radar? Ah, Colin Montgomerie. He has no wins this season and only 3 Top10s. Thing is, two of them -- T6 and T3 -- came in his last three events, the first being the Senior PGA. Perhaps Colin has finally found his stride this season...
So my winning pick is... Jerry Kelly. I can't help but think he's due, and this major will be up in his area of the country. I know that's no guarantee that he'll play well, but I can't shake the feeling that he'll win a major this year... and he's running out of majors! Let's see what he can do at this one.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Greenbrier

Winner: Kevin Na

Around the wider world of golf: Sei Young Kim crushed the LPGA's all-time tournament scoring record (which she and Annika held) with a -31 at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Russell Knox sank the same 40-foot birdie putt TWICE to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the ET; Nelson Ledesma won the LECOM Health Challenge on the Web.com Tour; Mark Anguiano won the Windsor Championship on the MacKenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Brad Kennedy won the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA SAMMY Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; John Catlin won the Sarawak Championship on the Asian Tour; and the US Team successfully defended their title at the Palmer Cup.

Kevin Na with the Greenbrier trophy and jacket

Okay, first of all: I know the tournament is now officially called A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. But that was just too long for the blog title.

And second, I don't care how silly it sounds, it seems like I've been waiting forever to post this:



Yes, I think it's appropriate. On a Sunday when all kinds of records were set by players going crazy with their putters, Kevin Na sank over 142 feet of putts -- double the Tour average for a round -- to pick up his second PGA Tour win. This song has become a legendary sports celebration song, and if anybody deserves this particular song, it's Kevin.

I can't help myself. I absolutely love Kevin Na. He's dealt with any number of technical problems and come out on top. When he's gone through a particularly bad stretch -- remember when he set the PGA Tour record for high score on a single hole (16)? -- he's had a sense of humor about it. (He not only talked about it after the round, but let GC film his revenge with a chainsaw.) And he's given us more good-natured entertainment (like the recent exchange between him and his longtime caddie) than most players.

It makes me feel good to see him pick up his second win. It was emotional for him, as you know if you saw his interview with Amanda Balionis right after he won -- and coming right after the news that he'd made the Open this year, it just seemed like life was fair this weekend.

I won't go on about it. Just play the video, dance around a bit, and know that Kevin will probably hear it quite a bit this week as he and his friends celebrate. As for me... well, the video even made itself felt in his Limerick Summary. Way to go, Kevin!
For seven years Kevin asked “Why?”
But Sunday his spirits were high!
He started one back
But then broke from the pack
And with 64, kissed ‘em goodbye.
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Cindy Miller on a Relaxed Lead Arm (Video)

This older video from LPGA instructor Cindy Miller kind of goes along with yesterday's post about topping... but it approaches the problem of poor ball contact from the "other side" of the swing -- the upper body, rather than the lower body.



Cindy is attacking the myth that you need to keep your lead arm straight during your swing. Now, we're not talking about bending your lead elbow at a 90° angle at the top of your backswing. (Although some players do learn to play well that way. If you do, you know it.) Rather, we're talking about trying to keep your lead arm dead straight throughout your swing.

I've mentioned this "ramrod striaght" myth many times when talking about the one-piece takeaway. You don't want your lead arm stiff -- it should be relaxed and will flex slightly as you swing to the top of your swing, then return to its address position as you make your downswing. This is a natural movement for your arm -- you do it all the time when you make any kind of sweeping motion with your arm. You want to just let it happen when you swing the club as well.

In this video Cindy mentions two problems that keeping your lead arm stiff will cause. First, it can cause you to "stand up" during your backswing, just as Andrew Reynolds mentioned yesterday in that post. Stiff arms cause you to lift up and straighten up -- but this time, you overcorrect on your way down and stick the clubhead in the ground. Can you say fat shot?

The second thing this move does is cause you to open the clubface on the way back, then you leave it open on the way down. That's because a stiff lead arm won't drop back down into your normal address position, which means your arms don't rotate back to their address position where the face was square.

Ironically, you can do this upper body lifting and yesterday's lower body "push up" at the same time. What happens? Depending on which one you exaggerate, you might hit the ball fat or thin, without any apparent logic. And if you do hit the ball, the combination will likely create an over-the-top swing with an open clubface, creating that nasty banana ball we all hate.

So hopefully this week's series of posts will help you understand how excess movement in your swing -- created by trying to reach for a bigger turn than is natural for your flexibility -- can create poor contact and unwanted ball flights. So many of these problems, both with your upper body and your lower body, are caused by unnecessary tension in your arms and legs.

Maybe I'll try to post some relaxation drills next week. Learning to relax isn't hard, but a little encouragement can't hurt!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Andrew Reynolds on How to Stop Topping the Ball (Video)

This is a simple tip to improve the consistency of your impact from coach Andrew Reynolds for Golf Monthly. It's short but important.



I know this tip may sound childish at first, but it's about the logic of your golf swing... and most people never stop to reason out why the ball behaves the way it does. Let's look at it -- from a logical standpoint -- for a moment.

So many golfers believe they can stop topping the ball if they just keep their head down. As a result, they try all sorts of things to keep their heads from moving during the swing, including squatting more at address (which Reynolds mentions here) and ducking their heads on the downswing.

But topping is most often caused by raising not just your head, but your entire upper body. And that happens because you straighten your legs during your downswing. THAT is what most players refer to as "using the ground." But -- and I have written about this before, most recently a week ago -- pushing up with BOTH legs is incorrect technique. Only your lead legs pushes up when you use the ground.

In this video Reynolds offers a simple way to minimize this problem: Just stand taller at address. The logic here is simple -- if your knees are already mostly straight, and if your spine is more erect when you begin your swing, only your lead knee will bend more during your backswing. And on your downswing, straightening your lead knee will cause your body to rotate more freely while your trailing knee will be forced to bend in reaction to that turn.

And that will make the clubhead strike downward as it approaches the ball. No more topping!

Don't be quick to write this short video off as being too simplistic. It's actually a very easy way to use natural body motions to create a more consistent strike. And when you can make the correct motion happen automatically, your game will improve naturally.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Gary Player on Being Yourself

Today I have a short quote from Gary Player's book, Don't Choke.
Make your plan and stick to it. It's when you move away from your plan that doubt creeps in. And that's when the seeds of choking are sown.

It's so easy to get sidetracked from what you have set out to do. There are so many factors pulling our minds in different directions every single moment of every day. It can be the challenges of juggling a family with your career aspirations. It can be work colleagues feeding you negative thoughts. It can even be your boss, whose own indecision influences your strategy on a particular project.

But trust yourself. After all, that's why you are in the position you are and get paid what you are paid. You are there because somebody believes in your ability to make good decisions. So believe in yourself.

Once you have considered all the necessary information, make your plan and stick to it. [p130]
Granted, Player is talking in terms of job expectations here. But the sentiment seems to fit life in general, don't you think?

Most of us second-guess ourselves on a regular basis. And we don't necessarily feel equipped to deal with many of the problems we face each day. But much of our doubt doesn't come from lack of knowledge, but from fear of what others may say or simply because we think we have to be perfect. (That's a huge problem in learning to play golf for many people as well.)

However, life isn't about being perfect. Nobody is perfect. And most of us worry about things that will never happen. As Player says, once we've considered the necessary information -- the things we need to know -- the best thing to do is make a plan and stick to it. As long as you're willing to adjust when the situation demands it, you'll probably do just fine.

After all, the people who are successful in their endeavors are generally the people who actually DO something. And Gary Player is certainly someone who knows about that.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Why You Shouldn't Always Copy the Pros (Video)

In this short video from Wednesday's Morning Drive, GOLFTEC instructor Patrick Nuber shows the difference between the ways pros and amateurs use their wrists during their swing. It might convince you that the L-to-L drill isn't something you should use... but you'd be wrong. I want to show you why copying the pros isn't always a good thing, and how "the numbers" don't always tell the whole story.



The L-to-L drill gives you the same result during the backswing that his video diagrams show. There's no conflict there.

At around the 2:20 mark Nuber shows the difference between how pros and amateurs' wrists behave as they move up to the finish. His numbers show that the amateurs bend their wrists upward much more at the halfway up point. That's the position you'll get if you use the L-to-L drill. Nuber says the pros keep their wrists much straighter at the halfway point, and that this creates more clubhead speed.

There's a lot that he doesn't say here. Let me explain some of it to you.
  • First off, bear in mind that Nuber's diagrams are taken from a full swing, not the half swing that you use in the L-to-L drill. I don't care how strong they are, no pro will make a full-speed half swing and stop with the shaft at the angle in his diagram.
  • Here's something important that you can see in the diagrams. If you look closely at the two figures -- not at the wrists, but at the upper bodies of the figures -- you'll see that the pro figure has turned his chest toward the target far more than the amateur figure. If the upper body position isn't clear to you, just look at the legs and hips -- it's VERY noticeable there. That means that the amateur figure has stopped turning, so the arms have slowed down and the wrists HAVE to bend upward. THAT'S the cause, the reason the amateur loses clubhead speed, not the wrist bend. The extra wrist bend is merely the result of his body slowing down too early.
  • Here's a corollary to the last point: If you keep turning your body as you swing into the finish, your wrists won't bend upward until much later in the followthrough. In other words, the pro arm position Nuber shows will happen automatically if you turn properly.
  • Did you notice that Nuber says the lesser wrist bend causes the ball to fly lower? Most amateurs are struggling to hit the ball higher and get more spin on wedge shots. The last thing they need is to consciously try and hit the ball lower. They should focus on creating as much clubhead speed as possible before they start trying to hit the ball lower.
  • Finally, think about your short game. When you want to hit the ball lower AND SHORTER, you cut off the finish -- exactly what his "point the shaft" drill teaches you. If you want to increase your distance, this isn't the way to do it.
Understand what I'm saying here. It's not that Nuber is wrong about what the numbers say. Rather, it's a misrepresentation of what the numbers mean, a misrepresentation that happens in any discipline when you become too enamored with the numbers. Trying to duplicate measurements taken from the middle of a motion without duplicating the entire motion will not give you the results you expect.

This is one of the great problems with our reliance on numbers. Numbers may not lie, but numbers mean nothing until they are interpreted... and interpretations lie all the time. Don't try to duplicate numbers. Focus instead on learning to play golf, and in time the numbers will take care of themselves.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July! (Disney Fireworks Display Video)

I know the 4th of July isn't celebrated all over the world, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the fireworks. This is the 2017 display from DisneyWorld -- over 14 minutes of fireworks. Enjoy!



Just for the record, Disney does a big fireworks display almost every night at Magic Kingdom. Still, there's something special to us Americans when it's an Independence Day celebration.

And in the same vein, let me offer early wishes for a great Bastille Day (July 14th) celebration to my readers in France. Over there, it's called either "la Fête nationale" or "le 14 Juillet." I hope you have a great one, whichever you prefer to call it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Josh Kaufman on Learning the Basics of Any Skill (Repost Video)

I'm afraid many of you missed this video because it was tacked on to the end of Sunday's post. It fit there but it can help you in so many ways besides golf, so I'm reposting it today.

Josh Kaufman is author of The Personal MBA, among other books.



Here's the quick summary of the video as posted by QuickTalks (from the video comments). I can't say it any better:

Summary: Just 20 hours is enough to become “reasonably good” at any skill.

  1. Deconstruct the skill - Break the skill down into its most basic parts. Which parts are necessary for hitting the goal you have? (i.e. if your goal is to sing a song in Korean, you can primarily focus on pronunciation, not learning a bunch of vocabulary)
  2. Learn enough to self correct - Learn enough to realize when you're making mistakes.
  3. Remove barriers to practice - Turn off your phone, unplug the TV. Put your guitar, piano, language book in the middle of your room, not behind your stack of dirty laundry.
  4. Practice for at least 20 hours - Commit to 20 hours from the start. You're going to be frustrated at times, so committing beforehand will help you push through the frustration.
Spend some time with this video, folks. It will not only help your golf, it will help you learn all sorts of things that you may wanted to learn but believed the task would be too much for you. It's an excellent video.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Quicken Loans National

Winner: Francesco Molinari

Around the wider world of golf: David Toms got his first Champions Tour major at the US Senior Open; Sung Hyun Park got her second LPGA major at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Muni He won the Prasco Charity Championship on the Symetra Tour; Anders Albertson won the Lincoln Land Championship on the Web.com Tour; Alex Noren won the HNA Open de France on the ET; Chan Kim defended his title at the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA SAMMY Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and Jazz Janewattananond won the Queen's Cup on the Asian Tour. [UPDATE: I forgot to add Leonie Harm's win at the Ladies' British Amateur. Can't forget that!]

Francesco Molinari holds the Guicken Loans trophy

If you were unfamiliar with Francesco Molinari before this past week... well, you better get real familiar, real fast.

I remember being very impressed with Francesco the first time I saw him play, which was back in November 2010. In fact, I was so impressed that I mentioned him in three consecutive posts -- one with a Limerick Summary for his second individual European Tour win at the 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions, a "Player to Watch" mention in a Ruthless Golf World Rankings post, and a look at his golf swing in a post called Francesco is Italian for "I Piped It Again." He showed great shotmaking prowess even then.

Francesco's career has been somewhat hit-or-miss over the years though. Interestingly enough, he has tended to win ET events every two to four years -- 2006, 2010, 2012, 2016, and 2018. (He also had two non-ET wins in 2009.) But 2018 has been different, as he has two "big tournament wins" within a month of each other -- the BMW PGA, which is the ET's equivalent of THE PLAYERS, and now the Quicken Loans National, his first PGA Tour win. And both have been dominant wins -- he chased down Rory at the BMW and he won by eight strokes (and set some tournament scoring records along the way) at the Quicken Loans.

To what does he owe this sudden improvement in his play? There are two things. First, he has greatly improved his strength and flexibility, resulting in a much smoother and more powerful swing. Coupled with his already impressive shotmaking ability, that has lifted his game a few notches.

But he's always been a shotmaker. It's his newfound success with the putter that has made the biggest difference. He's always had plenty of birdie opportunities, but now he's taking advantage of them -- and, as a result, of the rest of the field. Poor unfortunate fellows!

Francesco gained a lot this week. He's going to move up in the world rankings; he pretty much locked up a couple of weeks in the FedExCup Playoffs, which he said was the main reason he played in the Quicken Loans rather than the French Open (which is held at the venue for this year's Ryder Cup); and he pretty much locked up a spot on said Ryder Cup team with his play. But we all know what he REALLY cared about... so here's your Limerick Summary, champ.
If Francesco’s career has seemed static,
It’s because his short game’s been erratic.
Now he’s putting lights-out—
And he’s left us no doubt
That his Ryder Cup team is ecstatic!
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Jim Flick on Execution VS Understanding (Plus a Video)

This post is about more than golf. That's why it's so long. But if you stick with me till the end, you might be surprised at what sort of new "tools" are at your command.

The late Jim Flick worked with a lot of amateur players as well as pros. In fact, he and Jack Nicklaus ran golf schools together. So why was he so successful as a teacher?

This short section comes from his book On Golf, and it sums up why so many people struggle to get better at the game.

DON'T CONFUSE THE INABILITY TO EXECUTE
WITH THE INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND

Every now and then, someone in a school session will say, "Well, I don't understand that."

My usual answer, unless I'm having a bad day and realize I'm being particularly obtuse, is what Peter Kostis, an old colleague of the Golf Digest schools, used to say: "Don't confuse the inability to execute with the inability to understand."

And I go on: "You understand the material very well. Right now you haven't done it often enough that you can execute it. So don't try to get more material. Spend more time on execution."

I'm not trying to be harsh. I'm trying to be realistic. You learn golf the way you learn everything else: step by step. Get too much all at once and you break down from information overload.

Let's say you're a grown-up and you decide to study French. Do you go to school for a semester and then one day wake up speaking the language perfectly? No! You practice, you absorb, you learn in stages. Golf is exactly like learning a language: there's a huge gap between intellectual understanding and physical feel. You bridge that gap with repeated execution. In other words, practice. [p44]
You don't have to learn everything about golf all at once. You don't have to learn to hit the ball both long and straight at the same time. You don't have to learn to hit both fades and draws all at once. You don't have to learn to hit both high and low shots right from the start.

Pick one basic skill. Find a drill or two that will help you get better at that skill. And then work on that skill. You'll get better.

When you go out to play a round of golf, use that skill as much as you can. Did your ball end up in a very tight lie but you can't hit the ball well enough yet to go at the green? Then don't try. Use your putter to advance the ball into a lie you can hit from, even if that's just ten feet away. Or don't try to hit it at all -- pick it up, carry to a spot you CAN hit from, and hit the ball from there.

Don't worry about your score. Just get better at that skill.

Or, to put it in Flick's language example, if you're learning basic words, you don't worry about creating syntactically correct sentences. You just focus on making your limited vocabulary understood. You use gestures -- like pointing at signs or acting things out -- to get your point across, and you don't worry about what you don't know.

THAT'S a good way to approach your golf game. And realize that the sooner you get this one skill down, the sooner you can start working on the next one and the quicker your game will get better.

In other words, folks, be patient with yourselves.

Unlike other posts I do with videos, this one doesn't have a golf instruction video. Rather, it's a video about how to learn new skills. I think it might be eye-opening for you.

I know you've heard people say you have to do a thing for 10,000 hours -- roughly five years of 40-hour workweeks -- to become an expert at it. BUT HERE'S THE TRICK: You don't have to become an expert at something to be very good at it, and you don't need 10,000 hours to become skilled. This video from Josh Kaufman shows why it only takes 20 hours to start developing a sound skill base in a new area. The key is to focus on the important skills at the start.

This video really opened my eyes when I saw it -- primarily because I realized that I had picked up a large number of skills in my life by doing exactly what he says!



So try approaching your golf -- and anything else you want to learn -- using Kaufman's mindset. And since I've been harping on it all week, let me suggest you begin this approach using the L-to-L swing drill as a starting place. It's easy to grasp and it builds basic skills you use in pretty much every part of your game.

And if you try to learn other things by using this mental approach, you might do more than just improve your golf. It might lead you in all kinds of exciting directions!