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

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I Tried Playing Like J.B. Holmes

Yesterday I did a post about how J.B. Holmes swings, using a video lesson from instructor Brian Manzella. I also included some GC footage of Holmes from a Playing Lessons with the Pros episode, comparing the two. At the end I wrote "As you can see, you don't have to make the moves quite as big as Manzella does... but it might be fun to try it with your driver."

J.B. Holmes hitting one

Little did I know that I would end up doing just that the very next day. Here's the tale:

I occasionally play golf with a friend who used to be a Tour caddie (and was a pretty good player himself) but had to stop caddying due to medical problems. Tuesday (the day I wrote the Holmes post) he invited me to play with him on Wednesday. I haven't had a chance to play since December -- we've had some awful weather here -- but I've been swinging in the backyard when weather permitted, trying to work out a more classic swing based less on strength. (I'm in my mid-50s, in case you're curious, and had lost some distance using a modern swing.) I figured this would be a good chance to see how the new classic swing actually worked under real life conditions.

The problem is that I've developed a bad case of tennis elbow, courtesy of walking our very large dog who's been getting friskier as the weather improves. It's in my lead elbow (I'm right-handed so that's my left elbow), but I figured I'd just swing easier and I'd be okay.

WRONG. I'd barely hit more than a handful of balls before the round when I realized I couldn't get the ball up in the air -- not even with my 7-wood, which is my favorite club and which I almost always hit well. Every time I hit down on the ball, the shock turned my lead elbow into jelly. (Painful quivering jelly. Even with the ball teed up.)

At the last moment I decided to try the Holmes swing, which would use my trailing arm more. I only had time to hit one more shot before our tee time and, despite the dramatic rerouting of the club on the way down, I hit the ball solid, nice and high and without much pain. Although many people may think of the Holmes swing as a modern swing, I approached it almost like a classic swing, with my arms doing a lot of the work. It seemed to work (after a fashion) with what I had been practicing, so...

So there I went, out for 18 holes with a swing that I'd never practiced and a sore elbow. Let me say upfront that I don't recommend this but damn, I wanted to play some golf! To do it, I had to make some allowances:
  • I've already mentioned that I had to slow my swing down. I simply didn't have the strength in my lead arm to swing fast, especially with that reroute move. For those of you who don't know what I mean by "reroute," the club starts back on a fairly upright plane, then drops (reroutes) onto a lower plane on the downswing. It also causes you to lay the club off; Manzella explains it in the video on the other post. Yes, the Holmes swing is a two-plane swing.
  • Because I had to concentrate on getting the rerouted club face to hit the ball, I couldn't make a full shoulder turn. (Bigger shoulder turn = bigger reroute.) That also cost me some power.
  • I had to have even more patience than usual. Because I hadn't used this swing AT ALL before I hit the course, I had to figure out how to control the ball on the fly. That meant I hit a lot of squirrelly shots I normally wouldn't.
I used the driver for around 6 holes. I averaged driving the ball around 220 yards, remarkably well given all the problems. I also used the Holmes swing for my shots from the fairway, and was amazed how solidly I hit them... although, as with the driver, I was considerably shorter than normal. On the 5th and 6th holes, however, I started hitting the driver fat and my elbow was getting tired. I dropped back to a 3-wood.

The 3-wood lasted maybe 5 holes before I started "dropkicking" those drives as well (hitting fat and bouncing into the ball). At that point I went to my 7-wood, which I hit pretty well for the rest of the round. My score was horrible -- hey, I had tennis elbow, hadn't played for 5 months, and had to use an improvised swing! -- but I was pretty impressed with how easy this swing was to use. After my elbow improves, I plan to work with this swing some more and see just what it can do.

For those of you who want to try the Holmes swing, I can now give you some concrete guidance on what problems you may face as well as some of the benefits I see.
  • Although I've used a slightly strong grip for years, I had to go back to a neutral grip with the Holmes swing. That reroute move adds more wrist movement than I really like to the swing, with the result that you can flip the face closed at impact if you use a stronger grip. I actually hit some good shots early on (before my elbow got tired) using a weak grip.
  • Ball position is very important. I tended to hit the ball higher than normal off the tee with the Holmes swing, and attempts to find a spot where I hit it lower were tricky. If I moved the ball forward in my stance, sometimes I would hit a pull hook; when I moved the ball back a little, I tended to hit a slight push fade. I didn't settle on a good position but that's probably because my elbow was getting so tired I couldn't hit the ball consistently.
  • How close I stood to the ball caused almost as many problems. When hitting the ball off the ground, I heeled a number of them -- not hitting the face off-center toward the heel, but actually hitting the ball with the heel of the club like a reverse shank (the ball bounced away like a pulled shot rather than a pushed one). That happened often enough for me to think it might be a tendency with this swing since I only hit one ball off the toe of the club all day. You may need to stand a couple of inches farther than normal from the ball with this swing.
  • I also had a tendency to set my weight too much on my trailing foot during address; that might have contributed to those pull hooks off the tee I mentioned earlier. I might not have that problem as much once my elbow heals up and I can make a fuller shoulder turn, but I certainly had it during Thursday's round.
  • Finally, given how much power this swing can potentially develop, I didn't feel any stress in my back at all. Will that change once my elbow heals and I can make a bigger turn? Maybe, but given my experience Thursday, I don't expect it.
If any other things come to mind, I'll add them to this post. But that's all I can think of today except...

Except that J.B. probably has no worries that I'll be mistaken for him.

No comments:

Post a Comment