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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Match Your Putter to Your Full Swing Shot Shape?

This is one of the most unusual putting tips I've ever heard, and it actually makes sense to me although it's a very unusual approach to fitting a putter.

Take a look at this video from Golf Magazine Top100 Instructor Jerry King on matching your putter to your full swing shot shape. I can't embed the video in this post so you'll have to pop over and watch it. It's short, less than 3 minutes. But I will summarize what he says.

In a nutshell, King says:
  • If you draw the ball, you naturally have a putting stroke that makes an arc -- just like your draw swing -- so a toe-weighted putter allows you to take advantage of that natural motion.
  • And if you fade the ball, you naturally stand so a straight back-and-through stroke is your natural putting stroke -- after all, your fade swing doesn't arc around you as much -- so a face-balanced putter allows you to take advantage of THAT natural motion.
What fascinates me about this is the idea that you're attempting to use a natural motion that you already have, which makes perfect sense. Why fight your natural tendencies if you can make them work for you? It means you need less practice to keep your stroke in shape.

The video tells you how to address the ball to make this work, so take a look and see if it helps you with the flat stick. Trust me, the less you think about mechanics when you putt, the better your putts are going to be.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hank Haney on Head Tilt

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case it is. Hank Haney's article at the Golf Digest site about head tilt is very short, and this picture is probably the reason why. You can pop over and read the article -- it won't take long! -- but here's the picture (click on it to see a bigger version).

Head level versus head tilted during backswing

The guy on the left tilted his head toward the target during his backswing. As a result, he can't possibly see his intended aim line properly.

The guy on the right didn't tilt his head toward the target during his backswing. He CAN see his intended aim line properly.

Do you know why you're supposed to keep your eyes on the road when you're driving? It's because you tend to drive toward what you're looking at. If you want to drive the ball toward your target, you have to be able to see that target properly.

A few minutes in front of a mirror should help you learn what a 'level head turn' feels like. And then, when you drive the ball where you're looking, there's a good chance you'll actually hit your target.

Friday, January 29, 2016

How Sergio Gets So Much Lag

This isn't necessarily something I would recommend that you do, but I think it's important to understand. This is something that players do -- or don't do, as the case may be -- and don't even realize how it affects their swings.

This photo comes from a slideshow at the Golf Digest site about Sergio's keys to getting more distance and accuracy. (It's the fifth one, fyi.) Note that Sergio doesn't tell you to do this, but it definitely has an effect on how he swings. This photo is a view from the rear, which really helps you see it.

Sergio at the top of his backswing, rear view

See how close to his side that trailing elbow is? You Hogan fans out there will recognize that this is a position very similar to Hogan at the top of his swing. This goes against what most instructors teach. They want you to form a 90° angle between your trailing upper arm and forearm at the top, and to get that club shaft parallel to the ground.

But Sergio is trying to create as much leverage as possible, so he can force the stiff shafts of his clubs to flex (or load, if you want the technical term). And trust me, this move requires stiff shafts! To use this position, you have to make sure you have a solid grip and that you don't get 'flippy' at the top of your backswing. If you have a little too much 'give' in your wrists at the top, you will likely be rewarded with the shaft smacking your shoulders or back.

Sergio maintains this position all the way down with a specific swing thought that he mentions in both the fifth and sixth photos in the slideshow -- namely:
My thought from the top: Imagine you're pulling a chain down with both hands.
This swing thought keeps his trailing elbow close to his side all the way down to impact, which gives him a very compact swing. It also creates a very flat swing plane -- which can easily become too flat -- and narrows your swing arc. It also makes it harder to play from the rough. (Upright swing planes are better for that.) But it does create a lot of power, if that's what your swing is built on. (And many players do focus on power in their swing, which is why you need to know how this works.)

The thing I most dislike about this move is that it's much harder to stop being tense during your swing -- which has a number of repercussions for your swing, like ruining your rhythm and feel -- and that's why I don't recommend it. I prefer a swing motion that's based on relaxation (because relaxed muscles move faster, and I focus on speed in a golf swing) and rhythm, which tends to create a bigger arc and faster clubhead speed with less stress on your body.

Let me put it this way: You can play power golf or you can play speed golf. Bubba and Phil play speed golf, while Sergio is one of those guys who plays power golf. It's not so much a question of right and wrong as a matter of preference.

And if you want to play power golf, Sergio's way is as good as any.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Michael Breed on How Setup Varies from Club to Club

Since so many of us are stuck inside with bad weather, I thought I'd post something you can practice indoors -- no matter how low your ceiling is or how cramped you are for space. Here's a video from Michael Breed on how setup varies from wedges to driver.

I hope you picked up the basic principle from that. At address, the trail shoulder is always lower than the lead shoulder. But the length of the club changes how that looks, and that's why we need to practice our address position.

With a short club like a wedge, you are more bent over so the difference in shoulder height doesn't look so pronounced. With a long club like your driver, you stand taller so the difference in shoulder height is more noticeable.

Because the trail hand is always lower on the handle than the lead hand, you end up leaning away from the target slightly. Some players open their shoulders so they don't have to get that little side bend at the waist, and that causes all kinds of problems, especially with the longer clubs. You want to keep your shoulders square and your trail shoulder slightly lower than your lead shoulder.

This is something you can practice indoors during the winter. You can even do it in front of a mirror so you get immediate feedback. A few minutes a day will be enough. And it will have an immediate effect on your game once you get back out on the course.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Putter Grips at the PGA Merchandise Show

With the PGA Merchandise Show going on this week -- and Morning Drive broadcasting from it -- you'll likely see some of the grips covered in this Golf Digest post. But I wanted to call your attention to this one because I think it's a really neat idea.

Golf Pride Tour SNSR soft putter grip

This is Golf Pride's new Tour SNSR soft grip. It comes in two sizes and it's S-O-F-T, as in squishy enough that your fingers will sink into it if you squeeze too hard. If you see your fingers sinking in, you know to relax your grip. Imagine that -- a way to actually SEE that your grip is too tight! That's just amazing, and it's a simple way to learn how to keep your hands relaxed during your putting stroke.

The post lists some other cool grips, like SuperStroke making counterbalancing an option on all their grips and SwitchGrips making a grip you can change on your own without having to fuss with grip solvents and such. But that Golf Pride grip really caught my eye.

And for those of you who are curious about what kind of grip I use, you may be shocked. I don't use a regular putter grip at all! I use a Lamkin velvet round grip -- like the ones you put on all your clubs -- except I use the Jumbo size. I don't like the ridges on a regular putter grip because on some days I want to hold my putter with my hands in a slightly different position, and those ridges irritate me when I do. It's like a little voice saying "you're holding it wrong, you're holding it wrong" over and over and over while I'm trying to putt.

To each his own. And I'm glad that manufacturers are giving players more options this year.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The 2016 LPGA Season Finally Gets Underway

It's finally here! The new LPGA season starts this week at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. This was the event where Americans learned to respect the name Sei Young Kim, who got the first of her three LPGA wins as a rookie at the appropriately-named (for her, anyway) Paradise Island.

Sei Young Kim gets her first LPGA win

Sei Young said her goal in coming to America was to make the Korean Olympic team -- a real challenge, given the number of Koreans in the Top15 of the Rolex Rankings -- but she's well on her way. Currently #7 in the world, she's third on the Olympic list behind Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu, but several more Koreans are right on her heels. A title defense would go a long way towards putting her on the team.

Although Lydia Ko isn't in the field this week -- she starts her season next week in Florida -- the list of high-ranking players in the Bahamas is pretty well stacked. According to Tony Jesselli in his preview, 30 of the Top50 in the Rolex will tee it up. Good news for Sei Young, as several of the Korean players she's trying to beat out for Rio won't be there!

For those of you anxious to see her play, Brooke Henderson IS in the field. Also among other popular players who haven't played the LPGA a lot lately, Charley Hull, Cheyenne Woods, and Juli Inkster are there. And while some of the big names decided to postpone their seasons for another week, Michelle Wie and Stacy Lewis are not among them; both players will be in the Bahamas.

I must admit I have trouble understanding why anybody would skip a week in the Bahamas, especially given the cold weather we're having here in the US. But hey, I guess that's what happens when you make a lot of money playing golf all over the world.

The first round is live on GC at 11:30am ET Thursday. The ladies are back in action -- be there!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 CareerBuilder Challenge

Winner: Jason Dufner

Around the wider world of golf: Rickie Fowler continued prove he's not overrated with a win over both Jordan AND Rory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the ET; Duffy Waldorf won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship on the Champions Tour; and the team of Lonnie Nielsen and Josh Rackley won the PGA Senior-Junior Championship after rain washed out the final round.

Jason Dufner receives trophy from former President Clinton

Sunday was a tough day for fans of both golf and football. The teams that will play in the Super Bowl two weeks from now were being determined in games played opposite the CareerBuilder Challenge. (For those of you who didn't hear, the Carolina Panthers will face the Denver Broncos.) For me, it meant a lot of flipping back and forth between channels, hoping I wouldn't miss anything important.

Fortunately I didn't... but if you were one of the unfortunate few who did, here's the key shot you missed, the shot that may have convinced Jason Dufner that Sunday was his day to return to the winner's circle. On the par-3 17th hole, an island green very much like the one at TPC Sawgrass, Dufner pull-hooked an iron and barely stayed dry by landing in the rocks around the edge. It didn't look like he would have much of a shot.

Here's what he did:

Made it look easy, didn't he? And with most of his competition falling away -- Adam Hadwin made three bogeys down the stretch and Jamie Lovemark made three doubles during his round -- this shot kept Jason tied with David Lingmerth, who seemingly could do nothing wrong. This shot allowed Jason to finish tied with Lingmerth and eventually beat him on the second playoff hole, when Lingmerth hit a pull-hook of his own.

He didn't get as lucky as Dufner. Game over.

Of course, it wasn't a single hole that gave Dufner his fourth Tour win. It was his incredible play on the par-4s, which was in turn fueled by much improved putting. He was 14th in Strokes Gained-Putting and 5th in Putts per GIR, and when you're as good a ballstriker as the Duff, that means you've got a good chance to win.

After a couple years dealing with a divorce and various physical problems, Jason Dufner is back in the mix. And appropriately enough, he's also back in the Limerick Summary club:
When the Duff chipped from off seventeen,
His escape from the rocks looked routine.
He was down for so long;
Now his game’s looking strong…
But the key was new skills on the green.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Annabel Rolley's Bicycle Kicks

If you hate crunches as much as I do, you'll like this core exercise. Annabel Rolley calls them 'bicycle kicks.'

Crunches are one of those ab exercises on which trainers disagree. the tide of opinion seems to be turning against their use because they put an unusual amount of stress on your lower back. All I know is that I have trouble doing them properly, and an improperly done exercise is rarely good for you!

Annabel's bicycle kicks are deceptively easy. In fact, while you're actually doing them, you can be fooled into believing that they aren't doing much for your core at all. But I think that's the genius of their design. While you may not feel much while you do them, you WILL begin to feel their effects shortly after you finish... and I do mean shortly. I can feel their effects on my abs within five to ten seconds after I'm done, and I can still feel them several minutes afterward.

The great thing to me is that (1) they don't hurt my back and (2) I can maintain proper form while I do them.

So if you're looking for a good ab exercise, this might be one you'd like to consider. Especially if you have trouble doing crunches.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Placebos: They're Not Just for Pills Anymore

That's a weird title for a post, isn't it? But a placebo, in case you didn't know, is a substance that creates a desired effect merely by suggestion. Placebos are commonly used when testing new drugs -- one group of test subjects, called the control group, is given something that may be no more than a sugar pill but they're told it's a new high-powered medicine. Sometimes the placebo has an effect almost as good as the real medicine, simply because the control group subjects BELIEVED it would.

Well, it appears some researchers at the University of Notre Dame conducted a similar test using golf equipment... and found that there's a placebo effect with that as well. (This is the link to the original article at

Player putting a ball

I found out about the test from this post at Golf Digest. And to be honest, I think it's not just enlightening but funny as well.

You can read the Golf Digest post and the research posted at to get the full story, but here's the condensed version:
Players who believe that their equipment gives them an advantage when putting -- and presumably when making other shots as well -- tend to play better than those who believe they're just using regular equipment. And the effect is greater for poor players than good players. However, those players will not credit the equipment; they will believe they just putted better.
The irony here is that they really DID putt better because of their confidence and not the equipment... but they wouldn't have putted better if they didn't believe their equipment WAS better. Sort of Catch-22, don't you think?

What I think this really proves is that many players are struggling just because they THINK they're struggling. Or, to put it another way, they struggle because they EXPECT to struggle. So, if you follow this to its logical conclusion, those players should be able to improve if they just expect to play better.

Of course, many of you have probably tried this -- can you say 'positive mindset'? -- but it didn't give you the results you hoped for. Worst of all, you don't know why it didn't work.

Let's see if I can help you improve without buying new equipment.

The real problem here is unrealistic expectations. Most of our expectations are subjective -- that is, we don't have any concrete measuring stick to compare our 'before' and 'after' results. Unlike the Tour pros, we don't have a detailed list of stats showing how many putts we make from various distances or how many we make overall. Without those, we're forced to guess how many putts we THINK we should make, and then make our comparisons with that.

And we always think we should make more putts than we do. It's just human nature to think we should be better than we are. Why else would pro golfers rebuild their swings after they win a major?

I hate to use psychologist talk here, but the key really is to be more concerned with the process than the results. We have to make our judgments based on how well we execute the putt -- did I start it on the line I chose? did I stroke it too softly, too hard or just right? -- and accept the fact that we might do everything correctly and still miss the putt. That's just the nature of being imperfect humans living in an imperfect world.

Otherwise you're just depending on a placebo effect. That's what the Notre Dame research tells us. And, as drug manufacturers will tell you, that's not going to give you any lasting results.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Paige Mackenzie's Tip for Shots from the Rough

A couple days back, Morning Drive gave Paige Mackenzie and Chris DiMarco a quiz over who was better with different shots, Rory or Jordan, and then the two gave tips on how to best play those shots. Paige gave a tip for playing from the rough that was so simple, I thought I'd post the video here. Most players would think it should be common sense but what Paige suggests is a bit different from what you're probably thinking...

Yes, you probably thought about tightening your grip. But note that Paige doesn't recommend tightening BOTH hands. Instead, she suggests only tightening your lead hand. This keeps the clubface from flipping over when the grass tries to grab the hosel.

But why not tighten both hands, you ask? (Yes, I know you ask. Go ahead... ask.) I have three reasons for you:
  • When you tighten your muscles, you lose clubhead speed. By leaving your trailing hand grip more relaxed, you can generate more speed -- not as much as you would if both hands were relaxed, but more than if both hands were tight.
  • It's easier to keep your swing on plane than if both hands were gripping tightly. Remember, when you tighten your grip you also tighten the muscles in your forearms. That's going to affect how your trailing elbow moves during your downswing, and that elbow does a lot to keep you on plane.
  • And in addition, you have a better chance of avoiding injury if the rough turns out to be particularly tough.
So remember: If you're hitting out of the rough, only tighten your grip with your lead hand. If you can't hit a decent shot that way, the lie was probably too bad for a good result anyway.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Improving Your Golf Swing with DARTS?

This is definitely one of the wildest -- and perhaps coolest -- golf drills I've ever seen. Instructor Erika Larkin wants you to throw darts to learn how to swing your clubs!

The idea is pretty interesting. While throwing darts at a dartboard laying on the ground -- with the bull's-eye roughly where your ball position would be -- sounds strange, it WILL get you teach you how a proper release works. And it will certainly teach you how to keep your trailing elbow bent until late in your downswing, which is a primary key if you want to pick up distance.

However, she really should have pointed out that if you "release the dart late and inward" you will do more than miss the dartboard. You just might puncture your foot! So if you try this, by all means BE CAREFUL!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Welcome Back to Abu Dhabi!

Yes, it's time to return to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in the United Arab Emirates. And this time it looks like they've got the strongest field ever. As you can see from the photo below, Rory, Jordan, Rickie and Henrik give them four of the Top6 in the world rankings.

And in case you didn't hear, this photo is from the 'Rider Cup' race they had on Golfboards. But I haven't seen anything telling which side -- US or Europe -- won the race.

The Rider Cup racers

Defending champion Gary Stal, who came from ten shots back to beat Martin Kaymer last year, has become something of an afterthought because of the top players I mentioned. In fact, Rory, Jordan and Rickie will play together in tonight's coverage. Their tee-off time is 7:40am local Abu Dhabi time, which I think is 10:40pm ET here in the Southeastern USA, and Stenson tees off about 10 minutes later. That should send them all off just minutes after GC's live coverage starts.

As best as I can tell, the only other player in the world Top10 who's playing this week is Patrick Reed, and he's playing the PGA Tour. So although the CareerBuilder Challenge -- formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic -- in California is the PGA Tour event this week, it's pretty clear that the BIG event this week is in Abu Dhabi. Personally, I think it's nice to see some of the European Tour events starting to get some respect from the PGA Tour pros. We keep saying the game is international; it's only fair that the wealth get spread around between the various tours.

At any rate, Golf Central comes on at 10pm ET with the Abu Dhabi event beginning live coverage at 10:30pm ET tonight. It will be replayed Thursday morning but if you want to watch the top players live -- some for their first time in 2016 -- here's your chance.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Manuel de la Torre on Hitting High Trajectory Shots

As you know if you follow this blog, I like to post different ways of playing the same shots because everybody's a little different. What's easy for some is hard for others. Having a choice can make the difference between having a shot or chipping out when you hit a bad one.

Altering trajectory is hard for some folks. Of course, for a low shot you can just take a club with less loft and make a shorter swing. And if you need a high shot and it's a shorter shot, you can just take a club with higher loft and hit it full. In neither case do you have to make any setup changes.

But when you need to hit the ball higher than normal and you've got to cover some ground... well, clubs with higher loft don't get as much distance.

When you need a high trajectory shot that travels a long way, you can't cheat. You have to know a technique to do that.

I'm sure you understand the logic of moving the ball a bit forward in your stance, more toward your lead foot. Everybody tells you that. But you need to catch the ball on the upswing to launch the ball higher, and that's the trick, isn't it?

Here's a tip from Manuel de la Torre, who has taught many accomplished players like two-time LPGA major winner Sherri Steinhauer.

Move the ball a bit forward in your stance, just like everybody suggests... but don't place the clubhead behind the ball like you normally would. Address the ball with the clubface about two inches behind the spot where the ball actually is, and then make a normal swing. The bottom of your swing will be at the spot where you would normally take a divot if the ball were at your address location, which means the clubhead will be on its way up when you actually hit the ball.

Yes, you'll need to practice this because you don't want to actually take a divot before you hit the ball with this shot; you just want to graze the top of the ground. But it shouldn't take too much practice to learn how to do that.

And -- added bonus! -- this technique will also help you be a better player in wet conditions, since 'pickers' tend to get better results with any shot when the weather's bad.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Sony Open

Winner: Fabian Gomez

Around the wider world of golf: Europe won the Eurasia Cup 18.5-5.5 on the Asian Tour; Hadyn Porteous won the Joberg Open on the ET; former tennis player Mardy Fish won the Diamond Resorts Invitational; and Paul Chaplet won the Latin American Amateur Championship.

Fabian Gomez at the Sony Open

There were a lot of potential storylines going into the final round of the Sony Open, the first full field event of 2016. There was Brandt Snedeker and Luke Donald getting their games back in shape, Adam Scott and Tim Clark (among others) making the non-anchored putter switch, several young players like Si Woo Kim and Zac Blair trying to grab their first PGA Tour wins, and the continuing charge of Kevin Kisner.

A lesser-known storyline concerned Fabian Gomez, an young Argentinian on tour who won the FedEx St. Jude event last year, who was trying to lock up an Olympic invite this year. Emiliano Grillo, who is a lock for the event, is a close friend of Fabian's... and Fabian is currently the second member of the team.

Several of the players in the storylines I mentioned were jostling for position all day. But in the end it came down to Snedeker, Blair and Gomez. Sneds and Gomez went to a two-hole playoff which Sneds was favored to win, primarily because of his experience. He had seven wins versus one for Gomez, plus Sneds had won twice in playoffs. Gomez, on the other hand, had been streaking up the leaderboard all day, posting an 8-under 62 against Sneds's 4-under 66.

In the end, experience seemed to matter less than simple common sense. In the three times the two men played the 18th hole -- once in regulation, twice in the playoff -- Sneds continued to make the same mistake over and over, taking driver off the tee and missing the fairway every time. Gomez, after missing the first two times, took a hybrid off the tee on the second playoff hole, put his drive in the middle of the fairway, and made birdie to win.

Every player has dreams; it's why they play the Tour in the first place. They may be dreams of being #1, making lots of money, getting lots of wins, or just traveling the world while playing a game. For Fabian Gomez, several dreams have come together at once. Perhaps one of them was getting a second Limerick Summary.

If so, I congratulate you, Fabian. Your dream has come true:
Dreams have come true for Gomez before,
Like at Memphis last year. Now once more
He’s a winner on Tour
And we’re all pretty sure
Dreams of Rio are also in store.
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chris O'Connell's Three Swing Fundamentals

Chris O'Connell's students include Matt Kuchar and Scott Piercy, and he was GC's Golf Channel Academy Coach of the Week this past week. Here's a quick video he did with three basics he feels all golfers should know. (Hey, he said beginning golfers but fundamentals are the same at every level!)

Three very simple basics:
  1. Grip the club primarily in your fingers, not your palms. Some instructors differ on exactly what this means. Some swing methods put the club more in the palms, like the Natural Golf method (the one based on Moe Norman's swing). Some want the club cradled diagonally across the palm and fingers (the butt end is more under the heel pad), which is more Hoganesque. O'Connell puts it mostly in the fingers; there's a very clear view at the :18 second mark.
  2. Your swing plane shouldn't be too upright or too flat. Note that he doesn't give you a specific angle that it should be, although I'm sure he has a specific plane he looks for in his pupils. (He teaches the Plane Truth method a la Jim Hardy.) But the fundamental is to avoid extremes. His 'ferris wheel / merry-go-round' image is pretty cool.
  3. Finish with your weight on your lead foot. Again, note that he doesn't give any particulars about how to move your lower body here. He just wants you to make a forward weight shift -- that is, move from your trailing foot to your lead foot during your downswing -- so you don't fall backward when you swing. You make better contact with the ball this way.
These are dirt-simple basics that allow for a lot of different types of swings among players, but it's amazing how often swing problems are the result of not following one of these fundamentals.

Keep it simple, folks. Always check your basics first when something goes wrong in your swing, and you'll find it's easier to keep your swing working correctly.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

How Calloway Helped Boeing... and Vice Versa

There's an old saying in research circles that real progress only gets made when someone changes fields. What that means is that people get used to thinking in certain ways and, as a result, have trouble really seeing what the problem is. They just can't stop thinking about things in the same old way they've always done it. But when someone comes from another discipline and applies their way of thinking to the problem, it lets everybody see the problem in a new light.

Callaway XR16 driver

I'm forever looking for connections between golf and other seemingly unrelated activities. (And writing and other seemingly unrelated activities, and music and other seemingly unrelated activities, and ...) You never know when you might stumble onto a new way of seeing things that will give you new ideas.

Golf Digest posted this article about how Callaway and Boeing worked together developing the new XR16 drivers. What interested me most wasn't how Boeing helped Callaway with the design.

Rather, I was fascinated by how Boeing says the collaboration helped their engineers. Here's a short clip from the article:
The partnership with Callaway (or for that matter, any company outside the airline industry) on the design of a product is rare for Boeing, but was an interesting endeavor because it wasn’t a one-way proposition for Boeing. Used to multi-year time periods for researching a problem, the team at Boeing only had a few months to help the Callaway team.
Crouch [that's Jeffrey Crouch, senior technical fellow for flight sciences at Boeing] pointed to the way Callaway uses "prototyping and how it allows them to make pretty rapid decisions” as a valuable educational tool for his team, which included engineers Harrison Chau and Adam Clark.
You can read the article for yourselves; it's really quite interesting. But what I hope you get from it -- at the very least -- is the importance of being open to new approaches to your golf game. When you get stuck with something in your game, it's often because you get stuck in a mental rut. Sometimes all you need is a fresh look at the problem.

That's part of the reason why, when you get stuck trying to solve a problem, you're often advised to get away from the problem and do something else for a while. Then, when you come back to the problem, you see it with 'new eyes.'

It's all about fresh perspective. And since it's the start of a new year, when many of us are looking for fresh beginnings, that's something worth thinking about.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Another Approach to Hitting a Controlled Fade

Here's a YouTube video from instructor Brady Riggs on how to hit a controlled fade. While it initially sounds like just another rehash of how fades work -- and you should expect that, since a fade is always created by the same techniques -- Brady is giving you a very different approach that doesn't require a perfect swing plane to get results.

That's a novel concept, isn't it? Watch the video and then I'll explain.

First, here are the standard instructions that a instructor would give you. Brady is giving them as well.
The face of the club is open relative to the swing path. For a rightie, that means your swing path must go farther left than the clubface is aimed. If you're a leftie, your swing path must go farther right than the clubface is aimed.
Standard explanation, right? But note that Brady adds to that explanation:
  • While the clubface must be open relative to the swing path, that doesn't mean that it's open relative to your target line. 
That's big, folks. Let me put that in rightie's terms; I'm sure you lefties will follow.

A rightie trying to play a fade typically aims the clubface to the right of the flag. It would make more sense to aim to the LEFT of the flag -- remember, the ball is going to curve to the right and you want it to curve toward the flag. So when you open the face to start with, the ball is going to move away from the flag, even farther right... and then you'll swing to the left, and that creates that banana ball.

So Brady suggests that you set up SQUARE to the target -- you aim the clubface at the flag AND you aim your foot line to hit a straight ball. He's basically recommending that you swing a bit out-to-in, which you already do if you have an over-the-top swing! If you happen to close the face a bit when you're aimed like this, the ball will still fade if your swing plane swings farther left than the clubface is aimed.

This is actually a very old method for hitting a fade, one that was used back before Hogan got everybody obsessed over their alignment. It was based on the recognition that most people didn't have a perfect swing, no matter how much they practiced, and that an out-to-in swing was more common for most people. (It has to do with a difference in the mechanics of a swing when your hands swing higher than your shoulders versus when they stay below your shoulders, as they do when you swing a tennis racket or baseball bat. I'll do a post on that sometime; recognizing that difference was a key to straightening out my own swing.)

And it might surprise you to hear that this is the way Bubba Watson creates a fade. Just think about it: How many times have you heard analysts and players say that you can't tell what shot shape Bubba plans to hit by looking at his address position? That's because he doesn't swing along his foot line most of the time, regardless of whether he's fading or drawing the ball... and it works just fine for him.

So why would this be a good method for some of you? Well, it eliminates most of the variables in getting the shot shape you want, especially when you struggle with a slice. With this method, all you really have to do is focus on where the clubface is aimed. If the ball slices too much, instead of adjusting your stance or your swing plane, all you do is close the clubface enough to get the ball headed where you want it to go.

As you close the clubface, the ball will go from a slice to a fade to a relatively straight pull to a pull hook. Just adjust the aim of the clubface until you've got a shot between a fade and a straight pull.

Think of this as a goto shot. Since most of us tend to get off-plane when we're under pressure, this lets you control the direction of that off-plane shot.

Remember, golf isn't a game of perfect. As long as you can predict where the ball is going with some confidence, you can learn to post better scores. And for a lot of you, especially those without a lot of time to practice, this is a great solution to an uncontrollable slice.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

More Primetime Golf, More Hawaiian Scenery

Since we're still getting back in the swing of golf this season (sorry but I couldn't resist the pun) I want to remind you that golf is in primetime again as well as the wee hours of the morning this week.

At least, it is here on the East Coast of the USA. The Sony Open in Hawaii is roughly 5 hours ahead of us here in North Carolina. (I'll get to the early golf in a minute.)

Jimmy Walker at Waialae Country Club last year

As you probably know, Jimmy Walker is trying to get a three-peat at Waialae Country Club this week -- a task made somewhat easier by Jordan Spieth's absence. Spieth is taking this week off before heading for Abu Dhabi next week (with new sponsor Coca-Cola in tow).

But 22 from the Hyundai field are making the short hop from Maui to the big island so there will be some proven talent there, players like Zach Johnson and Graeme McDowell. Adam Scott is also making his Tour debut for 2016, as is Luke Donald. And there will be 9 first-timers in the field, including Emiliano Grillo and Russell Knox.

And with all the nasty weather around the US, how can you go wrong dreaming about a warm paradise? Maybe you can't be there, but it's nice to be reminded that it still exists!

In the wee hours of the morning you can catch the Joberg Open on the ET. Last week's winner Brandon Stone is trying to go back-to-back in South Africa. GC's coverage starts bright and early at 5am ET this morning. (Yes, many of you will have already missed it by the time you read this. But the second round starts at the same time Friday morning.)

The Sony Open gets underway with the GC Pre-Game show at 6pm ET, then the regular coverage begins at 7pm ET.

And in case you like watching the celebrities play, the Diamond Resorts Invitational starts at 2:30pm ET and runs until the GC Pre-Game show starts.

So you've got plenty of golf to keep you busy today if you're enduring the cold winter weather, as most of us are. Think warm thoughts, folks. Aloha!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What Phil Did Next 25 Years Ago

As I understand it, today is the 25th anniversary of Phil Mickelson winning as an amateur on the PGA Tour. No doubt you'll hear plenty about it today since Phil was the last amateur to win any PGA Tour event, making it a fairly important piece of golf history.

A very young Phil Mickelson

The event was the 1991 Chrysler Classic of Tucson, an event that was last played in 2006. It's easy to forget that, before Tiger, most people expected Phil to be the next great American golfer. Only a handful of players had won as amateurs before him -- and, of course, none have done so since his win in Arizona 25 years ago.

The LA Times started their summary on the Monday after the event this way:
Phil Mickelson escaped the chill embrace of a snowman in the desert and, with birdies on two of the last three holes, gained a little piece of golf history on Sunday.

In golfers' parlance, a "snowman" is a score of eight on a hole. Mickelson built a snowman by hitting two shots into the Arizona-Sonora desert and one into a bunker on the 14th hole.

That dropped him from a one-stroke lead to three behind and a tie for fifth place in the Northern Telecom Open. It also sent the knowing away muttering about amateurs playing against seasoned professionals.

Then Mickelson, a 20-year-old junior at Arizona State who plays left-handed, got hot again, and the effects of the snowman melted, along with the leads of the professionals.

"I never thought I'd see anyone come back from something like that," said Corey Pavin, who played with Mickelson in the final group on the TPC at Starpass.

Mickelson, who already has matched a Jack Nicklaus record by winning the U.S. Amateur and the NCAA championship in the same year, added this triumph with a closing 71 and a 272 total, 16 under par.
It's a fairly long article that you might like to read if you want to read a firsthand record of history being made. It's a detailed recap of how the final holes played out among Lefty and the pros he beat.

GC expects to have Phil on Morning Drive today and will probably play excerpts from the interview on Golf Central, so I won't belabor it. But Phil's win has proven to be far more special than most golf fans probably expected -- after all, Scott Verplank had won the Western Open as an amateur only six years earlier. And with all the money that entices young players to turn pro early, it's an accomplishment that we may not see again for a while.

Happy Anniversary, Lefty. Now if you can just land that US Open...

The photo came from this page at

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How to Video Your Golf Swing

Some of you will be making videos of your golf swing this year. It's a common way of getting help online. This post is for you.

Hank Haney did a post for Golf Digest on how to make a swing video. Michael Breed has talked about it before on The Golf Fix as well. I'm going to give you some of the advice from both.

To get us started, here's Haney's video.

First you have to decide whether you want to make face-on or down-the-line videos. Ideally you'll do both, but Haney says to make it a down-the-line shot if you do only one. That will give him the most info.

The next thing is how high to set the camera. Breed said to use a tripod, and that will definitely give you the most stable video. Breed also said to set it at waist high to get the best overall view. Haney gives a bit more guidance here, saying that waist high is best for focusing on your takeaway and head high for the top of your swing; he prefers something in the middle -- around chest high according to the text but just above waist high according to the video above -- for a general shot.

That may sound like a lot of variation but it's only around 8 inches or so between waist and chest for most people. If the camera is somewhere in that area you should be fine.

One thing both are in complete agreement on is that the camera should be square to the action -- that is, you want the camera both perfectly vertical and perfectly horizontal to the action. (Or at least as close to that ideal as you can get.) Haney gives you the reason: There's always some distortion at the extremes of the shot, and those distortions are worse if you don't take the time to set the camera up correctly.

For a down-the-line shot, you want the camera to be aimed at your target (with you between the camera and target, of course), with the camera between your target line (where the ball is sitting) and the toes of your feet. For the face-on shot, he doesn't say but the logical place to aim is the middle of your body at setup.

There's one last thing that neither teacher mentioned but that should be a no-brainer. If your camera allows you to choose the resolution of the video, use the highest resolution unless your teacher specifies something different. Higher resolutions create bigger files, which can be a problem if you have to email it to someone, but you can always reduce the resolution (and therefore the file size) in a video editing program if necessary. Most computers come with something already installed that can do the job. (On PCs it's usually Windows Live Movie Maker; on Macs you'll probably find iMovie. Get one of your computer geek friends to help you if necessary.)

Those are the basics for making a video of your swing. Have fun!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: A fairly quiet week since it was the first of the year. The BMW South African Open was won by Brandon Stone, a protege of Ernie Els. It was his first win on the ET.

Jordan with Hyundai trophy

Everybody came to Hawaii for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions because (1) it's a really nice perk for winning a PGA Tour event and (2) it's a relaxing way to knock the rust off your game after you've taken a few weeks off. Well, Rory didn't go but he probably felt like he had a few weeks to get his game going overseas.

Apparently Jordan Spieth didn't get the memo. While his game wasn't perfect, it was certainly in a lot better shape than almost any other players' game. In fact, his scores were never worse than the third-best score each round. His worst round of the week was 67 (-6) on Sunday. I don't think anybody else could say that.

It's not like the other guys didn't try. Defending champ Patrick Reed got the closest, finishing in second place... 8 full shots behind Jordan. And of the players at Kapalua, Reed was in the best form of anyone because of his great stretch of finishes around the world during November and December.

He was still 8 shots behind, people. Even Rory McIlroy, who wasn't there, had to take notice of that.

It certainly looks as if the World #1 ranking is safe for a while... and maybe, just maybe, some of Tiger's records are NOT. With his 7th PGA Tour win before age 23 -- and several months left to add to that record -- it looks like Jordan may be picking up several more Limerick Summaries before 2016 is over...
Looks like Jordan will be Number One
For a while; of the other guys, none
Even made it a race.
If Spieth keeps up THIS pace,
They’ll be running long after he’s done!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Two Moves to Help Your Back

This little video is from Golf Digest's Fitness Friday series. It has a couple of unusual moves to help relax and stretch the 'soft tissue' in your middle back.

Just a couple of observations here.

Although Cummings talks about 'digging into' your muscle tissue, he doesn't mean you should hurt yourself. If you've ever tried to massage a muscle, you know you have to use a bit more pressure on the muscle than you might expect... but you don't want to cause bruises.

Cummings specifically mentions that you can use a tennis ball in a sock to get the same results, and I think that's a better approach for most people. The ball has some give to it and the sock gives you a way to keep from dropping it. You just hold the end of the sock and put the ball between your back and the wall, then wiggle around a bit to get the effect of a massage.

As for that stretching routine, the 'sliding device' he's using looks to me like one of those pads you put under heavy furniture so you can slide it across the floor. But I bet you can get the same result with another sock -- just stick your hand into it and let it slide along the wall.

Cummings recommends maybe 30 seconds of each movement. Remember, you don't have to go overboard with stretches and exercises to get results. Don't think you have to live in a gym the way some of the pros do, just to get more fit. In fact, you'll probably get better results with less risk of injury if you take things slow.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Chris DiMarco Hitting Driver Off the Deck

Look, I'm not advising you to try and hit driver off the deck. Given the design of modern 3-woods and how much more distance you can get with them, many instructors don't believe you should ever even try to do it.

But I'm posting this video of Chris DiMarco hitting driver off the deck on Morning Drive Thursday morning simply because it's awesome. He hits the shot twice, no tee, off that fake grass in their simulator. That's a really tight lie and should be very hard to do, yet DiMarco pures it. Twice. It's worth a look...

Just a note: If you want to try it, he says the key is to not try and help it up. The shot flies low because it's supposed to. Just accept that and try to make solid contact.

But will you hit it as pure as DiMarco? Don't expect me to bet on it! I think this is one of the sweetest videos GC has posted. Watch and dream, fellow golfers. Watch and dream...

Friday, January 8, 2016

Jack Nicklaus on When to Gamble

I found this interesting graphic over at the Golf Digest site. It's part of an article by Jack Nicklaus on how to decide whether you should gamble on a recovery shot or just chip out sideways. The main part of the info is in the graphic, which I have copied below. However, as you can see, the graphic is too small to read all that well, and there is no easy way to make it larger in the article.

The good news is that Golf Digest actually embedded a much larger version of the graphic in the article -- they just didn't make it easy to get to. Well, I have. Just click on the graphic below and you'll get a new window with the full-size easy-to-read version.

Jack's advice on when to chip out

Note that Jack's guiding principle is that your chosen recovery shot should leave you in a better place than you are now. This is a simple guideline but it can be hard to do, and that's why Jack gives you the guidance in this graphic.

If you can gain a full shot with your proposed recovery shot -- that is, if your score would be a full shot better than you'd make with a chip out -- the recovery shot is worth a try. You should be sure you can pull this shot off 90% of the time. Ask yourself if you can make this shot 9 out of 10 times. If you can't, chip out.

Can you gain half a shot? You probably wonder how you figure that out. Here's the idea: If your shot doesn't work out, will you still be in an easier spot for your next shot? Will it leave you close enough to have an easy up and down? If your worst case result is still better than what you have now, then the shot may be worth a try.

Finally, if the recovery shot is difficult and a bad result will leave you in the same trouble or worse, DON'T TRY IT. Just chip out and take your medicine.

Remember Jack's rule: Your chosen recovery shot should leave you in a better place than you are now. Keep that in mind and you'll post lower scores.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Today's the Day!

Live golf is finally back today! This is just a quick reminder of the TV times.

The BMW South African Open was a live broadcast earlier this morning, at 3am ET. Yeah, I know you already missed that... but the replay of the first round starts today at noon ET.

Live round 2 coverage starts at 5am ET Friday morning.

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions PreGame show starts at 5pm ET this afternoon, followed by live first round coverage at 6pm ET.

Got that? PreGame at 5pm ET today, live round 1 coverage at 6pm ET today.

And that should have you up-to-date for the first day of live golf.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Mayo Clinic on Golf Stretches

Here's an interesting take on golf stretching routines. It's a slideshow of golf stretches posted at the Mayo Clinic site.

Shoulder turn stretch

Here's the blurb from the first slide, which is what caught my attention. I've put the interesting fact in boldface:
Golf stretches can help prepare you for a day on the course. These golf stretches may help promote a fluid, full golf swing, which can improve your performance.

Before you start your golf stretches, you may want to warm up with five to 10 minutes of light activity, such as walking around the practice tee. If you have time, complete the full series of golf stretches outlined here. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. Studies have found performing an individual stretch one time is beneficial, and repeating an individual stretch generally isn't necessary. Do one set of golf stretches every day and another set before and after each round of golf.

Remember: Keep stretching gentle. Don't bounce. If you feel pain, you've stretched too far.
I'm sure this idea that you only need to do a given stretch ONCE is part of many programs, but I don't ever remember seeing that fact actually stated in so many words. It's something that may make a stretching routine -- which we all know can be very boring at times -- much easier to stick with during the new year.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Finding Your Fastest Swing Speed

Here's an interesting tip I found in a Golf Digest slideshow. Jeff Flagg, the 2014 Long Drive champ, did this set of tips on how to hit the ball farther. Here's his unusual tip on how to find the fastest speed you can swing at and still hit the ball solidly.

Jeff Flagg

Here's what he says:
Don't kid yourself by thinking you're going to pick up a lot of yards swinging at the same speed you do now. You need to swing your arms as fast as you can, but with one caveat: If you lose your balance or control, back it down a notch.

A great way to test your maximum arm speed is to make swings with your back foot up on its toes. Drop that foot about six inches farther away from the ball than normal, and stand it up. Now swing as fast as you can without sacrificing your balance. If you sway or stumble, you're going too hard. Speed is king in the long-drive world, but if you can't hit it in the center of the clubface, it's meaningless.
I like this because it's also an easy quick check any time you're on the golf course as well. If your timing gets off, you can make a practice swing and adjust your speed until you can keep your balance.

Might be an easy way to pick up a few yards and still put the ball in the fairway.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Limerick Summary: Battle Lines Are Drawn

Winner: To Be Determined

Around the wider world of golf: The season gets back in gear this week.

Rickie Fowler

Golf gets underway all over the world this week, whether it's the European Tour playing in South Africa or the PGA Tour in Hawaii. But the bigger story may be the 'Battle of the Ages' that appears to be shaping up this year.

When you get right down to it, there are maybe a dozen tournaments that mean more to the men than all the rest. You have the majors, the WGCs, and then the 'Flagship Events' and Tour Championships for the PGA and European Tours. But a quick look at the defending champions in 2016 -- and their current ages -- tells a fascinating story.

The Majors:
  • Masters: Jordan Spieth, 22
  • US Open: Jordan Spieth, 22
  • Open Championship: Zach Johnson, 39
  • PGA Championship: Jason Day, 28
The WGCs:
  • Cadillac Championship: Dustin Johnson, 31
  • Dell Match Play: Rory McIlroy, 26
  • Bridgestone Invitational: Shane Lowry, 28
  • HSBC Champions: Russell Knox, 30
Flagship Events:
  • THE PLAYERS (PGA): Rickie Fowler, 27
  • BMW PGA Championship (ET): Byeong Hun An, 24
Tour Championships:
  • Tour Championship by Coca-Cola (PGA): Jordan Spieth, 22
  • DP World Tour Championship, Dubai (ET): Rory McIlroy, 26
Zach is the old man -- or, as the analysts seem to prefer, 'wily veteran' -- at age 39 while no one else is older than 31. And while older players did win in 2015 -- Davis Love (51) and Alex Cejka (45) come to mind -- and other vets played fairly consistent golf, 2015 was clearly the year when the younger players flexed their collective muscle.

The analysts are convinced that 2015 was a watershed year when the reins of the tours changed hands and the veterans will now be relegated to also-ran status. And yes, I know the media guys love to say that "the golf ball doesn't know how old you are" but we fans all know that they don't believe a word of it. You can tell because they repeat it as if they have to say it, plus they roll their eyes.

But I'm not so sure that's true. Although Tiger rewrote the book on power golf and all the kids have taken it to heart, there's more than one way to play this game. (To use a younger example, remember how the media guys kept saying Jordan wasn't long enough until he embarrassed them into saying he was.) The old guys are starting to figure this out as well, and 'short-knockers' like Zach will become one of their role models as they reassert themselves this year.

So this week's Limerick Summary -- the 'opening act,' as it were -- simply lays out the parameters of this brewing battle. It will be interesting to see how soon the old guys make their own statement this year!
The youngsters were hot stuff last year
But now Twenty-Sixteen is here.
The kids have to prove
They can stay in their groove
When the vets mount a charge from the rear.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Quick Look Ahead to the Hyundai ToC

This week we finally get back to golf. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua -- on the Hawaiian island of Maui -- gets underway on Thursday. Yes, this year the event is back to a Thursday-Sunday schedule after four years of Monday finishes.

Chris Kirk at the Hyundai

The field list for the event lists 32 players but I'm uncertain at this point if they all plan to play. Some eligible players, like Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, aren't included so the list should be pretty accurate, but that doesn't mean there won't be any last minute cancellations.

I may have more to say about the event as we get closer to it, but I wanted you to have the links you need to be ready for it. So in addition to the field list mentioned earlier, you can find the PGA Tour's official preview page for the event at this link. And GC's TV coverage begins Thursday afternoon at 6pm ET.

I don't know about you but I'm glad live golf is finally back. I'm tired of all the replays on GC.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Playing from Hard Sand

Alright, let's start the New Year with a tip for playing from packed or thin sand. This video is from Michael Breed and it makes playing from hard sand simple.

As you can tell, some of Breed's keys for this shot are similar to playing a pitch from a tight lie... but there ARE some differences. Let's summarize the process.
  • Pick a club with low bounce. Michael gives 7° as an example, but just pick a club with a smaller sole. If the bunker lip isn't too high and you've got a little green to work with, you might even want to try a pitching wedge or 9-iron.
  • As usual with a sand shot, you want the ball a bit forward in your stance -- say, a little inside your lead heel. But you don't want to open your stance as much. Michael says it's more closed but you might find it easier to think of setting up with a square stance, and just open up a bit if you need to.
  • You want to dig a bit with the lead edge -- that's why we take less bounce -- so you don't open the face as much. Michael has a good visual here. Out of soft sand you might open the face enough that a line drawn along the leading edge would point at your lead big toe. For this shot off hard sand, you want that line to point toward your lead HEEL. That's almost square to your target -- ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE.
  • You want to swing a little slower. Now, this should seem logical to you but I'll say it anyway: If your swing is slower, it has to be longer. Take a look at Michael's swing in the video and you'll see that it's almost a 3/4 swing.
  • Finally, all of this will result in a lower trajectory shot so you'll have to allow for a bit more roll after the ball hits the green.
I know that sounds like a lot to remember but most of it's just common sense once you understand how this shot differs from a 'soft sand' shot.

Friday, January 1, 2016