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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Stan Utley on Finding the "Right" Swing Thought

For my final post of 2017 I'm turning to short game guru Stan Utley. Stan is probably as well-known as Dave Pelz but Stan offers more than just short game help. And in his book The Art of the Swing he has as much to say about the full swing as about the short game and putting.

Stan Utley

Many of my final posts this year have talked about playing by feel. In this short section from a chapter called The Book of Feels Stan has some good advice on how to choose a suitable swing thought to achieve that feel you're looking for... and why you may need to change those swing thoughts from day to day.
The full swing obviously has more moving parts -- which makes having a simple swing thought or feel both harder and more important. It's easy to get swamped with mechanical thoughts when you're on the range or out on the golf course. Head down, full turn, shift the weight, release club, full finish, balance. There are dozens of feel "code words" in golf.

Picking the right feel to go with at a given time is a two-pronged process. First, you have to uncover what swing thoughts or feels are actually productive for you. Which ones work? Second, it's not necessarily as simple as picking something from a list of perfect form elements or swing mechanics. As we've been talking about for half a book now, holding the club the right way or having it in a certain position at a certain time doesn't mean the swing holds together as a coherent whole.

The goal is to choose a swing thought or feel that gets your body (and the club) to do what you want it to do. Sometimes the feel or thought runs counter to physics -- and to what you actually do. For example, I've heard a teacher give a student a lesson and tell him to swing the driver back without letting the clubhead get behind him. That's almost physically impossible to do, of course. But the thought of it -- the feel that the teacher gave him -- caused the player to stop pulling the clubhead to the inside on the takeaway. The player's feel wasn't technically "accurate," but it got him doing what he should be doing.

How do you find a feel that works? Try a lot of them. Try to determine if you're a player who responds more to watching somebody else and copying, or to hearing a description, or to having a teacher actually put his or her hands on you to make a certain move. However you respond best, pick that train of thought and hit balls and play practice rounds while incorporating a single feel or swing thought into your pre-shot routine. All of the various swing mechanics and form elements we've been talking about are important, but your brain just can't synthesize all those thoughts at once a millisecond before you start your swing. Picking one -- one that has the most positive impact on your sequencing that day -- is the most profitable move. [p83-84]
One particular thing Stan says here is really important -- namely, that the swing thought or feel that works best for you may not be technically correct. The goal of a swing thought isn't to appeal to your logical mind. Rather, swing thoughts are a form of shorthand for movements that defy easy description. Think of it as a mnemonic device for your muscles, if you will -- a neuro-muscular anagram that condenses a lot of info down to a single nonverbal word. (You use the verbal equivalents all the time when you tweet, like lol or the more emphatic rotflmao.)

You see pros do this all the time. The cameras show up on the range and the analysts note that the pro is making a small move that makes no mechanical sense on its own. Then the pro stretches it out to a half swing and the analysts can't see anything that looks like the small move at all. That's because the pro was after a feel, not a swing mechanic.

As we move into the new year, Stan Utley's advice can help you choose better swing thoughts to take out onto the course -- and hopefully, onto your scorecard as well.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Percy Boomer on How to Learn the Golf Swing

Percy Boomer is a name many of you have never heard, but Ben Hogan was reportedly very influenced by him.  Golf Illustrated once said Boomer was golf's most influential teacher of all time. And you can still buy Boomer's landmark book On Learning Golf (first published in 1942) when more recent books are long out-of-print. Today's quote comes from it.

Percy Boomer in his backswing

Boomer's approach to teaching was revolutionary at the time because he sought to teach more by feel than technique -- as a series of sensations rather than mechanics. This quote, from a section called On Learning and Teaching, focuses on how he liked to approach teaching the game. I can't give you any page numbers since I'm using a Kindle edition.
Most of the teaching of golf is completely negative -- and a purely negative thing can have no positive value. Why do I say that golf teaching is negative? Well, we can all find faults in each other's game, millions of them, and we all start off to teach golf by pointing out these faults and "curing" them. I did this for twenty-five years, but I have now discovered that the right way to get a pupil to hit the ball satisfactorily is to watch for any good natural qualities that may be there and to build up the swing around them.

We all hit a good ball sometimes. Maybe with the beginner this is an accident, but the good teacher will use such an accidental shot, photographing it in his mind and starting away to build up controls around the qualities which made it possible.

In this way the beginner can retain his natural capacity to hit the ball and will gain confidence in his ability to do it -- and so go on enjoying his game and improving it. But if the teacher merely points out to him a dozen or more faults in his swing he will become perplexed, confused, and fed up. For that reason I never tell a pupil his faults (which is negative teaching). I notice the faults, of course, and suggest the necessary corrections (which is positive). So I never tell a pupil that he overswings and breaks his left arm, I explain width to him. That is to say I give him a positive conception and by working on it he actually cures his faults without even being aware that he had them.
Later on, he comes back to the same thought:
In finishing this chapter I will return again to the need to make your learning positive. Don't go out to find out what is wrong with your swing, go out to improve it. You will be none the worse if you start with a really big idea -- to learn (or re-learn) the golf swing at your first try. If that is your ambition do not tie yourself up with theories; stand up and give the ball a crack -- that is the most positive thing in golf.
Even today Boomer sounds a bit revolutionary: Don't worry about what your errors are; rather, learn what you should do and move on with that. Don't try to build the perfect swing; rather, take what you already do well and build on that. Boomer wass less concerned with "correct" mechanics and more concerned with getting the ball in play so you can have fun playing the game.

Perhaps we could all learn from his mindset.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Ben Hogan on the Waggle

Ben Hogan needs no introduction. Besides his legendary return from a near-fatal car crash to become a nine-time major winner, his book Five Lessons is considered a foundational text for modern golf instructors. Today's quote is from that book.

Ben Hogan

I confess that, while I think Hogan was brilliant, he was a bit too mechanical for my tastes. But I also believe -- and I try to repeat it frequently in this blog -- that every golfer is different. If you find a swing method that works for you (and doesn't hurt!) then you should ignore the critics and stick with it. And I know a number of you have great success following Hogan's approach.

But many of you don't waggle the way he taught  Let Ben tell you how it's done in his own words. Bear in mind that he was righthanded, so you lefties will need to take that into account. And yes, he wrote a lot of this section in ALL CAPS.
Note that your upper arms remain tight against the sides of the chest and the shoulders don't turn during your waggle BUT your hands move both forward and backward. That part of the description sounds a bit weird -- the left hand moves forward on both the backward waggle as well as the forward one -- but Hogan addresses the ball with both hands even or just a bit behind the ball. The lead hand is ahead of the ball during the entire waggle, then it moves back to give him something of a "running start" into his backswing. Waggles are a very specific kind of movement and, if you want to copy Hogan, you need to move your hands correctly.

Although I feel Hogan's swing was too mechanical, he clearly didn't think so -- especially where the waggle was concerned. Later on p67 he says:
Analysts often complain that Jason Dufner isn't consistent in the number of waggles he makes before a shot, but clearly Hogan would have approved.

Regardless of how Hogan-esque your technique may or may not be, the waggle's purpose is to relieve the tension in your hands and arms while preparing them for the motion in your takeaway. No matter who you are or what technique you use, you can learn something from Ben Hogan.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Harry Vardon on Playing the Pulled Shot

I chose today's quote for a bit of fun. Harry Vardon is a legend, of course, and his book The Complete Golfer -- a combination of instruction, memoir and opinion from 1905 -- is available in several digital versions for free at Project Gutenberg.

Harry Vardon

So many of us struggle to play a draw -- what Vardon called "the pulled shot." Here's his basic instruction on how to do it, from Chapter VIII of his book. After you read this quote, be sure to study the photo beneath it; there's a diagram complete with measurements showing exactly where Vardon placed his feet to play this shot with driver and brassie (a 2-wood). You can use this stroke with modern 3-woods as well. Just bear in mind that modern shafts are a bit longer than the ones Vardon used, so you may need to stand an inch or two farther from the ball.
Now there is the pulled ball to consider; for there are times when the making of such a shot is eminently desirable. Resort to a slice may be unsatisfactory, or it may be entirely impossible, and one important factor in this question is that the pulled ball is always much longer than the other, in fact it has always so much length in it that many players in driving in the ordinary way from the tee, and desiring only to go straight down the course, systematically play for a pull and make allowances for it in their direction. Now examine Plate XVII [the photo below] and the accompanying diagram illustrating the stance for the pull, and see how very materially it differs from those which were adopted for the ordinary drive and that in which a slice was asked for. We have moved right round to the front of the ball. The right heel is on the B line and the toe 4 inches away from it, while the left toe is no less than 21½ inches from this line, and therefore so much in front of the ball. At the same time the line of the stance shows that the player is turned slightly away from the direction in which he proposes to play, the left toe being now only 26½ inches away from the A line, while the right toe is 32 inches distant from it. The obvious result of this stance is that the handle of the club is in front of the ball, and this circumstance must be accentuated by the hands being held even slightly more forward than for an ordinary drive. Now they are held forward in front of the head of the club. In the grip there is another point of difference. It is necessary that in the making of this stroke the right hand should do more work than the left, and therefore the club should be held rather more loosely by the left hand than by its partner. The latter will duly take advantage of this slackness, and will get in just the little extra work that is wanted of it. In the upward swing carry the club head just along the line which it would take for an ordinary drive. The result of all this arrangement, and particularly of the slackness of the left hand and comparative tightness of the right, is that there is a tendency in the downward swing for the face of the club to turn over to some extent, that is, for the top edge of it to be overlapping the bottom edge. This is exactly what is wanted, for, in fact, it is quite necessary that at the moment of impact the right hand should be beginning to turn over in this manner, and if the stroke is to be a success the golfer must see that it does so, but the movement must be made quite smoothly and naturally, for anything in the nature of a jab, such as is common when too desperate efforts are made to turn over an unwilling club, would certainly prove fatal. It follows from what has been happening all the way through, that at the finish of the stroke the right hand, which has matters pretty well its own way, has assumed final ascendancy and is well above the left.
Check out the diagram in the photo below. The ball is played much farther back in the stance than modern instructors would recommend, but Vardon -- an average-sized man between 5'9" and 5'10" tall -- was considered a long hitter in his day.

Harry Vardon playing a pulled shot

So why am I quoting such an unorthodox approach to drawing the ball? Because even the pros use unorthodox methods when creating a "go-to shot" that they can produce consistently under pressure. Vardon's approach just might be what you're looking for.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

James Douglas Edgar on "The Movement"

There's a good chance you don't recognize J. Douglas Edgar's name, but his work is foundational to much modern instruction and it's likely you've heard him mentioned on some of GC's instructional shows. You can check out some of Edgar's fascinating history at his Wikipedia page; I'll just mention that he still holds the record for the largest margin of victory at a PGA Tour event -- 16 strokes at the 1919 Canadian Open.

It's also likely that you've never heard of his slender book The Gate to Golf. Fortunately for you, I have a copy and today's quote comes from it.

James Douglas Edgar

I'll tell you what "The Movement" is in a moment. But here is Edgar's rationale behind his enthusiasm for it:
The manner in which the club-head meets the ball is the essential part of the golf swing. It is in the two or three feet immediately before and after impact where the real business takes place; it is there that the master-stroke is made and the duffer's shot marred, and it is to this part of the swing that I am referring when I speak of the movement.

It is not the position of the hands, wrists, elbows, body, etc., at the top of the swing that makes the shot, nor is it a wonderful follow through. It must not be concluded, however, that the position of body and hands at the top fo the swing is of no account. On the contrary, it is a matter of considerable importance, for only an artist can be hopelessly wrong at the top and yet be able to adjust himself in time. But what I do want the reader to remember is that though the position at the top is important, far, far more essential is the movement.

However fine golf may be for the few lucky natural golfers, I think that for those who have acquired the movement -- and all can certainly do so by exercising self-control and by practice -- golf is intoxicating. It has the exhilarating effect of champagne, without the after-effects. [p18]
You probably recognized a number of things in that quote that are part of modern teaching, especially the emphasis on the impact area. Edgar goes on to say that:
While addressing the ball, the player should have the feeling of being about to throw the ball to its destination, and not to lift it there. In his backward swing he should get the feeling of throwing the club round the right hip; also, he should not be afraid of letting his body go well round also. [p21]
The following photo is taken from the book, and it will go a long way toward helping you understand why modern instruction so often seems contradictory. You see, "The Movement" simply means you hit the ball from the inside, and this photo shows two things.

The first is that while we describe Hogan as having a flat plane, Hogan is positively upright compared to Edgar. Look at how far his hands are below his shoulders at the top of his backswing! This is the swing of players like Paul Azinger and Rosie Jones, both players who -- though not the longest of players -- are incredibly accurate ballstrikers.

Edgar of top of backswing

And the second thing? Look at those dark blocks around the golf ball. They create the gate in the book's title. They are the aid that helps you learn to hit the ball from the inside. I'm sure you recognize the layout -- you see them used by almost every instructor from Martin Hall to Michael Breed.

As for his remark about throwing the ball to the target, that was his way of teaching the use of the hands and wrists at impact.

As I said, Edgar's book is foundational to modern teaching. And the basic idea is applicable to almost any swing method, whether your swing is flat or upright. But I think I'd try to get my hands higher than Edgar teaches. You can be very accurate that way but you won't hit the ball as far as you'd like.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Manuel de la Torre on Weight Shift

Manuel de la Torre died in 2016 but his impact on professional and amateur golf was huge. His book Understanding the Golf Swing is considered a classic. Today's quote is from that book.

Manuel de la Torre

de la Torre's approach to weight shift was a bit different than that of most modern instructors. But no matter what swing method you use, it's worth considering if what he says might help you.
A common theory claims that the weight should be shifted to the back foot in the backswing. I am convinced that the weight should not be transferred to the back foot in the backswing.

We are all looking for consistency in our games and we should swing the golf club so that it is easy to meet the golf ball with the face of the club at a right angle to the target line. As mentioned before, the golf club is describing a circle when it is swung. Being a circle, it must have a center. If we were describing a circle with a compass, the first thing we would do would be to set the center. If this center moves to different locations, it is impossible to return to the starting point.

The same thing happens in the golf swing. When the center is allowed to move to the right through a weight shift to the back foot, that center must be re-established prior to contacting the golf ball or square impact is impossible. You will observe some of our fine tournament players who do shift their center to the back foot and play well. But bear in mind that those players play every day and practice for hours every day. They have developed the timing and the extra move to achieve square impact. However, some of those same tournament players at times cannot find the timing to meet the ball properly and, especially with the driver, they become very inaccurate and miss more fairways than they should.

If the center is maintained, and the hands are placed on the club in a neutral position, the club can be returned to the exact address position from the end of the backswing and it will be square to the target line without any necessity to manipulate it to square. It is one less thing with which the player has to be concerned.

I contend that the weight should be maintained equally divided on the feet until after impact and then the centrifugal force will transfer its weight to the front foot. [p63-64]
Yes, de la Torre may sound a bit out-of-step with many modern instructors. And it's true that much of his teaching method is based on teachings from the legendary Ernest Jones. But what he says here does simplify your swing a lot, and it doesn't preclude your use of modern lower body power techniques.

What this teaching can do is make it much easier for you to return the club to the ball consistently. And if trying it just quiets your lower body a bit so you don't slide back and forth so much, you'll find it's well worth the effort.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

What more is there to say? I'll be back with a regular post tomorrow.

Merry Christmas wish

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jim Flick on Building a Solid Swing

The late Jim Flick was highly respected as a teacher -- so much so, that Jack Nicklaus worked with him after Jack Grout died and built the Nicklaus/Flick Golf Schools with him. Here are some of his thoughts from his book On Golf.

Jim Flick

This comes from a section called The Long and the Short of It. Note that Flick often used the term instrument rather than club.
What is the difference between a swing that produces a delicate 60-yard pitch shot and one that delivers a booming 275-yard drive?

Not much.

One key message I want to deliver -- and, believe me, I will deliver it over and over again until you accept it as the truth -- is that the basic concepts underlying the short game and the full swing are essentially the same.

Your swing doesn't change very much when you go from a sixty-yard part shot to a full swing from the tee -- it mainly just gets longer to accommodate the instrument being used and the distance the ball has to travel.

Are there any differences? Sure. Do they involve radical departures in aim, posture, routine, or relationship between the swinging and turning elements? No.

That's one of the reasons I like to start players with the short game: because it helps them develop the imagery to play golf, along with feel and sensitivity for the use of the club and the swinging elements.

For instance, when you're making a part shot -- say, a sixty-yard pitch -- it's easier to sense the swinging force of the club head and the position of the club face than it is in a full swing with a long iron or a wood.

To develop your sense of feel in golf, put down your driver and pick up a short or middle iron. [p41]
Take note of that. The man who had the trust of Jack Nicklaus, both as his personal instructor and his business partner, advised his students to use a short or mid-iron if they really wanted to hit their driver better. He believed that was the key to developing the kind of feel that will make you a better player.

Flick believed we have become too mechanical in our teaching methods, that we need to get back to teaching feel. I'll leave you with another short quote from his book -- in fact, it's one of my most favorite Flick quotes:
If as much were written about sex as there is about golf, life would be extinct by now.
Sometimes, feel is far superior to technique. Just a thought.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Bob Toski on Feeling Your Hands

The Mouse was a formidable opponent though he was never very big. He won 11 or so major tournaments (five on the PGA Tour) but he's probably best known for his instruction. This quote is from his book How to Feel a Real Golf Swing.

Bob Toski

Modern instructors are finally beginning to teach that you need to use your hands in your swing. However, teaching "feel" is never easy, and teaching it from a book is even harder. Yet Toski does an admirable job in this section from a chapter called -- appropriately enough -- Feeling Your Hands.
"Some players might as well stick their hands in their pockets," said the great golf instructor Seymour Dunn, "for all the use they make of them." Think back to the swing in the park [Toski was talking about a child's playground swing in an earlier chapter]. Let's say it's not a swing now, but a tennis ball hanging from a rope attached to the swing crossbar. You find it at rest and you want to start it swinging. How do you begin? Do you butt it with your body or nudge it with your shoulder? Do you push the rope with your arm? Or do you set it gently swinging with an easy push of your hand so that the ball climbs and falls back before you send it on its way again? And if you use your hand, do you clench it tightly or hold it just firmly enough to start it on the natural path limited by the length of the rope? Do you stiffen your wrist or let it flex? Which will keep the ball moving without bowing or jerking the rope? In a similar way, do you "flick" your wrist slightly at the bottom of the club's arc to add speed and send it forward faster? Or do you twist your body and lunge forward to quicken the club's pace?

The freedom and motion that we spoke of in Chapter 1 emanate from the hands. The hands start the clubhead moving, keep it on its natural path and sustain its centrifugal motion. It would take very little movement on your part to get that tennis ball moving at its maximum speed, and most of the movement would come from your hands. And so with your golf swing.

The hands, Dunn said, are the leaders of the swing. And that surprises most golfers. You see them on the practice range struggling to lift the club with their arms or pull it with their shoulders or help it along with their legs and trunk. They twist and turn and slap and hit, clutching the club in a grip so tight their hands lose all of their natural power. "Most poor golfers," Ernest Jones said, "merely use their hands to hold the club. They don't understand that it is through the hands and fingers alone that they can influence the behavior of the club." [p20-21]
Think about how you throw a ball or swing a racket or bat. You don't freeze your wrists; you allow them to move. But neither do you leave them "floppy" like a wet noodle, bending all over the place; rather, you tend to finish with your hands and forearms in a fairly straight line. (And just a note: If your lead wrist is bent backward after you hit the ball, you aren't letting your shoulders turn fully into your finish. The natural "pull" of the club as your wrists uncock on the downswing is to point the clubshaft straight out from you, so your shaft and arms form a nice Y-shape when seen from the front. If you don't get that, you're interfering with the natural motion somehow.)

In fact, I think that's why so many teachers and players -- John Daly comes to mind -- practice a one-armed swing with only their lead hand on the club. As the club swings into its finish, your lead arm and club tend to remain in a straight line as they swing upward. Again, to get that same kind of wrist action naturally with a two-hand grip, you have to let your shoulders turn fully into your finish.

Practicing the feel of your swing is a nice thing to work on during the winter since you don't have to hit balls. And Toski's description of the process may help you wrap your mind around that elusive thing we call "feel."

Friday, December 22, 2017

Annika on How to Get Your Hands and Arms Aligned

It's not unusual to hear instructors talk about using alignment rods to improve your aim. But how do you check how far you should stand from the ball, or doublecheck your shoulder alignment when they're so close under your chin? Here are a couple of quotes from Annika Sorenstam, one of the most accurate shotmakers of all time, from her book Golf Annika's Way.

Annika Sorenstam

First, how do you make sure you're not too close to or too far from the ball at address? Annika has a simple test for that:
Are you the right distance from the ball? Here's how to check: Take your right hand off the club and let it hang by your side. Your palm should hang so that when you move it back into place, it fits your left hand without any twisting or repositioning. If you hand moves behind the grip when you return it to the club, you're standing too far away; if it moves in front, you're standing too close. [p32]
That's actually a double test. The first part helps make sure your trailing hand isn't too strong or weak on the grip -- Annika says "right hand;" for you lefties out there, it's your right hand -- and the second part checks how far you are from the ball. The first part's pretty clear; the second might need a bit more explanation.

When letting go of the club with your trailing hand, you just let it hang straight down. When you move it back to the club, DON'T swing your hand closer to or farther away from your body. Just move it sideways, across your body. The idea here is that someone who leans over a bit more at address will have their hands farther from their body, while someone who stands more erect will have their hands closer to their body. When the grip of the club is the correct distance from your body, your hands will hang almost directly beneath your shoulders.

The other neat quote from Annika concerns your shoulder alignment at address:
Because your arms swing along the same path as your shoulders, it's critical that you align your shoulders correctly. That's why, after aiming the clubface, I start aligning my body from the top down, starting with my shoulders and working to my feet.

Because it's very hard to see where my shoulders are pointed at address, I look to the fronts of my forearms to see if they're parallel to the target line. If my arms are hanging naturally, my forearms will be on the same line as my shoulders. You can check this by having someone hold a shaft up against your forearms and then stepping away to see if the shaft is parallel to the target line. It's a great way to train your shoulders to set up square to the target. [p41]
This is a great little trick. Once you get used to seeing what "square forearms" look like, that's a much easier visual checkpoint for your upper body alignment than your shoulders are.

By combining both of Annika's tips, you'll be able to get your upper body in the correct position to hit shots along your target line more easily, even when your footing isn't completely level.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Jack Nicklaus on Playing Blind Shots

John Daly has talked about learning how to play from "comic strips" with Jack Nicklaus in them. I actually have a book with some of them! It's called Jack Nicklaus' Playing Lessons and today's quote comes from one of those "comics."

Jack Nicklaus at 1986 Masters

This particular quote comes from a section called How to Target Your Shots. I chose his advice on how to play blind shots, simply because too many players are left on their own to figure out the best technique. I'm not including the picture because it doesn't really show what Jack's talking about. It's just a small silhouette of Jack looking at the top of a tree over a hill, with a dotted line from his tiny head to the tree.
I dislike blind shots intensely, but I don't let them interrupt my game plan. There are two problems any time you can't see where you are going: how far to hit and where to hit. The only way to solve them is to have a quick look. Generally I already know the yardage I have to cover because I will have paced it out and noted it in practice. If for some reason I haven't been able to do that, I determine it by first estimating the distance from the target to the point where it comes fully into view, then adding the distance from that point back to the ball. To establish the line, I select a tree or other tall object directly behind my target area, and keep careful track of it walking back to the ball. If no skyline marker is available, I identify an aiming point on the crest of the hill. [p65]
How Jack aims is pretty intuitive -- pick something tall behind your target and aim at that. But his method for figuring distance may seem odd.

Most of us try to guess the distance from our ball to the invisible target in one lump total. Jack, however, broke it into two smaller distances -- the part he could see from the ball and the part to the target that he couldn't see -- and then he added them together.

It sounds a bit unusual, but it's not all that different from the way we figure out how hard to strike a putt with several elevation changes. We break it into small sections that are simpler to understand. Then we start with the one closest to the hole, figure out how hard that part needs to be struck; next we step back and figure how hard to strike the next section so it's traveling at the correct speed when it reaches the section closer to the hole.

By breaking the shot into two parts, I suspect it helped Jack make a better club choice so he didn't over- or underestimate the difficulty of the shot. For the rest of us, it might help us avoid trying a shot we shouldn't. After all, sometimes the best way to play a blind shot is to break it into two shorter shots you can see clearly!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tommy Armour on the Purpose of Footwork

Today's quotes come from Tommy Armour, the three-time major winner who gained great fame as an instructor. I say "quotes" because I'm picking several bits from a chapter he wrote on footwork.

Tommy Armour

These thoughts come from How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time, from a chapter called Footwork, the Foundation of Best Golf:
What prevents many ever learning correct footwork is the fact that they don't understand its purpose.

The function of correct footwork is to get the body in the right place for the arms and hands to act with maximum precision and power, and with smoothness.

A great deal of confusion in teaching and learning footwork arises from the fact that the subject really is so simple that people just can't readily believe that there isn't a mysterious and complicated trick to it.

So, what generally happens is a complete reversal of logic; the player endeavors to make his body work his feet, instead of having his feet impel and direct the proper body action.
Let me break here for a minute. Armour spends quite a bit of this chapter explaining the mistakes made by a player who "endeavors to make his body work his feet." I won't repeat all that. But bear in mind what you've read so far -- simply put, footwork is so simple that we tend to try too hard. Take the thoughts that follow as simply as you can!

First, he talks about the backswing. Note the boldface print -- I put that in to emphasize his main point.
Your knees are a reliable index to correct footwork. On the backswing, the left knee moves until it is pointing to a point not too far behind the ball. The left knee is moved into this position by raising the left heel and getting a bit of a push from the inside of the sole of the left foot, but although those foot actions are the motivating elements, they are details I seldom mention when I'm teaching as I want to avoid all possible details. I have the pupils consider knee position as the indicator of proper footwork. When the left knee is in the position it should be at the top of the backswing, the footwork has been performed correctly.

There's only one way to have the left foot function in getting the knee into the desired position, so if the pupil thinks of the result he must get, he doesn't need to worry about the details of cause.
Now he talks about the downswing. He thinks instructions like opening your hips to face the target are counter-productive.
When the right knee comes in toward the direction you're hitting, your right heel comes off the ground, and you're pushing the body around into perfect position for hitting. Your left side is bound to straighten up as your left knee straightens.

But, if you keep your right heel on the ground, it is physically impossible to get your right knee to play its proper part in the swing. Therefore, your entire right side -- the right shoulder and the right hip -- can't get into position for hitting.

The knee action in a good golf swing is practically identical with knee action in throwing a baseball.

The side that delivers the power -- the right side -- is put into position to deliver by correct footwork, and only by correct footwork can this position be attained.

There's a lot of confusion about how and when to get the left heel on the ground at the start of the downswing, but there needn't be. As the right side springs into action from the right foot up, the left heel will simultaneously go to the ground.

All you have to do is let the right side come into the shot by moving the right knee around toward the ball.
That's a long quote, but the basic idea is clear, don't you think? Let me boil it down to one paragraph.
Point your lead knee behind the ball on your backswing, then point your trailing knee toward the ball on the downswing. Don't try to keep both feet flat on the ground; all you'll do is make it impossible to move your feet correctly. If you just think about where you want your knees to point, you'll move your feet properly.
It doesn't get any simpler than that.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Bobby Jones on How Your Form Affects Your Swing

Since this is Christmas week and most of us are too busy for long posts, I plan to post a quote each day from a famous player or teacher. When you have a moment, this bite-size chunk of instruction will give you something to think about.

Today it's from Bobby Jones.

Bobby Jones

From Bobby Jones on Golf, from an article called How Form Affects Swinging:
The man with a faulty swing ties himself up so that a smooth stroke becomes impossible. The expert swings smoothly because his successive positions are easy and comfortable, and are such that the movement from one to the other is not hampered by unwilling muscles. The average golfer does not swing smoothly because at some stage he creates a condition that makes it easier for him to move in the wrong direction than in the right one. [p14]
This is a different approach than most players take. We tend to think that it's hard to make a good swing because our natural movements are wrong. Jones says that "unwilling muscles" are the problem... and if a muscle is unwilling to move a certain way, that sounds more like an UNnatural movement, doesn't it?

In other words, Jones says we have trouble swinging because we try to move in a way that ISN'T natural for us.

If we're having a lot of trouble swinging well, perhaps we should reconsider the swing we're trying to make. Perhaps it isn't the swing best suited to our body!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Indonesian Masters

Winner: Justin Rose

Around the wider world of golf: Angel Cabrera and his son Angelito won the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

Justin Rose with Indonesian Masters trophy

The last big tournament of the year, and what do I do? Get my numbers wrong. In yesterday's post I said that, if Justin Rose won, the Indonesian Masters would be his third win in seven starts.

It actually only took him six starts. Furthermore, he won by an amazing eight strokes, which Rose said was the biggest winning margin of his career. And if that wasn't enough, he won wire-to-wire in an event that was plagued by weather delays. (There were two in the final round alone.)

I really don't have words to describe how Justin is playing right now. He's at #6 in this week's OWGR, on the strength of ten Top10s in his last ten events (with three being wins, of course). The only question at this point is whether he can keep it up when the new year starts.

I, for one, will not bet against him. This was a dominating way to say goodbye to 2017!

Clearly his depression over losing to Sergio at Augusta is a thing of the past, so it's no surprise he's racking up those Limerick Summaries again. This is his second since late October and somehow I suspect there are more to come... very soon.
With his funk from the Masters long through
And his zest for the battle renewed,
This Rose runaway
Was an excellent way
To bid all his pursuers adieu.
The photo came fromthis page at

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Will the Indonesian Masters Ever End?

Perhaps we'll have a winner by the time some of you read this, but -- for the third day in a row -- the Indonesian Masters was suspended due to dangerous lightning.

And I'm irritated.

Justin Rose

I guess this is a rant of sorts. I know that our game is subject to the weather because we play outdoors, but for some reason this week's delays seem less tolerable.

Maybe it was the video showing Justin Rose trying to tee off when a crack of lightning sounded in the middle of his backswing, right overhead, that bothers me. We expect that kind of activity to be noticed before it gets that close, don't we?

Perhaps it's because the event is halfway around the world from me, so I can't afford to stay up during an extended delay. Especially when I don't even know if play will resume.

At any rate, Justin Rose leads by five strokes after seven holes of his final round. Unless he just can't finish the round for some reason I don't see him losing this one. In fact, even if they have to throw out the final round (unlikely at this point) he was leading after the third round. I guess we'll find out soon enough if they're just delaying the inevitable.

And if so, that will be three wins in his last seven starts. Pretty amazing stuff.

If the round ever gets underway again. **sigh**

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Lexi Sidelined Until Mid-January

In case you missed it, Lexi has withdrawn from the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January, citing that recurring wrist injury of hers. Here's the tweet (@Lexi) she sent out:
I hope this isn't the start of a major problem in 2018. She was finally getting back on her game.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Duvals Defend in FL and Sneds WDs in Jakarta

Today's post is short. First, I want to remind you that the PNC Father/Son Challenge Pro-Am airs today at 5pm ET on GC. The main event doesn't begin until tomorrow (Saturday) at 11am ET on GC with more coverage at 4pm ET on NBC. David Duval and son Nick Karavites are the defending champs.

David Duval

And for those of you interested in the Indonesian Masters, which is airing live at midnight ET here in the US, you might want to know that Brandt Snedeker had to withdraw from the event after 11 holes. He was playing well in the second round but got dehydrated and had to WD for treatment. Sneds was trying to make the OWGR Top50 before the end of the year so he would qualify for the Masters, but now he'll have to find another way.

Justin Rose has just teed off as I write this and after two holes he's at -11, one shot back of Kiradech Aphibarnrat at -12. But Aphibarnrat has finished his round, so Rose has a good chance to really open up a lead before the day's over.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

John Daly on Being a Feel Player (Video)

John Daly was on Morning Drive Wednesday and he talked about a lot of things, but in this 7-minute video he talks primarily about how he approaches golf as a feel player.

John mentions a number of things but there are two I want to emphasize:
  • He thinks about swinging his sand wedge, even with a 5-iron. (Elsewhere I've heard him say the same thing about hitting driver. It shows in his rhythm.) John says he feels that he swings at around 85%. This keeps his swing smooth.
  • Before John goes out to play, he doesn't practice. He just swings enough to warm up, and he's not averse to starting his round without a warmup. (When you think about swinging every club like a sand wedge, you aren't going to strain yourself early in the round!)
Take the time to listen to this short video and watch John hit a few. Try to absorb the easy rhythm of his swing and take it to the course with you. You'll probably play much better, and with a lot less effort as well.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bobby Jones on Playing "Opponents Who Cannot Be Seen"

Bobby Jones is credited with a quote that says "Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course... the space between your ears." Given the records he set, you would expect Jones to have thoughts on the mental game.

In the book Bobby Jones Golf Tips: Secrets of the Master there's a section called Thoughts on the Mental Side. It focuses on statements by a player named Olin Dutra and his struggles with his mental game. I won't quote the entire thing, but Jones made a few interesting statements:
It is difficult for a person who has not been mixed up in these things to understand what it means to play a competitive round against opponents who cannot be seen. In an open championship one's imagination runs wild. A burst of applause or a cheer from a distant part of the course is always interpreted as a blow from some close pursuer, when it may mean no more than that some obscure competitor has holed a chip shot while another player's waiting gallery happened to be watching. It may not mean a thing, and even if it does, it can't be helped. But it is difficult to view it that way. One always feels that he is running from something without knowing what nor where it is.
That's certainly a problem that pros may face, though rarely would a weekend player deal with it. But then he says this:
I used to feel just at Dutra did -- that while I might make mistakes, that others would not. I remember looking at the scoreboard before the last round in the 1920 Open and deciding that I must do a 69 at the most to have a chance. Actually a 73 would have tied. I had some such lesson every year until I finally decided that the best of them made mistakes just as I did.
Reread that first sentence -- Jones used to feel "that while I might make mistakes, that others would not." That is a telling comment, and one that I think more players should consider.

You may not have thought about it, but the belief that what you do isn't good enough often has nothing to do with your ability, but with your over-estimation of another's ability. You struggle not because you're a bad player but because you (unrealistically) think everyone else is better than you. And modern golf teaching has a tendency to reinforce that mindset, telling you that unless you work your butt off, everyone else will pass you by.

I got news for you. It's simply not true. And if you try to live by it... well, Tiger Woods did that and the damage to his body has thus far cost him a few years and numerous surgeries.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try to improve. But trying to beat a nonexistent competitor, especially an unrealistically perfect opponent, is a sure way to sabotage your own game. Here's what Jones concluded:
The advice which Harry Vardon is supposed to have given to keep on hitting the ball, no matter what happens, is the best in the long run. It is useless to attempt to guess what someone else will do, and worse than useless to set a score for yourself to shoot at. A brilliant round or a string of birdies will not always win a championship. The man who can put together four good rounds is the man to watch.

No man can expect to win at every start. Golf is not a game where such a thing is possible. So the plan should be to play one's own game as well as possible and let the rumors and cheers fly as thick as they will. [p128]
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that setting goals is bad, nor that it's wrong to set a scoring goal for a round. Having such a goal may help you focus better, as long as you give yourself the freedom to fail. But Jones here is talking about pushing yourself to shoot an unrealistic score because 'the other guys are going to take it low.' You don't know that! And I think about what Butch Harmon said on Morning Drive last week, that Rickie Fowler's problem is trying too hard on the weekends rather than just going out and doing what he knows how to do.

So if you want to improve your game, stop measuring yourself against those unrealistically perfect opponents who can't be seen. You might be surprised at just how good you become once you stop playing with them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The New Video Protocols

In case you missed it, on Monday the USGA and R&A finally released their new "video protocols" for dealing with -- let's be blunt here -- TV viewers calling in to report rule infractions. Here's your quick guide to what's involved.

First, here are the USGA video protocols page and the R&A video protocols page. And here is the link to the brief video clip (embedded below) from Morning Drive announcing those protocols:

Now, the short version is this:
  • One or more officials will watch the broadcast to monitor possible rules violations.
  • Nobody is going to take phone calls reporting said violations. (At least, that's what it sounds like.)
  • The only video that will be accepted is the broadcast video. No phone or camera videos.
  • And a local rule eliminating the two-stroke incorrect scorecard penalty will be enacted as a bridge to the 2019 official rule.
Sweet, simple and to the point. The language is a bit wordier than that, but that's the gist of it.

The page with the Morning Drive video also has a number of other videos related to the issue, since quite a lot of time was devoted to it. Even Thomas Pagel spent considerable time answering questions.

I see a couple of potential issues that might have to be dealt with as this protocol goes into effect in January:
  • First, I suspect the monitoring officials may end up being stationed in the broadcast trucks to better monitor all of the network cameras, in an effort to catch potential problems as soon as possible. If so, there will almost certainly always be more than one official on duty. Even if you only watch a single TV showing the broadcast, you don't want anybody getting distracted for a moment and missing the very thing they're looking for!
  • And second, I'm under the impression that any person physically at the event -- players, caddies or fans -- will be able to report things they see to the officials. If so, they may have to rethink the camera/phone video ban since that would provide instant feedback about the legitimacy of the report.
Having said that -- and knowing that every new protocol generally needs some tweaking -- this is a major step forward. Pagel said that their feedback from the pros had been mostly favorable and that the pros were in favor of infractions being reported and penalties enforced, even if those penalties had to be enforced in a later round. It's that extra two-stroke incorrect scorecard penalty that most of them found to be unacceptable.

For those of you who are afraid that some penalties will be missed, let me just say this... they will. Even in sports where the events happen on a relatively small playing field -- like a basketball court or a football field -- infractions are not only missed in real time but even in the replay reviews. Because we are human, there is NO WAY that all the infractions will be caught or even properly dealt with, and we'll just have to accept that. We'll just have to do our best and accept the results.

And once any little bugs have been worked out, I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised at how well it's going to work simply because our sport is unusual in that most of us want the correct ruling to be made, even if it goes against us. As Lexi Thompson tweeted regarding the new rule, "I am thankful that no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future."

All I can say is "amen to that."

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Omega Dubai Ladies Classic

Winner: Angel Yin

Around the wider world of golf: The team of Steve Stricker and Sean O'Hair won the QBE Shootout (aka the Shark Shootout); Horacio Leon won the Il Malinalco Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and the ET's Joburg Open finish was delayed until Monday. At the time I'm writing this, the final round has not resumed but Shubhankar Sharma has a 4-shot lead with 11 holes left. [UPDATE: Sharma did win.]

Angel Yin with Omega Dubai trophy

In case you missed Juli Inkster's interview at, one of the more interesting things she said was:
I’ll be honest: If the Solheim Cup were the Americans against an International side, they’d slaughter us. Of course they’d beat the Europeans easily, too. An A team of Asian players alone would trounce either team, their B team would win handily, and their C team would be very competitive. So what do we do about that?
2017 has been a rough year for the LET. Economic problems similar to those that plagued the LPGA a decade back have taken their toll. It hasn't helped their players prepare to face LPGA players, let alone the Korean juggernaut. And it's hard to get your game in shape when you don't have enough events to gain any rhythm. Hopefully the LPGA and the European Tour, both of whom have offered their aid, will help them recover their footing soon.

But you might not have known that if you watched their year-end Tour Championship, better known as the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic. After four very competitive rounds, it came down to a three-woman playoff:
  • French player Celine Herbin, who was working to keep her card
  • Korean player In-Kyung Kim, the current RICOH Women's British Open champion
  • American player Angel Yin, who came in second in the LPGA's Rookie of the Year race
Herbin went out after doubling the first playoff hole, although she clearly wasn't too disappointed. Why? Her eight-under 64, which got her into the playoff in the first place, was a new personal best. And her paycheck was enough to make #23 in the LET's Order of Merit, which I'm pretty sure guaranteed her card for next year.

Kim and Yin both birdied the first playoff hole, then Yin won the playoff with another birdie on the second. Kim had a chance to tie, which she missed; but while she was disappointed not to win, she said she was pleased to get herself into contention. As she put it, "I think that was the best scenario that I could ever have asked for before teeing off."

As for Yin, she picked up her first professional victory at only 19 years old. And she did it in a playoff, which she said was another of her personal goals. Better get used to that smiling face, folks -- going forward, she may be reaching a lot of personal goals!

Juli Inkster made Angel a Captain's Pick in the last Solheim Cup because she saw potential, a pick that helped the US defend the Cup. But I wonder if even the legendary Mrs. Inkster saw a Limerick Summary in Angel's future?
The LET finish was wild,
A playoff of contrasting styles—
Celine felt no stress
And In-Kyung tried her best
But it’s Angel who walked off all smiles.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Nicklaus Tip You May Not Have Heard

I love finding new things about the great players that I haven't heard before... and today I have one about Jack Nicklaus.

No doubt you've heard that Jack hovered the head of his driver behind the golf ball for a smoother takeaway. I found something that contradicts that.

Some years ago John Andrisani did a number of books about different players, each with a title like The [fill in the blank] Way. Here's what I found in his book The Nicklaus Way:
He sets the clubhead behind the ball, with its face aligned precisely for the type and degree of sidespin he intends to give the shot. Let me stop for a second here and discuss two observations I have made regarding this aspect of his setup.

One secret Nicklaus never mentioned is this: he sets the club down a couple of inches behind the ball, and I believe this little nuance helps promote that smooth, streamlined straight-back takeaway action he is so famous for.

The second secret: contrary to what he has said over and over, in books and on video, he does not hold the club slightly above the grass. Rather, he rests it very gently on the grass. He does not press the bottom of the club into the grass, as amateurs do. Addressing the ball like Nicklaus will help alleviate tension in your hands and arms and allow you to make a good backswing action. Once you do that, you stand a much better chance of returning the club to a square impact position. (p9-10)
Now you might think that second "secret" -- that the club is resting lightly on the grass rather than hovering above it -- is nitpicking. I would agree although, since Jack was playing with older equipment where the ball was teed lower, it might be true. When we focus on doing something we tend to exaggerate it, and trying to hover the clubhead might cause you to hold it quite a bit higher than trying to rest it lightly on the grass would. With modern equipment this probably isn't a big deal, but it's still worth noting.

However, the first secret seems significant to me. The closer you hover the clubhead behind the ball, the more likely you would be to accidently tap the ball. Consciously leaving a noticeable space between the ball and the clubface gives you a margin for error that I believe would help you stay more relaxed at address.

This is a small tip, but often small things are a tremendous help when you need to build your confidence. I know it's something I'm going to consider doing in the future.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Juli Inkster on Chipping (Video)

This is a short clip from Juli Inkster's Golf Channel Academy show on short game. She has a couple of chipping tips that anybody can use.

Juli says you should always keep your body moving. She's talking about two different things here:
  • One, you don't want to "freeze" over the ball. You need to stay "soft" if you want good feel, and if you stand motionless over the ball you'll get tight.
  • Two, you want to make sure you keep turning your hips and shoulders well into your finish. If you don't, you'll end up flipping the club with your wrists and that creates fat and thin shots.
Then I want you to note her ball position. That's a personal thing for every player, dependent on your stroke. But Juli has the ball back in a very narrow stance, just inside her trailing foot. That helps her to hit the ball before the ground gets in the way. That's worth considering if you're having trouble and you have the ball is forward.

One other thing: Juli uses a slightly open stance and she keeps the clubface open as a result. Many of you have heard players and instructors who say to use a square stance and a square face for this shot.

EITHER ONE WILL WORK, DEPENDING ON YOUR STROKE. As long as you hit the ball before you hit the ground, and you hit the ball squarely, either way is a good way. Just try them both and use the one that feels best to you and gives you the most consistency.

Personal opinion: I've done it both ways with success, although I've noted that the square method seems to work better for me when I use a wider stance and the ball closer to the center of my stance. If I'm using a narrow stance, Juli's open method seems to be the more consistent. Just a penny for your thoughts.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Journeyman 123

Golf Digest did a short article based on a post on Phil Blackmar's blog. That post is called Journeyman 123. Both are worth reading.

Phil Blackmar

Phil's point -- which I agree with and have expressed to other people over the years as well -- is that it's not easy to be a "journeyman" and yet the word is used somewhat disdainfully to describe players who don't become the next Jack or Tiger or Jordan or [fill in the blank].

And Phil's post -- which is briefly summarized in the Golf Digest article -- shows just how hard it is to get to the Tour, let alone stay there. Here's one surprising fact from Phil's article:
Since 1980 only 324 players have made at least 250 Tour starts.
Only 324 players in nearly 40 years, folks. That's it. And Phil is #123 on that list with 443 starts -- hence the Journeyman 123 moniker.

Take a few moments to read Phil's post. It'll make you appreciate those players you may not have paid much attention to over the years. And it'll let you know just how hard it is to succeed in professional golf.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Did You Know This Rule? (Video)

This short video is from GC's digital content and it highlights a Rule of Golf that I didn't know. Did you?

With all the limitations the Rules of Golf put on "helpful equipment" like rangefinders, I was surprised to learn that a compass is perfectly legal.

To be honest, I'm not sure when you would use that kind of info. Knowing where the wind is blowing relative to the pin seems more useful than knowing whether it's an east or a south wind. But it certainly seems to have helped Dylan Frittelli, so I may be wrong.

At any rate, it's always good to know the rules.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

In-Gee Chun's Driver Swing (Video)

This video is from 2013, but it's a good video to see how simple In-Gee's swing is. There's something I want you to see that is very plain in this footage.

It's most easily seen in the down-the-line view on the left above. I want you to watch her feet and knees. The first of the side-by-side views begins around the :32 mark.

Her left (lead) knee bends and her left heel comes off the ground as she starts her backswing. When she reaches the top of her backswing and starts down, note that her right (trailing) knee starts to bend and her right heel comes off the ground. At the same time her left heel goes back down, flat on the ground.

BUT NOTICE: When her left heel goes back down, her left knee DOES NOT straighten! Instead it stays bent until the club is halfway down in her downswing. It can do this because her left hip is moving away from the ball, which causes her left knee to gradually straighten as the clubhead gets to the ball.

If you watch the face-on view at the same moment, you can see that she doesn't make a big move toward the target during her downswing. It's almost as if she had her weight mostly on her trailing foot, then she just planted her lead foot back on the ground as she stepped onto it. This keeps your body fairly steady over the ball so you can make more consistent contact. That will give you better accuracy AND distance.

In-Gee is yet another of those ladies with a simple, easily repeated swing. That's one reason she's a two-time major winner. And it's a move that's so simple, you can learn to do it too.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Short Game Tip from Bill Harmon

Golf Digest has a new article with some thoughts from instructor Bill Harmon about Tiger's game at the Hero. And he had a short game tip that I found very informative.

Tiger from the bunker

There was a lot of talk about Tiger's chipping last week, and much of it was a debate over whether his occasional problems were the result of yips. Harmon says no, it's bad technique where his club shaft had too much forward lean at impact.

We've all heard this before, right? But Harmon provided a simple drill to help get things back in sync:
If you tend to dig the leading edge in behind the ball on basic short game shots, narrow your stance and practice taking the club back halfway and coming to a complete stop. Then, without manipulating your hands to change the plane of your swing or making a big lateral shift, let the clubhead swing down to the ball. If it makes contact behind the ball, it usually means you're pulling the club behind you too much on the backswing.
Pay close attention to that last sentence. Pulling the club too much to the inside during your takeaway causes your downswing to come into the impact zone on a very flat angle. In high rough, that means you'll get a lot of grass between the ball and the clubface. On a tighter lie, the clubhead gets very close to the ground much sooner in the downswing, which will cause you to hit the ground sooner.

And in both cases, the shaft will be leaning toward the target when you contact the ball. You want the shaft to be nearly vertical at impact, in order to use the bounce on the club's sole.

Narrowing your stance helps you stay more stable over the shot, so you don't move forward as much at impact. That forward movement just gets your hands farther ahead of the clubhead, which makes the digging worse. And stopping your backswing completely helps eliminate any compensations you might be using that further flatten your downswing.

It's a simple drill to help simplify your chipping motion. And the simpler it is, the more likely you are to make a good chip.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Australian PGA

Winner: Cameron Smith

Around the wider world of golf: Rickie Fowler started with seven straight birdies and finished with a four-stroke victory at the Hero World Challenge; Dylan Frittelli won the ET's AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in a playoff; Yusaku Miyazato won the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; Bowen Xiao won the KG S&H CITY Asian Golf Championship on the Asian Tour; the JLPGA team beat the KLPGA team to win The Queens presented by Kowa on the LET; and Brady Schnell won the Shell Championship on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Cameron Smith with Australian PGA trophy

V is for victory. And Down Under, it's the season for victories by players named Cameron.

Last week Cameron Davis won the Emirates Australian Open. This week it was Cameron Smith at the Australian PGA Championship.

Ironically, as with last week's victor, Cameron Smith may not be very familiar to my American readers. But he is a winner on the PGA Tour -- he and Jonas Blixt won the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the newly revamped team competition. And just as the two ran down the leaders at that event, Smith made up a three-shot deficit to leader Jordan Zunic, and then won the biggest event of his young career on the second playoff hole.

He did it alone this time... and not just because it was an individual event. Blixt missed the cut and watched his friend win from the gallery. As did Smith's parents, who weren't able to see the Zurich victory in person.

Smith can now have membership on three tours -- the PGA Tour, the European Tour (which co-sponsors this event) and the Australasian Tour. He hasn't taken up the ET membership yet, but we here in the US will get more familiar with him in 2018.

In the meantime, Mr. Smith picks up his second Limerick Summary in less than a year... and he doesn't have to share it with anybody!
Mr. Smith went to Queensland alone
In the hopes he could win one at home
For his parents to see
Since his US team V
Was too far for his folks to have flown.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Learning to Roll a Roll of Pennies

I found this tip in an old Golf Magazine and a quick Google search turned up a copy of the tip online. This is so simple you won't believe it.

Putter striking a roll of pennies

Simply put a roll of pennies on the ground and try to putt it down your target line. (Yes, you can do this indoors as well.) If you hit the roll with the clubface square, the pennies will roll straight.

If the pennies spin to the left (if you're a righthander) -- you closed the clubface and the toe hit the pennies first.

Conversely, if the pennies spin to the to the right (if you're a righthander) -- you opened the clubface and the heel hit the pennies first.

If the pennies roll to the left of the hole (if you're a righthander) -- you closed the clubface and swung out-to-in across the line of the putt (a pull).

Conversely, if the pennies roll to the right of the hole (if you're a righthander) -- you opened the clubface and swung in-to-out across the line of the putt (a push).

My bonus tip: If you have a lot of trouble hitting the roll squarely, you should check your "ball position." Constant heel hits may mean the "ball" is too far back in your stance; constant toe hits may mean that the "ball" is too far forward in your stance.

Of course, you can use a roll of nickels, dimes or quarters if you're a big spender. But regardless of which one you use, it'll still be cheaper than most of the putting aids you can buy and you'll get clear feedback with no guesswork.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Tiger at the Half

It's too soon to say Tiger is "back." But it's not too soon to question how we'll know he has truly returned. Today I'd like to look at a few things that can serve as indicators of Tiger's progress.

Tiger on the green

The first indicator is simply whether Tiger is painfree or not. We should divide this into two questions -- is he painfree now, and will he remain painfree? The answer to the first one is clearly YES. We know that Tiger played nine straight days of golf before teeing it up in the Bahamas, and he's no worse for wear. That's important because you can't stay painfree until you get painfree.

But one week won't answer that second question. Tiger has rarely played more than 15-18 tournaments a year, so I'm arbitrarily setting my sights on 8-10 events. That should be six months or so; if he's still good then, I think he passes this first test.

The second indicator is how consistently well he plays. I include mental improvement as well as mechanical improvement. We should expect some rust, no more than he's played in the last couple of years. And dealing with how his body handles adrenaline now, plus his ability to adjust quickly to conditions, should both be taken into account here.

Two rounds isn't a huge sample, but Tiger seems to be playing with very little rust. (THAT should certainly give the rest of the golf world some pause, given he's only had a month or so to practice.) In addition, he made some sound adjustments to his game on Friday, based on what he did Thursday, and most of those adjustments worked. Some were mechanical, many were strategic. So I'd also give him credit for this indicator -- at least this far into his comeback.

Third indicator -- how is he mentally on the weekend? Granted, he hasn't played the weekend yet -- but I don't think we'll be able to answer this one very soon, even if he wins this weekend. Even when Tiger played so well back in 2013, it was clear that his play on a majors weekend was not as good as it was at a regular event. This one could take a year or so before we have the answer.

However, if he can close out any tournaments over the next few months, that will certainly be a positive sign. Again, you have to be able to close out a regular tournament before you can count on closing out a big tourney.

Fourth indicator -- how well does he travel? To be honest, I hope he doesn't test this one until he has a few events under his belt. He was already struggling a bit before his trip to Dubai did him in back in February; I'd like to see him successfully complete a few events over the next few months before trying any long flights.

Finally, can he keep his own expectations in check? I really like his attitude right now. Some of the analysts have suggested that Tiger is sandbagging a bit, that he knows his game is better than he lets on.

But look, the hype is already in motion -- Tiger has gone from a 100-1 favorite at the Masters to a mere 15-1. Expectations for Tiger are always at two extremes. Either fans think he'll just instantly return to top form or -- as Frank Nobilo confessed -- he didn't really want Tiger to come back because he thought he wouldn't be able to play well and he didn't want to see the Big Cat as just a ceremonial golfer. Very few of us allow Tiger to just be human and give him the same freedom to fail that we want others to give us. After all, none of us is perfect!

I find it refreshing that Tiger has (perhaps) come to grips with his own mortality. I think that will stand him in good stead going forward.

So while the Masters odds are clearly examples of jumping the gun, the signs that Tiger will once again be a force on the PGA Tour are encouraging. And while I don't expect him to win this weekend, I do think the young bulls who idolized Tiger and wanted to compete against "the legend" should be thinking twice about what they asked for.

I know I plan to keep watching because I think they may live to regret that wish!

Friday, December 1, 2017

So Yeon Ryu's Favorite Drill

This is from a Golf Digest article called The Drill You Need When Your Swing Falls Apart. So Yeon calls it the Stomping Drill, which she says fixes a multitude of problems in your swing.

So Yeon Ryu doing the Stomping Drill

Do this drill with an iron and address the ball with your feet close together. Essentially you just step away from the target with your trail foot to start your backswing, then step toward the target with your lead foot to start your downswing. That's it.

So Yeon says it takes some practice so you have to start out slow. But she also says it will cure a lot of ills in your swing.

What do I like about it? If you do this properly, you won't slide your hips and tilt your spine during the drill. That causes problems in more swings than most players realize. Give the drill a try and see what you think.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Peter Kostis on Jonas Blixt's Golf Swing (Video)

This is a clip from CBS coverage of the 2014 Greenbriar Classic but anytime Peter Kostis compares your swing to Sam Snead's, it's worth a look. Jonas Blixt has been playing well down in Australia so this is as good a time as any.

I'd like to add a couple of observations to what Kostis says.
  • Snead's swing looks more flexible than Blixt's in part because of his equipment. Snead began his career with hickory shafts, which means he learned to create clubhead speed through rhythm rather than power. He focused more on motion than leverage, which is why his swing had a greater range of motion than Blixt's.
  • Facts are, Snead was far more flexible than most modern players, even into his later years. Snead himself said he used yoga stretches as part of his training, and the stories about him are legendary. I've heard more than one of his contemporaries say he could kick the top of a doorjamb from a standing position underneath. (Just for the record, Snead was the first player to use weight training, not Gary Player. The difference is that Snead kept it quiet; he liked to keep his training methods to himself.)
Snead used his flexibility to his advantage. In his teaching (he was originally the Greenbriar's teaching pro, you know) he stressed the need to remain relaxed during your golf swing. That also contributes to the extreme "lag" at the top of his backswing; being so flexible, he could start his downswing while the club was still going back. And by staying so relaxed, he didn't put the stress on his back that so many modern players do.

But there certainly are a number of similarities between Blixt and Snead. While Snead's hips turn more in his backswing and open more in his finish, the movement is rotary not lateral. This is more clearly seen in face-on videos, of which there are many on YouTube. Both men are rotating rather than sliding during their swings, which allows them to return the clubface to the ball more consistently. They don't move back and forth over the ball, so the ball position doesn't change between backswing and downswing.

Blixt is struggling a bit this week at the Australian PGA, perhaps because of all the rain they've had down there. (He was -3 at one point but fell back to even on the back nine while I was watching.) But his swing is fundamentally solid and it surprises me how streaky he is. I suspect he tends to think too much about his mechanics so he's never as relaxed as Snead was. When you have as good a swing as Blixt does, sometimes the best thing you can do is just trust it... and focus on where you want the ball to go.

As he proved with his runner-up finish last week, he's more than capable of getting the job done.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The 2nd Australian Major... TONIGHT

True, Tiger tees it up on Thursday. But the Australian PGA Championship begins TONIGHT!

Well, it's tonight in the US.

Defending champion Harold Varner III

The course is the RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, a very nice course. The defending champion is Harold Varner III, a North Carolina boy (like me) who made this event his first big professional title last year.

This event was part of the Australian Triple Crown -- the Australian Open, the Australian Masters and the Australian PGA Championship. However, the Australian Masters wasn't played in 2016 and the official website still says IMG "will unveil its plans for the event in the coming months." Obviously IMG hasn't announced anything yet, so once again there will only be two Australian majors. The PGA will be the final big event of 2017.

But what an event it should be! Sergio will be back for the first time since 2010. He'll be joined by Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, and Matt Jones. Wade Ormsby, who picked up his first ET win last weekend, and Australian Open runner-up Jonas Blixt are also in the field.

Once again, we fans in the US get prime time golf. GC's live coverage begins tonight at 8:30pm ET, so you don't have to worry about missing any of Tiger's play.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How High Can Tiger Move in the OWGR This Week?

I just thought this was a fun bit of trivia. According to an article at Golf Digest, Tiger could make a big jump from 1199 if he just finishes the Hero this week. Check out this chart from Nosferatu (@VC606):

Potential Tiger jumps in the OWGR

The article also has a graph showing his approximate OWGR rank for each possible finish position (18 plus no finish) at the event.

Again, I just thought this was a fun bit of trivia. No matter what people say, I think everybody is curious how Tiger will do this week. If nothing else, this makes for great water cooler talk.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Emirates Australian Open

Winner: Cameron Davis

Around the wider world of golf: Wade Ormsby got his first ET win at the UBS Hong Kong Open; Seungsu Han won the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour; and the KLPGA team beat the LPGA team 13-11 in the ING Life Champions Trophy/Inbee Park Invitational.

Cameron Davis with Australian Open trophy

Attention US golf fans: You may not know who Cameron Davis is yet, but you will. He just recently got his 2018 Tour card.

In the meantime, all he did was make his first professional win a big one. Not only did he win the Stonehaven Cup at one of the oldest majors in the world, he also won a spot in the Open Championship. It'll be his first-ever trip to a major. Pretty heady stuff for a player ranked 1494! (I'm pretty sure he'll be a bit higher when the new rankings come out today.)

After posting 63 in his first round Down Under, he slowed down a bit with rounds of 72-74 (par was 71). Jason Day looked to be the likely winner when the final round started, with past champion Matt Jones and past PGA Tour champ Jonas Blixt hot in pursuit.

But it was Davis, six shots off the lead after the third round, who blew everybody off the course. His final round 64 gave him the clubhouse lead by a shot, and he headed to the practice range. As it turned out, he didn't need to. And he said the results left him a bit numb.

I'm sure he'll get used to the feeling soon enough, just like he'll get used to the attention he'll garner on next year's Tour. And just wait until his new golf mates see his shiny new Limerick Summary!
Cam’s middle two rounds left him stressed
After starting out strong. Who’d have guessed
He’d beat Jones, Blixt and Day
As the field fell away?
Clearly Cam’s final round was the best!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Brad Faxon's Round with Tiger... and DJ and Trump, of Course

Brad Faxon wrote an article for Golfweek about his round with Tiger, DJ and the Prez. The article was published late Saturday, so I want to make sure you see it.

Tiger with iron

Faxon's comments on Tiger are interesting. Not so much because he echoes what everybody else is saying -- that Tiger is hitting it long (How long? Fax says Tiger was hitting it out there with DJ. I'll have to see that for myself) -- but just his overall impressions of Tiger's demeanor.

Here are the main comments that stood out to me:
Tiger looked great to me. He was happy and, more than anything, he’s finally pain-free. The issues he had with the back the last couple of comebacks seem to be gone. He looked effortless, he looked free, he had some power... I think more than anything, he looked at ease. He was not concerned about swinging hard and going at it with driver.
Those last couple of sentences are the ones I'm most happy to see. If Tiger has accepted his need to care for his back and not try to outdrive everybody, then he has a real chance to get back in the game.

Faxon notes that we still need to temper our expectations, that casual rounds like this aren't the same as competitive rounds. I agree. Still, this sounds like good news for us golf fans. And if Tiger has truly learned to accept his limitations, it could be REALLY good news.

I am now officially excited to see how he plays at the Hero this week.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

How Might Newer Equipment Help Tiger... and You?

Here's a Golf Digest article that might help you improve your driving -- and might help Tiger as well!

It's no secret that Tiger never really considered updating his equipment until after his back injuries. So this article looks at some of Tiger's driving stats and what kind of equipment changes might help him as he gets his game (and body) back in shape.

Tiger hitting a driver

The article is pretty technical without being difficult to understand, covering what sorts of equipment changes are available to Tiger -- and to the average golfer as well. What's really cool is how small changes in equipment can make huge differences in distance, even when you don't gain any clubhead speed!

Yeah, this is info that I think you'll all find very useful. And if Tiger is making any of these changes, he may surprise everybody when he starts playing again.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Shanshan Feng's Change of Direction (Video)

This Morning Drive video comes from just before the CME Group Tour Championship. Travis Fulton talks about how Shanshan hits the ball so accurately.

Many of you are trying to get that "reroute" move he mentions, but you're having trouble. Let's see if I can't help you out.

First, let's get one thing straight. Travis says Shanshan doesn't hit the ball very far. Shanshan is 5'7" tall and drives the ball 250 yards on average. Admit it -- most of you, even you men out there, would kill to consistently drive the ball 250 yards AND hit the fairway 81% of the time. (Yes, that's from her LPGA stats page.) I'm REALLY getting tired of TV teachers acting like you have to hit the ball 300 yards or you're "short." And given that she beat the "long ballers" THREE TIMES in 2017, length might be a bit overrated.

Alright, rant over. Let's get to that downswing move...

If you check out the video around the 1:09 mark, you'll see Travis has stopped her swing where her lead arm is parallel to the ground. He points out that the club is moving more vertically for her than for most players... but he doesn't tell you why.

I want you to look at her elbows. See how you can draw a straight line along her lead arm and it will cross her trailing elbow as well? That's because she's doing something many great players (like Annika) do -- during her backswing she's trying to push the handle of the club as far from her trailing shoulder as she can for as long as she can. As a result, she's keeping both arms relatively straight for a long time.

Now you don't want to get tense while doing this. As you can see, her trailing elbow is still bent a bit at that 1:09 position. Your trailing elbow is going to bend some as you turn. But you don't want it to be a BIG bend. Rather, you just want it to flex a bit as you swing up. That's the reason her club swings on a more upright path -- with both elbows fairly straight, her wrists hinge upward in a more upright plane. It just happens that way.

Then Travis stops it again at around 1:25 in the video, just after she starts down. He's talking about how she "shallows out the club." But take a good look at that freeze frame. Surprise! Her trailing elbow is now a bit lower than her lead arm! That's why the club is now on a shallower plane. When her trailing elbow bends, her trailing hand pulls the club a bit sideways and it rotates her lead arm at the shoulder joint.

Just like the "push away" move on the backswing, you don't need to exaggerate this move. If you just relax your trailing elbow a bit as you start down, you'll create that slight shallowing move naturally. In addition, it will increase your wrist cock a little at the top so you don't straighten your wrists out too soon in your downswing.

This is something you'll have to practice, simply because your tendency will be to bend your trailing elbow too much. It doesn't take all that much movement at your elbow to get a big movement at the clubhead. Just start off by swinging a bit more slowly to get the feel for that slight relaxation at the top that will shallow out the club shaft, then gradually speed up to your normal speed.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know many of you reading this don't celebrate this holiday, although many outside America do celebrate a Thanksgiving Day of some sort. But all of us should make time to give thanks, so I wish you all a very blessed day.

Thanksgiving greeting

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

You Thought Golf Was Over? O-o-o-o-oh No!

It's true that the LPGA and PGA Tours are finished for the year -- other than special events, that is -- but the ET is beginning their new season and it's Major Season Down Under! Let me get you up-to-speed on today's (Wednesday) events.

Jason Day and Jordan Spieth

At 7:30pm ET tonight GC starts with their Pre Game show. There should be some early coverage from Australia as they lead into...

The Emirates Australian Open at 8pm ET. Jason Day and Jordan Spieth are headlining the event and Jordan is the guy to beat, having gone 1st, 2nd, 1st over the last three years. You've no doubt heard that Cameron McCormick, Jordan's coach and an Aussie to boot, will be on Jordan's bag this week while Michael Greller is at home "caddying" for his wife and new baby.

In addition, this is Jason's first time teeing up Down Under in four years. I'm hoping for a battle between him and Jordan by the end of the week.

This is one of the few times we Americans get to see some of the Aussie players like Craig Perry and James Nitties (personal faves of mine). Of course, some of the Aussies who regularly play the PGA Tour like Geoff Ogilvy and Rod Pampling will tee it up as well. And I love getting to see the event during prime time rather than in the middle of our night!

Which brings me to the UBS Hong Kong Open at 1am ET. Technically that's Thursday morning here in the US, but it's still the middle of the night and there's only a couple of hours of coverage. (Then the Aussie Open coverage repeats.)

But this event has a strong line-up. Sergio is playing in Hong Kong for his first time ever! And Justin Rose, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and Chase Koepka (Brooks's brother) are just a few of the names we ET fans will recognize. (Okay, PGA Tour fans should recognize them too, but you know what I mean.)

So the 2017 golf season is over... and we still get 7.5 hours of live golf in prime time! Is this a great week or what?