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Monday, December 31, 2018

Rory on What Makes His Game Work (Video)

For my final post of 2018 I thought I'd post this Golf Monthly video where Rory talks about how he approaches his game. It's a bit over seven minutes long and -- most importantly -- it's only five months old, so it's a very up-to-date interview.

In this video he talks about:
  • the fundamentals of his game
  • the key that improved his distance
  • why your practice should include both technical and competitive elements
  • why your finish position matters
  • the importance of the mental game
  • developing a strategy
This video will give you some idea where Rory is right now in his practice and preparation to improve... and it might give you some ideas that help you improve in 2019.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Nilsson & Marriott on the Two Practice Essentials

Here are some thoughts from Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, founders of VISION54, from their book Play Your Best Golf Now. This post is based on the chapter called The Two Practice Essentials. Obviously I'm just pulling some quotes from that chapter; there's way too much good stuff there for me to quote it all. But I'll try to tie it all together so you get some useful ideas.
The Two Essential Practice Skills will maximize your return on practice time... Hitting golf balls until your hands bleed is only beneficial if you are trying to get a Band-Aid endorsement deal.
Effective practice isn't about the length of your practice time. It's about the effectiveness of it.
The key concept that we latched onto is the absolute necessity of tearing down the wall between practice and play. They are both golf. Immerse yourself in the totality of the game. The main thing you are trying to do is play better golf on the golf course -- not hit the ball great on the practice range.
Don't lose sight of your goal. You want lower scores on the course, not a pretty swing on the range.
So the first Practice Essential is about making your practice as much like real golf as you can. We call it Simulated Golf.
To make your practice time effective, you need to practice the kinds of things that you'll experience on the course. Yeah, I know you've heard that plenty of times already, but that doesn't mean you're doing it so I'm reminding you. Again.
The second Practice Essential is to know how to integrate different skills. The three keys to integration are engagement, repetition and accurate feedback.
Once you decide to make your practice more "gamelike," there are methods you can use to do that. Some that Pia and Lynn give are:
  • Change clubs for every shot.
  • Change targets for each shot.
  • Do your pre-shot routine before each shot.
  • Imagine you have a one-shot lead and have to hit the green for a two-putt.
  • Shape shots around imaginary objects.
  • Create a slow-play situation so you have to adapt your routine. (You can make yourself wait a certain amount of time between shots, for example.)
  • Play half-shots.
  • Play from bad lies.
You get the idea. You're trying to duplicate things you have to do during a real game, with each shot being different, and set goals for each shot so you can determine whether you have actually been successful or not. And finally:
If you hit shots on the range while talking to others without your mind engaged, you are not practicing golf, you are practicing being unfocused.
This doesn't mean you can't talk to others while you practice. This means you shouldn't talk to others during individual shots. You want to be thinking about your shot while you're playing it. You can talk to others BETWEEN shots.

That's enough to get you started. It's better to take small steps when you're changing your practice routine. You'll make more progress that way because the changes won't be so overwhelming.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mike Malaska on "Snapping" the Clubhead (Video)

This is proof that there's no one way to hit the ball. Mike Malaska, who is a very respected instructor -- and whose instruction has appeared in this blog before -- challenges the whole idea that your hands should be ahead of the ball at impact off a tee.

The reason this video fascinates me is because Malaska is the first instructor I've heard compare impact with a driver to snapping a towel and then actually translate the snapping motion accurately to a swing!

There are a number of instructors who have observed that some pros reverse their hip turn slightly at impact. Rory McIlroy is a player who does so; that's part of where his distance comes from. That hip move also creates the snapping effect that Malaska is talking about, but Malaska's technique is a bit easier for the average player to duplicate.

Malaska explains the technique simply enough in this video. What I want you to understand is that he isn't rewriting any swing mechanics. The instructors who teach "hands ahead at impact with a driver" are focusing on leg action to create more rotation and clubhead speed, while instructors like Malaska are focusing on arm and hand motion to create clubhead speed.

In reality, all players use both techniques to create a swing. It's just that some players use more leg action while others use more arm and hand motion. Either one will work, but one will probably fit your body type better than the other. There is no right or wrong answer here -- just an appropriate answer. It all depends on what comes naturally to you.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Improving Your Shoulder Turn (Video)

LPGA instructor Cindy Miller made this video several years back to show how much of your swing is about your arm and hand motion, not your legs. But this is a great video to demonstrate how to improve your shoulder coil.

Watching this video could convince you that you don't really need your legs to create clubhead speed, that you should restrict your hips and use your hands and arms more instead. But you'd be wrong. Working with this "hitting from your knees" drill can really help you improve your shoulder coil...

Provided you do it correctly.

I want you to combine this knee drill with the L-to-L drill that I so often recommend. The L-to-L drill works best when your arms are relaxed and you keep your elbows closer to your sides. (Remember, the L-to-L drill is only a half-swing.) As you stretch the half-swing to a fuller one, your elbows do move farther away from your sides BUT they don't splay out from your body. Rather, they feel as if you are extending your arms straight away from you, pushing the club away from you, which helps you keep your hands and arms -- and therefore your club -- more "in front of" your body throughout the swing. The toe of the club points upward with less twisting of your forearms while also creating a more natural opening and closing motion of the clubface through impact.

The goal here is to make the L-to-L move while on your knees, which will help you stay more relaxed, which will in turn cause you to get a bigger shoulder coil without a lot of stress on your back. And when you take this more relaxed motion to a standing position, your improved shoulder coil should naturally pull your hips around into a smoother, less stressful full swing.

What we're after is the more natural movement that we typically get when we swing and throw things in other sports. More natural should mean more relaxed, which is important since tighter usually means less accurate and less powerful. Add into that the likelihood that a more natural swing will also be more repeatable, and you've got a number of great reasons to try this combo drill.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Jon Paupore on the Recoil Bunker Shot (Video)

PGA instructor Jon Paupore has a different way of playing buried bunker shots... a VERY different way!

Basically, Jon sets up normally for a buried bunker shot -- with the ball in the middle of his stance and he's making a steep downward blow. However, instead of using a closed clubface to dig the ball out, which gives him a low rolling shot, he's opening the clubface and recoiling at impact to try and get the ball to come out higher with a little backspin.

To say this is an unusual way to play this shot is an understatement. By recoiling we mean that the club pretty much stops its forward motion just after it goes under the ball, then he tries to pull the club back. You might think of it as trying to stop the club after you straighten your arms at impact, so the butt of the shaft is pointing at your belly button. Trying to reverse the direction of your swing helps you do that.

I don't know how well this works -- this is the first time I've seen it so I've never tried it -- but it comes from the John McLean Golf Schools so it should be a pretty sound technique. And given the difficulty of buried bunker shots, it's worth giving it a try. It might not work for everyone, but you might be one who finds it's a good addition to your sand shot arsenal!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Eddie Pepperell's Favorite Iron Drill (Video)

In this Golfing World video from January, Eddie Pepperell shares his favorite drill for improving his iron play and explains why he finds it so useful.

Eddie says this drill helps him do a number of things automatically, and he describes it this way:
  • He addresses the ball with the clubhead outside the ball -- that is, farther from his body than the ball is.
  • He presets his wrists so his trailing elbow is in his desired position to start the backswing and his hands lead the clubhead at impact.
  • When his trailing elbow swings back, it keeps his arms and hands in front of his chest (that's what he means when he says they're below his chest).
  • He re-routes the club (drops his hands) on the way down so his hands swing closer to his body, creating more of an in-to-out swing.
  • From there he keeps the clubface slightly open so he can hit a fade.
There's no reason you couldn't use a similar drill to create a draw. To do it, you would want your hands and arms to move a bit more outward on your downswing, flattening your swing a little so it would be easier to close the clubface slightly at impact and create the draw. The way Eddie swings now -- keeping his hands and arms closer to his body on the downswing -- allows him to make a slightly more upright swing while still coming at the ball from the inside, so he doesn't drive his hips and legs too much.

To make that a bit clearer, Eddie's downswing -- with his hands closer to his body -- keeps him from turning his hips so much and helps him to hit that fade. To get the club moving more outward, you would want you use your hips a bit more to get a bigger outward move with your hands and arms. The extra hip action is what flattens your swing.

If you want to try both of them, you'll probably find that one method is easier for you than the other one is. The easier one will probably match your natural shot shape more accurately.

This drill certainly isn't something you need to do. But it's a drill that Eddie finds particularly useful and, since he played so much better in 2018, I thought some of you might want to know what he works on.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

I grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and, when I found this picture, I knew I wanted to post it. I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate), no matter where you live in the world!

Charlie Brown and Snoopy

The cartoon came from this page at

Monday, December 24, 2018

Bobby Jones on Developing a Style

There will be no Limerick Summary this week or next because... well, everybody's on holiday, that's why. So let's finish out 2018 with some general thoughts on the game.

Today I've gone back to Bobby Jones and the collection of newpaper columns called Bobby Jones on Golf. I've got an excerpt from a clumn he called Developing a Style.
When we speak of a sound swing or a good form, we mean nothing more than that the possessor of either has simplified his swing to the point where errors are less likely to creep in, and that he is able consistently to bring his club against the ball in the correct hitting position. We talk, think, and write so much about the details of the stroke that we sometimes lose sight of the one thing that is all-important -- hitting the ball. It is conceivable that a person could perform all sorts of contortions and yet bring the club into correct relation to the ball at impact, in which case a good shot must result. The only reason for discussing method and form at all is to find a way to make it easier for the player to achieve this correct relationship. In a crude way, he might do it only occasionally; in a finished, sound, controlled way, he will be able to do it consistently and with assurance.

Ultraslow motion pictures made by the Professional Golfers Association show one point of comparison of the methods of Harry Vardon and myself that demonstrates how one motion or position depends upon another, and how after all, it is only the contact between club and ball that matters. The pictures show that at the instant of impact, Vardon's hands are perceptibly behind the ball, and that he has whipped the club head forward to make contact, whereas at the corresponding instant in my swing, the hands are slightly in front of the ball and the club head is being pulled through. Years of play and experience had told each of us that we must handle the club in this way in order to bring the clubface into the correct position; and while we may be thinking of some other part of the stroke, subconsciously, through our sense of touch, we bring the club head around in the way we have learned produces a good shot. The reason for this difference is found in the slightly different positions of our hands on the club, my left hand being slightly more on top of the shaft than Vardon’s. If either should meet the ball in the same way as the other, a bad shot must inevitably result.

This is the sense every golfer must develop. The beginner ought to keep always before him the determination to put the club against the ball in the correct position. It is not easy when form is lacking, but it is the surest way to cause form to be more easily acquired. The expert player corrects subconsciously; some instantaneous telegraphic system tells him, just as he begins to hit, that something is wrong; and at the last instant a muscle that may not always function perfectly will do so in a sufficient number of cases for it to be well worth its keep.
While Jones championed the importance of sound technique, he was also very vocal about learning how YOU swing the club and sticking with it. He was aware that his own method was somewhat unique, as he points out in this excerpt when he compares himself to an older contemporary of his, the great Harry Vardon.

Ultimately, what matters is impact -- what happens when the clubface contacts the ball. And in this piece Jones emphasizes the necessity of learning how you can best make proper contact with the ball. Jones says that his hands lead the clubhead into the impact zone while Vardon's hands are actually behind the clubhead at that point... but that regardless of which method you think is correct, both methods are perfectly serviceable. The important thing is that the ball does what you intend it to do -- or, as Jones puts it in his column, "If either should meet the ball in the same way as the other, a bad shot must inevitably result."

According to Jones, "When we speak of a sound swing or a good form, we mean nothing more than that the possessor of either has simplified his swing to the point where errors are less likely to creep in, and that he is able consistently to bring his club against the ball in the correct hitting position." He says that we concern ourselves with method and form for only one reason: to make it easier to get into that correct hitting position. Unlike so many golfers -- whether they be struggling weekend golfers or perfectionist pros -- he believes the ultimate measure of a good swing is that it gives you the desired results and does so consistently. No other measure really has any meaning.

Many of you will enter 2019 with the goal of creating the perfect swing. I suggest that you define "perfection" in terms of results and not just mechanics or looks. If you want to lower your scores, that's the mindset you need.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Paul Lawrie's Three Simple Golf Tips (Video)

Does your game need a quick overhaul? Try Paul Lawrie's Top3 simple golf tips for the weekend player.

These are so clear that they really don't need any explanation. So here they are:
  • Make a slow takeaway, a slow change of direction, and then swing fast at the ball. That will help your rhythm, balance and everything else.
  • When you chip, set up with your sternum (the bone in the middle of your chest) over the ball. That's a good position to get solid contact on the ball.
  • Take more club on your approach shots -- not because you're allowing for a mis-hit, but because most players overestimate how far they hit the ball.
Those three tips really do cover a large part of the game. And they don't require a lot of practice; you can incorporate them into your game very quickly. If you're having trouble, they're worth a try.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Devin Nolan on Stance Width (Video)

I don't remember doing a post about stance width before. In this older GolfTipsMag vid, long hitter Devin Nolan tells you how wide is wide enough.

When you think about it, Devin makes a lot of sense. A stance too wide keeps you from making a full turn, while a stance too narrow creates balance problems. And the stock advice to set your heels shoulder width apart locks your lower body in place, a remnant from those days when everybody thought you got more distance by restricting your lower body.

The inside of your heels should be about the width of your hips, not your shoulders. That may not sound like much but, depending on how wide your shoulders are, that makes a difference of eight to twelve inches. That's a lot!

Stop the video around the :45 second mark and study the vertical lines that have been added to the video. This will help you as much as anything to get the correct width clear in your mind.

I would recommend practicing your stance in front of a mirror. That way, you can recreate the setup you see in the video and then look down at your feet, so you can see how the same setup looks from your normal point of view. That should keep you from setting your feet too wide when you're out on the course.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Tom Stickney's Sand Drill (Video)

You probably know this drill but watch this because this explanation is better than most. Instructor Tom Stickney explains proper bunker practice in this GolfTipsMag video.

Everybody talks about drawing a line in the sand and hitting the line... but nobody talks about the depth of the sand you take. Hitting good sand shots is about more than just hitting the sand in the same spot.

You need to take the same depth of sand each time or you'll still hit your shots inconsistently. Sometimes they'll be fat and sometimes thin.

When you practice your sand play, strive to take out a "strip" of sand that's the same length and the same depth each time. The better you get at that, the better your shots from the sand will be.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Jim Furyk on the Bump and Run (Video)

A lot of lessons from the odder players on Tour this week! In this ten-year old video, Jim Furyk teaches the bump and run shot... but I'm after one very general tip in particular.

You can learn a lot about playing bump and run shots from this video. Jim explains all kinds of technique, and there's lots of diagrams and instructions added to the footage.

But I'm after a tip that can help you on almost any shot you play... and you can find it around the one minute mark.

Simply put, Jim suggests that you position the clubface behind the ball, aimed where you want it to be aimed, BEFORE you take your grip. This is often the exact opposite of what we actually do before playing a shot, and yet the logic of this technique is inarguable.

By taking your grip after you position the club, you avoid the likelihood of changing the face angle when you address the ball. After all, if you grip the club while holding it at waist height in front of your belt buckle and then you set up with your hands lower than that, with your hands farther forward in your stance, you'll probably twist your hands and forearms a bit when you set the club behind the ball.

While this tip will help your chips and pitches, it will probably help your full shots as well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Harold Varner III on Flighting Wedges (Video)

Martin Hall makes a guest appearance in this Srixon video on how to control the flight of your wedge shots for increased control.

While Martin and Harold discuss the ideas of covering the ball and swinging left (that would be swinging right for you lefties), I think the most important thing they cover is how to avoid twisting your forearms. Martin points out an easy way to make sure you hit the ball squarely with your wedges.

The key is the name embossed on the wedge's cushioned grip. Halfway into your finish -- when the shaft is parallel to the ground and the butt end of the club is pointed straight back at your body -- the name on the grip should be pointing straight up to the sky.

Martin also has Harold demonstrate the incorrect position. In this case, the butt of the club points behind you and the name on the grip points to your right (your left for you lefties).

Both of these positions are easy to see and easy to recognize, which makes it easy to tell when you flight the ball correctly as well as when you don't. And best of all -- as you know if you read my blog regularly -- this is something you can check while you're actually out on the course, to get immediate feedback if you're doing it wrong, and it allows you to easily identify the correct position when you try to correct the error. I like immediate feedback!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Bryson DeChambeau's Chipping Technique (Video)

For the curious among you, Bryson's technique is very reminiscent of Lee Trevino's. This video starts at regular speed and progressively slows the swing down.

Here are the key points to note:
  • His stance is slightly open, to allow a fuller turn through the ball at impact. This helps both his accuracy and his consistency, since he can turn freely and easily. You can tell his stance is open because his lead foot points more toward the target than his trailing foot.
  • The ball is well back in Bryson's stance, just inside his trailing foot. This encourages a downward strike -- very good out of rough, but it does mean he's using the leading edge more than the bounce. It's a little less forgiving if you mis-hit the ball.
  • While his weight is more on his lead side, he does allow his lead knee to bend and his hips to move slightly as he makes his backswing. He's steady over the ball but his lower body is not rigid.
  • There is no wrist break during the takeaway. This is something that Lee Trevino has always taught, because removing the wrist action at the ball makes the chip swing more predictable.
  • A very important thing that you may not be able to see until nearly halfway through the video: Bryson's wrists DO flex at the change of direction. That's because his wrists, while firm at takeaway and impact, are not tight; they are relaxed enough to flex at the midpoint of the swing. This helps him be more consistent with his distances. Yes, it's a feel thing.
That's a lot of stuff from one short video, I know. And it's not something that will work for everyone -- it may seem too mechanical to some players. Still, it's a very simple method that's easy to repeat and doesn't put a lot of stress on your body. If you've had difficulties developing a consistent chipping motion, you could do a lot worse than trying this one!

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Alfred Dunhill Championship

Winner: David Lipsky

Around the wider world of golf: Davis Love III and Dru Love set two tournament records to win the PNC Father-Son Challenge on the Champions Tour; and Poom Saksansin won the BNI Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour.

David Lipsky with Leopard Trophy

The PNC Father-Son Challenge had the potential to be the big story this week, what with John and JT Daly's 59 and Jack and GT Nicklaus's 61 on Saturday, but the Loves were the expected winners -- therefore, not the big story.

But David Lipsky became the first American to win in Africa since Jim Furyk in 2006. and it was only Lipsky's second win on the ET. That made it the big story to me.

There are a number of Americans playing the tours outside America. David Lipsky is one of the ones I try to keep up with. He's remarkably consistent most of the time, but 2018 hasn't been a good year for him. He finished outside the Top100 in the Race to Dubai, meaning he'd have to fight for a card in 2019.

No longer. His first trip to the Leopard Creek Golf Club resulted in a win to end his season... and his playing woes. Despite his problems on the par-3 16th (he was +4 on that one hole in the last two rounds) he was pretty much flawless the rest of the time, winning by two over David Drysdale and giving himself a whole new set of good memories for next year.

And his very first Limerick Summary. Oh yes, it's going to be a good Christmas at the Lipsky household.
One African trip made his year.
With four rounds in the South Hemisphere
David Lipsky’s fine play
Wiped bad mem’ries away
And his frustrations all disappeared.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Jeff Ritter on "Ten-Foot Tap-Ins" (Video)

Yes, you read that right. This GolfTipsMag video by Jeff Ritter gives you a drill that proves 10-footers are just tap-ins.

Look, we all know that a lot of putting is just mindset. How you think about your putting has a lot to do with how well you actually putt -- just as much as your mechanics do, maybe more. Jeff's drill capitalizes on this.

Simply enough, Jeff suggests that you try making some tap-in putts. Then try to make exactly the same stroke BUT purposely miss the hole to see how far past the ball rolls. He says it will probably be around ten feet! And it that's the case...

Then a ten-foot putt is just a tap-in.

What more do I need to say? This is just something you need to try in order to see if it works for you. After all, wouldn't YOU love to make a few 10-footers and when your friends ask how you did it, you reply, "What's the big deal? It's just a tap-in!"

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Did Brooks Get Snubbed?

It's been THE subject in the golf world. ESPN put out their list of the Top20 Most Dominant Athletes of 2018 and, while Ariya Jutanugarn showed up at #4, Brooks Koepka was noticeably absent.

Brooks Koepka

He even sent out a tweet to show that he noticed it. (It's a little long, so click the link if you missed it.)  For someone who's certainly seemed to be, shall we say, underrated this year, does Brooks have a case?

I'm not so sure. While Brooks had a really good year -- yeah, those two majors DO count for something -- it depends on how you define dominance. Just for fun, I decided to compare the three top players on their respective tours this year:
  • LPGA: Ariya Jutanugarn
  • ET: Francesco Molinari
  • PGA TOUR: Brooks Koepka
Since all three won the Player of the Year Award on their respective tours, let's take a look and see how they compared overall. Just to be clear:
  • POY = Player of the Year
  • Yearlong Race = CME Race to the Globe (LPGA), Race to Dubai (ET), FedExCup (PGA)
  • Money Title = the Regular Season money title, which all the tours also record
  • Scoring Title = Vare Trophy (LPGA), no ET trophy given, Vardon Trophy (PGA)
  • Plus total majors and total wins for 2018 season
So let's see how each of the three did. It's pretty revealing, actually.

Award Jutanugarn Molinari Koepka
Yearlong Race 1 1 9
Money Title 1 1 5
Scoring 1 19 9
Majors 1 1 2
Wins 3 3 3

Of course, each tour offers specific titles and awards which don't have an equivalent on the other tours. But these are the main titles and awards that players are after.

If you define dominance purely in terms of majors won -- and I know many fans do -- then Brooks was clearly dominant. That's especially true since he didn't even play the Masters because of his injury. That means he won two of the three majors he played. That's nothing to look down on!

But if we define domination as "beat everybody at everything," Ariya is clearly in a class by herself. To quote Golf Digest:
She also won every year-end LPGA award she was eligible for: the Annika Rolex Major award, the Leader's Top 10 award (for finishing in the top 10 17 times), the CME Race to the Globe and its $1 million bonus, the Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average), and the money leader title. Dominant, indeed.
You got that, didn't you? EVERY year-end LPGA award Ariya was eligible for, she won. That's dominance on a grand scale. That kind of "blanket dominance" is what the ESPN list was supposed to focus on, as they didn't limit themselves to one sport.

Again, I don't think we should minimize how impressive -- how dominant -- Brooks is when he's playing in a major. But even he has said he needs to win more regular events. Out of 17 events, Brooks had 6 Top10s, roughly 35%. He was tied for 15th in the PGA Tour stats.

Out of 28 events, Ariya had 17 Top10s, almost 61%. That's close to double Brook's average. He has never had more than 8 Top10s in a year, despite a typical schedule of 23-24 tournaments a year. He'd have to Top10 twice as often -- 14 on a full schedule -- to match Ariya's percentage.

All I'm saying is that I don't believe Brooks was snubbed. At least, not if you value dominance in anything other than majors.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Butch Harmon on Chipping with a Hybrid

This Golf Digest article by Butch Harmon tells you how to hit a chip with a hybrid. There's a video included in the article, but it was a bit tricky to embed in this post. You can check it out at the link above.

Butch Harmon hitting a chip with a hybrid

Butch's description reads like one of my lists, so I'll just include his version from the article but break it into an actual list.
  • I use my putting grip because the motion is a lot like a putting stroke.
  • Set up with the ball off the instep of your back foot to make sure you catch the ball first.
  • Stand close to the ball, and choke down on the grip a few inches to shorten the club.
  • The shaft should be pretty upright at address. This will help you make a straight-back, straight-through stroke. If you stand farther from the ball, the stroke will be more rounded, which makes it tougher to make crisp contact.
  • The stroke is a simple back and through with firm wrists.
That's all pretty simple, isn't it? The reason for chipping with a hybrid rather than a putter is to get a bit of loft on the ball, to get the ball on top of the grass. If you've watched the pros putt from off the green with a putter, you'll understand why: The ball gets hung up in the grass much too easily unless the grass is cut very short and just about perfect.

Here's my personal opinion, for what it's worth: While there are many times that a putter will work well from off the green, I don't think you'll go wrong if you just use a hybrid most of the time -- even on short grass. I see no reason to risk getting hung up in the grass if you don't need to. And the more you use this shot, the more consistent you'll become with it.

In any case, it's a very useful shot to have in your short game arsenal.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Harry Vardon on the Search for the Perfect Putter

I stumbled across this paragraph in Harry Vardon's 1905 book The Complete Golfer. Vardon here talks about carrying two putters, but what he says applies equally well to the modern search for the perfect putter. Vardon was positively anal about details, about getting things right, so this is an interesting take on "finding the perfect putter."
I have stated that the golfer may carry two putters in his bag; but I mean that he should do so only when he has a definite and distinct purpose for each of them, and I certainly do not advise his going from one kind to the other for the same sort of putt. There is great danger in such a practice. If he is doing very poor putting with one club, he will naturally fly for help to the other one, and the probability is that he will do just as badly with that. Then he returns to the first one, and again finds that his putts do not come off, and by this time he is in a hopeless quandary. If he has only one putter he will generally make some sort of a success of it if he can putt at all, and my private belief is that the putter itself has very little to do with the way in which a golfer putts. It is the man that counts and not the tool. I have tried all kinds of putters in my time, and have generally gone back to the plainest and simplest of all. I have occasionally used the aluminium putter. It has much to recommend it to those who like this style of implement, and Braid always does very well with it. The Travis or Schenectady putter, which was so popular for a short time after the Amateur Championship last year, owing to the American player having done such wonderful things with it, I do not succeed with. When I try to putt with it I cannot keep my eye away from its heel. But the fact is, as I have already indicated, that you can putt with anything if you hit the ball properly. Everything depends on that—hitting the ball properly—and no putter that was ever made will help you to hole out if you do not strike the ball exactly as it ought to be struck, while if you do so strike it, any putter will hole out for you. The philosophy of putting is simple, but is rarely appreciated. The search for the magic putter that will always pop the ball into the hole and leave the player nothing to do will go on for ever.
I'm not going to dissect what he says here; it's really pretty clear, isn't it? But I'll pull out a handful of quotes that sum up his opinion.
My private belief is that the putter itself has very little to do with the way in which a golfer putts. It is the man that counts and not the tool.
That's pretty straightforward.
But the fact is, as I have already indicated, that you can putt with anything if you hit the ball properly.
Given that he just finished saying that he struggles with a particular type of putter, this strikes me as a very interesting statement. It appears that, while he says you can putt with anything if you hit the ball properly, he also admits that your ability to putt can be affected by things other than your ballstriking. That particular putter that gave him problems? He said he couldn't keep his eyes off the heel of the club. So we have to assume that if the club doesn't look good to you, you won't hit the ball well.

Finally, he says:
The search for the magic putter that will always pop the ball into the hole and leave the player nothing to do will go on for ever.
In other words, there is no such thing as the perfect putter, folks. If you want to putt well, find something that looks good to you and then learn how to hit the ball properly. That appears to be the Vardon approach, and he was known as a deadly putter back in the day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Ghost of Frisbees Past (Video)

I've been using this image for years, but GC's Virgil Herring actually made a video of it! So here, take a look...

The Frisbee image is deceptively simple. It creates a lot of important positions in your swing automatically, but many of you will find it difficult because you keep trying to rotate your forearms. (Tsk, tsk -- haven't you been paying attention to me? That's BAD!)

Bear in mind that you probably won't be using your dominant hand to "throw the Frisbee" in this drill. Right-handed golfers should hold the Frisbee in their left hand, left-handers in their right. But if you want a quick way to learn how to unleash on the ball while keeping the clubface square, this is a drill you should be working with.

One note: In this drill, the Frisbee won't be parallel to the ground at impact. It should be tilted toward the ground, on an angle that matches your lead forearm, to match your swing plane. If you try to get the Frisbee in the "flat" position you use when you actually throw one, you'll be bending your forearm upward at impact -- and that's bad form in a golf swing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Reminder About the Valentino Dixon Story on GC

This link is to a Golf Digest story about the 27 Years: The Exoneration of Valentino Dixon show that will air on GC tonight.

Valentino Dixon

I won't reprint here all the details that you can simply read over at Golf Digest's site. And I'm sure that many of you have seen the previews being aired on GC.

But I think this sounds like a pretty cool program. It shows how simple things like art and golf can help someone deal with unspeakable injustice, among other things. And perhaps it reminds us just how important hope is -- something that we all need to be reminded of, especially at this time of year and when our world faces so many problems.

27 Years: The Exoneration of Valentino Dixon airs tonight at 8pm ET on GC.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 South African Open

Winner: Louis Oosthuizen

Around the wider world of golf: The team of Patton Kizzire and Brian Harman won the QBE Shootout (aka the Shark Shootout); and Adrián Ploch won the III Malinalco Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Louis Oosthuizen kisses South African Open trophy

It was a toss-up as to which event I would cover this week. The golf is a bit thin this time of year, after all, and I want to find the best story. With teams like Kevin Na/Bryson DeChambeau, Harold Varner III/Bubba Watson and Lexi Thompson/Tony Finau in the field, the QBE Shootout had the potential to be the big story.

Alas, it was not to be. The big story was Louis Oosthuizen's breakthrough in Johannesburg. It was big enough that Louis was reduced to tears and virtually unable to do an interview afterward.

Why? Because (1) he broke a nearly three-year win drought by (2) finally winning his own national Open. He hadn't even played the event since 2011. He started the final round with a three-stroke lead, and lost most of that before laying down a six-stroke victory -- which, by the way, tied the record.

Yeah, pretty big stuff.

King Louis has been fighting back problems for a while. You probably know he travels with his own mattress, simply because one bad night in a hotel can ruin a tournament. And yet that sweet swing of his continues to look as if there's nothing wrong. The TV analysts blame his win drought on a balky putter, but I think constant physical problems cause confidence problems that are much harder to beat.

This week, Louis finally beat them. And it's my great pleasure to award him yet another Limerick Summary. He's been away from the winner's circle for too long.
It’s been three years since Louis’s last crown…
But Louis refused to stay down.
Now his best win in years
Brought this home boy to tears
And he stands tall with well-earned renown.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dan Martin on Clubface Control (Video)

Want to bend it like Bubba? PGA instructor Dan Martin has a drill that can teach you the basics.

Don't be fooled -- this is a deceptively simple drill. It forces you to think about impact position rather than swing mechanics.

There are no elaborate adjustments to your address position with this drill, although you might find that changing your ball position can help. Like Bubba, you're thinking about where the clubface is aimed when you hit the ball, regardless of where your body is aimed. It's about mindset -- deciding where the ball will go in the same way that you might hit a tennis shot or hit a baseball. In both of those sports, you tend to set up the same way each time, and you change where the ball goes by changing where you contact the ball relative to your body.

Let me explain that just a bit.
  • If you set up square to a target and hit the ball when it's straight in front of you, in the middle of your stance, you have a good chance of hitting it straight.
  • If you set up square to a target and hit the ball when it's a bit closer to your lead foot, a bit forward in your stance, you have a good chance of pulling it (the starting line for a fade).
  • And if you set up square to a target and hit the ball when it's a bit closer to your trailing foot, a bit back in your stance, you have a good chance of pushing it (the starting line for a draw).
If you change your ball position when you try these shots, you can use less wrist action -- which can be inconsistent -- and use your wrists, forearms and elbows all together as a unit.
  • Both elbows straight = straight shot.
  • Lead elbow bends, trailing elbow stays straight = pull shot.
  • Trailing elbow bends, lead elbow stays straight = push shot.
You might say this drill helps you think less about where your body is going but think more about where the ball is going. It helps you become more target-oriented.

And if you do it enough to learn how to control the direction of your shots, you'll be able to hit more fairways when you need them. That's the kind of knowledge that can lower your scores!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Tommy Armour on Playing Sloping Lies

This is a short section from Armour's book How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time, first published back in 1953. I want to call your attention to something you've probably heard many times before but didn't quite understand.
On a downhill lie through the fairway, the first thing to know is that you'll probably slice the shot, so aim the shot well to the left.
Take a slightly open stance and play the ball a bit farther back from the line off the left heel than you would play a shot from a level stance. Have your weight slightly stronger on the left foot.
As you are going to slice, you'd better take a club one or two numbers stronger than you'd play for the same distance from a level lie.
Play an uphill lie from a closed stance and allow for a slight hook by aiming to the right of the pin. Use the same club you'd use on a level fairway. Have the ball only a little bit back of the line out from your left heel and in address and all the way through have the accent of your weight on your left foot.
When you have a sidehill lie, and the ball is lower than your feet, follow the same technique as outlined on the previous page for a downhill shot. Conversely, on a sidehill lie where the ball is higher than your feet, use the same method of playing the shot that you would use on an uphill lie.
First let's sum up what he says.

On a downhill lie OR a sidehill lie where the ball is lower than your feet:
  • aim for a noticeable slice
  • slightly open stance
  • ball a bit farther back in your stance than normal
  • weight slightly on lead foot
  • use a stronger club than you would for a level lie (for example, for a normal 7-iron shot use a 6- or 5-iron)
On a downhill lie OR a sidehill lie where the ball is higher than your feet:
  • aim for a slight hook
  • slightly closed stance
  • ball about the same position in your stance as normal
  • weight slightly on lead foot
  • use the same club as for a level lie
Now here's what I want to point out. You'll notice that Armour tells you to open your stance slightly and play for a noticeable slice OR close your stance slightly and play for a slight hook. That sounds like you're going to play a slice or a hook, right?

But you aren't. The trick here is that you AREN'T TRYING to play a slice or hook. A normal swing is going to slice or hook off these lies without any help from you. You just need to aim for it.

So why open or close your stance? Won't that add to the slice or hook?

No, it won't. You open or close your stance slightly to make sure you stay steady enough to make a normal turn through the ball -- with a downhill lie you need to open your stance a bit to keep your balance (there's more weight on your lead foot automatically because of gravity), while on an uphill lie you need to close your stance slightly to avoid falling backward (again, because of gravity) and pulling the shot.

So don't try to slice or hook these sloping lie shots. Just make sure you aim for the curves, because they WILL curve without any help from you.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Jeff Ritter Teaches You to Channel Seve (Video)

Seve did it with a 3-iron. Jeff uses a 7-iron to make Seve's pitching technique a bit easier to learn. This is a good start on learning to "create" with any club in your bag!

I've read enough about Seve's technique to know this is how he did it, but it's definitely easier with a 7-iron.
  • Widen your stance.
  • Squat down a bit.
  • Lower your hands.
  • Lay the face open (to use the bounce).
  • Use your hands to "throw" the clubhead.
Jeff explains throwing as making the clubhead move faster than your hands, as opposed to dragging the clubhead with your hands ahead. You'll need to stay relaxed if you want to get the smooth fluid motion necessary for success.

Master this technique and you'll be able to create higher trajectory pitch shots with any iron in your bag, which will make more pin positions accessible to you. Make Seve proud!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Martin Hall's Wedding Ring Slice Stopper (Video)

This is one of Martin's Extra Credit videos about using a wedding ring as part of a drill to stop a slice. This isn't something I'd normally post -- I'll get into why after you see the video -- but I think it might help some of you for a different reason than Martin is showing.

What do I dislike about this drill? I HATE forearm rotation! Flipping your hands at impact is something almost every instructor wants to eliminate, yet forearm rotation is almost always going to create the same difficult-to-control flipping effect.

But this is an indoor drill intended for use without a club. So I want you to learn something different from it.

If you rotate your forearm so that your wedding ring points to the sky at the halfway up point in your finish, your lead elbow will point to the ground at that point. In order to create that position, you will be forced to keep your lead elbow close to your side even before you make impact with the ball! That is a fundamentally sound position that -- if you are a chronic slicer -- you should encourage in your swing.

I want you to use this drill while focusing on the position of your lead elbow. This will help eliminate chicken wings and open clubfaces. And as you get used to the feel of keeping your lead elbow close to your side at impact, you can stop twisting your forearm so much.

But it's that lead elbow position AT IMPACT that you want to learn. Get that down and you'll be surprised how much your ball flight will straighten out!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Kerrod Gray on Syncing Your Backswing (Video)

Australian PGA pro Kerrod Gray has a very simple drill to help you keep your arms and shoulders in sync during your backswing..

Let's make sure you understand what we're talking about here. "Syncing your arms and shoulders" means that your hands and the club don't get too much behind you -- or too high and shallow above you, for that matter -- during your backswing. If your hands get too much behind you, you'll "get stuck" on the downswing. If your hands go too upright, you'll tend to come over-the-top.

We want the middle ground, where we're not reaching too far back or too high up during our backswing.

Kerrod's square drill is amazingly simple but it gives you a clear feel, as well as a clear visual, of what a sync'ed up backswing looks like. You don't twist your arms and you don't get a flying elbow. What you should feel is a certain relaxation in your arms and shoulders, a lack of tenseness that will let you swing freely while still keeping some structure to your mechanics.

Now bear in mind that this drill doesn't automatically set a specific plane for your swing... and that's part of the beauty of it. If you have a flatter swing, this drill won't suddenly make you swing upright; and if you have an upright swing, it won't suddenly make you swing flat. All it does is keep your hands and club in the proper relationship to your shoulders so you can swing freely and accurately on your natural plane.

And best of all, you can use this drill while you're out on the course to refresh your feel if your swing gets a little out of whack. In my opinion, that makes it a very useful drill.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Martin Hall's Second Basketball Drill (Video)

I often mention a leg action basketball drill that Martin Hall taught several years ago. Well, Martin's back with another basketball drill that teaches how to re-route the club during the downswing.

I'll be honest, I think this reroute position gets too much attention -- so much so that players tend to overdo it. But some rerouting happens in almost everybody's downswing, and this is as good a way to learn the proper amount as any.

The biggest advantage of this drill -- which uses a piece of tape looped around the basketball to show you the angle of your reroute -- is that it can help you avoid exaggerating the move too much. The video is self-explanatory, especially the overhead shot, so I'll leave it to you (if you need this) to find the proper balance for your own swing.

Bear in mind that the goal of this drill is to help you flatten your downswing slightly so you don't come over-the-top (that's one error) or come too much from the inside and get stuck (that's the other extreme). It's that middle ground "sweet spot" that you're looking for.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Australian PGA

Winner: Cameron Smith

Around the wider world of golf: Jon Rahm won the Hero World Challenge; Kurt Kitayama won the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open on the ET/Asian Tour/Sunshine Tour; Miguel Tabuena won the Queen's Cup on the Asian Tour; Satoshi Kodaira won the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and Michael Buttacavoli won the Latinoamérica Tour Championship - Shell Championship.

Cameron Smith with Aussie PGA trophy

I know most of you expected the Limerick Summary to focus on Jon Rahm's win at the Hero World Challenge, the unofficial 18-player PGA Tour event that benefits Tiger's Foundation... but you were wrong. The history was happening Down Under.

The Australian World Cup of Golf team, Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman, were doing their best to beat each other at the Australian PGA Championship, one of the three Australian majors known as the Triple Crown. (The Australian Masters and Australian Open are the other two.) Smith was the defending champ, and the last player to defend this title was Robert Allenby (2000 and 2001).

But Leishman was coming off a PGA Tour win just over a month ago at the CIMB Classic and has been in good form most of the year. Smith is still looking for his first PGA Tour win.

Smith started the day with a three-stroke lead over Leish, but the tables turned quickly as Smith went +1 on the front nine while Leish went -4. Then the tables turned on the back nine, with Leish going +1 while Smith went -3 to win by two and pull off the historic back-to-back.

Smith says he plans to use this win to start his climb up the OWGR. He's expected to move inside the Top30 this week. But more importantly, he stole Rahm's thunder with his successful defense... and picked up his second Limerick Summary. That's right, I covered this event last year, so he became the first-ever to grab back-to-back Australian PGA Limerick Summaries. Like I said -- HISTORIC!
Cam’s back-to-back wins are historic—
And that’s not just empty rhetoric!
‘Cause it’s been seventeen
Years since anyone’s seen
Such a feat—and Cam’s simply euphoric!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Lee Trevino's Burning Wedge (Video)

Way back in 2011 I posted this video about how Lee Trevino hit what is now known as the "burning wedge." Basically it's a wedge that flies in low with a lot of spin and stops quickly. Since Saturday was Lee's birthday (he turned 79) I thought I'd post it again... with an extra video to try and make it clearer.

Lee's explanation is pretty clear, but it wouldn't hurt to have a better video of him hitting the shot, would it? So here's Jason Dufner hitting the burning wedge, and it's a very clear face-on view.

The big thing to note here is how far back in his stance Jason has the ball. That's the key to the burning wedge: You've got to hit DOWN on that baby and you're using the front edge of the club, not the bounce.

It's a nice shot to have when you're hitting to a hard green or when you don't have a lot of room to land the ball. Just make sure you practice it before you take it to the course!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Rickie Fowler Putting Tips (Videos)

Today I have two short videos with putting tips from Rickie Fowler. One covers his putting routine, the other a putting drill you may have seen him do.

Super simple routine -- line up the putt, take a couple of practice strokes to get a feel for distance, then stroke it. Note that he picks out where he thinks the ball will enter the cup -- that's the break -- then he works backward to figure out what line to start his putt on. That may feel a bit unusual to some of you, but it works for Rickie.

Please note two things about Rickie's use of the mirror:
  • He only spends about five minutes with it, and that at the end of his practice. This may be important to him, but it's not a big part of his practice.
  • He uses the mirror not to help him line up putts, but merely to make sure he sets up the same every time. As long as he's in the same position every time, he should make consistent contact. If he makes consistent contact, he knows that his address position is always correct -- and if he has problems, that eliminates a lot of potential faults.
The biggest takeaway here -- for me at least -- is that Rickie doesn't overthink his putting. He picks a line, decides how hard to stroke the ball, and then he putts. Spending a long time over a putt doesn't make you putt better; it just creates more opportunities for you to tighten up and make a bad stroke.

That's why Rickie putts as well as he does -- he trusts his stroke because it's simple and he just strokes the ball. It really is that simple, folks. It only becomes difficult when you believe a putt is more important than it really is.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Chris Como on the "Power Arc" (Video)

I ran across this Chris Como clip that reminded me of something I read about Davis Love III many years ago. Here's the video:

I think it was Golf Magazine -- the same folks who did this video -- who did a cover story about Davis back in the late 1980s, where this move at the change of direction was simply called "The Move." Davis credited it with giving him so much distance and, as I recall, he described it as "a slippery little move" that could be tricky to learn.

Como does a good job of explaining it here. In essence, you start your downswing by pushing your hands -- your lead hand, mostly -- away from the target. Since your shoulders have to turn in order to do that, you end up dropping your hands down just a little, and that increases your wrist cock as you start down.

If you decide you want to learn this move, bear in mind that it isn't a big move. Your hands don't move "sideways" very far; in many ways, it just feels as if you're straightening your elbows before you start swinging down.

This really is "a slippery little move" and it will take a fair amount of practice to learn it -- if you decide you want to learn it, that is. If you can learn to focus your attention on slightly pushing your lead hand but not your trailing hand, without tensing up, you might develop a feel for it and be able to pick up some yardage.

But I'll admit I was just fascinated to see Como actually teaching this move, and thought the rest of you might find it interesting as well. The fact that Davis actually used the move -- he toned it down some as he gained more control -- makes it an interesting part of golf history.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Zach Lambeck on Hybrids and Sweet Spots (Video)

This is one of those cool "why didn't they tell me that?" videos. GOLFTEC's Director of Teaching, Zach Lambeck, explains why hybrids don't behave like your other clubs.

That is such a simple thing but... why don't they tell us about this when we buy a hybrid?

Equipment construction detail: The sweet spot of a hybrid is not in the middle of the face, but closer to the hosel. WHICH MEANS that center face contact is actually hitting on the toe of the club!

Clearly you'll need to practice a little to find out exactly how close to the hosel to hit the ball. But isn't it nice to know that those squirrelly shots you've been hitting aren't your fault? You just need to find your hybrid's sweet spot!

Conversely, this also means that, if you have trouble drawing the ball, hitting out of the center of the face should help you get that ball moving the right way. And if your fade is too big, hitting out of the center of the face should help you get that ball flying a bit straighter.

Isn't a little bit of knowledge -- at least, the correct little bit of knowledge -- a wonderful thing?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Guest Post: Carlo Reumont

Carlo Reumont over at sent me a guest post that's a little different from the sort of thing I usually post. However, he included an unusual drill that struck me as a unique approach to the problem of developing a consistent swing. This drill demonstrates a different mindset, so I'm passing it on.

From working golf to playing golf: How to break through the effort barrier

Most golfers DO NOT play golf. They WORK golf!


Because they are thinking about how to hit the ball.

“Well of course I think about hitting the ball!” you might object. “How else can I figure out what to do?”

Think back to when you played as a child – making sand castles, shooting marbles, playing soccer, throwing ball or surfing.

Did you practice playing?
Did you try to play?
Did you work on getting into the zone of playing?

Of course not!

If you were like most children you just PLAYED!

What if you never had to think about how to hit the ball again? What if you could simply play the game?


Going beyond effort

There is a logic to golf and low scoring that is overlooked. This logic says:

You can only play good shots if you can swing the club.

Let’s be honest for a second:

Who goes out and learns to swing the golf club?

What do most golfers do? They try to hit the ball!

Catch my drift?

This means they skip step one and try to start with step two.

The result?

They play under their potential!

That used to be me too. Then I discovered that swinging the golf club is a skill in itself.

And the best thing?

I can learn this skill anywhere I can swing a golf club!

It’s logical!

So here is an EXERCISE to move from working golf to playing golf:

Grab a club and take it to a space where you can swing freely. You do not need a ball. Go into the address position. Legs strong, low point of gravity, grip tight, arms relaxed. Now swing the club back and forth ten times. Do five sets so you do 50 swings.

As you progress from set to set, feel into each part of the swing:
  1. Legwork: How strong and stable does your stance remain? What can you do to remain firm from the first swing to the 50th?
  2. Grip: When and where does your grip loosen, weaken or fail? Weed out any disconnection you feel to the club at any point. Pay attention to maintaining a solid, air-tight grip from beginning to finish.
  3. Center: Where does your power come from? Focus on activating your body’s core (back, abdominal muscles, chest muscles) and have them guide the arms through the swing. What can you do to have you center create club head speed?
As you see, there are some critical swing elements at play in this exercise. The best part? You don’t even need a ball! You can practice this anywhere you can swing a club.


Because the body and the speed of the club give you so much feedback on what is going on, you can tell even without a ball whether you are doing well of not.

Your new game

Most players are preoccupied with good ball striking and forget that this is not the aim of golf.

The aim of golf is to finish the round with as few shots as possible.

To move from working golf to playing golf, we must broaden our horizon of the playing field.

First, we want to work on our swing.
Then we can work on striking the ball.
Finally, we want to improve our decisions on the course.

When we improve steps one and two to get better at three, we are truly playing the game of golf. The more you do the above exercise, the more you can focus on the “higher” challenges of golf – the real challenges of the scratch golfer.

Your new game is then to tick the boxes that you can tick:
  • Build and maintain stability.
  • Create a solid connection with your club.
  • Swing from the core.
All these things are in your power. Once you work on them consistently you are winning the game within and this will show on the score card as well – it must!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Phil's Personal Record

I know many of you out there don't like Phil Mickelson for various reasons, but Phil has done something that I think deserves everybody's respect.

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson has been in the Top50 of the OWGR for 25 straight years... and he's done it during the "dominant Tiger" era.

Will Gray posted a short piece about it at if you want to read it. But here's the long and the short of it:
Phil moved to 47th in the OWGR on Nov. 28, 1993, won at Kapalua to start the 1994 season and has been there ever since.
That is nothing short of amazing in these times when players make such huge moves up and down in the rankings, and Phil's done it while managing psoriatic arthritis, which is incurable, and dealing with his wife and his mother's bouts with cancer.

Simply amazing. That's an accomplishment that needs to be recognized, regardless of how you feel about him.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 World Cup of Golf

Winner: Belgium

Around the wider world of golf: Aaron Rai got his first ET/Asian Tour win at the Honma Hong Kong Open; Ho-Sung Choi won the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour; and Anne Van Dam won the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España Femenino on the LET.

Team Belgium, Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry, with the Cup

Many of you will be familiar with a musical group called the Talking Heads ("burning down the house"), who were huge during the late 1970s and the 1980s. What you may not know is that two members of that group, Tina Weymouth and her husband Chris Frantz, formed another group that found considerable success...

The Tom Tom Club. The group was created during a hiatus from the Heads in 1980, and has been playing together ever since. They saw a door of opportunity and walked through it.

Golf's own Tom Tom Club -- Belgian golfers Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry -- had considerable success of their own this past week. Opportunity presented itself to the two relatively young golfers in their mid-20s, and they too walked through the door.

Boy, did they walk through it!

In my opinion, they won this event on Friday. Although they shot 63 the first day, almost every team went low; Pieters and Detry weren't even the lowest. Then the weather turned on Friday, with only four teams under par, and the Belgians' 71 was only one shot off the best.

Then Saturday they WERE the best, shooting another 63 to lead by five. And when they struggled a bit on Sunday, their 68 was enough to win by three, despite serious charges from Team Australia and Team Mexico.

Pieters hasn't won in over two years; Detry hasn't won at all yet. But this victory meant a lot to them and, while it came at the end of Pieter's season, it's hard to believe that a win like this won't leave both of them in a great frame of mind over the holidays and have them ready when 2019 gets underway.

Happy Holidays, boys! Enjoy this Limerick Summary. True, I didn't wrap it up real nice -- 'cause I'm not so good with the wrapping paper, you know -- but it's the thought that counts.
When Pieters and Detry teamed up,
They opened a door none could shut.
Ignoring the weather,
They stepped through together
And walked away holding the Cup.
The photo comes from this page at

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Bobby Jones on Ball Position

I frequently write about ball position because it's such a small thing but it has such profound effects on our game. And I'm fascinated by how often I see this "small thing" pop up in the writings of various players and teachers.

Today it's Bobby Jones's turn -- and once more, it's from the book Bobby Jones on Golf. This time, it's from a section called An Insidious Habit.
It is not difficult to see that if the swing is adjusted to strike the ball in a certain position, even a slight variation in the position of the ball, the swing remaining the same, will cause an error in hitting. No golfer needs to be told what ruinous results may follow from even a small mistake. Taking the ball an inch too soon or an inch too late may throw it many yards off line at the end of its flight.

Placing the ball at address should always receive minute attention. Too many times we step up confidently and carelessly to play a shot, and fall readily into a position that feels comfortable and is, we think, the accustomed attitude. Without giving the thing a thought, we hit the shot and are at a loss to explain the pull or slice that results. A tiny error is enough, and it is very easy to overlook.

A slight change of position is hard for the player himself to detect, especially if he plays for any appreciable time in that way. But to move the ball interferes not at all with the swing. To try a different position endangers none of the elements of touch, timing, or rhythm. And very often it will be found to be the exact adjustment required. It is impossible to contend that the same relative positions of ball and feet are proper for every player. But if anyone is off his game, it will do no harm to experiment -- to shift the ball nearer the left foot to correct a slice, and nearer the right foot to correct a hook. If it works, it is the simplest specific that can be given.
This is an excerpt from a longer section, of course, but there's a lot to digest here.

Jones says an inch forward or back in the stance can be a big deal. That's something we often don't appreciate. You don't need to make huge adjustments in position to see a change in the ball's behavior. Since you're catching the ball at the bottom of your swing, the angles of attack are changing rapidly -- the clubhead moves from down to across to up very quickly at the bottom of the swing, so a big adjustment is rarely necessary.

And for that reason, it's easy to get careless with ball position -- especially on uneven ground, where the ball often appears to be in a different spot than it actually is. Finding a consistent way to get your ball in the same position each time can save you a lot of problems!

Perhaps most interestingly, Jones says that players often need help to detect an unintended ball position change. I didn't include the example he included because it would take too much space, but the point was clear -- if the great Bobby Jones could slip into a poor address position, as much as he played, then the rest of us are vulnerable as well.

Just to make his advice clear, his recommendations on HOW to move the ball are based on how the clubface behaves in a normal swing, where the player doesn't manipulate his or her hands at impact. A ball moved toward the left foot (I would say your lead foot) gives the clubface more time to close, so it helps eliminate a slice. And a ball moved toward the right foot (I would say your trailing foot) gives the clubface less time to close, so it helps eliminate a hook.

And finally, he says that while no one ball position works for everybody, it's worthwhile to experiment with ball position if your game starts to go south. Unlike swing changes, which can be dramatic and time-consuming, you don't have to change your swing to experiment with ball position. And if a ball position change can fix your game, it is, as he says, "the simplest specific that can be given."

I know this is something I harp on all the time, but that last statement from Jones is the reason I do. You can adjust ball position without changing your swing at all, see the results quickly and know that you haven't done anything that will disturb an otherwise sound swing.

And you know how I like simple fixes that let you swing naturally. So if your game goes a bit awry, give a new ball position a try before you consider something more drastic.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Phil Finally Gets Bragging Rights

In case you didn't hear, The Match went off as planned... and it took 22 holes for Phil to finally get bragging rights over Tiger. And they played the last three holes under lights because it got too dark to play the regular course.

Tiger and Phil at The Match

Believe it or not, After Tiger hit a poor chip on the 21st hole, Phil conceded a 5-foot putt -- on a hole he would likely have won -- because he said he didn't want to win that way. And then he beat Tiger on the next hole.

CBS quoted Phil after the match was over:
"A day like today is not going to take anything away from [Tiger's] greatness. He's the greatest of all time. But to have just a little bit of smack talk for the coming years means a lot to me because I really don't have much on him. He always drops the big picture, and it's the trump card. But to have a day like today, I never thought we'd go to this extra hole. My heart just can't take much more of it."
Personally, my favorite quote came from Phil after Tiger chipped in from the back of 17 to tie the match:
"You've been doing that crap to me for 20 years, I'm not sure why I'd be surprised now."
There will be some debate over how good the golf was, how there was some trouble with the pay-per-view coverage, and so on. From what I can see, the match was actually pretty tight and the two men didn't play badly at all.

But I think there are two things we can take from this:
  • $9mil is a lot of smack talk for Phil to cherish.
  • And Tiger is eventually gonna want a rematch.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Bobby Jones on "Staying Down to the Ball"

I found this paragraph in one of my favorite "old" books, Bobby Jones on Golf. In a section entitled Staying Down to the Ball Jones talks about some of the frequently-given advice that actually causes players to swing badly. I'm going to put one sentence from this paragraph in boldface print because I think it's something most of us need to be reminded of quite often.
The average golfer would be a lot better off if no one had ever said anything about the necessity for keeping the eyes glued upon the ball. There is infinite virtue, as so many have pointed out, in maintaining some sort of anchor for the swing. I always think of it as "staying down to the ball." But when a person begins to think about keeping his head immovable and concentrates upon keeping his eye fixed upon the ball, trouble is being invited. The very act of trying to do something that is natural to do anyway sets up a tension that is hard to break. It is perfectly natural to look at an object one is trying to hit, and ordinary observation and awareness of its presence and location are sufficient. When a man gazes fixedly at a golf ball, he is doing something wholly unnecessary and destructive of the rhythm and relaxation he has striven for. I have found little value in the maxim, "keep your eye on the ball," except on the putting green and in playing very short approaches. The longer shots that are missed are usually caused by something else. [p116]
Think about that for a moment. "The very act of trying to do something that is natural to do anyway sets up a tension that is hard to break." There's some real wisdom in that! Does the phrase "getting in your own way" sound familiar? That's what's Jones is talking about here.

Things that you do naturally tend to have, as he says, a natural rhythm and relaxation about them. They come to you so easily that you may even do them and then, a few seconds later, ask yourself whether you did them at all. One good example for me is locking the door when I leave the house. I may do it, get in the car, and suddenly go, Wait a minute... did I lock the door? That's because it's so natural that I do it out of habit.

But in order to make sure I remember I did it, I have to do something unnatural, something I wouldn't normally do as part of locking the door. In my case, I consciously look at my fist and clench it around the key after I lock the door. That way I consciously register the fact that I locked the door...

It's nowhere near as effortless as when I just lock the door and don't worry about it, however.

That's what Jones means. In his example, the effort of consciously keeping your eyes on the ball (or holding your head still, or keeping your head down -- take your pick) adversely affects the natural motion of your swing and makes it that much harder to do correctly.

And he even references the most frustrating aspect about doing this: "The longer shots that are missed are usually caused by something else." Our fixation is often on the wrong problem anyway!

My point for today is simply that, when we're having a problem with our swings, before we start making changes, we should probably take some time to try and just swing naturally -- as hard as that may seem because we're so sure we're making "this" mistake and we don't believe it will stop unless we "take more control" of the problem. I've written about the importance of trying to use our practice swing as our actual swing (most recently in this post); I think that's at least part of what Jones is talking about here.

Personally, I take some comfort in knowing that even the legends of the game have struggled with this problem... and successful beat it. (At least, some of the time!) It's a good thing for us mere mortals to remember and use as well.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!

For those of you outside the US who don't know, Thanksgiving is our annual holiday that celebrates how good God has been to our country over the years. It especially remembers the celebration of the Pilgrims after they survived their first (very difficult) year here. Personally, I think it's a good day for everybody to count their blessings. I hope all of you have a very Happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you live!

This image is courtesy of

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Martin Hall on On-Course Corrections (Video)

The drill in this Extra Credit video from Martin Hall probably isn't new to you. So why am I posting it? Because this video explains WHY you need it.

Sure, you've heard about flipping the club upside down and swinging it to increase club speed -- the old "swish" drill -- but this is about regaining your feel when your swing leaves you out on the course. Why would this simple drill help you?

It's simple. By flipping the club upside down, there is NO WEIGHT at the end of the club, so there's nothing to feel when you swing it. THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT. You've lost your feel anyway, so now there's really nothing there to feel...

But once you flip the club back to normal, NOW YOU CAN FEEL THE HEAD WEIGHT. It's the dramatic contrast between the headless end and the heavy head that helps you regain your feel. You've created the maximum difference between a lost feel and a regained feel that you possibly can. And because it's a drill that uses an existing club in your bag, it's not against the Rules of Golf to use it.

And yes, of course you can use this drill while you're on the range. But what makes it valuable IMHO is its usefulness in the midst of a round when your swing leaves you. No extra equipment needed but you get immediate feedback! That's what makes a great drill.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Unofficial Events Begin

With most of the Tours taking their annual midseason holiday breaks, we finally get to the unofficial but often very gripping events of the golf year. We kick off with the ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf. (Wow, that's a mouthful!)

Team USA -- Kuchar and Stanley

We get teams from 28 countries, all converging on The Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. This course is one of the Sandbelt courses and has hosted the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in 2001, the 2009 Women's Australian Open and all three of the Australian Triple Crown events. This is a class course, folks!

The World Cup of Golf is a 72-hole stroke play event, but rounds 1 and 3 are four-balls while rounds 2 and 4 are foursomes. The course will play 7308 yards, the greens typically stimp at better than 12, and rough weather is predicted -- just what you want for a nerve-wracking team event.

Of course you knew I was going to post a photo of Team USA -- I am a US citizen, of course -- but's power rankings don't favor us. We're number four behind Australia, Korea and England. Granted, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith will be a tough pairing and both are surely familiar with the Sandbelt, so it's hard to argue with them as the favorites. Still, I like the Kuch and Kyle Show to give them a run.

The TV times at GC have me a bit confused. It appears that they're going to alternate between the World Cup and the ET's Hong Kong Open -- a couple of hours of one, then switch to the other, back and forth. At any rate, they've got the World Cup starting at 8pm ET Wednesday night, so that should get us started. Golf in Australia is always interesting!

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 RSM Classic

Winner: Charles Howell III

Around the wider world of golf: Danny Willett won the DP World Tour Championship on the ET while Francesco Molinari took the Race to Dubai; Lexi Thompson won the CME Group Tour Championship on the LPGA while Ariya Jutanugarn won the Race to the CME Globe (as well as the Vare Trophy and pretty much everything else); Abraham Ancer became the first Mexican to win the Emirates Australian Open on the Australasian Tour; Isidro Benitez won the 113 VISA Open de Argentina on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Kodai Ichihara won the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour; and Shubhankar Sharma won the ET's Rookie of the Year Award.

Charles Howell III lifts the RSM trophy

We've seen several players end long winless droughts this season, but the way Charles Howell III did it has to be one of, if not the most dramatic of the year. After starting 3-over after two holes, Charles went 6-under over the next 16 holes to force a two-hole playoff.

Which he won in dramatic fashion. He didn't back into the win. He birdied 15, 16 and 17, then he hit putts that barely missed going in on 18 twice.

The third putt on 18 didn't barely miss. And CH3 nearly broke down in tears when it didn't.

I'm sure he's been near tears several times over the last eleven years as well. I personally don't think a player needs to apologize for 'just' keeping his card and making millions of dollars in an age where young hotshots with no staying power come and go every year. But Charles believes that he should have won more, despite the fact that "potential" often means nothing in the real world.

Clearly though, the struggle has toughened him up a bit and forced him to become a better player. And he ends this part of the wraparound season with a win and a shiny new Limerick Summary -- his first! -- as he enters Thanksgiving week with the appropriate attitude. Congrats, Charles!
Another drought comes to an end
With Charles’s third PGA win.
It took seven years
And he’s shed a few tears
But this week he’s the best that he’s been.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Last LPGA Round of the Season is LIVE

It's worth mentioning because it's on ABC, not GC.

Lexi Thomson and Ariya Jutanugarn

There's still quite a bit to be settled today in Naples FL, including:
  • The $1mil CME Globe is still up for grabs.
  • Lexi Thompson can extend her years-with-a-win run to six.
  • Ariya Jutanugarn can sweep the year's awards with a win today, something that's never happened before.
Final round coverage begins at 1pm ET today on ABC. Don't miss it!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Keegan Bradley's New Putting Technique

Having talked about Matt Kuchar's putting style yesterday, I thought I'd mention Keegan Bradley's version today. I've found a bit about it in this Golf Digest article, so I thought I'd add it to the mix. Today I'm focusing more on the equipment involved.

Keegan Bradley's putting stroke

The article covers several players' equipment and says this about Keegan's:
Perhaps no player has been affected more by the ban on anchoring than Keegan Bradley, who has struggled mightily on the greens since the rule went into effect in 2016. Bradley has ranked 183rd, 128th and, this season, 186th in strokes gained/putting. Recently, however, the 2011 PGA champ has shown some signs of improvement while using an Odyssey Works Versa 1W Red Arm Lock putter. The putter, which has a head weight of 400 grams and is 43 inches in length with a loft of 7 degrees, is designed to act like an extension of the arm for a smoother, more repeatable stroke. Given Bradley's breakthrough victory at the BMW Championship in the playoff over Justin Rose, and him contending at the previous two events—the Northern Trust and the BMW Championship—it's safe to say he might have finally found his solution.
And a second Golf Digest article added this:
During Monday’s final round Bradley posted an impressive 3.182 strokes gained/putting mark with his Odyssey Works Versa 1W Red Arm Lock putter. The putter is 43 inches in length, with the added length allowing Bradley to brace the putter against his left arm, similar (but not identical) to how Matt Kuchar putts.
This photo comes from that second article. You can see how much the neck of the putter is bent to get that 7-degree loft.

Bradley lines up a putt at BMW

Now it's worth noting that both Matt and Keegan are fairly tall guys -- 6'4" and 6'3", respectively -- so that 43-inch shaft is probably a bit long for a lot of weekend players. However, the 7-degree loft on the face is probably a reasonable number for almost anyone using this method, as the shaft does lean forward quite a bit and you'd need a fair amount of loft to get an effective loft of 3-5 degrees.

Note that the second article says that Keegan's grip isn't identical to Matt's. That's why I included the first photo. It looks to me like Keegan has the shaft going a bit farther up his forearm than Matt. However, that side view clearly shows that the rubber grip is a bit underneath his forearm, as I noted in yesterday's post about Matt's putting.

If you decide to go with a method like this, you'll almost certainly need to go with a specially-made putter as Matt and Keegan have done. It's not so much about the shaft length -- you could have a longer shaft put in almost any putter -- but bending the neck of the putterhead enough to get the necessary loft might be more than a standard putter is made for. You could very well end up breaking the putter. Plus the head is about the same weight as an old belly putter and roughly double the weight of a standard putter. You'll need to take that into account as well.

Anyway, that's a bit more info for those of you interested in the armlock putting method these players use.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Matt Kuchar's Armlock Putting Style (Videos)

I know many of you are curious about the Kuchar Technique, so here are two videos about it. Matt's been putting this way since around 2011, so the first video is from 2013 and the second from a mere four months ago.

In this first video Matt shows his basic technique. Note that the grip only extends halfway up his lead forearm and that otherwise his grip looks pretty normal. He doesn't use his trailing hand to hold the butt end of the shaft against his forearm; rather, he recommends putting with your lead hand alone to learn the technique.

His stance is a little open -- he says it helps him see the line better -- his elbows are held close to his body and from there he just rocks his shoulders. The angle in his trailing wrist stays pretty stable. As he puts it, there's not much happening in terms of movement.

In the second video -- which is five years later -- he talks about the tweaks he's made to his equipment and technique to fine-tune it.

Over that five year period he says he's changed the length and the loft of his putter slightly, to suit the amount of forward press (or, if you prefer, forward lean) he uses. Note that he says the loft adjustment was made purely by trial and error; you would probably want more loft than Matt uses unless you play professional course setups all the time.

By the same token, he has played with his ball position for the same reason -- off his front foot for less forward lean, center of his stance for more forward lean.

And note that he says that comfort is the primary consideration for him.

The only thing I would add is that it looks as if the butt end of the putter is, as you look down in your address position, touching more on the underside of your forearm than centered on the side of it. Again, that's probably part of the comfort thing he mentions, as I think you'd have to bend your lead wrist unnaturally to center it.

And that's it. It's short and sweet, but the technique isn't complicated at all.