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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.