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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Understanding Strong and Weak Grips

Yesterday I wrote about the wall slap drill. Today I'm going to show you why thinking of your grip as strong or weak -- as it is usually taught -- isn't necessarily helpful, and then I'll show you what you should be looking for in order to control the face of the club.

Here is a series of photos showing one way of understanding 'grip strength'. It's based as much on the lead hand as on the trail hand. The fade grip would be the weak one, the draw grip would be the strong one, and the neutral one is (of course) the middle ground. I don't find this series particularly helpful, simply because everything is exaggerated. The lead hands are turned much too strong, which results in some extreme trail hand positions. This instructor probably teaches that a strong grip is the best grip.

One way of understanding grips

For comparison, here is a series of photos based primarily on the trail hand -- and particularly the line formed between the thumb and forefinger of that hand. See the little white arrows drawn on the photos? The strong grip points toward the trail shoulder, the neutral grip points to the trail side of your face, and the weak grip points toward the lead shoulder. Some teachers would say the neutral grip points at your chin. The lead hand isn't as strong as in the previous photos because this is more of a middle ground approach.

But I have to say this: The arrows don't seem to accurately describe where that 'thumb line' is pointing. The neutral grip does point more toward the chin and the weak grip doesn't point nearly as far forward as the wording would lead you to believe.

Another way of understanding grips

But the facts are this: Neither of these approaches accurately describes a SQUARE grip. I feel safe saying that most teachers consider the neutral grip to be the square one, and that the other grips rotate the clubface. But none of these adequately describes how a square grip would actually look to the golfer using it.

Let's see if we can fix that little problem, using the wall slap drill. I've lined up the camera so the flat of the wall is perpendicular to the lens. The flat of my palm is pointing straight away from the lens, as you can tell by my fingers. But if you use the vertical line of the wall to divide my hand, both my thumb and the heel of my thumb are AHEAD of the flat of my palm.

The question becomes "If the clubface is square to my palm, where will my 'thumb line' point?"

Flat palm

If I squeeze my thumb against my forefinger, my 'thumb line' is pointed straight at my chin. I've raised my hand a bit in the next photo so it looks more like I'm holding a club. You may not be able to see my thumb from this angle -- I wasn't actually holding a club, so my thumb dropped a bit too low -- but it's pretty clear where the line is pointing. And if I was actually holding a club, that 'thumb line' would actually rotate a bit more to the left of the photo when my fingers curled around the club's handle.

Flat palm tilted up

But there's something we aren't taking into account. At impact, since our trail wrist is still flexed -- it doesn't straighten completely until after impact -- the club should be leaning forward just a bit. Now it gets really interesting, doesn't it? Because if the shaft is leaning forward, my wrist has to bend a bit and my 'thumb line' tilts forward.

Flat palm really tilted up

If in this case it's not totally clear to you, here's the same photo but with a black line showing the angle of my 'thumb line'. Compared to the earlier photos at the beginning of this post, this is a weak grip.

But it's not really weak. My palm is flat against the wall, just like the clubface would be. This is a square grip!

Direction of 'thumb line'

But there's more. If you're like me, when you take this grip and swing the club with a relaxed arm so your wrist can flex -- what most players would call 'creating lag' -- you'll tend to push the heel of your palm just a bit farther forward. If you look at the weak grip from the first two photos sequences, you'll see that the shaft is actually vertical and not leaning forward at all.

By the same token, if you were to use what most people call a strong grip, you'd actually be pointing your palm upward and swinging as if you were 'chopping' with the edge of your trail hand. Your tendency would be to open your hand even more as you swing, causing you to open the clubface and slice the ball -- even though you think you're using a strong grip.

Which means, as twisted as it may sound, that what most call a strong grip can actually lead to slicing while what most call a weak grip can be the easiest way to square the clubface... or even close it a bit, if you so desire.

Yeah, I know this goes against almost everything you've ever heard. But there's a reason most people -- even instructors -- say that golf is so hard to learn. Everything is hard when you don't accurately understand how things work.

If you need more help understanding this post, leave questions in the comment section below and I'll try to find some new ways to explain it, ways that might be clearer. But until you understand what your hands do when they square the clubface, you'll never become a good golfer.

And once you do understand, you'll start scoring better than a lot of players with better swings. Because this game isn't about the beauty of your swing...

It's about learning to get the most out of what you've got.

But then again, isn't that how life in general works?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Using the Wall Slap Drill to Improve Your Aim

Another repost combo: The first is the post I originally did the day after the Tommy Fleetwood post (which I reposted yesterday) and includes my wall slap drill. The second comes from way back in 2011, a post that goes into more detail about how the wrists move during a swing.

Please note that the first repost include a GC link that no longer works -- that's alright since I just included it to show where the quote that follows it came from -- and also note that the 2011 repost simply refers to righthanders since it was written to answer a question specifically from a rightie. If you're a leftie, just remember to 'switch hands' in the instructions. I've also added some notes at the end of this post.

A few days back, Jean Luc left a comment on an older post called Inbee Park's Pause. The material in that post had helped him -- he had been having trouble with pushed shots -- but he was looking for some help to eliminate some of the wrist rolling the new movement caused for him. He had seen a new book by Jim Hardy called The Release: Golf's Moment of Truth and was fascinated by one of Hardy's approaches to the release. He wondered if I had any ideas on whether it would work.

I don't usually use my comment responses as the basis of new blog posts but, given Jean Luc's positive response to this one, I felt it might help some of you. Jean Luc says the drill I included in this comment felt a lot like the drill in yesterday's Tommy Fleetwood post, but this one is specifically designed to minimize wrist rotation. The comment also explains why I haven't included many tips from Jim Hardy in my blog, although he's clearly been able to help a lot of golfers.

And at the end, I'll add some thoughts so you can use this drill to learn a draw or a fade.

Here, I'll just let the comment itself explain everything:

Jean Luc, I haven't read Hardy's book. And when I found info on the web about the two releases he talks about in the book (at, it seemed a bit contradictory to me -- for example, I'd say the LOP motion is a swinging motion, not a leverage motion, while the RIT motion can be either, depending on your hand and arm action. With no more explanation than I found there, it's hard for me to make hard and fast statements about what Hardy's doing.

That said, let's see if I can give you some help with what you want to do.

Hardy is somewhat controversial among swing geeks because, although much of his material is very helpful, he makes statements that clearly contradict fact. For example, in this GC video:


he says that Hogan's swing is a one-plane swing. But in Five Lessons Hogan himself says:
On the downswing plane, a golfer swings on a slightly different plane than the backswing. THE PLANE FOR THE DOWNSWING IS LESS STEEPLY INCLINED AND IS ORIENTED WITH THE BALL QUITE DIFFERENTLY FROM THE BACKSWING PLANE. The golfer gets on this second plane -- without thinking he is changing planes -- when he turns his hips back to the left at the start of the downswing. (p87)
Hogan says his swing is a two-plane swing in three consecutive sentences, yet Hardy says it's a one-plane swing. So I'm hesitant to get too involved with his theories in this answer.

But I can tell you that what you picked up from my stuff is a two-plane swing. That's why you can finally create a bit of a looping motion. It's a more natural, more relaxed way to unwind rapidly on your downswing.

But you don't have to use a roll release (or a throw release, for that matter) to use the loop move and still square the clubface at impact. Let me suggest a feel drill for you:
  1. Take your address position without a club. Set the palm of your trail hand square to your target line. An easy way to do this is to set up next to a corner wall in your house, so you can lay your palm flat against the wall. Your trail wrist should be cocked backward just a bit, as if you had just slapped the wall. That should feel pretty normal to you.
  2. Now take your lead hand and grasp your trail wrist, as if it was the grip of the club. Your trail wrist is still slightly cocked.
  3. Now "swing" back to the top of your backswing. Don't try to rotate your wrists. With your shoulders turned 90 degrees, your palm will be aimed maybe another 45 degrees farther. Again, this should feel pretty natural.
  4. Now just "swing" down and, keeping your grip on your trail wrist, slap the wall with your trail hand. (Okay, it won't be much of a slap, but that's the motion.) You won't feel any rotation in your wrists, but you'll have to turn your body all the way through. Jimmy Ballard would call this "releasing your body." And again, it's the natural way to swing. It has the added bonus of creating a natural weight shift when you do it.
Experiment with that for a while, then start trying to make a similar move in your backyard with a club. That'll feel a little awkward at first because of the weight of the club. Just do it slowly until it starts feeling comfortable, then speed it up.

And let me know how it goes. I'm betting that you'll start to get the motion you're looking for. Just remember: You don't have to "throw" the club to get that release. The speed you'll learn to develop with the clubhead will create that motion all on its own.

That "slapping motion" I mentioned in the comment comes when the palm of your hand hits flat against the wall on your downswing. But this helps you learn to square your palm at impact, and therefore to square your clubface at impact. And as I said, you won't have to rotate your forearms to reach the top of swing position or on the way down.

Now, if you want to learn to hit a fade or slice with this move, it's simply a matter of changing your foot position.
  • For a fade, OPEN your stance slightly when you set up next to the wall. Now you'll get a slight out-to-in move, but your palm will still aim straight ahead when it hits the wall, giving you a slightly open clubface at impact.
  • Likewise, for a draw, CLOSE your stance slightly when you set up next to the wall. Now you'll get a slight in-to-out move, but your palm will still aim straight ahead when it hits the wall, giving you a slightly closed clubface at impact.
Just alter your foot line and then follow the drill instructions as I described them earlier, and you should develop a pretty consistent draw or fade.

Hopefully this will give all of you yet another option for learning how to shape shots the way you want... and you can thank Jean Luc for it. ;-)

Now let's take the Wayback Machine all the way to 2011, very early in this blog's history, to a post specifically about wrist action...

When Rocco appeared with Jimmy Ballard on Golf Channel's 12 Nights at the Academy series, he said he didn't feel his wrists cock at all during his swing although they clearly do. If that statement surprises you, then you don't quite understand how the wrists work during a golf swing. And when teachers talk about "setting the wrists at the top," that often just adds to the confusion. Your swing works best when "setting your wrists" is not an action but a reaction.

That's what I want to look at in today's post -- the reaction your wrists should have during your golf swing.

One thing you need to understand is that sometimes we use a conscious drill to teach an unconscious move. In this case, the drill isn't what you want to learn; rather, you focus on the reactions the drill causes in your swing. A good example is the "early cock" drill I gave Dexter. Cocking his wrists early counteracts the excess forearm rotation he had -- rotation that causes him to "lay off" the club when it should stay on plane.

By using an early cock --  which is a conscious move, one that I have to think about -- I learn what it feels like when my forearms don't rotate. (Which, ironically, is what would happen normally if I didn't interfere!)  I used to have that problem, and Carl used the early cock drill to teach me correct forearm movement. I no longer use an early wrist cock because I don't twist my forearms anymore. It's important to understand what a drill is trying to teach you if you want to get the most good from it!

So, since we've already talked about forearm rotation, let's look specifically at wrist cocking. Wrists can cock in two directions. The one we think about first is sideways, thumb toward forearm, which is what we normally refer to as "cocking." But the low wrist also cocks backwards, and this move helps you square the clubface. The forward "uncock" of that wrist is what causes the "flip" mentioned in my look at John Cook's swing. We'll talk about it first.

You can best compare this backward cock to the way your hand moves during a slap. Isn't it convenient that I have this rough diagram of a slapping motion? Just follow the numbers to follow the sequence, and you can even slap a wall hard enough to make some noise as long as you don't hurt yourself:

How your wrist moves during a slap

Now here are a couple of observations about this motion that you SHOULD make if you really pay attention:
  • The harder you slap, the more accurate this diagram becomes. At a very slow speed (say, the speed of a short putt) you probably won't notice much wrist cock at all. But as you speed up to a waist-high pitch shot (I don't want you to break your hand on a wall imitating a full swing!), the wrist cock happens as you change direction. This is because your wrist and forearm are relaxed. That's part of what happens at the top of your backswing -- the weight of the club moving in the "backswing direction" helps cock your wrists when you change to the "downswing direction."
  • Your wrist and forearm are just as relaxed at high speed as at low speed! You may have never thought about this, but it's true. In fact, to get the soundest noise, you have to stay relaxed! If you try to help the move along and consciously cock and uncock your wrist, it simply doesn't work well. It's exactly the same in your golf swing; if you tense up, you slow things down. To get maximum swing speed, you have to just let your wrists act without conscious interference from you.

How your wrist moves during a slapDo you remember my post about Walter Hagen's swing? I pointed out that, in the second video on that post, he set up with his iron shafts leaning forward -- the shaft formed a straight line with his left forearm. When he does this, his right wrist takes position 1 in my slapping diagram. Many other players use this setup as well.

Why? Because it presets both wrists so they get to the position we want at the top of the swing. In the diagram at left, the left wrist (the flat one) is actually turned a bit so the 'V' between the thumb and forefinger points toward the right shoulder. At the top of the backswing, this position allows the right wrist to cock back (like a slap).

Now, when this happens at the top, some players will feel this as a slapping action. Others will feel as if the elbow "sets" because the elbow bends and moves to create this angle. How you feel it isn't the issue; I just want you to be aware that it happens. If you look at the top position of most players (check some of the YouTube videos if you don't believe me), you'll see this flat right wrist / backcocked left wrist position.

Which brings us to that flip at the bottom. Since slapping is such a natural move to us, we naturally try to do it when we make a golf swing. The problem comes when we do it at the wrong time during the swing. And we do it often! We just have different names for it, depending on where we do it.

A classic example is casting, which I've written about before. When you cast, you "slap the wall" at the start of your downswing, somewhere around shoulder level. It's not unusual for people to straighten their bent elbow at the same time, which is where the "casting" label came from. (I included an illustration of that in the casting post.) But straightening an elbow is much easier to see than the slap movement. You can make a weak slap just by straightening your wrist at the wrong time. Suddenly all your speed is gone and you may not have even noticed that you did it. What happened? You tightened up your forearm and wrist, which messed up your timing.

An unconscious move got derailed by a conscious attempt to control it.

Some people "slap the tabletop," right around waist high. These people often get caught up trying to "hold the angle" longer. But if you try that slapping exercise from earlier in this post, you already know that you can't get a good slap if you tighten your muscles.

And then there's the people who "flip." They are so close! For them, the ball is the wall, and their hand slaps the wall. They slapped properly, but their "wall" is in the wrong place!

So how do we fix it? Simple -- we move the wall!

Here's your drill: Set up (no club) perpendicular to a wall. I want the outside of your foot (left foot for righties, right foot for lefties) about 4 inches from the wall. Now I want you to practice slapping the wall with your low hand (right hand for righties, left hand for lefties). Just take your golf setup, turn back to about waist high, then swing around and slap the wall with your low hand. Please understand that I don't want you to slide forward toward the wall. I want you to turn your shoulders and hips more fully through the shot. Your belt buckle should be pointing toward the wall when you slap it.

Let me repeat that: You have to turn through the shot more in order to slap the wall with your palm. That's probably why you're flipping the club -- you stop your turn too soon. This drill, which you can do inside when you can't go to the course, will help you learn to turn through your shot better.

To take it to the course, set up normally with your ball in its normal position... but try to "hit the wall" with your hands before the clubhead hits the ball. I don't care if you can actually do it or not; what I want is for you to turn through the shot with relaxed wrists. If you do, you will create the proper amount of "lag" as a byproduct. The idea here is to stop interfering with a proper move that should happen unconsciously, and we do this by focusing on a move we do make consciously.

Additional notes on 12/30/19:

The diagram showing the six positions with your trail hand swinging back and setting the wrist should actually have Position #6 farther past the ball. If you look back at Annabel Rolley's extension drill you'll recognize where that position should be, since the wrist has straightened (or extended) fully through impact. The Setup Position diagram just below in that same post is closer to how both hands look at impact.

In the past I've also posted a couple of videos from GC that demonstrated the wrist action I described but the demonstrations only used one hand rather than both hands, which I think is the strength of the wall slap drill. I want to give you the links to those posts in case you'd like to see those videos... and some of those posts link to other posts, if you'd like to explore this motion in even more detail.
  • Trent Wearner on the Art of Swatting Flies: A 2017 post demonstrating the flyswatter motion using one hand and a club. Obviously you need room to swing the club for this drill -- you can use the Wall Slap Drill indoors -- and it only uses one hand instead of two, but it's still useful to help learn the feel.
  • The Art of Swatting Flies, Part 2: A follow-up to the Wearner post that used a video of the 'Carlton Dance' in the bunker. The 'Carlton Dance' is simply a practical application of the eternally useful L-to-L drill.
  • Martin Hall on Improving Your Impact Without a Club: I posted this originally in 2018. Martin did a drill similar to Wearner's but used a chair instead of a club. That means you can use it indoors but it still only uses one hand.
  • Hitting VS Swinging: I posted this in 2017 and specifically linked the two posts I reposted today. It tries to explain the difference between hitting and swinging, and helps you identify which technique may work best for you. Yes, although I recommend swinging, I realize that many of you may play better with a hitting action. You should use the best one for you, not just do what everybody else tells you to do. Take responsibility for your own game -- you'll enjoy it more that way!
Learning how to 'swat' the ball is, in my opinion, a key to gaining directional control over your shots. Tomorrow, for the final post of 2019, I'll give you a new post that should explain how proper wrist action can help you accurately feel where the ball is going to go.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Pushing the Club Away at the Top of Your Backswing

This post is from January 2017, on how Tommy Fleetwood changed his swing to hit the ball higher and farther. He did it by learning what some players call 'pushing the club away at the top of your backswing'. This drill is an excellent way to help stretch that wonderful multipurpose L-to-L drill into a longer swing. There's a link to a Golf Digest article in the next paragraph; be sure to read that short article to get the whole picture.

Golf Digest has a new article about how to make a wider, shallower swing like Tommy Fleetwood. Tommy held off Dustin Johnson this past weekend to win at Abu Dhabi.

I want to focus on how you get the feel described by instructor Shaun Webb.

Tommy Fleetwood

Here's how Webb describes the move:
"To get a better feel for this shot in your own game, take out a fairway wood and make swings feeling that your hands don't get closer to your body in transition and into the downswing," says Webb. "This will help widen your route to the ball and shallow the approach of the club. You'll start hitting them high and pure."
It doesn't take much thought to realize that it can't actually happen this way -- that is, your hands HAVE TO get closer to your body during your change of direction and downswing. So how do you FEEL that your hands are doing something that can't actually happen?
  • The key here is that you want to feel as if both arms remain completely straight throughout the swing. I'm sure you've heard instructors tell you that, at the top of your backswing, you want to use your trailing arm to push the club as far away from your head as you can. Annika is one player who says that's what she tries to feel during her swing. This is the feel you're after. If you try swinging the club straight up in front of you without turning your shoulders, you'll learn the basic feeling very quickly.
  • Unless you're very flexible, you'll need to shorten your swing to do this drill. That's because you need a full 90° shoulder coil to get anywhere close to this position, and even then you won't be able to do it once your hands start to move above your shoulders.
  • To keep both arms straight without tensing up and getting stiff, you need to feel as if both hands are doing an equal part of the work. If you were swinging a heavy weight at the end of the shaft, the way the weight would pull your arms outward is the feel you're looking for.
  • Now, you try to swing the club up so your hands are shoulder height. If it was me, I'd say to stop when your hands are only about chest high because it's easier that way. You have to coordinate the shoulder coil and the swing up so both arms stay straight. If you do it correctly, it's very easy.
  • To get the club above your shoulders -- and that won't be by much -- let your trailing elbow bend just a little. Got that? JUST A LITTLE. You only want it to bend enough that your hands can move slightly above your shoulders. That little bend will let your wrists cock.
  • Then, when you start down, that trailing elbow starts the downswing by straightening out.
After that, it's just a matter of swinging the club through impact and up to the finish.

If you do this correctly, your posture will be good throughout the swing and you'll feel less pressure in your lower back. And your weight shift from your trail leg to your lead leg should happen automatically.

You can try hitting balls this way also. It actually pretty easy, although you won't hit them as far as normal. (This drill is a shorter swing.)

Remember: The point of this drill is to help you learn how to keep your trail elbow from collapsing at the top of your backswing. It can really help improve your fairway wood play once you get that feel of width at the top.

Additional notes on 12/29/19:

Let me make sure you understand this point: The club gets closer to your body during your backswing because your trailing elbow HAS to bend at least a little when the club swings around your body. If it doesn't bend at least a little, the club swings straight up and down in front of your chest rather than moving across your chest and over your trail shoulder. And on the downswing, a vertical plane just jams the clubhead into the ground rather than creating the wide shallow plane we want.

And of course, on the followthrough your lead elbow bends a little so the clubhead can finish over your lead shoulder. Those two 'bends' are what create your swing plane. Got it? Good. (Drop me a comment if you need more explanation.)

I'm trying to present these reposts in a way that makes some logical sense, so you can use each new one to build on the last one.
We're working toward a swing that feels natural to you but makes it easier to square the clubface at impact. We'll start on that tomorrow.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Straight Trailing Knee of the Legendary Hitters (Video)

This is a long one today because I'm actually reposting THREE different posts about the same topic -- the first from 2014, the second from 2016 and the third from 2019. Over the years I have gradually become a fan of straightening your trailing knee during your swing and these posts summarize that shift. When you stop learning, you stop growing!

But I've included all three simply because they focus on different benefits that come from this simple leg movement which we see during the swings of so many legends. Video footage of Arnie's swing is included in the first two posts, and you can see how much shoulder and hip turn he gets without his body moving forward or backward very much -- that is, his body stays very centered between his feet (no swaying) while he 'uses the ground' the way many players now do. He creates a lot of hip and shoulder turn this way.

In the first post from 2014, I compared Arnie's swing to Bubba's -- two power hitters getting their distance in very different ways but with some obvious similarities...

Did any of you see the 3-part series GC did on Arnold Palmer? It was pretty interesting, wasn't it? Many of you may not have realized just how much of a power hitter Arnie was in his heyday until you saw some of the old footage.

I'm sure many of you have also been wondering how to hit it "Bubba long." The fact is, Bubba has a big start on most of us since he's 6'3" tall. But Arnie was only 5'10" -- fairly average among men. Perhaps we might learn more by looking at the King's swing.

Here's a video from the Somax Performance Institute that analyzes Arnie's downswing when he was at the height of his powers. I'll admit upfront that while I find the analysis interesting and I suspect many of you will learn useful things from it... I'm not really using any of it. But this video provided a photo of the King at the top of his backswing, and that's what I needed for this post. So enjoy the video, then read on!

As I said, I'm focusing on the moment Arnie reaches the top of his backswing because I want you to see where many, maybe most of you are losing a whole lot of power. I want you to see a fundamental that should be part of every golf swing. In the next photo I've drawn a bright yellow line through Arnie's trailing knee at the top of his backswing:

position of Arnie's knee at top of backswing

Do you see where Arnie's trailing knee is? That line shows that his knee is still inside his trailing foot, not over it. And do you see where his trailing hip is? It's even more inside his trailing foot! Let me repeat that: Arnie's trailing hip is not OVER his trailing foot, nor is it OUTSIDE his trailing foot. It is well INSIDE his trailing foot!

Why is this? It's because he has braced his trailing knee so it doesn't move away from the target as he makes his backswing. And if you watch his swing in the video, you'll see that his knee never moves more toward his trailing foot than it is in this photo. This stability not only keeps him driving toward the target during his downswing, thus creating more power, but it stabilizes his swing plane so more of that power is applied accurately to the ball.

Now, in case you're curious, here's a photo of Bubba at the top of his backswing from a 2012 Golf Digest swing sequence. (This is photo #4, in case you want to know.) I've also drawn a bright yellow line through his trailing knee:

position of Bubba's knee at top of backswing

Why is Bubba's trailing knee OVER his trailing foot? There are two reasons:
  • Bubba's trailing knee is bent while Arnie's is straight. Although most instructors (and me too!) generally like for you to keep a little flex in your knees throughout your swing, that almost-straight trailing knee is pretty common in classic swings. (You can see it in Tommy Armour's How to Play Your Best Golf All of the Time, for example, and that was considered THE instructional guide before Hogan wrote Five Lessons.)
  • Bubba has turned his upper body -- and therefore his hips -- considerably more than Arnie has. Arnie looks like he has maybe 95-100 degrees of shoulder turn while Bubba easily has 110 degrees or more.
But notice that even with his body twisted so much that his trailing knee has moved over his foot, Bubba's trailing hip is STILL inside his trailing foot. Most of us mere humans won't get that much turn; if we get as much as Arnie, we'll be doing good!

This trailing knee position is a fundamental you should have in your golf swing. At worst, your trailing hip has to stay "between your feet" and not slide out over or past your trailing foot. If you want power, you've got to get in this powerful position.

If it helped Arnold Palmer drive the green on the 346-yard par-4 first hole in the final round of the 1960 US Open at Cherry Hills with a balata ball and a persimmon driver, it's got to help you get more distance.

In the next post from 2016, right after Arnie's death, I focused on how he had very little lateral movement (no swaying) while still creating a lot of up-and-down movement (using the ground)...

We're all still a bit shocked at Arnie's passing so I thought I'd just post some footage of his early golf swing today. You'll see Arnie during a GC golf broadcast, along with Rich Lerner and Nick Faldo. Unfortunately this video cuts off some of what Arnie said near the end. (You do hear him mention "keeping his head still." I'll have more on that in a moment.)

In keeping with what I've been posting about using your hands more in your swing, please note that Arnold Palmer -- who was one of the longest drivers of his day -- used his arms and hands quite a bit at impact. (I should note that, while "keeping your head still" is generally bad advice with a modern swing, I've noted in my classic swing study that my head does feel more steady when I use my arms and hands more -- the key word here being "feel". You can see that Arnie's head swivels quite a bit during his swing.)

If you start watching at around the :55 second mark, you'll see his swing in slo-mo against the grid below. And if you watch the line that goes down just behind his lead hip, you'll see that he doesn't have the dramatic forward hip drive that so many instructors teach. Yet he still gets fully onto his lead side.

That's because he doesn't drive toward the target, but rather keeps his lead knee bent when he starts his downswing and PUSHES UP to create the power at impact. This is how Sam Snead did it as well, and it's much easier on your back than a forward shift. That move also encourages more arm and hand action.

Arnie's swing may have been homegrown but it was much simpler than most swings taught these days. We'll be learning from the King for years to come.

Finally, this post from earlier this year focused on the number of legends who used this 'straightening' technique and how medical science has actually found that it minimizes back problems...

There's a fairly long article over at about whether you should straighten your trail knee during your backswing or not. As you can see from the photos below, both Palmer and Nicklaus did it.

Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus at top of backswing

In fact, the article shows photos of 14 different players who won 44 majors making this very move -- including not only Palmer and Nicklaus but also Snead, Player, Hogan, Trevino and Watson among their number. So why have we been taught to keep flex in both knees during our backswing when so many of the greats have not?

Instructor Bob Grissett says it's because we erroneously believed a theory that said hip turn should be restricted during the backswing. He says it is the single most damaging idea in golf instruction ever.

One reason I'm pointing this out is because he says this is a major cause for back problems in the golf swing. He writes:
An article published in February 2019 by Michelle Roberts, health editor for BBC News online, warns of how this restricted type of golf swing could play havoc with your back and put extra strain on your spine, according to U.S. doctors at the Barrow Neurological Institute.
Dr Walker [from Barrow] said: “We believe Tiger Woods’s experience with spinal disease highlights a real and under-recognized issue among modern era golfers. Tiger was using the mechanics of the modern day swing and that places a tremendous amount of strain on the back. It’s still a theory but we are starting to see the late stages of this in some of our patients. We are seeing younger and younger elite level golfers with degeneration in their lower back.”
He said any golfer, elite or not, who experienced pain should seek expert help.
The right knee extending and the left leg flexing forward on the backswing gives the hips freedom to turn by creating “hip slants.” Another benefit of the back-leg extending is that it helps you maintain your inclination toward the ball established at address.
For those of you interested in reading the entire article, here's the link to it at It has many illustrations to make the explanations clearer.

But the point of this post is that if you want to avoid back pain, you should start by allowing your hips to turn freely in your backswing. I learned long ago that just turning your trail foot outward rather than keeping it perpendicular to your toe line allows you to turn your hips more and it takes a lot of stress off your back. That's something that many instructors have recommended to older players for a long time.

Ironically, it also tends to encourage a straightening of your trail knee as your hips turn. Who knew?

Well, now you do. Live and learn!

So I've become a convert to the 'straighten your trail knee' method of swinging because it has so many advantages and so few liabilities. When you consider how simple, how natural and how physically EASY it is to do, and how it can make you more flexible in your swing so you have less back trouble, it has become one of my recommended swing fundamentals.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Using the L-to-L Drill to Beat a Chicken Wing (Video)

Ryan left a comment on yesterday's post with Annabel Rolley's extension drill. He wondered how a chicken wing would affect her drill, so this repost of an older (and very important) post about the L-to-L drill is a further look at how to deal with a chicken wing, as well as giving you another drill that can help improve extension through the shot. I'll add a few extra notes at the end of this post.

The late Jim Flick was well respected in the golf community. He was one of those teachers who seemed able to help almost anybody because he used such simple images to teach the basics.

In his book Jim Flick on Golf he gave a very simple explanation of how to use your hands and arms in a golf swing to create speed. I bet you've heard this explanation before but I'd also bet you didn't really understand it. Let's see if we can change that today. Here's how Jim put it in his book:
There are actually two pendulums at work. The first is formed by the hands and wrists cocking, uncocking, and recocking. The second is created by the forearms and upper arms swinging from the shoulder sockets.

My former colleague from Golf Digest school days Peter Kostis called them the first swing and the second swing. I think of them as two pendulums.

What permits the two pendulums to work together is the combination of the weight in club head, centrifugal force, the good old law of gravity -- and the golfer. These pendulums supply about 80 percent of the distance in your golf shot -- provided the swinging elements of your body drive the turning elements and not vice versa.

If your grip pressure is too tight, the weight at the end of the club is restricted from doing its job.

If you try consciously to turn your shoulders and shift your weight, you destroy the natural harmony of those two pendulums.

If you try to accelerate at impact and follow through, well, you know what happens there. [NOTE: This is a reference to an earlier section in the book. If you TRY to accelerate, you interfere with the natural motion and actually lose clubhead speed.]

But if your posture is good, and your grip pressure -- fingers secure, arms relaxed -- is correct, you give those two pendulums a chance to work in harmony. (p58-59)
Alright, the two pendulums are the one stretching from the clubhead to your hands, and the one from your wrists to your shoulder joints. Your wrist joins the two of them together, and act as the pivot point. When your wrists are fully cocked, the clubhead-to-hands-to-shoulder-joints stretch looks like an L shape.

No doubt you've heard of an 'L-to-L' swing. It's a common way to learn pitching technique. You swing your hands back to waist high (an L with the club shaft pointing straight up), then they straighten out as the clubhead hits the ball, and finally they form another L in the followthrough (again, with the shaft pointing straight up). Here's Mike Malaska, who worked closely with Jim, demonstrating how this works.

Please note that Mike isn't trying to drive his lower body when he does this. The club's motion pulls his upper body around, and then his upper body pulls his lower body around. As you gradually get out to a full swing you'll start to use your legs more, but it'll be a very natural leg drive -- you won't be thrashing at the ball. (Mike refers to this added drive late in the video when he mentions "using the ground.")

Let me anticipate a question here: When you do this drill at waist high, your wrists will cock as your hands slow down at waist high. When you make this move in a full swing, your wrists will cock as your hands slow down near the end of your swing. It's the change of direction that creates the wrist cock. Got it?

Okay, here's a bonus video with Malaska teaching you how to use the L-to-L drill to learn shot shaping. I bet A LOT of you will be working with this one!

Using the L-to-L drill will help your swing in so many ways, including improved balance, better footwork and weight shift, and eventually longer distance for less effort. This is a post you'll want to bookmark in your browser and come back to again and again.

Additional notes on 12/27/19:

Because the L-to-L drill uses a shorter swing than Annabel's drill, it's much easier to maintain the connection between upper arm and upper body during your swing, especially during the followthrough. If you try this drill with a glove or a club head cover held between them, as Annabel does in her drill, you'll find it's much easier to keep it from dropping out too early... and that will eliminate the chicken wing.

If you use Flick's image to explain Annabel's drill, you can say extension happens when the two pendulums form a straight line with each other, with the head of the club being as far away from your chest as you can get it. But using the L-to-L drill also makes it easier to keep 'soft arms' during the swing, which helps you create more clubhead speed because you don't tense up.

The great thing about the L-to-L drill -- and the reason that I keep recommending it in different posts -- is because it helps you improve so many aspects of your swing all at once, without having to focus on each of those aspects individually. Fixing a chicken wing is just one of them. But adding the head cover under your lead arm can improve this drill's efficiency at getting rid of that flaw.

Hope this helps, Ryan.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Annabel Rolley on Extension (Video)

As I end this year over the next week you may be seeing a variety of things, including reposts of some past instructional posts that I think are foundational to a good swing. Tonight I've got another video from Annabel Rolley -- this one, on creating extension through the ball.

Two things to note here.
  • First, extension means that both arms are straight (though not rigid) and the club shaft points straight toward your belly button.
  • And second, if you imagine a clock face superimposed on her swing, that extension happens when your arms are somewhere between the 4 and 5 o'clock position.
Now, once you understand where the extension happens, you have to learn how to do it... and that's where Annabel's drill comes in. No doubt you've seen this drill before, although it's generally used to improve connection between your arms and upper body. But how long you maintain this connection determines what this drill teaches you.

Most players don't maintain this connection long enough. They let their arms drift away from their body during their downswing -- in Annabel's drill, they let the club cover drop before they hit the ball -- and that causes them to push and/or slice their shots.

If they maintain this connection too long -- that is, if they don't let the cover drop until the ball is well on its way -- they tend to pull and/or hook their shots. Bear in mind that some players want this. If you hear about righthanded players who are working on 'swinging left' to help create a fade, they're probably using some version of this drill.

What Annabel wants you to do is let the cover drop somewhere inbetween by letting your arms separate from your upper body while your hands are moving down the line toward your target. This gives you more of a high finish -- at least, it's higher than the low left finish for a fade.

Learning to focus on where you want the ball to go -- and thus swinging your hands along that line -- is one of the fundamental keys to improving your play. This drill helps you do that.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A Very Merry Star Wars Review

Since a lot of you will be taking your families to the movies over the holidays, I decided to forego my usual Christmas poster and give you a quick, no-spoiler Rise of Skywalker review. After all, the critics haven't been very kind to the movie and you might be debating whether it's worth the money.

Rise of Skywalker poster

I went to see the movie early on Christmas Eve and take it from me -- the critics don't seem to have seen the same movie I did.

Why are the critics so harsh? I suppose it's because Skywalker is really... "full" for a single movie. If they had planned all three movies in this trilogy from the start, they could have set up some of this story in Last Jedi. But they didn't and so there's about a movie-and-a-half of story squeezed into this one. As a result, some things that might have been built out a bit more get glossed over or simply ignored.

But don't let that fool you. JJ Abrams is a fanboy himself and he hit all the important beats. He cranked this movie up to 12 and it's one helluva ride from the opening crawl.

And that's not hyperbole. If you've seen any of the commercials, you've seen a lot of footage that you expect to see at the halfway point or even later in the movie. But when the short "story so far" text crawls across the screen at the beginning, you find out immediately that this movie isn't starting out the way you expected... and a lot of that commercial footage happens in the first couple of minutes.

That's right, I said "the first couple of minutes." And the whole movie only gets better from there, folks. Plus there are lots of little callbacks to the earlier movies -- some folks call them 'Easter eggs' -- that, if you recognize them (and most Star Wars fans will), will get you into the story even faster.

Despite the speed of the story, they still managed to get some real emotional depth in this movie. I don't cry in Star Wars movies -- they just don't affect me that way -- and yet I nearly cried twice. That's not something I expected but, like I said, JJ has done an amazing job of hitting all the important beats.

As for those of you who have been tracking the spoiler reports -- and I know there were a lot of them because I tracked them as well -- I have news for you: The spoilers were misleading. While most of the leaks were reasonably correct (there were some last-minute spoilers that came out just a few days before the movie's release that corrected some of the grosser errors), they were still misleading because they totally missed the context in which things happen. The things that sounded so bad in the leaks were actually very powerful moments in the movie.

If you skip the movie because of the leaks and spoilers you heard, you're going to kick yourself when you finally find out what happened. I'll leave it at that.

Oh, and one more thing. Those of you who wondered how they would handle Carrie Fisher's death don't need to worry. They did right by Leia, folks, and she plays a major part in the movie.

In short, Rise of Skywalker is -- in my opinion -- not only a great finish to this trilogy but a grand finale to the entire Skywalker saga. Take the family and have a great time. I know I did!

And have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

How Many Are Going to the 2020 Masters?

With no Twofer Tuesday this week, I decided to link to a GC article listing the players who have thus far qualified for next year's Masters.

OWGR #50 qualifier Adam Hadwin

The Top50 in the OWGR at the end of 2019 get automatic berths into the 2020 Masters. And that's why you see Adam Hadwin's photo -- according to calculations, he'll be #50 in the world when the ball drops in Time Square on New Year's Eve. This will be his third appearance.

Jazz Janewattananond, who won at the Thailand Masters last week -- and whom I forgot to list in yesterday's Limerick Summary post (that's been corrected now) -- will make his first appearance at Augusta National. He won four times on the Asian Tour this year, enough to move him up to #40 in the world.

At this point 88 players have qualified, which is one more than last year's entire field. You can check this link to see how the Masters will choose the complete field. There are still a few ways to qualify:
  • Winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from previous Masters to current Masters
  • The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament
  • The Masters Committee, at its discretion, also invites international players not otherwise qualified.
So it's possible that we could see more than 100 participants in the 2020 Masters. To the best of my knowledge, that has never happened.

Maybe the youngsters can make history in yet another way this year.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Australian PGA Championship

Winner: Adam Scott

Around the wider world of golf: To the best of my knowledge, this event was the last one of the year. [UPDATE: I forgot that Jazz Janewattananond won the Thailand Masters.]

Adam Scott lifts the Australian PGA trophy

It's shocking but it happened! In the last event of 2019, my Twofer Tuesday picks got the job done. I had Adam Scott (1) to win and Cameron Smith (T10) to Top10. It's a major accomplishment for me this year, and I'd like to thank both men for finishing my year with a bang!
  • Winners: 4 for 50
  • Place well (Top10): 22 for 50 (13 Top5s, 9 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 41 of 100 (25 Top5s, 16 more Top10s)
Of course, Adam Scott made the biggest bang of the bunch. His last minute charge in the final round, beginning with the birdie-eagle combo on 14 and 15 that gave him the lead for good over Michael Hendry. And while Hendry turned out to be Adam's major challenge, he certainly wasn't the only golfer to make a play for the trophy.

I think this is a huge win for Adam, especially going into 2020. He hadn't won on the European or PGA Tours since 2016, the Australasian Tour since 2013 or the Asian Tour since 2010. To get this win -- especially a major on the Australasian Tour -- right on the tails of his solid Presidents Cup play can only be an encouragement to him.

And he'll have the holidays to let this victory simmer in his mind, perhaps erupting into a boil of possibilities in time for his first event in 2020.

In the meantime, I'll give him this Limerick Summary -- the last one of 2019, by the way -- as a gift, in hopes that it'll make the season a bit brighter around the Scott household.
The end of the calendar year
Sees Adam with reason to cheer.
Though he went through a drought,
Seems he worked his way out
With a win that’s especially dear.
The photo comes from this page at

Sunday, December 22, 2019

A Useful Golf Gift That's Not Overpriced

Need a last minute stocking stuffer for your favorite golfer? (Or yourself?)

While probing through articles on mostly overpriced golf gifts I discovered this little gem in an article over at They're listed on Amazon as "Distance Clips Golf Yardage Markers Rangefinder Solution for Clubs" from ProActive Sports.

Distance Clips

It's a simple idea. Once you know how far you hit a certain club, you just pick the clip with the appropriate yardage on it and clip it on the club's shaft. And if the yardages change, you just change the clip. Brilliant!

When I checked they were normally $10 but Amazon had them on sale for $6. And no, I get no percentage if you buy them -- I just think they're cool.

You don't often see a golf gift this inexpensive that's actually useful, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Annabel Rolley on Better Iron Contact (Video)

Yeah, it's another Annabel Rolley tip. Since the only game in town this week is Down Under in Oz, I keep thinking about using her tips...

I know that you know this drill. But I specifically want you to note how close Annabel has the towel to the ball. The ball is only 5-6 inches ahead of the towel! You're going to have to concentrate, especially if you want to avoid sliding forward in an attempt to miss the towel.

This is going to be a tough drill for some of you. But I can think of few ways that are better if you want to learn to hit down and not lift up with your irons.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Suzann Pettersen on Retirement and Motherhood

Phil sent me this Golf Digest interview with Suzann Pettersen that they published just this Tuesday.

Suzann right after sinking 'The Putt'

In this article she talks about all the things that led up to her retirement and how life has been since. If you're a Suzann fan, you'll enjoy reading this article.

And if you aren't a fan... well, Suzann seems to be enjoying her retirement immensely anyway. ;-)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Jason King on Ball Alignment (Video)

More tips from Down Under! Jason King talks about making sure you're really aiming the ball where you think you are.

Jason shows you several things about getting your address position to match your intended aim, but it all breaks down to the same thing: Proper ball position comes first, then you aim the clubface, then you address the ball. If you do it the other way around, you'll set up improperly and put unintended spin on the ball.

Body position tends to determine your swing path and if you set your body first, you won't accurately aim the ball because it alters your viewing angle. Instead, you'll set up to curve the ball without even realizing it!

Jason's explanation is pretty simple -- and visual -- so I'm not going to restate what he's doing. Just remember that you need to establish your ball position and clubface position first, and then you address the ball so your body -- especially your shoulders -- complement your aim. If you do things in the correct order, you're more likely to get the results you intended.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Annabel Rolley on Using the Ground (Video)

Annabel Rolley is one of my favorite instructors and since we're still in Australia for golf this week, why not post another of her drills? This one is kinda cool.

A drill that mimics stomping a drink can -- brilliant! This is certainly one way to learn weight shift. And the nice thing about it is that you won't be tempted to slide forward toward the target, which can get you too far ahead of the ball and cause you to hit pushed shots.

The one thing I would recommend you do differently is, rather than lifting your lead heel straight up off the ground, I'd lift my heel the way it would actually happen during my swing and "stomp the can" that way. I think you get the feel of a smoother weight transfer when you do.

Besides, this is just a fun drill to add to your repertoire, one that can help break of the monotony of those drill-heavy practice sessions.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: Australian PGA Championship

After a week chilling in Australia to watch the Presidents Cup, Twofer Tuesday leaps back into action at the Australian PGA Championship.

Two-time defending champ Cameron Smith

The Australian PGA Championship was rescheduled this year because of the Presidents Cup but will be played at the same venue as it has the last six years -- the RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast. And the defending champion this year is the same as last year -- two-time winner Cameron Smith, who is coming off a really nice Presidents Cup performance where he took down Justin Thomas in the singles.

Enough of what you already know. Let's get to the picks!
  • My Top10er this year is Cameron Smith. I know the money is on Smith to get three in a row, especially after his performance last week at Royal Melbourne. And he certainly is riding a high coming into this event. But I think someone else has the inside track this year...
  • And that player, my winner, is Adam Scott. I think Adam has a lot of pent-up emotion after last week, emotion that could lift him to another win at this event. (He won the first playing at RACV Royal Pines Resort in 2013.) Adam went 2-2-1 and should have a renewed belief in what he is capable of after the International Team nearly pulled off the upset. I think he has the advantage over Smith this week.
GC's live coverage begins Wednesday at 8pm ET. The golf of 2019 is nearing its end -- enjoy it while you can!

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Presidents Cup

Winner: Team USA, 16-14

Around the wider world of golf: The team of Kevin Tway and Rory Sabbatini won the QBE Shootout, the PGA Tour's unofficial team event formerly known as the Shark Shootout; and Jazz Janewattananond won the BNI Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour.

The victorious Team USA with the Cup

There is no Twofer Tuesday update this week, as there was no individual competition in the field. There was just Team USA and Team International.

And as impressive as Tiger was (my gosh, you have to wonder what we might see in 2020!) and as well as the US team played (they really showed some resilience in those second and fifth rounds), I want to spend some time talking about the International team. Because while Team USA was certainly impressive, what Ernie Els has done with his team has qualitatively changed the Presidents Cup moving forward.

In my Twofer Tuesday post this week I wrote that the International team was being terribly underestimated. I wrote that I expected some new leaders to emerge. And I summed it up this way:
So while I think the US will win, I won't be surprised if the Internationals manage an upset.
I was right on the first two counts and was almost right on the third one. And while I may have an unusual take on this, I think I know why the International team didn't pull it off.

They were so successful that they shocked themselves, and they simply weren't prepared for it.

While they believed in principle that they had a chance to win, I think that second round caught them completely off-guard. It's one thing to get yourself into a position to win; it's quite another thing to find yourself on the verge of being 9-1 after only ten matches, which would have made losing virtually impossible. Seriously, when you only need 5.5 points and you have 20 matches to make them, a team of their caliber simply isn't going to lose -- even if Tiger Woods IS the other team's captain!

It may have been their first time in this position, but I doubt it will be their last. I do think Ernie will be back as their captain for the next Presidents Cup, simply because the International Team will want him to continue the work he began in this one. The vision of his team, particularly the younger members, has been stretched far beyond what any of them believed possible even a week ago.

The Presidents Cup is on the verge of becoming... BIG.

In the meantime, I salute Team USA for weathering the storm down in Australia and keeping the Cup. But it was more difficult than anyone expected and their Limerick Summary acknowledges that fact.
The contest went down to the wire.
Fueled by International fire
The end was dramatic—
If somewhat erratic—
But Tiger’s boys won their desire.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Annabel Rolley on Wrist Action (Video)

Since I'll be talking about the Presidents Cup tomorrow in the Limerick Summary, I decided to give you another golf video from Down Under today. Here's Annabel Rolley on proper wrist action and why it's important.

Note that it doesn't matter whether you cock your wrists early, late, suddenly or gradually. What matters is that you create that wrist cock at the top of your swing and unleash it at the proper moment on the way down.

Annabel's drill is the swish drill, which most of you are probably familiar with, but I really like her explanation and demonstration of it. Don't let your familiarity with this drill cause you to overlook its usefulness.

And since Annabel mentioned the L-shape you create at the top of your swing, I'll remind you of the L-to-L drill that I so often recommend. Work on that and the swish drill that Annabel shows you, and you'll see dramatic improvements in your golf swing.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Round 5 Singles Pairings

Team USA didn't pull off the big comeback they would have liked -- that fact gave the Internationals something to hold onto -- but they did win three of the four points and cut their deficit to a more manageable two points. Since it takes 15.5 points to win the Cup, Team USA will need 7.5 while the Internationals need only 5.5.

Here is the singles line-up for the final round today.
  • Match 19: Abraham Ancer VS Tiger Woods
  • Match 20: Hideki Matsuyama VS Tony Finau
  • Match 21: C.T. Pan VS Patrick Reed
  • Match 22: Haotong Li VS Dustin Johnson
  • Match 23: Adam Hadwin VS Bryson DeChambeau
  • Match 24: Sungjae Im VS Gary Woodland
  • Match 25: Joaquin Niemann VS Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 26: Adam Scott VS Xander Schauffele
  • Match 27: Byeong Hun An VS Webb Simpson
  • Match 28: Cameron Smith Vs Justin Thomas
  • Match 29: Louis Oosthuizen VS Matt Kuchar
  • Match 30: Marc Leishman VS Rickie Fowler
The thing that stands out to me is that the captains seem to have chosen their players less for their current form and more for their skillsets. Long hitters are pitted against long hitters, accuracy players against accuracy players, strong short games and/or weak putters against the same. This is a bit different from the norm, but it makes sense given each captain's leaning toward statistics.

Bear in mind that traditionally -- at least, when we talk about Ryder Cups -- the winning point most often comes from match 26 or 27, occasionally 28. Both teams have followed this traditional bit of wisdom, placing strong players in these matches as well.

Finally, a number of speculations concern Tiger putting himself up against Abraham Ancer, but I think it's pretty simple to understand. While Tiger probably wants to be available to supervise late matches himself if they're super close, and while he possibly heard that, way back in November, Ancer said he wanted to play him, I think the primary reason is that Abraham Ancer is arguably the International Team's top player this week and Tiger has been the American Team's best. What other choice would you expect from Tiger?

GC's coverage of the singles starts at 6pm ET today, just a little over an hour from now (that is, as I post this). I expect nothing less than a Ryder Cup-esque finish to this one!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Round 4 Foursome Pairings

The US team must feel like they've been kicked in the gut, being down 5-9. They need to run the tables this afternoon to get back even as they head into the singles. A split isn't good enough. Unless they do something spectacular in this session, they are in SERIOUS trouble!

In case you've forgotten, foursomes is the Americans' strong suit.
  • Match 15: Louis Oosthuizen/Adam Scott VS
    Dustin Johnson/Gary Woodland
  • Match 16: Marc Leishman/Abraham Ancer VS
    Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler
  • Match 17: Sungjae Im/Cameron Smith VS
    Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 18: Byeong-Hun An/Joaquin Niemann VS
    Matt Kuchar/Tony Finau
Some of these pairings are the same as yesterday's foursomes -- Oosthuizen/Scott, Leishman/Ancer and Im/Smith for the Internationals, and Schauffele/Cantlay for the US (they've played together all four sessions now).

Kuchar/Finau and Thomas/Fowler are Round 3 pairings who played well earlier today.

Interestingly, Johnson/Woodland was a fourball pairing in the first round. And An/Niemann is probably a product of Hadwin being under the weather and Matsuyama getting a rest for the singles.

While I was surprised yesterday when Tiger left himself out of the pairings, after seeing how cold the weather has turned I'm not surprised he's also skipping this session. He'll need to be rested if it's cold for the singles tomorrow.

Since I have to get an early start tomorrow morning, I won't be seeing the finish of this session or the matchups for tomorrow until the afternoon. So Saturday's post will be going up late afternoon.

And of course, GC's coverage of this session is going on right now!

Round 3 Fourball Pairings

Both teams left Round 2 with something to hold onto. At one point Team USA was staring at the potential of finishing the day in a 1-9 deficit. Having finished down only 3.5-6.5, they certainly leave with some momentum.

But while the Internationals didn't gain the ground they had hoped, they still have that three-point lead... and the Americans have five fewer matches to make them up. They may feel a bit deflated, but that's still a win for them.

In Round 3 we're back to the Internationals' strong suit, fourballs.
  • Match 11: Marc Leishman/Haotong Li VS
    Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler
  • Match 12: Sungjae Im/Abraham Ancer VS
    Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 13: Hideki Matsuyama/C.T. Pan VS
    Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed
  • Match 14: Byeong-Hun An/Adam Scott VS
    Matt Kuchar/Tony Finau
Everyone on both teams has now played.

I think this round is the big one for the Americans. This is their weakest format and they lost a lot of ground in the Round 1 fourballs. They HAVE to find some way to at least halve this session. If they lose another two or three points, they're going to be in deep trouble.

One last thing: I was a bit shocked, both that Tiger is sitting out this round and that he left the team of Reed/Simpson together. Tiger and JT are responsible for two of the team's 3.5 points, as well as being the only team to get a point in the earlier fourball session, so I thought he'd play fourballs again. But after checking their scores in more detail, the Reed/Simpson pairing did play fourballs much better than foursomes so he may think this is the best place to rest other players.

GC's coverage starts today at 3pm ET and runs until 2am ET. This could be a long one for Team USA.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Round 2 Foursome Pairings

The Internationals got their Presidents Cup off to a great start. (I told you not to underestimate them!) But today is the Americans' strong suit, foursomes (or alternate shot).
  • Match 6: Louis Oosthuizen/Adam Scott VS
    Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar
  • Match 7: Adam Hadwin/Joaquin Niemann VS
    Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 8: Marc Leishman/Abraham Ancer VS
    Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed
  • Match 9: Byeong-Hun An/Hideki Matsuyama VS
    Justin Thomas/Tiger Woods
  • Match 10: Sungjae Im/Cameron Smith VS
    Gary Woodland/Rickie Fowler
Everyone on Team USA has now played, and only Haotong Li has not played for the Internationals.

I still believe Tiger had no intention of playing the foursomes before the team's poor showing in Round 1 sort of forced his hand. However, with only one session each day and the nice weather, I don't see this causing any problems for his back. (Assuming he gets up feeling good for Round 2, that is. He may have put himself later in the day as a precaution.)

Round 2 is the critical round for the Internationals. As I said, this is traditionally the strongest format for Team USA. If Ernie's team can stretch their lead or even just tie this round, you have to toss out all the underdog talk and seriously consider their chances to win the Cup.

GC's coverage begins tonight at 7pm ET.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Round 1 Fourball Pairings

An interesting group of pairings for the first matches at the Presidents Cup.
  • Match 1: Marc Leishman/Joaquin Niemann VS
    Justin Thomas/Tiger Woods
  • Match 2: Adam Hadwin/Sungjae Im VS
    Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 3: Adam Scott/Byeong-Hun An VS
    Bryson DeChambeau/Tony Finau
  • Match 4: Hideki Matsuyama/C.T. Pan VS
    Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed
  • Match 5: Abraham Ancer/Louis Oosthuizen VS
    Dustin Johnson/Gary Woodland
The four players sitting it out are Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler for the US, and Haotong Li and Cameron Smith for the Internationals.

No big surprises as far as I can see, although some of the pairings -- unlike Tiger and JT -- may seem counter-intuitive. Here are a few of my random thoughts:
  • An and Im are both South Korean but also rookies; Hadwin has played once before and I suspect the Hadwin/Im pairing has a lot to do with them knowing each other from the PGA Tour. As the most veteran member of the team, Scott makes sense as An's partner.
  • Finau and DeChambeau are both rookies but Tiger knows both well... and let's face it, the US probably doesn't worry about throwing two rookies together because the team has been historically strong. (Same for Schauffele and Cantlay.) Ernie is going to be much more cautious in his initial pairings because one unproductive pairing could put them behind the eight-ball early.
  • Perhaps the most unexpected pairing is Reed and Simpson, but Reed can get a bit wild at times and Simpson should be able to keep them in the hole should that happen.
If I'm surprised by anything, it's the decision to sit Li for the first match. I would really like him as a fourball partner, but I suppose somebody had to sit.

GC's live coverage starts at 5:30pm ET this afternoon. I'll reiterate what I said in yesterday's post -- I think it's a mistake to underestimate the Internationals this time around. Although I expect the US to win, I won't be surprised if we see an upset.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Twofer Tuesday? The Presidents Cup

Who am I kidding? You pick one team or the other this week. So what else is there to talk about?

Tiger and Ernie with the Cup

Let me just pass on a few thoughts.

First, concerning Patrick Reed: Despite how damning the video appears, I think people are missing one very important point in this discussion... and that's the fact that the video exists at all. Why do I think that's a big deal?

Simply, Patrick had been in or near the lead all day and KNEW there was a camera following him. Look at that video again -- there isn't anything between the camera and Patrick to keep him from seeing it. The real question isn't whether Patrick was trying to cheat or not. The real question is whether Patrick is stupid enough to try and cheat when he KNOWS he's on camera. Do you really think a player THAT stupid can play as well -- and win as much -- as Patrick has?

My money is on a brain fart, plain and simple. People may think Patrick is impervious to pressure but, given that his lead was slipping away and the field was playing so well, I could see his hands losing some of their sensitivity. Add a little bit of mental fog and I can see him totally zoning out over the shot.

So regardless of what anybody says, I think Captain America is human and just blacked out for a few moments. The alternative simply makes no sense to me at all.

On the International Team's chances: I know the history, I know the rankings, I know the likelihood of repeating the past. Frankly, I think the US Team will win once again.

But I think the International Team is being terribly underestimated. Their rookies are playing well and -- yes, I think this is an advantage -- Jason Day isn't playing. I believe that's an advantage only because I don't think the current state of Jason's game can handle the pressure of having the team on his back. (Back problems have been hurting his game all season.) The rookies and normal support players HAVE to step up and I believe they will, simply because there is no one other than Adam Scott with a huge record... and nobody expects Adam to win it all by himself. Without Jason there, I expect new leaders will emerge.

As I said, the rookies are playing well. They don't have the jet lag of the US Team but they DO have some serious credentials on tours around the world. I think Ernie's team is primed to field some breakout stars this time around.

And the Internationals have won in Australia before. I think that carries more weight than they're getting credit for. They know they can do it there because they HAVE done it there.

So while I think the US will win, I won't be surprised if the Internationals manage an upset.

Finally, about Tiger: How many times will Tiger try to play? I don't think there's any mystery at all.

I forget which news conference it was, but in the last week Tiger specifically said he was "responsible for two points" at this event. Of course he is -- all team members are required to play once before the singles and then in the singles. I think that's all Tiger plans to play unless he's needed for a third match... or he just finds he's on a hot streak.

But I don't think he's willing to risk a singles loss just to play more than one pairs match. He wants a win, and risking a back problem makes no sense at all.

So that's my "Twofer Tuesday" for this week. Just one takeaway: Don't sleep on those International rookies; I think they're going to surprise some viewers.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Hero World Challenge

Winner: Henrik Stenson

Around the wider world of golf: Jason and Bernhard Langer picked up their second PNC Father/Son Challenge victory; Matt Jones won his second Emirates Australian Open on the Australasian Tour; Rasmus Højgaard won the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open on the ET; Ryo Ishikawa won the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and Esther Henseleit won the inaugural Magical Kenya Ladies Open on the LET.

Henrik Stenson with his very own Tiger

Finally! My Twofer Tuesday picks stepped up. I had Jon Rahm (2) to win and Tiger Woods (4) to Top10. Tiger knocked the rust off just like I hoped and Jon... well, it don't get much closer than losing by one!
  • Winners: 3 for 49
  • Place well (Top10): 21 for 49 (13 Top5s, 8 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 39 of 98 (24 Top5s, 15 more Top10s)
With all the debate over Tiger's choices to replace injured players in the Presidents Cup, it's pretty clear his exemptions for the Hero turned out pretty well. Chez Reavie came in 13th in his first appearance -- not bad given the tricky conditions at Albany.

And then there was Henrik...

The only player to post four rounds in the 60s walked off with the prize and then some. After all, Henrik had to be a sponsor's invite because he hadn't won this year (since the 2017 Wyndham, in fact) nor was he high enough in the OWGR (40) to make it on his own. And when you consider that the Swede had to replace his beloved 3-wood recently, perhaps the best weapon in his bag, it would seem that he was in no position to beat a field this strong.

Surprise! After playing solidly all week, he nailed a 259-yard 5-wood to 8 inches on the par-5 15th for a tap-in eagle... and the lead. He never looked back after that.

Looks like the Stensons will be having a nice Christmas. Henrik not only got the victory (and associated swag) but also a big bump in the OWGR. Sunday night his new position had already been posted, up from 40 to 26. And he got a new Limerick Summary, just to make it official.
The Swede got an invite from Tiger
‘Cause he lacked the world ranking required
To earn his way in…
But it looks like this win
Has driven his ranking MUCH higher.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Lou Guzzi on Knockdown Shots (Video)

Guzzi's approach to knockdown shots is a bit different from most instructors', and he has a useful 'feel' tip we can learn from it.

Guzzi isn't moving the ball back and using a three-quarter shot (up around ear level). Rather, he leaves the ball in its regular position and shortens his backswing to a half-shot! Then he swings to a full finish. We can get all of that from what he says.

Now let's look at that other tip we can infer from what he does.

By shortening his backswing to something between his waist and his shoulders -- I think it might be a bit longer with a hybrid or fairway wood (he's using a 7-iron here) -- he dramatically reduces the distance he hits any given club.

But how much distance does he lose? He gives us a hint. Since he's hitting this 7-iron 120 yards but he usually hits that club around 160, that's around three to four clubs less. That gives us a starting point for estimating how far we'll hit a knockdown shot with any given club.

Here's the tip: When hitting a knockdown shot, figure you'll need about three or four more clubs to get the same distance. Will it be that way all the time? Probably not. But when you face a knockdown shot, especially one that you haven't practiced, use this rule of thumb to get you in the ballpark.

Choose your target appropriately -- so that a mis-hit won't put you in trouble -- and you could improve your score dramatically.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Brad Worthington on Spotputting

This article over at covers the basics of spotputting, which is a technique more players should try.

Aiming at a spot that isn't the hole

As you can see from the photo above, the concept is simple. That 'hole' you see Brad putting toward isn't a hole at all, but rather a disc he has placed on the green to illustrate where he is aiming. The actual hole is over on the right side of the photo, and Brad has picked his 'spot' to be between him and the hole.

Many instructors teach this method. Dave Pelz immediately comes to mind, although his diagrams tend to place the 'spot' out beside the actual hole because he wants to show how much the putts are breaking.

I use this method myself, but even Brad's spot is too far away for me. I typically read the putt and choose my line, them pick a spot on that line that's no more than 12-18 inches in front of the ball. That allows me to strike the putt extremely close to the spot if not directly over it. If you pick a spot as far away as Brad has and you aim at that spot, the ball will not roll over that spot unless you actually start the ball on a line above the spot and let it curve over it.

To me, putting to a very close spot simplifies aiming quite a lot!

Regardless of how you pick your spot, this technique can improve your ability to make more putts... and leave shorter second putts when you don't make the first one.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Jake Shepherd on Proper Impact Position (Video)

FACE ANGLE. This video lesson is all about face angle, which may be the most important thing weekend players can learn.

I really like the first drill, the static drill, where you place the clubface against a heavy object and apply some pressure. It's very simple but it can do so much!

The reason many of you don't hit the ball where you're aiming is because you don't know when the clubface is aimed at your target. This drill teaches you to feel where the clubface is aimed as you enter the impact zone, as you actually hit the ball, and as you start swinging into your finish. And you don't even have to be at the range to do this drill because you aren't actually swinging the club -- you're just learning how it feels when your clubface is square!

Don't underestimate a drill like this. When your swing is less than perfect, even if your path is off, the ball will curve toward your target if the clubface is aimed at it. TRY THIS DRILL!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Peter Finch on 'Bounce Chipping' (Video)

This Golf Monthly video shows a different approach to chipping that uses the bounce to deaden the shot.

Finch's basics are as follows:
  • Use a wedge with a nice bounce on it. The short irons don't have enough bounce for this shot.
  • You want the club's grip to run up through the middle of your palm, along your lifeline instead of in your fingers. That makes the club a bit more upright and weakens your lead hand a bit.
  • Set up with the shaft a bit more upright -- more in line with your lead forearm -- so it feels as if the club is up on the toe a bit.
  • You want the ball a bit ahead of center and the butt of the grip pointing more toward your lead hip.
  • Don't use your wrists! You want to keep the club shaft and your lead forearm in a straight line. This is basically an arm and shoulder stroke, like some putting techniques.
The result of all this is that the ball pops up a bit as it comes out of the rough and doesn't roll as much.

While I don't think this method will take the place of normal chipping, it sounds like it could be very useful if you're shortsided or if you have a downhill chip. Anything that takes some momentum off a chip in those circumstances should leave you a shorter par putt.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Emirates Australian Open Is This Week...

...and I nearly forgot because I'm used to it happening BEFORE the Hero!

Defending champion Abraham Ancer

Abraham Ancer is the defending champion at the Australian Golf Club in Rosebery, which is a suburb of Sydney. This was a big breakthrough win for Ancer, who became the first Mexican winner of the event and parlayed that win -- along with some stellar play this season -- into a Presidents Cup berth. He'll be the first Mexican player in that event as well.

He'll be joined by a lot of big name players like Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen. I believe there are seven (counting Ancer) of the International Presidents Cup team playing there this week.

And if that wasn't enough, this is the first event to feature qualifying for the 2020 OPEN. Three spots are up for grabs. Don't you want to watch and see what happens? I do.

GC's coverage begins TODAY at 8pm ET.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: Hero World Challenge

Tiger's event takes center stage in this week's Twofer Tuesday.

Defending champion Jon Rahm

The Hero World Challenge is played in the Bahamas, and it's very lucky that the Albany golf course was spared during Hurricane Dorian's recent rampage. The defending champion is Jon Rahm, who will begin his defense on Wednesday this year -- a concession to next week's Presidents Cup.

According to this page at
The field at Albany is reserved for the defending champion, the winners of the majors since the last edition, the first 11 available in order of highest position in the Official World Golf Ranking (on Aug. 26) and two sponsor exemptions.
If Tiger hadn't qualified on his own, he would have received a sponsor's exemption since he's the host. It does benefit his foundation, of course.

Despite my recent lack of success with Twofer Tuesday picks, I am somewhat optimistic this week. Since there are only 18 players in the field, I have a better than 50% chance of picking at least one of the Top10 finishers!
  • My Top10er is Tiger Woods. Although he'll likely be focused on next week's event -- he's both Captain and player, you know -- I expect he'll still find a way to knock the rust off his game and place high in the field. At least I know he'll be well rested.
  • And my winner? The defending champion Jon Rahm of course! Like Tiger, he too should be well rested -- and riding high after winning the DP WORLD Tour Challenge to take the Race to Dubai title. Unlike Tiger, however, he won't have the Presidents Cup on his mind.
GC's live coverage begins Wednesday at 1pm ET, with the final round split between GC and NBC on Saturday. The weather looks to be good, so watching this event should be a treat for those of us caught in various degrees of winter weather here in the US!

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Alfred Dunhill Championship

Winner: Pablo Larrazábal

Around the wider world of golf: Anne Van Dam won the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España on the LET; Kyung-Tae Kim won the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour; and the KLPGA beat the LPGA 15-9 at the OrangeLife Champions Trophy Park Inbee Invitational team event. (Thanks again, IC!)

Pablo Larrazábal with Alfred Dunhill trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks went pretty much like normal this week. I had Eddie Pepperell (T19) to win and Brandon Stone (T59) to Top10. I thought Pepperell just got off to a slow start in Round 1, but he crashed and burned in Round 2 and never recovered..
  • Winners: 3 for 48
  • Place well (Top10): 20 for 48 (12 Top5s, 8 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 37 of 96 (22 Top5s, 15 more Top10s)
Ironically, I had considered picking Pablo Larrazábal but ruled him out because of poor play. Since his T7 at the Porsche European Open in July, he hadn't done much at all.

And let's be honest, after entering the final round with a three-shot lead, he didn't look to do much better this week. After waking up with severe blisters on his right foot, he proceeded to shoot a six-over 41 on the front nine to lose his lead and perhaps even his chance to win. Before it was over, he had taken six bogeys and a double...

Before making birdies on three of the last four holes to win by one over Joel Sjoholm.

Pablo is just the latest player to be inspired by Tiger ("I said to myself, ‘If Tiger can win a U.S. Open with a broken leg…’ and I just fought hard”) and pull out an unexpected win. Hopefully he pulled out some medicine for those blisters as well! Perhaps his first win in four-and-a-half years -- and a shiny new Limerick Summary -- will ease the pain while he heals.
The field started out three behind…
Then Pablo shot plus six for nine!
He looked to be done
But he went on a run—
Got the win and (I hope) calamine.
The photo came from this page at