CAUTION!! The Domino Effect of Golf Drills

CautionHave you ever worked a golf drill, fixed a fault, and then watched the drill negatively impact a previously solid part of your game?  Like a time bomb, one of these exploded in my face over the last two days of an otherwise excellent golf trip to the Delaware – Maryland beaches.  On my excursion, I experienced the most god awful episode of skulled, thinned, chunked and totally stone-handed chipping and pitching in the last 20 years.  Oddly enough, I drove the ball superbly, putted well, but if I missed a green, couldn’t hit squat.  It was literally 30-handicap caliber chopping and the bemused looks of my playing partners spoke volumes.  (Apologies to any 30-handicap readers; the problem is not you; it’s me.)  Technically I knew I was flipping my hands at the ball and letting the clubface pass my hands, but I couldn’t stop it.  This was not the chip yips because I didn’t feel any pressure even though the previous failures had gotten in my head; I simply could not execute shots I knew were in my arsenal.

On the drive back today, we were still bemusing over the root cause until I remembered back in August, I read Tour Tempo by John Novosel and took it for a test drive.   Little did I know but this drill to help with ball striking rhythm was sowing the seeds of the catastrophe.  If you’ll recall, Novosel’s theory is to introduce a 3:1 backswing to downswing timing ratio.  Most students, myself included, needed to speed up their downswing to comply with the the ratio.  After a few rounds, I noticed I started to hit my full swing gap wedge shots a little fat but disregarded it as an anomaly or something that occasionally creeps into my game which is handled with a correction.  After further analyzing the wreckage, I correctly identified the cause as an early release created in an attempt to speed up my downswing for Tour Tempo.  To be fair, there’s another Tour Tempo book for short game, that I did not read, and which purportedly has a different timing mechanism for short shots.  Oops!

Everyone who’s instructed or been instructed in golf is familiar with the concept of over-correction.  You over emphasize a fix to clearly turn a negative habit to positive, then tweak as the over-correction becomes a fault of its own.  Now I’ve got a bit of an early release with my full swing and a full blown mess with my short game.  I’m kinda glad winter is almost here, but anyone have a good drill to promote hands ahead of the clubhead with the greenside shots?  Please send along.  Thanks!

12 thoughts on “CAUTION!! The Domino Effect of Golf Drills”

  1. Jim, when you take your practice swings for chipping, do you aim for a particular landing spot or try to just feel the swing that will get the ball the right distance to the hole? Part of my problem may be that I alternate between the two methods. Thanks,


  2. Constant correction, overcorrection, then correction seems to be the eternal nature of this game we have chosen. I wish it were different. My golf pro gets a good laugh out of my overdoing whatever the last lesson was supposed to teach me to do.

    1. Dave, these adjustments are always necessary and are not unique to golf. All sports have them albeit in different flavors and implementations. What’s unique about golf is that in-game adjustments aren’t made with the benefit of film and other sports usually are. And in golf, the only one who can suggest an in-game adjustment is the player or his caddy. Other sports have a plethora of coaches and cameras. Just goes to show how challenging our game really is. Thanks!


  3. Brian,

    Very interesting. I’m glad you’ve figured out the root cause, as I’m positive for a player of your caliber it will be short lived. It’s very interesting how we tend to over correct things over time. I guess our brain thinks, “wow, this really works well, maybe if I do it a little bit more it’ll work even better!”. Our minds and bodies are constantly evolving, and therefore our golf swing must as well.

    This drill might be tricky to implement, but Dr. Bob Rotella suggests it to people who are suddenly in a chipping funk. Get somebody to roll balls towards you (say on a piece of plywood or something), and chip the moving balls back to a desired target. Hitting moving balls doesn’t give you time to think about mechanics since you are focusing purely on timing and getting the ball back to your target, which can act as a reset of sorts, going back to your natural ability and instincts

    Good luck!

    1. Josh, I love it! I’m a huge Rotella fan but never heard of that one in any of the books I’ve read from him. Sounds analogous to the jump shooter example he uses in one of his works. The idea is to rely on your instincts when shooting the shot and not think about mechanics. Heading out to the Home Depot now for my plywood sheet. Thanks! Brian

  4. Brian,

    I have actually experienced exactly what you are talking about on a Golf trip to North Carolina three years ago. I drove the ball beautifully, hit greens, but when I missed a green I was dead in the water. To this day I still don’t know what went wrong with the short game, but over time it went away. The best advice I could give regarding this is to not look too hard into it. Get yourself to a short game practice area, focus on the fundamentals of grip, ball position, posture and set up and just remember all of the good chips you have hit in the past. Inevitably you will work it out. That might seem like a non-specific answer, but in my experience it is the only way outside of taking a short game lesson to work through it. Best of luck.


  5. Jon, the more I think about this the more it appears to be an anomaly. My performance was so bad and so out of character I’m not too worried about it. Last time I got hit with short game foibles, I did as you suggested and focused real hard on my landing point for all shots. That usually zeroes me in. It may be some time before I can work through this as the weather has turned for the worst in the east. Hope you are enjoying the year round play practice conditions in sunny CA!


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