Tag Archives: lessons

Golf game is coming around. . .FINALLY and thank you!

It’s not often we once-a-week chops are able to string a series of positives together, but I had such the experience from last weekend to this, and it finally feels like my game is coming around .  It has been a brutal spring punctuated by bad weather and terrible ball striking.  The bad swings compounded into stress, worrying, and some serious mental game foibles.   But after this weekend, things are finally looking up and many in the on-line golf community have played a positive part and deserve my thanks.

First, thank you to The Grateful Golfer for pointing out that focus is extremely important in golf.  After our dialog, I realized that I needed a serious re-commitment to my pre-shot routine and to work on changing focus to targets instead of mechanics.  It’s great to bounce ideas off Jim; he’s such a wealth of knowledge and has great perspective.

Next, thank you to The Birdie Hunt for reinforcing the notion that continuous play is more important than practice, especially for the weekend hack.  I try to do both, but clearly the part time player benefits more from play.  Playing once a week is hard because it feels like you have to re-learn too many shots instead of call on them.  I finally played two days in a row for the first time this season, albeit only 27 holes, but the added reps were great.

Third, thank you to my friend Jim Rush who spotted a serious flaw in my swing during my pre-round warm up last weekend.  Nothing will start your round off worse than hitting huge smother hooks while you get loose.  I leveraged his advice as well as the on-line lesson from FixYourGame.com I took a couple years ago.  The takeaway; when things go bad with your swing, you are usually reverting to bad habits, as I was.  I will probably be fighting spine angle issues the rest of my days, but at least when I spray the ball, I understand why and can work it.  Yesterday and today I worked it and finally felt in control off the tee.

Lastly, thank you to Gary Marlowe for the chipping lesson back in 1983.  Gary was a fellow student at the University of Maryland and on the golf team.  Later he went on to play the PGA Tour for one season but had his career cut short by injury.  Gary and I were on the putting green one afternoon and he had me choke down to the metal with my trailing hand for better control, and play the ball back with a pronounced forward press.  I have been very dissatisfied with my distance control and contact this season, and recommitted to this tip yesterday during my nine-hole practice round and it felt good.  Today, I missed the green on #1 at Northwest and imagine how great it felt when I chipped in for birdie.  Change validated!

I’m not totally out of the woods, but it was nice to feel like myself again over consecutive rounds.  Hoping the momentum continues to build through next week’s trip to South Carolina.

How’s your swing coming along this spring?

Learning The Same Lesson Over and Over

Golfers, more than athletes of any sport need to be reminded of the old adage that says, “If you keep doing what you’ve done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.”  This takes the same form as “practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent,” and today I relearned that lesson the hard way.

For some reason I periodically feel compelled to practice mechanics during my pre-round warm-up and I know you should never do this.  My guess is that today, I felt compelled to catch up from yesterday because I didn’t practice and subconsciously felt unprepared to play.  Or maybe it was the fact that I forgot to bring my golf shoes to the course and was going brain dead in general, but I know that your warm-up is designed to get your body and mind ready to play and you should avoid all mechanical preparation.  Last week, I had practiced the day before and felt prepared to play on game day.  During my pre-round warm-up, I was off kilter and searched successfully for a minor swing key to get me through the round.  This type of adjustment is okay but going out and deliberately working on mechanics is not.  Why do golfers do this?  I know I’m not alone here.

So, today, I hit the range for warm-ups determined to keep my arms and chest connected, and I put a head cover under my left armpit for a dozen swings or so to work that good solid feeling.  On or about the 8th hole, I started to pull the ball.  Struggling to recover as the pull became a pull hook, I managed to make the turn in 1-over 37, but was clearly starting to rearrange mental deck chairs.  Smothering nearly every shot, I bogeyed #10, lost two balls on #11 on my way to a snowman, and continued to fight the hook through the 16th hole.  Having already hit the proverbial iceberg, I finally realized standing on #17 tee that the head cover drill had pulled my hands too low on the back swing and I was attacking the ball from a swing path that was much too shallow and from the inside.  I made the adjustment but the damage had been done and 47 strokes later, I had my 84 and made my way to the parking lot humbled and exhausted.  The only thing worse than having a knock down drag out with your golf swing is doing it when you’re walking and it’s over 90 degrees and humid.

So I take some solace in the fact that I figured out what was going on with my swing, but was left to wonder why I periodically have to relearn the same hard lesson.  Has this ever happened to you and if so, same lesson or a different one?

What’s Your Favorite Golf Drill Of The Year?

During today’s PGA Championship telecast, I was watching Tiger on the putting green pre-round and was loving his use of Butch Harmon’s Two Tee Drill.  Butch's two tee drillWhile watching that pure stroke bang putts into the hole with perfect form, I immediately grabbed a couple balls out of my bag and set up shop on the carpet.  Using a golf ball in lieu of a tee on each end, I quickly found out how perfect you had to be to slide that putter head through the gate.  Though not nearly as proficient as Tiger, I still can’t wait to take this out to the course tomorrow and give it another try.

The effort got me thinking about all the excellent and not so excellent golf tips I have received this year and I was trying to pick the best.  Do you have one or more to share?  Here are my top three:

1st place:

“Push out your pecs!”  I received this from a friend while warming up in Myrtle Beach before a round.  After a particularly bad ball striking day the day before, I was still all over the place in my warm up and just didn’t feel right at address.  My friend told me to push out my pecs and all of a sudden, I felt like I was in a good strong athletic position and started hitting it pure.

2nd place:

“Keep your left upper arm tight to your chest on the back swing and down swing.”  Got this one from Graeme McDowell in one of the spring Golf Digest magazines.G-MAC  This worked great for about two or three rounds till a hook worked it’s way into my swing.  Maybe that’s why G-Mac fights a hook.

Honorable mention:

“Hinge and hold.”  Resurrected this one from the archives of my own practice notes.  Back in the spring I was fighting some very loose and embarrassing green-side pitch shots with my new 58 degree wedge.  Skinny and lateral were in the lexicon and it turned out that I was trying to release the club on these short shots.  Found the tip and started holding my finish with the club face pointed at the sky and down my target line and all of a sudden, I was cured.  More importantly, I remain cured.

If you’ve come across a great tip or two, please share.  I’d love to put some good ones into play.  Thanks!

Golf Improvement – Where Do I Invest?

Several friends and colleagues have been asking me lately on how to best improve their golf games.  Since golf can require a serious investment in money and time, it’s best to approach from the two main perspectives; the beginning player and the seasoned player.  Their needs are quite different.

The beginner

The typical novice will make one of three mistakes.  They will either run to the sporting goods store and plunk down $300 for a new set of off-the-rack clubs and bag, or purchase the latest driver being touted in all the golf magazines and television adds, or grab dad’s old set of clubs in the garage and head off to the driving range to teach themselves the game, or worse, get some “expert advice” from a friend that plays.  When I used to teach golf, we had an old saying that goes, “amateurs teach amateurs to play like amateurs.”  The first and single most important investment the beginner can make is to invest in a series of golf lessons with a certified PGA professional.  Take that $300 and buy a series of five or six lessons and put yourself in the hands of an expert.  You will not need any equipment and your pro will be able to make recommendations to fit you appropriately for clubs.  Individual lessons are more expensive than group lessons but don’t be fooled by the cost; pay the extra money for individual.  Group lessons are what couples or friends looking for a new social activity usually invest in.  For serious learning, good one-on-one instruction is required.  For juniors, a golf camp is a great start, as instructors will build enthusiasm for the game, good playing habits, and impart the basic etiquette everyone should learn, but junior must also have one-on-one instruction to best build skills.

For beginners serious about playing the game for a living or becoming a single-digit handicap, I’d advise to learn the game backward.  First learn to get the ball in the hole, which means initial instruction on putting and short game (before any full swing instruction.)   For the rest of the general public, full swing lessons are fine.  For full swing instruction, many golf centers and stores offering in-door instruction have launch monitors to simulate your shots.  My preference is to take lessons out doors at a golf course or driving range.  The game is played outdoors and you want to simulate actual playing conditions in your learning.  Also, there is no substitute for seeing real ball flight.

The seasoned player:

When I taught golf, the lesson for the seasoned player was harder than the beginner because I’d have to work to undo self-taught habits or those formed by “friendly advice.”  The seasoned player is usually looking for a more immediate return on investment and obviously there are a multitude of areas for which to focus but the best way to quickly lower scores is to get instruction on improving your short game.  Take lessons on putting, chipping, and pitching and then devote 75% of available practice time to short game.

Many seasoned players become enamored with their ball striking and are also susceptible to the latest equipment fads that are touted to help you gain distance.  Take a step back and invest $50-100 in a good club fitting with your local professional.  Often times, you’ll be able to deduct the cost of the fitting if you purchase clubs from the same provider.  Here is where your video swing analysis, launch monitors, and simulators can provide valuable feedback and allow your pro to make sound recommendations.

I read an article in a golf magazine several years ago about golf in Japan.  The reporter visited a giant indoor mult-deck driving range and interviewed a player who was knocking shot after shot long and straight.  The reporter asked what type of scores the player shot and the player replied, “I don’t know because I’ve never played on a real course.”  The cost of playing golf in Japan is prohibitive for the general public but the point is that you’ve got to balance practice with enough play to improve.  The seasoned player must devote enough time on the course as well as off because there is no substitute for the experience you’ll get dealing with actual playing conditions and situations.  For serious devotees, get out twice a week to enjoy and develop your new-found improvements.

Finally, the seasoned player should embark on a fitness program designed to strengthen core muscles and build better balance and athleticism.  Take your normal workout and focus on making it golf-centric.  I’ve been working on a specific plan over the winter that includes a 45 minute workout just three times per week that is improving my ball striking consistency and overall endurance.  There is also an ongoing debate about whether to walk or ride.  I do both but try to walk whenever possible.  You get a better feel for the game and into a better rhythm when walking.  An investment in a good comfortable bag stand or a durable pull cart is advised.

Good luck and send me details on your improvement plans and of course, any questions!  -Brian

Is there a magic move in golf?

There’s a section in my practice journal titled WOOD band-aids where I keep particularly helpful swing keys and fixes that I’ve discovered during play and practice, and there’s a reason for the acronym WOOD because it truly (Works Only One Day).  Success at golf, like any other sport, is based on mastering fundamentals and then making daily small scale adjustments.  I was reminded of this after my practice session today.  My progress with a swing change has been good over the last few weeks but it all fell apart on the range today and it seemed the new move had deserted me, as I stared at pull-hook after pull-hook.  I eventually found the WOOD band-aid and simply slowed my tempo down a hair and all was well again.  Bottom line:  it had nothing to do with my fundamental change but required one of those small adjustments.  I’m smart enough to know that today’s fix may not be good for tomorrow but I have confidence in my investment in the fundamental change because it will elevate my level of play over time.

To gain sustained improvement, build good fundamentals by seeking instruction from your PGA professional and working hard at mastering your lessons.  I’ve taken lessons with several professionals, and to this date, the most valuable remains the first, where the fundamentals were imparted.  The second set of eyes and knowledge a professional can provide are invaluable.  Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, practice and repetition will allow you to identify your faults and a small set of fixes to minimize the hills on the roller coaster ride.

Experts hawking “magic moves” in golf magazines and instructional videos are merely conveying swing keys that have worked for them after thousands of hours of practice.  You’re better off paying your local pro for a series of lessons then plunking down $400 for the newest driver and another $50 for a box of someone else’s WOOD band-aids.

Hit ’em straight!