Tag Archives: putting

Becoming A Better Putter

I believe there is a putting spectrum that every player resides in and it looks something like this:  [Fear >> Indifference>>Confidence>>Warrior].  Somewhere you will find yourself and the state of your putting.  You may never get off your current state, you may improve, or you may regress.  My views on putting have evolved after reading many books, trying just about every technique possible, and studying the habits and advice of excellent putters.  Despite all that work, I was mirrored in a spot between Fear and Indifference for a very long time.  There is a lot of truth to the old axiom that putting is 10% stroke and 90% nerve, and the solution I’m about to share is largely a solve for the 90%.

Fear is when you view your putting as a weakness and treat it as a chore within the game.  “Oh great, I’m on the green, now I have to putt.”  Or you’d rather chip than putt from one foot off the green.  Basically, you know you suck with the blade and the trepidation overwhelms any ball striking success, and your scores suffer.  I never feared putting to that extent, but I’ve always feared rolling the ball past the hole.  I never understood why (still don’t), but as a result, I left many long putts short of tap in range, and did not strike short putts solid enough to hold their line.  I still have the same fear of going long with chips and pitches and am working on a solution for that.  So the fear fully infested my game inside about 50 yards of the hole.

My first clue out was a couple of years ago after a particularly bad spell of lag putting.  I couldn’t get the ball halfway to the hole, and one day changed my pre-shot routine to just take practice strokes with my trailing (right) hand.  I noticed I was making what felt like these huge practice strokes, and I’d just put my left hand back on and pulled the trigger on the putt.  For some reason my feel for distance improved but it felt like I was killing the ball and the feeling didn’t last long because I didn’t trust it.

Last fall, I became interested in Phil Mickelson’s putting problems and how he was working his way out by going back to fundamentals.  I liked the circle drill he used on the shorties because it was a rehearsal followed by a quick stroke, which I figured shouldn’t allow him time to think; just follow his routine.  I decided to try the circle drill on all my putts, not just the shorties.  And that is the crux of my solution.

The solve:

Now I will read putts standing halfway between the ball and hole and only sometimes confirm my read from behind the ball.  Oddly enough, I’ll get a better feel for break with my feet along the line of the putt than with my eyes from behind the ball.  This is a radical change from my previous routine and took some getting used to.  Standing halfway between ball and hole gives me a great perspective on the uphill or downhill nature of the putt which is critical to judging distance.  While I’m halfway, I make sure I’m far enough back to site both the ball and hole in my peripheral vision, and then make my practice strokes, just feeling the distance.  I then step up to the ball and line it up with no additional practice strokes and try to hold the putter as lightly as possible before hitting the putt and trying to feel the motion of my practice stroke.  I do this for every putt of every length.  For the first month, this didn’t work too well until I learned to trust my practice swing and the very soft grip pressure.  You know you are trusting it when it feels a little like you are rushing over the ball and hitting it very quickly.  In essence, you are not letting doubts about read or speed creep in and you simply make a reactionary move.  Now when I practice my putting the three things I focus on are  soft hands, judging the practice stroke, and trusting it over the ball.  TRUST is the key.

Notice, the only mechanical thought I mentioned was “soft hands”.  If you are continually pulling or pushing the ball, or not hitting it solid, you may have a mechanical error that needs to first be addressed.  But if you’re comfortable with your fundamentals and are trying to improve your feel, guts, and nerve, give this method a try.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my putting stats are vastly improved for the first part of the season.  They are just numbers, but you know in your heart when something positive has taken hold and this has.  I’m definitely at the ‘Confidence’ point on the spectrum and am seeking Warrior status.  It may be awhile and will probably coincide with the solving of my chipping and pitching trepidations but I look forward to the day when my game is a total weapon inside of 50 yards.

2014 Lessons Learned

LessonsIt’s been repeated many times on this blog and no doubt on several others that the old Albert Einstein adage about the definition of insanity definitely holds true in golf .  If you repeat the same behavior, you’re going to get a similar outcome.  Well, I was not guilty of repeating the same behavior in 2014 but still received essentially the same results as in 2013.

A quick review of  KPIs shows my stroke average dropped from 80.25 to 79.97.  Average GIR improved from 8.15 to 8.47, and putts per round dropped one tenth of a stroke from 32.35 to 32.25.  Amazingly consistent performance considering all the attempts I made at game improvements.  The logical conclusion is that my “game improvements” amounted to mostly WOOD band-aids.  I’m sure others have tried the many improvement route only to bathe in mediocrity.  It’s happened to me before and will probably happen again, so the overall body of work can be summed up as an average year with no surprises.

Three notable lessons were learned which is always a good thing.

Lesson One:  I fell in love with the 9-shot drill early in the season after reading Hank Haney’s The Big Miss.  Only problem was that it was hard to implement and when I finally figured it out, didn’t know what to do with it trying to take it from the range to the course.  Takeaway:  It’s best to not to make significant changes to your ball striking over the winter and focus more on conditioning.  This is the second year in a row I’ve made the same mistake (the previous year it was my pitching technique – aarrrggg!!!)

Lesson Two:  I fell in love with Tour Tempo by John Novosel in the summer and leveraged it to only one really good ball striking round and found it impacted my short game in a very negative way.  Truly a WOOD band-aid that took some skin off on the peel back.  Takeaway:  (and I’m going to partially steal this from Vet’s last couple of excellent posts): Don’t fall in love with a swing thought and think you can repeat it from day to day.

Lesson Three:  In mid summer, because of a job change and new daily routine, I started stopping off at the course for 10-15 minutes of chipping and putting on the way home.  Takeaway:  This worked extremely well in terms of getting a daily fix and feeling current and fresh with all short clubs. . .until the fruit was over-ripened.  Worked great for about a month until I lost interest and had to take a break from the game.  Lesson:  don’t get into too much of a routine.  Mix it up or your concentration will suffer and at worse, you risk burnout.

So there’s your tidbits for 2014.  I’m spending December and January focusing on conditioning and getting healthy.  Hopefully, by mid-February I’ll be ready to rock and roll.  How was your 2014?  Bullish on next year as well?

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!

2013 Golf Season Wrap-Up – 2014 Goals

Looking at the advanced weather forecast for the D.C. area in December, I see nothing but cold and wet.  There is no more golf to be played in 2013, so it’s time to call it a season and review the yearly KPIs.  The data:

Year

Number of Rounds

Scoring Average

GIR

Putts per round

2013

40

80.25

8.15

32.35

2012

34

78.85

8.74

31.88

2011

35

79.60

8.74

32.86

2010

28

79.54

8.32

32.14

2009

27

78.22

8.70

31.81

On thing that immediately jumps out is the consistency of results from year to year, especially with ball striking (8 GIRs) and putting (32 ppr).  While average score nosed up a bit in 2013, the most positive takeaway is the steady increase in number of rounds.  I am playing more golf!  Despite the slight bump in scoring average, my handicap  remained at 5 and what’s painfully evident is that at mid-single digits, the effort to shave a couple strokes off requires a level of play and practice that is difficult to devote to.  This is probably true of most weekend players, or at least those with a handicap below 20.  Have you experienced this?

2013 was also a transition year.  Early in the spring, I was in a prolonged slump, primarily due to the lack of play during the preceding fall and the change to new irons and wedges.  I did not get comfortable with the equipment until early July and then I sustained a hip injury that set me back another three weeks.  But upon returning, the quality of my ball striking improved which was largely due to the fitness work I had done while recovering and the concentrated drilling to correct my spine angle problem.  Thankfully, the improvements continued through the end of the year and I continue to work the hip and back exercises as well as the spine angle drill.  I’ve also fallen in love with the Mizuno JPX 825 irons and Cleveland G16 wedges, but it took some time.

2014 is going to play out differently.  I am transitioning into a new job which will require my undivided attention in the early part of the season.  I doubt that the new gig will afford the opportunity to take two week-long golf trips that I managed in ’13, but I will attempt to make it to the 12-round slug-fest over six days in early June in Myrtle Beach.  I learned this year that play was more important than practice for me, and will continue to leverage that as much as possible, but may not be able to squeeze in the late day emergency nines with the new job.

So for 2014 I’ve set some modest but achievable goals.

  1. Get stroke average back under 79
  2. Get GIR average to 9
  3. Get PPR in the 31.5 – 32.0 range
  4. Keep working out three times per week

What are your goals for 2014?

Keys to Good Putting

Putting is such an individualized art that I debated before writing a post/tutorial on improvement, but looking back at the full body of work which was the 2013 golf season, there was a lot of change that positively impacted my game and putting was tops.  After a full year of playing with new irons and wedges, and being set back with a mid-season hip injury, and constantly fighting wrist and elbow tendonitis, I was surprised in the significant strides I made in game improvement, and that is mostly attributed to better putting.  My 36-inch Ping Answer is still in the bag after 30 years, so it’s not equipment related; I’ve simply learned how to use it better.

Getting to the point where you consider yourself to be a good putter is quite rewarding and promotes a certain level of confidence every time you tee it up.  I always thought of myself as pretty good on the shorties, but woefully inadequate with distance control outside of the 30-40 foot range, and as a result, the victim on many unnecessary three-putts.  What follows are the list of keys I’ve developed this year that have helped me.  Give them a try and see if they can help you too.

Key #1 – Pre stroke:  Through my career, I have been plagued by inconsistency in the area of reading breaking putts.  I would frequently alter technique between sighting an intermediate target, or one equidistant from the hole, or using the hole itself.  I found that by aligning myself with the selected amount of break but then sighting the hole while taking my practice strokes gave me the best feel for distance.  On long putts, I take the practice stroke with my right hand only, but on any length, you need to look at the hole.  If you are chronically short, the right hand only practice stroke helps immensely.  Not sure why, but it does.

Key #2 – Posture:  Every wonder why on certain days your stroke feels silky smooth but on others you’re like a teenager learning to drive a stick shift, and you focus on the exact same setup?  Used to happen to me all the time but  I’ve found that to promote a smooth stroke all the time, it helps to arch your back.  Yes, the key to making a good athletic full swing is also critically important for allowing  your arms to swing the putter head more freely and consistently.

Key #3 – Elbows in tight:  Early in the year, I was pull-cutting my putts and couldn’t figure out why until a friend noticed my shoulders were open at address.  You must have square shoulders and the best way I’ve found to keep them square is to touch both your elbows lightly to your sides at address and keep them there during your stroke.  Check the down the line view in a tall mirror and make sure you can see both your forearms lined up parallel to your intended target line.

Key #4 – Rock it!  This is the most controversial because there are two schools of thought on making a stroke.  You either rock your shoulders or deliberately take the putter on an inside to inside swing path.  I’ve found that if you go with Key #3, you must make a rocking motion and the best way to promote this is to feel like you’re driving your right shoulder down and under during the down swing.

Key #5- Use the Two Tee Drill during warmup.  12-15 balls is all it takes.  I wrote a post when I tried this early in August and have been killing the shorties ever since.  Just love it!

I’ve employed the above keys and enjoyed consistent putting over a very protracted duration.  Figured I’d better get them down before I forgot everything over the winter hibernation.  Give these a try and good luck!

Positive Trend On The Greens

If you can repeat a good or bad behavior for three straight rounds, I believe you can classify that as a trend and not a one-off occurrence.  Today I completed my third straight round without a three-putt and while I didn’t do anything spectactular, my scoring was stable and I carded a solid 5-over par 76 at Poolesville.  Earlier in the year, I was fighting a mind-blowing slump where I failed to break 80 for 10 straight rounds.  The slump was characterized by wild swings in momentum and periods of horridly inconsistent play.  I’ve noticed my play of late has been very even keel and I believe a couple changes with the putter are primarily responsible.  Specifically:

I start my pre-round warm-up on the greens by using the Butch Harmon two-tee drill that Tiger Woods has made popular.  Sure, he didn’t win at the PGA Championship, but Tiger is still the best player in the world, and I started to copy his pre-round putting routine as I observed him warming up at  Oak Hill.  Tiger sets two tees barely wider than the length of his putter head apart, and about 3 feet from the hole on a flat area on the practice green.  He strokes about one dozen putts with just his right hand, then switches to both hands for another 10-15 balls, each time making a smooth stroke and ensuring the putter head is moving low and on-line.  For some reason, this has helped me immensely because I don’t blade putts anymore (my frequent miss).  I also don’t do the right hand only portion of the drill, as I have found it too difficult.

Second,  I’ve slightly altered my pre-shot routine to give me more feel on distance putts.  I always struggled with how to aim breaking putts, and previously putted at a spot to the side of the hole.  If I had a putt that broke two cups to the right, I’d aim and stay sighted on the point two cups to the left.  Now, I step up to the ball and look at nothing but the hole while taking a couple of practice strokes.  For some reason, I can feel the distance much better looking at the hole and not a spot equidistant from the cup.  I will quickly sight my putter to the amount of break that I’d like to start the putt on, but quickly allow my eyes to return to the hole before pulling the trigger.  Also, I found that once you decide on your line and speed, pull the trigger without delay to keep the power of the stroke fresh in your mind.  The hole is your ultimate target.  Set your sights on it and make a bunch.  Good luck!

Will Anchoring a Standard Putter Be Illegal?

WieI was stunned when I saw Michelle Wie’s new putting stance during Solheim Cup action today.  It appears that she is bending over at 90 degrees and anchoring a standard size putter, and I’m wondering if this is going to be legal under the ban set for 2016?  I thought the ban pertained to long putters but was wondering if it covered all putters, because while odd, Wie’s stance is technically anchoring.

Despite her improved putting stats, Wie looks more like the nose gear assembly of a single engine Cessna than a professional golfer, and this posture has got to be painful to implement during a protracted practice session, not to mention during play.  I suppose pros will go to great lengths and try anything if it will get them past the yips with the flat stick.  Bernhard Langer has run the gambit on putting grips, with his forearm grasp probably the most outrageous. Langer

I’ve been very hesitant to make major changes to my putting grip or posture even after a sustained period of poor performance.  I will usually change my stance and either open my left foot or widen/narrow my feet, depending on what gives me more feel.  Usually, the change of something minor or a different mental key is enough to get me out of a funk.  The most significant change I’ve implemented over the past couple of seasons is to read all my putts from the low side.  This is a tip I picked up from Dave Stockton’s book Putt To Win and it’s proved invaluable.  Some of the other recommendations he’s made just don’t work for me, but I love the below the hole tip.

Have you ever made the change to an alternate putting style like Wie or Langer?  Claw, left hand low, or if you are anchoring, do you plan to change in 2016?

What are the Do’s and Don’ts of golf practice?

Lately, I’ve been getting quite a few inquiries on what to do and not do while practicing golf.  Here we go:

  • Do find a PGA professional for lessons.  Make sure you trust him/her and that their teaching style melds with the way you learn.
  • Do work on your short game.    Dedicate 75% of your practice time to see the quickest improvement.
  • Do simulate game conditions.  This will help you transition your practice to the course.  
  • Do develop a pre-shot routine for every club in the bag and repeat it for each practice shot you hit.
  • Do use alignment sticks as an aid for correct setup and for dialing your mind into the target on short game shots (and putts).
  • Do film your swing and review it regularly.  What you think you are doing often is not what you are doing.
  • Don’t become a range robot and rake ball after ball into the same position shooting at the same target.  
  • Don’t confuse practice with warm-up before a round.  Never work on swing mechanics right before you play; it will screw your head up on the course.  Just get loose and relax.
  • Don’t practice extraordinarily long putts.  You want to see your lags get close and expunge any visions of three-putting.  30-40 footers should be the max.
  • Don’t accept swing instruction from well-meaning friends.  Amateurs teach amateurs to play like amateurs.  (See #1 Do above.)
  • Don’t work on more than one mechanical change at a time.  You’ll become a swing pretzel if you do.

There you have them, now Do get to work.  Good luck!

More themepark golf

Don’t know what has come over my golf game as of late but I played another roller coaster round today which is very much out of character.  My score of 6-over 78 at Northwest was rather pedestrian, but the way it went down was not.  The round was littered with huge swings in momentum with two doubles, a triple, and five birdies on the card.  What’s concerning is that I have no idea when a good or horrible hole is imminent and it’s impossible to maintain any positive momentum.  Granted, I have been out of action for a considerable period of time, with only three rounds and one practice session since July 29, but the violent ups and downs were never a problem after protracted time off.  The great holes are great, and the only constant has been excellent putting.  The bad holes seem to start with bad driving.  More like idiot driving as I seem to be taking chances on cutting doglegs too closely and putting myself in precarious positions.  Another concern is recovery ability especially with short game.  I have bladed several bunker shots and fully airmailed putting surfaces which have led to lost balls and huge numbers.  The bunker play is clearly a technical flaw and the driving decisions mental.  The problem is that enough good holes are sprinkled in to provide hope; only to see that hope dashed.

I’m starting to play more frequently again after being distracted for six weeks by a major home remodeling project and would like some ideas on how to stabilize.  Any ideas out there?

Are you addicted to practice? Apparently I am.

I’ve been chewing on some advice that Vet4Golfing51 passed on in response to my 2012 improvement plan.  His premise was that I didn’t play enough and that play improves performance more than practice.  I just looked at my 2011 records and holy cow!  In addition to my 35 rounds, I spent 70 days practicing, which is a ton of effort for essentially very little improvement.  Not only was I surprised that I dedicated as much time as I did but that my approach clearly didn’t pay dividends.  Thanks Vet 🙂

Now the weather in the DC area has been quite mild this winter with no measurable snow and I actually have practiced twice in January while trying to learn the new short game and putting techniques of Stan Utley.  This is clearly required work since I’m trying to train my muscles for a new motion, however it’s clear from my stats last year that I’m addicted to practice and am wondering what my performance might have been with only half the practice time dedicated, if I had used the balance on play (9-hole rounds, for instance.)  Range rats like Tom Kite and Vijay Singh benefited from their time spent on prolonged practice but they got enough play in to validate.

So going forward my goal in 2012 is again, 35 full rounds, only 35 practice days and 20 9-hole rounds between the full rounds which should provide enough play to avoid that foreign feeling I often get on the first tee, and still keep me fresh.  10 of the full rounds will again be compressed into six straight days of play at Myrtle Beach which would leave a good  interval of 18 hole and nine hole play for the balance of the year.

A couple notes on the Stan Utley techniques.  I’ve been rug putting all winter and am very comfortable with the new fundamentals.  The change has appeared to take hold and I putted very well on my practice green last weekend.  The chipping is going well too, as I’ve been working that on the rug, but the pitch shot is still a work in progress.  When properly executed, the direction and distance control are great, yet without the opportunity to pitch inside, it’s still quite foreign.  Looking forward to temps in the 60s this week and feeding the addiction a little more.

Great putting tip; done with Stockton!

Earlier I had written a post on the Stockton putting method and my attempts to implement.  A few rounds of trying to pull my left hand at the target eventually killed all feel on my lag putts and I hit rock bottom last week with my career worst 98, which included 40-putts.  Dave Stockton doesn’t take 40 putts in a round of golf but I cannot endorse his method any longer; it’s clearly not for me.  I’m now in full ‘Stockton recovery, ‘ and have adopted a new simple pre-shot routine of two practice strokes with the right hand only (looking at the hole) and BINGO, roll, feel, and confidence are back!  With the right hand only practice stroke, I take the club back considerably farther, which appears to be the key to regaining touch on the long putts.  Prior to making the actual stroke, I gently place my left hand on the club and then stroke the putt without delay, making a totally right hand dominated stroke and attempting to duplicate the length and feel of the practice stroke.  This is completely opposite of the Stockton notion of pulling the putt with the left hand and consciously trying to keep the blade low to the ground.  I now feel relaxed and able to make a free flowing non-mechanical stroke.

I played today, one round removed from the 98 and validated with a great putting effort and managed to sink three lengthy birdie putts on my way to an even-par 70, which was my lowest score for the season.  I now have come across several web sites advocating for the method and interestingly enough, Tiger Woods reportedly practices routinely by just stroking right-handed putts to ensure he’s releasing the putter properly.  Here’s the best site I’ve found detailing the benefits of right hand dominance.  Anyone out there had any luck with this method?

I’m moving to the Dave Stockton putting method

I haven’t read Dave Stockton’s new book Unconscious Putting, but during a recent appearance on The Golf Channel the guru piqued my interest while plugging his paperback.  He reiterated tips from his earlier manifesto, Putt to Win, which I had read and most of the content sounded very similar.  Not sure if there’s a whole lot of difference in the two books, but in Putt to Win, I thought the tips on pulling the left hand towards the target, not taking a practice stroke, and putting over a spot just in front of the ball were too mechanical, however I managed to incorporate his tip of reading break from the lowest point along the putt to my benefit.  During The Golf Channel appearance, his explanation for not taking a practice stroke (allows you to stay better focused on your target) finally registered and I committed to try this last Sunday during my short game practice.  Wow!  At first putting with no practice stroke felt weird but the ability to zero in on the target improved my feel for distance incredibly.  I putted nine holes in 16 strokes and banged in a couple of long ones but still felt a bit awkward.  I also incorporated the recommended pre-shot routine of placing the putter in front of and then behind the ball, ala Nick Price, to ensure I was fully bought in.  One more practice session with this method on Saturday, and I’ll be ready to game test it in my Sunday round.  Has anyone out there fully converted to the Stockton method?  Send me your feedback please!

I have experimented in my short game practice of hitting shots without rehearsal strokes and it’s worked well, but I’ve worked so hard to develop a repeatable pre-shot routine for short shots using two practice swings and I hesitate to abandon that.  The lie of various short shots can vary greatly, as can your club selection and practice swings allow you to feel the shot before pulling the trigger.  Ultimately, whatever routine I use for putting or short shots will be successful if I keep it consistent from shot to shot.

Fabulous Putting Drill!

Putting drill with alignment sticks

Something wonderful happened the other day during my putting practice and I’m still trying to figure it out.  I was at the tail end of a short game session and had decided to leave putting for last.  I putted nine holes on the practice green with unspectacular results and prepared to finish up with a series of 3-footers.  For some reason I decided to build a small channel with two alignment sticks around my 3-foot putt.  Immediately I starting rolling each putt through the channel with precision and confidence.  The ball was coming off the putter perfectly and banging into the back of the cup.  I hit about 15 straight in this fashion.  Then I backed up to about seven feet and left my alignment channel framing the hole.  Again, stroking the ball perfectly, I banged in about nine in a row.  I backed up to about 12 feet and hammered another eight straight into the cup.  It was if Phil Mickelson had taken over my body.

I have never putted with an alignment aid like a chalk line or between 2×4 boards, but something about those sticks framing the putt had me rolling it pure.  I have always been conscious of squaring my putter face and alignment especially over the shorties and maybe the sticks freed my mind to produce a tension free stroke.  I’ve also been leery of practicing with artificial aids and have attempted to simulate game conditions at every opportunity, but there has to be some value in this drill.  At least there was a helluva lot of enjoyment 🙂  I’m going to continue with this drill with the hope that I can groove a better stroke and at the same time, not become too dependent on the sticks.  Please send me your thoughts on this and if anyone has experienced something similar.  Thanks!