Saturday, August 27, 2011

No More Chunky Chips

Today I had a long conversation with one of the members of the golf club I work about how to eliminate the ‘fat’ shots from his short game. He said he had a great round except for a couple chips that he ‘chunked.’ To clarify, a ‘fat’ or ‘chunked’ shot is one where the clubhead impacts the grass behind the ball first, which decelerates the club tremendously and results in the golf ball traveling only a fraction of the distance desired.

In order to eliminate the ‘fat’ shot from your short game, you must accomplish a few things. One of these keys is to hit down on the ball and contact the golf ball first. This is easiest when you play the ball in the middle or back of your stance and lean the shaft of your club forward at address. You also want to put more weight toward your front foot and lean toward the target slightly.

Another important part of eliminating heavy shots is to select your club carefully. Many golfers take a high-lofted wedge out for every shot around the green. That can work in your favor when you do not have a lot of green to work with to roll your ball up to the hole, but when you do have some green to work with you need to take something with less loft. Take 8 or 9 iron to chip with around the green, this will keep your swing very short and compact which helps with hitting the ball solidly. When you take a high-lofted wedge around the green, you usually have to alter your normal chipping stroke to hit the ball the correct distance. When you alter your chipping stroke, you bring the ‘fat’ shot into the equation.

The final thought is definitely the most important for avoiding a chunked shot. You must accelerate through impact. Many golfers, with a chip or pitch, try to take a long backswing and control the distance the ball travels by slowing their clubhead down when coming into the impact area. Decelerating the club is the leading cause of ‘chunked’ shots. That is because when you slow things down in the middle of your swing your club can snag the ground very easily and dig into the ground and cause a ‘fat’ shot. So, what I teach my students to do when they are struggling with their chipping is to make sure their follow-through is longer than their backswing. This insures that the club is accelerating through impact.

Hitting a shot heavy around the greens is one of the worst feelings in golf and you know instantly that you have made a mistake. Hopefully, this article has helped you save some shots around the greens and I hope you never have to endure another ‘fat’ shot around the greens again!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Crush Your Tee Shot

Every golfer wants to hit it past their golfing buddies off the tee. Having a powerful golf swing and hitting long drives makes the game easier and more enjoyable. I’m here to give you some tips on how to gain some more distance off the tee.

My first word of advice starts with the setup position. When hitting the driver, you want to setup to the ball with your spine tilted slightly away from the ball. This helps you to hit the golf ball on the upswing which translates into greater distance because of a decreased spin rate and better launch angle. With this altered spine angle, you will want a wide stance and you want to play the ball towards your front foot. You need a wide stance to act as a stable base for the long and fast swing you make with the driver. You also want to play the ball towards your front foot to catch the ball on the upswing. I suggest playing the ball just inside of your left heel. This setup position also means that you are going to have approximately 60% of your weight distribution on your right foot.

My second tip is to keep your lower body movement very quiet as you rotate your upper body. This movement creates a lot of torque, which means when you do start your downswing you can unwind your upper body quickly to create maximum clubhead speed. This requires flexibility to achieve, which may mean that you will need to work on your flexibility at the gym or in your home during free time. The best areas to stretch to achieve this movement are your lower back muscles and hip flexors.

A third key is to swing the club faster, not harder. What I mean by this is to try to gain more clubhead speed by making sure the sequence of your movements is correct and you stay in balance. When most golfers try to hit the ball farther they try to hit the ball harder, which usually results in an errant shot because they have fallen off balance or tried to throw their hands through impact. This always results in an errant shot because your natural timing and rhythm is thrown off. It should feel like you are swinging smoother, which also gives you a better chance of hitting the ball on the sweet spot of the club and result in more distance.

Finally, don’t rule out the need for a new driver. Technology is advancing in drivers very quickly and you do not want to have a driver that has inferior technology. There are many golf courses and golf retail shops that will fit you for a driver. Getting fit for a driver is a pretty simple and quick process. You go through different driver head and shaft combinations to find the perfect setup that gives you the right amount of spin, launch angle, etc.

These tips should help you drive the ball a little farther and give you some bragging rights with your golfing buddies next time you hit the links.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Nail The Short Putts

In my opinion, making putts that are inside five feet is all about having confidence in your abilities. The best short putters in the world all have incredible confidence in their putting and their ability to drain short putts. Tiger Woods was, at one point, the best putter inside five feet in the world and that was because he had confidence in himself and his putting.

It all starts with your stroke. You must have a putting stroke that is easy to repeat, achieves the best results for you and that you are comfortable with. Your stroke can be any kind of method; straight back and through, inside-to-inside, out-to-in, whatever works for you. The important part is that you trust your stroke and know that you can make putts with it.

The second key to making short putts is to check your grip pressure. Most golfers get very tense over short putts because there is that expectation that your putt must go in the hole. There is a stigma of embarrassment associated with missing a short putt, but you have to put that to the side and not let it creep into your head when over a short putt. When addressing the ball, make sure your grip pressure is very light all the way through the stroke and impact with the ball. This really helps to make sure you are not getting too tense over the ball and trying to steer the ball in the hole.

The third key to making short putts is the KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN. I see so many amateurs lift their head up at impact or just before impact because they are too anxious to see if the ball is going in the hole. Lifting your head is the worst thing you can do because it alters your stroke and pulls your whole body away from the target. The best thing to do if you are having trouble with keeping your head down is to just listen for the ball to go in the hole. If you are within five feet of the hole, you will be able to hear the distinctive rattle of the ball falling in the cup, there is no need to lift your head. Practice keeping your head down until you hear the ball fall in the cup and then you can lift your head.

Finally, don’t get caught up in the stigma that is involved with missing a short putt. The best players in the world miss putts from inside a few feet all the time, it is going to happen. You just cannot let it shake your confidence in your stroke. Practice those three keys next time you are out on the putting green and then take it to the course with you next time you play and you will be on your way to better scores and fewer three putts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Find Your Pre-Shot Routine

Pre-shot routines are a part of the golf game that very few people teach or talk about. This is because a pre-shot routine is not directly related to the golf swing and does not deal with mechanics, course management, etc. I feel that finding your own pre-shot routine that works best for you and allows you to be as comfortable and confident as possible before a golf shot is very important.

A pre-shot routine is something that is unique to each individual. The best pre-shot routines involve some degree of visualization, practice swings and alignment adjustments. Visualization is important because you want to have a plan or a blueprint for exactly how you want your shot to go. It is important to have a plan for each shot and take into account exactly where you want your ball to end up. It is also important to find hazards that may be in your way and where the best place to miss a shot would be. Better players do their visualization when standing behind the ball so that they can imagine their ball flying toward the target. Practice swings are important because they help you get loose and rehearse the feeling you want when you actually hit the ball. Practice swings can be unique to you, some players take full swings at 100% normal speed and some players make very small swings that just rehearse impact. Alignment adjustments are a key to getting comfortable over the ball. These come after you have addressed the ball and are trying to make sure your body and clubhead are aligned at your target. Usually these adjustments involve adjusting your feet or hands to become comfortable before you pull the trigger.

I will use my pre-shot routine as an example. After I have figured out my yardage, lie situation, club, shot shape, etc. I will go beside the ball and take two small practice swings. My practice swings are slow and I only take them back about ¾ of the way to the top and I rehearse what I am going to do with the club at impact. This helps me get a feel for hitting my desired shot shape such as a draw, fade, high shot, low shot, etc. I then walk back about five feet behind the ball and visualize my shot. After that, I walk beside the ball and take my address position and adjust my feet, body and hands until I am comfortable and aiming correctly. While I am adjusting myself I will look back and for the between the ball and my target until I am all set to go and then I pull the trigger.

This sequence of motions is what works best for me and it has taken me a long time to find what gets me the most comfortable over the ball. Every pre-shot routine is different and you may have to do some experimenting next time you are out on the course to find the one that works best for you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Determining Ball Position

Figuring out where to play the golf ball in your stance can be a difficult task to manage for beginning golfers. There are a few basic guidelines to follow when determining where to play the golf ball in your stance to hit the golf shot you desire.

One guideline is the play the ball more towards your back foot for shorter clubs like your wedges, and more towards your front foot when hitting longer clubs like your driver. This is mainly to help promote the best contact with the golf ball as possible and achieve the desired distance you want for each club. Hitting wedge shots effectively is influenced a great deal by hitting down on the ball and controlling the loft of the club at impact, which is made easier by playing the ball slightly back of the center of your stance. Hitting drives to achieve maximum distance is achieved best by hitting the ball slightly on a slight up-swing, which is most easily achieved by playing the ball towards your front foot. The ball position also has some influence on the path of the clubhead when it strikes the ball. When hitting a wedge shot more toward your back foot, you will catch the ball at impact with more of an inside-out swing path than normal. The opposite is true with driver shots because you are playing the ball more toward your front foot you will impact the ball on a slightly more outside-in swing path than normal. It is important to take these factors into consideration when thinking about your golf shot.

Ball position also allows you to hit a golf shot higher or lower depending on where you place the ball in relation to your stance. When you place the ball more towards your front foot, you can hit the ball higher in the air because you will have less forward shaft lean at impact, which adds loft to the clubhead. The opposite is also true, when you place the ball more towards your back foot you can hit the ball lower because you will have more forward shaft lean at impact, which de-lofts the clubhead.

In conclusion, ball position in relation to your stance depends on exactly what type of golf shot you want to hit. Different ball flights can be achieved through different ball position set-ups, but there are a few guidelines that help beginner golfers such as playing the ball toward your back foot with a short club and toward your front foot with a long club.

Distance Control In Putting

In putting, there are two factors influenced by the player that determine whether or not a putt will go in the hole. Those two factors are distance and direction. Distance is by far the more important of the two because it can control the direction you need to hit the putt to find the optimum line. For example, if you hit a putt that is traveling toward the hole at a fast pace, you would have needed to pick a direction that takes less break into consideration. This is because a ball traveling at a fast speed will break less than one traveling slow. The opposite is also true, if you hit a putt that is approaching the hole at a slow pace, you would have needed to choose a direction that takes more break into account. With all this information in mind, it has been determined through research and experimentation that if a putt were to miss the hole, the ideal speed would leave the ball 18 inches past the hole. This amount of speed is considered the optimum speed for all putts.

Now that we know the proper distance to hit a putt, and how you need to adjust the amount of break you play depending on how fast or slow you hit a putt, we can talk about how to control distance with your putting stroke. Most amateurs control the distance that they hit a putt by how hard they hit the ball. They take a relatively similar length backstroke for all putts and control the distance by either accelerating into the ball slowly or quickly. This method of putting makes achieving the proper distance and speed on putts very difficult.

What I teach my students is to control the distance of their putts by varying the length of their stroke, but keeping the same rhythm and tempo. It is very important to find your tempo. Some people, outside of golf, are always on the run and are very active, which usually translates into their golf swing and putting stoke as a quick tempo. Some people live life a little slower, which translates into their golf game as a slow tempo and rhythm. Whatever your tempo is, you can find it rather easily by hitting a 10-foot putt. When you start your putter back count “1”, then when you reach the end of your backswing and transition forward count “2.” The length of time in between your “1” and “2” is your individual tempo. You want to remember this timing of counting “1” and “2” so that you can repeat it through all putts, whether it is a 3-footer or a 30-footer. They key is to make sure that count and tempo is comfortable to you. If it is not comfortable, try experimenting with slower or faster tempos until you find the one that is best and most comfortable for you.

After finding your tempo, practice controlling the distance of your putts with the length of your stroke, not how fast you accelerate through impact. Be sure to stay consistent with your tempo. I would recommend continuing to think or say “1”, “2” as you hit each putt. Vary the distance of the putts that you are practicing to test yourself at different distances.

Controlling the speed of your putts through varying the length of your backswing and forward swing makes controlling distance much easier and allows for more consistency. Making this little change in your putting stroke should help you turn all of those dreaded three putts into two putts or better!

Hitting A Chip Shot

A chip shot is best used when your ball is very near the green, but not close enough to putt the ball, or there is some sort of obstacle between you and the green. The goal of this chip shot is the use a small and controlled swing to pop the ball in the air just enough to get it onto the putting surface. Once the ball is onto the putting surface it will roll like a putt toward the hole. The goal of this shot is to get the ball rolling on the green as soon as possible because a shot most similar to a putt is easier to control than one that is hit high in the air and landed near the hole.

The best way to hit a chip shot is to play the ball back in your stance, or more toward your back foot. Angle your feet slightly left of the target and put your feet close together, less than shoulder width apart. Lean the shaft of the club forward toward the target slightly and put about 70 percent of your weight on your front foot. This will cause you to lean forward just slightly, which will help you strike the ball with a descending swing. I recommend gripping down on the club because it gives you more control of your swing. Once you have achieved a good setup you will take the club in your backswing to less than waist height. You can adjust the club that you are swinging with to control the distance and trajectory of the ball that will best suit the particular shot you are trying to play. A chip shot involves very little or no wrist break because you are trying to hit the ball in the air just enough to get it over the grass in front of you and onto the green rolling like a putt. Once you have taken the club back the appropriate length, swing through the ball and make sure you are hitting the ball with a descending blow. You want to hit the golf ball first with your club and then scrape the grass. This concept is very important because it leads to solid contact and easier distance control. When following through, be sure to keep your lead wrist straight. Do not let your lead wrist break down and flip through impact. This will lead to shots that are thin or fat and hard to control.

Once you have learned how to correctly hit a chip shot, experiment with different clubs to see how high the ball flies and how far each shot goes. You will need to use different clubs for varying situations you are confronted with on the golf course. Hopefully this information and advice will help your short game and lower your scores!

Styles Of Gripping The Club

There are three styles of gripping the club that I would recommend for all players. These styles of gripping the club have developed over time to become the most widely used and successful ways to transfer the maximum amount of power and control to the golf ball.

View of Grip from Face-On
The first style of grip is the “Ten Finger” grip, which is very similar to the way you would grip a baseball bat. The left hand is on top and the right hand is on bottom with no fingers overlapping. The index finger of your left hand is right next to the pinky finger of your right hand. The thumbs on both of your hands should be pointing nearly straight down the shaft. This grip is great for beginner golfers because it is very comfortable and allows you to transfer a lot of power to the golf ball. I would not recommend this grip for better players because the right hand is in a very powerful position, which could easily lead to the release of the club too early which will result in shots that hook or pull left. Better players should look for a grip that is stable and neutral so that they can repeat and control the golf swing at impact. I would recommend this grip for all beginning, women and junior golfers.

Ten Finger Grip
The second style of grip is the “Interlock” grip, which is very similar to the “Ten Finger” grip except for the placement of a couple fingers. The index finger of your left hand and the pinky finger of your right hand intertwine. This gives you more of a connected feel throughout your hands. This grip is great for players who are looking for a little more consistency and are past the beginning stages of playing the game. The “Interlock” grip can be great for better players. I also recommend this grip for players that have smaller hands. I personally use this grip when I play and have had a lot of success with it.

Interlock Grip
The third style of grip is the “Overlap” grip. The “Overlap” grip is formed by placing your hands on the club like a “Ten Finger” grip, but placing the pinky finger of your right hand on top of the index finger of your left hand. This also creates a feel of unity between your two hands on the club and can help deliver power and control to the golf ball. Many players with larger hands use this grip because it slightly shortens the length of the grip that your hands take up. This grip is widely used on professional tours and I would recommend this grip for anyone who is past the beginning stages of playing the game and is looking to improve.

Overlap Grip
Your style of grip is completely up to you because you need to find something that is comfortable to you, but also allows you to strike the golf ball with power and precision. Many golfers have had success with all three styles of gripping the club and all have been played on professional tours throughout the world.