Saturday, December 18, 2010

If it sounds too good to be true....

Unfortunately it is becoming more frequent to see the stunned look on my customer's faces when I tell them the clubs they just purchased are counterfeit. Their response is, "But the website said they were brand new Callaway, Taylor Made, Adams, etc... and I got them for less than half of the retail price." I tell them the only thing that was accurate about the online ad was the selling price. And the bad news is I've yet to see one get their money back after they learn the truth.

The manufacturers of counterfeit clubs go to extremes to make the clubs look like the real thing. But believe me they're anything but similar. First of all the materials are substandard and poorly constructed. Second, quality control is inconsistent on head weights, loft and lie specifications and swing weights. Third, the shafts are poor and often will vary in flex even within the same set of irons. I know this because I've tested and measured the components of a number of these sets.

The other problem is these clubs have no warranty so when the driver develops a crack or the shaft breaks you have no recourse. The club as well as your hard earned money just went in the trash can.

If the offer seems too good to be true then it almost always is. Purchasing your new equipment from an established and reputable golf professional is the best way to insure you're getting the real thing, and in the long run you'll be glad you did.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Perfection" vs Consistency

As the 2010 PGA Tour season came to a close I took note of the top performers from the past twelve months. The list includes Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Bubba Watson. These players were the model of consistency with a combined stroke average of 70.08 - nearly 2 under par for every competitive round played.

Interestingly what isn't "model" is their golf swings. That is if you buy into the description of what a "perfect" golf swing should look like. Consider for a minute other professional athletes such as baseball players, basketball players and quarterbacks. They all have unique styles in throwing, swinging and shooting, and yet still achieve an amazing level of consistency and performance. Why should we think golfers should be any different?

Human beings come in all shapes and sizes which requires variations in swing types. An experienced and competent instructor will help improve each student's ball striking by working within those parameters. As their instructor my job is to help them develop a repeating swing resulting in consistent ball flight rather than the unattainable quest for "perfection".

So next time you observe Kuchar's swing plane, Furyk's backswing, Westwood's head movement or Watson's finish you can relax. Then when you go the course you can focus more on the "where" rather than the "how".

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Full Swing Golf Simulator arriving this week

I am very excited to announce that my new Full Swing Golf Simulator will be installed at Golf Rx this week. These are fantastic machines and I had the opportunity to use one during my last two years at Dick's.

Full Swing are the "Cadillac" of simulators and use state of the art technology allowing students to see ball flight just as though they were on the range or course. They also provide data such as club head speed, ball speed, trajectory, ball curvature and distance.

Obviously seeing ball flight is an important element in teaching as well as club fitting. That was the only drawback to indoor teaching until this technology became available. Now students can enjoy lessons year round in comfortable 72 degree temperatures. They no longer have to endure the biting cold, wind, rain or oppressive heat and humidity.

If you haven't had the opportunity to experience a Full Swing Golf Simulator I invite you to come in for a demonstration.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Positions vs. Swinging Motion

Most players of an earlier era were introduced to the game through caddying. By watching and trying to copy the action of better players they developed their own swing. About the only "static" positions early golf professionals would teach were a proper grip and address posture. The lesson itself was demonstrated in one continuous motion emphasizing a steady head and fast moving arms and hands.

Not until new technology came along were instructors and players able to "freeze" the swing at various not before seen stages and positions. Soon players anxious to improve were pouring over books and magazines attempting to emulate the still positions of touring professionals.

Unfortunately these frozen images often did more damage than good. In an attempt to maneuver from position to position their swings became too thought conscious and deliberate. Their pre-occupation with positions and mechanics had sabotaged their natural swinging action. In other words they were mentally and physically getting in the way of their own swing.

You must realize nearly all touring professionals and top notch amateurs began the game in their youth. Through years of practice and play they learned to swing the club through the ball fast developing strong hands, arms and wrists in the process. Only later were they taught to use their body action to support the swinging element of the arms and hands.

Beginners and average players don't possess the strength and skills of players who began in their early youth. This is why after teaching a student the correct grip and address posture I emphasize the swinging of the club head. Only after a player has developed a free swing and sufficient club head speed will I introduce the proper body action and positions necessary to improve their control.

Some modern instructors feel the best method to teach beginners is studying still pictures so they can copy the various positions of tour player's swings. Although this may help a student learn the "ideal" positions it isn't going to do them much good if they can't hit the ball out of their shadow. Body action and positions are important in the golf swing, but they are secondary to the feel that is learned by swinging the club head.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chipping - Consider the conditions first

I’ll often ask students what club they use for chipping and they usually reply “A pitching wedge because that’s my favorite club and I’m more confident with it.” I’ll then ask them, “Okay, but is your lie always the same? Is the ball always the same distance from the green? Is it always the same distance from the edge of the green to the pin? Is the speed of the green and the slope always the same?” I explain to them the importance of considering these variables when faced with a chip shot. Only then are they able to decide what club is best suited to help them get the ball close to the hole.

After a missed approach shot players are faced with options when chipping from just off the green. Keep in mind for the average player a low trajectory shot that lands just over the edge of the green and rolls to the hole is highly recommended over attempting an impressive but risky high trajectory shot the lands softly near the flagstick. In other words, “The less airtime and more roll time the better”.

With this in mind choose a club that will produce just enough trajectory to carry the ball a few feet onto the green allowing it to roll to the hole. At address position the ball back in your stance with your hands forward and your weight on your left leg. Note a straight line downward from your sternum would intersect the ground left(or in front) of the ball. Using a pendulum – type stroke with no wrist motion strike the ball with a descending club head. The loft of the club will pop the ball up into the air and onto the green.

Generally the span of clubs used for chipping will be from a pitching wedge through a six iron. The above mentioned variables will help you determine the best club for the task. When practicing create different situations around the putting green so you can develop a sense of feel and observe how the ball reacts using different loft clubs.

Devote half of your practice time to your short game including chipping, putting, pitch shots and bunker shots. Iimproving your short game will take considerable pressure off your middle iron approach shots and is the quickest way to lower your scores.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stop Slicing Forever in 15 minutes

The slice is golf’s most major problem with over 80 percent of players suffering from this fault that leads to a loss of distance and direction. And yet it can usually be corrected in less than 15 minutes. Most players don’t understand what causes them to slice the ball. Ask most and they reply, “I’m swinging across the ball” or “I’m swinging outside-in”. This can contribute to a slice but it isn’t the basic cause.

Regardless of what you’ve read or been told by your golfing buddies the basic cause of a slice is a clubface that is open to the swing line at impact. The ball slices because the clubface is open or pointing right of the direction that the club is traveling. This problem stems from a faulty grip so the first thing we must do is find a grip that allows you to square the clubface to your swing line at impact. For most this means positioning the grip handle more in the fingers and rotating your hands to the right or clockwise The last thing most players want to do is change their grip, but please realize this is an essential step in squaring the clubface to the swing path at impact.

Next is to aim the clubface to the target and to square your shoulders to the target line. At first you may feel your shoulders are closed – aimed right of the target. This is extremely important however because squaring your shoulders makes room for your arms to swing up and then down on the inside.

In your takeaway feel that the clubface is closing so that it continues facing the ball during the first few feet. This is imperative because most all chronic slicers, because of their open set up were forced to roll the club face open with their hands and wrists to get the club away on the right path.

Having your shoulders square now allows your arms to swing up on the inside in the backswing. From here the arms can now swing down on the inside so that the right shoulder will trail the arms instead of leading them.

Most slicers also have their head positioned too far to the left at address or even in front to the ball. If this is the case with you make sure your head is positioned behind the ball at address so that you are looking at the back of ball – the part of the ball that you want to hit.

By mastering the proper grip, set up and arm swing your slice will be a thing of the past. You will be delighted with the feeling of solidly struck shots and a straight ball flight. For many of you this may be the first time you have experienced applying the club head solidly into the back of the golf ball.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why golf is the greatest game

Golf is truly unique because it offers a challenge found in no other game. The golf course is your opponent presenting you with new situations to challenge you each time you play.

Golf provides solace and relief from the stress and tensions of everyday life. It can provide great satisfaction and recognition from our peers. One of golf’s greatest gifts is the friendships it creates among strangers.

Golf’s environment is fresh air, green grass, trees, lakes and beautiful landscapes. Golf is a great source of exercise that you can play at your own pace. Play nine holes or thirty six holes. You can play for the fun of it or decide to compete in tournaments. Golf is a great family activity providing a lifetime of enjoyment for each generation.

Golf is a great builder of character. It requires discipline, self control and the ability to deal with success and failure. It demands integrity because unlike other sports there are no referees or umpires. You call your own penalties under an honor system. There is no better game for young people. They learn to respect the game’s values of sportsmanship, etiquette and honesty.

Golf gives you the opportunity to watch the best players in the world compete and then have the opportunity to test your skills on the same course. Golf teases us with brief success but refuses to let us ever master it. Golf’s allurement is the never ending desire to learn more and play better.

Whether you are a scratch player or a beginner, male or female, young or old golf is a game that tests your skills, provides serenity and demands poise under pressure.

What makes golf the greatest game of all is not only the enjoyment it provides us over a lifetime, but also what it teaches us about ourselves and others.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How and what to practice

Unlike professionals who make their living playing golf most weekend players live busy lives which doesn’t allow for as much practice time as they would like. This fact makes it all that more important that your practice time emphasize quality rather than quantity. Effective practice should include three elements:

1. Be goal oriented
2. Be organized
3. Create a realistic environment

Goal Oriented - Limit yourself to one pre-swing thought and one swing thought. If you are working on swing technique use a 6 or 7 iron rather than a driver and choose a target that is 20 yards closer than where you would normally hit it. This creates a slower tempo allowing your mind and body more time to absorb the command they are unfamiliar with. Stay focused on the specific technique or thought until you begin to feel and sense it.

Be organized - Effective practice helps you to develop the skills you’ll need on the golf course. Hitting 150 balls with only your long clubs may be fun, but it isn’t sensible considering your short game constitutes over half your score. Create a schedule to work on different areas of your game. Spend the first half of your allotted time on the long game and swing technique. Devote the second half to your short game including pitching, chipping, putting and bunker play.

Create a realistic environment - When hitting full shots visualize you are on the golf course. Always choose a target and make note to the distance to each target. Go through your set up process on every shot so that you’re using the same routine in practice as on the course. Work on specialty shots that you may encounter on the course such as low punch shots, slices or hooks around an imaginary tree, uneven lies, etc. The key is to create a practice environment as realistic as possible making for an easier transition to the golf course.

When you do have the opportunity to practice make the most of it. By having specific goals in mind, organizing your practice regiment and creating a realistic environment you’re using your time more effectively resulting in better performance on the course and lower scores.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tee Shots - Lack of Distance

Obviously length off the tee combined with reasonable control gives players a huge advantage over their shorter hitting competitors. Longer drives allow you to hit shorter irons into the greens giving you opportunities for more birdies and lower scores. I often see amateurs fail to maximize on their distance potential not because of their strength or club head speed, but rather because of their set up with the driver.

In order to hit long, high flying tee shots a player must create a sweeping motion that strikes the ball while the club head is ascending or on the upswing. Unfortunately many players address their tee shots in the same manner as if they were hitting an iron. Their weight is even or favoring their left side, their hands are forward and the ball is positioned back in their stance. This set up creates a steep, downward angle of attack on the ball in the downswing resulting in a weak glancing blow and a loss of power. Topped or skied shots are often the result.

I recommend making these adjustments in your address to improve your impact and trajectory. Tee the ball higher and more forward so the ball is opposite the instep of your left foot. Widen your stance slightly and put 60% of your weight on your right side. Your head and hands will now be slightly behind the ball. Keep your grip relaxed so your arms feel soft and not rigid.

This new set up creates a wide arc and full shoulder turn so that your upper body is fully coiled behind the ball at the top of the swing. The increased coil allows for the natural transition back to your left side and the club to accelerate through the ball on a more sweeping ascending path.

Keep your head behind the ball through impact so that you feel you are sweeping the ball off the tee without removing the tee from the ground. Practice this new set up and you’ll soon be hitting shorter irons into the greens and enjoying more birdie opportunities.

Monday, August 30, 2010

General Poor Putting - No confidence on shorter putts

The common thread of good putters is they consistently have the putter face square to their intended line at the moment it impacts the ball. Although putting is certainly the most individualistic component of the game you'll find the best and most consistent putters use a pendulum type stroke. Using this method the triangle formed by their arms and shoulders at address stays intact through the stroke.
When we lose confidence in our putting we start trying to “help” the ball in the hole resulting in our head and body moving out of position. This disrupts the alignment of the putter face leading to inconsistent contact with the ball and little control over the direction or speed of the putt.
In general the fewer moving parts in our putting stroke the more consistent we are. Developing a shoulder stroke pendulum action minimizes those moving parts.
To feel this stroke take your stance then place your palms together forming a triangle with your hands, arms and shoulders. With a steady head and lower body rock your shoulders so that you move the triangle back and through. Make sure to keep your chest square to the target line rather than opening your shoulders and body to the hole.
Your left shoulder should work down on the backstroke and up on the forward stroke. Your shoulders now control the path of the putter head and keep the putter on line through impact. A good habit for shorter putts is to not look at the hole until you hear the ball fall into the cup.
If you're struggling with your putting spend some practice time with this method and you'll soon be making more putts and shooting lower scores.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Playing from Slopes

Playing from slopes

Unlike football fields and baseball diamonds golf courses are not built on level playing surfaces. Players are often faced with shots from sloped lies that make a relatively easy shot suddenly more challenging. By making a few adjustments to your stance, alignment and swing you can successfully hit these shots solid and more accurately.

Uphill lie - Hitting up the hill
When faced with an uphill lie stand perpendicular to the slope which will position your right shoulder lower than normal. This allows you to swing parallel to the slope so you won’t hit into the ground after contacting the ball. Swing down the slope on your backswing and up the slope on your forward swing. Your weight will remain on your rear side and because we tend to hook the ball from this position aim slightly right of your target. This position also creates more loft so you’ll generally want to use more club.

Downhill lie – Hitting down the hill
With a downhill lie you will also want to stand perpendicular to the slope. This stance will put more weight on your left side and your hands will be ahead of the club. Pick the club up on your backswing and swing down and through on the forward swing. Feel that you are chasing the ball down the slope with the club head. Downhill shots are easier played with more lofted clubs. Because the ball will fly lower and run farther you will want to use less club than normal.

Side hill lie – Ball above your feet
When playing a ball that is above your feet you will need to stand more erect at address and stand farther away from the ball. This posture creates a more rotary swing and a flatter swing plane. This swing path often produces hooked shots because of the added rotation of the hands and arms. This action added to the more upright lie angle of your club will cause the ball to go left so aim right of your intended target

Side hill lie – Ball below your feet
This type lie requires you to bend over more to reach the ball which also results in you standing closer to the ball. This position creates a more upright swing plane than usual. Because your body turn becomes restricted your swing will be predominantly an arms and hand movement. The steeper swing path combined with the flatter lie angle of your club will cause the ball to go right so aim left of your intended target.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Poor Long Putting

The biggest reason weekend golfers so often three putt 30 to 40 foot putts is they simply don’t practice them. Because of this they haven’t developed a feel or “touch” for putts of this length. They end up hitting the ball and hoping rather than stroking the putt with a level of confidence.
Great putters through regular practice have developed a keen sense of feel for longer putts. They also have set a more realistic goal of leaving the ball close enough to the hole to have a short second putt rather than thinking about making the first putt.
When confronted with longer putts I would first recommend visualizing a larger target. Imagine a three foot diameter circle around the hole, and then focus on leaving your first putt within the circle. If successful the longest putt you’ll be left with is 18 inches.
On longer putts stand slightly taller at address and make a longer stroke with more relaxed hands and wrists. This allows you to sense and feel the acceleration and release of the putter head. Also before each long putt make a number of practice strokes to help sense the length of stroke and pace needed for the required distance.
An excellent drill to help you develop your feel is after making your practice strokes to close your eyes just before beginning your actual stroke and keep them closed until the finish of your stroke. You'll be surprised how this enhances your feel and touch.
Make sure to include longer putts in your putting practice regiment if you’re not already doing so. With continued practice you’ll see far fewer three putts on your scorecard.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Leaving your greenside bunker shots in the sand

My first question to you would be “Are you using a sand wedge?” I say this because I often work with students who have been attempting these shots using a pitching wedge or other fairway iron. If this is the case with you then the club selection is a major part of the problem.
A sand wedge is designed differently than a fairway iron. The sole of a sand wedge angles downward from the leading edge to the trailing edge. This angled sole, also known as “bounce” prevents the club from digging too far down into the sand. In contrast the sole of pitching wedges and fairway irons angle upward from the leading edge to the trailing edge enabling the club to cut through turf.
The sole design of a pitching wedge or other fairway iron causes it to dig too deeply into the sand leaving too much sand between the club head and the ball. The result is not enough club head speed to propel the sand and ball the required distance.
If you are using a sand wedge and still digging too deep into the sand then a closed club face is to blame. When closing the face of a sand wedge the angled flange is transformed into a digging sole similar to a pitching wedge. To correct this aim the club face to the right of the target while aligning your shoulders to the left and swing along this path.
If the club is still taking too much sand make sure to clear your left hip while swinging through the sand. The club head will now enter the sand trailing behind your hands with the club face open. The open club face increases the “bounce” of the sand wedge creating a shallow path through the sand and sufficient club head speed to displace the sand and the ball. The open face also increases the loft of the wedge so the ball comes out higher and lands softer with less roll.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do your shots start right then hook left, often hitting the turf behind the ball or topping the ball?

I earlier discussed that straight, solidly struck shots are the result of three occurrences at impact:

• The club head has moved from the inside to parallel to the target line
• The club face is square to the online path of the club head
• The club head is at the bottom of its arc

These occur when a player’s timing is correct. The simplest definition of timing is the coordination of leg and hip movement with the swinging of the arms. A player’s timing can be off in two extremes. First, the legs and hips can turn before the arms swing down. This is generally the case with players who slice the ball. Second, the hands and arms are too fast for the leg and hip action. If your shots fit the above topic then you fall in this extreme. You are casting the club with your hands and wrists at the start of your downswing.

Because your hands and arms are too fast the club reaches the bottom of its upward and downward arc too soon – before it gets to the ball. This is why you take divots behind the ball or the club has begun its upward arc before impact resulting in topped shots. The ball usually starts right because the club is moving in that direction. It hasn’t returned to the on line portion of the path because the hips haven’t turned and cleared. The ball curves left because the hands and arms being too quick have closed the club face at impact.

The main cause of casting the club is from the hands separating at the top of the swing. The left thumb and right palm separate at the top then reconnect to start the downswing. This causes the wrists to uncock too early in the downswing. To correct this place a small coin or piece of string between your left thumb and right palm and hold it in place during the swing. This will stop the separation of your hands and the resulting casting of the club.

This adjustment along with the clearing of the hips will allow the club head to be along the target line and at the bottom of its arc when impacting the ball. You'll soon be hitting straight and solid shots once again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pushed Shots – Solid impact but ball flies right of target with little or no curve

Generally players who currently push the ball in the past tended to hook their shots, but have since learned to square their clubface by changing their grip. Their shots now fly right because the club is moving in that direction at impact.

As I’ve mentioned before the correct swing path arcs inside on the backswing then returns from the inside to along the target path then back to the inside on the follow through portion. Because of his previous hooking tendencies the player still aims his club head and aligns his body right of the target. This also causes him to play the ball too far back or to the right in his stance. His shots now go right of the target because the club head makes contact with the ball too early when the club head is still moving to the right of the target path.

These players often feel as well that their left side is in the way at impact and on the follow through. Because their shoulders are aligned right of the target they will tend to rock or lift up the right shoulder rather than turn it during the backswing. The reaction is for the hips to tilt or lift up during the forward swing rather that turn and clear to the left allowing room for the arms to square the club head to the target line.

To correct this play the ball further forward or to the left in your stance. This gives the club head more time to return to the target path. It also aligns your shoulders more to the left which encourages the right shoulder to turn rather than lift during the backswing. This results in the hips turning rather than tilting during the forward swing.

Experiment until you find the correct ball position and related shoulder alignment that results in your shots starting on target.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You're making solid contact but the ball is going left of the target.

Remember that because at address we stand to the side of the ball our clubhead path does not travel on a straight line. It arcs to the inside during the backswing then returns from the inside to the target line during the downswing, and arcs back to the inside on the follow through. Pulled shots occur when the ball is positioned too far forward or to the left in the player's stance. With the ball too far forward the clubhead impacts the ball after the club has already begun moving back to the inside along the follow through path of the arc.
Playing the ball too far forward also positions the player's shoulders too far to the left at address. In an attempt to get the club to the inside on the backswing the player will overturn his shoulders to the right causing him to overturn them on the downswing further exacerbating the outside-in clubhead path at impact.
To correct this play the ball farther back or to the right in your stance. This will align your shoulders correctly eliminating the need for them to overturn during the backswing and the "out and over" shoulder heave in the forward swing. This also allows you to contact the ball sooner in the downswing before the clubhead has had a chance to return back to the inside. I recommend hitting shots with various ball positions and related shoulder alignments until you determine the one that enables your shots to start on target.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Striking shots on the toe of the club

Ask most amateurs why they are hitting the ball off the toe end of the club and they invariably answer by saying they are standing too far from the ball. Although this can be a cause it rarely is.
There are basically two very different reasons for hitting the ball off the toe end of the club. By observing which direction the ball curves we can determine not only the cause, but also which corrective measure needs to be taken.
If your shots curve to the left your clubface is closed (facing to the left of its path)at impact. In this position the toe end of the club leads the heel into the ball resulting in contact with the toe of the club. To correct the closing of the clubface weaken your grip by turning your hands a little further to the left.
If your shots curve to the right then your swing is too upright. A too upright swing doesn't position the club far enough behind you at the top thus the club doesn't move outward enough on the downswing. This results in only the toe portion of the club reaching the target line and the ball. Correct this by adjusting your address position so that you can swing on a less upright plane. Increase your knee flex slightly and decrease the amount you tilt your spine forward. This improved posture will allow the club to swing up and more to the inside so that it stops above your right shoulder rather than above your head. The club will now move more outward coming down allowing the center of club face to reach the target line and the ball.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Topped shots result from a too steep swing.

If you ask most players why they top the ball they will answer "Because my head is coming up". I will agree that lifting the head as well as the body can cause the ball to be topped, but this is not the majority cause. In fact I could hold the head of many poor players rock steady and they would still manage to top the ball. This is because the problem is not with their head moving, but rather because of their swing path.

To make solid contact with the ball the clubhead must be square and move through the impact area on a fairly shallow arc. Remember that because we stand to the side of ball the clubhead moves from inside the target line to straight along it then to the inside again. If however the clubhead moves from outside the target line across the ball the swing arc becomes much steeper. That is why chronic slicers generally have problems topping the ball. The more the club swings from out to in across the target line the steeper the angle of attack eventually to the point where the club can only contact the top half of the ball.

Therefore to stop topping the ball the player must correct his steep outside-to-in swing path. This is done by correcting his address and ball positon so that he can deliver the club to the back of the ball from behind and inside it, rather than from across and on top of it

The second cause that often affects better players as well poor players stems from the deliberate attempt to delay the uncocking of the wrists in the downswing. To correct this simply swing the clubhead down and through the ball freely thus creating the same radius of the left arm and club at impact that was established at address.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Do your long shots start left then curve to the right?

If so you're in the golfing majority. The pull slice with the longer clubs is the most common shot in golf. Your full shots with the short irons probably start left as well, but tend to stay in that direction with no curve to the right.
Understanding swing path is the first step in correcting this problem. Because we stand to the side of the ball the club must swing on an in-to-in path much like a saloon door on a hinge. The club moves from the inside on the downswing and then back to the inside during the follow-through.
Shots starting to the left of your target indicate that your clubhead is not reaching the ball until it has begun returning to the inside. In other words, you are contacting the ball too late in your swing. This occurs if you are playing the ball too far forward, or to the left in relationship to yourself.
Your ball curving to the right is further proof of a too far forward ball position because it forces you to address it with your body and shoulders aligned too far to the left of the target. This alignment makes you grip the club with your hands turned too far to the left. This grip position leaves the club face open (facing right of its path)at impact creating a slice.
To correct this play the ball farther back (to the right) in your stance. This will align your body and shoulders more to the right and your hands will want to turn more clock-wise on the grip. You are now in a position that will allow you to swing the club on an in-to-in rather than an out-to-in swing path. With your hands turned farther to the right you will also now be able to square the club face to its path at impact.
If your shots now begin to the right of target you have moved the ball too far back and you're reaching the ball too early in the swing. Simply move the ball a little more to the left until it starts straight toward the target. If your shots start on target but still curve to the right turn your hands a little further to the right.
Correcting your ball position, body alignment and grip will not only move you from the majority to the minority of golfers, but also help you hit longer, straighter golf shots.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Curing the Shanks

A shanked shot is struck on the hosel or neck of the club rather than on the clubface. This occurs because the club has moved outward or farther from the player at impact than it was at address. Generally the problem originates at address with the ball played too far forward and the player's shoulders aligned left rather than parallel to the target line. In an effort to get the club back to the inside the club is swung too far around and behind the player. During the downswing the club is then swung too much around and outward so that the clubface is beyond the ball creating a shank. To correct this move the ball further back in your stance which will then make it easier to align your shoulders parallel to the target line. The proper shoulder alignment will allow you to swing the club upward on the backswing, and therefore downward rather than outward when changing directions.
Another cause of shanked shots is a player's weight shifting out toward his toes during the swing. This results in the hands and clubhead being further away from the player's body at impact than they were at address. To correct this set up with your weight more towards your heels. To help you acheive this try either curling your toes up inside your shoes or place a golf ball under the toe of each shoe. Then place a ball or head cover about an inch outside your ball and practice shots without hitting the outer ball or headcover.
Practice one of these two methods and your shanks will be a thing of the past.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Correcting "Fat or Thin" contact on short approach shots

Believe it or not the most important impact factor in short approach shots is the clubhead's angle of approach into the ball. Weekend players struggle with this shot not because of mis-direction, but rather due to the clubhead reaching the bottom of the arc before contacting the ball. If the clubhead catches in the turf and loses its forward momentum it results in a "fat" shot. It the clubhead skims or bounces off the turf it then hits the middle or upper part of the ball resulting in a "thin" shot. In either case it is the clubhead's level or upward movement rather than downward angle of approach causing the poor contact.
First, choose a more lofted club than you think you need for the required trajectory. Then work on a proper set up so that you contact the ball with a downward moving clubhead. Move the ball far enough back in your stance (to the right) and your hands far enough forward (to the left) so that you catch the ball during the downswing. Here is a drill I often recommend. Place a golf ball about 10 - 12 inches behind your ball and practice hitting shots without touching the second ball either on the backstroke on downstroke.
With practice you'll soon be making solid contact with the ball and shooting lower scores as a result.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Playing in the Wind

Wind can certainly be a hazard when playing golf, but it also offers the opportunity to use your shot making skills and strategic thinking to produce more satisfying results. Playing in windy conditions requires patience, well thought out decisions and the ability to hit a variety of shots. As a result experienced players with more proficient ball striking skills have less difficulty playing in extreme wind than novice players. Here are some tips that will help you when playing in the wind.

1. Don't make the mistake when teeing off into a headwind of teeing the ball lower and playing the ball back in your stance. Doing this actually causes more backspin which results in the ball flying higher than normal. Instead position the ball normally at the regular tee height and sweep the club solidly through the ball at ground level.

2. When hitting into a headwind take more club (often 2 or 3 more clubs) and swing easily. You'll make more solid contact and because the ball flies lower it will be less effected by the wind.

3. Players often toss grass into the air to test the wind strength and direction. Generally the wind at ground level is not the same as the altitude you ball is flying. A better choice is to check the tree tops for wind speed and direction and adjust accordingly.

4. When hitting downwind off the tee consider a three wood rather than your driver. The additional height allows the ball to fly farther than the lower trajectory created by your driver.

5. When hitting into a headwind with wedges and short irons it is important to keep the trajectory as low as possible. To do this widen your stance slightly and swing the club in a shallow sweeping motion with minimum wrist hinging. Think of keeping the clubhead as low to the ground as possible in the backswing and follow through.

6. Most players don't realize it but when hitting with a crosswind you need to hit about a half more club than normal.

7. When hitting into a headwind backspin and sidespin are magnified while hitting with a tailwind they are minimized. That is why your ball slices and hooks more when hiting into a headwind and curves less when hitting downwind.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Get a grip on your game this Spring

As the golf season gets in full swing (no pun intended..) it is important to start with sound fundamentals. Your grip should be at the top of that list to help develop consistency and solid ball striking.
Lay the club diagonally across the fingers and palm of the left hand so the handle runs from the top joint of your forefinger across the middle of your heel pad. After closing your hand over the club you should be able to see atleast two knuckles of the left hand with your left thumb resting down the right side of the grip. The V formed by the thumb and forefinger of the left hand will point just inside your right shoulder.
In positioning the right hand on the club your fingers should be underneath the handle, then wrap the palm of your right hand over your left thumb. After closing the right hand your right thumb will rest lightly against the left side of the grip with the V formed by your right thumb and forefinger pointing just inside your right shoulder.
A ten-finger grip is often well suited for juniors and beginners because having the entire right hand on the handle promotes more hand action. As a players' priority moves from distance to accuracy they would probably benefit from either an overlapping or interlocking grip.
In regards to grip pressure use equal pressure with your fingers and hands holding the club firmly, but not the point of your arms being rigid. On a scale if holding the club as light as possible was a 1 and as tight as possible was a 10 I would start at a 5 or 6. Occassionally you will vary your grip pressure depending on the shot your trying to hit. To keep the ball low as when hitting into a headwind or trying to hit a punch shot you'll need a firmer grip. If you're trying to hit a high, soft lob shot to the green you'll want to hold the club much lighter.
If you've been holding the club differently than what I have described this new position will probably feel strange at first. Keep with it and through practice not only will it become more comfortable, but you'll hit straighter and more solid shots. I can't think of a better way to start off the golf season.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

PGA Free Fitting Month

April is PGA Free Fitting & Trade-Up Month. As a participating facility Golf Rx will be offering free 15 minute clubfittings. This is a great opportunity to receive expert advice on how to modernize your golf equipment while trading in your obsolete clubs. By getting fit in April you will also be eligible to win a trip for two to the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits Golf Club. Learn more at At Golf Rx we offer custom fit golf equipment from Callaway, Taylor Made, Adams Golf and US Kids Junior clubs. For more information on the services at Golf Rx visit or call us at 615 288-4539. I look forward to seeing you in April.
Steve Kirkpatrick
Owner and PGA Professional
Golf Rx

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Information Overload

During a lesson with one of my students I couldn't help but notice a distinctive change in his rhythm. He was also taking the club too far inside creating a too flat swing plane for his 6 foot 2 inch stature. He was complaining of hitting fat shots that were going right of the target. After inquiring he confessed reading an article that convinced him he wasn't coiling his shoulders enough during his backswing. Aha ! Now I knew the reason for this contorted movement he was attempting to make. Forty five minutes later we had his swing path and plane corrected and he was hitting straight, solid shots once again.
Just out of curiosity I picked up the lastest issue of a golf magazine and read no less than nineteen swing tips to help you play better. Now imagine I wanted to learn how to throw a baseball or shoot a basketball, but first I'm given nineteen different directives on how to do this correctly. The last time I put a stopwatch on a baseball pitcher, a basketball player or a golfer it took about one and 1 /2 seconds for them to complete their throwing, shooting or swinging motion. Can you imagine what they would look like if I gave them multiple directives to perform during that short time?
Unfortunately this is exactly what is happening to many golfers after a winter of reading their favorite publications loaded with all the latest breakthroughs in the golf swing. The golf swing hasn't changed over the years - only the amount of information available to golfers.
My first recommendation is to put the instructional magazines down. My second is see you golf professional and let him or her determine what areas of your game need attention. One thing I have learned through years of teaching is the less thinking we do during the swing the more success we have.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Get a grip on your game

I am surprised how many players are not aware that golf grips are available in different sizes. This is an important component of the clubfitting process because the player's only physical contact with the club is through the grip. A properly sized grip provides a player the right "feel" at address and consistent control during the swing.

A grip that is too small, too large or slick and worn can negatively affect a player's confidence due to poor feel. Generally a too large grip reduces wrist action causing pushed shots. The player will often choke down on the grip where the diameter is smaller and feels better. This reduces swing speed because of a shorter swing arc. A too small grip often increases wrist action resulting in pulled shots. To improve the feel players will hold the club too far out on the end because the diameter is larger. This often causes the player to lose control of the club at the top of the backswing.

A grip is properly sized when the middle two fingers of the left hand just touch or almost touch the heel portion of the palm. The grip is too small if the fingers dig into the palm. The grip is too large if the gap between the fingers and the palm is 1/4 inch or more.

Whether you're in the market for a new set of clubs or your existing one's are in need of new grips it is important to consider the many variations of grip sizes, shapes and materials available. Properly fitted grips will certainly give you a better grip on your game. At Golf Rx we offer same day service on in stock grips.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Forces at Work

Here are some interesting facts regarding what occurs during the golf swing.

1. At impact your shaft has bowed downward and forward. It has actually shortened about 1/4 inch.

2. The time from the top of a player's backwing to impact is 1/5 to 3/5 of a second.

3. The ball stays on the clubface about 5/10,000 of a second. During this time the club travels
about 3/4 to 1 inch.

4. The energy applied to the ball at impact approaches 2,000 pounds and compresses the ball
15 to 30 percent of its original diameter.

5. At 100 MPH clubhead speed the clubface slows to 82 MPH at impact and the ball leaves the clubface at about 135 MPH.

6. The ball is 10 to 12 inches from the clubface when the player feels impact.

7. 40 to 60 pounds of centrifugal force is pulling downward from a player's hands at impact.

8. With a driver if the ball is hit on face center the face angle will have 60 to 70% influence on initial ball direction and path will have 30 to 40% influence.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Information on the groove issue

At a recent PGA Education Seminar I had the opportunity to hear Bob Renegar speak regarding the spin effect of the new groove requirements. Bob is a design engineer who has worked with companies including Titleist and Callaway Golf and holds several design patents. He also serves on the USGA Technical Board and is considered a leading expert on wedge design and performance.
Bob explained that basically the new designs will result in a 40% reduction in groove volume. We will continue to see a variety of designs that will include versions of V and Square grooves.
After extensive testing between new and old grooves these were the results on full swings:

Good Lies from the fairway - No Change
Heavy Rough - No Change
Explosion shots from bunker - No Change

Light to Medium Rough - Yes
Partial Shots (Chips and Pitches) - Yes

OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) can continue to sell old groove irons through 2010. Beginning in 2011 OEM's can only make and sell new groove clubs. Effective Jan. 1, 2010 PGA tour players and competitors in USGA events must play new groove conforming clubs. Otherwise you will be allowed to play with the non-conforming clubs until 2024.
Check with your PGA Professional if you are in the market for new irons and have questions regarding the groove design.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Taking the Mystery out of Club Fitting - Answers to the most commonly asked questions

Exactly what is customized in a set of custom fit clubs?

Practically every component of the club can be modified to some extent including length, shaft material and flex, lie angle, head design, grip type and size. Even what particular clubs to make up your set will be evaluated.

Why is determining the proper shaft important?

Not all players swing the clubhead at the same speed. Shafts vary in degrees of weight, torque and flexibility. Shafts can greatly influence your ball flight and distance. By observing your swing tempo and clubhead speed we are able to determine the proper shaft to maximize your distance and accuracy.

What does lie angle mean and what effect does it have?

Lie angle is the angle between the bottom sole of the club and the axis of the shaft. A too upright club (toe up off the ground) will cause your ball flight to go left of the target. A too flat club (heel up off the ground) will cause your ball flight to go right of target. By taping the bottom of the club and hitting balls from a lie board we can determine if your clubs need to be more upright or flatter. A mark towards the toe of the club indicates you need a more upright club. A mark towards the heel shows you need a flatter club.

I'm shorter than average so should I shorten my existing clubs?

In most cases you will not want to shorten your clubs because it alters other factors such as overall weight, swing weight and shaft flex. Shorter players will however often require flatter lie angles so make sure and have them checked by your golf professional.

Are custom clubs more expensive than standard sets off the rack?

No, as a matter of fact they are often less expensive. With the populartiy of hybrids we may decide to exclude the two, three or four iron with your set. A standard set off the rack often includes irons you won't use or don't need.

After a fitting how long does it take to get my new clubs?

Virtually all major club manufacturers are now tooled up to produce and ship custom clubs within a few days of the order. Our customers usually receive their clubs in 7 to 10 days.

What if I lose a club? Can I get a replacement to match my original specifications?

Golf Rx as well as the club manufacturers maintain records of each customer's order, including all specifications and set make up. If a club is lost or stolen a replacement can be made to exactly match your original set.

Will custom fit clubs make me a better player?

Properly fit clubs are an important tool in order to become the best player you can be, and that is what we would all like to experience. Propely fit clubs reward good golf swings with good golf shots. You wouldn't buy a new suit off the rack without trying it on. Neither should you purchase golf clubs without first insuring a proper fit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Determining the right shaft for you

Flex is defined as the degree of a shaft's resistance to bending. The purpose of the shaft is to transfer energy from the player to the ball in the most efficient manner possible. Because players have different swing speeds and tempos shafts are manufactured in various flexes, materials and weights.
Generally the shaft flex is designated with a letter displayed on the shaft. Below are the most commonly used letters and the respective flex.
L - Ladies
A - Senior
R - Regular
S - Stiff
X - Extra Stiff

A competent club fitter will observe your swing and tempo, and with the use of a launch monitor measure your clubhead speed to determine the best possible shaft for you.
Using a shaft that is too stiff for your swing speed will cause the ball to go a shorter distance with a lower trajectory, and generally flies right of your target. Using a shaft that is too flexible usually feels solid, but causes a shot that draws or hooks with a higher than normal trajectory.
It is important to note that flex ranges can vary between manufacturers so that one company's stiff could be another company's regular. Also keep in mind that steel shafts are generally firmer than graphite shafts of the same flex designation. Because there is no universal standard it is best to try a variety of shafts to experience the "feel" of each. This trial and error method with a competent club fitter is the best way to determine the right shaft for you.