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.