The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, the summer has come to an end as we head into the first of  September, and this has been a good summer, at least the second half,  for my golf game. Early to mid June my handicap was at its high of 6.9, and now with the new revision, it is 4.2.  I am not quite ready to go into detail, of how I was able to bring it down almost 3 strokes, but I am going to discuss one new aspect of my game,  at the end of this blog.

Today, I want to discuss one general aspect of the golf swing.  First, you must agree with this one statement.  The golf swing is a very physical demanding athletic process.  All you have to do is watch the swings of Dustin Johnson, Rory McElroy, Ricki Fowler, and Justin Thomas to believe this.  For the average or even a low handicap golfer these swings are really physically impossible to repeat, unless you want to first spend a year at cross fit and then go and try to play golf. One of the main problems with the golf swing, is that you can get into positions of the swing by using your arms and legs, that look pretty good, but are really ineffective when it comes to providing power and accuracy. So what’s a golfer to do?  The solution is to make sure you are making a full hip turn.  What is a full hip turn?  The hips should at least turn 45 degrees on the backswing. That is the minimum.  If you can turn them more fine.  Can you over turn your hips? No, as long as you obey one simple rule.  You must make sure that your weight is on the right side at the top of the swing. As long as you do this, then your hips can turn as much as you can turn them. The more you turn your hips on the backswing  the farther you will hit the ball and your accuracy will improve dramatically.  It is the purest definition of completing your backswing. By turning your hips fully you will put much less stress on your back muscles and get a much fuller shoulder turn in a very natural way.

Getting back to my own golf game, a couple of blogs back, I mentioned that I am playing the with no swing thoughts, which is what I am still doing. It has really freed up my swing and has contributed to my scoring improvement. I play now with what I call swing feels.  What’s the difference.  Well according to our language experts, a thought is a mental process, and a feeling is a process of the heart.  Now this may be getting a bit sentimental, as far as golf is concerned, but don’t knock it until you try it.  My playing golf from the heart has made a huge difference.  No more  swing thoughts.  No more low and slow, pause at the top, smooth transition, get wide, shut face or square, and nice and smooth. I’m feelin it man.  Will see what the next month brings.  Happy golfing

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

It’s been about a month since the last blog and I have been playing at about a 4 to 5 times a week clip.  It looks like the 18 month slump is officially over.  Since the last blog my handicap has dropped from 6.9 to 5.4 and 14 of my last 16 rounds have been below 80, although I did have a run where I shot 4 straight 79’s, but hey, that is breaking 80.  It is a far cry from last year where I went a full 8 weeks without breaking 80. So what has changed.

Naturally, what has improved tremendously is my putting.  I am no longer putting with this more unconventional method, but it does give me something to go back to, if I really start to have problems again.  I will write about this method in future blogs, if I continue to find success on the greens .  I have change three things in my long golf game.  I am much more cognizant of where I am aiming.   I am more aware of my posture and the distance I stand from the ball.  I have changed my take away or the first 18 to 24 inches of my swing. At any televised golf tournament the standard and practically only shot of the golfer when he is making a shot, is from behind the player. For whatever reason I started noticing that tour players seem to take the club away from the ball just slightly different for every club in the bag. For the driver they seem to take the club just slightly outside the line and for every club going down they start to move a little more to the inside. Just to break in down into sections: Driver just outside the line;  Fairway metals straight back;  long to mid irons slightly inside the line; short irons and wedges inside the line.  My theory is this.  By taking it outside the line on the driver this promotes the ability to give a more sweeping action on the downswing.   Moving inside the line more quickly on the wedges promotes a more downward swing, which creates the down and through action needed for these clubs.  I do not know if I am right or not, but since I have started having a take away that is a little different for every club, my ball striking has improved 100%, and distance has increased by 15 to 20 yards with the same equipment. Then I did one other thing on the physical side of the game.

I became Jim Furyk.  What does that mean?  Jim Furyk’s dad was a PGA professional and allowed Jim to swing the way he does because he felt a natural swing will hold up under pressure better than a manufactured one.  Let that one sink in for awhile. That may be one the greatest statements ever made on the golf swing. I will discuss this more in future blogs, but let’s just say that I am now swinging my natural way with all its faults and nuances. For 6 weeks, I have played with no swing thoughts and no swing fixes.  I have become Jim Furyk.  I am still having some problems with the chip yips but even they have improved. I consider that part of the mental game, which I will save for later.  Will I continue to improve? Who knows. I will say golf has become much more fun, since I have freed myself up to just let er rip. To be continued.

 

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

After about a 6 week hiatus the blog is back and it has been a very very busy 6 week period, especially for an old guy.  I have cut back my work schedule and I am playing more golf than ever.  Yesterday I completed my 74th round of the year.  This should be a record breaking year for the number of rounds. So how am I doing you might ask? In a word better, not great but better. I am still experimenting around, searching for the answer, but I have settled into a good routine. I will get into some of things that I have been doing, that may, or may not have contributed to a certain amount of resurgence in my game, that has been mired in an eighteen month slump.

Before I discuss that,  I did do something that  I have always wanted to do, but never could pull it off, until Monday June 26th. My young friend David and I played 54 holes in one day on three different golf courses.  We teed off at 7:44am at Fort Cherry golf course,  moved about 15 miles down the road to Indian Run for the second round and went another 3 miles down the road to Highland Springs and pulled out of their parking lot at exactly 6:30pm. Beating the dark was no problem.  There were two major factors that helped make the day go smoothly.  The weather was perfect, in the mid seventies with a little breeze and no humidity.  We never had to wait for one shot.  There was nobody in front of us the entire day.  The scores weren’t great, ranging from 79 to 86, but it was one the great golf days I have ever had.  There is no question, that hot dogs increase your stamina, especially when you put chili on them.

Last year at this time I was in the midst of a run where I did not break 80 for almost the entire summer.  This month I have had one 74, and two 75’s, with some 78’s and 79’s sprinkled in. I still feel that I have a ways to go but progress is being made. The first big difference is, I have found a way to putt.  Am I going to discuss this method? NO. Why? Because it is too goofy to write about at the moment. It goes against every putting principle that was ever written, but it is working for me. I have been putting this way for about 3 weeks, and it has held up in various pressure situations.  If it continues to work, then I will write about it.  I made it up and it is totally unique. There are three other things I am doing and I am going to discuss two of them. I have improved my posture at address and I am making sure my aim is correct.  Posture is by far the most important and I think even low handicap golfers get a little lazy in that respect. We have a tendency to get a little slumped in the shoulders and this has a very negative effect on our swing. The third one is a unique take away I am doing for each club and  I may delve into that later, if this continues to work. There are few other things I am doing different which I will discuss in later blogs. One thing that is not a factor is my increase play. Believe me, if your game is messed up and my game is, it doesn’t make any difference how much you play, your not going to improve.

I am going to leave all the  frustrated single digit handicappers who are trying to get to scratch, with one final thought.   It you want to get closer to 0 handicap, you must become Jim Furyk. Some day I may explain what that means. If I continue to make progress then the next blog will be sooner than later.  Please don’t hold your breath.

 

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

The blog is back after about a months absence and today I am going to go through each of the 16 conflicting viewpoints on golf instruction, and give my opinion on each one.  I have cut back my work schedule and playing more golf than ever, which I am not to sure is good for my mental health, but we will see. Each of these points were blogged, so to see them in more detail just go back to the previous blogs, beginning in January.  So here we go.

You should keep your left heel on the ground or you should raise your left heel.  To me this is something that should just be a natural thing. If you need to lift your left heel to make a fuller swing then do it.  I do not think you should raise your left heel deliberately. You should feel it is being dragged off the ground by the turn of the body

The putting stroke should be straight back and through, or it should be an arc, like the golf swing. Again this is something that does not make a difference as long as you know how to do the straight back and through stroke. If a lot of your putts are off line then this stroke could be for you.

The left arm should be straight throughout the swing, or it is ok to bend the left arm during the swing.  It is fine to bend that left arm during the swing. In fact you may even be able to hit the farther with that little bend at the top of the swing.

Keep the ball position the same for all shots or move the ball back in the stance as the clubs get shorter.  Try anything and do anything, when it comes to ball position until you find something that works.

The weight should be on the balls of your feet, over the arches just in front of the heels or over the heels.  Over the arches and favoring the heels is where you want your weight. Stay off the balls of your feet or you will restrict your body turn.

Restrict your hip turn or do not restrict your hip turn.   DO NOT RESTRICT YOUR HIP TURN UNLESS YOU ENJOY HAVING YOUR BACK OPERATED ON.

Your shoulders should turn 90 degrees or more if possible or they do not have to turn 90 degrees.  They should turn 90 degrees if possible and an increased hip turn will help this.

Your swing should be compact or your swing should be nice and long.  This is personal preference in my view.  A shorter swing should have a faster tempo and a longer swing should have a slower tempo.

You should pause at the top of the swing or you should not make a conscious pause at the top.  You should not make a conscious pause.  It happens naturally.

Take the club back low and slow or this is the worst thing you can do.  Again makes no difference. Find your method

Chip like you putt or do not chip like you putt.  Chip like you putt, much easier

You should change your grip to help square your clubhead or you should not change your grip to square the club.  Definitely, experiment with the grip to square the clubhead.

Hand position at address, many are advocated.    Find yours and stick with it.

The first move to start the downswing, too many to mention.  Find one, but be open to change if it does not seem to working.

Head movement.  Don’t worrying about, but know what yours is doing and why.  This has a lot to do with knee flex and the left heel.

Natural golf.  Nothing natural about it. Forget about it.

What I find amazing about all of this is this is not even a complete list about the conflicting viewpoints of what it takes to hit a golf ball accurately.  No wonder people find it difficult to play this game and even low handicappers seem stuck. Other than Natural Golf, I haven’t even included the other so call methods that are out there. I don’t know maybe we need some kind of federal regulation. I can see it now, the Federal Golf Commission (FGC), headed by Bob Toski.  More discussion in future blogs.

 

 

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

For the past 3 months of so, I have discussed the conflicting viewpoints of various aspects of the golf swing.  Is there anything that practically all golf instructors agree upon. There are a few but not many.  Before we get to today’s subject let me briefly delve into how my own golf game is coming along in the new season. SUCKS. Now on to today’s subject.

If you read any golf instruction or take a lesson, what can you  expect will be a common under lying theme, no matter who you read or have direct contact. You must have a correct or good grip.  Now there may be some differences in what constitutes a good grip but the good grip is a must.  The address position or what you do before you swing is more important than the swing itself. However, there is one thing that all golf instruction seems to obsessed with, and that is square.  I do not care who you read or watch on the internet, the one thing that is pounded into you mind is that your feet, hips and shoulders must be parallel and square to the target line. There is even the square to square method.  I suppose the thinking here is, if everything is square, there is more of a chance to make square contact with the ball down the intended line. After all of that, the comment is made, that the hardest shot in golf is the straight shot, and you should play your tendency  to curve the ball. If your shot pattern is left to right, then you should play down the left side of the fairway and let the shot curve back to the middle, which gives you a bigger margin of error to keep the ball in the fairway. You would reverse this of course, if your tendency is to hit the ball right to left. Now let’s think about this for a minute, and take it to the tee box.  Here we are on the tee, and we are looking at a straight away fairway  about 40 yards wide.  If we are a left to right player and follow the plan we would aim 10 yards from the left side of the fairway, with the objective of curving ball back to the middle of the fairway. But do any of us curve the ball that consistently. We are only allowing ourselves 10 yards of error on the left side. How many times have players double crossed themselves and then pulled the shot or even pulled hook the shot into deeper trouble. If you aim right down the middle of the fairway you are allowing yourself 20 yards on either side to keep the ball in the short stuff. If curving the ball is the thing to do, which everybody seems to think so, then why should everything be square. Even though it seems that this is one point everybody agrees on, square, it still is a very confusing situation to someone who is trying to learn the game.

In the next post I am going to go review all 15 of the conflicting areas of golf instruction and give my opinion on what’s important, not important, and what you really need to do to hit that little ball.

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today, I am going to finish up this series of conflicting viewpoints  in certain aspects of golf instruction.  In future posts I will give my opinion on some of these ideas on golf instruction, depending if you are just beginning to learn the game or if you are a single digit handicapper.  I will also discuss the things, or maybe its just one thing that all golf instructors agree upon, and at least one thing that they may be obsessed with.  Now let’s finish this thing up.

You should change your grip to help square the club face up, or you keep the grip the same and correct the swing flaw that is making you slice or hook the ball. The main proponent of changing your grip to help square the clubhead was the famous British instructor John Jacobs.  The theory goes that if you are slicing the ball, you should turn your hands slightly to the right and you will see more of the knuckles of your left hand as you look down the shaft.  If you are hooking too much, you turn your hands slightly to the left and you will see less knuckles of the left hand.  This should produce straighter shots.  The majority of instructors feel that the grip should be a neutral or natural grip where the hands are positioned on the club in a similar manner, as they would be hanging down by your side. In their view, slicing and hooking is a swing problem only, and the grip should never be changed.

Hand position at address in relationship to the ball.  The traditional viewpoint is your hands should be slightly behind the ball at the address  position for the drive and then get ahead of the ball as the clubs get shorter.  Sometimes this detail is even ignored in some golf instruction.  Some people feel the hands should be about even with the ball for all shots.

What is the head doing during the golf swing, besides thinking why I am I playing this stupid game.   Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer both felt that the head should remain as still as possible during the golf swing.  In fact there is the famous story of Nicklaus’s instructor Jack Grout, holding on to Jack’s hair as he swung, so he would have minimal head movement during the swing. In the more modern swing it is shown that the head has a distinct downward move during the downswing.  In some  swings there is a definite movement to the right on the backswing. Curtis Strange had this move on his backswing, which is the influence of Jimmy Ballard.  On a lot of swings and preswings there is a definite rotation of the head to the  right which gives the appearance that the golfer is looking at the ball with only the left eye. Videos of today do show that Nicklaus and Palmer moved their head more than they thought they did, but they did not move their head as much as Tiger Woods or V. J. Singh do on  their swings. Some people feel that by trying to keep your head still during the swing creates too much tension to swing freely. Again we have a lot of conflicting viewpoints.

Lastly I have to mention Natural Golf. Their poster boy is Moe Norman, who is considered one of the greatest ball strikers of all time. I read Norman’s biography and he was an interesting character, to say the least. Even in his biography, it’s a little unclear what came first, Natural Golf or Moe Norman.  I think it was a mutually beneficial partnership, that probably compromised both methods to sell a few books.  I am not going to go through the Natural Golf Method, you can easily look it up, but I think it is about as unnatural as you can get to try and hit a golf ball.  It is a very distinct way on how to try and hit a golf ball.  I have played a lot of golf in my lifetime and I must say, I have never met anybody that played golf this way.   I would like to  see if I changed my mind about the method, if I saw it up close and personal.

So there you have it.   Conflicting golf instruction that you can find on the internet or when given a personal lesson.  So it goes back to one of my original questions, is everybody right or everybody wrong?  For something that only takes about 1 to 2 seconds to complete there are more opinions on how to do it than there on ways to fix the national debt, and I think that is just slightly more complicated. The next blog, I am going to  focus on things that all golf instruction seems to agree upon, but does even that make it right.

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

After a brief res-pet from blogging for a trip to see the Grand kids in San Diego back with another in a series of instructional conflicts. Yes, I am going to comment briefly on the Lexi Thompson incident.  This blog is going to concern itself with chipping. The two points of view.  You should chip like you putt, or you should not chip like you putt. First we need to define a chip, which to some, has changed.  In Utley’s book on the short game he has his own definition of a chip, which I am going to ignore. My definition is that a chip is a shot with little or no wrist action.  In other words,the chip has nothing to do with distance. You could chip a ball 5 yards or you can chip it 40 yards or longer.  A pitch by my definition is a shot where the wrists will cock from 45 to 90 degrees.  Again you could pitch a ball 5 yards or you can pitch it 40 yards or longer. This post is going to discuss only chipping

The first view point is, you should chip like you putt. Since there is little wrist action in both chipping and putting this would seem to make a lot of sense. However, the clubs, ranging from anywhere from a 4 iron to a lob wedge, that are used for chipping, have nothing in common, in design,  with the putter. There is going to be some adjustments, you are going to have to make. The first, you must make sure the bottom edge of the club is square. This  will put your hands ahead of the club, sometimes as much as 6 inches if you are using the lob wedge. A lot of instructors advocate using the same grip you use for putting, to execute these shots.  The weight should be on the left foot a little more. Even though you are using your putting stroke to execute these shots, they still must be hit with a descending blow and not swept along the ground. You must have a good lie to execute a chip.  With any method you can not chip from the rough with the ball down a little in the grass.

Some instructors feel you should not chip like you putt. The leaders in this group are Phil Mickelson and Stan Utley. Mickelson has his hinge and hold method and Utley tries to get his hands leading the club head on his chips to deloft the club. You can read or watch their videos to get more details on their respective methods.  There are other instructors who have a more handsy   approach to chipping.

Now to the Lexi Thompson debacle. The one thing that has got lost in the shuffle is the second penalty that was accessed for the incorrect scorecard. She may have been done in by the new rule change this year on signing for a lower score than you actually made. The LPGA should have  never assessed her that 2 stroke penalty, and they had the perfect precedent of the Tiger Woods incident 2 or 3 years ago at the Masters. After Tiger’s ball hit the pin and went into the water on 15, he dropped the ball in an improper spot. The next day he was charged a two stroke penalty, but was not disqualified for the incorrect score card on the technicality that at the time he signed it, the score was correct. If the disqualification rule would have still been in effect this year, do you think the LPGA would have walked up on that tee box and disqualified Lexi Thompson, no way.  I am sure the Tiger incident would have been cited. Because now it is a 2 stroke penalty, they in my view went ahead and  penalized her those 2 strokes incorrectly.  Technically, and its all technicalities, she signed a correct score card when she signed it, just like Tiger Woods. Obviously with only a 2 stroke penalty she would have won the tournament out right and there would have been no play off. Shame on you LPGA.

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