The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today’s post will be slightly different, in that I am going to cover three aspects of the golf swing, that have conflicting viewpoints, plus I am going to put in my two cents worth on the subject.  I am going to look at hip turn, shoulder turn, and the backswing, which are so interconnected that it would be difficult to discuss one without getting involved with the other. First, the various viewpoints on each aspect.  You should restrict your hip turn or you should not restrict your hip turn.   You should turn your shoulders at least 90 degrees or you do not have to turn the shoulders 90 degrees.  You should keep your backswing compact and avoid over swinging, or you should make a nice long backswing, which will give you plenty of time to accelerate the club and keep your swing very smooth.

So in order to start the discussion, one has to start out with the famous X factor of Jim Mclean’s, which started this whole mess.  The X factor states that the more you can turn your shoulders, without turning your hips, the farther you will hit the ball, plain and simple.  The standard difference between you hip and shoulder turn is about 50%  You turn your shoulders 90 degrees, your hips should turn about 45 degrees.   According to the X factor,  if you could make that 90 degree shoulder turn with only 35 degree hip turn, then you would increase your distance.  If you can make a greater than 90 degree shoulder turn, with less than 45 degree hip turn you would  hit the ball even further. Is this true? It is absolutely true. Should you swing a golf club like this? Absolutely not is the correct answer. If you want to play golf past your 50th birthday then this is not the way to swing a golf club. Watch Greg Norman’s swing  in the late 80’s and the early to mid nineties. He had minimal hip turn and maximum shoulder turn. Played very little golf after age 45. Same thing can be said about Tiger.This swing is so hard on your body you will see more and more of the modern player fall by the way side.So many of todays players swing this way, that you can bet not many of them will be playing on the senior tour.     It is no coincidence that Phil and V.J. who have larger hip turns have played great golf well past their 45th birthday.

Now let’s move to the shoulders where there is another swing method call the limited shoulder turn golf swing by Don Trahan. This swing is easy on your body and depends more on a vertical lift of the arms with the shoulders probably turning about 70 degrees. I don’t have a lot of problem with the theory here but this swing is harder to time than what Mr Trahan would lead you to believe. It is way too specific in making certain moves in the golf swing. At least this swing won’t put you in traction.

Finally, should your backswing be compact or should it be longer and no worry about “over swinging”.  I think this is a personal preference, but which ever way you decide to go there is one key factor. .If you decide to take a more compact swing then your tempo should be rather quick. If you are going to take a longer backswing then you should have a slower more languid tempo.  A slower short swing and a fast long swing just will not work.

My take on all of  this is very simple.  At the top of the backswing, the top part of your back or shoulder blades if you prefer, should be facing the target. I don’t care how you get there to do it. The thing that makes your swing compact or long is the arms, and how much the wrists cock.  The golf swing is a turn and the only thing that should limit the turn, is your physical capabilities. So if you have to turn those hips to get that back to face the target,  go right ahead. Do you think  Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus did all right with a big hip turn? Next post will be should you start the swing low and slow or is low and slow the worst thing you can do?

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today’s post is about where your weight should be distributed at the address position of the golf swing.  We are not talking about between the right and left foot, but where on the bottom of your feet.  Again, there is more than one theory  in golf instruction. There are three ways that are advocated: 1. The weight should be on the balls of your feet at address. 2. The weight should feel like it is over the arches of the foot or just in front of the ankles. 3. The weight should be on the heels or towards the heels of your feet.  There is only one thing that everyone is in agreement. Your weight should not be on your toes.  One thing that you should be able to do at address is wiggle your toes.  So now look at each one.

The proponents of having your weight on the balls of your feet like to say that this gets you into an athletic position and gets you ready to move and gives  your body a lively feel. This is by far the most popular instruction. The big negative here is that the balls of your feet are not that far away from your toes. This instruction also likes you to shift your weight into the heels to try and prevent you from going on your toes during the swing.  The inside of your right heel on the backswing and the outside of your left heel on the downswing.

Now lets go to having your weight toward the heels at the address position. You hear about this recommendation the least, but none other than Ken Venturi wrote this as one of the  key fundamentals of the address position.  With your weight on the heels, Mr. Venturi felt that this kept you from standing too far away from the ball, and allowed the body to make a turn a lot easier. The biggest negative of having the weight favoring the heels is sometimes keeping your balance during the swing could be a problem. It is by far the least given advice but obviously has it’s advocates.

Finally having your weight over the arches of your feet or just in front of the ankles, is real popular on the golf channel instruction.  This, you could say is the compromise between the first two.  Your arch is farther away from the toes and getting closer to the heels but you don’t put the weight on the heels. The big positive here is that you should have no problem keeping your balance during the swing.  How much this frees your body up to turn is debatable but again shifting your weight into heels during the swing may help that.

Well hear are some rhetorical questions and you can give your own answers or just food for thought.  Do we really need to be in an athletic position to make a golf swing if we really are not moving off the spot where we are starting?  Do the heels really give us enough of a base to make a golf swing?  Can you really feel pressure in your arch to feel that this is where you are putting most of your weight at address? Something to think about and we will cross that bridge later.  Next up hip turn, do you or don’t you.

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today’s post is going to discuss ball position. It is a much less complicated part of the golf swing discussion, but none the less, an interesting subject. There are two schools of thought concerning ball position. You should keep the ball in the same place, preferably off the left heel for every club in the bag. None other than Jack Nicklaus is the major advocate of this view. The other viewpoint is the ball should be played off the left heel for the driver, but then the ball should be moved back gradually toward the center of your stance, as the clubs get shorter, with the wedges being played right in the middle of your stance.  There is a third view on ball position, by another all time great, which I will get to at the end of this post.

Here is the interesting part.  Both advocate their position for the same reason. They say that their method of ball position allows you to swing the same for every club in the bag. Instruction  to play all shots off the left heel, says that since the ball is in the same position for every club, your swing does not have to change in order to hit the ball cleanly. Instruction  to move the ball back in your stance as the clubs get shorter, says that this is where your arc of the swing will make contact with ball naturally on a descending blow. This way your swing stays the same, and you catch the ball at the proper point, with out making any adjustments of your swing.  So who is right.  I will let you decide on that one, because that is not the purpose of these posts.

Now for the third view on ball position by the great Bobby Jones. He felt that ball position could be one of the things that you could change on a day to day basis depending on how you were playing. He felt this was one method to try to get back on track if you started out with some poor ball striking.  He felt you should play the ball forward in the stance, opposite the left heel as a general rule, but he would move it forward or back if he opened with a few bad shots and magically his game would return.  He would not move the ball position on any particular pattern of bad shots. It would be an instinctive move forward or backward until he just started hitting the ball better. Another method he used to get the feel back in his game was to choke up and down on the club. He salvaged many a round by playing all shots with his hands just an inch or so about the steel line of the shaft. He would wait until the end of the round to go to the practice range to try find the swing issue. He never tinkered with the swing during the round.

Well, there you have it ball position. Another bevy of information on something that should be so simple but lots of view points.  What’s a golfer to do. Next week will be weight distribution of your feet at address. Now that’s a real good one. When I first listed that one I wrote thank God are feet are not bigger or there might be more than the three opinions on this.

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

It’s a mid week blog, since I played golf on Sunday and yesterday, during this rough Western Pennsylvania winter.  Today is left heel day. Such a small part of the body, but the golf teaching world wants to talk about it a lot,and has lot’s of ideas. There are three schools of thought concerning that little left heel: 1. It should remain on the ground throughout the backswing. Certainly this is the current PGA tour swing mode.  2.  Its ok to lift the left heel at the top of the backswing but you should feel that your turn is dragging the heel off the ground.  In other words this not something you should consciously do. 3. You should lift the heel off the ground during the backswing. The theory being that this makes the backswing turn easier to do and is a more natural way to play.  So is this true. Should only the very flexible and PGA pros play with their left heel on the ground. Let’s break it down and see what’s really going on with each method. At the end of the post I will go through some very simple drills that will show what is happening.

Keeping your left heel on the ground  is going to do two things when you make a golf swing.  It will restrict your hip turn and it is going to make your head drop just slightly down.  Then depending on how long you keep your right heel down on the downswing your head is going drop even  more.  This head drop is evident in almost every tour players swing when it is analyzed on TV.  What I get a big kick out of, on every good shot the head drop is fine, every bad shot the head drop is too much. Head drop is simply a function of knee flex and heel function.

Raising your left heel at the end of the backswing or feeling like your turn is pulling your left heel up will do three things.   It will stop the slight drop of your head.  It will level your hips by raising your left hip.  It will slightly increase your hip turn but do nothing for your shoulder turn. You will not feel as much of a stretch up the left side at the top of the backswing.   Hip turn doing nothing for your shoulder turn will be discussed in more depth when the hips are discussed.

Raising your left heel as part of your backswing, in other words, start raising the heel as you start your swing will modify the above swing two ways. Your hips will start to turn quicker and your head will drop not at all as you go to the top of the swing.

Now for the drills that shows what is going on.  Both drills are very simple and no golf clubs are required.  First just stand in front of a mirror in natural standing position facing the mirror. Stand fairly erect but not at attention with the arms down at your side. While remaining standing, just flex your knees like you would in a golf set up and what happens. Your head lowers.  Go back to the standing position. Now stand up on your toes with your heels off the ground. Your head rises. Go back to the standing position.  Now as you begin to slowly flex your knees, start to raise your heels and your head will remain in the same position. The second drill is to assume your normal golf address position, no club necessary. With the left heel staying on the ground simply bend your left knee toward the ball as you would on the backswing,  without moving anything else. You will see that your hips turn a little and there is even less turn of your shoulders but they will move a little. Now, just go to the top of your swing with your full shoulder turn while keeping your left heel on the ground, and hold that position for just a second or two. Now raise the left heel.  Your hips will level up and you will fee a slight increase in your hip turn, but your shoulder turn will stay the same.

Some final comments. The group of instructors that advocate lifting the left heel as part of a normal backswing say this is a more natural way for the body to move. If you turn your body to talk to someone, or point in that direction, your heel comes off the ground. They also say if you tried to walk with your heels staying on the ground you would not walk very well or fast. I am not too sure what this really has to do with the golf swing.  This still might  be a good way to swing the golf club I don’t think this is the reason you should to do it.   This heel thing really boils down to the hips and head and what do you think they should be doing in the golf swing.  That’s another subject for another day. The next blog ball position.

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today we are going to discuss number 3 on the list:  You should keep your left arm straight though out the golf swing, or you don’t have to keep your left arm straight through out the golf swing. I am still going through things on raising the left heel, but I am just about done, and that will be the subject of next week’s post.  As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, thank God the feet aren’t bigger and we only have two of them because there are more opinions on what to do with them than any other part of the golf swing, with the possible exception of the head.   The left arm is not as near complicated, but is interesting none the less.

There was one instructor that did an experiment to see if allowing the left arm to bend at the top of the swing would affect the distance of the driver.  There were some interesting things about this so called experiment.  First he hit 3 balls each way. Yes 3 balls. Don’t put yourself out. Although he may start a trend. SAT tests can have just 3 questions, or new drugs can be tried on just 3 people and then be approved. How about hitting 50 balls or even a hundred and coming to some kind of conclusion. Better yet have about 50 to 100 golfers of various skill levels swing the two ways, about 50 shots each and see what happens.    Even more interesting was that on his second straight left arm swing, his left arm is slightly bent at the top. Finally he was a little distressed that he lost about 10 yards in distance when he swung with the left arm bent. Since the experiment was pretty worthless I don’t understand his concern. His conclusion despite “his results” was that the left arm did not have to be straight  to hit the ball consistently.

So what about this left arm thing.  If you keep your left arm straight through out the swing, it is going to do only one thing for your golf swing. At the top of the swing it is going to stretch out the left side of your body and back muscles. Here is the little experiment to do. Take your address position and make sure your left arm has a distinct bend of at least 20 to 30 degrees. Now make your backswing and maintain that bend to the top. Now straighten that left arm and you are going to feel a distinct stretch down the left side of your body and back. Now if that is the feeling you want to have at the top of the swing then you better keep your left arm straight.  Any instructor that says it’s ok to bend the left arm at the top, and Bob Toski is one of them, knows that with the acceleration of the downswing the left arm is going to straighten automatically. The advocates of the straight left arm say that it will keep you from over swinging, maintain your swing arc and make you a more consistent ball striker, all false. All its going to do is give your left side a distinctive stretch.  If you think that is important in the golf swing and many people do, then you better keep it straight. If you don’t and many people feet that way too, then bend away just like sipping the beer in golf cart.

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today will start a series of posts that will deal with the 16 aspects of the golf swing and game that are very confusing or have opposing viewpoints. I had intended to start with the left heel issue but I am still gathering information on that one, so we will start with number two on list the putting stroke. The two opposing viewpoints: The putting stroke should be straight back and straight through, or the putting stroke should be an arc much like the golf swing.  There is a long forgotten third putting stroke which we will get to, and after watching the young guys putt yesterday at the San Diego Open maybe they should consider  it.  Let’s look at each of the first two  putting strokes and then I will show you “Where’s the beef?”

The main advantage of the straight back and straight through putting stroke is the ball position is not very important.  The stroke is on the intended line for the entire time.  As long as you don’t go too bizarre on the ball position, playing it between your left toe and nose is fine, then your putt will go where you aimed it.

The advantage of the arc stroke, where the putter travels slightly inside the line, then on line, and again slightly inside the line after contact, is that this seems more like a natural way to putt and mimics the golf swing. Since the putter only spends a certain amount of time on the intended line then ball position becomes more critical.  Playing the ball too far back in your stance may cause putts to be missed to the right and too far forward may cause putts to be missed to the left   So “Where’s the beef?”

The beef is that proponents of the arc stroke say the straight back and through stroke is unnatural since golf is played to the side of the ball. They say for anyone to have a straight back and through stroke, there has to be some unnatural manipulation of the clubhead or arm swing. Nothing could be further from the truth. The  main advocate of the straight back and straight through  stroke is Dave Pelz.  In his book the Putting Bible he explains how to putt with this stroke.  You must have enough tilt from your hips toward the ball so your hands are directly under your shoulders. If you create this address position, then this is the only one way your putting stroke can go, and that is  straight back and through.  Any one can try this in their living room and you will see. Now if you want to say that having your hands directly under your shoulders is awkward or uncomfortable, that is ok. But don’t make statements about a putting stroke just so you can further your own method. Once you are in the proper address position, the straight back and through putting stroke is about as natural as you can get .

Now for that third method, which you could say takes the best or worse from the first two methods, depending on your perspective.  In 1961 there was a book written by Horton Smith, titled The Secret of Holing Putts. Horton Smith was one of the great putters of his time, and was a two time Masters Champion.   It is a great book on all aspects of putting and I highly recommend it.   The first secret is what he called hooding and I will quote directly from the book.  ” Hooding is the term given to the necessary counterclockwise turn of the left wrist during the backswing of the putting stoke. This slight rotation is applied in order to keep the blade of the putter constantly perpendicular or square to the line of the putt.”    Well how about those apples. Mr Smith advocated an arc stroke that was very low, but with hooding that kept the blade square to the line.   You will have to get the book to read about the second secret.

There are the three basic putting strokes.  Try them all and see what one may work the best for you. Don’t be afraid to try method two and three because believe me they can work very well.  As I wrote in the beginning of the blog I think some of these young guys that already look like they have the yips may want to delve into number three.

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well here we are it’s 2017, and since my last blog, believe it or not I have played 5 rounds of golf, including one this past Wednesday, to get the first round of the year in. Now one of those rounds was in sunny San Diego but the other 4 were right here in the Burgh. Not bad since November 30th.  My scores went on a roller coaster ride as I shot 75, 80, 76 in San Diego with borrowed clubs(I keep telling you this game is goofy), 83 and 84 this past Wednesday.  Obviously not any closer to an answer, but nobody else is either, and that’s what this post is all about.

During my frustrating year, one of the things I did was to go online to see if I could find something, that might help my game.  Of course, there is a bevy of information out there, some good, some not so good. But the real eye opener is the amount of conflicting information on how to go about hitting a golf ball. What’s a beginning golfer to do?   Everything I am about to list here, comes from  some of the most respected names in golf, ranging from Bob Toski, Ken Venturi, Butch Harman, Jack Nicklaus, and many more. I am going to list them in the order of what I think contains the most misinformation and that are the most confusing. Don’t hold your breath while you are reading this because you will die

  1. You should keep your left heel on the ground during the backswing, or it’s ok to lift the left heel on the backswing or you should lift your heel on the backswing.
  2. The putting stroke should be straight back and straight through, or the putting stroke should be an arc and straight back and straight through is not natural.
  3. The left arm should be straight though out the swing or the left arm does not have to be straight though out the swing.
  4. Play the ball in the same position for all shots, or gradually move the ball back toward the center of your stance as clubs get shorter
  5. At address, the weight should be distributed on the balls of the feet, or over the arch just in front of the ankles, or on the heels of the feet.  Thank God are feet aren’t any bigger.
  6. Restrict your hip turn or do not restrict your hip turn
  7. Your shoulders should turn at least 90 degrees on the backswing, or they do not have to turn 90 degrees
  8. Your swing should be compact and don’t overswing, or make sure your swing is nice and long so you will have plenty of time to make the proper downswing moves.
  9. You should pause at the top of your backswing, or you should not make a conscious pause at the top of your backswing.
  10. Take the club back low and slow, or this is the worse thing you can do is low and slow
  11. Chip like you putt, or do not chip like you putt
  12. You should change your grip to help square up your club face, or you should not change your grip to square up your club face
  13. Hand position at address in relationship to the ball, too many too mention
  14. The first move to start the downswing, too many to mention
  15. Head movement, does it, should it, and how much and what direction
  16. Last but not least, good old Natural Golf with the greatest ball striker of all time the late Moe Norman, as their poster child.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 So what are we to make of all this?  Who is right and who is wrong. Maybe they are all right, or maybe they are all wrong. One thing is for sure, each person or school that advocates any of the things that I have mentioned, think they are right and they have found the holy grail. But we all know that is not true.  Over the next few months I am going delve into each one of these conflicting points. One of the most amazing things I found is the misinformation as to why you should do a certain thing starting with raising the left heel. There may be some delay because next week it looks like that I might even be able to play a couple of times. See  global warming is not all  bad.
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