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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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, the season is winding down, and I am still just wandering around in the lost golf world of a game that has gone south. My game continues to flounder in the high 70’s and low 80’s range with little hope of this changing until the calendar changes and a new season begins.  So as I look back on this disgusting season and try to break it down, I really can not put my finger on one particular part of my game that is the real culprit. Let’s look at it any way and see where some of the problems did lay.

One of the things that was not an issue was driving the ball and distance.  At 66 years of age you might think that  would become an issue but my distance  off the tee was as good as ever and my irons were still the same, distance wise. An equipment change  late last golf season caused some iron issues but even going back to my old irons may have helped me hit my irons better but really did nothing to help improve my score.

Putting is always an issue when you are not scoring well, but lately even with my putting being the best it’s been over the last 4 weeks, it has not had a major impact on my scores.

Trying to find the answer has always had some negative impact on my game.  Usually I come up with something that has some merit.This year the things I have tried seem to have had even  a greater negative impact on my game. Even trying to go back to the shoulder control swing which worked so well  for me over the course of a 2 year period was a basic disaster.

The chip yips in the short game were still an issue this year but I  have been battling them for the last 4 years and was still able to shoot some very good golf. Even on days where the chip yips were missing in action did not help my score all that much. Just a couple of rounds ago, not only did I have the yips, but the shanks reared their ugly head on shots around the greens.

The bad hole and the very bad shot became a factor this year.  I proved the rule about it’s not where your good shots go but where your bad shots go.  Some of my bad shots, simply put, were unbelievable.  From being any where from 50 to 75 yards off line to barely hitting the ball 50 to 75 yards. I had 5 rounds this year that were in the 80’s that got adjusted down to the 70’s during the handicap season. The most was when I really shot an 84, but because I had some really bad holes was adjusted down to 77. I had one 9 and one 10 this year without any penalty strokes.

The basic stats went something like this, 5 rounds in the 90’s  more rounds in the 80’s than in the 70′ by 2 to 1. My best score to par was 2 over which I did once.  I had about a handful of 75’s and 76’s  with the rest 77 and above.  I played my usual amount, as I just played my 107th round of the year yesterday. So what does this all mean? As they say in the movies I’ll be damn if I know. I have always been of the philosophy that there is a reason for everything.  Maybe in some strange way this is leading me to the answer.  At times I have felt that the answer is to take up bowling again, as I was pretty damn good at that. There can’t be too many rounds left in the golfing season this year but you never know in Western Pa. Maybe it will come like a lightening bolt and I will have a year where no score is over 75. When is the next Star Wars movie coming out?

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well it’s been about 6 weeks since the last blog and the game has come back some, but more on that later. The two big stories since the last blog have been the Ryder Cup and the passing of Arnold Palmer. The blog is coming from San Diego today, as I am wrapping up a week’s visit with the grand kids and will be returning to Burg tomorrow.

First the Ryder Cup. I will admit the Ryder Cup does not fire me up as much as some people,  but there was certainly some great golf played. I don’t know if you can call the Rory-Reed match the greatest of all time but the front nine was the greatest of all time without a doubt. That match should be saved forever on your DVR. I think the captains did a good job of managing their teams. I think the worst move of any captain was making Lee Westwood a captain’s pick. Clark would have been better off picking Catrina Matthews. It was a very inexperienced European team and I think that was the difference.  The poor play of Westwood and Kaymer was also a big factor. It was nice to see the U. S. win one, but the future looks bright for the European team. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming Ryder cups.

The golfing world lost the king, what more can you say. I grew up watching Arnold Palmer take hold of the PGA tour. That’s the best way to describe it.   Not only was Arnie a great player but he had the charisma. That and his style of play is what made him great and the tour flourish. Here is the proof in the pudding as they say. Palmer really burst onto the scene in two Masters. First the 1958 Master where he was able to charge home and with the benefit of a controversial ruling on an embedded  ball win his first major. Then he again came from behind in 1960 with birdies on 2 of the last 3 holes to win his 2ond Masters and the famous Arnie charge was born. Anybody know who won the 1959 Masters and how he did it. I doubt if anyone does. It was  Art Wall Jr. who birdied 5 of the last 6 holes to take the green jacket. Quite a charge wouldn’t you say, but it got lost in the Arnie avalanche.  Palmer was the man and rightfully so. As great as he was, I think it was his agonizing defeats that sealed the deal for Arnie’s legacy in golf. From his double bogey on 18 at the 61 Masters that allowed Gary Player to get his first green jacket, to blowing a 7 shot lead with 9 holes to play at the 1966 U. S. Open, which led to a play-off loss to Billy Casper. It was those and other losses that made the army loyal to their king. That go for broke mentality that won him so many tournaments, also was his biggest flaw, but the masses loved him for it. The shot that is etched in my memory was at the 72ond hole of the 1968 PGA championship. This was as close as Arnie would ever come to the only major he would never win. He was battling Julius Boros down the stretch who was playing two groups behind. Palmer’s ball was in the rough on this long par 4 and the lie was bad, you could not see the ball. He took a wooden 3 wood and smashed a 230 yard bullet that did not get more than 6 feet off the ground and the rolled up about 8 foot from the hole. I still consider this the greatest shot on the last hole of any major championship. Unfortunately he missed the putt and Julius Boros parred the last hole by wedging his third shot within 6 feet and draining the par putt to win by one stroke. I know there is so much more to Arnold Palmer than golf,  but it is Arnold Palmer the golfer that I will always remember and love.

As far as my own game is concerned what’s not to love. I have had more rounds in the seventies than in the eighties and of course I am working on something that is new and unusual but I probably won’t know if it’s worth anything until this time next year. I have got about 6 to 8 weeks of play left so we will see how it goes in the short term. I will keep you posted. Until then hit em straight, and hey, for one day at least, go for broke in memory of Arnie.



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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, its been about 2 months since the last blog with good reason. My game has completely hit the crapper. I went the entire months of June and July without breaking 80. I am still playing about 3 to 4 times per week and I am in good health physically. Mentally I think I’m OK but death is looking pretty good right now. Just kidding. I finally did break 80 three times so far in August. So whats been the problem. Well a couple of experiments went very bad, obviously and one I stuck with for about 3 to 4 weeks because it looked like it might be worth something and it was worth about 800 dollars in lost bets, and tournament fees. Right now I am going back to a swing that I used from 1986 to 1994 and have had some success but my putting has been really bad. Its like anything else when you hit a period this bad its always something. I am not discouraged and just keep repeating the mantra there’s a reason for everything.

So while I was out there the hacking away, the USGA was making fools of themselves at both the men’s and women’s Open. There’s been plenty written about both events but here is what has to happen in golf, whether it is the PGA tour or major USGA events.  To make my point lets go to other major sports. Let’s look at football, namely the NFL. The New England Patriots are the playing Cincinnati Bengals and lets rev up the stakes a little bit and say it is a play off game. About midway through the 1st quarter the New England player returns a punt 75 yards for a touchdown down the sidelines. Because of camera angles and players bodies, even on instant replay the player looks like he stays in bounds, and the touchdown stands. New England kicks the extra point and kicks off to the Bengals for a touch back. Cincinnati runs one play gains 3 yards. Now all of a sudden it is brought to the attention of the TV booth that a side line camera man has a still shot which shows that the runner on the punt return barely hits the out of bounds line at the 20 yard line. There is a brief time out and the referee makes the announcement of what just happened and declares that the touchdown and extra point will be taken away from New England and the game will continue with the Bengals 2nd and 7 on the 23 and the score 0-0. Now as ludicrous as this sounds this is exactly what happens in golf time after time and this is what has to change. At the very least golf has to assess any penalty before the players start the next hole. This idea of golf trying to go back in time and undo grievous mistakes is ridiculous and really makes the game  worse not better. The way they informed the players of the rules infraction at the Women’s Open, you could argue that the USGA put the fix in to make sure that Lang won the event. You don’t know what was going through her mind at time when she thought she was tied for lead. She may have been feeling fatigued and may have tried a riskier shot to make birdie to end it right there. If Nordqvist had known she was 2 shots down at the 18th tee box she would have hit the riskier driver off the tee to try and reach the green in two. Inadvertent rules infractions happen all the time in golf. Do I think Anna Nordqvist should have been penalized for barely touching that grain of sand, absolutely. But she should have been penalized before she stroked her putt on 17 or not at all. Until the ruling bodies of golf realize that golf is played by human beings, and mistakes happen that should not be corrected 15 minutes to 24 hours after they happen, the game will always be tainted.

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The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, its been two months since the last time I have blogged about my game. I have been playing the same amount as usual, about 3 to 4 times a week. Since the first of April I have played 26 rounds, with some 9 hole rounds thrown in. The golf, overall, has been mediocre at best and sometimes pretty horrible. I have had about the same number of rounds in the 80’s and 70’s. At least no more rounds in the 90’s although one was close, 89. My four tournament rounds have all been in the 80’s with one birdie in 72 holes.  Naturally, I have been trying all sorts of things to bring me out of this funk, that I have been in, since the middle of March. I have had just enough good rounds, one 74 and two 76’s, with a couple of 77’s and 78’s thrown in, to keep my handicap in the mid 5’s. The new rule about not counting rounds when you play alone is also helping. So with heading into the summer months here is what I think may bring back.

If there is one thing I have learned through this down time is that the swing is not the problem. That can be said about any golfer with a single digit handicap, and any pro tour golfer. The proof of this is the current analysis of Jordan Spieth’s golf swing. Spieth has had some 4th round issues since his infamous Masters collapse. Naturally, this has led Spieth to be on the slow motion camera more than any golfer in history. Watch his right knee, watch his left knee, watch his follow through, and blah blah blah. This past week Spieth wins the Colonial. Now let me ask you something. Did he really hit the ball any better in this 4th round than the 4th rounds where he did not close the deal? HELL NO. What he did do of course, is putt better than humanly possible for the last 10 holes, plus a chip in. How much do you think that had to do with his right knee or left knee. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Here is the final conclusion. One of my mantras even 6 years ago has been that 85% of all bad shots are caused before you start the swing. I revised that just last year to 90%. Now I can say with certainty that it is 100%. I am talking here about golfers with single digit handicaps. There are some swing fundamentals, of course. If you are shooting in the 70’s then you have that down pat. There are so many things you can do wrong at address. I will discuss these in future blogs, especially if I am right about this. I can tell you that this is all I will be working on in the next few months. As I always say the numbers never lie, so we will see what happens. Maybe this game is not as goofy as I think.

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