The Golf Swing

This blog is dedicated to the golf swing. Please feel free to discuss any tips, techniques and methods that you use to improve your swing.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Short Game - Get Low to Avoid Thin Chips

A lot of high handicap golfers find themselves hitting their chips and pitches thin. These thin hits are caused when the leading edge of the club meets the ball at or around its equator and are usually caused by the upper body lifting as the club comes down. The ball will fly on a low trajectory and most of the time wind up way past the pin. This lifting of the body is typically caused by a stance that is too straight. When chipping and pitching be sure to get down low by flexing your knees and bending at the waist a little more than you would on a full shot. Keep the ball in the middle of you stance and your weight equally balanced between your feet. If you find yourself hitting your chips and pitches thin remember "Get Low".

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Short Game - The Sand Wedge Lob

If you're close to the green but you find yourself in deep grass and you have little green to play with don't use your wedge instead pull out the sand wedge. You should keep a fairly open stance and an open clubface just as you would if you were hitting an explosion shot out of the sand. Keep your back swing slow and break your wrists early. Keep a good steady rhythm on your downswing and try to have your clubface slide under the ball entering the grass about an inch behind the ball. Make a good follow through and your ball should pop out of the grass high and land soft.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Short Game - The Texas Wedge

So you thought you were only allowed to carry 14 clubs in your bag, didn't you? Well the truth is that's right, under the rules of golf you can only carry 14 clubs. However, you do have an extra club in your bag and probably didn't even realize it. The extra club is the putter. Under the right conditions you can use the putter instead of your wedge when you find yourself short of the green. When using the puter from off the green the putter is commonly referred to as the Texas Wedge. It got this name because the golf courses in Texas are typically very dry and free of hazards. Because of these conditions it became common for Texans to putt the ball from as far as 50 feet off the green.

The key to this shot is not the distance you find yourself off the green but the terrain between your ball and the flag. If you're lying in the fairway and there are no hazards in front of you the putter becomes a viable option. However, if your sitting several feet into the rough or there is longer grass in front of your ball that you need to go through the putter won't work because this longer grass will influence the direction and speed of the ball. Anytime the grass is long enough to have an influence on the direction of the putt, chip the ball. Anytime you're sitting in nice short grass, putting is an alternative.

It's essential that you make solid contact with the ball, since any mis-hits will be greatly exaggerated by the slower surface your ball is on and you'll wind up short. Also, don't ground the club behind the ball prior to your takeaway. Rather keep the putter resting lightly behind the ball, this will prevent you from catching the blade in the longer grass on the takeaway. Accelerate the putter through impact and follow through with the club moving along the target line.

The Texas wedge is a viable option. Especially for those of you that are not completely confident in your chipping ability. If you fall into this category give this shot a try and I you'll find yourself getting the ball closer to the pin then if you had chipped.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Short Game - Fly the Flag

Knowing how you hit the ball can give you lots of clues on where you need to improve your game. Think back about your approach shots to the green. Do you normally come up short on your iron shots into the green? What about chips and pitches? When you think back on this you'll see a pattern emerge. For most of you I bet you're coming up short of the flag. You're not even giving yourself a chance because a ball that comes up short never has a chance of going in while a ball that winds up past the pin at least had a chance.

The next time you play make it a point to give each shot a chance by using enough club to hit every approach shot past the flag. Try not to leave any shot short of the flag. It doesn't matter if you're hitting a fairway wood or a wedge. Don't leave anything short. I would take this philosophy one step further and do the same on you putts. Don't leave any putts short. Give every putt enough power to get past the hole.

You'll find that when you hit the ball past the flag that more often than not you'll wind up closer to the hole than you would have if you left the ball short. Be aggressive, leave nothing short and remember "never up never in".

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Short Game - Learn to Use the Wedge

Almost every golfer could achieve lower scores by sharpening their short game. Many golfers, however, are scared of their wedge for one reason or another. Maybe they skull their wedge shots too often or just flat out can't seem to hit it. If you're one of these people let me offer you some advice. Get over it and learn to use your wedge. It will save you numerous shots per round. Follow the 3 steps below and practice the wedge.

1. KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid

Stick with the basics when it comes to wedge shots. Just because you see the pros on TV opening up the club and making all other kinds of adjustments to their stance and swing doesn't mean you should. Keep it simple. Use your normal grip and keep the club square to the ball and open your stance slightly. Practice the basics and once your confident that you can consistently make solid contact then and only then start experimenting with grip, stance, alignment etc. that is necessary to hit differnet kinds of shots.

2. Hit Down Dammit

Learn to use the loft of the club. The reason the club is angled is to give you loft. Don't try to pick the ball cleanly off the grass. To get the ball up you have to hit down. Your aim should be to have the wedge hit the ground with its leading edge just behind the ball. Concentrate on taking a divot and the ball will pop up.

3. Go Slooooow

One of the main causes of mis-hit wedge shots is too much movement of the body. This excess movement is usually caused by too quick of a swing. The result typically will be a skulled or fat shot. The wedge is a precision club. When you have the wedge in your hand you should be pin hunting. Like any precision instrument you want to handle it with finesse. Keep your grip light and your swing rythmic. The best way to achieve this rythmic swing is to go slooooow.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Putting Tips - Listen for the Ball to Drop

Sneaking a Peek at ball after you putt as it rolls towards the hole is a guaranteed way to derail your putt. If you find your head rotating towards the hole as your putter is coming through impact just about any chance of the putt sinking is gone. This movement of the head, however slight, causes movement in the rest of your body and is enough to throw off your center of gravity and cause your putter to go offline.

Try this the next time you're on the practice green. Concentrate on the ball instead of the hole. Don't follow your putter back or through, keep your eyes on the ball prior to impact and glued to the spot where the ball was after impact. After impact don't look up at all to watch your putt instead listen for the sound of the ball dropping into the hole. You'll be surprised how often they drop.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Putting Tips - Pace Off the Long Putts

Many mid to high handicap golfers run up their scores because of their inability to get a long putt in the hole in two strokes. Three putts and even four putts will kill a round faster than anything else. This problem can be cured if you'll spend some time on the practice range working on judging the distance and how hard to hit the ball from long distances.

Unlike out on the fairways there are no distance markers on the green. That doesn't mean however, that you shouldn't know how far the putt you're looking at is. When you're faced with a long putt make it a point to pace off the distance. To do this, simply walk from the ball to the hole and multiply by 3 (the length of an average pace is 3 feet). This isn't an exact science so you don't have to be exact. Just estimate it as closely as possible. You also should make it a point to do this as soon as step onto the green so you don't slow down play.

You should practice these long putts on the practice green. Pacing off the distance and getting a good feel for how hard you have to hit a ball to go 30 feet, 40 feet, etc., so that when you're on the green during a round and your faced with a 40 footer you'll know how hard you have to hit the ball. This will greatly increase your confidence in your stroke and allow you to get a lot of those four footers within 3 feet of the hole. Which is close enough for just about anyone to get down in two.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Putting Tips - Get the Ball Rolling

In order to have continued success on the greens you have to learn how to get the ball rolling smoothly. There's a big difference between hitting the ball and putting a good roll on it. If you look at your putter you'll realize that there actually is a slight loft to the club (usually about 4 degrees). This slight loft in the club is necessary in order to get the ball rolling smoothly towards the hole. If hit properly the ball will actually lift slightly off the ground before sitting back down on its journey to the hole.

Too many golfers don't use this loft to their advantage. In order for the loft of the putter to do its job your hands should be even with the ball at address and at impact. If you keep your hands ahead of the ball you've effectively de-lofted the putter. Instead of the ball rising slightly off the ground at impact you'll hit the ball down into the ground. This can cause the ball to immediately go off line and ruin any chance you had of sinking the putt.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Putting Tips - Accelerate Your Putting Stroke

Are you having problems sinking short putts? One possible reason could be that you're trying to baby the ball into the hole. What happens when you try to baby the ball is that your stroke becomes too tentative. This tentativness causes your putter to go off line and results in either a push or pull. It doesn't matter how short the putt is you must accelerate the putter through impact.

The next time you're on the practice green try the following drill. Place your ball 3 feet from the hole and hit it using your normal putting stroke. Now, place the ball in the same location but this time only bring the putter back half as far as you did on the first putt. Concentrate on accelerating the putter through impact. Don't forget to follow through. Repeat the drill from 4 feet, 5 feet etc. You'll soon realize the difference in the strokes. Get into the habit of accelerating your putting stroke and you'll see a lot more of those short putts dropping in to the hole.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Putting Tips - The Sweet Spot

If you are a mid to high handicap golfer and you're finding it hard to get on the green in regulation the last thing you want is to waste strokes once you're on the green. Fortunately, poor putting is often caused by not hitting the ball solidly. Think about your putting game. Do you come up short on one putt and then blow your next putt way past the hole? If you are then more then likely you're not hitting your putts on the Sweet Spot of your putter.

That notch or line that you see on your putter on the top of the blade might not actually be the Sweet Spot. To find the actual sweet spot on your putter try doing the following. Hold the putter by the grip very lightly between the thumb and forefinger. Hold the club out in front of you, now take a coin and tap the face of the putter until you find that spot that sounds different. The sound you want to hear is one that feels solid. Also, when you hit the club at this point the blade doesn't turn but rather goes straight back. This point is your Sweet Spot.

Once you've found the Sweet Spot mark the spot on the top edge of the blade so that when you're standing over your putt you can see it. You might put a small piece of tape or even some white out on the blade to mark the point. Now practice hitting your putts using the spot you marked as the Sweet Spot. You'll find you make solid contact much more often and you should start hitting your putts with greater consistency and turn a lot of those 3 putts into 2 putts.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Putting Tips - Learn to Lag

On long putts your goal should not be to sink the putt but to get the ball within a 3 foot radius of the hole. First look at the direction and once you know how the ball is going to break focus your attention on the distance. How hard are you going to have to hit the putt to get it within that 3 foot radius. The amount of power you'll need to get the ball into the circle will be determined by whether or not it's an uphill or downhill putt and how closely the green is cut.

I find it easier to walk the line the putt will travel stopping at the halfway point. From this point I'll take a practice swing concentrating on how hard I need to hit the ball to get it to the hole. Now remembering how hard I needed to swing the putter from this point I'll try to double that force for the actual putt. I've found that breaking the putt down into halves makes me more confident when I'm actually standing over the ball and looking at a 60 footer.

Don't underestimate the effect that a slope will have on a long putt. A long uphill putt will require a good firm stroke in order to get the ball into the circle while a downhill putt of the same distance could roll a lot further then you thought.

Spend time on the practice green working on these long putts. Concentrate on the circle. Hit both uphill, downhill and sidehill putts. Hit only 1 ball at a time. Try to lag it to within 3 feet, then go to your ball and try to sink it from that point. Once you've sunk the ball pick it up and hit it from another point. This will force you to adjust your aim and the amount of force needed for each practice putt and ultimately help you when you're faced with that long putt on the course.

Learn how to lag your putts and watch the 3 putts disappear. You could potentially knock several strokes off your game just by learning this extremely important technique.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Putting Tips - The Effects of Mountains and the Ocean

When you're playing a mountainside or oceanside course the ball can seem to do some peculiar things on the green.

Putts on a mountainside course tend to want to go down the mountain. It may not be apparent to your eye, in fact, you might read the break going in the complete opposite direction. Take my advice, anytime your playing in the mountains always assume the ball will break towards the downhill side.

On an oceanside course the ball tends to want to break towards the ocean. The reason for this is that the grass tends to grow with the grain facing the ocean. So on an oceanside course always assume the ball will break towards the water.

You'll get lots of crazy breaks on these types of courses. Even more so on a mountainside course. You shouldn't be surprised when what you thought was a straight putt takes a big turn or when what you thought was a break to the left was actually a break to the right. Just keep the following in mind, down the mountain and towards the ocean and you'll increase your chances of sinking putts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Putting Tips - Keep an Eye on Your Missed Putts

Are you the type of golfer that gets disgusted when they miss a makable putt? Do you turn away in anger and not follow the putt to its conclusion? If you are you should stop. Get into the habit of watching your putts until they come to a stop. Alright, so you missed the putt. You still have to putt again so why not watch your first putt. You'll pick up the break of the green which will make it easier for you to sink the next putt.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Putting Tips - Drop Downhill Putts

Just like uphill putts the force of gravity is once again at work on a downhill putt. Only this time gravity is trying to pull your ball all the way down the slope. Be smart on these putts and try to drop the ball into the hole on its last rotation. There are 2 reasons why you want to do this. First, the slope of the green and gravity are pulling your ball towards the hole and any imperfections in the green will have less of an impact on the direction of the ball. Second, If you get too aggressive on these downhill putts you'll find yourself facing an even longer uphill putt. I'd rather play it safe and know that even if I miss the first putt I have an easy tap in to get out of there with only 2 putts then face the prospect of 3 putting.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Putting Tips - Be Aggressive on Uphill Putts

When your ball is on the green and lying on a slope beneath the hole the force of gravity is trying to pull your ball away from the hole. Any imperfections in the green between your ball and the hole will have a higher likelyhood of knocking your ball off line. The slower your ball is rolling towards the hole the more likely any imperfection will cause your ball to go off line. Therefore, on uphill putts that are within a makeable range it's best to think about banging the ball off the back of the hole. This should give the ball enough speed to take any imperfection out of the equation. If your ball is outside of makeable range don't try to bang the ball off the back of the hole instead try lagging your putt so that it's within 3 feet of the hole. Preferably leaving yourself an uphill putt. It's much easier to make a 3 foot uphill putt than it is to make a 2 foot downhill putt and 2 putting is much better than 3 putting.