Category Archives: Fundamentals

Don’t Hit the Ball!

Here is a great tip to hit longer, straighter tee shots!

Do you hit low drives? Do you hit drives that curve a lot left or right? Are most of your friends longer off the tee than you?

If your answer to any of these questions is YES, it could be because you’re focused on hitting the wrong thing. If you want to smash longer, straighter drives then don’t hit the ball. You read this right– don’t hit the ball! Focus all of your attention on hitting the TEE!

If you look down after a drive and see the tee hasn’t moved there is a great chance you mis-hit your drive.

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Anyone who has taken lessons from me has heard me say countless times, “HIT THE TEE!” It’s a very simple way to hit better quality tee shots. I tell my students, “I don’t ever want them to hit the ball, I want them to hit what’s under the ball.”

Here is why:

If you focus on hitting the ball there is a very good chance you will lift up during impact and the ball will hit the lower half of the club face. Hitting the ball low in the club face will result in lower, shorter drives that spin more which cause the ball to curve a great deal more left or right.

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Something most people don’t know is that all of the top club manufacturers have built a “Hot Spot” on face of your driver. This spot is high on the face. If you do hit the tee, the ball will hit high on the driver face (in the hot spot). If you hit the hot spot the ball will spin far less. The result–the ball carries farther and because it is spinning less, when it hits the ground the ball will jump forward like it hit pavement. That is how the pros get the impressive distances they do. Yes, they do carry it far but much of their mammoth distance comes from the ball bounding down the fairway after it lands.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Ok then, how do we do this?

  1. Make sure the ball is teed up properly. We want to have half the ball higher than the top of the club.

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2. Your main goal on the swing is knocking the tee out of the ground (or at least have it leaning forward) after your tee shot. If you look down after the tee shot and the tee hasn’t budged, UGH! Try again.

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One thing I can promise you– the next time you’re on the first tee feeling nervous, if you ignore the ball completely and focus on hitting the tee, you’ll start off your round with a much better tee shot.

This article will also appear in February 2017 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.

Photographs courtesy of Elizabeth Witton.

Are You a Shotgun or a Laser ?

I have found over the years that poor alignment is the root cause of many issues that golfers have with their game.

We all know that mental focus is a very important aspect of playing good golf; focusing the body is also essential.

shotgun

Alignment points are located from your head to your toes. Your body has six important parts that need to align together in order to hit crisp, consistent and predictable golf shots. These six are the feet, knees, hips, elbows, shoulders and eyes. If any of these are not aligned to the same target, the effect is much like firing a shotgun: the pellets go everywhere! Some pellets will hit their target, but the majority of them will miss. Not a solid strategy for shooting lower scores. Now, if all six parts are focused on the same target—that’s powerful! That would be like focusing many rays of light on the same object, much like a laser. The concentrated focus of the rays become so concentrated and unified that they can actually cut through metal! That’s the kind of power and concentrated focus that we are looking for during the pre-shot routine.

All too often I see a golfer’s feet, for example, aiming off in one direction—say right—and another part like the shoulders, aiming to the left as shown in the green graphic. In this case the feet want the ball to go right and the shoulders want the ball to go left. Opposition has been created within the body. This opposition makes it very difficult for the body to focus on a single target. This opposition creates confusion, which kills focus, which then affects the physical action of hitting the golf ball, which directly affects the outcome, which in turn kills confidence. What is the result? You hit the ball everywhere, especially on important shots! The effect will likely be magnified even more because of excessive side spin that poor alignment puts on the ball.

Simply put, the entire body must be in agreement on where the ball should go. Otherwise, it’s far less likely that you will hit your target.

laser

So, lets talk about how to do this easily at address so that we look more like the blue graphic…

FEET: Align your toes parallel left of the target (if you are a right handed golfer). Very often I see golfers make the mistake of aiming their feet at the target, which actually aligns the feet right of where you want the ball to go. We want the clubface aimed at the target. The feet should be set up parallel to the target line.

KNEES: Make sure you look down you have the same amount of knee flex in each leg. You should be able to see the same amount of each of your feet.

HIPS: If your knees look good, then your hips should be good.

ELBOWS: All of our six alignment parts are important, but aligning the elbows is absolutely crucial to success. I can tell my students all day to work on their shoulder alignment, but it’s very difficult for them to feel what’s right, because you can’t see your shoulders at address. They can, however, see their elbows. So if I ask them to make sure the the line drawn from the elbows match their toe line, then matching up the upper body and the lower body becomes easy. Another thing about the elbows– if you have too much tension in your right arm (if you are right handed) it will usually lead to setting up with your shoulders open.

SHOULDERS: The shoulders will follow the alignment of the elbows.

EYES: This is a part of alignment that is often overlooked. Many of my students unknowingly have their head tilting to the right which throws off their perspective of what proper alignment is. Make sure you check your eyes.

So, now you are aligned properly. Providing that your clubface is also properly aligned you’ll find it much easier to hit your target because the club will start and continue on a better, more reliable swing path.

Result: You’ll hit far fewer off-line shots. This should really help lower your score.

So, now you are aligned properly. Providing that your clubface is also properly aligned you’ll find it much easier to hit your target because the club will start and continue on a better, more reliable swing path.

Result: You’ll hit far fewer off-line shots. This should really help lower your score.

This article was also published in the October 2015 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.

The Golfer’s Achilles Heel

This is probably the first golf lesson you’ve ever had about your heel. You don’t hear many Pros talking about it. So lets talk about it.

When I am working with my golfers, the heel of the back foot is something I am always watching. I believe the heel’s finish position has a huge impact on where the ball is going to end up. I bet a week hasn’t gone by in all my years of coaching that I haven’t at least mentioned something about a players back heel.

For me, at the end of the swing, where the heel is pointing is the clearest and easiest indicator of whether a player has transferred his weight properly on the through-swing. Most amateur golfers finish their swing with their heel in a very poor position. I find this is especially true for older golfers.

“Who cares?” you say. “It can’t be that important!” Well… I do, and it is.

Let’s imagine a clock and the heel of the back foot is the hour hand. In this case we’ll use a right-handed golfer. If his heel finishes in a position earlier than 12 o’clock (shown in first photo) not only has his weight failed to transfer properly on the through-swing, but his hips never fully released, either. In addition, it is doubtful that he will ever be able to Cross the Finish Line. (Last lesson.)

Failure to get the weight off of the back foot causes the lower body to slow down.  To compensate for the lack of power from the legs, the arms take over, and then the hands get too involved. The result is usually an early release, which will produce thin shots, fat shots, a pull or a hook, a push, a slice, etc. Good luck with that.
This looks less than athletic; in fact, if you don’t get off back foot completely, you’ll look like you’re swinging a sledgehammer. When the heel doesn’t finish at 12 o’clock it’s very difficult to predict with any consistency where the ball is going. Especially when it really matters. I’m betting, not at the intended target. By the way, if this is you, you’re the guy I want to play for money.

If the heel ends up pointing at 12 o’clock or, preferably even later (shown in 2nd photo), the player has fully released his hips and will have a nice long balanced finish position; i.e., athletic. He Crosses the Finish Line. More than likely, the ball will end up in a great position. The by-product of getting the heel past 12 o’clock is that the clubhead releases at the proper time not only increasing accuracy but also swing speed.

Another huge benefit is physical. Failing to get your heel to 12 o’clock puts a great deal of stress, on your lower back. If your lower body slows down while the upper body continues to turn through at a high speed, this creates tremendous torque, which could cause serious back injury. Sorry Dad, this is one of the big reasons you’ve had back problems over the years. I’ve even had some of my college guys who look like perfect physical specimens struggle with lower back issues for this very reason. I once tried to swing with my back heel finishing close to the ground while continuing to turn my upper body through the shot fully and I thought I was going to break in half. Wow, was it painful! AND I hit an awful shot. Getting your weight completely off the back foot will eliminate much of the stress the golf swing puts on the lower back.

If for no other reason, get your heel past 12 o’clock to protect your back. You’ll save a ton on chiropractic visits and you’ll thank me for lower scores, too.

Identifying Flying Objects

Unless you gain an understanding of what your ball is doing in the air you can’t take action to correct your problem.

There are only 9 flights that your ball will take after it has been hit. Once you have identified your predominant ball flight making the necessary corrections to your grip and alignment really aren’t that difficult. Hopefully this will help you better understand cause and effect and what adjustments need to be made to improve. Then, it’s a matter of staying committed to what is scientifically correct.

Let’s run briefly through each outcome. We will start in the middle:

Straight: This is the ideal. The club comes into the ball on a great path with the clubface square to the target. Life is good.

Hook: The path is good but the clubface is closed at impact. You just need to weaken your grip.

Slice: The path is good but the clubface is open at impact. You just need to strengthen your grip.

On the left branch of the ball flight tree (Pull) are the ball flights that of course start the ball left. Which means the clubhead came into the ball on an outside to in path.

Pull: If your ball goes straight left with no real curve the clubhead traveled on an outside to in path with a square clubface. You need to work on alignment which will affect the path of your club.

Pull Slice: The clubhead came into the ball with an outside to in path with and open clubface. You can play golf with this ball flight but you’ll really lose distance. But at least the ball works back toward the intended target.

Pull Hook: The clubhead came into the ball with an outside to in path with a closed face. If you hit this shot often keep a lot of balls in your bag, you’re gonna’ need them. Change your grip and alignment.

On the right branch of the ball flight tree (Push) are the ball flights that of course start the ball to the right. Which means the clubhead came into the ball on an inside to out path.

Push: The clubhead came into the ball with a inside to out path with a square clubface. Work on your alignment. You are probably aimed right.

Push Hook: The clubhead came into the ball with an inside to out path with a closed clubface. You can play golf with this ball flight because the ball works back toward center but you’ll probably have a pretty low ball flight and the top spin that this shot creates makes it difficult to control your iron shots because the first bounce on the green will be big. I recommend playing with a ball that gives you a lot of control. You have learned to have a strong grip to compensate for aiming so far right.

Push Slice: The clubhead came into the ball with an inside out path and an open clubface. Just like with the pull-hook if you hit this shot regularly keep a lot of balls in your bag. You need to work on alignment and strengthen your grip.

As you can see from the descriptions of each shot there are patterns. You’ll either want to adjust your grip or your alignment or both. Most of the root problems of the golf swing come back to a faulty grip and/or alignment. If you are willing to do a little investigative work and make some changes you can make a real difference in your game that will last.

In future lessons I will be giving advice on proper grip and alignment. So please keep following.

Thanks for the comments.