Category Archives: golf instruction

So, What Should You Be Practicing? Here Are Some Facts.

One of the most common questions I get as a golf coach is, “So, what should I be practicing?” That is a great question and the answer is determined by two factors. First, I always ask, “What do you struggle with?” I’ve noticed that in my 25 years of coaching golf that most golfers avoid practicing the thing they need to practice the most. This is flawed thinking because your weaknesses will always be exposed during a round of golf, and when they are, your score goes up…a lot. So, what I like to do with my students is to attack their weakness and turn that weakness into a strength.

The second factor that should be considered is simple statistics. Numbers don’t lie. So, what is most important in golf? It’s ALL important, and all parts of the game are linked but here are some undeniable facts that will help you make the most of your practice time.

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This graphic should be very useful in helping every individual make the most of their practice time. One note: The yellow wedge (Trouble Shots) shouldn’t be overlooked. I see many golfer make a mess of these shots which absolutely wrecks their score. I’ll write a post on those shots soon.

This article will also be featured in November issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.

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The Pro Position

If there is one swing position that I think is the key for the rest of the swing, this is it.

Over the years I have noticed one swing position common to almost all tour pros regardless of their size or build. If you study the swing sequences from month to month in Golf Digest or Golf Magazine, you too will notice this position.

I don’t believe that there is only one way to swing a golf club; however, over the years I have studied countless tour swings on video. After seeing this common thread among the best in the world, I have made it one of the main things I focus on when teaching the golf swing. I know from experience that if I get my golfers into the pro position in the backswing that they will have the ability to play confident, consistent, top-level golf.

Here are the facts: Most pros keep the clubhead outside the hands when the shaft is parallel to the ground during the backswing (as shown in the photo, right). This not only ensures the club is on a great path, it also creates tremendous width, which maximizes distance. That’s one of the reasons the pros hit it so far. Even the smaller guys like Ricky Fowler pound it! He really exaggerates this move.

Most amateurs take the clubhead inside the hands and feet by the time the shaft is parallel to the ground during the backswing. The problem with this faulty technique is that once the clubhead comes inside the hands you are more or less on a recovery mission for the rest of the swing. This leads to bad habits and shots being hit impressively and embarrassingly off-line, going in multiple directions. End result: shattered confidence.

When I get my golfers into the pro position, they no longer fear going left. Once that fear is eliminated, they can swing freely. Confidence replaces fear. Not only does my students’ accuracy dramatically improve, so does their distance.

The great thing about adapting to this swing adjustment is that it happens so early in the swing it is easy to incorporate without feeling too technical. Once you have made it to this position, the only thing left to do is commit to a full, firm swing.

For those of you who whip the clubhead inside during the takeaway, when you first start to work on getting into the pro position, it will probably feel awkward, as if you’re taking the club on an exagerated outside path. But as Butch Harmon says, “Feel and real are two different things.” If something feels awkward, I say great! It is easy to “feel” what awkward is. So embrace that awkward feeling until it feels natural. You’ll love the results!

I’ll explain more about this move in my next lesson.

If you have a topic you would like addressed please leave a comment and I’ll get to it. Thanks for following!

How to Actually Play Golf

This is the first of a multi-part series on how to negotiate the golf course to achieve lower scores without having to think about swing or technique.

Over the years I have had countless golfers come to me seeking to answer a great big question: I’m great on the range, so why don’t I shoot lower scores?

Many times the reason is not swing-related, its a course management issue. The lessons in this series are designed to give you quick guidelines as to what to do, and more importantly what not to do, in common situations on the golf course.

Lesson 1

Understanding Green Complexes

Understanding what is going on around the green is essential if you want to score your best. Truth is, most golfers don’t hit the ball as far as they’d like to believe. Golfers tend to choose a club based on their absolute best strike, not their usual strike.cog How to play golf lesson 1 Also, I find that most golfers have an innate fear of hitting the ball long, which rarely happens. Combine these factors with how golf course architects design most holes and you’ve got a recipe for higher scores.

Study the green complex before you hit your shot, then follow the simple tips illustrated in this graphic and you’ll see your scores drop dramatically.

Bonus Hint: Hit one more club! You’ll make more pars and birdies, guaranteed. Also, the extra length allows for you to be the imperfect golfer you are. A miss-hit won’t be so penal.

Sure there are times when it is best to end up short of the green. If that is your intent, great! But most times, coming up short is born out of poor planning or not accepting the fact that you don’t hit a 7 iron as far as Dustin Johnson. Or even Zach Johnson, for that matter.

When I was a university coach I used to always say to my team, “During a round of golf one of two things are happening. Either the course is putting pressure on you to give up a score, or you’re putting pressure on it to give up a score.”

The latter is much more fun.

 

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

A New Series: How to Actually PLAY Golf.

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A view of the spectacular par 3, 14th hole at Titarangi Golf Club in Auckland, New Zealand.

An Introduction to a new lesson series.

There are literally countless articles and videos on the many ways you should swing a golf club. Learning how to swing a club efficiently is vital if you are going to enjoy your current golf and keep playing this great game in the future. However, when golfers are put in real-life situations on the course, many times their practice of “golf swing” doesn’t lead to lower scores. Lets face it, a lot of bad things can happen to good swings on a golf course. There is a disconnect between what was taught on the practice tee and what one can produce on the golf course. We’ve all either said or heard the phrase, I can’t take what I do on the range to the golf course. This is the universal lament of the golfer who wants to get better, but never seems to. What I have found in my lifetime of teaching and coaching is that there just isn’t enough information for golfers about how to navigate themselves around the course to help them lower their scores.

Its frustrating for you, the golfers who put so much effort to go into improving your golf via practice and lessons, only to be disappointed with results when you actually play. Its frustrating for me as an instructor for my students to suffer needlessly—and as I say, to not get paid. Most times I see scores balloon not because of technique, but because of a player’s poor planning, trying to do too much with a shot, a bad decision, panic, or just hitting a shot out of pure frustration.

cog graphic how to playOnly about 4% of all golf lessons given are playing lessons. I believe that this is one of the big factors preventing golfers from improving as much or as fast as they should. Golfers aren’t given the knowledge to know what to do—or more importantly, what NOT to do—on the golf course. I see this as a recipe for failure. So, in some ways your poor score is not your fault. The fact is, you haven’t been trained on how to PLAY golf. In fact, years ago I was going to give a talk about this very topic at PGA training and they told me straight out, “You can’t give this talk.” I was stunned when I heard this. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to know that I gave the talk anyway.

The bottom line is this, strategy and having a set of rules for what you will do or won’t do in a given situation is biggest key for scoring. If you follow these strategies your scores will go down, regardless of how you hit the ball. My goal is to arm you with the knowledge to go on the course and lower your handicap so you can beat your mates!

So lets learn something useful and apply these principles. And by the way, if you have certain situations you’d like to see discussed mention them in the comment box and I’ll get to them either individually or in a future article.

Look for the first installment of How to Actually Play Golf in the following days.

How to Make More Short Putts, Because a “Gimme” Isn’t a Real Thing.

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Short putts terrify many golfers. This is one of the main reasons, “the gimme” as become so common. Most casual golfers aren’t required by their equally scared playing partners to hole out their short putts. By the way everyone, no where in the rules of golf is the concept of a “Gimme” ever mentioned. Yes, in a match play format you can concede a putt or hole, but how many of you are playing match play? This is a sore subject with me because I am a golf purest and the entire object of the game of golf is to get the ball in the hole! When I hear someone say, “pick it up, that’s good.” I have to bite my tongue. It drives me absolutely crazy! Getting the ball in the general area of the hole is not good enough! In the rules of golf it clearly states, “In stroke play the hole is complete once the ball has been holed.” That means the ball comes to rest in the bottom of the cup.

I hear all the reasons and excuses as to why people play, “gimmes”. Sorry, none of them are legit. “But it speeds up play.” “They would have made it anyway,”… blah, blah, blah. Sorry, it all amounts to one thing… you’re cheating.

This will give you a good explanation why you shoot far worse scores in tournaments than you do day in and day out. It’s because you don’t get any practice making short putts while playing under pressure. How different would your score be if you putted all the short ones? A good putters score wouldn’t change but a bad putters score would be very different.

Forgive me, I’m trying not to get to preachy, but the reward for all the hard work it took to get your ball so close to the hole is to hear the wonderful sound of the ball rattling around the bottom of the cup. Also, making the close ones are a demonstration of ones skill, nerve and focus. “How many times have you seen a major championship decided by a player making or missing a 3-foot putt? How about EVERY ONE!”

I get it though. Once confidence that you can make a short putt is gone, fear is the next emotion that dominates the mind. A mind full of doubt is obviously terrifying and most times ends in embarrassment. Because when standing over a short putt with little confidence, you know and your playing partners know you’re probably going to miss it, and sometimes you’ll miss the following putt also resulting in you raking up the ball with your putter and walking quickly off the green mumbling insults at yourself.

So, lets make more short putts. Try this easy drill:

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Get a bunch of balls and put a tee in the ground about 3-4 feet away from the hole. This way you can practice the same putt over and over to develop muscle memory and confidence.

one eye

Once over the ball and you feel you are aligned properly, close your left eye (if you are a right-handed golfer) and keep it closed while you stroke the putt. The reason you do this and I believe a big reason some people miss short putts is that it takes away peripheral vision. I believe strongly that seeing the hole out of the corner of ones eye is the distraction that prevents golfers from being able to focus on making a quality stroke. I have found that if I take peripheral vision away, a golfer can completely focus on watching the putter come through the stroke on a quality path and focusing completely on seeing the putter contact the ball without ones attention wandering or trying to guide the ball to the hole. As Gary Player would say, “you should LISTEN for the ball to go in the cup.”

I believe that in golf you can’t be scared of something you can’t see. If you can’t see the hole it will free you up. I’ve introduced this drill to hundreds of golfers. Some even do it while they play. This drill will help golfers focus on putting a nice roll on the ball, learn to keep the hands moving through the stroke, keep the head steady, and more importantly, calm the mind.

So, NO MORE GIMMIES!” Putt them all!

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Scotty Cameron is Smarter than You.

Seems I’ve been talking putting a lot lately with my clients. This is one of my favorite and one of my most popular articles from way back in 2012. Thought I’d repost it. It’s always relevant. Thanks to my friend Pete Bilheimer back in Savannah, Georgia, for posing for the photo.

Here’s a golfing tale with which we’re all familiar. If it doesn’t describe you, it surely describes one of your golfing buddies.

So, you’ve just bought a new Scotty Cameron because you can’t make a 4 foot putt to save your life. It sure is pretty! Not only that, it’s a trophy. It’s proof that not only are you a serious golfer, but one of taste as well. You can’t wait to show the guys because they’re going to want one too. They’ll envy you. Status, baby! That’s what it’s all about.

You go to the course and one by one each of your friends sees, inspects and takes a few whacks with your new baby. Everyone is drooling over her and telling you how good she feels. The attention is intoxicating. You’re a star!

So you now go to play your round and as you approach each green, everyone in your group has their eyes squarely on you—because now you’ll make everything. Right?

As the round goes on and the short ones fail to drop, you can sense your friends’ disappointment, because it’s the same old story. You’re still one of them. You have been exposed. Your buddies know that there is no magic cure in that stick. You use your same tired excuses, “I’ve just got to get used to it,” and, “It’s a little different than my other Scotty.” Then one of your friends asks, “What are you going to do with your old putter? Can I buy it from you?” You respond, “Which one? I have a garage full of them.”

Boom. The lightbulb finally goes off. You realize that your putting is not getting any better. You’ve struggled with the same problem for as long as you can remember, and worse than that, you are not so much a golfer as you are a “collector.” You own enough putters to start a putt-putt course. You cry out in desperation, “Why don’t I ever get better?!”

~ The End ~

I hate to break it to you, but it’s you.

When I give a putting lesson the very first thing I look at is whether the putter is soled properly. Sounds basic, but rarely do I see it sitting on the green the way it was designed to sit.

Scotty Cameron and other top club designers have dedicated their working lives trying to make putting easier for all golfers, both amateur and pro. However, not one of them that I know of has ever designed a putter that wasn’t intended to be soled squarely on the ground. Yet, I see more toes in the air then you’d see at a morgue. So then the question I ask is, “Why do you do that?”

If you don’t sole the club properly you are, in essence, voiding the warranty, with any putter. Club designers like Scotty Cameron are craftsmen. If he saw you using his creation incorrectly, he’d be sad. Don’t undo his genius.

There are many reasons golfers miss putts, but if you don’t set the club up properly before it ever starts in motion, you’re fighting a losing battle—emphasis on losing.

When the toe is in the air, many things are going wrong. For one thing, you’re probably standing too far from the ball, which means the ball isn’t directly under your eyes, as almost every teacher in the world encourages.

If you are too far from the ball, and your toe is in the air, you will pull many putts. When you get tired of pulling putts, you’re hands will say, “This stinks, I don’t want to do that.” Then you will begin to push putts. After your confidence has been completely eroded away, you will find yourself standing over 3 and 4 footers wondering things like, “Who am I? Where am I?” Then, it’s off to Edwin Watts! You think, “Maybe I can buy my way out of this funk.”

Fact of the matter is, all of your putters work! The problem is that most golfers adjust the putter to their own faulty set-up.

So, here’s the lesson: Sole the putter flat on the ground, then adjust your stance so that the putter stays soled properly. It’s pretty easy. Just keep inching in a little closer to the ball until the putter head is perfectly flat. Some of you will feel too close to the ball, but you’re not! If you feel too close, it’s only because you were too far away to begin with. In the proper position (second photo), you’ll use your hands less, your big muscles more, and you’ll hole tons more putts.

All golfers need to come to terms with the fact that they can’t buy their way out of bad mechanics.

Do me a favor. Send me the next 300 beans you would have spent on a new putter. Leave a comment and I’ll give you my address.

We’ll talk a lot more about putting soon.

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.

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