Category Archives: Tee Shots

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.

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.

Adjust Your Driver, PLEASE ! ! !

Today’s drivers, fairway woods and hybrids all have more technology than ever before. In the last five years, almost every brand has gone to models that are completely adjustable. This gives everyone a chance to be better at the distance clubs than they’ve ever been! Strangely, when I give a lesson and I look in the players bag, 8 out of 10 times I see the club set on neutral.

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Failure to adjust an adjustable club is one of the most frustrating things I see as a coach.

When I watch my student hit drivers, I observe the ball flight and usually see a pattern; either most go left ,or most go right. OR, some balls go left, some go right, some go straight. That last pattern happens because the student is trying to manipulate the clubface with the hands—an attempt to compensate for natural tendencies—which of course is very difficult to do with any degree of consistency.

Generally at this point I ask, “What do you have your driver set on?”

The student answers, “Neutral” (or “A-1” or some equivalent).

I ask, “Why?”

The student answers, “That’s what it was set on when I bought it.”

I then bite my tongue before answering something like, “Most every ball you have hit sliced. Wouldn’t you like to hit it straighter?”

At this point over the years I’ve gotten some pretty insane answers. The craziest responses come from students who are my strongest players. Mere mention of the idea of changing the setting is almost always met with resistance and skepticism. Many stronger players view changing the setting as a sign of weakness.

I’ve heard this ridiculous comment more than once: “I don’t want to use that as a crutch.”

This is my cue to point out that there isn’t a guy on tour whose driver is set on neutral—and they make MILLIONS.

So the question is, why would you want the game to be harder for you than it is for the pros? Why aren’t you taking advantage of technology like they are willing to do?

Everyone having their driver set on neutral is like saying that everyone is the same shoe size, or the same pant size.

If I put you in my clothes, XL shirt, pants (38×32) or my shoe (11.5), how would it feel? How would it look? Could you run in my shoes? Would my pants look really big on you?

I have a son who is about to be 14 who wears a size 9 shoe and has a 28 in waist. He would look ridiculous in my things. I would look equally ridiculous in his.

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You get the point.

Your assignment: go to the range. Chart your drives. (Most of you already know your tendencies, but a session on the range for this purpose will prove them to you.) Then adjust your driver to to the opposite of your most common miss. If your miss is a slice, set it for draw, if your miss is left, open the face.

If you’re already awesome, adjust your driver to take one side of the golf course out of play. If your home course has a lot of trouble on the left, adjust your driver so that it’s almost impossible to hit it left. There is nothing more liberating than standing on the tee on a really important hole and having no fear. Fearless is what you achieve by adjusting the setting on your driver. Hitting the fairway is fun! Don’t be afraid. You’ll only get better.

After you do this you’ll be able to swing your natural swing and not try to manufacture a swing. Your move will get less handsy over time and your drives and scores will improve.

You’re not neutral. There is no one else like you. Use technology to your advantage. Club manufacturers spent millions and millions of R&D dollars developing this technology, so use it! You will improve, enjoy the game and feel good about yourself.

Commandment #2

I’ve seen it for years, players automatically pegging it up in the middle of the tee box on every hole without any thought. Then after the drive ends up in the woods or a hazard, the golfer usually curses and takes a few moments to rehearse his backswing, thinking his swing was the problem. Guess what? More times than not, the swing wasn’t the issue. But every time this happens during his round, the player continues to question his swing mechanics and tries to fix problems that aren’t there. Late in the round when his confidence is somewhat eroded you can almost count on a big mistake being made on an important tee shot.

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The real problem was that the golfer did not consider the angles of the golf hole. On each tee shot you need to ask yourself, “Where can I miss and still make par? Where is the big mistake?”

The solution is simple: Pick a side. Tee the ball up on one side of the tee box or another to create the best angle to play the hole. And, there is always a better side.

Tee the ball up on the side of the hole you wish to avoid. This allows you to hit away from trouble and dramatically decrease the odds of making the big mistake.

When I see someone tee up on the wrong place within the tee box, I can usually tell you where the ball is going to end up before the shot is hit. Some people think I’m a wizard or something, but it’s just years and years of seeing the same predictable mistake repeated thousands of times.

Something that many golfers don’t realize is that one of the tools that golf course architects use is illusion and deception. Course architects will create angles that make golfers feel uncomfortable. This is a golf course’s best defense against giving up a score. Bunkers, hazards, the direction of the holes (doglegs, etc.) aren’t there just to look pretty; they are there to create doubt and fear.

Stand behind some of the tee boxes at your home course. Notice that many aren’t aiming you down the middle of the fairway. Sometimes they are actually aiming you toward the trouble.

Using the tee box to your advantage is one of the easiest of The Commandments to apply. I’ve seen it change a decent college player into a very effective one. This Commandment is so important because you apply it on every hole BEFORE you have ever hit your first shot. If you commit to using this strategy you’ll be amazed how much more effective your tee shots are.

Golf is a game of misses. You are going to miss some of your targets; even the pros do. If you allow yourself room to for your imperfection, you’ll be okay. If you regularly have to reach into your bag for another ball, you won’t have much fun.

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!