TIP-OF-THE-MONTH JUNE ’10: HOW TO PLAY BAD LIES IN SAND TRAPS
Watching your ball sail into a sand trap can be very disappointing. Arriving to that sand trap only to find your ball in a bad lie can not only be disappointing, but also very intimidating. Now how are you going to get the ball out? Just getting out of a sand trap is a challenge in itself for many, but getting out with a bad lie can be almost impossible.
Unfortunately for all of us, sometimes when you hit your ball into a sand trap you’ll find your ball plugged/buried, fried-egged, in a rake track, or even worse, a footprint (how dare they not rake the bunker after exiting it, right?). If your ball does end up in one of these predicaments you have to play it from there. I’m going to teach you how to play a shot from these lies so you can get your ball out of the sand trap successfully to continue your round without ruining it.
First, I’d like to emphasize the importance of coming down steeply into the sand for this shot. In order to get your ball out of the sand trap with a bad lie, you must enter the sand at a very steep angle. Thinking about entering the sand at a 60 degree angle will help you for this shot. This may sound easy, but it’s not. If you think you’re coming down at 60 degrees, try doubling it. Why is it important to come down steeper you may ask? With the ball sitting down lower than the surface you must get under the ball to get it out. If you enter the sand at your normal angle of attack, the wedge will bounce off the sand into the equator or top of the ball which will drive the ball into the lip of the bunker most of the time, if your lucky (you’d be unlucky if it missed the lip and flew about 50 yards over the green). Thinking about digging for this shot would be better than thinking about bouncing or sliding the club off the sand.
How to execute this shot
- Place approximately 70% of your weight on your lead leg – this will help you come down more abruptly into the sand.
- Close/hood the clubface* – this will help the club dig under the ball.
- Hinge the club up as quickly as possible with your wrists – try hinging the club up keeping your hands inside your back foot. Try creating a 90 degree angle as soon as you can with your lead arm and the club shaft.
- Swing the club down trying to pop the sand right behind the ball – normally you’ll hit the sand about 2-3 inches behind the ball in the sand. For this shot, you’d like to enter the sand much closer to the ball.
- Rebound the club back after hitting the sand – I actually want you to rebound the club away from the target for this shot after it enters the sand. If you can do this, it means you entered the sand at the proper angle. Most likely, you’ll struggle with this at first because you’re coming down too shallow, but eventually you’ll get it and it will dramatically improve your results for this shot. Some prefer to leave the club in the sand for this shot, which is fine too. I prefer rebounding the club to ensure I came down steep enough.
- Allow for roll – because the ball is sitting down lower it will exit the sand lower and roll more than a typical sand shot.
Hitting shots out these bad lies in sand traps can be challenging for sure. The key is to not try to help the ball out. If you do, you’ll come into the sand too shallow and leave the ball in the trap. You must trust that the club will do the work for you when you enter the sand on a steep angle. Try your hardest to not allow the club to pass the spot where the ball was. If your club passes that spot then you came into the ball too shallow.
Another note I’d like to make is most of the time you will need to swing with more effort for these shots compared to normal lies in the sand traps. Since the ball is sitting lower, you will be moving more sand so more effort is typically needed.
Good luck and thanks for reading!
*For more advanced players you can open your clubface for this shot to get the ball to come out a little softer. If you try this, you want to try to hit the sand right behind the ball with the hosel of the club. Sounds funny, I know, but it works. I hit these shots this way, but I have also practiced them quite a bit.
TIP-OF-THE-MONTH: MAY ’10 – SHAPING THE BALL AROUND TROUBLE
Most golfers, including professionals, find themselves in different predicaments each round. How the golfer handles these situations will determine the level of success of the round. Golf is obviously a very challenging game. It can feel easy at certain times when you hit that perfect shot, or you have that great round, but a golfer’s overall success can be measured by how good their mishits are and how they recover from them.
More often than not, you won’t hit the ball as good as you can so it important to still be able to score well when you’re not playing your best. A few ways to score better when you’re not playing your best are to improve your short game, have better course management, and learn how to get the ball out of trouble more effectively. Today, I’m going to cover the latter by teaching you how to shape the ball around trouble.
Making the golf ball curve probably comes naturally to most. Especially making it curve left-to-right (slice for righties). Believe it or not, using that shot can get you out of trouble about half of the time. Curving the ball the other way, right-to-left, will cover the other half. Shaping the ball in one direction is pretty easy for most, but being able to curve it the opposite way can be more of a challenge.
When you’ve hit an errant shot into the trees or behind a tree, you will generally have two options: shape the ball around the tree or pitch out. Pitching out is safe and relatively easy, but it doesn’t advance the ball very far and limits your chance of a good score on that hole. Being able to curve the ball in either direction will improve your score. Here’s how to do it:
Shaping the ball left-to-right:
- Align the clubface to where you want the ball to land
- Align your feet left of the tree/obstacle where you want the ball to start (your stance should feel open)
- Take your normal grip with the clubface still open
- Ball position will be up in your stance
- Swing along your toe line
- Try to hold the clubface open through impact
Shaping the ball right-to-left:
- Align the clubface to where you want the ball to land
- Align your feet right of the tree/obstacle where you want the ball to start (your stance should feel closed)
- Take your normal grip with the clubface closed
- Ball position will be back in your stance
- Swing along your toe line
- Feel like your rotating the clubface over more than usual through impact
- Use a lower lofted club when curving the ball left-to-right. Opening the clubface adds loft so the ball will go higher. It’s very difficult to curve a 9-iron or any wedge.
- When curving the ball right-to-left, use a higher lofted club as the club is being delofted by closing it at address. I would recommend using a 6-iron or higher when curving the ball in this direction. Trying to hook a 3 or 4-iron will most likely cause a shot that rolls on the ground.
- Most importantly, allow for deflection when aligning your feet. When opening and closing the clubface to curve the ball, the ball will deflect off the clubface in that direction. The more you open or close the face, the more the ball will start in that direction. Example: If a tree is 15 feet in front of you, and you need to curve the ball left-to-right 25 yards you will open the face. Don’t aim one foot left of the tree. Aim at least 5 feet left as the ball will deflect off the face to the right at impact. Remember, the #1 goal when you get into trouble is to get out of impact. Try not to compound the problem by staying in trouble.
Learning to shape the ball around trouble is challenging and takes practice, but it’s also a lot of fun. The biggest error I see when teaching this is golfer’s not opening or closing their clubfaces enough. It’s very odd looking down and seeing the clubface 10-15 degrees open or closed, but this is where it has to be to get the ball to curve enough around trouble. Practice this the next time you go to a driving range and you’ll be surprised how much you can curve the ball intentionally.
Thanks for reading and have fun!
NO MORE SHANKS!
Alright, let’s just get it out-of-the-way right now. Shank, shank, shank, shank, shank, shank, shank. Say it with pride and conviction. Shank, shank, shank! Embrace it. Let’s not call it the “S-word”, or anything else that doesn’t justify the pure dreadfulness of the shot. Just get it out and be done with it. Shank! Say it again. Shank! Shank! The first step in recovering from a shank is to accept it in all it’s glory. It’s happens. In fact, it’s happens to the best of us. I’m good for a few shanks a year. It’s no big deal. I saw Jim Furyk shank one on the 72nd hole of his recent victory in Tampa. It happens to everyone. It’s obviously no fun to hit one, but hey, shanks happen. Today, I’m going to explain the major causes of the shank, how to go about fixing them, and how to recover when this lateral shot occurs.
What Causes A Shank
First of all, let’s clarify that a shank is hit off the hosel of the golf club. This is the area just below the shaft. Now, I have seen shanks off the toe, but they’re pretty rare. When you shank a shot off the toe of the club, it’s usually short and soft off to the right. A shank off the hosel comes off with a ton of steam and curves way off to the right, much more penalizing.
Simply, a shank is a shot where the hosel of the club comes in contact with the ball first before the clubface hits the ball. This can happen two ways: the clubface has gotten closer to the ball at impact compared to the address position, or the clubface is very open at impact with the hosel leading the way. Here are some of the ways this can happen:
- Starting with your weight on your heels - When you start with your weight on your heels, you will rock back and forth like a teeter totter during your swing and will usually be on your toes at impact. When your weight is on your toes at impact, you’ve usually gotten closer to the golf ball. This pushes your hands towards the ball making it easier to hit the ball off the hosel.
- Standing too close to the ball – Standing too close to the ball at address gives you very little space to swing down into the ball. The force of the swing will either cause your hands to go up or out resulting in a steep swing or a shank. Neither is preferred.
- Aiming too much to the right - When you aim right with your body and look to out to the target, your eyes will subconsciously tell you to swing left. When you do this, it causes you to pull left. When you pull left with the club, it causes the hosel of the club lead the way back to the ball. It’s much harder to release/square the clubface when you’re making a pulling motion with your left side.
- Swinging outside-to-in (across the ball) - The swing that causes the slice can also cause the shank. Sorry slicers! But, like I just stated, when you swing across the ball (outside-to-in) the hosel has a much better chance of hitting the ball first.
How To Fix These Faults and Stop The Shanks
- Proper Posture at Address – Generally, when your weight is on your heels, you’re bending too much from your knees. Proper posture involves leaning over from your hip joints (waist), not sitting down in your knees. To do this, stand tall with the club resting along your right shoulder. Lean over keeping the club there and your knees locked. Then slowly drop the club down to the ground. Last, bend your knees about an inch, no more. This will evenly balance your weight and allow your arms to hang from your shoulders.
- Standing the Proper Distance From the Ball – When you’ve addressed your ball, there should be ample space, about 5 inches, between the end of the grip and your belt buckle. If you’re bending from your waist and not your knees, while allowing your arms to hang naturally you should’ve created this space. This space allows you to return the club from where it started instead of it being pushed outward by the body when jammed up.
- Aim Correctly – Place a club on the ground pointing to your target. Place another club parallel to this club about where your feet will be placed. Remove the first club and put a ball down. Your feet should be parallel to your target line. At first, you’ll feel like you’re aimed 40 yards left, but it’ll show you just how much you were swinging left on your downswing. After some practice, you’ll start swinging down the line longer decreasing the chance of a shank.
- Swing In-to-Out – The golf swing is a circular motion. The swing goes up and in and back down to the ball on the same path. Due to the fact the ball is off to our side, you will swing back to the ball from the inside. To hit the ball properly, you should be hitting the ball slightly from the inside. When you slice the ball, most likely, you’re swinging from the outside-to-in. This motion can also cause the shank. Try hitting the inside part of the ball out to the right. It’s hard to do when you fear right (the normal result of a slice), but it’s how to properly stop the slice.
What To Do After A Shank
First, look to see if anyone saw the shot. Maybe, just maybe, no one saw the shot and you can meander over to your next shot without shame, just a new challenge from a different spot. Second, if your playing partners saw it, laugh it off. How did that happen? Obviously, everyone knows how, but act as if it’s the first shank you’ve every seen. Just craziness. A total freak of nature shot. It’ll never happen again. Third, get determined. If you’re ball is still in play (I will admit, shanking it out-of-bounds, into a condo, lake, or woods is pretty discouraging. At this point, it’s best to just pull your hat down a bit, shed a quick tear, say a prayer, re-tie your shoes, choose a different club for the next shot and go onward.) flip your attitude to the opposite and accept the challenge. Try to make a par or bogey after shanking a shot. It feels pretty good making a par after shanking one. Accept the shot, deal with it, and go forward challenging yourself to not allow it to affect the rest of the hole or round.
Simple Tip To Stop The Shanks: Use These Tips When Struggling Mid-Round or On The Range
- Keep your hands in close to your body, backswing and downswing
- Feel heavy, balanced feet at address
- Try rotating/closing the clubface sooner on your downswing
It’s been said that the hardest shot in golf is the shot after a shank. Sometimes, this is very true, but hopefully these clarifications and tips will eliminate your shanks for good.
Thanks for reading and good luck!
HIT YOUR DRIVER FARTHER BY SETTING UP TO LAUNCH THE BALL
Would you like to hit your driver longer, higher, and straighter? Of course you would, right? Well, then why are you setting up to drive the ball low and crooked? You’re probably wondering how I know you’re set up incorrectly. You may not be, but most likely you are. Almost every amateur I teach is not set up correctly with their drivers. It’s truly amazing how golfers would love to hit the ball longer off the tee, yet a large majority are set up to drive the ball into the ground or to hit the big, bad, ugly slice.
To optimize your distance off the tee, you should be increasing the effective loft of your driver by 2-4 degrees at impact. Example: If you have a 10 degree driver, the launch angle of the ball at impact should be 12-14 degrees. I’m not recommending you to hit up on the ball to accomplish this, but to set up in such a way to allow it to happen naturally. Today, I’m going to help you do this by going over some of the most common errors setting up with the driver, the causes of this poor set up, and how to fix these errors.
Most of the amateurs I see set up improperly with their drivers. The most common faults I see are playing the ball too far back in the stance, too narrow of a stance, open shoulders, weight favoring their target-side foot, or hands ahead of the ball. All of these common faults can drastically affect the success rate of a golfer’s tee shot. Setting up with these faults will tend to either make the swing too steep coming into the ball, or make the swing too much from the outside-to-in. Not ideal to launch the ball long and straight.
Setting up correctly with the driver really isn’t that difficult, it’s just a matter of taking the time to do it correctly once you know how. With your driver, the goal is to fly the ball as far as possible with low spin so the ball rolls after landing. Here are the keys to set up correctly:
- Position the ball up in your stance off your left heel or one ball off that heel.
- Widen your right foot so your stance is wider than your shoulders. It should be a few inches wider than the stance used for your irons. With your driver, you may be swinging over 100 mph. That’s fast. Setting up with a wider base will allow you to maintain your balance much easier.
- Allow your hands to rest comfortably between your arms which will leave them at or slightly behind the ball.
- Let your arms hang from your shoulders or slightly outside leaving about 5-6 inches of space between the end of the grip and your belt-line.
- Weight distribution should be 50/50 or slightly favoring your rear foot. Favoring your target-side foot can open your shoulders and could cause you to swing too steeply ball. Common shots from this set up position would be pop-ups, slices, and very low tee shots.
- Ensure that your shoulders are square at address. This is overlooked by many, but very important. Most have open shoulders at address which also leads to a slice. Practice squaring up your shoulders by checking to see if they’re parallel to your toes, hips, and target line.
Setting up in this launching position will allow to swing in such a way that you will hit your driver on a slight upswing from the inside. The angle of attack will be pretty shallow which decreases the side-spin on the ball lessening the chance of a big slice. This may be a big change for you, but if done correctly, I guarantee you’ll hit the ball longer and straighter.
Good luck and thanks for reading!
Aligning yourself correctly to your target is one of the most important and overlooked fundamentals in the game of golf. Professional golfers check their alignment on a consistent basis, sometimes every day. Amateurs, however, seldom check their alignment. I’d like to explain the importance of alignment in golf, what can happen if it’s off, and most importantly, how to line up correctly every time.
The Importance of Alignment
In general, if you can get your upper and lower body in sync you’re going to be a more consistent golfer. The more square (parallel) your body is to the target line the easier it is to repeat your golf swing.
I want you to think of a bunch of dominoes lined up in a straight line. If you knocked down the first one the rest would fall accordingly. Now, I want you to imagine the 3rd and 4th dominoes were taken out and put off to the side. What would happen now? The remaining dominoes would act accordingly and stay up. The analogy is that your golf swing is a domino effect of how you set up. One of the most important things in your setup is your alignment. If your shoulders are open, your feet closed, or whatever else may be off, then you have to compensate for that during your swing. Wouldn’t it be easier if everything was lined up correctly at the start?
Incorrect Alignment Compensations
One of the most common errors I see with amateurs is open shoulders. What that means is the shoulders are aiming left of the target. Arms will swing where the shoulders are aiming. So, if your shoulders are aiming left, your arms will swing left. In golf, when you swing too much to the left, you will either hit a pull or a slice.
Another error would be aiming your feet too far to the right. When you do this, you’ll subconsciously swing over-the-top because your eyes will be looking left of where you’re aimed. Your eyes are very powerful and have a great influence on how and where you swing your club.
There are many others ways to line up incorrectly. I’m not going to go through them all, but I hope you can see how lining up poorly can lead to inconsistent results.
Now, we get to the meat and potatoes of this article. Let me start by going over the basics of alignment. First, let’s assume you’re going to try to start the ball at the target. Visualize a straight line going from the ball to the target. Then, visualize another line along your toe line PARALLEL (not at the target) to the ball line. This is very important. You’re creating a small railroad track to the target. Next, you’ll want to have your shoulders, hips, and knees parallel to your toe line (if you flare your feet out it will be more accurate if you base this line off of your heels). Everything will be aligned together. The closer you can get to this position, the more consistent you’ll be.
Step-By-Step On How To Line-Up Correctly
This is how to align yourself correctly every time. This takes practice to get it down, but it’s well worth it. I’ll go over each step:
- Stand behind the ball and choose a target where you want the ball to start whether it’s a tree, the pin, etc. (notice I chose where you want the ball to start. If you play a 5-yard fade then you should be aiming 5 yards left of where you want the ball to finish).
- Pick out an intermediate target in front of your ball to line up to. I recommend something close about a foot or two away.
- Steps 3 and 4 go together. Walk up to your ball and step into the shot with the club face and your right foot. Keep your left foot back. Then, line your club face to your intermediate target, a foot or two away. This is very simple, but don’t take it for granted. Once your club face is on the ground, you know that it’s lined-up correctly. Leave it there. Try not to wiggle or adjust the club head anymore.
- After aligning the club face, match the inseam of your right foot to the leading edge of the club face. Make them parallel. Another way of thinking about this is you want your club face and right foot perpendicular to the target line (many times I see the right foot aiming left or right of the club face which causes the left foot to align improperly). Also, it’s important to note that this is not your final position of your right foot. It just helps with the next step.
- Once your club and right foot are in line, look at your target. Take your stance looking at your target. Step with your left foot, and then adjust your right foot comfortably to its position. Looking at the target when setting your feet will initiate your hand-eye coordination. Your feet react to your eyes just like your hands do. It doesn’t make any sense to stare at the ground when setting your feet. If you stare at the ground, your feet will be clueless as where to go and will line up differently almost every time.
Hopefully, this will help you line up parallel to your target every time. This does take some practice. Remember to line your club face first, then look at the target while setting your feet. To check if you’ve done this correctly, have someone lay a club along the back of your feet and along your shoulders. If both of those clubs are parallel to your target line, then you’ve done it correctly.
Thanks for reading and good luck!
One of the reasons golf is so difficult is because almost every lie is different. When we practice at a driving range, hitting off a mat especially, it can become monotonous because the lie is pretty much the same each time. After perfecting your driving range swing, it can be difficult adjusting to the different lies on the course. I’m sure many of you have had the feeling of hitting good shot after good shot on the range only to find yourself struggling once you reach the golf course. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Today, I’m going to give you some tips on how to play these various lies. In order to improve at this game you must be able to adapt to different situations that arise during your round. Learning how to set up correctly for these awkward lies will vastly improve your chances of hitting more good shots on the course. There are 4 different types of uneven lies I’m going to go cover. After reading this article, I recommend printing out these tips and putting them in your bag for future reference.
Uphill Lie – This shot will tend to fly higher and shorter due to the increased loft of clubface caused by the uphill lie.
- Set your body to match the slope by leaning back/tilt shoulders to match slope
- Move the ball back in your stance so it’s in line with the center of your body
- Take more club
- Swing up the slope, not at the ball
- Aim a little right because the ball will tend to go left due to the lack of turning of your body through the shot
Downhill Lie – This very difficult shot will fly much lower than your normal shots. The goal here is to advance the ball up the fairway. Try not to get too greedy with this shot.
- Set your body to match the slope – more weight on your forward foot/tilt shoulders to match slope
- Place the ball in the middle of your stance
- Hit a higher-lofted club because the downslope will deloft your club
- Swing down the slope
- Swing easy without trying to lift the ball (if you try to help the ball up you will duff it)
Ball Above Your Feet - This shot will tend to curve right-to-left (for right-handed).
- Stand taller at address
- Aim a little to the right
- Ball placement towards the back of your stance
- Swing more around your body – a lower, flatter swing so you sweep the ball off the slope
Ball Below Your Feet – This difficult lie will tend to veer off to the right (for right-handed).
- Stand closer to the ball
- Much wider stance with a lot more knee bend – I recommend wide knees
- Ball placement is back in your stance
- Aim a little left
- Swing a lot more up and down
- Swing easy and keep your knees bent throughout the shot
All of these lies can be difficult, but hopefully my tips will help to improve your results for these shots. I would recommend practicing these lies at a place that has uneven lies like Meadow Links Golf Academy in Cincinnati. When I teach these shots I either go out to the target greens on my driving range or I go on the golf course.
My last tip for these shots is if you’re in doubt on what to do, take a couple of practice swings to feel the difference in your swing and to see where your club is hitting the ground. You’ll want to place the ball close to where your club is first striking the ground. Also, swing in control for these shots. They’re trouble shots. Remember: when you’re in trouble, your first goal is to get out it.
When it comes to golf, all of us would like to be better and more consistent. In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing someone say, “Man, I was just too consistent today. I wish I was more erratic and less predictable on the course”. There are plenty of ways to get better at this game, and there are also plenty of ways to become more consistent. Becoming more consistent with your fundamentals can, and most likely will, make you a better player. Some of those fundamentals are your grip, alignment, pre-shot routine, and setup (aka the ‘GAPS’ – some like to use posture for p, but I prefer to include posture in the setup). Today, I’m going to explain the importance of the pre-shot routine and how you can go about making your routine efficient and consistent.
I’m guessing many of you aren’t real sure what your routine is or, if you do, it’s very inconsistent. To take your game to the next level, it’s important to have an effective and reliable routine. Once you have a quality one, you’ll be more relaxed under pressure and have less clutter in your mind over the ball.
The keys to a good routine are simplicity and repeatability. A good pre-shot routine is relatively simple and to the point. Too much thinking, too many practice swings, or too many swing thoughts lead to inconsistent results. When you practice, it’s ok to have different thoughts if you’re working on your swing. On the course, however, all these thoughts can lead to “paralysis by analysis”. I prefer to have only one swing thought on the course . For each round, your goal should be to pick one swing thought and stick with it. Keep it simple, very simple.
The second step to a good routine is making it repeatable. Do the same routine for every full shot on the course. Your routine should have the same number of practice swings, take approximately the same amount time, and have the same pace to it each time. Whether you prefer one or two practice swings, whether your routine takes 10 or 20 seconds, and whether you have a fast or slow pace, it should remain the same every time. Trust and commit to your routine and you’ll become a more consistent player.
At this point, I’ve explained the importance of the pre-shot routine and the keys to a quality one. Now, I’m going to explain my routine and why I do what I do. Before I do this, I want to tell you that there are hundreds of great routines out there. You don’t have to follow my routine by any means. I’d like you to do is pick a routine that matches your personality and tendencies, then full commit to it.
The first thing I do, after choosing a club, is visualize my ball flying to the target. Positive visualization is very important to making us better players. I then take one practice swing ‘feeling’ that shot. Next, I grip the club behind the ball. I do this because it takes away one more variable. Over the ball, I want to think about the target and if I’m thinking about my grip I’m certainly not thinking about the target. After gripping the club, I walk up to the ball at my normal pace, not too fast or slow. Then, I set the club down and take my stance. Once set, I take one last look at the target and swing.
Once I’ve determined what club I want to hit my routine takes approximately 12 seconds. If my routine is more than a few seconds off, it decreases my chances of hitting a good shot. When we get nervous, we all act differently. Some of us slow down while others speed up. I recommend learning your tendencies so you are aware of what happens when you get nervous. Knowing this will allow you to pace yourself better prior to hitting a shot. When your routine becomes consistent you’ll be more relaxed as well because you’ll have something you can trust on the course.
For many of us in the northern states, it’s a challenge to improve our games during the winter. However, I believe it’s a good time to work on our fundamentals that are less enjoyable to work on in-season. The pre-shot routine is one of these. It may take 500 or so repetitions before your routine becomes natural, but be patient. Eventually, your routine will become second nature to you.
So, when the temperatures dip into the 20′s this winter, grab a club and practice your routine inside your home. Decide what routine would be best for you, then perfect it. If you can work on your routine a few times a week, you’ll probably have it down by the Spring. Then, you’ll start the season a better player prior to hitting a single shot.
Good luck and Happy New Year!