THE 9 SHOTS YOU CAN HIT
Believe it or not, there are 9 different types of shots you can hit on a golf course. Some of you may be laughing to yourself thinking that you can hit plenty more than that, right? Hooks, slices, pushes, pulls, tops, shanks, etc. So many shots! Allow me to explain what I’m talking about.
When you swing the club, you can either swing inside-to-out (push), square, or outside-to-in (pull) equaling 3 total swing paths. With these 3 paths there are 3 different angles your clubface can be: open, square, or closed. 3 swings multiplied by 3 face angles equals 9 shots. Even if you shank, top, or duff the ball you still fit into one of these 9 swings. Normally, you only hit 3 different types of shots. Most likely, you only have one swing path, but you change your face angle which produces a variety of 3 different shot patterns.
Now, let me explain some examples. If you swing outside-to-in with a closed clubface your ball will start left then hook. This is called a pull-hook. If you swing inside-to-out with an open clubface your ball will start right then slice. This is called a push-slice. If you swing square with an open face your ball will start straight and tail off to the right. This is a slice, or a fade (small version of a slice). Generally, the ball will start where you swing while the curvature of the ball is determined by the clubface at impact. The clubface will have more impact on where your ball goes compared to the swing path.
Sidenote For Slicers
There’s an important note I need to make. Slicers pay careful attention! Sometimes you can swing outside-to-in and the ball will actually start right. This is due to a very open clubface. Sometimes the face is so open the ball deflects off the face to the right. This could possibly deceive the golfer. This is pretty typical for golfers that slice the ball. The majority that slice the ball swing outside-to-in with an open clubface. Sometimes their clubface is so open that the ball starts right of their target and slices more to the right. Unaware of what causes this, the golfer may then try to swing more to the left which would exacerbate the slice even more.
The key is learning from your mis-hits. Easier said than done, but if you learn what causes a shot it’s a lot easier to start fixing it instead guessing all the time. This may take a lesson or two with a PGA Instructor to figure out. If you’re pulling the ball left try to swing out to right field more. If you’re slicing the ball, try to rotate the clubface over sooner on your downswing. Practice in slow-motion to see what you would have to do to fix your tendency. Then gradually swing faster and hopefully better results will come shortly.
Good luck and practice smart!
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!
FUNDAMENTALS OF PITCHING
Definition: An abbreviated version of the full swing that produces a higher flying shot that lands softer and rolls less than a chip shot.
Goal: Using a pendulum-type swing (equal back/equal through), this mini-version of the golf swing produces a shot that lands softly on the green.
- Foot separation is narrow, 6-12 inches apart depending on the length of the shot (wider stance for longer pitches)
- Ball placement near the center of your stance
- Hands/Handle of the club positioned approximately equal with the ball (more forward = lower trajectory and vice versa)
- Weight should slightly favor target-side foot
- Hinge the club up and open with your wrists on your backswing – you must get the club head up in the air in order to hit down on the ball
- Allow your shoulders and chest to turn back as well
- On your forward swing, hit down and through the ball taking a small divot
- Turn your body through the shot so your hands don’t flip at impact
- At your finish, your shirt buttons, belt buckle, right knee, and right shoe laces should all point to your target
FUNDAMENTALS OF CHIPPING
Definition: A low-flying shot that will tend to roll more than it flies. Primarily used for shots close to the green, this shot is usually hit with the 8-iron through Lob Wedge, although longer clubs can be used. The longer the club/less loft of the club, the lower the ball will fly and more it will roll.
Goal: Land the ball about 2-3 paces onto the green and allow for roll like a putt. Choose a club that will carry the ball comfortably onto the green.
- Feet close together, almost touching
- Ball placement off the toes of your back foot
- Weight should favor your target-side foot
- Stand close to the ball to make this shot similar to a putt
- Forward press the club by leaning the handle towards the target – this sets your hands well ahead of the ball
- The motion used should be similar to a putting stroke
- Allow the loft of the club to get the ball in the air – trying to help the ball up will tend to cause topped and duffed shots
- Finish low with no wrist breakdown – left arm and club form a straight line
- Allow for roll as the ball will fly low and roll more than it flies
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!