USE YOUR RIGHT SIDE TO STOP YOUR SLICE
In a good golf swing, I believe the upper body, lower body, and arms should work in unison. Another way to think about it is your left side and right side should work together turning through the ball. Makes sense, right? Would you want just half of your body doing all the work? Or just your arms flailing at the ball? I didn’t think so.
A sliced shot, a ball that curves left-to-right, occurs when the clubface is open, pointing right, at impact. This open clubface can be caused by many things like open shoulders at address, swinging across the ball on the downswing, coming down too steeply into the ball, etc. Today, I’m going to cover another reason a slice may occur and how to fix it.
A large percentage of golfers I see that slice the ball tend to pull down using more upper body than lower body. When this happens, the upper body is pulling away from the lower body. More to the point, the left side (weak side) is pulling down and left. To hit the ball better, the right side must contribute.
Why Pulling With Your Weak Side Is Bad
There are two reasons why pulling with the left side is bad. One, it tends to leave the clubface open. It’s very difficult to rotate through the shot when the left side is pulling. The second reason is you’re losing a ton of power. Think of it this way. If you had to move a large box that weighed 80 pounds, would you rather pull it or push it? Push it, right? You get a lot more power that way. Back to golf, pulling left not only opens the clubface, but it also lessens the force you’re putting into the shot (I want to make it clear I’m not necessarily advocating pushing on your downswing, I just want you to stop pulling.)
To fix this problem, you have to activate your right side. This is not as difficult as it seems.
- On your downswing, I want you to feel your hands are coming down more from the inside – closer to your right thigh. If your hands get away from your body too much, you’ll have to pull left. I want you to feel you’re swinging a little in-to-out.
- Once step one is done, you have to turn your right side through the shot. To get the right feeling, I would like you to make swings with the golf club with your right hand/arm only. Take a wide backswing and swing all the way through to your finish. If you’ve ever played tennis, I would like for you to replicate a topspin tennis shot. Notice how the right arm and clubface are releasing/rolling over, not staying open – clubface pointed right or up to the sky.
- At your finish, if turned your right side through, your belt buckle will be pointed to the target, your weight will be over your left leg, and the shaft of the club will be perpendicular to your spine. If you pull coming down, the shaft will be closer to your spine angle.
To summarize, try to swing through the ball using your dominant side rather than pulling across the ball with your weak side. Done properly, you’ll start hitting the ball straighter and further hopefully adding 10 yards of distance to all your clubs.
Good luck, thanks for reading, and practice hard.
AIM AT THE MIDDLE OF THE GREEN
Ben Hogan and Nick Faldo are two of the best golfers ever. I enjoy reading about them and watching their golf swings. However impressive their swings are, what truly made them great was their course management and mental toughness. One of the course management tactics that I’ve learned from them and use to this day is the philosophy to always try to miss your shots it in the middle of the green. I’ll tell you why this is important and how to do it.
From my experience over the years, I’ve really noticed how hitting more greens not only lowers your scores, but it takes pressure off the rest of your game. It’s easier to make birdies and pars when you hit a green in regulation compared to when you miss it. I doubt there’s any of you that’d like to miss more greens.
It’s pretty obvious that hitting more green will help your score. Here’s how to do it:
When the pin is on the right – aim towards the center of the green and try to hit a small cut.
When the pin is on the left – aim at the center and hit a small draw.
Now, if you can’t work the ball don’t worry. Still aim at the center and try to hit the ball straight. This will give you more room for error and it greatly decreases your chances of short-siding yourself (short-siding means missing the pin on the side of the green where the pin is which makes it more difficult to get the ball up and down).
When the pin is in the back of the green – try to hit a lower shot to help you error short of the hole in the center of the green. Take a conservative club, but be aggressive with your swing. Never try to fly the ball to a back pin. It’s just too risky because missing over a green is a cardinal sin in golf.
When the pin is up front – try to hit the shot a little higher so you have a better chance of flying the ball on the green. Also, when the pin is up front and you’re in between clubs, hit the longer club. This will increase your chances of flying the ball on the green.
Golf is a game of misses. Ben Hogan claimed he only hit one or two perfect shots a round. That means every other shot was a miss. The better your misses are the better golfer you’ll be. Using this philosophy will help you miss it better after a bad swing. Remember, the two goals are to miss it in the center of the green and try to never short-side yourself. Playing this way may not be exciting, but it will lower your scores. Good luck!
CHART YOUR MISSES ON THE GREEN
Have you ever charted where you miss your putts? If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to do so this season. If you answered yes, I may offer an idea or two to take it a step further.
There are a few ways to chart your putts on the green. The most simplistic way is to chart whether you miss your putts short or long. I’m hoping long because 98% of the putts left short don’t have a chance of going in. I’m not much of a gambler, but those are not good odds. The second way to chart your putts, and probably the most common, is to chart whether you miss your putts on the high side (pro) or low side (am) of the hole. The last way to chart your putts is to see if you have a tendency to miss them left or right of the hole. Many tend to overlook charting their putts this last way, however, it can be pretty telling if you’re missing the majority of your putts on one side of the hole.
Here’s what you’re looking for when charting your putts. Ideally, you would want to miss about half of your putts on the pro side of the hole and half on the am side. And the same can be said for missing it left and right. Most likely, you’ll start seeing a tendency for your misses after a few rounds.
Here’s what the tendencies mean. For example, if you’re missing 70% of your putts on the am side of the hole, you’re under-reading the break on the green. If this is the case, practice playing more break for your putts. If you’re missing 70% of your putts to the right, then you could be pushing or slicing your putts. For this, practice by placing a 3-iron next to your ball parallel to your target line. Hit putts along the shaft without allowing your ball to strike the shaft. Obviously, I could go on and on about your misses, but it’s imperative to chart them so you can fix your flaws. The more putts you chart the better. Chart your putts for at least 5 rounds and up to 10 rounds. If you do this, I guarantee you’ll find a tendency in your putting that can be improved. And most likely, this improvement can come quickly. Good luck and make more putts!
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
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.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HOLDING YOUR FINISH
There are a few reasons why I believe it’s important to hold your finish after a shot. Here are the reasons and why they’re important:
1) Balance – if you can’t hold your finish after a shot then there’s a good chance you’ve either swung too hard or you’ve lost your balance during your swing. Simply, losing your balance will make you less consistent. Practice swinging in control with wedge shots then working your way down to the longer clubs holding your finish until the ball lands with each club.
2) Soak up the feeling of a good shot – When you a hit good shot, I want you to get used to it by savoring that shot. The longer you soak up the feelings of the good shot the better chance your body will remember it. Too often golfers focus more on the bad than the good in their games. Holding your finish until the ball lands on a good shot will reinforce that you’re swinging correctly. The majority of the time you’ll notice on your good shots you’ll be in a good fully balanced finish position.
3) Educate yourself at your finish – Holding your finish after a bad shot can be very difficult, especially when the ball is dribbling along the ground or veering quickly off to the right. However, it’s very important to try to hold your finish to educate yourself. To become better at this game, it’s imperative to learn how to correct your mistakes. Holding your finish on bad shots will help you do this. You may notice your balance is on your toes, your weight is still on your back foot, or maybe, your center hasn’t turned fully to the target. None of these finishes are ideal, but if you’re aware of it you’ll soon be able to fix it. That’s the key: learning from your errors so they’ll occur less often.
Thanks for reading and good luck!
YOU MUST KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN, RIGHT? WRONG!
Have you ever hit balls at a crowded driving range and overheard beginner golfers teaching other beginner golfers? It’s a riot, isn’t it? After every bad shot the “experienced” beginner offers a completely different thought to try to help their struggling friend. You may overhear them saying, “keep your head down”, or “your left arm isn’t straight” or, “you’re losing your balance”, or “the center of your axis is tilting causing the centrifugal force of your downswing to bottom-out behind ball at a decelerating rate.” Just kidding about that last one of course.
There are many quick fix swing thoughts that are believed to be absolute staples in a good golf swing. Some swing thoughts are great while others can be damaging to both your swing and body. One of the myths I’d like to dispel today is the thought of intentionally trying to keep your head down at impact. Many of you may be shocked by this, but I am certain that trying to keep your head down at impact will not make you better and it could make you worse. That being said, it’s not wrong if your head is down at impact, I just don’t want you to overdo it.
Simply, your head is attached to your neck which is attached to the rest of your body. When you’re swinging the golf club back down to the ball and through to your finish, your body is turning and twisting a lot. To maximize the speed of your club, your body must turn through the ball at a pretty good clip. The faster your hips turn the faster the club will travel. And the faster your body is turning the more stress you put on your body.
Now, the question I ask is this. If your body is turning at a fast pace why would you want to keep your head behind? In fact, wouldn’t you risk hurting yourself trying to do this? When you talk to someone standing up do you turn your body 90 degrees to the left, but still look straight at them? I didn’t think so. It’s not comfortable and it might actually strain your neck. Now, imagine how much torque you’re putting on your neck when you intentionally try to keep your head down. Keeping your head down will not only increase your chance of injury, but it will also prohibit a full turn through the shot which results in a slower downswing and restricted finish. Allow your head to turn with your center through impact to your full finish.
Many of you, including myself, have hit shots where you’ve felt your head raise. It doesn’t feel good, but, believe it or not, it’s not your head that’s the problem. It’s your body. The golf swing starts from the ground up. Your body is actually pushing your head up. Some part of your downswing is causing you to lose the spine angle you created at address which pushes your head giving you that head-lifting feeling.
To help you with this problem, I would recommend a couple of thoughts to try: 1) Try to keep your spine angle you created at your setup position by maintaining constant knee flex throughout your swing. If your knees tend to rock or lock up your center will move too much. 2) Continue turning your belt buckle all the way to the finish where your buckle faces your target. If your center stops turning, the force of your arms swinging will force your center to move up, hence your head raising.
By the way, Annika Sorenstam and David Duval both turn their heads well before impact. Neither of them come close to seeing the ball at impact. This didn’t stop either of them becoming the #1 player in the world.
Thanks for reading!
I just wrote how warming up with pitch shots is important to improving your game. While that is very important, I also know that we live in the real world and much of the time we don’t have time to hit balls before we play, myself included. If you fall into the group of rushing to the tee with only a few minutes before it’s your turn to bat, here’s what to do.
First, take two of your wedges (usually the heaviest clubs in our bags), grip them together, and make 10 full swings. Start slow and then gradually increase the speed. By the last swing, you’ll be loosened up allowing yourself to swing without holding back. Second, stretch your hamstrings and quads to get some blood flow to your legs. Then, swing your driver anywhere from 5-10 times to get used to the weight compared to swinging the two clubs together. Now, you’re ready to play.
Before a tournament, I hit balls almost every time before I play; however, when I play casually I rarely hit balls before I play mainly because I don’t have the time. If I have time to play, which is usually an hour or so, I want to get in as many holes as I can. This warm-up routine has worked very well for me.
If you’re lucky enough to have more than 5 minutes before your tee-time, I would spend some time on the putting green as well. Hit a dozen or so putts at various distances to get used to the speed of the green. Then, knock in some 2-footers for confidence. Next, hit a handful of chip/pitch shots to loosen up your muscles. After that, go to the tee and do the warm-up with the 2 clubs I just wrote about.
This time-challenged version of a warm-up session isn’t perfect, but it help starting your round smoothly while decreasing your chance of getting injured.
The next time you go to a driving range either for practice or prior to a round, I highly recommend you start your session by hitting plenty of pitch shots. And, if you’ve ever had a lesson with me, you know I like to start our lessons by having you hit some short wedge shots. There are a few reasons why I recommend this:
1) Injury Prevention – The last time I checked, none of us are getting younger. Warming up with short swings is a great way to prevent an injury when hitting golf balls. You should never start with full, aggressive golf swings.
2) Rhythm and Balance – Warming up slowly with pitch shots is a great way to groove a nice rhythm for the day. Plus, it allows you to work on your balance. If you can’t maintain your balance when pitching, then you’re probably going to struggle with your full-swing balance. Practice holding your finish on pitch shots. It will lead to better balance for every shot you hit.
3) Improving Your Form – The pitch shot is simply a mini-golf swing. The better your technique is on pitch shots, the better full-swing technique you’ll have. Focus on syncing up your arms and body on pitch shots, it’ll help you stay connected with your full swing.
4) Scoring - The pitch shot is a very important shot in golf. You’ll hit some version of a pitch shot on many, if not most, of the holes you play. Warming up with pitch shots will help your score. I would recommend warming up with all your wedges hitting them at different heights and distances.
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!