ENJOY GOLF IN THE WINTER
Winter golf, a wonderful time to play! You might be laughing or rolling your eyes, but really, it can be a wonderful time to play (Disclaimer: I would like to state that there are certain conditions that Kyle Voska does not find enjoyable and he cannot be held accountable for someone having an unpleasant time during a winter round of golf if any of these conditions exist: when it is snowing, sleeting, icing, raining, fog-lifting, winterey mixing, windy, really windy, under 28.4 degrees, cloudy, after a long rain, snow or ice on the ground, warm outfit-challenged, not in mood, or you run out of golf balls during your round). I love getting out for a few rounds in the winter and I’ll explain why and how you can enjoy it too.
Dressing properly is the key ingredient to enjoying golf when the weather is less than ideal. First, I highly recommend wearing rain pants over your slacks. Long-underwear works as well, but rain pants are better because they block the wind and keep your pants dry. Second, a winter cap is a must. If your noggin gets cold, you’re toast. Third, load up the layers around your core. I recommend 3-4 layers around your chest and up to 2 layers for your arms. I prefer to have as little as possible on my arms so I can still swing with some speed. And last, winter gloves. Some prefer the winter gloves made for golf. I, however, prefer using cart mittens with heat packs in them. My hands generally don’t stay warm in gloves because my fingers are isolated. They stay much warmer in the mittens and I’m able to hit shots with my normal glove and grip.
Learning to adapt to different conditions, winter conditions included, is one of the beauties of this game. Generally, when you play winter golf in the northern states, the temperature will be below 50 degrees. When the temperature dips, the golf ball doesn’t go as far. Due to more clothing, your swing will slow down a bit, and it’s harder to compress the golf ball when it cools down. I recommend taking at least one extra club on shorter shots and at least two extra clubs on longer shots. This will make sure you swing within yourself and make solid contact (not hitting solid in the cold can leave a lasting impression).
Winter is a depressing time for many because there’s less light, it’s cold, and there’s more precipitation. This terrible trifecta makes it’s difficult to spend time outside. Humans weren’t designed to spend months at a time inside so when you have a chance to go outside it’s important to take advantage of it. Golf is a great way to spend this time. You’ll get some fresh air along with some exercise in very peaceful environment. It’s truly amazing how quiet and peaceful a golf course is in the winter.
Go out and play some golf this winter. You might be surprised how nice it can be. Just dress properly and swing easy. When you finish, I’m willing to bet you’ll say, “It’s not that bad out there.”, the very popular winter-time phrase said at The Mill Course. Have fun and thanks for reading!
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.
HIT THE INSIDE QUARTER OF THE BALL
One of the simple misconceptions about the game is what part of the golf ball to hit. Most would answer the back of the ball, and I would say they’re wrong. To hit the ball properly, you should hit the ball slightly from the inside.
The game of golf, just like baseball and tennis, is a side-sport. Unlike bowling and tossing a ball underhand, these side-sport games swing around our bodies, not up-and-down. Due to this fact, the golf swing goes back and up to the inside then returns back down from the inside. Shortly after impact, the golf club returns back to the inside. Imagine a hula hoop is wrapped around your body on the same plane as the shaft at address. Can you see how swinging up and down along the hoop would have you coming back down to the ball from the inside? It’s not drastically from the inside, but it is enough that not doing it properly will cause poor results. And that’s no fun.
Now, let’s get to the part where we stop that slice. When you slice the ball, your golf swing is not going up and down along that hula hoop I just spoke about. It may be going back along the hoop, but on the way down, most likely, the golf club is swinging over/on-top of the hula hoop too much. This makes the club swing across the line causing left-to-right sidespin on the golf ball. Another way to say it is you’re hitting the outside of the golf ball with an open face. Hitting the outside of the ball with an open face = slice. It’s as simple as that.
A simple golf tip to fix this problem is to actually try to hit the inside quarter of the golf ball (*hint, hint* – you actually want to hit the inside part of the ball). If you can hit the inside part of the ball, you’ll have a much better chance to hit the ball straight or even hit the coveted draw. When you hit the inside part of the ball, you’ll swing down the target longer and, by doing this, you’re in a much better position to release the golf club instead of holding the face open. Releasing the club properly will allow you to hit the draw.
The next time you go to a driving range try this drill. Take a range ball and place it on a tee. Turn the ball so the red, green, or black range ball stripe is positioned on the inside of the ball. Then, hit the stripe trying to send the stripe out to the right. Yes, I said that. Try to hit the ball to the right. The odds are you won’t be able to do this right away, but once you can hit your ball a little right you’re not too far from hitting that draw you’ve dreamed about. I know, it’s hard because you dread seeing the ball curve off to the right so you can’t fathom trying to hit it there, but this is how to fix that slice. Swing to the right. Hit the inside quarter of the ball. Once you get that down, just roll the club over. Walla! Draw every time. Have fun with it and hopefully your draw will come soon.
Thanks for reading,
Kyle Voska, PGA
ERROR ON THE PRO SIDE IF YOU CAN
When it comes to putting, have you ever heard about the “pro side” and the “amateur side” of the hole? If not, the pro side is when you miss a putt on the high side of the hole and vice versa for the amateur side. Most understand this as amateurs under-read their putts, which is generally true as the average person only reads about a third of a putt’s true break, but there’s more to it. If I had a choice, I’d much rather miss a putt on the high side. I’ll explain why.
First of all, missing a putt on the high side means your first putt had a better chance of going in. If you hit a putt on the low side of the correct line it will almost never go in. Gravity won’t allow your ball to go back uphill on-line. On the flip side, if you hit a putt too high, it does have a chance to bounce downhill or break more as it slows down. Obviously, the right line is preferred, but missing it high means your putt had a better chance of going in.
Second of all, and more importantly, missing a putt on the high side will leave you a shorter 2nd putt. If you hit your first putt past the hole, you will always have a shorter second putt if you miss on the high side, assuming the first putt would travel the same total distance. Due to geometry this is a fact. When a putt is missed on the low side it is rolling away from the hole. Conversely, if you miss a putt on the high side it’s wrapping around the hole and will leave you a shorter 2nd putt.
Try playing more break for your putts. Not only will you give yourself a better opportunity to make a putt, you’ll also have a shorter 2nd putt helping you to avoid the dreaded 3-putt. I’m very confident this will help your putting. Good luck!
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!
Consistently putting well is one of the hardest things to do at this game. Every course and every green is different. Throw in grain, slope, spike marks, ball marks, foot prints, shadows, etc. and you can easily see why holing putts is difficult. This being the case, staying positive towards your putting is not easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to do in this game. Putting well requires confidence. Confidence comes from trusting and believing in what you’re doing. To gain more confidence, consider thinking about putting this way: try to make the putt in your mind, not whether it goes in the hole or not. This is not easy, but if you can adopt this mind-set, you’ll gain more confidence and stay more positive on the greens.
When you hit a putt there are two possible outcomes: it either goes in the hole or it doesn’t. There’s nothing in between. This gives us many highs and lows. It’s easy to become result-orientated, meaning you judge your success solely on the results. This is counter-productive because the odds are you’re going to miss more putts than you hole.
What I like to do is judge my putting success on how I hit the putt. I want to “make” the putt in my mind. I try to roll the ball to the best of my ability on the line I choose. If I do that, I’m happy. I’m obviously happier if the ball goes in the hole, but I know it’s out of my control once the ball leaves the putter face. When I’m putting well, I will “make” most of the putts in my mind, but the odds are I’ve only holed a few on the greens. I like to think that if you make a good putt in your mind and it doesn’t go in it just means your odds of holing the next putt goes up. At least it does my mind. Try this the next time you play and I bet you’ll not only be in a better frame of mind, but you’ll putt better too.
WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT: LINE OR SPEED WHEN PUTTING
What’s more important to your putting success, the line of the putt or the speed? The short answer would be both, right? Obviously, having both the line and the speed correct is ideal, but that’s tough to do every time. I like to think of it this way. If you had to choose between the two, which would you choose? It’s tough to answer that question. However, it’s easier if you break down your putts into two categories: long putts and short putts. For long putts, it’s better to focus on the speed and for short putts it’s better to focus on the line. I’ll explain why and how to do it.
When you’re more than 20 feet away from the cup, especially when you’re 40+ feet away, your odds of making the putt are not great. Even PGA Tour Players don’t make many long putts. What they do very well, however, is avoid 3-putting. On long putts, it is important to have a good line, but it’s more important to have the correct speed. If you have the correct speed you can miss your putt 3 feet right or left of the hole and still have a 3-foot putt for your second putt. If you have a good line, but knock your putt 6 feet by, you will have a 6-footer left. On long putts, I recommend focusing on the speed and not being overly concerned with the line.
The key to getting better with your speed on the greens is to focus more on using your hand-eye coordination. I highly recommend taking your practice stroke(s) looking at the hole. This will initiate your hand-eye coordination. Your eyes will do most of the work for you. They’ll subconsciously let you know how hard to hit the putt, similar to tossing a ball to someone 30-feet away. Trusting and using your hand-eye coordination will greatly improve your speed on the greens.
Conversely, short putts are more dependent upon having the right line. Within 5 or 6 feet of the hole, the line of the putt is more important than the speed. Perfect speed can guarantee a 2-putt, but we’re looking to make these short putts, not settle for a 2-putt. Also, it’s not very difficult getting the correct speed for these putts with a little practice. Usually, your ball will stop within a couple feet of the cup. This is why you should focus almost solely on the line for short putts.
What I recommend for short putts is to read the putt slowly and carefully, like you’re reading it under a microscope. Focus on the exact path your ball will take to the hole. After you’re committed to this line, pick a spot 4 inches ahead of your ball that’s on your line. When walking up to your ball, stay focused on that spot. Line your putter head to that spot. Once you do this, then you can look at the hole, but it’s imperative to line your putter up first. This will take out the variable of wondering if your putter is lined up correctly or not. Once lined-up, all you need to do is take the putter straight back and straight through. I know it’s not easy, but taking one variable out will give you more confidence over these short putts. I also recommend trying to keep your head down until the ball drops in the hole so you don’t come out of your posture too soon.
To summarize, focus more on speed for longer putts and the line for shorter putts to avoid 3-putts and increase your 1-putts. Hopefully, this advice will help you become a great putter.
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!
$ BILL DRILL – GREENSIDE SAND SHOTS
Getting the ball out of a sand trap and on the green is a challenge for many players. One of the ways to improve your bunker play is to understand the shot better. When you hit a proper sand shot, your sand wedge actually does not make contact with the golf ball. It enters the sand behind the golf ball, about 2-3 inches, and the sand actually carries the ball to the green.
A great visual and practice drill to help you with this is to practice hitting sand shots using a dollar bill. Here’s how: First, bring lots of money! Just kidding. Start by setting the dollar bill in the sand pointing to the target. Next, place the ball right in the middle of the dollar bill. Then, take your setup with the dollar bill forward in your stance. Finally, try to blast the dollar bill all the way to the green. Imagine the dollar bill is carrying the ball to the green like it’s on a small pillow. Believe it or not, a dollar bill is very similar to the size of the divots you’ll be taking out of the sand when you hit a sand shot.
After doing this drill, you’ll have a better understanding of the dynamics of a sand shot and how much effort is needed to get the ball out of the trap all the way to the green. By the way, I have yet to see a dollar bill tear from this drill. Good luck!
MINIMIZE YOUR WEDGE YARDAGE GAPS
Do you find yourself struggling with certain distance gaps with your wedges? Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to hit as many half or three-quarter wedge shots? Chances are, there is a large yardage gap between your wedges. I’m going to help you understand how to optimize the lofts of your wedges. This may mean you’ll have to add a wedge or two to your bag, or have the lofts bent on your current wedges. Trust me though, it’ll be money well spent.
Years ago, a typical pitching wedge (PW) was 48 degrees. Recently, club makers have strengthened the PW to 43-47 degrees to give golfers the impression they’re hitting the ball further. In fact, they’re just hitting a 9-iron that says PW. It’s really not a big deal what the bottom of the club says. What’s important is the real loft of the clubs and how far you hit them.
The problem may occur if your PW is 44 degrees and your next wedge is a SW with 56 degrees of loft. That’s a huge gap. That’d be like taking both your 7 and 8-iron out of your bag. How would you like to do that? And we’re talking about the clubs you’ll be using more than any other clubs in your bag not counting the putter and driver. Approximately 70% of the game occurs inside 100 yards so it’s important to get the most out of the wedges that you carry.
Typically, there is a 4 degree gap between the irons in your bag. Believe it or not, this means that many of you should be carrying 4 wedges, if not 5. I understand, that’s really hard to believe. It’s all based on the actual loft of your PW. If your wedge is 44, then you may need another wedge at 48, then 52, 56, and possibly 60. That’d be 5 clubs considered to be wedges, although I would argue the 44 is actually a 9-iron.
Wedges are your scoring clubs so it’s imperative to have the lofts correct to maximize your scoring cability. Here’s what I would recommend. Find out the true loft of your PW at a golf shop (Etter’s or Golf Galaxy) that measures loft. It’ll cost a few bucks, but it’s well worth it. Add 4-5 degrees of loft to each wedge after that. Example: If your PW is 46, I would recommend a GW at 50, a SW at 54, and a LW at 58. Or, you could carry a 51 GW and a 56 SW. If you’re wondering, I carry 48, 53, and 58 degree wedges in my bag (The numbers on my wedges actually say 47, 54, and 58. I’ve had them bent).
Obviously, there are plenty of routes you can go. You may need all the long irons, woods, and hybrids in your bag. Some may need the extra loft around the green. It’s up to you to decide, but if you’re not certain, a PGA Professional like myself can certainly offer you the guidance you may need.
Thanks for reading and make sure you get your lofts checked before the season is here.