Work bench with regripping equipment

Off Season Fix

So, it’s the off season. You probably haven’t played as much golf in the last few months as you would have liked and the season is fast approaching. One of the best ways to motivate yourself to practice again is to upgrade your equipment. Everyone loves a new putter or the hottest driver at the golf shop, but there are other ways to upgrade without breaking the bank. Re-gripping is my favorite! Grips cost anywhere from $4-$12 each and the equipment you need is cheap and easy to find. If you are inexperienced the re-gripping process takes about 10-15 minutes per club. Here’s how I prepare for the start of golf season:

You will need a few tools: Hook Knife or Utility Blade, Grip Tape (2″ x 9″), New Grips (check what size grips you need before you order your new ones), Grip Tape Activator or Solvent (Optional C-Clamp and Rubber Shaft Vice Grip). Also make sure you have a bucket or trash can nearby to catch the solvent that drips out of the end of the grip.

Work bench with regripping equipment

You can purchase grip tape or activator solution at any major golf retailer or online (I got mine at GolfTech Warehouse).

Step 1: Remove Old Grip

Begin by using your hook knife or utility blade to slice open the old grip.

Cut open Grip 1

Peel the old grip back to expose the golf club shaft and existing grip tape.

Cut open Grip 2

Remove old grip and use utility knife or putty knife to scrape away old grip tape.

Cut open Grip 3

Step 2: Apply New Grip Tape

Begin this step by removing one side of your double-sided adhesive grip tape and wrapping it around the butt-end of the shaft. Make sure you leave about 1/4″ of tape hanging off the end of the shaft. Use a hard flat surface like a pencil to remove as many air bubbles as possible. Remove the second side of the grip tape so that tape becomes sticky then fold the extra 1/4″ of grip tape over the butt-end of the shaft to seal the hole.

Applying grip tape 1    Applying grip tape 3    Applying grip tape 4

Steps 3 and 4: Installing and Aligning New Grips

Apply a generous amount of activator fluid or solvent to the grip tape and the inside of the grip.

New Grip 1     New Grip 2

Quickly slide the new grip over the grip tape. This must be done quickly!!! If you wait too long to slide the new grip on, it will stick to the adhesive tape before the grip is correctly aligned.

New Grip 3

Immediately after the new grip is installed, align the logo on the grip with the leading edge of the golf club. Most grips have a small notch or white line near the center of the logo that indicates the top of the grip.

Aligning new grip 1

Once the grip is aligned correctly, gently tap the butt-end of the club on the ground and wipe off excess solvent from the grip and shaft of the golf club. Allow to dry for 24 hours.

Aligning new grip 2

Teaching Tip: Check Your Weight

No, don’t step on a scale, although most professional golfers these days are in good physical shape. I’m talking about your weight transfer. Most beginning golfers are taught to keep their head still during a full swing. This holds true, but what most golfers don’t know is that you still need to transfer your weight from your back foot to your front foot at impact. What does this mean? Take a look:

Mid backswing weight back At impact weight back After impact weight back

Notice that when I swing the club, my head stays still, but as I reach the impact position I continue to lean backward. Most beginning and intermediate golfers do this to counter the heavy golf club swinging fast around their body. Unfortunately, this moves the point where the club impacts the ground to behind the golf ball, causing you to make larger divots, push the ball, and (if the ground is hard enough) bounce the club and blade the ball. So, how can you fix it?

Here’s the Golf Fix:

Step 1: Start by putting an iron across your waist about belt high. Hold the shaft of the iron with your fingers and put your thumbs in your pants pockets. Note that I am set up in my address position, like I am about to swing at a golf ball. You want to make sure that your golf club stays pressed against your hips at all times during this drill.

weight shift drill 1

Step 2: Start your backswing by rotating your shoulders, hips, and knees. At the same time, lift your front foot and step toward your back foot so that your feet are together at the “top of your backswing”.

weight shift drill 2

Step 3: With your feet together, lean towards the target forcing you to make a step with your left foot back to its original position. You will notice that your weight now shifts from the back foot to the front foot. Make sure to do this “weight shift” before you rotate the hips and shoulders back towards impact. Notice my chest and belt buckle still point towards my back foot, indicating I made my weight shift before I started rotating.

weight shift drill 3

Step 4: Straighten your front leg and rotate your hips and shoulders around the front leg. Your goal is to use the front leg almost as a post and rotate your weight around it. Again, note that my head has not moved much during this drill. Shifting your weight doesn’t mean you need to move your head; the majority of your power comes from the core, hips, and legs. If you can move your hips from the back of your stance to the from of your stance without moving your head, you will have more control and increased distance.

weight shift drill 4

The finished product looks like this:

Do you want me to discuss a particular part of the golf swing? Comment on this post and let me know what you are interested in!

Teaching Tip: Put A Sock In It!

Do you have a problem with that flying elbow at the top of your backswing? Most people that make the transition from baseball to golf tend to let their right elbow (right handed players) get a little too wild at the top of their backswing. Why should you care? The flying right elbow, or “chicken winging” as my fellow teaching pros like to call it, causes the hands to move towards the ball at the top of the backswing and forces the club over plane. Take a look:

Brandon Lewis swing 1

Brandon came to me with a baseball swing, and like many young athletes he was able to make decent contact because of his excellent hand eye coordination. His miss hits however, were pulls and slices caused by his flying right elbow (see image above). In order to make his swing and results more consistent, I had him use a couple of different drills that tightened up the swing and got the golf club more on plane.

Let me preface the next few paragraphs by saying, Brandon has made a lot of progress! His average scores dropped from the 110′s to the mid 80′s over about a 3 week period! THAT’S AMAZING! Now, keep in mind he is an athlete, he did play another sport where you hit a small ball with a small club, and he did practice four to five times a week. His swing is not great yet and we are working to get him to a point where he is completely satisfied with the results, but that being said his swing looks much better than it used to. Take a look at Brandon’s new swing:

Brandon Lewis swing 2

Notice that in the second photo of Brandon his right elbow is much closer to his body, creating a flatter and longer swing plane. In this position, it is much easier for Brandon to rotate his hips and shoulders back to impact and hit the ball without making a “casting” (over the top) move. The hands drop on the down swing and power is created with the lower body and torso instead of the arms and hands.

Here’s the Golf Fix: We used a simple drill and some visualization to get Brandon into the position that you see in the second picture. First, take a head cover or a sock (you may want to use a clean one) and stick it under your right arm pit. As you take a backswing, make sure to keep the head cover/sock pinned between your arm and your side. If your head stays still, then your left shoulder should drop towards the ball and your right elbow should stay closer to the body. At the top of your backswing, pause and take a mental snapshot of your position. My PGA mentor told me once that you should be able to let a pizza box rest on your right hand at the top of your back swing. If you let your right elbow fly out during the backswing (like Brandon does in the first picture), then your right hand becomes vertical and the pizza box would drop to the ground. When I teach junior golfers, I use this analogy because it’s easier for them to visualize the position I’m trying to put them in.

As you make the down swing, let the hands drop towards your right hip and start rotating your shoulders and hips towards the target. This move will create club head lag and, if done properly, will force the club to make a slight “inside-out” path as you hit the ball. The sock that is stuck in your right armpit should stay there until just before you get to the impact position. At impact you should be extending your right arm, allowing the sock to drop out of your right armpit.

Do you want me to discuss a particular part of the golf swing? Comment on this post and let me know what you are interested in!

“Teaching” Tip: Grip it Like a Ruler

Ever wonder whether you are gripping the club correctly? Do your hands hurt when you swing?

Here’s the Golf Fix:

One of my favorite ways to demonstrate a good golf grip is to use a common household item: a ruler. If you feel like your grip is a little off, you can easily correct it by picking up a 12-inch ruler and holding it like you would a golf club. Use an interlock, overlap, or even a baseball style grip and align the ruler over your middle knuckles (below).

Ruler tip 1

Wrap the palms and thumbs of your hands over the top of the ruler. Your left thumb should rest on the top right side of the ruler and your right thumb should rest comfortably on the top left side of the ruler (below). Now, grip the golf club with your normal grip pressure. If your hands hurt while gripping the ruler, it’s a pretty good indicator that you grip too tightly! A good way of thinking about grip pressure is to imagine you are holding a tube of toothpaste without the cap on it. If you grip the tube too tightly the toothpaste will squeeze out all over the place. If you grip too loose, the tube will go flying when you take a swing. Grip pressure and technique are the corner stones of a good swing. Harvey Pennick said, “unless you have a reasonably good grip and stance, anything you read about the golf swing is useless.”

Ruler tip 2 Ruler tip 3

If you have gripped the club correctly, the palm of your right hand should cover the thumb of your left hand. Test it!: grip the club the way that I just instructed you to. Take your right hand off of the grip. Now take your last three fingers on your left hand off of the grip as well, leaving only only the first finger on your left hand supporting the entire club. The bottom of your left palm should be resting on the top of the grip, acting like a fulcrum. This will allow your wrists to create the leverage necessary for you to bring the club to the top of the backswing.

Do you want me to discuss a particular part of the golf swing? Comment on this post and let me know what you are interested in!

Augusta National, Home of the Masters

Augusta is in the Air

The Masters is right around the corner and I thought I’d share some odds with you. As of the beginning of March, Tiger Woods still remains the favorite to win this year’s coveted “Green Jacket”. Rory and Phil are close on his tail and Snedeker’s recent hot streak has him rounding out the top 4. We know that Tiger has what it takes to win. When it comes down to it, he is the most dominant Sunday player on the PGA Tour, but what about the others? We saw a few years ago when young Rory McIlroy imploded in the middle of his Sunday round at Augusta, only to make an amazing stand and win the US Open at Congressional later that year. If Rory won the US Open because he had something to prove after crashing and burning at the 2011 Masters, he certainly has something to prove this year. At the WGC Match Play tournament this last week, Rory got the boot early; that might be enough motivation for him to break some records at Augusta come April. We know “Lefty” is a stick. He’s won the Masters 3 times, plus he’s having an outstanding start to the 2013 season. With a win in Phoenix and no missed cuts, Mickelson has a good shot to be in contention come Sunday. Snedeker is the hottest of the 4 going into Augusta. In 2013 he has 4 top-ten finishes in only 5 events played, making him the leader on the PGA Tour money list and the FedEx Cup standings.

Here are the LVH SuperBook odds as of the last week in February:

TIGER WOODS 5-1

RORY McILROY 7-1

PHIL MICKELSON 12-1

BRANDT SNEDEKER 15-1

LUKE DONALD 25-1

LEE WESTWOOD 25-1

ADAM SCOTT 25-1

JUSTIN ROSE 25-1

BUBBA WATSON 25-1

DUSTIN JOHNSON 25-1

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN 25-1

CHARL SCHWARTZEL 30-1

JASON DUFNER 30-1

NICK WATNEY 40-1

RICKIE FOWLER 40-1

HUNTER MAHAN 40-1

MATT KUCHAR 40-1

KEEGAN BRADLEY 40-1

SERGIO GARCIA 40-1

JASON DAY 50-1

IAN POULTER 50-1

BO VAN PELT 50-1

WEBB SIMPSON 50-1

Teaching Tip: Straighten Up for Straighter Shots

So, you want to hit the ball straighter? Here is a quick tip to get you on your way to splitting those fairways and finding the flag stick. I compared one of my students to one of the best ball strikers that has ever lived. Below is the analysis:

If we take a look at both players’ address position, we see some similarities and also noticeable differences. I drew some colored lines on the pictures (which I will explain later) for visualization purposes.

Randy is a mid-high handicap golfer

Randy is a mid-high handicap golfer

Tiger Woods is a professional golfer

Tiger Woods is a professional golfer

First, take a look at the yellow line in each picture. I drew this line to show the relationship between foot position and balance. Most amateur golfers address the ball with a majority of their weight over their toes. This makes golfers hit behind the golf ball and when they do make good contact with the ball, it produces either a hook or a pull due to over rotation of the hands at impact or a fade without the wrist rotation. Tiger (bottom) has the back of his heels positioned directly underneath the middle of his hips, allowing him to balance his weight evenly across his feet. Randy (top) has a little bit more bend in his knees throwing his weight more towards his toes, which may feel more comfortable and stable at address, but as he swings his body tends to move more towards the ball. Here’s the Golf Fix: Address your golf ball with your knees slightly bent and allow your hands and arms to dangle freely over your toes. Push your hips backwards so that your butt is sticking out behind your heels. This might be a little uncomfortable at first, but it will help your clubhead get on plane faster.

Next, let’s look at the red line. Notice that the red line starting at the lower back of Tiger Woods is flatter than the red line starting at Randy’s lower back. This is partly caused when golfers do not shift their hips backwards at address. A steep lower back angle causes a golfer’s posture to be more upright. In Randy’s case, this forces the golfer to arch the top of his back, hunching the shoulders. An arched upper back limits a golfer’s ability to make a full shoulder rotation. Less rotation means a steeper swing, and a steeper swing means more opportunity for a golfer to hit a slice or a hook. Here’s the Golf Fix: At address, roll your shoulders back and raise your chin slightly almost as if you were doing a vertical push-up. This will broaden the shoulders and allow your left shoulder (if you are flexible enough) to turn underneath your chin during the backswing. If you combine both of these teaching tips, your swing plane should flatten out a little bit, allowing for a larger shoulder turn and a straighter ball flight.

Want more tips? Leave me a comment and let me know what part of the swing you are interested in.

Photo of Brandt Snedeker via The Washington Post

Drive for Show, Scramble for Dough?

Through the first 6 tournaments of the 2013 season, I think its safe to say that short game is the money maker. Let me throw some statistics your way. The top 5 players on the PGA Tour in scrambling percentage are all ranked inside the top 12 money earners through the first 6 PGA Tour events. These names include Chris Kirk, Brandt Snedeker, Brian Stuard, Charles Howell III, and James Driscoll. All 5 of these players have converted par or better on more than 72% of their missed greens in regulation. Imagine what that would do for your game… if you are a bogey golfer and you made par or better three quarters of the time when you miss the green in regulation, you would probably lower your handicap from an 18 to a measly 4. And to top it all off, NONE of those same 5 “professional scramblers” rank better than 40th in average driving distance. In fact, only 2 of the top 5 of the longest drivers on tour through 6 events this year even break the top 12 in the money earning category.

So, the next time you feel like going to beat some golf balls at the driving range, think twice about what’s going to improve your score. Sure a 300 yard drive with a little draw that splits the fairway looks pretty, but I got news for you: there are no pictures on a scorecard, only numbers. If you get bored on the putting green, find someone to challenge. Play for nickels, quarters, and dimes on the golf course. Use training tools and drills when you are practicing your short game.

Kathy Whitworth once said, “It’s usually the player who misses those three-footers, not the putter.” With that in mind, remember that a 300 yard drive counts the same as a 3 foot putt.

If you would like more statistics and standings, visit the PGA Tour homepage.

What portion of every practice session do you spend on or around the putting green?

Photo via The Washington Post