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.

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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

Belly Putters: A Thing of the Past?

In November of 2012, the USGA and R&A announced in a press release that they propose changes to the Rules of Golf that will prohibit players from anchoring a club to their body while making a putting stroke. Although this change has been in the rear-view mirror for quite some time, it’s not as drastic as you may think. We all thought the new rule change, which will take effect in January of 2016, would ban the use of belly and long putters. Instead, the USGA and R&A have decided that the new rule change will have no effect on the current equipment rules, it will only effect the putting stroke itself. This regulation is being implemented to maintain the fundamental characteristics of the putting stroke.

Proposed Changes to Rule 14-1
The proposed change would relabel current Rule 14-1 as Rule 14-1a, and establish Rule 14-1b as described below:
14-1b Anchoring the Club
In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.”

Note 1:  The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.

Note 2:  An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.”

If you want more information on the new rule changes, you can visit the USGA or the R&A websites.

In short, anchoring the club was a technique created as a last resort, and was not meant as a preferred method of putting. Until recently (the last 30 years) the putting stroke was free swinging and the USGA and R&A have shown that they intend to keep it that way. What does this mean for you and me? All it means is, don’t get rid of your putter or throw out your current stroke until 2016. And when the rule change does go into effect in 3 years, you have a few options. You can get a new putter or figure out how to use your belly/long putter without anchoring it.

If you have a belly/long putter, what will you do when the Rules of Golf change in 2016?