Monday, August 6, 2012

Mis-lead by Leadbetter

Golf Digest   September 2012   p.27

Making a longer putt should be accomplished the same way you would make a longer toss of a ball.  Make a short toss and then make a much longer one and you will find that you accomplish it by making you arm swing along a longer arc--not more effort to accelerate your arm, more time.  If you use a basketball, and make two-handed, side-armed tosses you will find this is exactly analogous to putting.

In his article, David suggests that putting distance should be a function of swing size--good so far.  But then the train comes off the track.  He writes, "No matter the length, the key to good putting is hitting the ball at the right pace."  A good putt is not about pace alone.  A good putt requires enough speed to reach the target but also must be on the correct line.  Good putting is the combination of speed and direction.  One or the other is inadequate.

His confusion doesn't stop there.  He goes on to say if your rhythm improves "'ll start to give the longer ones a better chance of dropping."  Rhythm has nothing to do with the length of the putt.  The swinging motion by definition is rhythmic.  Every putt from a 3 footer to a 20 footer and everything in between should be rhythmic.  But do not be confused by David's remarks.  Your stroke can be perfectly rhythmic and result in the putt being 4 foot too short or 4 food too long.

Bottom Line:  Use a swinging motion for putting (this will make the stroke rhythmic).  Accomplish sending the ball different distances by varying the size of the arc along which you swing the putter.  Finally, putting is about both pace and direction.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Haney Goes Haywire

Golf Digest   August 2012   p.48

The instructional article is titled "Hit It Solid Every Time".  So let's spend one minute asking ourselves what does "solid" mean.  If we cornered your foursome and at gunpoint forced them to come up with the meaning of "solid" in the context of striking a golf ball, the odds would be pretty good that the foursome would agree on 1) the ball be contacted by the center of the clubface, and 2)the clubface being square to the target line at impact.  For good measure they might also throw in that the club should be swinging along the target line.
Hank's formula to accomplish these three conditions is to have the handle lead the head into impact.  You are likely asking yourself how does the handle leading the swing create center contact, square clubface, and the swing's direction.  Answer:  One has no relation to the other.
If Haney's article had been titled, "One Way to Minimize Fat Shots" he would have been golden.

P.S.  If you want to use this technique, remember not to try it with less than a six iron.  If you lean the shaft this far forward with a five or less you won't get the ball airborne.

Learn more about Heartland Golf Schools.  Click here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Your New Bunker Setup

Golf Digest  August 2012  p.32

I had great hopes for this most recent instructional article from Sean Foley.  The article opens with a reasonable proposition: " By now I'm sure you know the key to hitting greenside bunker shots is making sand-first contact and skimming your wedge under the ball."  While Sean's "key" overlooks the importance of achieving the correct distance and direction, I proceeded with interest to learn about contact and skimming.
From there we are taken on a journey into Foley-Land where instruction defies reason and clarity.  Open stance--check.  Ball off left heel--check.  Belt buckle closer to target than sternum--huh?  So the sternum can face the right foot or left as long as my belt buckle is closer to the target?  The player then needs to feel pressure in the left thigh?  Pressure results from pressing.  Perhaps what Sean means is to feel tension from that muscle supporting our weight since we are leaning forward.
So the recipe for contact and skimming is: stance, ball position, sternum/belt buckle position, and left thigh tension.  Really?  Is there a golfer anywhere on the planet who could satisfy these four conditions and not hit it fat or blade it into the next county?

When it comes to his Golf Digest instructional articles, Sean is batting a thousand.  Not one of them stand up to a careful reading.  And unless he his giving Golf Digest something different than he is giving Tiger Woods, I continue to be suspicious as to whether he is Tiger's solution or problem. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Release the Club

Golf Digest July 2012 page 36

I have yet to read a Sean Foley article that does not leave me suspicious that he is more the problem than the solution when it comes to Tiger Woods.  Take a look at this article and let's assume that he gives Tiger comparable instruction.

Let's begin by considering his instruction to "focus on unhinging your wrists during the downswing".  I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is not proposing a "casting" action with the hands but he does leave it mysterious as to how the player is supposed to make this happen.  It has always been our position that this unhinging is a function of centrifugal force and is something that you "let happen" instead of "make happen".  Holding the lag prevents it from happening.

Foley then proceeds to explain that the wrists are unhinged "so your arms are nearly straight at impact".  How does a movement of the wrists straighten the arms?  Is he referring to the arm, the forearm, or both?  In the three photos in the article it appears that the arms are "straight in all of them".  By straight does he mean the elbows are fully unfolded?  If so how do the wrists cause this to happen?

But the fun doesn't stop here.  He then explains that the wrists should be square to your target at impact.  I'm assuming that he means the axis on which the wrist hinges should be square to the target line since the target is a point and you cannot draw a line perpendicular to a point. Now, look at the center photo and you will see the Nike swoosh on his golf glove.  The axis on which his wrist is flexed is not close to square to the target line.  Instead its probably 20 degrees of the target line.  (Yes, as the club proceeds to impact the shoulders will continue turning and that 20 degrees will decrease--but not to zero).

Lastly, Sean makes the remark that the left arm (I think he means forearm) "naturally rotates".  If the left arm rotates, it rotate the left hand.  If you rotate the left hand you also rotate the right hand.  If you rotate the hands you hook the shot.  Want to see what that looks like?  Look at the photo of Hunter Mahan on the adjoining page.   In the photos of Foley's swing, the forearm is not rotated in the third frame (despite the yellow arrow).  What happens is that the shoulders continue to turn and as they change their relationship to the target line so do the forearms, wrists, hands, and club.

Foley--problem or solution.  I'm suspicious.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 2012
Read the letters to the editor and this magazine appears to dispense miraculous cures.  Listen to your golfing friends who read the publication and you can hear agonizing tales of frustration.  Who is telling the truth?  Both.  The magazine gets somethings right--some not.  We sort this out for you.  Read below.

Lesson Tee / Yani Tseng.  Her coach, Gary Gilchrist, says, "So we are working on Yani's preparation and setup, and on training muscle memory."  For years we have known that muscles have no memory capability.  They respond to brain impulses but remember nothing.  What else is Gary doing that is not in Yani's interest?
Avoid the Dreaded Chili-Dip.  Snake oil.  When a player scoops, are they wanting the ball to go high or low?  The solution to scooping is simple.  Change your intention from "high" to "forward".
To Get the Right Pace, Use The Saw.  The "saw grip" can help with pace only if you have an uncontrollable hitting action (hand action) during your swing.
Fade It With Control.  Hank explains, "the clubface must be slightly open".  Actually, the clubface must be slightly out-of-square (open is when it is out-of-square and rotated to create additional loft).  Hank's approach is "dynamic" (i.e. we are changing the action of the club during the swing).  An alternative is "static" (i.e. change the setup by positioning your hands when they are rotated to your right, or setting up with the ball more rearward in the stance).
7 Things All Great Players Do.  1-6 are pretty good.
The Easy Way to Hit the Hardest Shot.  Ben's technique is ok.  The unspoken factor is practice.  The challenge in 50-yard bunker shots is less a matter of technique and more a matter of experience so we have some idea as to how big the swing should be.  Bunkers 50 yards from the green are a rarity--so are the opportunities to develop experience.
How to Fix Chops & Chunks. (read the blog post following this one).

Golf Digest gets it right sometimes.  Rarely do we find an article that is correct from start to end.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Fix Chops + Chunks (not really)

Golf Digest April 2012 page 111

This instruction is described as, "a revolutionary system helps you make solid contact on every shot."

First, lets agree on the meaning of solid: clubface square to the target line at impact and ball contact on the center of the clubface.

Second, the content of this instruction has NOTHING to do with solid contact but instead describes a bizarre set of contortions to achieve a swing that has the club sweeping along the grass instead of crashing into it.  There are much simpler and more sensible ways to achieve the sweeping action.

Bottom Line: If you are looking for "solid contact", look elsewhere.  If you are troubled by your swing digging the clubhead into the turf, look elsewhere.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Unclutter Your Swing--and Ruin It At The Same Time

Golf Digest April 2012  p. 126

This article is the kind that so often results in players concluding that Golf Digest is more a source of headache than help.  Reading the following will help you better understand this article and introduce you to how careful we need to be when we are attempting to learn to play better.

Chuck begins by referring to a problem of "rolling the elbows".  Unlike the wrists which are a ball and socket joint and can be rolled, the elbows are a hinge and cannot be rolled.  He mentions that the clubface should not be facing skyward.  In the "N" photo notice that the arms and elbows are nearly identical with the "Y" photo.  The difference is that Chuck has rolled his wrists (note the orientation of the black logo on the back of his glove).  Secondly, because the wrist are ball and socket the don't "naturally bend the left wrist flat".  They can bend any way we want them to.  Finally, he explains that one elbow bends and the other stays straight.  At Chuck's age (any most anyone over 30) we have lost our full range of motion in our left shoulder.  To make a full backswing as Chuck has done, you will note that is left elbow is anything but straight.

While, Chuck does a good job of describing the legs' movement in the hip socket, this clutters a much simpler idea.  When you make your backswing, maintain the balance you have at address.  If you keep that balance you will not shift your weight laterally and will turn instead.  Before we move on to the next section, look at the "Y" photo and notice how flat the back of left wrist is relative to the forearm.  In this position the clubface is severely out-of-square.  If Chuck's swing returns the club to the ball with the wrist in that position the drive will land deep in the right rough.  To see this for yourself, set up with your driver as you normally would.  Leave the club head positioned behind the ball while you move the grip end of the club so you can flatten that left wrist.  You will see that the clubface is now facing to the right.

Chuck gets a little confused about his anatomy.  Your shoulders are not on a ball and socket joint (your arms are).  Your shoulders rest on the top of your spine like the top of an upper case "T".   As the swing passes the address position, the hips and shoulders should turn in sync resulting in no twisting of the spine.  At the end of the swing the hip line and shoulder line should be close to parallel.

Bottom Line:  When we address the ball, the back of our left hand and our left forearm are at an angle to one another.  The more you play the club toward the center of your stance, the bigger that angle.  If you want to return the club to the ball as you have it at address, you do not want that angle to change during the swing.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Fundamentals--Wrong Fundamentals

Golf Digest April 2012 / p.47

By their nature, golf instructors are always looking for new insights into the golf swing or how to teach it.  Since we have been at this for hundreds of years, we should consider it rare to come upon "new" fundamentals.

In his article, Travis Fulton proposes: "When you're preparing to make a full swing, your right forearm should be roughly parallel with the club's shaft at address."  First of all, instructors need to do better than using words like "roughly".  That can leaves it open to the golfer for interpretation and poor results.  Secondly (and more importantly), if we look at the photo of Travis at address, his forearm is no where close to parallel to the shaft.

Travis further implies that this forearm/shaft relationship exists in putting.  Here he explains: "Your right forearm should be in line with the shaft."  Different from the situation with the full swing setup, here Travis's right forearm demonstrating precisely what he is prescribing.  However, does the prescription result in improved putting?  Take a look at the putter head.  Notice how the putter is angled and resting on its heel.  From this setup we know of four problems that are created:
  • the putter face is facing left--this is more apparent if you setup a wedge and rock it back on its heel.  You will find this cause the clubface to face to the left.
  • promotes clubface twisting--look at the leading edge of any putter.  You will find that the sole is rounded off at both the heel and the toe.  This effectively raises the sole off the round near the heel and toe.  This is done to reduce the likelihood of the heel or toe touching the ground and resulting in the putter face twisting.  Travis's setup nullifies this design feature and forces the sole of the putter to contact the ground at the heel.
  • misaligns the eyes--If you putter is the correct length for you, rocking the putter back on its heel will push you further away from the target line and move your eyes from being over the inside of the ball and instead position them 2-3 inches inside the line.
  • elevates the leading edge--Again, this can be more readily observed by rocking a wedge back onto its heel.  You expose the leading edge to the ball and make it less likely to contact the club on its sweet spot (MOI).
Those are the drawbacks to attempting this technique.  What are the benefits?  Here is what Travis says is the benefit for the full swing: "Many amateurs address the ball with their arms rigid and the right forearm too vertical."  Are your arms rigid and too vertical?

Here is the benefit Travis says his setup brings to putting:  "This address position allows you to easily move the putterhead on its natural arcing path without any extraneous hand adjustments."  Does your putterhead move on its natural arcing path without and extraneous hand adjustments?

Bottom Line:  Regarding the setup for a full swing, the photo reveals that what Travis is recommending is not what he is demonstrating.  Regarding the setup for putting, we have suggested that it results in four negative conditions for the putter.  We need instructors to always look for better ideas.  Before we commit to them, we need to make sure they are in fact better.    

Monday, February 13, 2012

Foley's Folly -- Again

Golf Digest March 2012

Tiger Woods did not seal the deal at the AT&T.  Sean Foley cannot be excluded as a contributing factor.  The absurdity of Foley's instruction to Woods, are exemplified in his latest pontification in the Golf Digest article, "Simple Way to Hit a Soft Pitch."

Sean begins by clarifying that by "soft pitch" he means a lob shot in which you are going to open the clubface to increase the shot's trajectory.  He explains that this is difficult because: the added loft of the club means that the swing must be bigger and,  that the open clubface will send the ball to the right.

His alternative is as follows:
  • play the ball forward in your stance with the clubface square to the target line [so far, so good] [this will increase trajectory, but therefore also means that you must make a bigger swing]
  • lower your hands to add more loft [Whoops!  Lowering you hands does nothing to add loft]
  • keep shoulders and hips square [square means "at 90 degrees][let's assume he means parallel to the target line], then drop your left foot so the stance line is left of target.
  • swing the club down along the stance line [you would hit your toes][lets assume he means parallel to the stance line][its physically impossible to swing parallel to your stance line if your shoulders and hips are parallel to the target line]
When you follow his direction, you wind up with the very same shot he was attempting to circumvent:  the forward swing is left of the backswing,  the ball travels to the right of the forward swing, and the swing must be bigger.

Bottom Line:  This is typical of Sean Foley's articles.  They do not accurately describe what is prescribed and are not likely to produce the preferred result.  Let's hope Tiger makes a change.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Swing in a Circle

Golf Magazine March 2012

During the 2012 AT&T Pro-Am broadcast, the commentators did a slo-mo on many of the amateur's tee shots on the par 3 16th hole.  Almost everyone of them would have benefited from this article.  It is likely you will too!

In this article, Y.E. Yang makes a simple suggestion that can produce a profound improvement in our golf shots.  His simple suggestion is to change our mental image we have of our golf swing.  For many players, their focus is on the ball.  In those cases the player accelerates the club to the ball.  This results in two frequent problems:
  • the attack angle becomes very steep and the club digs into the ground.  Whereas the path of the backswing was circular, the path of the forward swing is linear.
  • the player unconsciously decelerates the club preparing for it to hit the ground
Yang's suggestion is that our intention should not be to swing the club to the ball but instead to intend to swing the club in a circle until it ends hanging over our left shoulder.  While many players will have the club hanging over their left shoulder at the conclusion of making a shot, only a small number of them intend to power the swing to that end point.  For most of those players the club was swung to the ball with the residual momentum carrying it over the shoulder.

Here are the two take-aways from Yang's article:
  • practice observing the first half of your forward swing (especially the first two feet) and ensure that the swing is circular in motion.  When it is you will probably find the club approaching the ball on a much more gradual/sweeping manner.
  • practice having the end of your swing (club hanging over your left shoulder) be the endpoint of your swing and not the ball.
Bottom Line:  The swing is a circular motion.  The forward swing begins at 11 o'clock over our back shoulder and ends (not at the ball) but at 1 o'clock over our front shoulder.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

5-minute Slice Fix

Golf Digest February 2012


First, lets look at the title of the article, "This is why you slice. Give me five minutes and I'll fix it." Now read the testimonials. He did not fix the slice (ball flight curves right) he just replaced it with a draw (ball flight curves left). In Hank's own words "every good player in the history of the game has fought a hook. So the answer to the slice is to introduce the player to hooking? That's like saying topping the ball is the answer to fat shots. The only left curving ball flight that is desirable is one that is consistent. Learning the precision to swing the club to produce a consistent 5-10 yard draw is no less challenging than learning to produce a straight shot that varies from the centerline of the fairway by 5-10 yards.

Listen to Hank's opening remarks.  He says I can teach you to hook a ball in 5-minutes.  Hooking the ball is not a fix for the slice.  Not one of the players' testimonials said that their slice was fixed. They did say that they changed to curving the ball left. Welcome to the beginning of fighting a hook--a lower trajectory that runs toward the left rough.

Read the Golf Digest article

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Putting with Feel

Golf Digest February 2012

This article is so full of contradictions and I can only suggest that we start with the beginning of the article and work our way through.

Todd begins with this recommendation, "forget about stroke mechanics and focus on reading break and rolling the ball on the line."  The purpose of practicing stroke mechanics is to enable the golfer to roll the ball on the line.

Next Todd recommends that players "keep the face as square as you can throughout the stroke."  Remember the old saying, "do as I say and not as I do?"  Look at Todd's putter face at the end of his back swing (p. 129).  The putter face is not square to the target line.  Despite what Todd writes, the putter face does not stay square to the target line.  Nor is it useful to think that the putter face is opening and closing.  Instead, imagine a line connecting his left bicep with his right bicep.  At address notice how the putter face is square to that line.  For the duration of the putt the face stays square to that line.

His information on setup is conflicted.  "...your forearms line up with the shaft."  Here again, Todd doesn't do what he says to do (nor should we).  Look at the dotted yellow line indicating the shaft alignment.  If you continue that line you will see that it does not align with his forearm.  It's close, but it does not line up nor will yours.  Attempting to create such alignment will distort your posture and will prevent the putter from being soled properly.

While the putting stroke is certainly pendulum-like, Todd's description of "letting the putter head fall is not the most helpful.  Instead of falling, consider the tossing motion as an analogy.  More specifically, at address imagine that instead of holding your putter with two hands you are holding a volleyball with two hands.  You are going to make a two-handed toss sending the volleyball along your target line.  Even if it was to a nearby target, you would not make a backswing and then let your arms fall.  Instead the backswing would be given distance allowing the use of your muscles to create an armswing that would propel the ball to the target.  Putting is not a "falling" motion, it is a swinging motion.

When it comes to setting up for a putt, Todd invents a problem to justify his solution.  For breaking putts, many players choose an alignment target ( a spot on the high side of the hole) to putt to.  Todd says that we cannot keep our attention on that spot but instead will be drawn to shift our attention to the hole and role the ball to the hole instead of the spot.  While this is certainly a possibility, during 15 years of instruction I have never seen this as a frequent problem.  And as for his suggestion for "playing more break" to avoid missing the putt on the low side, missing it on the high side is no less of a problem.  In fact, if you miss on the low side you are more likely to have an uphill putt instead of a downhill putt.

Puzzlingly,  while Todd warns us against seeing the hole and the resulting misdirection of our swing, he closes the article by describing the last step in the putting process to be "turn you attention back to the hole and to rolling the ball the correct distance."  By the way,  I was never able to figure out why Todd entitled this article, "Putting with Feel".

Learn to Repeat Your Putting Stroke

Golf Digest / August 2011 / p. 26

In this article the golfer is told to focus their attention on the triangle formed by the arms and shoulders.  In the article’s photos, this triangle can be seen as a yellow overlay.  The article reads, “Ideally, you want your hands and arms working in unison with your chest and shoulders to control the putter’s motion.”

When the player sets up for a putt, a setup that is most widely used among all tour players is for the putter to be centered in the stance.  When it is, a “Y” is formed.  Turn your attention not to the triangle formed by the shoulder line and arms but instead to the “Y” formed by the arms and the club.  When this “Y” is maintained on the backswing and the forward swing, the putter will contact the ball in the precise position which you created at setup.  It is the “Y” that will produce the repeating putting stroke.

Interestingly, if you look at the photo you will see the weakness in the instruction as written in the article.  Notice the “Y” in the center and right photo.  Now notice that the “Y” (upper case), has changed to a “y” (lower case) because the club has changed its position.  The arms and shoulders still have the triangle, but the ball will be sent offline to the right because of the change in the club.
Bottom Line:  Regarding this article, disregard the triangle and pay attention to the “Y”.  Its all about the club.  Make the club swing correctly and disregard the body.