Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Couples’ Category

More than any other golf tournament in the world, the Masters carries a mystique that elevates golf to the gods. This year Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer, three of the greatest who ever played the game, will hit ceremonial balls off the first tee to start the tournament. Can you name another tournament that starts like this? All past Masters winners gather for a dinner the night before the start to feast on a meal sponsored by last year’s winner. Can you name another tournament that does that? The Masters was conceived and developed by Bobby Jones, winner of the Grand Slam, and perhaps the greatest golfer ever, all things considered. Can you name another tournament with those bona fides and ancestry? While we still debate whether to call The Open, the British Open, only one word is needed to identify the Masters, worldwide. And a win (or a loss) at the Masters can define a career.

Take Fred Couples, when, in 1992, we all held our collective breath as his tee ball somehow stopped on the steep embankment in front of the par 3 12th green. One more turn and it would have tumbled into Rae’s Creek, his Masters hopes dashed as he battled the formidable Raymond Floyd for the title. In 1996, we remember the loser much more than the winner. Greg Norman took a 6-shot lead into the final round, only to lose by five to Nick Faldo. Faldo shot 67 to Norman’s 78, (more…)

Read Full Post »

Arnold Palmer says no. Sir Nick says, sure, why not. Keegan Bradley won the PGA with it, the first ever major won with a long putter. Adam Scott resurrected his career with it. As did Freddy Couples. It’s easier on the back. It takes the left hand, if held still, out of the stroke completely. It creates a pendulum action on par with a grandfather clock. But should it be legal? The King is very clear on this, saying that no golf club should be anchored to the body. Anchoring the club to the body, as with the belly or long putter, creates an advantage that a free swinging putter does not have. It removes a variable that has been with golfers since the inception of the game.  To hold the butt end of the club against the body provides a stability unavailable to those using putters of usually no more than 35 inches.

It’s a matter of confidence, which is at the core of successful putting. Putting simulates the movements of a pendulum, and a golfer’s skill is dependent upon how pendulum-like he or she can control the club. If the end of the club is fixed to the torso, (more…)

Read Full Post »

The golf swing is mostly a matter of staying in balance. At address, you are in a state of balance. The feet are firmly planted. The head is steady, with the eyes fixed on the ball. The weight shifts between both feet as you waggle the club. The grip is light and ready for action. The hips are quiet, anticipating the coming turn. The arms are loose, like a sling ready to whip into the shot. Even the ball sits so serenely on tee or turf, the unsuspecting recipient of unbridled molded metal launched like a hammer from the thrower’s lunge. The waggle settles into a quiet stillness in that final moment before the club is drawn back, before centrifugal force emerges from the hara, the figurative center, of the golfer’s soul. Balance. Even the air stills, in response to the golfer’s equanimity.

Ah, if only that moment of stillness, of quiet, of mind as dumb and silent as a water buffalo, as my Buddhist teacher Ajahn Sumedho would put it,  could be retained throughout what is now to happen. If only that homeostasis could be retained throughout the swing of a golf club. But alas, the moment of truth comes. The swing, the movement, must commence, and with far more urgency than the infamous Garcia waggles of yesteryear. The tsunami approaches. No time for thought or further preparation. The water rises and you can’t see over it. You’re in too deep now. You’ve made the date and it’s time to dance and you better know your steps or your date will leave you dancing alone. Your date…in golf? Your swing. Your confidence. Your self respect. Your balance.

Since your downswing comes on as fast as a Navy Seal at bin Laden’s hideout, the start of that action is crucial. It must be well timed or your balance will be compromised. So you have to find a pace that will help you maintain balance through impact to follow through, but is not so slow as to compromise distance for accuracy. Now most amateurs think that the faster the pace, the farther the ball will go. But this is only true if you can keep your balance throughout. Chi Chi Rodriguez had a very short backswing but an extremely quick pace, and this worked for him. John Daly has a very long backswing with a much slower pace. Freddy Couples has a backswing at about parallel with a relatively slow pace. At the follow through, all of these accomplished pros were and are in balance. In fact, just about all touring pros share this characteristic, despite the many variations of form and pace. Each has found a pace that allows them to make solid contact while staying in balance.

So you need to experiment in the laboratory: the range. You’ll find right off that the longer the club, the more difficult to retain balance while achieving distance and accuracy. Therefore, the driver is the most important club in the bag to find the correct pace for your swing. Controlling the clubhead of a driver is a bit like swinging a snake by the tail. It helps then to have your driver professionally fitted to your swing, especially the shaft. That way, whatever pace is best for you will take full advantage of the technology of modern clubs.

And how do you finish the driver swing? Your weight should be on the front foot, with your back foot positioned on the toes. Your hands should be high in the follow through, with your belt buckle facing the target. If you’ve been in perfect balance throughout the swing, you will hear the result with the crack of solid contact, and there is often a forward recoil of the club as you’d feel after a firing a gun. It’s an extremely satisfying experience. Unfortunately, many amateurs I see end with their weight on their back foot, their clubhead skewed left of target, their forward arm bent like a boomerang, and about as balanced as a drunk driver. The flight of the ball, the other major barometer of balance, will usually be anywhere but straight and off the ground. Often playing a high spin ball more suited to a pro, the ball flight will be curved, either hooked or sliced in the woods or rough or whatever trouble the hole defends itself with. We have an expression that “the course beat me up today.” Not correct. We beat ourselves up with our out-of-balance swings.

And what about irons and hybrids? More than the driver, these are clubs where the weight has to be shifted quickly and forcefully from the back foot at the top of the backswing to the front foot at the start of the downswing. It’s the only way the clubhead can contact the ball first then the turf, producing the action of the ball rising up the angle of the club face and grabbing the grooves for the backspin needed to hold a green. That’s how and why  a divot is needed and taken–a divot about the size of a dollar bill. Anything less and you have a chunk, a thin, a top, a skank, or a shank. Again, balance is the key, and the weight shift and hip turn and still head keeps you there.

Finally, there are the eyes. If you close your eyes and spin around, you’ll probably lose your balance. In golf we use the eyes to watch the ball, which becomes the object of our concentration. Throughout the day, our eyes help us stay in balance, help orient ourselves to our surroundings as we constantly shift and adapt to our changing reference points. With golf, it’s easier as we have only one reference point to focus upon: the ball. Watch it throughout the swing.

There’s more, I know. But this should give you enough to experiment with. Next step is to hit the range and play with the combinations and permutations of balance. It’ll help you reach the next level…and not fall off.

Read Full Post »

As with the previously mentioned monkey traps of South America, where monkeys trap themselves by holding on to the food in a simple gourd hung from a tree, only having to let go the food and go free, many golfers are like those monkeys and hold on too tight to the club, from address on through the critical impact zone. By clutching the grip like a splitting maul, tension builds up throughout the swing, and when the first significant resistance is encountered, at impact, the likelihood of letting go the club is great.

Tension is the archenemy of the golf swing, be it mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual. And tension starts with the grip. The hands are so sensitive that they translate any tension generated by the above factors. And that translation is usually one of tightness. We think the tighter the better, but golf is often counter-intuitive. Unfortunately most instructors emphasize holding the club tightly with the last three fingers of the non-dominant hand. The brain often interprets that as a kind of death grip that also affects the other fingers. And it’s there we monkeys are caught in the trap of no return. For with a grip of such intensity, there’s only one way to go: (more…)

Read Full Post »