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Archive for the ‘downswing’ Category

In between majors, golf on TV can be prosaic. Lack of name players. Tournaments that mean little. Competition from other sports. Decreasing interest in golf throughout the country, except for the majors. I, for one, find it both entertaining and instructional watching golf on TV between majors. I often turn off the sound, read a book or Sunday paper, and occasionally look up to study swings, strategies,attitudes, and scores on the PGA, LPGA, and European tours. First, check out Mike Ritz, announcing for the Euro tour these days.  He’s the Vin Scully of golf: dynamic, exciting, play by play, with great background info. This guy makes Frederick Anderson Hed look interesting. How about more Mike Ritz announcing for the PGA Tour? Then there’s Kevin Na. Other than John Daly, Na is golf’s biggest potential train-wreck. He badly screws up one shot and is guaranteed to screw up the next four, or more. You can see his mind twisting, churning, and gears grinding until metal hits metal and his teeth start gnashing. It’s the pace that showcases the mind. He gets real speedy over three-foot par putts, way out of his routine. For those few moments, he’s given up, the death knell for a professional golfer. Na’s a record holder around this behavior. He made a 16 on one venture into the woods last year at the Texas Open (only JD’s beat him with an 18 once). Take a look at what Na does during these meltdowns, and don’t play that way. Take a deep breath after a poor shot. Get back into your routine, your pace, your rhythm. Re-find your game. This year, Na got to +7 at the Texas Open and withdrew. Here are a few other tips I picked up watching golf (more…)

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Winter is a time to prepare for the new golf season, mentally and physically. Golf is tough enough for you to try to play much in winter. When I was a kid just starting to play the game in Philly, I’d put on three sweatshirts and play Cobbs Creek for 50 cents on frozen ground with 25 degrees temps. Cold? What cold? I felt no cold as the ball would roll about a million miles (as Rocco would put it), much to my delight. But that was then. Now, in my older middle age, my body and mind just can’t take the cold, wind, rain, and mud of winter, even in relatively mild northern California (I do get out a bit more this winter as we’ve had practically no rain and temps in the 60s so far). Instead, I watch the pros start off the season in Hawaii, swing a bit on my patio, putt  on the rug with a device that guides me into a slight open/close pendulum stroke, joined a gym, and have purchased some very helpful apps for my iPhone/iPad.

My favorite app is Golf My Way by Jack Nicklaus. I love Jack’s breezy, personal style, from filming made at the height of his powers back in the early (more…)

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The golf swing is essentially a whipping motion, and in order to maximize the whip, the shaft has to be right for you. I found this out recently during a swing analysis when I discovered that a senior shaft was ideal for me. The computer screen was showing 20-30 extra yards straight down the middle. For the price of new shaft (fifty bucks installed at my local golf repair shop), I could radically change my game. All I had to do was get over my reluctance to admit that I needed a senior flex. No small hurdle, that one. In fact, along with using white or senior tees, it’s probably the biggest hurdle in lowering one’s scores. And it’s nothing other than a thought, a perception, a view. Men have a tougher time getting older than women, I think. But golf equipment allows us to flow with the years, if we have the wisdom to accept and change. I took that club out to the range and I could see right away the ball was flying farther and straighter. Then I took it out to the course, and, sure enough, I was hitting one or two clubs less into greens. I was driving the ball about 220-230 instead of my usual 200-210. What a difference. And a whole lot more fun. And a better score by several strokes. A faster swing speed? Perhaps. But only because of the increased whip in the shaft. I haven’t gotten stronger, nor do I consciously swing the club any faster.

The whippier shaft does help me load up more efficiently. It increases my lag, and gives me just a split second more (more…)

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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.

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Doing a jigsaw puzzle can take a long time with many pieces to fit together. Such is the swing that motors the drive, and most all the other shots in golf. I’ve studied many books, apps, DVDs, and uTube videos on the subject. I’ve observed the swings of PGA pros on tour, Tivo-ing tournaments and watching in slow motion. I’ve tuned into dozens of instructional shows on the Golf Channel. I’ve spent hundreds on lessons. And I’ve devoured countless tips from golf magazines and online. And yet the jigsaw puzzle of driving a golf ball, for me, remained unsolved…until now.

The three main elements of the puzzle involve distance, accuracy, and (more…)

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