Saturday, August 27, 2011

No More Chunky Chips

Today I had a long conversation with one of the members of the golf club I work about how to eliminate the ‘fat’ shots from his short game. He said he had a great round except for a couple chips that he ‘chunked.’ To clarify, a ‘fat’ or ‘chunked’ shot is one where the clubhead impacts the grass behind the ball first, which decelerates the club tremendously and results in the golf ball traveling only a fraction of the distance desired.

In order to eliminate the ‘fat’ shot from your short game, you must accomplish a few things. One of these keys is to hit down on the ball and contact the golf ball first. This is easiest when you play the ball in the middle or back of your stance and lean the shaft of your club forward at address. You also want to put more weight toward your front foot and lean toward the target slightly.

Another important part of eliminating heavy shots is to select your club carefully. Many golfers take a high-lofted wedge out for every shot around the green. That can work in your favor when you do not have a lot of green to work with to roll your ball up to the hole, but when you do have some green to work with you need to take something with less loft. Take 8 or 9 iron to chip with around the green, this will keep your swing very short and compact which helps with hitting the ball solidly. When you take a high-lofted wedge around the green, you usually have to alter your normal chipping stroke to hit the ball the correct distance. When you alter your chipping stroke, you bring the ‘fat’ shot into the equation.

The final thought is definitely the most important for avoiding a chunked shot. You must accelerate through impact. Many golfers, with a chip or pitch, try to take a long backswing and control the distance the ball travels by slowing their clubhead down when coming into the impact area. Decelerating the club is the leading cause of ‘chunked’ shots. That is because when you slow things down in the middle of your swing your club can snag the ground very easily and dig into the ground and cause a ‘fat’ shot. So, what I teach my students to do when they are struggling with their chipping is to make sure their follow-through is longer than their backswing. This insures that the club is accelerating through impact.

Hitting a shot heavy around the greens is one of the worst feelings in golf and you know instantly that you have made a mistake. Hopefully, this article has helped you save some shots around the greens and I hope you never have to endure another ‘fat’ shot around the greens again!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Crush Your Tee Shot

Every golfer wants to hit it past their golfing buddies off the tee. Having a powerful golf swing and hitting long drives makes the game easier and more enjoyable. I’m here to give you some tips on how to gain some more distance off the tee.

My first word of advice starts with the setup position. When hitting the driver, you want to setup to the ball with your spine tilted slightly away from the ball. This helps you to hit the golf ball on the upswing which translates into greater distance because of a decreased spin rate and better launch angle. With this altered spine angle, you will want a wide stance and you want to play the ball towards your front foot. You need a wide stance to act as a stable base for the long and fast swing you make with the driver. You also want to play the ball towards your front foot to catch the ball on the upswing. I suggest playing the ball just inside of your left heel. This setup position also means that you are going to have approximately 60% of your weight distribution on your right foot.

My second tip is to keep your lower body movement very quiet as you rotate your upper body. This movement creates a lot of torque, which means when you do start your downswing you can unwind your upper body quickly to create maximum clubhead speed. This requires flexibility to achieve, which may mean that you will need to work on your flexibility at the gym or in your home during free time. The best areas to stretch to achieve this movement are your lower back muscles and hip flexors.

A third key is to swing the club faster, not harder. What I mean by this is to try to gain more clubhead speed by making sure the sequence of your movements is correct and you stay in balance. When most golfers try to hit the ball farther they try to hit the ball harder, which usually results in an errant shot because they have fallen off balance or tried to throw their hands through impact. This always results in an errant shot because your natural timing and rhythm is thrown off. It should feel like you are swinging smoother, which also gives you a better chance of hitting the ball on the sweet spot of the club and result in more distance.

Finally, don’t rule out the need for a new driver. Technology is advancing in drivers very quickly and you do not want to have a driver that has inferior technology. There are many golf courses and golf retail shops that will fit you for a driver. Getting fit for a driver is a pretty simple and quick process. You go through different driver head and shaft combinations to find the perfect setup that gives you the right amount of spin, launch angle, etc.

These tips should help you drive the ball a little farther and give you some bragging rights with your golfing buddies next time you hit the links.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Nail The Short Putts

In my opinion, making putts that are inside five feet is all about having confidence in your abilities. The best short putters in the world all have incredible confidence in their putting and their ability to drain short putts. Tiger Woods was, at one point, the best putter inside five feet in the world and that was because he had confidence in himself and his putting.

It all starts with your stroke. You must have a putting stroke that is easy to repeat, achieves the best results for you and that you are comfortable with. Your stroke can be any kind of method; straight back and through, inside-to-inside, out-to-in, whatever works for you. The important part is that you trust your stroke and know that you can make putts with it.

The second key to making short putts is to check your grip pressure. Most golfers get very tense over short putts because there is that expectation that your putt must go in the hole. There is a stigma of embarrassment associated with missing a short putt, but you have to put that to the side and not let it creep into your head when over a short putt. When addressing the ball, make sure your grip pressure is very light all the way through the stroke and impact with the ball. This really helps to make sure you are not getting too tense over the ball and trying to steer the ball in the hole.

The third key to making short putts is the KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN. I see so many amateurs lift their head up at impact or just before impact because they are too anxious to see if the ball is going in the hole. Lifting your head is the worst thing you can do because it alters your stroke and pulls your whole body away from the target. The best thing to do if you are having trouble with keeping your head down is to just listen for the ball to go in the hole. If you are within five feet of the hole, you will be able to hear the distinctive rattle of the ball falling in the cup, there is no need to lift your head. Practice keeping your head down until you hear the ball fall in the cup and then you can lift your head.

Finally, don’t get caught up in the stigma that is involved with missing a short putt. The best players in the world miss putts from inside a few feet all the time, it is going to happen. You just cannot let it shake your confidence in your stroke. Practice those three keys next time you are out on the putting green and then take it to the course with you next time you play and you will be on your way to better scores and fewer three putts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Find Your Pre-Shot Routine

Pre-shot routines are a part of the golf game that very few people teach or talk about. This is because a pre-shot routine is not directly related to the golf swing and does not deal with mechanics, course management, etc. I feel that finding your own pre-shot routine that works best for you and allows you to be as comfortable and confident as possible before a golf shot is very important.

A pre-shot routine is something that is unique to each individual. The best pre-shot routines involve some degree of visualization, practice swings and alignment adjustments. Visualization is important because you want to have a plan or a blueprint for exactly how you want your shot to go. It is important to have a plan for each shot and take into account exactly where you want your ball to end up. It is also important to find hazards that may be in your way and where the best place to miss a shot would be. Better players do their visualization when standing behind the ball so that they can imagine their ball flying toward the target. Practice swings are important because they help you get loose and rehearse the feeling you want when you actually hit the ball. Practice swings can be unique to you, some players take full swings at 100% normal speed and some players make very small swings that just rehearse impact. Alignment adjustments are a key to getting comfortable over the ball. These come after you have addressed the ball and are trying to make sure your body and clubhead are aligned at your target. Usually these adjustments involve adjusting your feet or hands to become comfortable before you pull the trigger.

I will use my pre-shot routine as an example. After I have figured out my yardage, lie situation, club, shot shape, etc. I will go beside the ball and take two small practice swings. My practice swings are slow and I only take them back about ¾ of the way to the top and I rehearse what I am going to do with the club at impact. This helps me get a feel for hitting my desired shot shape such as a draw, fade, high shot, low shot, etc. I then walk back about five feet behind the ball and visualize my shot. After that, I walk beside the ball and take my address position and adjust my feet, body and hands until I am comfortable and aiming correctly. While I am adjusting myself I will look back and for the between the ball and my target until I am all set to go and then I pull the trigger.

This sequence of motions is what works best for me and it has taken me a long time to find what gets me the most comfortable over the ball. Every pre-shot routine is different and you may have to do some experimenting next time you are out on the course to find the one that works best for you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Determining Ball Position

Figuring out where to play the golf ball in your stance can be a difficult task to manage for beginning golfers. There are a few basic guidelines to follow when determining where to play the golf ball in your stance to hit the golf shot you desire.

One guideline is the play the ball more towards your back foot for shorter clubs like your wedges, and more towards your front foot when hitting longer clubs like your driver. This is mainly to help promote the best contact with the golf ball as possible and achieve the desired distance you want for each club. Hitting wedge shots effectively is influenced a great deal by hitting down on the ball and controlling the loft of the club at impact, which is made easier by playing the ball slightly back of the center of your stance. Hitting drives to achieve maximum distance is achieved best by hitting the ball slightly on a slight up-swing, which is most easily achieved by playing the ball towards your front foot. The ball position also has some influence on the path of the clubhead when it strikes the ball. When hitting a wedge shot more toward your back foot, you will catch the ball at impact with more of an inside-out swing path than normal. The opposite is true with driver shots because you are playing the ball more toward your front foot you will impact the ball on a slightly more outside-in swing path than normal. It is important to take these factors into consideration when thinking about your golf shot.

Ball position also allows you to hit a golf shot higher or lower depending on where you place the ball in relation to your stance. When you place the ball more towards your front foot, you can hit the ball higher in the air because you will have less forward shaft lean at impact, which adds loft to the clubhead. The opposite is also true, when you place the ball more towards your back foot you can hit the ball lower because you will have more forward shaft lean at impact, which de-lofts the clubhead.

In conclusion, ball position in relation to your stance depends on exactly what type of golf shot you want to hit. Different ball flights can be achieved through different ball position set-ups, but there are a few guidelines that help beginner golfers such as playing the ball toward your back foot with a short club and toward your front foot with a long club.