Saturday, October 21, 2006

Secrets Revealed...

My regular readers know that over the past several months I've added at least 2-3 clubs of distance to my irons. Where I used to hit a 7 iron 150 yards, I now hit it 170 yards or more. I have a very short back swing and I never fully hinge my wrists. My swing takes the club back to maybe a tad past vertical. Most folks I play with can't understand how I can hit it so far with such a compact swing.

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about why I thought I had gained so much distance, I attributed this gain in distance to rotating the club face through impact.

Now, some time ago I signed up for Golf Magazine. A couple weeks ago, the first issue arrived. The feature article was entitled, "Instant Power Move" and where I thought I may have found a key to even more yards, I merely confirmed the cause of the yards I've already gained. I've been trying to get some of my friends to try it, but I've not seen it take on any of them.

Check out the article.

Try it on the range for a few days.

You'll like the results once you get used to it.

The article makes it seem like a forced turn, but it's very natural. I just think, "Open face back, close face through impact". If I want a little more distance, I press the shoulder turn a bit more and open the face a bit more on the way back.

The other thing that has helped with distance is impact position. My hands are out in front of the ball at impact and I'm hitting down and through on the ball. I get this impact position set up at address. My hands are forward towards my left pocket and block my view of my left ankle. In addition to promoting a good impact position, this set up de-lofts the club and adds even more distance.

Chances are, you've heard these tips before. I just wanted to point out that they work for me.



Future topic - Hitting the range with my new clubs:

Yep, I wanted a set I could call my own and went with the Bridgestone J33 Combos.

Till next time,

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tips for Beginners and More...

With my game being pretty hot lately, I thought I’d jot down a few key things that I feel have contributed to my continued improvement. These are in no particular order.

Don’t Look Up

The number one thing that has helped me drive my handicap down is the all too often heard, “keep your eye on the ball”. I’ve said it before in this blog and I’ll say it again. Looking up too soon causes most of my poor shots. The important thing to remember about this rule is that you must do it on every shot, from driver to putter. Not only have I shanked drives from looking up, but more commonly, I chunk chips and pull/push putts.

Course Management

The last time I went out, I had a plan to hit as many approach shots as I could from about 90 yards. At the least that meant laying up on par 5s. On short Par 4s, it meant not hitting driver off the tee. How much easier would golf be if every approach were from your favorite wedge distance? If you think ahead, you can maximize the number of shots from that distance. This was the key to my breaking 80 last Saturday.

Options Around the Green

Playing a par 3 course is a great way to learn how to get it up and down. The best way to get it up and down is to have the most reliable shot for the circumstance. Know when you must fly the ball to the hole, when to flop it, and when to run it up. When I started playing I attempted to fly the ball to the hole every time (either with a SW56 or LW60). That is a difficult shot. I read that the bump and run is the easiest and highest percentage shot. I watched a guy bump and run with a PW from all sorts of situations over the course of several rounds and I was amazed at how consistently he got very close to the pin (turns out that guy had a nine-hole chipping course in his back yard) and the variety of shots he produced with that single club. I decided I needed to learn how to do that and I put the SW/LW away for a while. I experimented with everything I could think of while using only the PW for chipping: Open face, closed face, ball toward front of stance, center, back of stance. I experimented with flight-to-roll ratio. I observed the difference in roll if the ball landed on the green as opposed to hitting the fringe. I tried a putting stroke, a chopping swing, breaking the wrists, not breaking the wrists, everything I could think of. The PW became the centerpiece of my game and I was quickly making more up and downs. Then I extended that experience to my other clubs. Today, one of my most reliable shots is sweeping the ball with a 7i and I use it when I can roll the ball to the green. I use the shot when there is not a lot of change in elevation to the pin. If I have a mound to go over, I’ll consider flight-to-roll ratio and hit a club based on that. The key here is to experiment and learn from it. You don’t always have to practice your chipping near a green either. I practice flop shots all the time around the tee box while waiting for a group ahead of me. I flop those golf whiffle balls in the living room and my kids take turns catching them. Practice is practice no matter where you do it.

Practice out of the Rough

I take my kids to our neighborhood park where there are swings and slides adjacent to a soccer/baseball field. I usually throw my SW or GW and a couple balls in the truck on these trips in case the field is not in use. The grass on the field is St. Augustine and it’s tough stuff, certainly worse than typical rough. I enjoy the challenge of trying to heave it out of that stuff on line and to determined distances. I do it upwind and down wind. From that I get pretty good numbers on how far I can hit out of the rough. I also practice out of the rough on the range. I usually stay late and when there are only a couple people hitting, I hit a several shots out of the area in front of the hitting area where the grass is good and thick and tall. I have found that my shots out of the rough are often to the right and well short of my usual distances and it gets worse as I move to taller clubs. I won't even consider hitting a 3i or 4i out of the rough and the lie has to be pretty good before I'll hit a 5i or 6i. That is valuable information on the course.

Find Your Ball

I was once told that the most important thing about a tee shot is finding the ball after the shot. Funny, but true! Be sure you watch your ball especially on your errant shots. Mark the landing spot and pick a landmark that is in line with the where you saw it land. Now you should have a line of reference to walk on and with a bit of luck, you’ll walk up to your ball. I play with a lot of beginners at Green Caye and the game would progress so much faster if people paid attention to where their ball goes. Sure we play at night but still, taking a good mark on where your ball lands will save strokes.

Another Learning Experience

I played again last night and I had a huge learning experience. If you follow my game at all, you may recall my writing about hitting everything to the right. Either I faded the ball or I pushed it, or I failed to fully release. Then I had the experience that if I forced the release I would draw the shot too much. Well, I figured out that my problem was in my alignment.

Last night on the first tee I decided to place an additional ball on the tee box four feet in front of the ball I intended to hit in line with the pin (or where I was aiming). I then took my stance such that my swing path at impact would be along that line. It’s very similar to what I do when putting; pick an aim point a few feet away. When I looked at the pin (or where I was aiming) I was amazed to see what looked like an alignment too far to the left. My instinct was to waggle my alignment more right and I had to fight it, but once I got the shot off it was dead at the pin. So, for the remainder of the round I would place my ball on the tee box in line with a feature (Divit, sand-filled divot, tuft of grass, whatever) that lined up with my aim point. I have never hit so many shots right on line in my life. Too bad I couldn’t buy a putt!! I still shot 33 (+6) and 31 (+4) with three 3-putts and missed several birdie attempts.

I will now make it a habit to use a close aim point to establish the correct alignment on every shot. In the past, I had always picked an aim point in the distance, which apparently didn’t work too well for me.

This has been the all time greatest month for me at Green Caye. So much has come together. I feel so ready to go out and destroy all of my previous records on the various courses I play.

I’ll post the results,


Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Smashing of Records...

Best round at Green Caye

So, my cycle continues: Play Green Caye for a month, play regulation courses the next month. My month at Green Caye is still good for another week, but yesterday they were having their monthly tournament so I decided to play San Jacinto and see if I could beat my previous best score of 81. Why didn't I play in the tournament? Well, this month it's two-person teams playing alternate shot. After asking nearly everyone I knew, I could not find a partner.

That really hurts because my game is hot! I just shot an EVEN PAR ROUND down there after taking a bogey on number one. I followed an opening bogey with three greenies that became routine pars. I hit a sweet 7i 175 on #5 to two feet for a tap in birdie. I missed the green right on #8 but swept a 7i up to the cup for a tap in par. I needed another birdie because #9 is 216 yards and I don't par it too often. On the other hand, I have been scoring great on #7 lately, making several birdies there. That would not be the case today though. I stuck the shot and left a 10-foot uphill putt. I winced as I left the putt 2 feet short, but I made the par. Then disaster struck - I shanked a PW on #8. I'm in the rough and 75 yards out; I hack it out with a sand wedge and make the green... then drop a 15 footer. I'm even par looking a pin 216 yards away.

This entire cycle here at Green Caye, I have been concentrating on my long irons. I have been hitting my 4i on #9 and generally making it to the front on the green. Of course my goal this month has been to get the greenie on #9 with the 4i. I have also been working with the 3i (took the 5W out of the bag) on the range. These are the clubs that I have been hitting nice consistent little draws with using the method I described in my last post.

So, it's decision time: 3i or 4i? I've never hit the 3i on the course before and while I know a good shot will get me there, I decided to stick with the 4i. I made several practice swings, and let it rip. The ball flew perfectly toward the right side of the green and then as if it spotted the pin, started drawing left. Hitting the fringe one foot short of the green, the ball rolled fifteen feet right toward the pin. The putt was 20-25 feet and a timid strike left it 5 feet short. The second putt dropped and new records were set.

1. Got a greenie on #9 at Green Caye with a 4i (213 yards)
2. Smashed previous record of 29 with an EVEN PAR ROUND

New Records at San Jac

Without a partner for the tournament at Green Caye, I decided I would give it my best effort to break 80 at San Jac. I don't know how I will ever get comfortable playing in tournaments. I tossed and turned all night because I was anxious. I knew I had enough game to break 80 at San Jac, but trying to meet a specific goal seems to be a good recipe for humble pie.


Things began poorly when I tried a gentle draw down the right side. I pulled the shot into the rough on the left but my second found the green. I then went bogey, par, bogey, bogey, TRIPLE, par, par, par for a 42 on the front.

The back nine really came together:

10. Fairway, green, par
11. Missed the fairway hit the green, par
12. Par 3, got the green, par
13. Missed the fairway hit the green, par
14. Fairway, missed the green, 2-putt bogey
15. Fairway, missed the green, up and down par

This is where it gets good. Short par four dogleg right. My drive is off the fairway long at the turn. I'm directly behind a tree, but I punch a 3i onto the green. Sink a 25-foot putt for birdie.

Next is a short par 5. I layup on the second to 80 yards. Easy SW to two feet, easy birdie.

18. 175 yard par 3. 7i finds the green, par

So I come in on the back nine at -1 which gives me my new record of 77.

3. Best round: 77 at San Jac
4. Best nine: -35 at San Jac

If that isn't cool enough, I also saw my first hole-in-one. One of the guys I was playing with hit a PW on #3 and it hit the green, and hopped in the hole!! He went on to shoot his course record of 96. We had some good MOJO along for the ride for that round.

Since I was playing so well, I played another round an shot 84 which consisted of similar great play minus the two birdies and plus two triples. I lost one ball over the course of two rounds. I feel like I can play golf.

From on top of the world - thanks for reading,