Impact – The Moment of Truth by Scott Sackett
By Scott Sackett
The greatest feeling in golf is a dead-solid, perfect impact. The moment of truth: impact! To get that feeling time after time there is a list of positive things that must happen. If your swing brings the club to impact with solid positioning, all the necessities for a perfect golf shot are there: correct clubhead speed, correct path, correct plane, correct face position, the club face centered on the ball and a flat left wrist. These are not as elusive as you might think. I’m going to explain what happens in simple terms and give you a few drills so that with a little work, you can begin to achieve increasingly better impact no matter what your handicap is today. I guarantee you will learn quickly enough to see results within a few practice sessions.
First, let’s look at the two pictures above.Nearly all the top tour players, and in fact, all of those at the top of greens in regulation statistics, have an impact position similar to #2. By comparing the two pictures, you will see what the critical differences are, and what to practice in your own game:
1) Weight—In #1, the body weight is balanced between the feet, whereas in #2 it is 75 percent (or more) on the left foot.
2) Feet—Notice that the feet in #1 are solidly on the ground; however, in #2, there is air under the right heel, and the heel is in front of the toe. This is a power position in golf you must try to achieve. In some swings, you’ll see the right heel backing up, caused by a reverse pivot.
3) At impact, the right knee is moving forward both toward the left knee and out toward the ball. The right knee, hip and elbow are in line with each other, indicating a smooth turning of the body, a great position to check in the mirror.
4) Notice the cupped right wrist, while the left wrist is flat and forward. To hit the ball hard, the right wrist must be slightly cupped, never flat.
5) The hands have moved 3 to 5 inches forward from the original position. This puts the left arm and the shaft in a relatively straight line. (We often see the opposite of this position in amateurs, where the right arm and shaft form the straight line. This would indicate a picking or scooping motion, something you will never see in an advanced player.)
6) The left knee is in the process of straightening and moving into a braced position, forming a vertical “wall” from the foot to the shoulder (the “post” you hear teachers talk about).
7) The position of the left hip, forward from address, shows a little sliding to the left, but not outside the left knee, also indicating more turn than slide.
8) The hips have opened about 30 degrees while the shoulders are still relatively square to the target line. There are only two things that are the same at impact as they were at address: the positions of the head and right wrist.
The key to all of this is working slowly with half swings to create muscle-memory for the ideal positions for solid impact. Next are a few exercises to help develop this.
Use the 2×4 board to help you feel the move through impact. Make a half-swing and then slowly bring the clubhead into contact with the back of the board, taking care to move the weight to the left side, establish the “post” of left leg and hip, and simulate the impact position with the hands leading the clubhead. Then, using the shoulders and arms together, push the board slowly down the target line. Notice how the club and hands move past the left ‘post’ in Photo #4 where the chair stops forward movement of the hips. Do this ten times very slowly to get a feel for the impact position, and then hit a few balls with a wedge trying to make the identical moves. Don’t be concerned at all with where the ball goes—focus on positions and feel.
To simulate the impact position, without a club in your hands, go from the weight-balanced, glove-label up position in Photo #5, to the weight-left, glove-label down position of Photo #6, to the released glove-label left position of Photo #7. When you can progress smoothly from Photo #5 to Photo #7 positions, then repeat with a club until smooth, softly hitting balls with a wedge 10-15 yards. Once you have that down, which should take less than one practice session of 30 minutes, gradually progress up to 1/2 swings. Do not attempt to make full swings until the movement has become second nature … probably after several practice sessions over a week or so.
Short Game Brilliance by Michael Haywood
By Michael Haywood
If you wish to take your game to the next level, then the short game is where you want to go. It is no surprise that the most important statistics on the PGA and LPGA tours are short game stats. On Sunday afternoon, it often comes down to who gets the ball up and in from around the green that determines success or failure. The improvements of the short game can single-handedly reduce a player’s handicap or, in the case of University of Arizona Senior and 2008 Curtis Cup team member Alison Walshe, make the difference between winning an NCAA title and finishing in the back of the pack. To better understand the essentials of a good short game, begin with the selection of clubs in the bag. Because there are many different types of wedges to choose from, it will be very important for you to select the one(s) that fit your game the best.
The 50 and 52-degree wedges are designed for the player who wants the comfort and reliability of a gap wedge for in-between shots. A player will choose one of these wedges in place of a
long iron or fairway wood, ultimately giving themselves four wedges in the bag: 48, 56 and 60.
The 54 and 56-degree wedges are the common sand wedge varieties that are versatile from bunker to fairway conditions. This player will choose one or the other depending on preference and style of play.
The 58 and 60-degree wedges also depend greatly on what the player expects to achieve from bunker conditions. While the 60-degree wedge is the most popular choice, the 58 suits the needs of those players who want a little more distance from their lob wedge from the fairway.
Whichever you choose, the important aspect of club selection is a matter of feel and style of play. I do not recommend the same clubs for everyone, and you should be open-minded in determining the selection that fits for you.
Without the proper pre-swing fundamentals, success is very difficult to achieve. In the photos above you will see that Alison has a solid set-up position with her hands hanging naturally from her body in a very relaxed manner. Her ball position is slightly forward of center with a narrow width of stance. This stance will increase in width as the shot increases in length. It is always important, however, to feel centered over the ball at address, keeping the weight equal on both feet. Everything about Alison’s set-up position is stable and relaxed with little or no tension—and it allows her to begin the takeaway.
You will find that the set-up is the same with any short shot from around the green—including the bunker. Notice that Alison is also very square (parallel) to the target line; this allows the club to be swung on a consistent path back and through the ball. Now, some players will feel a little more comfortable with a slightly open stance out of the bunker. It is important to note that being open to the target too much can lead to poor and inconsistent position at impact.
Last, but probably most important in the set-up, is the position of the hands at address. Alison does a fine job of ensuring her hands are slightly in front of the ball. From this relaxed and simple position Alison is now ready to begin the takeaway.
Take-away is where players often tighten up and pull the club far too much inside, leading to an inconsistent path through the ball. It is important to note that the takeaway is simply a position move with length. This length is step one of three steps that will determine distance and direction.
In Alison’s position you will see that the club moves straight back from the ball. This position allows the club to set in a “toe-up” position, allowing the player to bring the club back down just inside the line. I often get the question of, “How much do I move my body on the takeaway?” The fact is the body will move to thedegree the hands and arms tell it to, but the last thing a player needs to do is force these positions or hold them back. You will see that Alison’s body does move on the takeaway but to a very small degree, again not forced and with no tension.
Because of this, Alison can now return the club back to the impact position confidently, knowing she can maintain the speed of her hands through the ball without decelerating at impact. Being consistent with your wedge game is important. Understanding that the same fundamentals apply with each swing is essential to good results. Challenging yourself in the following manner will give you a more well-rounded short game and more options as you approach a shot from around the green.
Use the lofts on your wedges to give you similar but different shots to the same target.
One wedge shot may carry the ball further with more height while the same wedge with a different technique can produce a lower height while landing it just on the green allowing it to “roll out.”
Using the length of the swing a player can produce similar results with different clubs by squaring, opening and even closing the club face. Use that length of the swing to control speed and tempo.
DOWNSWING & IMPACT
The one thing I have seen over the years is that far too much emphasis is placed on impact. By worrying too much on “hitting the ball” instead of “through the ball” players will cheat themselves out of the rhythm and feel that is needed to become a good short game player. The downswing should be a mirror image of the take-away, ensuring the club is returned back on the line it traveled initially (or slightly inside). However, what cannot be seen in any still picture is the player’s ability to maintain or increase their speed through the hitting area. Alison has grown acutely aware that her positions at impact are completely irrelevant if she does not sufficiently maintain the speed of her hands through the ball, returning the club back to the original address position at impact.
A good follow-through is the by-product of a solid and fundamentally sound down move that is based primarily on the speed of the hands—this cannot be emphasized enough. In Alison’s follow-through, she keeps the club out in front of her torso and through toward the target. This is such an important position because the player cannot do this if they decelerate or slow the hands down through impact. Alison’s follow-through positions in both the shots (chip & bunker) are practically identical to her positions on her take-away. She has become proficient at using the length of her swing with good speed through the ball to create a consistent quality of shot.
SPOT & SPEED
Once you become familiar with these techniques you can fine-tune your short game by being very specific with where your ball lands on the green. A specific rule of thumb is the 25 percent rule. Pick a spot that is approximately 25 percent of the distance from the front edge of the green to the flagstick. What is critical is to choose a club that will land the ball on this spot, allowing it to roll out to the flag. The choice of club will vary from player to player. It’s important to experiment with your equipment to see which clubs work with what shots.
The best way to control these and all short game shots is to use the length of the club to your advantage. By choking down on the club you move the hands closer to the club head, establishing control of the club. By ensuring a consistent speed through the ball, a player can now control the trajectory, distance and direction of the shots. Spot and Speed are critical elements to a successful
The improvement in a player’s short game can be the single most important step toward lower scores. Make the commitment, build a consistent approach with the help of a PGA professional and use these techniques to create a great short game.
Stop Fixing Yourself: You\‘re Not Broken
By Dave Breslow
One of the most common statements I hear from players at every level is: “If I could only get out of my own way, I know I’d play better!” Have you ever thought this or said this to yourself? Do you find yourself muttering this when you miss an easy shot? Are negative emotions churning too high and are you allowing anger, lack of confidence or you allow anger, lack of confidence or the need to be perfect to interfere with your ability to play your best?
The truth is, when you think or say this statement, you’re absolutely right! You’re very smart because the truth is: if you did get out of your own way you would be better. The challenge most people have is they aren’t sure how to get out of their own way so they keep trying new tips in the hopes it will eventually happen.
Many believe the keys to success are hard work, the best equipment and the gathering of as much information as possible. Of course, these things are very important, but if these were the only keys more people would be shaving strokes off their game. A lot of people work hard, have great equipment and have loads of information at their disposal. They read a lot of books, buy tapes and attend seminars. So, why are they still not able to perform up to their true talent level? It’s because there is often a big gap between what they know and what they do. How do you know when you’re in your own way?
Here are some telltale signs:
You over analyze or your mind is “running on”
You get angry when things don’t go your way!
Frustration/anger interferes with good decision making
Lack of confidence appears prior to a shot
You recall negative memories prior to a shot
You try the same approach and expect a different result
FIXING WHAT’S NOT BROKEN
Many players are looking for “the answer” or one quick fix tip that will put them over the top. We know from our own experience that this approach rarely provides us with the longterm benefit we’re looking for, yet we continue chasing it down. Of course, we keep doing it as a way to pursue excellence and this is always an admirable quality. The real question becomes this: Is what we’re doing getting us what we want? If it is, great! If it’s not, it’s important to step back and take an honest look because the goal to improve is a good one, but most likely the strategy we’re using to get there isn’t.
I invite you to take a look at a common misperception I observe in many golfers I work with…in fact many other clients from all walks of life, as well. I call it the “Something’s broken so I need to fix it”mindset.
When people set off on a journey to compile more strategies and more tips to help them perform better, they do this while thinking that there’s something to “fix” in themselves. In other words, there is an assumption they are “broken” in some way because something’s not working. It makes perfect sense on the surface, doesn’t it? If you’re not playing as well as you know you can, the solution is to try and fix the problem, right? The problem with this mindset is most people keep trying to fix things that aren’t really the problem to begin with.
The Wired to Win© philosophy is not based on the “I need to fix myself” approach.You don’t need to fix anything. Truth is you already have the key performance tools you need to play your best golf. You simply need to put them back in sync. Believe it or not, some people would actually rather believe they need to fix themselves than believe they’re already equipped with everything they need. This “fix it” philosophy is an illusion and will keep a person “chasing their own tail.”
Here’s a metaphor to demonstrate this. I call it the “Elite Racing Engine.” A finely tuned racing engine is loaded with elite parts. When those parts run smoothly they operate in a very efficient manner.When there is any obstruction or disruption in the process this high performing engine generally begins to under-perform.One part of the engine works harder to overcompensate for the other poor working parts, and it will eat up more fuel than it normally would and generally perform at less than peak efficiency.
Here’s the question: When this engine under-performs, are the parts no longer elite?
The Answer: No, the parts are still elite. Just because the engine under-performs doesn’t mean the parts are no longer elite; they’re just not operating effectively together anymore. I believe this process is exactly the same for you and me. You already have elite parts within you. When you under-perform your parts aren’t “broken” nor are they less elite, they’re just not operating together efficiently!
The Wired to Win© approach is based on fundamental laws and principles that allow your elite parts to function more effectively. Most golfers don’t need “more” information. They already have far too much mental clutter as it is. Here’s the proof: If you’ve ever experienced the “zone” you know it’s a state where your elite parts are operating beautifully and it’s also a state of “less”…not more! When in the zone you don’t over-think, worry, compare or waste energy at all. So, playing your best is a matter of “less” not more…it’s a matter of really “getting out of your own way.”
“If I could only…”
David Breslow is a National Speaker, Author and Performance Consultant. His book, “Wired To Win” is available at 888.280.7715. His clients include professional athletes (PGA, LPGA, other sports) as well as Business Organizations. He brings a fresh, direct, no-nonsense revolutionary approach to Human Performance, helping people make quicker and more powerful shifts in attitude, behavior and action. His articles are read by over 400,000 people per month on The Golf Channel website. For more info on the NEW video training course, Consulting and Presentations; please visit: www.theflowzone.net, email: [email protected] or call: 847.681.0247
Cool Clubs – An Introduction to Club Fitting
–by Michael Bartlett
Golfers serious about their game need to discover the 21st-century way of buying the right club–custom fitting using computers and cameras.
As Cool Clubs founder Mark Timms points out, only a small segment of the golfing population has been properly fitted for clubs. His arguments for doing so are: 1) It’s cheaper in the long run to invest in fitting sessions rather than continue buying the wrong clubs at considerable cost, 2) the knowledge one gains from the sessions will help you swing better, specifically the putter fitting which revolves not only around your present putter but your putting set-up and stroke, both analyzed in precise detail.
Today’s 21st century testing process requires time, a relatively modest financial investment and effort by you the golfer, both physical and mental. To go through the six separate Cool Club fittings, from driver to putter, takes about seven hours. The total cost is about $600-700, or you can choose single sessions at $100-150. The effort you put in requires hitting dozens of balls with all of your clubs and mastering a short course in technical terminology. If you persevere, you’ll likely have a set of clubs that drops strokes off your game, makes you more aware of how your swing works, and guaranteed you’ll never look at a golf club the same way, from grip to grooves.
In order to help golfers of all skill levels, especially middle-to-high handicappers, we put ourselves in the hands of the Cool Clubs experts and went through the entire battery of fittings. We worked in one of the indoor testing bays and outdoors at the Cool Clubs TPC of Scottsdale facility where they perform the “Gap Fitting” analysis.
Our fitting specialist was Josiah Solberg.Solberg possesses a boundless enthusiasm for his craft that never wavered during a marathon six-hour session in which he worked his way through all clubs in our bag on 18 parameters. Solberg proved to be articulate and concise as he explained the machines used in the testing, the basic factors to be measured and what he would recommend with each club to improve performance. He even went so far as to suggest some swing adjustment, thus providing free lessons along the way.
To break down the process, here are five areas covered when you work with a professional fitter like Cool Clubs.
1) The Basics
2) The Driver
3) Irons: The Short and Long (Hybrids/Fairway Woods)
5) Gap Fitting
Cool Clubs – The Basics of Club Fitting
by: Michael Bartlett
The "Words of Art" of Club Measurement
When you start hitting balls in one of Cool Clubs testing bays, its machines record 18 distinct parts of your swing and club performance. These are organized into three areas of interest:
1) Club Path: The path your club takes away from and back to the ball as well as face angle.
2) Launch: How the club impacts the ball and how the ball comes off the club.
3) Landing: The important factors here are “carry” and “landing angle.”
Your fitter will talk a lot about the following aspects of your swing and occasionally use the pros as the standard of excellence. You shouldn’t expect to match them; the fitter will let you know where you should expect to be with your swing.
1) Clubhead Speed: Measured in miles-per-hour, it shows how fast your clubhead is moving at impact.
2) Attack Angle: This measures how the clubhead is actually delivered into the ball; a positive reading would reveal the club is ascending at impact while “0” would show it is level.
3) Club Path: The fitter will be able to show you whether you are opening or closing the clubface at impact. This may vary because of the shaft you have or your swing path.
4) Ball Speed: Just what it says—how fast your ball goes in mph. There is a correlation between clubhead speed and ball speed.
5) Smash Factor: This measures “transference of energy” between clubhead and ball. The highest number on this scale is 1.50 (Often discussed as COR, which is governed by the USGA).
6) Spin Rate: Measured in RPM’s (revolutions per minute), this is important because your ability to spin the ball can affect both trajectory as well as direction.
7) Carry: Distance from the tee to landing; more carry increases distance.
8) Landing Angle: Has big influence on control of the shot after it lands; approaches to the green require a higher landing angle to hold.
9) Side: This shows how far left or right you are from your target line.
10) Dispersion: The fitter will show you how your balls land relative to your target area; a tightly grouped cluster of balls is your goal.
11) Torque: The shaft’s designed resistance to twisting during the downswing.
12) Kickpoint: Often referred to as “flex point” or “bend point,” and is the point along a shaft’s length where it has the greatest amount of bend during the swing. A High kickpoint may help lower the trajectory of most golfers’ shots and a low kickpoint may result in a slightly higher trajectory.
The Fundamentals of Fitting .
1) Frequency Testing:
· Each of your clubs (you can bring as many as you ordinarily use) is put into the frequency machine and the results recorded on a personal data file (visible on one of three 40-inch widescreens right in front of you) that will get larger as the fitting progresses. This frequency analysis focuses on your club shafts, their flex properties (how stiff or soft) and how your clubs flow as a set. You may find out many clubs are way out of synch.
· Goal: To have your clubs flow as a set from wedges up to the woods. In our case, the major area of concern was wedges whose shafts were much too heavy for “skill clubs that should play softer.”
· Different Shafts: The fitter will explain the difference between steel and graphite shafts and discuss three key characteristics: Weight, torque and kickpoint (see “Language” above).
· Loft and Lie: These measurements are taken for each club. Loft is the angle of the club relative to the ball and lie refers to the angle of the sole relative to the ground. Both condition the quality of club impact and the shape of a shot. Loft is most important and the goal is to “step” your loft angles in a balanced progression from driver to wedge. This will be measured in more detail later in the fitting.
· Holding the Club: While this may come later, ask up front what the fitter thinks of your grips. In most cases, they are probably okay but he will ask you to grip a club just to check. A proper size grip has the “middle fingers of the top hand slightly touching the pad.” Wrong size grip: fingers don’t touch at all, or they dig into the pad.
· Size: A smaller grip gives you more hand rotation which can send the ball either too far left or right. On the opposite, a bigger grip limits hand rotation.
· Texture: This area is definitely a matter of feel and aesthetics. The fitter commented, “People sometimes get picky about color, texture and the like, things that really don’t make a difference.” But, if you want a rare color or grip that gives you increased confidence over the ball, they’ll get it.
3) Balls: While technically not part of clubfitting, make sure you ask the fitter what type of ball he recommends; brand is less important than spin characteristics that will complement your swing.
4) General Tips:
· Full Session versus One-Club-at-a-Time: Time and money may dictate that you prioritize among the six individual sessions offered, and this is fine. Make sure you take notes as you go through separate sessions in order to build a coherent picture of your club specs and swing characteristics.
· Bring the Whole Bag: Definitely bring all the clubs you use and/or own to the fitting sessions. You may find one that one is very right for you and will want to incorporate it into your new set.
· Rethink the Meaning of “Set”: Today, the underlying dynamics of club construction (and your swing) are more important than an artificial set of numbers or matching types of clubs. The fitter may recommend combinations that bust your comfort zone. Try to listen with an open mind.
· This is Work–Physical: If possible, warm up before your session. You want to start at what is your full swing speed, etc. Be ready to hit a lot of balls and don’t lose concentration. Each swing counts.
· This is Work—Mental: As you work your way from the six to your other irons, the fitter will begin to measure all 18 parts of your swing at one time. Numbers will be flashing up on the widescreen and he will start commenting on a whole range of swing and club points, which likely will confuse you if you aren’t familiar with the lingo. Don’t panic. And definitely stop him at every turn to ask questions. You will find him willing to explain anything that is unclear, more than once if necessary. Soon, you will become more comfortable with the process. The goal: To isolate those factors most typical of your swing. You will find that you score well in some areas and are weak in others. Your fitter is interested in your weak points because that is what he wants to correct with a better set of clubs. After a number of swings, the Cool Clubs software lets him “see your swing on paper,” and you will too.