Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aim Point Clinic Just 10 Days Away

Just one FYI. The 1:00 class is actually 1:30. We need time to get set up after the 11:00 am class. If there is a problem please let us know.

May is almost here. I think I saw Noah's Arc just float by. It's been the worst April in 40 years in Chicago from what I understand. The IPGA had it's first stroke play event yesterday at Bloomington Country Club and they hadn't been able to mow the rough in over a week. It looked at least 8 inches long. I know, I was in it all day. Not a pretty site. But Bloomington CC is a really beautiful golf course. I just wish it hadn't been under water.

I poached this article from Richie3jacks blog. I don't agree with everything he says, but John Graham will clear some of this up. For instance, I don't use the PLUMB BOB to plumb bob. I think it's a great way to confirm that your line is actually pointing to your aim point. There is also the issue of crouching to get a better prospective of the break and going behind the hole to read the break. I can't tell you how many times I have miss read a putt and after looking back at it from behind the hole, kicking myself for not doing it. In the days before Aim Point I don't think it was unreasonable to think that these procedures were sound. He does a great job with his blog so check it out.

1. Determine the Stimp

This should be the first priority and going to the pro shop usually will not help. One course down in Florida tells me that they have a stimp of ‘9-10’ and they are more like an 8 and maybe a touch slower than that. If you have the AimCharts, you can see where the differences in break between an 8 stimp and a 9 stimp are vastly different. Plus, determining the stimp is a good way to practice AimPoint.

2. The Routine is H-U-G-E

I think this is what trips me up the most and when I get it down well, I usually putt much better. I think it takes a lot of practice to get the routine down. Early on I would botch the routine and either screw up the read or the speed of the putt. I’ve even had times where I read the AimChart incorrectly.

My routine looks something like this (we’ll assume for a planar slope)

- Find the low and the high anchor point

- Estimate if I’m below the cup or above the cup

- Estimate the amount of slope.

- Once the amount of slope is determined, place my thumb on the chart where the slope is.

- Keep the thumb on the slope of the chart while I determine the distance to the cup

- Keep the thumb on the slope of the chart while I determine the style of slope

- If planar slope, now determine where the ball is with relation to the fall line or the anchor

- Once that has been determined, look at the chart where my thumb is and determine the read

- Keep the number in mind, go thru the practice stroke routine, aim and fire.

3. Start to See How You Used to Putt

My theory was when I was in college and putted great, I had a putter that fit my eye pretty well and I used to play less break and hit it harder. In fact, the greatest putter I ever played with did the same thing. So did Tiger. But that narrowed the ‘capture width’ of the cup. I think one can putt well that way as I did and so did Tiger and my friend, but to do it consistently well over time takes extraordinary repetition and precision. I also used to have a right aim bias, but would putt left-to-right putts better (which is unique for a right handed golfer). My guess is that with the right-to-left putts, I aimed too high and hit hard so the ball wouldn’t come close to breaking enough.

4. Old Green Reading Theories….suck.

Particularly the theory that you ‘should never aim straight at the cup because every putt breaks.’ Putts almost always have break to them, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim at the cup. In fact, I find that extremely helpful on double breaking putts and triple breaking putts. Furthermore, sometimes you have to accept that you are on the fall line. Doesn’t happen a lot, but it can. But with the double and triple breakers, you’ll find yourself aiming at the cup from time to time. Convincing yourself is sometimes the issue because of stupid, old green reading theories. And it will tick you off because aiming at the cup is easier than aiming outside the cup.

Oh yeah, other dumb theories like plumb bobbing, crouching to read the green, the ‘putt breaks towards the mountain or the pond’…ugh.

5. Trusting it is also H-U-G-E

This goes with #3 and #4. For starters, years and years of playing too little break and hitting it harder make it difficult to trust that you need to play more break. If you think that you’re playing too much break, you’re probably hitting it too hard to begin with. Very difficult to trust it on those 10 foot putts on a steep (3%) or severe (4%) slope.

Also, telling yourself that you need to aim at the cup is difficult due to all of those years of being told NOT to aim at the cup. That and the concept of aiming straight, but the ball will not roll straight seems foreign.

6. If you are aware of the feedback, you should be able to improve your putting stroke.

It helps that I have an Edel Putter that fits my eyes and I now aim relatively straight. When I was at the AimPoint clinic instructed by John Graham (www.johngrahamgolf.com), there was a fellow student who would aim left, and then push the ball. Or as John referred to it, a ‘left aim pusher.’ Now that I aim pretty straight, I still have some of the old tendency to pull it. That’s because I was a ‘right aim puller’ before the Edel putter. Now I am an occasional ‘aim straight puller.’

It’s all feedback. I think if one combined this with some occasional video taping of the stroke, they could understand if they have an aim bias and if so, what type of aim bias they have.

7. I look forward to Uphill, Planar putts

As I discussed with the Golf Strategy posts, there’s a large advantage to leaving yourself with uphill putts because the ball will wobble less and stay on line better. Also, the break is typically less. Another factor is if you are say, 40 feet away, but within reasonable distance from the low anchor point, the read is very simple and the putt is easier to execute because of the lesser amount of wobble. That doesn’t mean a 40 foot putt will automatically go in or you’ll start making them left and right. You still have to aim correctly from 40 feet, which is not easy to do and have the right amount of speed. But, I think you increase your odds of making it by a lot and your chances of having an easy tap in for a 2-putt are much better than if you had a downhill putt. I honestly think that it’s safe to say that in many instances I’d take a 40 foot putt uphill over a 20 foot putt to the same cup that is downhill. Even if the slope is at 2%, which is average.

8. Low Anchors Are Not Easy to Read Perfectly

Finding the lowest point on the green is not easy to read 100% accurately. Sometimes I’ll be about 5 feet off. However, if I really look, Look, LOOK and feel, Feel, FEEL, I can become more accurate. Furthermore, if I am 5 feet off and aim at the cup…if I have decent speed I’m usually tapping in for a 2-putt. That certainly beats not understanding the anchor point and play for break that isn’t quite there and missing by a mile.

9. Practice Off The Green Can Help

One thing I’ve been practicing is when I’m walking somewhere, let’s say a street, I’ll try to feel if the slope I’m on is going down or up. I also will take a piece of paper and make it into a crown or saddle slope and pace my fingers around it in a circle to understand what it will feel like when I’m on the course and I am trying to read the type of slope.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dry Shooting a Basketball and How it Relates To The Golfswing.....uh Maybe

I found this little piece in cyberspace and I have no idea how. The gentleman who authored this piece  refers to himself in the third person as "Dr. Putt". He is also apparently a college professor. His command of the english language leaves me in the dust. He also has some pretty astute observations on Tiger, bio-mechanics, and what else? Putting. At the very minimal risk of plagiarism I am filing this dis-claimer:

Dear Mr. Dr. Putt,

Please know that out of respect to your sage wisdom and knowledge, I want to make it clear that since you haven't produced a newsletter post since the fall of 2010 I am taking the liberty of passing along your information as a service to my clients with whom I'm sure will appreciate your efforts.

Sincerest Regards
RAM ;-)

Now that we've got that out of the way, hopefully some of you will remember, that from time to time I have mentioned a gentleman in Oregon that offers what he calls Tai Chi Golf. This is where a practice swing is broken down into four separate parts:

  1. Address to P3 or 9:00
  2. P3 to Top or P4
  3. Top to Impact or P7
  4. Impact to Finish

Each segment should take 15 seconds to complete and the entire swing should take one minute. It sounds simple. But this instructor prescribes 20 reps per day. If you have never done yoga, this would be in my opinion the closest thing to Golf Yoga that I know of. Just one rep is tough. Imagine 20!  My understanding is that 20 Tai Chi swings is equal to 1000 reps making contact with a ball. The benefit is that there is no negative feedback to clutter the process and at the risk of using the notorious cliche, extreme "muscle memory" production. I think the real bio-mechanical term is myelin intake. Don't quote me on that, just look it up for yourself ;-) But you get the point. The brain basically remembers what you want it to remember. If you choose to reinforce negative thoughts and emotions after every less than perfect shot, then I'll guaran-darn-tee that's what you'll recall under pressure. But if you visualize positive outcomes and emotions then that's what dominates your thought process in times of stress and anxiety. Trust me, this is coming from a guy that has lived it. ;-(

Anyway here it is.

Dry Shooting in Basketball and Dry Swinging in Golf by Dr. Putt

As Dr. Putt's readers know, he is a basketball junkie who still plays ball several times each week with coaches, faculty, and an ever changing collection of students on the college campus where he teaches. He also reads all that he can about basketball thoery--this year studying the "flex offense" that the women's team runs at his school. But Dr. Putt digresses--back to the point. Some time ago he ran across a study comparing the results of two groups practicing free throws, one group with a ball and a groups without a ball--dry shooting. He has also noted that a number of the really great foul shooters dry shoot before every foul shot. In particular, Steve Nash. His dry shot is not just with the arms, as do many, but a complete shot using arms and legs just as he would with a ball. A practice swing, if you will.

So practice swings are a good idea. Dr. Putt has written about that before. But here is the point that we might consider this year as we tune up our swings. We practice too much with a ball and too little without a ball. We can improve more if we spend at least equal time practicing dry swings without the ball. This allows us to focus on how the swing feels, be aware of where the clubface is, complete the swing and finish in balance. Watching the ball distracts us from all these things.
So next time you go to the range, take only half as many balls as you usually do. Spend 5 minutes practice swinging before you even hit your first ball. Then take 3-4 complete practice swings between every real shot. Note whether the real swing felt like your practice swing--that should be your goal. Dr. Putt will bet that the results will be better than just beating balls, as we all too often do.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Class Act Schwartzel Deserves Masters Title

Ok, now for the let down. With all the anticipation that leads up to Masters week the post Masters let down is inevitable. Fathers day weekend seems like a year away-  that's the weekend that coincides with the US Open by the way and it's the second most anticipated event on the calender. The great thing about Masters weekend is that it also signals the beginning of spring so we have that going for us- which is nice ;-)

Where do we start? I guess I should take my medicine in regards to my picks.

Win- Phil Mickleson T27 -70-72-71-74 -  Lefty just didn't have it. I think that he left most of his good drives in Houston last week because he couldn't hit it in the ocean. How can a player with the skill and talent of Phil Mickleson be such a poor driver of the ball? Most of you that have worked with me for any amount of time know how much emphasis I place on getting the ball in play. If you can't hit 75% of your fairways then you put too much pressure on the rest of you game. All Phil has to do is sacrifice about 20 yards off of the tee and he will be virtually unbeatable. I haven't done the research but I would bet that 75% of the players that finished above him are on average 20 yards shorter than him off of the tee. Wonder what Schwartzel's driving starts are?

Place- Bubba Watson T38 - 73-71-67-78 - I was really disappointed in all of the high scores from players whose current form would suggest that they were ready to put on the green jacket this week. Westwood had a 74 on Saturday. Ricky Barnes a 75 on Saturday. Furyk 75. Ian Poulter took himself out of it with a 74 Thursday. After a 67 on Thursday Alvaro Quiros went 73, 75, 74. Of course just as we thought Sergio was going to make a statement-69, 71, 75, 73. Paul Casey a 75 on Saturday. Rickie Fowler went 76-75 on the weekend.  Not to mention all the trunk slammers that didn't even make the weekend. How about these names: Clark, Cink, Glover, Mahan, Kim, O'Hair, Goosen, Vegas, Oosthuizen, Kaymer 78, 72, and VJ. I knew Kaymer had struggled at Augusta in his 2 starts but an opening 78? Really?

Show- Matt Kuchar  T27- 68-75-69-75- Now here is arguably the hottest player on the planet shooting 7 and 6 shots worse following rounds of 68 and 69 respectively. I read where several pundits didn't give him much of a chance because of his lack of length. Two words Charl Schwartzel. 

Low Amateur -Peter Uhilein- 72-78- Talking about the lucky sperm club. How can you not be a good golfer when your old man is the CEO of Titliest? This kid is going to be special.  He stated after his US Amateur win last year that he didn't want to play at Augusta until he had earned his way there. Shooting 72 on Thursday after never playing the golf course in competition is impressive. Especially with the previous years champion who just happens to be the most popular American golfer these days. What I like about him is he seems to have a mean streak in him. He is a super competitive player. Which is one thing that I don't see from a lot of these youngsters currently on tour. As cool and poised as Rory McIlroy is, I would like to see a little more fire. Not the whining and crying after every less than perfect shot like we get from Eldrick, but maybe a little more like Raymond Floyd. I would like to see him locked in a room with the Stare Master for about a week. Then we would have a player that might be unbeatable. Because one thing Rory has is poise. At 21 years old I'm not sure I have ever seen a more mature and poised young man. The 19 year old Japanese amateur champion Hideki Matsuyama was the only amatuer to make the cut with rounds of 72-73-68-74. How do these kids do it? 19 years old, traveling across the globe to play in the most important international golf event in the game, and shooting the scores that they shoot. It's absolutely amazing.
Lastly I want to talk about what everyone thought was going to be the resurgence of Tiger Woods. It looked like he was going to shoot 63 or 64 and win the golf tournament. But after the 8th hole he couldn't get a putt to drop and after about the third missed short putt on the back we were back to the old whining and entitled attitude that he claimed upon his return last year that he was going to change. He was also hard on the interviewers this week. He seems to be right on the edge of going off on one of them if they lob another question about the progress of his swing. If I said I was pulling for Tiger to shoot  63 I would be lying. I have a difficult time pulling for Tiger anymore. It's not so much his social life off of the golf course that I disapprove of but more so his behavior and attitude on it.

 Everyone thinks it's his swing change that is holding him back but it's not, it's his attitude. Of course it's the reason he's not able to put 4 rounds together, but if you remember back to his swing changes under Butch and Hank Haney he never showed much emotion over a bad shot or missed putt. He knew that those changes were going to take time and that his short game would carry him while the changes took. Not now, his body language suggests that he is the only player in the world that can't make a putt or that fate is against him and him only.  I tell my young players all the time that any negative display of emotion or body language is you just saying " I don't have confidence in my ability to change and improve". Tantrums and negativity are for everyone else anyway. It's way of showing everyone watching how much you care. Trust me, I know. For the best part of my golf career I spent more time trying to control my emotions than I did improving and becoming the best player I could be. You can't do that when you are undermining your own development by beating yourself up.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Double Secret Weapon?

Bridgestone Slipped One Past Us

So you thought that the new golf season got started with no new groundbreaking technology other than a white driver? As a not so young PGA apprentice back in 1995 I had the good fortune to have range duties during the Bellsouth Senior Classic. The event was held at Springhouse Golf Club in Nashville which had a 350 yard double ended driving range.  We set up our golf ball washing station on the far end away from the clubhouse. From the middle of the teeing area near the clubhouse to the other end of the range it measured about 325 yards. For a player to hit a drive from the end where the spectator bleachers were located to the other end it took a poke of about 300 yards- in the air. The player also had to carry a 25 foot rise to make it all the way past our ball cleaning station. We noticed that there was only one golf ball flying that far. The Precept  EV Extra Spin. The Senior PGA Tour provided the players with just about every premium ball available at the time. Titleist Professional, Top-Flight Strata Tour, Maxfli Tour Balata, and the Bridgestone Ball. Which was then called Precept. One of the benefits of having range duties during the tournament was a nearly unlimited supply of new golf balls to use for the rest of the year. Of course we wanted the longest golf ball available. Not only was the Precept ball longer than any other ball by about 15 yards, it also had a spin rate comparable to all the other wound balls. In those days, the Titliest Professional had a spin rate of over 4,000 rpm’s off of the face of  of a touring professionals driver. Probably even more because in those days launch monitor technology wasn’t available to tell us that hitting up 3 to 5 degrees with our driver would help us gain another 15 to 25 yards.

One thing I have known all along is that Bridgestone balls are longer than just about every ball on the market. I remember when everyone would use the Precept Lady to tee off with in a scramble then switch to a tour balata for approach shots and putting.  Also, the driver technology caused the ball to spin much more than what today’s drivers do. The average driver spin rate on the tour today is around 3,000 rpm.  Some players are under 3,000 rpm. If you have never been fitted on a launch monitor unit, do yourself a favor. For around $100 you can buy another 15 to 20 yards worth of distance. It’s a no brainer. However, one thing people are missing the boat on is golf ball fitting. I see too many average golfers hitting Titleist ProV’s when they should be hitting a ball with a lower spin rate. The ProV is a 4 piece ball that requires over 100 mph of clubhead speed and 150 mph of ball speed to compress all 4 layers. If you can’t compress a premium ball then it is costing you big time distance.
No one has experimented with more different golf balls than I have. Although I have picked up considerable ball and clubhead speed in the last year by using an Overspeed Training program, I have also benefitted by finding the right golf ball for my swing. Until Taylor Made came out with the 5 Piece Penta I couldn’t benefit from a multi-layerd ball. If I wanted to hit it out of my shadow I had to hit the Ttilest NXT Tour or the Bridgestone E6 or E7. But my game also depends on controlling my ball around the greens with as much spin as possible. You don’t get that with a two piece ball-maybe not for much longer. Golf Digest has just revealed the results of their ball testing in it’s May edition. It has revealed that the Bridgestone E5 is the first two-piece urethane covered ball on the market. Meaning that it will fly as far as any mans Pinnacle Extreme yet spin like many of the leading premium balls around the green. Here is the greatest feature about the Bridgestone- It only costs $25 a dozen! Now, the Golf Digest article states that most $25 dollar golf balls don’t fly that much farther than $42 premium balls so I tested them for myself. On average I hit the Bridgestone E5 about 15 yards farther than the ProV1 and 1x.  I hit it about 10 to 12 yards farther than the Callaway Tour, Srixon, and the Bridgestone Tour Ball, and about 5 to 8 yards farther than the Taylor Made Penta I had been using.  Now this was certainly a very unscientific study , but it was cold and windy as well. I think there would have been an even bigger margin if the air temperature was 30 degrees warmer. But the biggest difference was around the green. The E5 might have felt a little firmer than most tour balls, but it spun  every bit as much on half wedge shots and short pitches and chips around the green.

Who Will Benefit the Most?
If you’re in the 85 to 100 mph swing speed category and strike down and compress your wedges, then the Bridgestone E5 could be the ball you have been looking for. Another thing to consider is that amateurs get to use the old square groove wedges for another 10 years. This means you can spin the Bridgestone ball with your wedges almost as much as the tour guy spins his ProV1. I haven’t been looking forward to giving up 50 yards off the tee to most of the IPGA professionals in our section events this year, while not being able to stop it with my wedges. Now maybe I can only give up 30 yards off the tee and keep my ball on the green from 60 yards out ;-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Left Wrist Uncock Drill by Lynn Blake

For you guys that have worked with me for a while you have heard me talk about the Power Accumulators. The #2 accumulator is the vertical cocking of the left wrist. In this video Golfing Machine instructor Lynn Blake does a great job of explaining how it works on an incline plane.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Place So Special They Named a Golf Course After It

It’s Finally Here

Growing up in the south there are three weeks that standout and compete for the most anticipated seasonal beginnings of the year. Typically the first Saturday in September signifies the start of college football season.  Just after the BCS national championship in the first week of February you have national signing day for high school seniors making their decision on what college football program they will sign with.  But for me and many sons of the south, the first week in April stands alone as the most anticipated week of the year. On Monday you have the NCAA men’s basketball championship.  I’ll never forget my first trip to Augusta, Georgia.  It was 1992 and a week earlier Christian Laettner hit a jump shot near the foul line at the buzzer to beat Kentucky. If you’re from Tennessee like I am it couldn’t have happened to a better bunch of college basketball fans- If only they could have been wearing crimson. That Monday night Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, and Grant Hill defeated the Fab Five from Michigan in the national championship game. That next morning at around 7:00 am I walked in the north gate just off of Washington Road to watch John Daly and Jack Nicklaus play a practice round. That area is now the new tournament practice facility. The most amazing thing to see when you first arrive on the actual golf course is all the people on their knees touching the ground to determine if the turf is in fact real. I thought that was something that only Masters rookie spectators (patrons) did. Eight years later on my second trip I did it again. However the second time I attended the committee had decided to “ Tigerproof “ the course and grow the rough.  Prior to 1998 the entire property was cut to fairway height. When I say entire property that’s exactly what I mean. The entire property was sown in the same hybrid of turf as the golf course and was cut to the exact mower height as the fairways were.  The grass was so pristine that people would just plop down and have a picnic any place they could find a spot. One of the most impressive sights is what’s called the members practice range. It’s no longer used as such but from the back porch of the clubhouse you can see all the way to the very back of the property through a natural amphitheater to Amen Corner. It’s an area of about 40 acres that was cut just as tight as the fairway. From the clubhouse you can hear the roar of thousands of patrons as players make birdies and eagles in Amen Corner.To this day I have never been able to shake the feeling of intimidation at thought of hitting an iron shot from the tightest fairways in the world. Not the narrowness of the hitting areas because Augusta National is pretty generous as major championship venues go,  but the actual fairway height has got to be no more than a quarter of an inch. Rumor has it that the tee boxes roll at 6 or 7 on the stimp meter. Most of the greens we play roll at 8 or 9 on a good day. If you’re fortunate enough to play at one of Chicago’s great private courses you might get to experience greens that roll at 11 or 12. After living in the Midwest for eight years now, the first week of April and the Masters always signals the start of spring and another golf season.  As anyone who lives in the Midwest knows, winter seems to drag on well into May, so just seeing the bright green Augusta rye grass and fully bloomed azaleas on the Masters telecasts gives us hope that spring has finally arrived. 

My predictions

Win - Mickleson
Place - Watson
Show - Kuchar
Low Amatuer - Uihlein

Also rans - Bill Haas, Hunter Mahon, Francesco Molinari