Wednesday, May 25, 2011

6 Years Old

Every now and then you get a special one. 6 year old Jann Atendido won the US Kids 6 and under last year as a 5 year old. I taught him the the reverse overlap outting grip back in the fall and he showed up last week and was still doing it. Never once did he say " this feels weird".  He has wonderful parents that allow me to do my job. He's just a joy to work with. This is why I love my job.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mind BEFORE Matter

Have you ever stood in the middle of the fairway with a perfect lie, no wind, and about 120 yards to the pin only to leave it short or miss wide of your mark? Yet, when you are faced with the same shot over or around a tree you not only strike it well but typically hit it close. Why does this happen? In Dave Stockton's book, Putt To Win, he emphasizes the importance of detailed visualization. With a less than routine shot we start to calculate the shot very carefully. We begin to use and create a mental picture of the trajectory and visualize how the ball will curve in the air and how it behaves on the ground when it lands. With a routine shot there appears to be no need to envision the flight of the ball, where to land it, and where it should stop. In short, you took the shot for granted. That's why trouble shots are sometimes easier to pull off than the simple ones- you are forced to see your best option. With a routine shot we also get hung up on internal cues like positions. Where is my right arm at the top, maintaining the correct amount of spine tilt, or dynamic weight distribution. With a trouble shot the game turns back into a stick and ball sport. Like the caveman, "we see ball, we hit with stick. Ugh".

According to Stockton the message here applies to putting even more because you never have obvious hurdles on a putting green. Here's good drill: Walk onto any putting green, preferably one with lot's of movement and drop down 6 to 10 balls as far from the hole and in the most difficult positions you can imagine. Don't spend a lot of time reading the putts. But do spend some time creating a mental picture of how the ball will roll to the hole. Try to be as detailed as possible in your visualization process. Just get a general idea of how the putts break before making the stroke. Don't take a practice stroke, just concentrate on a good solid stroke and strike.  See how many of these putts you can get within a 3 foot circle around the hole. Here is the key: TRY TO MAKE EVERY PUTT. Sure you are going to blast a couple of them off of the planet. But make sure every putt gets to the hole. This is a very good drill for just letting your instincts control how you approach the putt. How many times have you scraped it all over the lot from tee to green only to make a 30 footer over hill and dale for your double bogey because by the time you got on the green you didn't care?

Don't you just hate this game?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ben Hogan Swing Analysis vs. Gary Woodland?

It seems like every so often some well meaning teaching guru has an epiphany that he has found a modern golf swing that is similar if not exactly like Ben Hogans. But once we see the actual swings side by side we see that the swings are nothing alike. A few years ago Sports Illustrated senior writer Curt Sampson did a Hogan swing comparison with Chad Campbell. Poor Chad hasn't been able to bust a grape since. Prior to that it Jonathan Byrd. While Byrd has had some recent success, he didn't do much after those early comparison's to Mr. Hogan. It's kind of like the EA Sports Madden jinx.

I think we have finally found a swing comparison that doesa pretty good job. Not pretty good, but really good in my opinion.  John Dochety has been providing some of the best high-speed swing video on the internet this year. He spent several hours camped out at Augusta National this April on the 4th and 16th holes. He has done a swing comparison vs Mr. Hogan using a relatively unknown tour pro named Gary Woodland. Woodland won earlier this year at The Transitions Championship and I'm quite sure there are more to come. This guy is one of the physically strongest players to come along in some time. I never got to watch Ben Hogan hit golf balls live or with todays high definition video technology, but from what I hear from people who did, he was the type of ball striker who made you say " wow, that guy is strong!" You can just tell by looking at his hands and arms that he could have been a pipe fitter or steel worker. My buddy Travis Womble played and won on the Hooters Tour in 2000 and he told me that you didn't have to see who was hitting the balls on the range to know who it was. He says that when Chad Campbell was hitting balls you knew by the sound that he was present. Of course Chad has struggled the last few years but at one time he was the most dominant player on any professional tour in the world. If I'm not mistaken he won 13 events on the Hooters Tour in 2000. In that span he won 6 or 7 times consecutively.  Anyway, this is some pretty compelling stuff and John Dochety is the man behind the curtain.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Overspeed Training +P90X

Rumor has it that Tony "Doc" Horton has the follow-up to P90X in the can. As a certified TPI Golf Fitness professional I have done my share of research on golf specific fitness. I wish he would produce a program for golfers that would integrate Oversoeed Training into his P90X program. As many of you knowI have undergone two major back surgeries since 2000. In 2004 I had left elbow surgery for re-occurring tendinitis. Carpal Tunnel surgery on BOTH hands and an operation for a torn labrum in my right shoulder. Not to mention an inner-ocular lens replacement for a cataract in my right eye AND oral surgery to remove all four wisdom teeth- which by the way was the most painful by a long shot. So, long story short I'm a lemon. But I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are not too many golf pro's in America that have been through what I have in such a short amount of time.  This also means that since I have been in the presence of so many surgeons, therapists, and fitness trainers, I have a pretty good idea of what's available for golfers in terms of fitness programs. The problem with TPI is that they believe that swing faults are directly related to physical deficiencies. I don't necessarily disagree with this thinking but it's not that simple. One of their big physical screens is the full deep squat test that says of you can't squat all the way to the ground with your arms above your shoulders holding a stick or golf club and keep your heels on the ground, you are highly likely to early- extend. This means in simple terms that your pelvis area thrusts into the area where your hands should be at impact. This is also known as humping the shaft ;-) At any rate, I know lots of golfers that can't perform the deep squat test but don't early extend. Sorry to get off task here, but TPI puts you through a series of physical tests and screens to determine where you are deficient in strength and mobility and then prescribes exercises to improve those specific areas. Great in theory, but very tedious and in many cases unnecessary. TPI is a wonderful concept with some very smart guys running it. One is Greg Rose, the director of TPI who turned me on to Manual therapy and ART. Active Realease Technique. Had I known about ART in 2004 I would have never had to have the sugery on my left elbow. Dr. Paul Castle here in Palatine performed several sessions on my right elbow (which was worse than my left) and the pain is gone. Sure, it flares up from time to time do to overuse, but Manual Therapy might put some these knife happy orthos out of business.
But his main job is to promote Titleist and it's brand, so I think that TPI is so caught up promoting it's brand that it's misses the point on some things. But I also want to be clear on another point: Any training program is better than nothing. I just think "golf specific" is a term that is used too loosely and in some cases mis-represented.

 As you know I spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet researching the golf swing and one of the big things I have found is that P90X is the arguably the most popular workout program with better players. After 26 days of it I'm inclined to agree. Now I haven't gone 26 days straight through but I have only missed two days in a row twice. P90X in it's purest form is not for everyone. It's just too intense. You need to have a pretty good fitness level to begin with to go 90 days without a day off. Just to be clear, they do have a day called P90 stretch or Stretch X that gives you a break but it's still brutal if you train everyday. Having said all of this I have lost 18 lbs in 6 weeks. The most beneficial  thing I see with P90X is with the yoga, plyometrics, and core workouts. I had never done yoga, but if there is one training program that would benefit the human body the most it has to be yoga. Especially for golf because it hits everything. Flexibility, core, balance, concentration, and yes cardio. After the first series of vinyasa's my heart rate gets up around 115 to 120. It's a killer!  What most people have a hard time with is that the yoga day is over an hour and a half. In today's hustle and bustle with our busy schedules it's hard to find time to workout for 30 minutes much less 1.5 hours. The P90X yoga regimen has been criticised for being too advanced for beginners. I agree but I just do what I can. I also went out and purchased a Yoga for beginners DVD that has two 20 minute sessions called AM/PM yoga. Just Google AM/PM yoga and you'll see it.

As you also know I am big on Overspeed Training. This is where you train using very light equipment to trick your muscles into moving faster than they ever have. I also offer a course that has a structured program very similar to a weight training workout where you do 3 sets of 20 for the first week and 3 set's of 20 alternating between the overspeed club and your regular driver. So go to my website: and click on the overspeed training tab and check it out. Just a quick testimony, one of my students, Judge Tom Roti who is 67 was swinging his driver at around 67 mph and flying the ball about 140 yards. After three weeks he increased his swing speed to 82 mph on average and hit 87 on a couple of occasions. His distance on the fly or carry distance increased to 170 yards from 140. We also worked on changing his angle of attack from descending to ascending, which made a huge difference. It changed his spin rate and ball speed which is a big deal when you're trying to maximize distance.

Lastly, swinging the club faster is the number one priority for picking up distance. However, and I want to be clear on this point: it's only the key factor if you are making solid contact on the center of the clubface. When you are training to swing faster you are not trying to think about positions, the focus is on how fast can I swing the club and still remain upright on two feet :-) I don't want any of my students falling all over the golf course like we see some of the Re-Max long drive guys do. That's their only goal- to hit it as far as humanly possible regardless of how it looks. I want to see balance throughout the swing. Address, top, impact, and finish. I tell my junior players, especially from age 6 to 12 to swing as hard as they can but not at the expense of a good balanced finish.

Also check out these sites:

Ben Jackson Golf


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Aim Point Chicago

I would like to thank everyone that participated in the Aim Point fundamental class this past Friday at Links and Tees in Addison, Illinois. Senior Instructor John Graham did an outstanding job. It's easy to see why he is so popular. I'd also like to recognize General Manager Charles Sims and his staff for hosting the clinic at what is the finest municipal practice facility in the midwest. The city of Addison should be very proud of the job Charles has done.

 John Graham explaining how to......

The biggest thing I took out of the class was that Aim Point and green reading is a skill that must be practiced just like anything else in your game. I've been saying this for a while and John just galvanized it, but if you want to improve as a putter, you need to dedicate time to green reading and getting lined up where you think you are. We need to practice these skills as much or more than we do practicing our stroke mechanics. You also need to start using the stripe or line on the ball to help you in that endeavor. I realize some of you are just not going to do it. OK that's fine, but you might as well putt with your eyes closed.  I watched a very good player during the class Friday miss 4 straight 10 footers before I convinced him to use the line on the ball to help him aim at a point 4 inches to the right of the edge of the hole. Of course he made the first one. Not only was he aiming too far right, sometimes he was actually aiming left of the aiming point!

left to right- Phil Sampogna, Biv Wadden, Tom Broders, Dave Lenhard, and 50% of Bull Valley Head Professional Michael Picciano.

I don't want to give too much away, but the main focus in Aim Point is finding the straight putt below the hole.  Or the zero line. If you can find that, you are on your way. As much math as there is in this system there is also a lot of common sense involved. Knowing how gravity works is a plus as well ;-)

Determining green speed and slope are  basics. Finding the high and low points on the green and learning to read the surface more with your feet than your eyes is also huge in this system. From there you are reading a simple planar surface. Planar just means the slope is front to back with no humps or bumps. The key to learning this system is to learn and develop a little at a time. It's very intimidating the first time you go to the course.  Graham's best work is his ability to make sure you understand that this is not magic. It's a methodical system that takes practice.

I played yesterday and my goal was to just determine the slope, and find the straight putt or zero line. John McArtin, Director of Instruction at Whisper Creek is going through the Aim Point Certification process and he told me that he spent weeks this winter in Arizona just plotting points on the greens without a putter. Just rolling balls on the green. This is absolutely the way to learn it. I think that it would be easy to become discouraged with this system if you were under the impression that  you should be able to just go out the first day after the fundamental class and have it nailed down. It can take weeks, months, or maybe even a full season to be able to feel comfortable with Aim Point.  If you just keep it to 20 feet and in you'll be better off at first. But PLEASE don't give up on it. After a while you'll be able to perform this system faster than you ever read greens before. You'll also be able to read greens without even opening up the charts because you'll have the numbers memorized.  That's why you need to stick with it at first and develop bits and pieces. 

I love symmetry!

Aim Point deserves all the credit it is getting in the golf instruction community. But I can't say this strongly enough. Green reading, regardless of your approach is a skill just like anything else we do in golf. It takes hours and hours of practice. If you approach every putt in that 20 foot circle and focus on the planar aspect you'll have the basics nailed down in no time. If you have a 40 foot putt over hill and dale, don't waste a lot of time trying to figure it out. Just keep doing what you're doing. Most putts within 10 to 20 feet can be read with the planar approach. Then work your way out. Remember, always seek the zero line and go from there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Case Against Putting With The Toe Up

I was watching the third round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans yesterday and Webb Simpson who uses a long putter missed s 3 foot putt. The announcers, Ian-baker Finch and "Sir" Nick Faldo ripped him for putting with the toe up. "Sir" Nick even mentioned how the manufacturers have warned the players of this practice. But for some reason they didn't mention why putting with the toe up is a death move.

Faldo mentioned something about gear effect and Finch said something about it effecting the release. Although I don't necessarily disagree with those comments, I would have loved to hear the real reason why putting with the toe up can cause problems. In the case of Webb Simpson, it would have been a text book opportunity to tell the average golfer what the issues with this technique are. In Faldos case, it's likely he doesn't know. Shocking that a 6 time major winner wouldn't know the answer. Maybe he does and he just choked on the air. Based on some of the stuff that escapes his mouth it would not surprise me. Don't forget, he's the one that announced to world that Tiger Woods purposely "fires" his rotator cuffs in his golf swing. I spit Red Bull all over my computer on that one. But I digress. At any rate, most putters have 2 to 6 degrees of loft. Most good putters de-loft the putter a little bit with a slight forward press. Mickleson, Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus, and Dave Stockton. There have also been some good putters that did not. But the majority do. The common denominator amongst the great putters is their ability to get the ball rolling end over end as soon as possible. That way the ball tracks on it's intended line to it's aim point with a truer path and isn't as likely to be affected by irregularities in the green, such as bumps, ball marks, spike marks, and of course the lumpy donut. ;-) When the toe of the putter is in the air, the loft of the putter face catches the outside of the golf ball making it go left. Most average golfers pull their putts when the toe is up. Much like it does when you swing over the top in your full swing. So what happens is the skilled golfer will push the ball toward his target sub consciously. Well, that's quite a compensation to overcome on a consistent basis, especially under the pressure of competition on the PGA Tour. As you'll see in the video, Webb Simpson pushes his putt ever so slightly and it power lips out of the hole. This is the kind of stuff that will really help the average golfer and for what CBS is paying "Sir" Nick you would think the expectations would be a little higher. I'm sure that some of you are wondering why a Tour player has gotten to where he is with such a glaring flaw in his putting stroke. It's likely that he hasn't always done it. Over time, little things like alignment, and set-up just seem to get a little off. That's what a swing coach should be doing. Keeping an eye on fundamentals, not working on dynamic swing mechanics on the range during a tournament. These guys are so skilled they can overcome these seemingly minor issues until they can't.  Another thing that occurs is the posse or entourage that hangs around these players are very reluctant to say anything that might effect the psyche of these players. In the case of the toe up putter flaw, the player typically can't see it from where they are at address. So the only people that can are the caddy and other players. They are the last one's to mention anything that might help. The caddy is scared to death to mention anything about a players swing. His job is to show up, keep up, and shut up.

Try this the next time your on the practice green. Take a lofted club like a 9 iron and set-up to it like a putter. Make sure the club is soled properly and make a putting stroke. Don't try to blade the ball like you would if you HAD to putt with it. Try to make it hop into the air and go straight. Then  drop your hands low and make the toe come up about 15 to 20 degrees and then stroke another putt. Chances are you won't even have to make a stroke. You'll see right away which way the ball will go. The problem with the putter is that 2 to 6 degrees of loft is very subtle and it's hard to see. But when the blade is moving so slowly the angle of the putter face is nearly 100% responsible for the initial direction of the ball. The manufacturers designed their putters to be soled flush to the ground during the stroke. If you positively love the feel of having your hands low at address have your putter bent flatter and the face de-lofted a little.