Golf Tips

Pace versus Face at Impact versus Path Direction

Many say the 4 biggest putting mistakes are poor stability, bad rhythm, inconsistent face control and under reading greens.

Golf allows 2 putts per green. Tour player's average 2 putts from 30 feet while single digit handicappers average 2 putts from 25 feet, those who score under 100 average 2 putts from 19 feet and those who score over 100 are only able to 2 putt from 12 feet.

To be a good putter, you must first have good pace by eliminating all lower body movement for better stability. Close your eyes during practice strokes to heighten your feel for improved stability. A good practice drill is putting with a ball wedged between the end of the shaft and the wrist for improved stability.

I constantly have students ask me about the one third to two thirds ratio. Many golfers believe this is about the length of the putt stroke. They believe the back stroke should be one third of the length of the entire putt stroke while the length of the forward stroke is two thirds of the length of the entire putt stroke or a 2 to 1 ratio defined as the forward stroke being twice as long as the back stroke. This is completely wrong because the length of the stroke determines the length of the putt.

The one third two thirds rule or 2 to 1 ratio is about rhythm. The back stroke should take twice as long as the forward stroke. Use the 1, 2, 3 practice drill. On the back stroke, you should count 1, 2 then on the forward stroke count 3. The result is the back stroke is two thirds of the total amount of time it takes for the total stroke while the forward stroke is only one third of the total stroke in terms of timing.

Face angle at impact has an 83% affect on where the ball rolls versus path direction only having a 17% affect on where the ball rolls. If you have a tendency to pull your putts, it typically means your face angle at impact is closed. If you have a tendency to push putts, it typically means your face angle at impact is open. A great practice drill is to lay down an alignment stick on the opposite side of your tendency and try to putt down the alignment stick. For example, if you are constantly pulling putts because of a closed face at impact then lay down the alignment stick on the outside of the ball and practice putting down the alignment stick.

Most recreational golfers under read greens. The best way to read greens is with your feet. In Southwest Florida, I work with a lot of seniors who have vision issues. If they only relied on being able to see the break, most would become frustrated. That is why I teach my golfers to be multi-dimensional. Use your eyes of course but also learn to feel the bottom of your feet. Walk to the middle of the putt and feel the  weight shift on the bottom of your feet. Lastly, play more break than you feel because most recreational golfers under read putts.

Resistance = Torque = Power

A lot of time is spent talking about clubhead speed. There are a couple of ways to create clubhead speed. A bigger swing is very effective because it gives you a bigger arc to build up clubhead speed or a more efficient way is using torque which creates a tremendous amount of clubhead speed.

As a boxer in the military, I learned to harness my power more efficiently by using my body instead of my arms. If a boxer relies on their arms, they will punch themselves out. However, by using my body I created more power behind my punches and I was doing it more efficiently. I was able to defeat boxers who were much bigger because they relied on their long arms to generate power while I was able to harness more power by getting my body behind each punch.

Now apply that to a golf swing. You can either make a bigger swing with your arms to create clubhead speed or you can use torque through resistance and create more clubhead speed more efficiently.

A single plane swing turns the arms, shoulders, chest and hips on the back swing. Timing of all these components is difficult at best. When done correctly it generates a lot of power. It takes a lot of practice to develop the timing to synchronize the hips, chest, shoulders and arms. Most recreational golfers don't have the time to spend on developing the timing needed for this type of golf swing.

A two plane swing only uses the arms, shoulders and chest on the back swing. Resistance is created when the chest, shoulders and arms turn while the lower body resists. Torque builds up in the lower back, latisimus muscles and abdomen. On the down swing, power is unleashed as the chest begins to turn the shoulders and the arms follow.

The goal is for the impact position to mirror the set up position with everything square at impact. Golfers using a single plane swing typically have an impact position with the hips already rotating past square forcing the chest, shoulders and arms to catch up. If the timing is off, a golfer could either be open at impact causing a slice or because the arms are trying to catch up with the lower body a golfer could over rotate and be closed at impact causing a hook.

A two plane swing hinges the wrist early then turns the chest, shoulders and arms while keeping the hips square to the ball so that on the down swing the chest, shoulders and arms return to their square set up position at impact. The result is hitting the ball square at impact with more power. The hips then turn through the ball on the follow through by getting the heel of the rear foot up and perpendicular to the ground. The ability to hold the finish position until the ball lands demonstrates great balance.

In a single plane swing, the arms are trying to catch up to the hips causing a tendency to change tempo on the down swing. Tempo is easier to maintain throughout the golf swing using a two plane swing because the hips remain square on the back swing allowing the chest, shoulders and arms to square up at impact with minimal effort.

For recreational golfers, the two plane swing requires less practice to become proficient and generates more power. It keeps it super simple (KISS)!

Distant Control vs Direction

Working on distant control is best when there is no expectation of making the putt. First, maintain grip pressure throughout the entire putt. As a warm up or practice drill putt to the fringe instead of a hole so there is no expectation of making a putt which aids in a relaxed grip. Practice strokes should be done while looking at the target so you are mimicking the length of the stroke required to roll the ball the proper distance. For putts inside 6 feet, look as deep inside the cup as possible.

Reading putts is important to getting the distance right. Determine the grain and slope by visualizing pouring a bucket of water and see what direction the water would flow. Learn to feel your feet to sense the slope as well. Once you are standing over the putt, committ to the target and putt with confidence. Control your misses by putting to the highest spot around the target. Misses on the low side tend to gather speed and break more. Remember, a shorter back stroke promotes the putterhead releasing down the target line.

Great warm up drill is practice from 6 feet by putting to the back of the cup, then the front of the cup and finish by making a normal putt stroke to the middle of the cup.

By the way, right eye dominant golfers should stand taller to get your eyes just inside the target line while left eye dominant golfers should be more over the ball so you are looking right down the target line.

There has been a lot of talk about tempo. Your tempo should match every part of your game. No slower, no faster. Doesn't matter whether you are making a short putt or a long putt. Let the length of the stroke to determine the distance the ball will roll. Use a bench mark formula of a 1 inch back stroke will roll the ball 1 foot up to 12 feet. Outside of 12 feet, the length of the forward stroke determines the length the ball will roll. For example, a 25 inch forward stroke will roll the ball 25 feet. Adjust the length of the stroke based upon factors such as slope and stimpmeter. Every inch the hole is above the ball add an inch to the stroke. Every inch the hole is below the ball subtract an inch from the stroke.


Pitch Shot Basics

The first thing to decide is whether you are going to hit a low, mid, high or flop shot using L3 (lie, landing spot and length the ball needs to roll). This helps choose the proper club for the shot as well.

Ball position for a low pitch is one ball behind the middle of your stance. Ball position for a mid pitch is center of your stance. Ball position for a high pitch or flop shot is one ball in front of the middle of your stance.

Feet should be at least 6 inches a part and open approximately 45 degrees. Common mistake is putting your feet to close together. This makes it near impossible to get your weight to the front foot. For a low shot, front foot should remain flat on the ground on the back stroke. Many people may find it helpful to rotate your hips by allowing the heel of the front foot to come up. This will also help keep the club low and slow on the backstroke. Using this technique for a mid pitch, high pitch or flop shot is especially helpful because you are rotating further on the back stroke.

For a low pitch, the club head should go back to the height between your ankle and calf. For a mid pitch, take the club head back to the height between your calf and knee. For a high pitch or flop shot, take the club head back to the height between your knee and waist. Hint, the shorter the back stroke the easier to make good ball contact.

Consistent ball contact comes from a lower shaft angle coming in to the ball on the forward stroke. The bottom of the club face should brush the grass 3 to 6 inches behind the ball thru to at least 3 to 6 inches in front of the ball.

Allow the heel of the rear foot to come up on the forward stroke. This will promote the hips turning and allow the chest to turn toward the target. Arms and hands will follow.

On a low or mid pitch, the arms and hands should roll over which points the toe of the club up or toward the target. Hint, thumb on the top hand should point at the target to control distance and direction. If you need more spin, leave the palm of rear hand facing up. This also assists in the club face pointing upward. Both will invoke more spin on the ball, preventing the ball to rollout. Golfers call this getting the ball to check up. However, on a high pitch or a flop shot, always leave the palm up allowing the ball to land softly. Imagine tossing a ball high in the air. The motions are very similar.

On the forward stroke of a low pitch, the club head shouldn't get above your knees. The height of the forward stroke of a mid pitch should match the height of the back stroke. For example, knee to knee. On a high pitch or flop shot the club head should  point up toward the sky. This is accomplished by stopping the forward motion of the lead arm at your hip and allow the trail arm to continue to move forward and up.

The only difference between a high pitch and a flop shot is an open club face at address and the forward stroke of a flop shot travels down the toe line not the target line. In other words, for a flop shot aim the club face at the target but swing down your toe line. For higher shots, open your club face and your stance more. Hint, the club face and stance always open the same amount. The more you open the club face the more you open your stance.

Remember, regardless of the pitch shot you choose, always take a few practice swings because you play the way you practice. The only difference between a practice swing and your actual swing is the golf ball gets in the way.

Chip-Putt Technique

Setting up with the shaft of the club verticle will allow the rounded toe of the clubface to get to the bottom of the ball. This is not only where the bulk of the weight of the club is, it also has twice the amount of groves. The combination of these two promotes more spin for control and gets the ball up quicker.

Use a strong grip. This means you should be able to see 3 knuckles on your forward hand. Only the thumb and forefinger of the rear hand should pinch the club. Get out on the end of the club. This will force you to stand tall. The ball should be no more than 10 inches from your toes and between the middle and rear of your stance.

Using a putt stroke, keep the club low and slow on the backstroke, brushing the grass. The length of the back stroke and forward stroke should be no higher than your ankles. On the follow thru allow the thumb on the rear hand to rotate to the top of the club shaft resulting in the toe of the club pointing toward the sky. This will release the clubface, transferring the maximum amount of built up kinetic energy from the club head to the ball and force a low trajectory which promotes the ball rolling further.

Allow the heel of the rear foot to come up, promoting the hips, stomach and chest to turn toward the target. The arms and hands will follow.

Find a spot 4-6 inches in front of the ball along the target line to throw the clubhead over. Hold the finish until the ball stops rolling.