Adopt an effective Pre-Round Practice Routine

October 8, 2013

Pre-Round Practice Routine
By Chris Neylan

Here are a few bits of wisdom from a coach that has seen a fair amount of POOR PRE-ROUND PRACTICE ROUTINES:

1)       Start your pre-round “warm-up” on the PUTTING GREEN.  Use ONE BALL (instead multiple balls), and putt until the one ball is HOLED OUT (no “gimmes”).  This makes you focus on the practice green like you need to focus on the golf course.  Start with a very short putt (to get some confidence going), and end with some long putts where my primary focus is DISTANCE CONTROL.  Again, putt until your ball is holed out before hitting the next long-distance putt.  If you want bonus points, try to finish your practice with some 3, 6, and 10 foot “I-need-this-for-my-best-round” putts.  Do your best Keegan Bradley (or Christina Kim??) impression when you hole them, if you wish.

2)      After you have some putting confidence going, head over to the CHIPPING and PITCHING area of the practice range.  Hit a handful of “bump and run” chip shots with a lower-lofted club (7 iron??), then hit a few pitches with a high lofted club (like a sand wedge).  Once you have a “feel” for each shot, ALTERNATE SHOTS, hitting one chip, then one pitch, etc…  Focus on the different landing points needed for each shot, and make it your goal to have a PUTT after every chip or pitch.  Simply put, just get the chip or pitch ANYWHERE on the putting surface, and you will be pretty well prepared for the course.

3)      Now it’s time to hit the RANGE.  Start hitting balls with your highest-lofted club, and work your way through your set (skipping clubs if necessary) until you get to the “BIG DOG” (the 1 wood, the driver, etc…).  Three or four balls with each club should be sufficient.  Try not to wear yourself out on the range, as there should be plenty of time after the round to practice your “deficiencies” (just kidding, sort of).  Always finish your range session with the club you will tee off with on the 1st hole, and hit a few extra shots (5 to 10??) with that particular club.  Try to use the same pre-shot routine on the range that you will use on the 1st tee!!!  If your first hole requires a hybrid or long iron, make that the club you end your range session with.

The above “warm up session” should take 30 to 40 minutes (maximum).  Be sure to HYDRATE while you are journeying around the practice facility (and on the course as well).

When you head to the first tee, be sure to have the following things in your pocket:  A few TEES, a DIVOT TOOL, and a BALL MARKER are must-have golfing utensils.  Please don’t be the golfer that has to beg for a tee on the first tee box, or asks for a penny on the first green, unless you like to be the object of ridicule.  A WET TOWEL will allow you to keep the grooves on your clubs clean during the round, and will help you keep the ball shiny, white (yellow, orange, purple??), and rolling true on the putting surfaces.  To really show the group that you are ready to play, mark your ball (keep it simple??) with a sharpie marker and be sure to IDENTIFY YOUR BALL on the first tee.  This will help give everyone a better chance of playing their OWN golf ball during the round, and avoid unnecessary penalty strokes (or derision from the group, which is even worse in my opinion).  Also, if having your ball nicely marked doesn’t impress your golfing crew, then I’m pretty sure nothing will…

Have a great rest of your golfing season, and PLAY WELL.

 

 


Dufnering 101: What Jason Dufner (And All Professionals) Do That You Don’t

August 15, 2013

Scott Hogan Certified Personal Coach
GolfTEC Halsted Row

The PGA Championship was once again an exciting tournament that mixes the best of the low scoring and birdies we see at Augusta National and the brutal course setup and rough that the U.S. Open can bring to penalize

Golf: US PGA Championship-Final Round

less than perfect shots. When all was said and done, Jason Dufner’s clinic on ball striking led him to a two stoke victory and the Wannamaker Trophy.

Jason Dufner as mentioned in the television broadcast learned golf by reading Ben Hogan’s famous “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” book, which is not a bad choice since Ben Hogan may arguably be the best ball striker of all time. One of the most important lessons from the book is something that I see every single tour professional do, and my students who are struggling to hit the ball solid fail to do. At impact, the shaft of the club must be leaning forward, and the lead wrist must either be flat or bowed towards the target.

The forward shaft lean allows a player to strike the golf ball first in a descending manner and compress the ball into the ground which creates power, spin and consistency. The forward shaft lean is also something that I think is overlooked because too many people focus on trying to get the club in a good top of the backswing position or bring the club down on plane and not over the top. While I will agree that these elements can make life easier to get the club into a good position at impact, I’ve seen many a good looking golf swings get ruined because they fail to focus on having the shaft leaning forward by making sure the lead wrist is flat or bowed.

A good drill that I do with almost every student to see if you are able to create this proper impact position is to place a small object (I’ll use either a penny or business card indoors) in front of the golf ball about 3-4 inches. I then have my students make swings attempting to hit the ball about 50 yards with a club that normally goes 120-150 yards, where they make contact with the golf ball first and then hit the object with the club head afterwards. Make sure to be aware that the club head is contacting the object and that a poorly struck golf ball doesn’t move it. By having the shaft leaning forward at impact with the lead wrist flat or bowed it will be easy to contact the ball first and then the object after. If the student is successfully able to perform the drill for 50 yard swings then I will allow them to move up to 75 then 100 yard swings and eventually full swings. By learning to create this correct position at impact the result that students will usually see is that these mini swings hit the ball farther with a more consistent launch angle with less effort.

Next time you’re watching golf on television pay close attention to replays of golf swings they show and watch how the shaft of the club will be leaning forward at impact. All the professionals do it and it is something you should be doing too if you want to improve your ball striking.

Scott Hogan is a Class A PGA Professional and Certified Personal Coach for GolfTEC at their Halsted Row Location. Visit golftec.com or contact Scott at shogan@golftec.com to find out how you can save up to 20% on Improvement Plans through August 23rd.


June 12, 2013

How to play common trouble shots. Russ Clark, Director of Instruction, Franchise Owner, GolfTEC Boulder

June is here and all golfers will turn their attention to the upcoming U.S. Open. This year it returns to a course that while short, has a history of having tight fairways, diabolically dense rough and tiny, lightning fast greens. If those issues aren’t daunting enough, there’s the pressure of simply teeing it up in a U.S. Open. As Lee Trevino stated, “Players know that the words ‘U.S. Open’ mean double the pressure. You can make a mistake at Augusta and get away with it. Not at a U.S. Open.”

Playing golf is fun though, at least it’s supposed to be fun, but even the best touring professionals hit shots into deep grass, sand, or behind a tree. During playing lessons with my clients, trouble shots and how to get out of those awkward places is usually a hot topic. Most times with proper technique and course management you can recover without wasting too many shots. Let’s take a look at how to handle some of the more common “trouble shots”.

ball in tall grassDeep rough Playing a golf shot from off the fairway is a challenge, but with a few adjustments this shot shouldn’t ruin your day on the links. I’ve been lucky enough to play in a few tour events and three USGA National Championships where the rough can be brutally deep just off the fairway. The first thing to do when you hit an errant shot into the deep grass is to evaluate your lie. Are you in ryegrass, bluegrass, Bermudagrass, or Kikuya rough? Each type of grass offers different options in playing your next shot. One of your primary goals should be getting back into the fairway with this shot, so choose a strategy that gives you the best chance of finding the fairway. Golfers in the south tend to play in Bermuda grass where the golf ball wants to “sink” down to the bottom. Bluegrass is a dark color and almost always plays like it’s wet and heavy. Golf shots hit into Kikuya grass may appear to be teed up on top of the grass, while ryegrass, a light green color, is probably the easiest to play from.

Some keys to all these shots include:

  • Club selection—it’s better to hit an 8-iron 100 yards down the fairway than to try a 4-iron that only goes 15 yards and is still in the rough.
  • Ball position—move the ball slightly back in your stance. The deeper the grass the farther back you should have the golf ball. This improves your chance of hitting more golf ball than grass when you swing.
  • Hover the clubhead—I see golfers push the clubhead into the grass before they swing. This will cause you to hit behind the ball and the grass will slow the club and twist the clubface closed so your golf ball goes short and crooked.
  • Hinge & Shift—hinge your wrists a little quicker on the takeaway and focus on shifting your weight into the lead foot on the downswing. Many golfers use only their arms causing them to hit behind the ball, allowing the grass to kill your club head speed. Some golfers I teach tend to “flip” at the ball; this is a death move out of the rough so you need to practice getting the hands in front at impact. Ask your coach about the “Miss the Towel” drill during your next lesson to stop the flip move out of the rough. Plus, check out the drill in the video at end of this article.

ball in bunkerFairway bunkers   Most golfers dread hitting shots out of the sand…especially fairway bunkers. I see more clients struggle with sand than almost any other part of their game. In a fairway bunker you must hit the golf ball first when you swing…even a ½-inch of sand will destroy your chance of reaching the green. Here are a few tips for extracting your ball from a fairway bunker:

  • Like the shot from the rough, you should move the ball slightly back in your stance.
  • Unlike a greenside bunker, you should not dig your feet in very deep.
  • Choke down on the grip about a ½-inch and only swing at about 70% of your normal speed and power.
  • When choosing a club, always choose one with enough loft to get over any lip in front of you. This is very important; even if you can’t reach the green you must choose a club that will fly high enough to miss the lip. If the lip isn’t an issue, use more club than the distance would normally dictate to allow for the easier swing you’ll be using.
  • Keep your body quiet as you swing and don’t look at the back of the golf ball. Instead, focus on the dimple at the front of the ball. This gives you a better chance to hit the ball first, which we already know is very important.

hitting under treeHitting low shots under tree limbs  Changing your trajectory to get the golf ball under a tree limb is similar to playing into the wind. You need to make a few adjustments to your normal address position and swing:

  • Start by playing the ball back further in your stance with a little more weight on your lead foot. Both of these adjustments will help decrease the loft of your club at impact and result in a lower launch angle.
  • Make a swing that will help lower trajectory and reduce the amount of backspin you put on the ball. Ideally, your backswing will stop about waist high and your follow through will stop at approximately the same level. This short swing will increase your control of the club, lower the launch angle, and cause the ball to run more once it’s back on the ground. Much like playing from deep grass, you must have the hands in front of the ball at impact so use the “Miss the towel” drill again to practice low running shots.

My last advice—get out on the course for a Playing Lesson with your Coach. You will learn so much about lowering your score and playing better golf!


USGA, R&A approve ban on anchored putting

June 4, 2013

The controversy is far from over, but GolfTEC offers some tips on how to legally use a longer putter.

GolfTEC staff, video by Andy Hilts, GolfTEC Vice President of Instruction and Education

Belly Putter Shot

As Adam Scott walked away with the Green Jacket in April, becoming the fourth player to win a major title while using an anchored putting stroke, one GolfTEC Coach couldn’t help but wonder how his victory would sit with the USGA. Roughly a month later, the USGA has spoken.

On Tuesday, May 21st, the USGA finalized the rules change proposed back in November that has created heated controversy in the golf world. Effective January 1, 2016, players competing under USGA/R&A rules will no longer be allowed to use the anchored putting stroke.

Belly Putter Ban

While Rule 14-1b will prohibit most players from using a belly or broomstick model, it is important to understand that with the rules change, a player can still use a longer putter—as long as it is not anchored against their body to create the effect of a hinge.

Watch the video below, as Andy Hilts, GolfTEC VP of Instruction and Education, provides golfers some tips on how to legally use a longer putter under the new rules change.

 


Club Corner

May 28, 2013

A closer look at Callaway’s new X Hot product line. Doug Rikkers, GolfTEC Director of Club Fitting & Merchandise Services, PGA Member

Callaway’s new X Hot Family provides a great mix for players of all abilities. Whether you’re looking for a driver, fairway/hybrid, or set of irons, you’re sure to find what’s best for your game in either the X Hot or X Hot Pro line.

X Hot DriverBoth the X Hot and X Hot Pro Driver feature a high level of adjustability, but with different sized heads and loft options. The X Hot Driver is the more forgiving of the two. With a larger 460cc head, it weighs 14-grams lighter than the X Hot Pro for increased swing speed. It also has a greater draw bias to fight off that annoying slice, and is available in lofts from 9.5 to 13.5-degrees.

X Hot Pro DriverLower handicap players may prefer the X Hot Pro’s smaller, but deeper, 435cc head. When set in the neutral setting, the face rests a  ½-degree open, but can be adjusted to as much as 3.5-degrees open or 1.5-degrees closed. Club designers have specifically designed the X Hot Pro Driver for lower spin through CG placement and loft options of 8.5 to 10.5-degrees. It also comes with an excellent shaft in the Project X Velocity.

Hot Iron

If you’re looking for clubs that are both forgiving and consistently long, the X Hot Irons are designed to be just that. By removing the undercut behind the top line of most cavity back irons, designers were able to lower the Center of Gravity and provide a longer, more consistent outcome on shots hit low on the face. If you’re going to hit thin shots, you may as well get the most out of them! Connecting all the pieces is the Speed Step 85 shaft made by True Temper, but of course a wide range of popular custom shaft offerings are also available.

X Hot Pro IronFor players looking for game improvement without an oversized looking head, Callaway offers the X Hot Pro Irons. Compared to the X Hot, the X Hot Pro Irons have a thinner sole and top line often preferred by better players, less off-set, and lofts that are 1-degree weaker. You’ll also find a precise “V” groove that is designed to deliver greater control and shot shaping accuracy. All of this is powered by a Project X 95 Flighted Rifle shaft.

Match your new driver and irons with your choice of X Hot Fairway Woods or Hybrids and you’ve got the perfect arsenal to respond to any challenge your course presents.


Win in the Wind

May 22, 2013

How to hit successful shots in windy conditions.
Erik Wait, Director of Instruction, Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Manager

As if playing golf isn’t already hard enough, it’s inevitable that Mother Nature will add an element to one or more of your rounds this year. In terms of difficulty, playing golf in moderate-to-high winds is one of the most challenging elements to contend with when you’re trying to hit the shots needed to close out your buddy on Saturday afternoon. From a gentle breeze to 40 mph gusting winds, the ability to hit successful shots in the wind is something that every golfer must develop. Fortunately, there are a few specific keys to playing in the wind that make it easier to control your golf ball.

Playing with the wind

Playing a golf shot downwind typically makes the ball travel further, but in some cases it can also make the ball drop out of the air more quickly. In order to get the most out of hitting a ball downwind, you need to get the ball up in the air and spinning. If you are between clubs and wanting to ride the wind, play the club that requires you to make a full swing. A less than full swing typically makes the ball launch lower and spin less—resulting in a shot that could be “knocked down” by a tail wind and not carry the distance you had hoped for. With a driver in your hand, you can maximize your downwind shots by making a few small adjustments at address. First, tee your ball slightly higher than your normal tee height so that you can increase your launch angle. Next, tee your ball slightly farther forward of center, towards your big toe, to ensure that you are swinging more “level” through the impact position. Lastly, “Grip it and rip it”…even slightly miss-hit shots will travel longer and straighter downwind than your average drive!

Playing against the wind

The shot most golfers dread hitting in the wind is when the wind is straight in your face and it feels like you are standing behind a Boeing 747 that’s ready for takeoff! In order to hit quality shots into the wind, you need to be able to control your swing length, launch angle and spin. With the British Open in July, we are bound to see some of the best players in the world hitting 8-irons from 120 yards and making a swing that looks like a big chip shot to get it there. Tom Watson (Five-time British Open Winner) said “I learned early on that the key to handling British Open venues on windswept links is to feel as if you’re hitting long chip shots around the course.” A good rule of thumb for hitting shots in windy conditions is to take one more club for every 10 mph that you are hitting into, and if you are a high ball hitter, you may want to take 1 ½ clubs more. For example, if you normally hit an 8-iron 135 yards and you are in a 20 mph wind, you need to play either your 5 or 6-iron.

In order to achieve a flatter shot trajectory when playing into the wind, you need to make a few adjustments to your normal address position and swing. First, start by playing the ball back further in your stance with a little more of your weight on your front foot. Both of these adjustments will help decrease the loft of your club at impact and result in a flatter launch angle. Second, you need to make a swing that will produce a slightly lower trajectory and reduce the amount of backspin you put on the ball. Ideally, your backswing will stop near chest-high and your follow through will stop at approximately the same level. This “L to L” swing will increase your control of the club and the ball when hitting shots into the wind. Remember the saying, “When it’s breezy swing easy”. You took plenty of club and now you just need to make a smooth swing!

left L demo right L demo

Putting on a windy day

Lastly, wind can affect your putting too. It’s considerably harder to predict how the wind may affect your putting, but there are a few things you can learn to look for that will help you putt better in the wind. First, if your ball is shaking more than your hands when you’re over a 4-foot birdie putt, the wind might have an effect on how the ball rolls. When you are approaching a green, try to do a quick scan of the surrounding area to see if the green is protected or out in the open. If the greens are really smooth and quicker than average you are more likely to have to adjust for windy conditions. Wind typically has a greater effect on downwind and into the wind putts and effects the distance your ball rolls. Second, with windy conditions, your body is likely to act like a sail and blow you around, making it difficult to hit solid putts. To stabilize your body’s position, adjust your set-up by taking a wider stance. A wider stand will keep you closer to the ground and give you a larger base to help stay stable.


Master Your Drive

April 23, 2013

How to draw it. Josh Jeffers, GolfTEC Certified Personal Coach, GolfTEC Fort Myers

It is no mystery that throughout golf’s history, the game’s best players have typically played a draw ball flight, where the ball starts to the right of the target and curves back towards the target. There are no better examples of this than those who have won the prestigious green jacket at The Masters…Sam Snead in 1949, Fred Couples in 1992, Tiger Woods’ first Masters victory in 1997, and Zach Johnson ten years later in 2007. While this is not to say that those golfers who play a fade can’t win a green jacket, as Jack Nicklaus proved this with his six green jackets, it does indicate that the course demands more of a draw ball flight off the tee box. The greens at Augusta National are so fast and tiered that to be able to hit greens and get in scoring position, you must put yourself in position off the tee box. At Augusta, a draw ball flight fits the necessary shot shape for the majority of the par 4s and par 5s.

Many of today’s great players also play a draw ball flight. Golf is a game of distance and at the tour level of play a draw ball flight allows you to hit the ball further. Having an 8-iron in your hands vs a 6-iron is a huge advantage to have on the competition. Again, you do not need to play a draw to play good golf. However, most of the game’s recreational players would give their little pinky finger to play a draw, rather than a pull or push slice. Therefore, as we approach The Masters, let’s take a closer look at the basic motions needed to play a draw ball flight.

Draw Swing path

The first and most important step every golfer must understand is conceptually how a draw is produced. The good news is that the answer is very simple. To hit a shot that starts to the right and curves back to the left, the club path must be moving to the right or on an “in-to-out” path through the hitting area. The clubface must be slightly closed relative to the path of the club. Review the illustration to the left for a visual.

The purpose of this is to provide you with some general keys to hitting a draw. There are multiple components that are involved and if any of them are incorrect it may hurt your ability to draw the ball consistently…or even at all.

  1. gripYou need a grip that supports the goal at impact, which is to have the clubface slightly closed relative to the path. This means you need a grip where your lead hand is rotated over the top of the grip more and where the thumb is more on the right side of the handle.
  2. golfer demonstrationThe club needs to swing around your body and approach the ball from the inside, which requires good body turn in the backswing. Lack of turn in the backswing is one of the major reasons for an outside-in path and the resulting pulls and slices.
  3. If the first two steps are in place, the last mandatory step is that your shoulders “stay back” as your lower body begins to shift and turn towards the target. If the upper body does not do this, the club will be put into a position where it must swing on an out-to-in path through the hitting area—the type of path that is a characteristic of a fade or slice ball flight.shoulder stay backout-to-in path

As you incorporate these new techniques into your swing, take it slowly at first on the range and start with a 7-iron. Placing the ball on a tee helps, as it takes the ground out of the equation, while swinging at 50% will allow you to feel the differences in motion. As you improve curving the ball right to left, gradually increase your swing speed. Stay after it and you too will be able to hit the ball flight of the game’s best players…past and present!


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