Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Reading

Since there are so ways golfers can get information on the swing and how to play, I thought I might list some of my favorite books that I suggest to students who are looking for ways to improve their games.

So in no particular order, here they are:

1. Practical Golf by John Jacobs
This one is terrific for simple explanations of ball-flight corrections as well as great diagrams and pictures.

2. The 8-Step Swing by Jim McLean
Jim is one of the top teachers in golf and breaks the swing down into 8 positions. It may sound technical but if you are looking for a detailed system to improve your swing it's excellent. Once you start reading it will help you get a clear picture of what you need to do to improve your swing.

3. The Little Red Book by Harvey Penick
A golf instruction classic, Harvey taught golf for almost 80 years and the book is full of great advice that can help anyone from beginner to expert. An easy read that you can look at several times and always get something new to help your game.

4. Your 15th Club by Dr. Bob Rotella
This is Rotella's latest book and in my opinion his best. It covers his basic tenants for a sound mental approach to playing the game and gives lots of practical advice on how to apply the lessons.

What's The Score Coach?

I was watching my 8-year old son's travel baseball team play recently and got a great lesson from his coach that can transfer to your golf game. My son's team was locked in a tight battle in the championship game and the score was close. After the 3rd inning the boys asked what the score was. They weren't sure if they were winning or losing. (at the time they were down by a run) The coach said, "Don't worry about the score, just go up to bat and hit the ball!" Sure enough, they scored a couple of runs and took the lead. The next inning they held the other team scoreless and were pretty excited about the possibility of winning the championship, although they still weren't sure where they stood. Again, they asked the coach, "What's the score?". "Are we winning?" He repeated to them "I don't know what the score is, just go play ball like it's 0-0!" Unfortunately they ended up losing the game by a score of 8-7 but the boys played hard until the end.

This led me to thinking about a round of golf and how your expectations can get in the way of performance. How many times have you started off on a hot streak and begun to mentally predict your final score? Maybe you shoot a great score on the front 9, only to "blow up" on the back 9. My advice would be to play like it's "0-0" and play each shot with total focus on the present. After all, your clubs don't know how you stand relative to par, they only know what you want your next shot to be. The next time you play, concentrate on the shot at hand and play it to the best of your ability.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Special Masters Moment

I went to the Masters on Monday and took my 8-year old son and 11-year old daughter with me for the first time. They both like golf and I thought it would be neat for them to experience being at Augusta National. Little did I know we would end up with a pretty special memory.

After walking some of the front 9 we went to hole #16, the par-3 over the pond. It's a practice round tradition for the pros to try skipping the ball across the pond onto the green. There is usually a pretty good gallery because the fans like to see the pros have some fun and joke around. We got a spot right behind the tee next to the ropes. We watched a couple of groups come through when the twosome of Fuzzy Zoeller and Kenny Perry arrived. Of course Fuzzy was playing to the crowd and cracking jokes. Then he came over to the back of the tee where we were standing and asked my son Stone to come out onto the tee. He asked Stone his name and where he was from. He then asked if he played golf. When Stone told him he did, Fuzzy asked him if he wanted to hit a shot! When Stone said he would, Fuzzy announced to the gallery, "Now on the tee...from Charlotte,NC...Stone Fossum". Stone took a practice swing with Fuzzy's hybrid and stepped up and smacked the ball about 100 yards right at the flag, into the middle of the pond! The crowd loved it and gave him a nice round of applause. Stone is now a huge Fuzzy Zoeller fan!

Here are a couple of pictures and a link to the video on You Tube.

Friday, April 3, 2009

9 Tips For Better Practice

No matter how well you play, it’s simply human nature to want to play better. Go to any driving range and you’ll see all kinds of people looking for the “secret” to a better swing. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to practice effectively. When you are on the range, you get to hit a shot about every 30 seconds or so. The short time in between shots gives you a chance to get your timing just right to compensate for any swing errors. On the golf course you don’t have this advantage. Because you only hit the ball about every five minutes, you lose the precise timing you need to compensate for swing errors.

If you struggle to bring your “range game” to the course, the following tips will help.

1. Always use an alignment aid. Lay down clubs or use a board. You need to know where you are aimed before you begin making swing adjustments.

2. Make two purposeful practice swings for every ball you hit on the range. The best way to make swing changes is to perform correct repetitions of the desired change. Simply hitting balls doesn’t guarantee you are making any actual changes.

3. Mirrors make great teachers. Use a mirror to check you set-up, grip and any other parts of your swing. Scientific studies show that motor-learning skills are increased by 70% when visual and kinesthetic feel are combined.

4. Remember to practice your short game. Practice your putting and wedge play at least 50% of the time. Your scores are mostly influenced by how well you chip and putt.

5. Change your target every so often on the range as you hit balls.

6. Keep a notebook in your golf bag and take notes on what you are working on for each practice session. Record swing thoughts and feels, especially when you are hitting the ball well. This information can be helpful to you at a later time.

7. At the end of a session hitting balls on the range, hit 10 different balls at 10 different targets, never hitting the same club twice. This will tell you how well you are actually hitting the ball. Remember, you can get into a rhythm on the range hitting ball after ball. You hit the ball approximately every 30 seconds on the range and every 5 minutes on the golf course

8. Be aware of your ball flight. The ball is your teacher. Observe how the ball flies and you can learn what position your clubface was in at impact and the direction your ball started tells you the direction of the of the forward swing path.

9. Practice in short focused sessions. It’s better to learn golf a little at time, than in one long, marathon session.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pro Swings

Check out this website to watch all kinds of pro swings from various angles

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Get Your Swing Under Control

Playing good golf is dependent on controlling the direction, distance and trajectory of your shots. Good players control the flight of the ball more consistently than the average player. No matter what your swing thoughts or theory might be, there are four major factors to be aware of as the club strikes the ball.

1. The Clubface: which can be open, closed or square. The basic rule to remember is that the ball will land where the clubface was aimed at impact.

2. The Swing Path: which can be in-to-out, out-to-in or inside to straight to inside. This will usually influence the starting direction of the shot. (At slower swing speeds this is not always the case, the clubface alignment at impact has greater influence)

3. The Angle of Attack: which can be too steep, too shallow, or correct for the individual club. The swing path is related to this, an out-to-in path creates a steeper angle of approach while an in-to-out path shallows the angle of approach.

4. Clubhead Speed: to suit the shot at hand.

Understanding these four factors is critical in improving your game. Anytime you think about making a change in your technique it should be related to changing these impact conditions. For example, if you tend to slice your tee shots it probably won't do much good to slow down your swing or trying to keep your head down longer. The root cause of your slice is the clubface being open at impact and you correct this by checking your grip. Turning both hands to the right on the grip will help you square the clubface and reduce your slice.

If you want to get better control of your swing, and the results it produces, take the time to think what adjustments you need to make in the four impact conditions that will change your shots.