The_coach Series: #16 Fixing the takeaway

My friend Anshu visited us this week for a few hours.  He is no golfer but dragged him to the course to do a few videos of my swing. I am still inconsistent, but we managed to capture 2 vids that I sent to the_coach. It had been wet and miserable for the past couple of days and ball would not run anywhere.

This is the drive on the 5th hole of Shey. I made good contact, ball started left but fought its way back. It landed on the first fring of the fairway and did not run much.  But was a good 220ys of carry.  My driver was set to 1 degree ‘Closed’ and 11.5 loft.

This is the drive on the 8th. A lot of my old habits in play here.  Blocked the drive, ball started right and stayed right.  My driver was set to 1 degree ‘Neutral’ and 11.5 loft. Ball did not go anywhere – just a shade under 200y; last week I drove these greens, but this time it was piss poor.

Sent it over to the_coach for review (was not expecting too many kind words)..

the_coach’s view>>

See what you’re saying, but the swing in better shape than the earlier ones you posted. Yep still work to do but it is better, particularly noticeable in the FO view, where you are keeping your upper body behind the strike a good ways better. So too is the backswing length which is in terms of length a good ways better (though I’d still like to see it just a fraction longer) than the first posted swing too. So it’s not all bad news.

Couple of things to think about. If you look at slow-mo FO angle. (Slow-mo is really useful too)

You’ll notice the first thing that’s in motion to start the club away is a set & roll with the hands alone. Not easy I know but you’re going to have to stop that independent hand action right at the get go, as it’s responsible directly for both the path & direction & plane of the back swing which in turn is responsible for the oversteep & a little over & across the line downswing which in direction has you swinging the club left through impact.

So with this ‘hand/wrist action right at the get go, the club shaft is when 1st parallel to the ground also pointing inside so over your toe line behind you (so the butt end of the handle pointing out rightways of target here rather than slightly more towards it) instead of the shaft at parallel being both parallel to the ground, your toe line & your ball target line.

So the club works from here a little ways too far behind you just a tad flat, so from this top of backswing position (if you pause the slow-mo at all these points you’ll see what I mean) your first move down has the arms hands & club & right shoulder moving outwards towards the ball/target line which makes the angle of the shaft a ways to steep, so you’re coming across the line swinging left through impact.

Good posture, decent distance away from the ball, arms hanging in good position at setup. So you need to keep that angle you have set in your left wrist as you feel your shoulders left arm & club move away from the ball, so that triangle space between the arms stays intact as the whole unit moves away, that left wrist angle so right wrist angle does not change neither do the hands or wrist roll clockwise as they move away.

Practice without a ball this first move away so you get the ‘triangle’ left wrist, the whole Y shape moving as one (so shoulders turning, right shoulder turning backwards behind you it doesn’t move/sway to the right away from target but backwards away from the ball/target line more of less straight away. Only when your hands get past your right thigh will there be a very slight softening of the right hand backwards to the right forearm, at this point now the shaft should be parallel to the ground, your toe line, your ball/target line, the butt end of club pointing to target (not to the ball a ways)

Just keep making this small takeaway motion as described until you can get this down right, it’s absolutely crucial.
From this point all that then happens is as the shoulder keeping turning in you spine posture your left thumb will point upwards, skywards (not behind you) your right arm will fold, so when your left arm is parallel to the ground, toe line ball/target line the left thumb points as described so the shaft is now somewhere around 90º to you arm. So again just keep practicing getting to the left arm parallel position as described (this is all importantly without a ball not hitting anything at all.)

Helps doing both these position drills if once you’ve done it a few times, do it with your eyes closed, stop when the shaft is in the 1st parallel position open your eyes & check to see if your right. With eyes closed is often easier to feel the motion is moving in the right direction. Do same with the slightly longer swing to left arm parallel shaft at 90º as described.

Once you’ve done that to get to the top of the backswing all you need to feel is completing the shoulder turn until left shoulder under chin, then everything stops together at the top. You can practice this exactly the same as the other drills, some eyes closed to the top too. Without sight you can feel the positions much more.

When you get to driving range or practice ground, first off just repeat these a few times, just the part backswing drills to the top. Then still just at first without a ball make the move back to the top, & feel, from here the weight into left foot & then the right shoulder moving downwards towards the ground so arms hands & club first move is downwards too, they are not moving outwards here at all. (check your slow-mo swing & you’ll see from the top currently your right shoulder arms hands & club move outwards so that shaft is steep & out away from you moving towards the ball/target line, this all has to move downwards first then when the shaft gets parallel too the ground in the downswing from there the clubhead moves outwards to the ball because of the rotational centripetal forces of your body rotation) It’s the hands moving first in the takeaway that’s making it very hard for you to get the swing path direction you need to have the club head approach from inside the line so then swing to the right, if you can get this the strike will be completely different. Anyways it all looks not doubt a bit long & involved but if you just work through all this & get it it will simply transform your game.

As well as doing the drills I described, this is a great drill both to feel the one piece takeaway & to feel how the arms & club are connected to the body turn, both going back & coming through.  It’s also great for stopping that independent hand & arm action you currently have from the get go, as if you do that the butt end of the club will come away from your body.

Another great little drill (to the 8 o’clock position) that will help to eliminate the independent hand/arm action from your move away at the get go.

The_coach series: #15 Greenside Bunker Play

Greenside bunker can be an interesting place to be (or rather not to be).  I have been a bit lucky with my greenside bunker play.  Generally I can get out of greenside bunkers – though I might struggle to judge the distance.  I can occasionally thin the ball and leave it in the bunker or send it flying over. The English weather also means our bunkers can be soft and fluffy one day and rock hard the other.  At this stage of the game, I need to improve my technique to address 80% of the situations, so I posed the question to the_coach

The_coach’s view>>

I advise you stand a little ways open with feet hips & shoulders, with the ball off the inside of heel, as your not aiming to hit the ball, but the sand a couple inches behind so that point where the club enters the sand is better if it’s around opposite your sternum. Good bunker players swing shallow, picture a flat-ish u shaped swing, rather than a steep v shaped one. (you only need a steep swing if the ball is plugged)

You want a smooth 3/4 length swing, no hit at the bottom. Pick where you want the ball to land, brain works better with a definite target rather than just a get it out thought. Swing through to the finish not where the ball is as the finish.

How to set up in a Bunker

How to execute the bunker shot

Me>> The set up looks good, but how do you differentiate between shots when you have a lot of green to work with v/s when you dont have much green.  The difference for me between playing when I have a lot of green to work with rather than little is the say I hold the shaft.  When I don’t have much green, I will have a flatter swing as compared to when I need the ball to carry.  What would the the_coach suggest?

The_coach’s view>>

If you’re asking what I personally do at where I am in the game if you like. If I were say looking to play a shot where my landing point on the green was say 60 feet away, then personally I might square both my stance up a ways & also square up my 58º to the ball/target line.

If say I was in a bunker some 40 yards from the green with some fairway or rough before the green & my landing point was some still 40+ feet on the green also, I may even go down to my 52º but open up the face angle slightly as this club has less bounce in order to get the distance.

If say I was in a bunker greenside & I had 10′ or 15′ (or less) only to my landing point, personally I would lay my 58º back & open, by back I mean the shaft would be slightly further away at the handle so leaning backwards from target a little ways, my stance would be wider, slightly more flex in the knees, I would also have a more open stance, all this to get more height, so the descent is steeper so stops quicker.

It really depends where you are in the game in terms of say skill level. If you can’t always get out of a bunker first time every time, then you need to be more circumspect in your choices of how you approach things.

By that I mean you first find a reliable set up & swing motion that gets you out then stick for a while with that basic bunker shot form, in set up & technique, so you at least make sure you have a putt as your next shot, rather than leaving the ball in, or bellying it straight over the green & ending up racking up some big numbers that will derail your round. Far better to have the goal of getting out & having say two putt for a bogey & just dropping one, working this way sometimes you’ll get lucky & the 1st putt will drop & you escape with a par.

Trying to get too much finesse by constantly changing either stance to the shot or face angle is probably going to make life a lot more difficult & lower the odds of a big number too often.

When you can get out first time everytime somewhere on the green consistently is probably the best ways to go & when you get to be able to do that as a matter of course, then you can start (on the course in play anyways, experiment in practice if you want, but before you do make sure you really know where to get back to if all the experimentation makes it all go a good ways pear shaped in practice) to experiment with more open face angles, open or square set ups.  Very easy if you’re not careful to tie yourself up in knots, in what is, given a normal lie a fairly easy shot, as you don’t even have to hit the ball! To get better at this game from the higher end of the handicap range you need to concentrate on eliminating the mental errors & technical errors so you don’t rack up the big numbers.

The_coach series: #14 Course Management (Part 2)

One of the frustrating bit about my game is my inability to get below the 18 handicap and shoot in the 80s.  This is compounded by the fact that I have the distances and the game to get below my 18 HC. My game will have some great holes even an occasional birdie, but will also have 2-3 blowouts which cost me the game. So my question to the_coach was how do I develop the mental side to stay composed during the game.

Today’s I had an eagle opportunity and I left it short.  After having driven the green on the 8th P4 on Shey, I was really pumped and was fairly euphoric about rolling my first eagle in and lifting the Masters 🙂 .. but then I left it short by a wide margin. While this is the case of being too happy, I am usually at the other end where I will be licking my wounds.

  1. I dont get too upset with hitting the occasional bad shot and getting bad result. But it is the good or avg shot that gets the wrong bounce or gets carried off by the wind that does my head in.
  2. Also every round I will have 4-5 shots where I will thin or fat my iron/driver/wood..

I need to get these off my card and I will be in the early teens sooner than I think.

 

The_coach’s view>>

Glad it’s starting to get a ways better. You have to find a way to stay level, neither too up or too down, gotta stay in the present of that one shot you’re about to play, cliché but absolutely essential. Get ahead of yourself, it will bite you, dwell on what ‘bad luck you’ve had, it will bite you.

Doesn’t mean you can’t ‘enjoy’ the game or the company. But as far as your own game, the bad shot, bad luck has happened dwelling on it will cost you some more. Get over excited about a great shot, a great score on a hole, & that will interfere with your next shot, as your concentration will have gone.

It’s a hard thing to do, but you have to develop a trigger prior to the shot in hand that switches you back into game mode, after the walk & talk with your playing partners. You have to shut it all out. Some pro’s you’ll see tug on their glove, some use a breath as they stand behind the play visualizing the shot, see it in the mind, where you want it to go (not the bunkers. or the water) but a positive image of the line to your target.

Don’t take on miracle shots, play to the game you have, choose the right side of the fairway to give you the best line in, chose to play for the ‘safe’ part of the green so you don’t leave it in the bunker. All these kinds of things, pick the best side of the tee box to tee up for the shot you want to play.

Always pick your line from behind the ball & pick a spot in front of the ball on that line, aim to set it off over that spot be it drive, fairway shot, or putt. As well as doing this with short pitches & chips, pick where you first want the ball to land on it’s way to the hole.
It’s all about first having the discipline to get all the ‘static’ fundamentals’ correct, then aim to swing easy, complete the turn going back swing to a balanced finish.

Put the practice in with a mind to the things I’ve outlined, watch the drills, copy them, get it down, then you can build some trust in the swing motion out on the course, you then just have to aim, manage your emotions, get a feel for course management, play confidently to the standard you’re at, accept the good, bad luck the same ways as that will always be there whatever standard of player you become. 

Don’t focus on the handicap, focus on the shot in hand, do that the scores will begin to take care of themselves.  Let thoughts of beating handicap drift in during play & the wheels will come off.
Stay in the moment, it’s the only way.

Good luck with it.

The_coach Series: #13 Taking on the course (and winning)

Got my clubs back from the loft & lie fittings. As my yardages are now all over the shop, I took the clubs out for a casual few holes so that I could look at how the clubs perform in real condition. I have also made some swing changes based on the_coach’s advice
Stats:

  • Driver – 238, 245, 254>> The 254y was on the 8th hole of Shey Copse. First time I have driven the green on a Par 4. Missed my 15 feet (first) eagle putt!! No change in kit, all the distances down to swing changes. Ball moved towards left armpit, body behind it & start with lower body. Club face now set to ‘Neutral’. Ball goes straight as a bullet or starts left and finishes back in line. Sliced one when I over thought the left knee
  • 3Wood – 219 >> In the past I could never hit my whippy 3W. Now it has a Matix Red Tie stiff shaft. Went straight as a rocket. Again started downswing with left left knee
  • 4hybrid – 178 >> Lie was changed. Could have been longer, but it landed off the fairway and started dying. This was back to old habits and blocked the ball right.
  • 6i-168 >> Now about 5y gained, still some bad habits as ball starting left and staying left
  • 7i-150 >> gained about 15yds (but I think there is a fair bit of roll) still some bad habits as ball starting left and staying left
  • 52 wedge -100 >> Could not be more perfect
  • 60 wedge – 66 >> Could not be more perfect, exact yardage as we saw on the GC2 HMT

I did duff a few shots, esp the longer ones as I was trying to overthink my swing during the swing itself – Never a good idea. Whenever I get my sequencing correctly, I am able send it much longer. Enjoyed the driver and glad that the 3W is back in play. The leadbetter drill (see below)has been a game changer. It is tough, but seems to be working for me.

 

the_coach’s view>>

Cool, good stuff, glad you are starting to get there, always good to feel the improvements are beginning to take shape. Critical lower body starts transition & the upper body & head stays behind the ball, as you feel your arms swing past your body, extension with both arms after impact.

Keep it going, will take some hard work but you can see it’ll pay off, key is to really be disciplined & monitor yourself so you don’t slip back in to old comfortable, but wrong ways. Bound to happen sometimes, but now you have a better idea of where you need to get back too.

Ball starting left still means the swing a little out to in, swinging left, the ones that pull means the face is square to that leftwards path, the ones that fade means the club a tad open to that leftward path, slice it’s a ways open to the same path left.

Drill>> When you get some time at the range, pick a target put a rod or club down just in front of your toes parallel to the target line & the other side of where you’ll be hitting balls from put another rod/club down but this one points right of the target line some 20º say.

Line up as you should say start with a 7i, make your backswing start transition with lower body keep head 7 upper body behind ball but feel you swing out to the right following this 20 or so degree path.

You might hit a few strange ones at first but stick with it, remember just swing right along this path echoing that right angled rod, & don’t try to do anything extra with your hands at impact.

You should after a short while start to hit some nice little draws, when you’ve hit a few, move up to the hybrid do the same, then 3 metal, maybe even a few drivers all with the same intention with both the rod at target in front of toes & the rod to the right the other side of the ball still there so you get used to the takeaway going straighter back starting transition with the lower body upper body staying behind the ball & swinging (not hitting, no ‘murdering’ just a balanced swing)

Good luck with it all, enjoy.

The_Coach Series: #12 The Pelvic bend rather than waist bend

Posture is very important in golf.  So we got talking about how to get into good posture.

the_coach>> One last thing but very important,  you don’t ever bend to get you spine angle from the waist, never ever, that’ll give you a real bad posture,  You bend from your hip sockets, which is a few inches lower done than the waist, this is extremely important. If you bend from the waist you can’t make a proper upper body coil.

Needless to say, that got me confused so,

Me>> Sorry, I am not sure how that is different? If I bend from the waist, I am physically bending from my hips.. or have I got it wrong???

the_coach>> If you bend just from the waist, waist is where your belt would be, you can’t make a complete body pivot/turn. Try it just turn from the waist, guarantee you won’t be able to make a proper 90º turn, only way doing this to get left shoulder under chin is if you create a proper turn by tilting the spine the wrong way towards target.

Our anatomy is such that the spine is connected to the pelvis at around hip socket level, it’s only at this connection point that the upper body can rotate from properly, the waist is some inches above this point.

Take a club hold it horizontal across your pelvis then press it gentle so it’s at the hip sockets, bend forwards you should feel naturally where this position is, there’s a sort of ‘hollow’ at the hip socket just at the top of the legs almost. It’s from here, the hips, hip sockets you bend from to get the forward spin angle & the posture that allows you to turn properly.

So this got me thinking and interested.  I had not thought about the difference between waist and pelvic.  I guess most pros use the words interchangeably too. I think my turn is somewhere in the middle. When I do a full pelvic bend, I seem to be getting off balance, so may need to straighten a bit more. I had a bit of a dig around the Pelvic bend bit and interestingly the 2 videos that I liked was from the new usual suspects

Mark Crossfield on the bend (only the first bit of the video):

And this one, a more interesting one from MeandMyGolf. However, when I tried it, it was fairly difficult and I was doing a Happy Gilmore around the house. But it does tell your brain to start looking at a different sequence.  So will be revisiting it again

 

The_Coach Series: #11 Ball position & alignment

After my club MOT, I had a few doubts about my ball positions, so I thought I will ask the_coach for his opinion on it. Similarly last weekend PG mentioned that I was aligning myself far too left so lobbed that question to the_coach too.  So here we go with the answers

Ball Position

Me> These days I play ALL my irons & hybrids slightly forward of centre such that the club shaft is very straight at address.  Driver off the left heel and my 3W also going off the centre.

The_coach’s view> In my view,

  1. wedges-9i middle stance,
  2. 8i to 5i a ball forward of middle,
  3. 4i.3i. any hybrid half a ball forward again,

For all the swings for the irons & hybrids the intent is to hit ball first lowest point of the arc couple inches target side of ball, so given the slightly different ball positions there’ll be more of a divot with the wedges 9i target side of the ball, then slightly less divot with 8i thru to 5i, slightly less again with 3i, 4i & hybrids but they’ll still be some ground contact after the ball.

  1. Then driver off the left heel, sometimes helps to think of it opposite your left armpit instead, guards against maybes sometimes having the left foot too far left so if you use the left heel in this case the ball could be too far forward, whereas the left armpit will always be in the same place. Driver swing is swinging up through the ball because it’s on a high tee (balls equator just above the drivers crown) lowest point of swing arc 3″ or so before the driver gets to the ball.
  2. Then 3 metal you’d want a 3 metal heads width from your left heel or armpit.  3 metal is still a slight downwards swing so ball & first scuff the ground target side of the ball, don’t try & sweep it level as the ball is on the ground you’ll nearly always scuff ground before ball to some extent & then not get a clean strike.

Alignment

Me> Over the past few months, I thought I was getting my alignment sorted and was not having any difficulty with it.  However, played with PG last weekend and he mentioned that I was aligning myself far left of target.  I am not sure why that is happening. It may have something to do with me trying to compensate for the block that I am developing for my swing.  Here is the_coach’s view on getting the alignment sorted.

The_coach’s view>

On alignment, pick your target line from behind the ball, pick a spot couple feet in front of the ball in line with target, line these three thing up, keep looking at this line of three as you walk round to the side of the ball, PLACE CLUB FACE SQUARE TO THIS LINE FIRST – it’s hugely important you don’t place feet in position first. If you put your feet in the stance before you line up the face to your target line 99% of the time you won’t be lined up correctly.

Any shots that go left go left likely because your swinging from outside to in, so swinging left with club face looking left & square to that leftwards path you’ll hit a pretty straight pull, often mostly with the shorter irons & wedges. Same swing path with the longer clubs, out to in, swinging left can pull too but quite often here the face remains a tad open to the leftwards path so they start left & curve slightly or greatly back to the right. But all part of the same thing, being aimed further left of target exasperates this, need to square up alignment & feel your swinging out to the right.

 

Finding a new Coach – the_coach

I played Swinley Forest GC at a corporate event a few weeks ago. On the 11th P4, the organising pro comes around and records a video and gives some suggestions. The video can be seen here on the Ubersense site (swing starts around the 29 sec mark)

Anyways, I posted this video to the Golf Monthly forum for comments. There were a few well intentioned comments, but the one with the real meat came from a forum member simple know as the the_coach. the_coach is apparently based in California, plays off a +1 handicap.

The_coach coaches through his/her own involvement with the USGA at state & national level. He tries to play in the (US) national open amateur & state competitions throughout a season plus the three clubs he belong to. It is remarkable that the_coach is taking the time to advice a lot of folks on the GM forum. Irrespective of the fact that I dont know who the_coach is, the advice he provided me is rock solid and I have benefited from it. Since our first contact on the forum, I have exchanged a lot of ideas with him and every bit of advice either via his/her long and well crafted message or video suggestions have worked wonders for me. (For the sake of simplicity, I will address the_coach as a ‘he’)

To keep all the advice in one place, I have started a new blog series imaginatively called ‘The_coach Series’.  The advice pertains to my swing and the_coach’s assessment of it, but some elements are equally applicable to everyone. I have tagged the series with a ‘the_coach’ tag so will be easier to find and here is a quick link too.. Happy learning>>