Archive for the ‘Practicing’ category

Improve Your Bunker Shots – Beginners

July 24th, 2011

Green Side BunkersBunker shots can be, for some, one of the most misunderstood shots in all of golf. I haven’t written anything in a while that golfers or coaches could use to improve a certain aspect of their game. So, here’s an installment that I use to teach beginners the concept for what needs to happen in the green side bunker.

In my experience, very few beginning players have a good concept (an idea stolen recently from Meindert Jan Boekel(Thank You)) of exactly what they are trying to learn and accomplish with that shot.  They’ve heard that it is different than all the other shots but not exactly sure what that difference is. The truth is that the shot is very similar to other shots but we miss the ball on purpose. So, here’s what I do.

The most important concept that the player needs to understand is sand control. By sand control, I mean the rate, the length it flies and the amount to name a few. The player needs to learn what things effect the aforementioned items and how those items affect what happens to the ball. Because the club and ball never make contact (sand squeezed between ball and club face like grass, thanks to Cameron McCormick), the player needs to understand how what they have done to the sand will affect the shots outcome.

I typically start off with how far the sand flies. I get players in the bunker and ask them to make some sand fly as far across the green as they can make it. Pretty quickly they figure out that the less sand they hit, the farther that sand will fly. Along with that, the faster the club is going the farther the sand will go. So I ask them, which sand is moving faster? The sand that goes far or the sand that goes short? Some get it right and some get it wrong but the answer is the sand that goes farther. So, in this first exercise, they start to piece together the concept that the less sand taken, the faster that sand is moving for the same club speed. They also learn that the shorter the sand flies the slower it was moving. This demonstrates how carry distance is created in the greenside bunker.

Next I explain the bounce, which you can read about here, and how that effects the sand. I ask them to try shots both ways (with bounce exposed and without) so they can see what effects it has to the sand itself and how the club interacts with the sand. Again, the whole exercise is designed to show the player how the sand reacts to different things. In this case, it’s the club shape. How does more or less bounce change the amount of sand taken and the rate that sand is moving?

The last thing I work on with beginners is where they enter the sand. I will draw a line in the sand and ask them to enter the sand where the line is. Where the club exits the sand is not important at this time. I’ll ask them to change the amount of sand they take when hitting the line and change the length they throw the sand when hitting the line. Now, they may not be able to do these things right away, but once again, this is an exercise in concept. I will offer set up advice at this time as well but won’t go into that for this post.

Before we try a shot, I want them to understand the concept behind how the shot works. I ask them, if you want the ball to carry farther do you want the sand to go faster or slower? I ask them, if you want the ball to carry farther do you want to take more sand or less sand? I ask them, if they want the ball to carry farther do you want the ball closer to the line or farther away?  The first two, they usually get right away. The last one usually takes a little thought on their part. After they grind with it for a while they almost always come up with the right answer. Of course, there are still other things happening like spin which I don’t typically discuss in a beginners class but will talk about in a future post.

At this point, they start hitting shots. I always draw a line in the sand and let them put the ball wherever they like relative to that line.  I remind them about the concept. The concept is sand control. It’s neat to see them make changes based on the results of the sand rather than the outcome of the ball.

If you’ve struggled with green side bunker shots in the past, I hope this post helps change the goal and the concept for you. Please consider sharing this with friends or if any coaches think it may help a problem student please fell free to share it on twitter and facebook by using the buttons at the bottom of this post.

Golf Swing – Simple Drill for More Right Swing Path

October 25th, 2010

Here’s a little drill to help you with your Golf Swing.  I tend to use drills that you can’t do wrong.  In other words, if you are able to do the drill, you are improving in that area.

Here are some pics showing how it looks.

Golf Swing Drill for More Right Swing PathGolf Swing Drill for More Right Swing Path 2

Stick Drill for More Right Path

Who should use this drill?

This drill is for those golfers trying to learn what it feels like to swing more right (for right handers).  Those golfers that are hitting straight pulls and or pull slices. Also for anyone that curves the ball alot in a slicing direction.

Here’s how it works.

The stick should be place in the ground at an angle that allows room for the club to swing underneath it and the ball goes directly under the stick.  It can be used for all clubs and is easy to set up.  Set up to the ball like normal focusing on getting as parallel as you can to the stick in the ground.  Normal ball position for the club being used.  Swing and try to hit the ball solidly without hitting the stick.

Be careful not to aim more right than usual or set up more closed than normal.  This will make the drill too easy and won’t accomplish what you want.

Things to Watch For:

Some of you may have trouble hitting the stick. Keep trying until you can hit the ball solidly.  You don’t need to be taught how. Just do it.

Some of you may hit the ground early in the beginning.  This is because a swing to the right is more shallow than a swing to the left.  It reaches the ground sooner.  You may need to have more weight forward(toward the target) than you are accustomed too.  If you have a problem with flipping, this could also cause you to hit the ground earlier when doing this drill.

A Leap from the Lion’s Head

August 29th, 2010

I thought I would share a lesson I had the other day.  This particular lesson was with a high school player that drove in from Niagara Falls (about 2 hours away) that I had met a couple years ago when I was teaching his older brother.  He is entering his junior year in high school and plays to a 2 handicap which he reached early this summer.

He mentioned that he was playing the best golf of his life 3 months ago and all of a sudden he was unable to hit the ball.  He mentioned that he had just shot 51 for 9 holes a day earlier.  He had been working with a pro from the Niagara Falls area that had helped him get down to this low handicap but was unable to help him get out of this funk.

I asked him to hit a couple shots and his issue was quite apparent.  I asked him to tell me what he and his coach were working on.  He told me they could see in his video that his head was falling down and back to the right in his downswing.  He also mentioned that he hadn’t been able to hit it solid anymore.  They saw it but couldn’t make it go away.  His issue was not that his head was moving back and down.  That was the result of his issue.  His issue was a poor weight shift that never moved back to the left, poor pivot which led to a flip.  Every shot he hit was very thin and he couldn’t hit the ground.  Some tops and some shots with decent results but 15 yards shorter than he had been doing.

We did a couple things which led me to give him a drill that would take away the reward for doing something the wrong way (mainly his flip).  I gave him an 8 iron and asked him to hit a standard pitch shot but I placed a bucket behind the ball.  The bucket was placed in a place that would force him to have weight left, rotate his right shoulder down and forward and not flip just to be able to strike the ball.  This drill I first saw used by Martin Hall and then by Brian Manzella.  I use the drill regularly.  He struggled with the drill immensely. I mean he couldn’t even hit the ball. Wiffs, tops, hit the bucket on the way down.  Everything but a solid shot.  After a while, he asked me if I could do it so I obliged and he was shocked at how simple it looked.

He kept trying and I could see the frustration growing on his face.  At this point, I thought for sure I had lost him.  He looked like he had turned off and was ready to go home.  This was a player that had been shooting par 3 months ago and now couldn’t even hit the ball with a little speed bump in the way.  He had been balancing these 3 errors with a bunch of timing and after it was put under pressure or if he didn’t practice all day, his swing crumbled like a game of Jenga.

After he had gone home, I mentioned to another student that was there that I didn’t know if he would stick it out.  Did he have enough faith to take “A Leap from the Lion’s Head”?  Any of you familiar with Indiana Jones movies will know the reference.

As it turns out, I received a call today from him saying he was hitting better than he ever had.  He had gone home and worked on the drill and was able to bring it the course.  Apparently, I had read him wrong. I thought he was going to give up but he showed me.

Best Putting Drill

June 29th, 2010

I’ve used this Putting Station for years and had always planned on writing a blog post about it so here we go.  First here’s a picture of the station:

Improve your Putting

Improve your Putting

Here’s how to set this up.  If you don’t have one, go down to Home Depot or Lowes or any hardware store and get yourself a chalk line and some chalk.  That is what I used to create the red line on the ground.  You can snap a line for a straight putt or a braking putt but it’s best for this station to use a straight putt.  The two tees by the ball create a gate for the stroke to keep your contact in line with the sweetspot and helps to reinforce good aim.  They should be positioned just outside the toe and heel of your putter.  Line on the putter and line on the ground should over lap.  Make sure there is line showing beyond the back edge of the putter( it makes it much easier to line up that way).  If you don’t use a line,  intersect the line with the leading edge of your putter.  One thing this picture does not show is the putter.  The putter and ball should begin even with the first set of tees.  So, at address, the putter is right between the gate with the ball just in front of that.  The picture above is just of the tools needed for the putting station and not an accurate depiction of where the ball should go.

The other two tees a few inches in front are just beyond the width of a golf ball straddling the line.  These tees should be quite close to the width of the ball.  These tees are used to test your face angle control.  Only putts starting exactly on the line with a square face will propel the ball through the gate and on its way.

Work on this station for putts within 6 feet.  It can be used beyond that but I don’t recommend it.  You want to practice makes and distance control.  This station should be set-up in a way that every ball that gets through the second gate with decent speed goes in.

This will really show you how well you are managing the face of the putter.  That’s where the money is made.


Golf Lesson – Flipping

March 3rd, 2010

I define flipping as an instance when players really stall the pivot and accelerate the unbending of the right wrist.  For some people, that will get the clubhead passing the hands and for others it complicates contact.  As many of you know, I coach college golf at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY.  I also give golf lessons at Webster Golf Club as its Director of Instruction.  The most common plateau causing element of the swing I see is flipping.  This year I have 11 players on my golf team and 7 of them flip it.  They have decent swing but have such a hard time creating consistent impact alignments because of the flipping.  This condition also caused me to plateau at a certain level and once I got rid of it, my level of ball striking immediately became more consistent.

Here are some video and pictures to show you what I mean:

Hands Even or Behind ball

Hands Even or Behind ball

Hands in Front of ball

Hands in Front of ball

This player is a very good player that can shoot par or better at times than all of a sudden shoots 80.  This part of impact is an imperative, to quote The Golf Machine.  Being able to keep your left wrist flat and right wrist bend as you pivot through impact will greatly help your ability to control your angle of attack into the ball, your spin rate and your low point control.  It’s these things that drive the good player crazy because they do it one shot but not the next or one day but not the next.  Without reasonable repeatability is these areas, it is impossible to control spin, trajectory and distance.

I’ll go into drills to help with removing the flip in a future post but for now practice chipping while keeping your left wrist flat and right wrist bent while using your pivot to hit the ball.