Archive: July 2008

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July 31, 2008

Ask the Top 100: The right way to pump iron for longer drives

Posted at 2:25 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Dear T.J,
Should I lift weights to hit longer drives?

I know a number of golfers who've injured themselves trying to lift heavy weights, and I know a few who made their chest so big it hindered their golf swing. Keith Clearwater is a prime-time example of a golfer who ruined their career lifting heavy weights. Now I am all for "getting under some iron" because everything else being equal, "strongest machine wins,"  but most golfers have very little time to workout. Here's how to make the most of your time and get golf-strong the right way: Work out three times a week for about six months. Then cut your lifting workout by 2/3 [studies show you can maintain 90 percent of strength if the one third you do is intense] and add Pilates, a series of exercises designed to develop core  strength and overall fitness. For under $500 you can buy the Pilates equipment you need, but if you don't care to spend the cash, there are simple exercises that don't require any augmentation.

Dear T.J,
My main problem is  swinging way too hard to begin my downswing -- and by too hard, I mean enough to  impale a phone book.  It causes fat shots, pulls, hooks, slices and toppers -- and even some forearm soreness. What's the best way to control this or start the downswing with correct tempo? When I watch pros swing and see how their club-to-wrist angle gets tighter as they approach the ball I say, "Why can't I do that?"

Christian Breiding, Los Angeles, CA

Dear  Impaler,
If you're like the other mad-hatters who hurry to the ball, your practice swing in relation to your  actual swing has the velocity of honey. So what's the difference between the  two? It's the damn ball -- the most overrated object in all of sports. Think of the ball as a marker, a chip that lets us keep track of where we are on the course.

Dixiecup_300 So never mind changing your tempo. Instead, change your attitude toward the ball. Disrespect it. Make fun of it! It only weights 1.62 ounces and you probably tilt in at over 3000 ounces. It's no contest! You win, so chill out.

Here's a drill that's foolproof -- all you've got to do is take the fool out of  it.

In the picture to the right, I've covered up the ball  with a Dixie cup, and now all I have to do is hit the X.

No ball, no hurry. No hurry, no worry.

Dear T.J,
What does a proper release feel like? Is it like snapping a rolled up towel?

Snapping your wrist as if you were snapping a towel? No way! The release is misunderstood because it  has three parts that must all happen together to square the clubface -- if any of  the three are absent, the ball spins out of control.   

The focus is on right wrist action -- look at photos of good  players: on the downswing, as the hands  approach the back foot, the knuckles of the trailing hand look toward the ground. If there is a single position that the good player gets in and the bad one doesn't, it's this one. I  estimate that only 10 percent of golfers routinely achieve this position.

Here are the three parts of the release: 

Correct wrist action: Your trailing hand is bent back toward your forearm at the top of your swing, and to release the club it swivels around the forearm using the same motion  you would use to rotate a doorknob. This screwing action keeps the pressure off the front wrist and allows it to remain in line with the forearm, preventing the clubface from flipping.

Body release:  The trailing side (knee, hip, and shoulder) must keep moving/rotating in order to contribute to the squaring of the clubface. When any part of the trailing side stops, the clubhead is torn out of its orbit.

Forearm Rotation: This is the third essential movement for squaring the clubface, but there is a right way and a wrong way. If you try to consciously use your hands to square  the clubface, chances are you'll get flippiness. You must think "forearm rotation" not hands.

This is a brief summary but the full story would make a good article or you could read  my new book "The 26 Most Important Things to Think About at Impact."

July 29, 2008

Add 100 Yards in A Week? No problem!

Posted at 1:36 PM by Roger Gunn

The dream situation for any teacher is an athletic student with a power leak. Usually, these types of golfers have the ability and skill to quickly plug the holes where the power and swing speed is seeping out -- all they need is the right information.

Take for an example a recent student of mine. Like most recreational players, his grip was too weak (Vs between the thumbs and forefingers pointed to the left shoulder), and he lifted his arms during his backswing instead of turning his shoulders. As a result, his swing was steep and from the outside-in (slicers take note). These power leaks alone were sapping 40 yards from his average drive. His inability to separate his lower body form his upper body during his downswing were costing him another 60.

That's 100 yards of lost distance. Sound familiar? If so, take heart in his near-immediate turnaround.

First step: strengthening his grip (Vs pointed to the right shoulder). Easy. I then showed him how to turn away from the ball without lifting his arms over his head. He felt like he was making a huge and flat backswing turn. In reality, his swing was on plane and the club was approaching the ball from the right direction and with the clubface square. In a short time, he picked up 40 yards.

I then moved into helping him create more downswing clubhead speed. I did this by asking him to pull and turn hard with his left hip, trying to get his left hip pocket behind him. This type of move creates separation and the early speed needed to generate maximum force at impact. The downswing sequence of events has to be hips, shoulders, arms and then the clubhead. If one of these elements gets out of sequence, then power and consistency are lost.

When you practice this move, feel like your arms are slowing down as they approach the ball. This allows the energy in your swing to move from your arms to the clubhead and eventually into the back of the ball. If you do it correctly, you'll hear a "swish" sound at the bottom of your swing.

In a short time the student was hitting the ball squarely and with much more clubhead speed. He picked up the remaining 60 yards. It was a blast watching the ball sail powerfully down the range when only a short time before it fluttered softly to the ground at just past the 150 marker.

Remember, if you want to create maximum clubhead speed, start your downswing from below your belly button. Make a strong weight shift and turn to start your move back to the ball. Without this strong pull and turn, your swing will not have the energy needed to snap forcefully at the bottom.

Now, about that chipping...

Roger instructs at Tierra Rejada G.C. in Moorpark, Calif.

It's not too late for Michelle

Posted at 1:18 PM by Peter Krause

Michelle Wie is playing this week's PGA Tour event in Reno.  A few years ago, this would have caused great excitement among the media and the fans. As this young phenom teed it up with the men, there would have been intense speculation about her ability to make the cut.  But now, many folks in the golfing world are shaking their heads and saying, "Not again."

It's really sad to see a young woman with so much talent undergo so much criticism. She's been under more scrutiny in her short career than most players endure in a 25-year career.

Wie_300x389 In just a few years, we have seen her struggle with her game, get disqualified for an improper drop, withdraw from a tournament due to heat exhaustion and have her integrity questioned by the No. 1 female player when Wie was on the verge of not breaking 90. Countless experts have criticized her parents as over-controlling. Most recently, she was disqualified for failing to sign her scorecard when she was in position to win the State Farm Classic.

To be fair on the last issue, LPGA officials should have caught the error in the first place.  In all the years I participated in tournaments the officials never let me leave the table without two signatures, so why did it take them a day to find her mistake?  Sometimes you can't help but wonder if she's snakebitten.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen Wie come up through the amateur ranks and learn how to compete and beat her peers.  When you learn how to win, the spoils will come.  But she jumped right from the wading pool into the deep end.    By turning professional, she never experienced that training ground, and now she can only play in a handful of LPGA events on sponsors' exemptions.  Even when she has played, she has not been very competitive.

So playing with the men on the PGA Tour is one of her only options.  Do I think she should play? No, but I don't blame her. Where else is she going to play?

It's hard to say how she'll perform in Reno, but her presence means someone else is missing out. In a second-tier tour event like the Reno-Tahoe Open, a guy on the bubble could get a spot in the field and have a great week. She's taking that opportunity away from him.  But the tournament organizers aren't concerned about that. It's all about selling tickets, and people will come out to watch Wie.

Do I think it's too late to turn her career around? No, she has the talent. She needs to go to Q-School, get her card, play on the LPGA Tour, and learn how to compete and win. Then she can take her crack at the men. As Smith Barney would say, she has to do it the old-fashioned way. She has to earn it.

(Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Harmon knew what he was getting into with Daly

Posted at 10:55 AM by Gerald McCullagh

Usually I make a point of never criticizing a fellow golf instructor, but this article needs to be written.

The ongoing saga of John Daly and Butch Harmon has been highlighted in the press worldwide. Harmon released a scathing statement to the media about firing Daly as a student because of his erratic behavior on the tour. I always stand on this principle: "Take a good look at yourself before you judge others."

We all know that Daly has had problems with alcohol. The problem with alcoholism is that it changes a person’s behavior and affects most of the people around him. Harmon, who has also dealt with alcoholism, knew about John's drinking long before he took him on as a student. So this might tell me that the relationship wasn't born out of respect, but for the notoriety that it would bring to his lesson tee.

Shame on Butch Harmon!

Back in the day it was a great honor to coach a fellow golf professional, but it was a quiet relationship based on respect. A truly great instructor is able to impart life lessons that help a person fully develop as a competitive golfer. Today's instructors are riddled with massive egos as they pontificate about their knowledge of the swing.

Issuing a press statement about the firing of a student is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Yes, there are consequences for one's behavior, but publicly airing a private affair is a sign that Harmon needs to take his own inventory.

He could have done more for John than simply show how offended he has been by Daly's behavior.

I ask myself why I feel qualified to offer my public opinion on this topic. It’s because I, too, suffer from alcoholism. Achieving a contented sobriety is a tough battle for the alcoholic, and it takes daily reflection and an ongoing commitment to not take that first drink.

As I explain to all my students, in order to make progress, you must have constructive change, and constructive change is difficult because it is the unknown. But throughout history the most courageous people have always conquered change. I hope this article is meaningful to those people who suffer from this disease.

July 25, 2008

Imagine you made birdie, it's easy if you try

Posted at 11:50 AM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Greg Norman, 53, credited his imagination for his success at last week’s British Open:

“It's like seeing shots I hit today from 120 yards with a 5-iron. I didn't even -- the yardage was mentioned to me, but I didn't even pay attention to the yardage. I already saw the shot, I knew that was the shot I had to play to get the ball close to the hole, and I did that probably three or four, maybe five times today.”

It's great for Norman and other Tour pros to talk about imagination, but what if you've never hit a low running five iron from 120 yards? How does the average player use imagery?

The central nervous system can’t tell the difference between a perfectly imagined experienced and a real one. If your brain waves were measured at the point of perfect imaging they would show that you are having a multi-sensorial, flawlessly imagined illusion. This has been documented many times in the laboratory, so if you perfectly imagine the drive you want to hit or the soft pitch to a tight pin, it will “fool” your brain into thinking that you’d actually done it –- “been there done that” without ever being there or doing that.

Eastern European coaches pioneered the technique of training their athletes to imagine their performance before their competitions just as Norman does. For example, a slalom skier using creative imaging would ski the course in his mind. Using electrodes attached to the surface of his skin, muscular contractions were recorded. The results showed that the athlete was using 90 percent of the muscles in his perfectly imagined ski run that he would have used if he had been skiing for real. In effect, the central nervous system could not tell the difference between the real and the perfectly imagined.

How do you perfectly imagine something you’ve never done? You must do two things: 1) Create a multi-sensorial image of the event, one where you see it, feel it and hear it; and 2) You must do this in a mental state of relaxation which you can practice about 20 minutes each day until it becomes a skill.

Becoming a better golfer using just your mind? Imagine that.

July 24, 2008

How to fix your game at the driving range

Posted at 12:51 PM by Donald Crawley

When I see amateurs practice at the range and show no signs of improvements -- or even start getting worst -- I wonder, What they can be working on?

Too many times people go to the driving range and try to fix their entire swing, thinking about their footwork, and their takeaway, and their head, and their weight shift, and their downswing trigger and etc.

Don’t be that guy. When you try to fix all your problems, you won’t fix any of them. I don’t care if your swing looks like a broken cotton-candy maker, the next time you practice, set aside all your other problems and focus on the main one. If your goal is to improve your grip, then with every ball and every swing, think about how your hands are placed on the club. This means even if you top one, your grip is still improving. That’s the reason for going to the range.

Donald Crawley teaches at Boulder Golf Academy in Carefree, Ariz.

July 23, 2008

Ask the Top 100: Pre-shot routine

Posted at 11:48 AM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Dear T.J.,
I consistently hit the ball toward the heel of the clubface. How do I start hitting in the center?

Bill M., Paducah, KY

Hi Bill:
You can force your swing to change by focusing on swing mechanics or you can let it change using a conditioning technique. I prefer the latter, which is accomplished by putting talcum powder on the clubface while you hit practice balls. You know your task [make a mark in the middle of the clubface] so hit balls until you find a way to move the mark to the middle. I'll bet you can move that mark in 10 balls. Email me and tell me how many it actually took. If I'm correct my editor says he'll double my salary. (Let's see, zero doubled is …)

T.J.,
How do you actually aim at the target? I think I line up properly and get the distance right, I just don't seem to be able to aim in the right direction. Thank you.

Betty M., Bedford, N.H.

Here's a question for you Betty: What's the one thing that any pro worth his or her courtesy car does on every shot? As the Jeopardy theme dings in the background, here comes the question/answer: "What is a pre-shot routine?"

What To Do

Stand behind the ball and pick a specific target as well as an intermediate target on the target line about 12 inches in front of the ball. Take a practice swing and make it a true rehearsal of the actual shot by swinging in the direction of the target, off a similar lie, and at the same speed as the swing you are about to make. Once you've pictured the shot in your mind and made a practice swing, take a deep breath. 

Now step into your address position with your back foot first. Before you bring your front foot into position, sole the clubface behind the ball so its lead edge is perpendicular to your intermediate target. Then, keeping the clubhead in its exact position, bring your front foot into position so that your shoulders, hips and feet are parallel with the target line. You've created railroad tracks with the ball on the outside track and your shoulders etc, on the inner. You have now locked in your direction.

From this position, take one look at the target by rotating your head without lifting it, waggle and swing, allowing the speed of your swing to produce the correct distance. Each individual will have nuances to their routine, for instance, you may want to be Lady Saliva and spit on the clubface just before you start the swing. Whatever. The important point for good direction is to be consistent.

Hi TJ,
Thanks for taking this message. I'm 59 and have an 11 handicap. I have problems with distance with my driver. I'm making solid contact and hit it straight, but my distance has now frittered down to 200-220 yards. The ball sounds good off the clubface and has a nice trajectory, but just seems to die as it knuckles out there. Previously I could hit 250 plus after I warmed up, but lately that's not even happening. Any ideas?
Curtis B., Spring, Texas

Curtis,
Here are the hard cold facts re: losing distance; as we age we lose muscle square footage as well as flexibility and that equals lose of distance. And if you don't do anything about it the "new 59 becomes the old 70."

But fortunately you can intervene into this process in three ways: [1] Ramp up your body [2] Change your swing [3] Put the correct equipment in your hand.

[1] You need to work out and shape that workout for golf. Lifting weights, running and swinging a weighted club are good -- hiring a workout trainer is your best move.

[2] Find a good teacher [may I suggest a Golf Magazine Top 100?] who understands the human body and how to adjust your swing to maximize distance.

[3] Take advantage of your hot spot -- I know what you're thinking, but I'm talking about the hot spot on your driver.

If you want more distance [and who doesn't] take some time to find your hot spot. Every driver has one - it's the spot on your clubface that produces maximum distance. And if you're using a modern large-headed driver, as you should be, the contact spot you want is above the center of the clubface because the distribution of weight is above the center. This is why making contact high on the club face maximizes the launch angle resulting in a ball that leaves the face with a lower spin rate - and that spells more carry and more distance.

How can you take advantage of your hot spot? Assuming you are properly fit for the driver there are two ways, the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is to simply tee the ball higher.

Unfortunately just teeing it higher won't work if your swing is too steep. Here's where the lesson comes in.

So let's review: You need a new body, a trainer, new clubs and lessons. And since I'm not paying for this I'll throw in a condo in Florida so you don't lose your timing over the winter.

July 21, 2008

Nice guys finish first: Padraig's plan for more majors

Posted at 8:44 AM by David Phillips
July20_phtrophy1_299x299

The best man won the British Open this year. I can tell you this because I was with Padraig as he prepared for the Open by playing the Irish PGA Championship lst week. In even worse conditions than Birkdale, Padraig won by the same four stokes. Winning a major after hurting his hand during a practice drill last Saturday -- and not even getting to play practice rounds at Birkdale -- shows the mental toughness of a champion.

Padraig has no intention of becoming a British Open specialist. He's going after the other majors too. Great players always challenge themselves to get better, and Padraig has been working on a swing change that by his own admission will take two years to complete. It is all part of his plan to win other major championships. After his Open win at Carnoustie in 2007, he decided to work on stopping his slight lateral slide through impact and develop a more rotary motion with a more stable lower body.

These changes will allow him to release the club easier under pressure and give him the ability to hit a few more shots, which he will need to compete in every major. He has a team of specialists around him that is akin to a pit crew of a Formula One racing car, and it's working. He now has a second major win, and he's only halfway through his plan.

Even though his game is perfect for British Open links-type courses, this win takes him to another level of confidence. With his mental toughness, a short game as strong as any in the sport and an incredible level of fitness, Padraig is around to stay. He has to be looked at as a serious contender in every major championship to come.

(Photo: John Biever/SI)

July 20, 2008

W.W.T.H.D. (What Would Tiger Have Done)

Posted at 7:05 PM by Brady Riggs

Yes, Padraig Harrington played a great round Sunday at Royal Birkdale under difficult conditions to win his second consecutive British Open. This is his moment. But you're not a real golf fan if you're not wondering how Tiger Woods would have fared on this course in that weather.

The answer? It's hard to imagine Tiger not playing well enough to win. Nothing against Padraig. He really turned it on over the back nine, but he would have had to play that way all day to keep pace with Tiger. The real key to Tiger's success is how smart he is, and he would have had a strategy for this course. Remember when he won at Liverpool in 2005 while keeping his driver in the bag? With a Sunday lead at Birkdale, he could have done that again.

I think you would have seen a lot of stinger irons, and the driver only when he needed it. He can hit all the shots, so he would have fought the wind at times and rode it other times. Tiger doesn't care if he wins by 10 strokes or one, he just wants to win.

The funny thing is that Padraig is the same way. If he was a boxer, he'd go 15 rounds with you blow-for-blow. Would he have been able to go the distance with Tiger? It would have been fun to watch, but we got a pretty good show anyway.

July 19, 2008

No practice is perfect for Greg Norman

Posted at 4:29 PM by Brady Riggs

I wish I could tell you how Greg Norman is leading the British Open by two strokes as a 53-year-old part-time player, but it really doesn’t make any sense. Norman’s play reminds me of Johnny Miller winning the AT&T at Pebble Beach in 1996 at age 46, which had that same strange and dramatic feel.

However, Royal Birkdale presents some advantages for Norman. The course is good for someone who’s thinking a lot. This isn’t a U.S. Open or a Masters where you know beforehand what you need to do. With the wind, the course is constantly changing and you have to think on the fly all the time. In that light, it isn’t surprising that an older player is leading the pack. Plus, the weather has taken length pretty much out the equation. Heck, the longest guy in the field posted an 89 on Friday. Sure, Daly’s got other problems, but a look at the leaderboard shows that distance doesn’t mean a lot here.

Norman’s putting is another reason he’s able to contend. I heard Adam Scott say that he’s never seen Norman putt badly and I haven’t seen anything this week to contradict him. That’s a nice thing about this Open: If you putt well and you’re smart, you can stay in the fight.

Ironically, his lack or preparation may have helped Norman. Even recreational players know the feeling of playing well after taking a break from the game. When you’re not thinking so much and don’t create high expectations, you often play well. And Norman certainly didn’t over-prepare for this. He’s playing on instinct, hitting shots he’s hit thousands of times before and not thinking too much about it. That approach is well-matched to links golf, which is an instinctual, non-technique environment.

Being Australian doesn’t hurt either. Since Birkdale began hosting the British Open in 1954, only Australians and Americans have won here, from Australian Peter Thompson in ’54 to American Mark O’Meara in ’98.

Do I think Norman would be doing this with Tiger Woods in the field? Well, if he couldn’t hold off Nick Faldo at the Masters in 1996 with a six-stroke lead, it’s hard to imagine him playing well in the final group with Tiger. However, Norman will probably find it easier to play Sunday because he doesn’t have those high expectations. He always tended to hurt himself, but maybe this is the time he can really do it.


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