Archive: November 2008

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November 26, 2008

How to prepare for a tournament

Posted at 5:28 PM by Paul Trittler

After several years on Tour, and many years as a golf instructor, I have played in my fair share of competitive tournaments. Most recently, I participated in the Champions Tour Qualifying School. I'd like to share with you my preparation routine before I enter into competition. It starts long before you arrive on the course, and doesn't end with your first tee shot. The following can be helpful whether you're playing in a match with friends or a club championship.

A good night's sleep is very important, but it's not the night before that matters most--it's two nights before. Sleep tends to have a lag time of about 36 hours. That doesn't mean you should skip sleeping the night before all together, but if you do have a restless evening, don't let it faze you as much. It's that sleep from two nights before that will carry you through.

When the day arrives, start your day with a good breakfast. Eggs are a great source for protein, and eat something like oatmeal and some fruit for energy. Also, don't forget to drink lots and lots of water.

The first thing you should do when you arrive at the course is stretch. Make sure to loosen up the muscles in your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, lower back (especially if you have back problems), shoulders and neck.

As your warm-up continues, leave at least an hour of preparation, so you have time to hit full shots with several different clubs. I would suggest starting with a short iron, work your way through the bag, and then wind up again with the shorter iron to finish with a good tempo and rhythm.

Next, hit some chips. Don't just stay in one spot and aim for different holes - throw some balls in the rough and see how they come out. How do they land on the green? How much do they roll? Then hit some bunker shots and get a good feel for the kind of sand the course has. Again, how does the ball react when it hits the green?

Also, work on your putting. The most important thing is getting a feel for the distance putts. Take putts with some uphill, downhill and side-hill breaks. Really get a feel for speed of those putts. Right before you finish, take a few two or three footers to build your confidence right before you hit the course.

Be sure to keep your energy level high during the round. Keep some snacks in your bag: a snack bar, almonds or raisins. I highly recommend that every two or three holes you eat something. And even more importantly, drink lots of water - preferably on every hole. Research has shown that the body loses a lot of energy when it is not properly hydrated.

Remember: Every round has its ups and downs. You're going to hit your good shots and your bad shots. The most important thing is to stay in the present. You can't control what happened on the last hole, whether it was a bogey or an eagle; you have to focus on the next shot.

Stay committed and focused on the shot you're playing. Commit to your shot selection, and you focus specifically on your target. Make your focus as narrow as possible. Don't just aim for the fairway, pick a specific spot. If you're not aiming for the flagstick, and playing more conservative, choose a specific spot on the green. Keep your focus as narrow as possible.

My last piece of advice: if the tournament is lasting for more than one day, determine what your weakness was during the round and spend some time working on that area of your game before heading home. You don't need to spend four hours, but spend some time working on your weak spot to try to gain some confidence for the next day. Then go home and get some rest!

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Paul Trittler teaches at the Kostis/McCord Learning Center in Scottsdale, Ariz.

November 25, 2008

Ask the Top 100: Get the correct grip pressure

Posted at 4:56 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Dear T.J.,
I'm a right-handed golfer and I’ve been playing since 1985. My index has varied from 10 to 13 and I have taken many lessons. One thing I've never asked about, but has concerned me is that my hands don't seem to work together. They just don't feel like they're working together. I use an interlocking grip. There's a lot of wear on my left-hand glove on the fat pad below the pinkie and on the index finger on the outside of the first knuckle. That knuckle is always sore, as are the middle and ring fingers of my right hand. It feels like my right hand turns into my left hand. How do I work on getting my hands to work together?
Garrett B., Santa Rosa, Calif.

Dear Garrett,

Hand pressure is one of the most important, and yet, most overlooked aspects of the swing. Most golfers grip the club much too tightly with the four fingers of their top hand reducing the mobility of their wrists. This sounds like your problem.

During the swing, excess pressure from your hands cuts down on the sensory input to your brain, which can’t feel the correct wrist cock on the backswing or make the natural adjustments to maintain the proper wrist angles on the downswing. Under these conditions, even properly “trained” hands are rendered almost useless and you have a civil war -- right vs. left.

The index and middle fingers are for clutching while the other two are more for touch. The thumb of course is the Great Grasper that combined with the last two fingers allowed our ancestors to fashion some neat tools. We are used to grasping important objects very firmly -- and that can turn into a death grip when you have the ultimate survival tool in your hand -- a golf club.

How to get the correct grip pressure—Think "hold," not "grip"
On a scale of one to 10, where one is much too light and 10 is a death grip, your hold on the club should be a five.

The major pressure point in your grip is the pressure exerted by the big joint of your lower thumb on the big joint of your top thumb. Picture a quarterback taking a snap for an image to guide the correct positioning of your thumbs. Your overall hold pressure should be light enough to allow your wrists to cock 90 degrees at the top of the backswing but firm enough that you don’t have to rearrange your hands on the downswing. I use the term “hold” rather than “grip” to promote a more moderate approach to hand pressure.   

Note: Your new hold may feel too light but your hand-feel coordination system will make all the adjustments necessary during the swing to stabilize your club -- if you start with the correct pressure you'll end with the correct pressure.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You can learn more about T.J. at

November 24, 2008

Golf needs to cut prices to survive

Posted at 1:26 PM by Roger Gunn

One of my favorite aspects of my job as a teaching pro is that I provide a service to customers who are looking to have fun on their day off. People are usually in a good mood, and it makes my work environment very casual. The golf course is the place they want to be, not somewhere they have to be.

But in today’s economy, that’s a double–edged sword. Golf is a leisure activity, so it’s one of the first activities to go when times get tight. All across the economic spectrum, people have seen their net worth slashed--sometimes in half--over the last few months. These financial hits come on the heels of $4.50 per gallon gas here in California, which was when many weekend players started tightening their belts.

Sure, some areas of the industry have a slight buffer. The salaried employee who has a contract will be insulated for a time. Private clubs will still receive dues, though many will likely have members who will not be able to maintain their memberships.

Many areas of the industry have already seen a significant drop in revenue. The high-end daily-fee courses have seen their customer base dwindle, so the pro-shop owner is faced with fewer customers and the players who still come have less money to spend. Suppliers, food concessions and equipment manufacturers all have less demand for their products. Teaching professionals are not immune either. When people have less disposable income that means they have less to spend on something nonessential, like a golf lesson.

Less demand for products will, in theory, bring lower prices. We haven’t seen this in golf before. Until now, prices in golf have constantly moved upward, from equipment to green fees and everything in-between. Like those in the real-estate market, people in the game thought this upward trend would continue forever. I doubt that now. Golf must inevitably succumb to the market forces that govern every other industry.

Where do we go from here? Simply adding value and/or lowering prices will be the thing to do in order to save the game as we know it. If we in the golf industry dig in our heels, steadfastly clinging to the current pricing, then our fate is sealed. The playing field has changed, and it is our responsibility to recognize this and act accordingly. Lower prices will increase demand, and more people will come to the course, the pro shop, and, yes, the lesson tee. Until then, we’ll probably see the tee sheets a little emptier than usual.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Roger Gunn is director of instruction at Tierra Rejada Golf Club in Moorpark, Calif.

November 19, 2008

Ask the Top 100: Use a towel to stop the shanks

Posted at 5:15 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

This week T.J. answers a question about the shanks in the video below. Do you have a video of your faulty swing? Upload the video from your digital camera to a service like YouTube and send us the link. We'll send it off to a Top 100 Teacher for help ASAP.



November 14, 2008

Take your clubs in for a winter checkup

Posted at 5:23 PM by Mike Perpich

You don’t have to go out and buy the latest and greatest driver, irons and putter this winter, but you should make sure your equipment—from driver to putter—is ready to go when spring rolls around. A golf club has more than 20 components and you should make sure you check on the most important ones as part of your winter tune-up.

First you need to check the loft and lie angles of your irons. Over time the lofts and lie angles can change through use. Make a visit to a club-fitting professional to ensure your clubs have the proper loft and lie. Improper lofts and lies can result in the ball being pulled or pushed even when properly hit. The club-fitting professional will also make sure there is a uniform distance between each iron and that your wedges are spaced apart properly for distance control.

Next you want to check your hybrids, fairway metals and driver to make sure the lofts fit into the spacing of your set. After that be sure to check your putter, because even if you had your putter properly fit when you purchased it, no club’s playing characteristics will change more. Your putter has the softest metal built into it, which is why it can change so quickly. For example, just leaning on your putter can change its loft and lie.

Finally, change the grips on all your clubs at least once a year—better yet, change them to start the season and midway through it. It’s not a bad idea to have the club-fitting professional make sure the new grips fit your hands properly, either.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Mike Perpich teaches at RiverPines Golf Club in Alphretta, Ga.

November 12, 2008

Ask the Top 100: How can I practice in the winter?

Posted at 1:12 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Do you have a video of your faulty swing? Upload the video from your digital camera to a service like YouTube and send us the link. We'll send it off to a Top 100 Teacher for help ASAP.

Dear T.J.,

I live in the Midwest and winter is coming. What is the best way to keep my game on track when I can’t play or practice due to bad weather? Putting is not a problem, but a vacation is out of the question and I don’t know any indoor ranges in the area.

Steven, Jacksonville, Ill.

Dear Wintertime Blues,

I'm not crazy about hitting indoors off mats unless you have a teacher with you or your own video camera. Unless you have a high-quality mat you can hurt your hands or your back--too many bad vibes. Also, the face of the club tends to bounce off the mat when you hit it fat so it skids into the ball, resulting in a decent feel. The worst thing in practice is to get good feedback from a bad shot . Most importantly, without feedback from your ball flight, you can groove an error into your swing without realizing it, and getting rid of that error may take months of your already short summer.

Here’s my advice: Use a full-length mirror and some sequenced photographs of a Tour player who has the same build as you do. For me, that's Camilo Villegas. Study the photos and pose at each step, matching everything you can see (hands, feet, elbows, shoulders). Then make slow-motion swings and stop at each position to make sure you match the photos. It helps to alternate doing this with your eyes shut. Then make normal swings with a weighted club.

Brain research explains why this works. If you fully imagine doing something--and by "fully" I mean using all your senses (see, hear, feel)--your central nervous system can’t tell the difference between a real experience and a perfectly imagined one. Brain scans show that when you perfectly imagine doing something like swinging a golf club, you use 95 percent of the neuro-pathways you'd use if you were actually hitting a ball.

Practice all winter like this and you will have "been there, done that" without really being there or doing that.

Gratuitous plug alert! Order my book The 30 Second Swing for a more detailed explanation of how this method works and how it can fix your swing.

Dear T.J.,

I have difficulty in making a smooth transition from the top of my backswing to impact. My positions at address and at the top are pretty solid: square to the target and balanced with about 60 percent of my weight on my right side. But in my transition I am coming over the top and moving my head in front of the ball at impact. My hands at impact are much farther from my body than at address. The result of my faulty swing is often a duck hook  -- I rarely slice which is the usual result of an over-the-top move. I have taken several lessons and tried various swing keys, but nothing has helped. Any suggestions?

Ken L.
Brookline, Mass.

Dear Ken,
Thanks for a very well-written query. Although there are many varieties, most over-the-toppers think the club should start down to the ball when actually it must move away from the target. This is what makes golf so counterintuitive -- to hit to the target you must swing away from the target -- not down and not around, but away. The Down and Around come as a result of the Away.

With this concept in mind, wrap up a towel and lay it down parallel to the target line [see photo below]. After you've hit a few shots, try to hit some with your eyes closed, feeling the clubhead moving away from the target until it naturally makes its way back to the target line. The towel will tell you if the clubhead swings along the target line as it should.

Start with the towel about two inches from the ball then gradually move it closer. I'm swinging with my eyes closed in this picture, but I don't have to worry about hitting anyone -- I have really good insurance.


Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You can learn more about TJ at

November 05, 2008

Ask the Top 100: TJ + YouTube = No More 3-Putts

Posted at 3:00 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

E-mail to cure what's hurting your scores with advice from the very best teachers in the game. Please include your name and hometown. Do you have a video of your faulty swing? Upload the video from your digital camera to a service like YouTube and send us the link. We'll send it off to a Top 100 Teacher for help ASAP.

Dear T.J.,
Please take a look at my daughter's putting stroke and let me know any advice you have for her. She's only 12 but I think she has potential.

Thanks,  Mike S. via email

Hi Mike,

The key to putting is the Two Inch Rule.

Your daughter’s stroke looks good. The best thing about it is that the face of the club stays so square through impact. It follows my two inch rule: I like to see the clubface stay looking directly down the line of start for at least two inches after impact and she does just that.

There is only one thing I'd keep an eye on. When she grounds the club behind the ball she lines the ball up off the heel then loops the putterhead ever so slightly to catch the ball in the center of the face. She'll have to over-read right-to-left putts to allow for the pull.

But even the best putters in the world don't all have perfect mechanics and perfect aim. What they do have is a stroke that repeats. So if she's making everything, I'd let her go for a while. Mike, it’s a funny game isn't it -- if you can repeat your error perfectly it’s not an error at all.


Hi T.J.,
I'm a 4 handicap and I have struggled with my grip for more than 15 years. Between one and five times per round, the driver slips in my left hand on my downswing, resulting in short, ugly toe hooks. I grip the club pretty much per Ben Hogan’s advice and use an interlocking grip. I suspect my problem is initiating the downswing with the hands versus the hips. Any ideas?
Mike B., Arlington Va.

Hello Mike,

Your problem is something I call the Interlock-ness Monster.

The interlocking grip is a good way to hold the club but there is something you have to watch out for.

When you intertwine your left index finger and your right pinkie, you can push the club to far up into the palm of your left hand without realizing it. And if you make the mistake most golfers make -- placing their left hand on the club with their hand at their side -- the monster gets even bigger. Why? Because if you're not careful, taking your grip with the clubhead near the ground places the club handle at too sharp an angle in the palm, allowing it to flop around as the club gathers speed during the downswing.

The reason for this is simple: As you accelerate the club at high speed in less than a half second, there is a tremendous amount of "out force" pulling on the shaft that can cause you to lose control of the clubhead if your handle is not secure. At this crucial period of the swing, you must own the club; it can’t own you. You can accomplish this by gripping the club properly.


Grasp the club with the fingers of your right hand in the middle of the shaft and hold the club at arm's length so that the clubhead is above your forehead. Now, reach out and wrap the fingers of your left hand around the shaft and place your left thumb down the right side of the shaft.

Its the fat pad of the left hand that secures the handle of the cub.

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