Archive: December 2008

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December 18, 2008

The Tour-player secret to easy bunker escapes

Posted at 3:42 PM by Charlie King

Many PGA Tour pros will tell you that the bunker shot is the easiest in golf. This is a pretty demoralizing statement when you are having difficulty getting the ball out of the sand much less near the hole.

The truth is that for amateurs the bunker shot is the hardest shot in golf. Our short-game testing data proves it. So what’s the Tour-player secret that makes bunker shots so simple? You're about to find out.

First, you need to understand that your sand wedge is designed differently than any other club in your bag. The back of the bottom of the club is lower than the leading edge. This allows the club to skid through the sand and not dig too deep. The secret to hitting consistent bunker shots is to take long, shallow divots and hit the sand in the same spot each time.

Sure, it sounds simple, but this approach can make a profound difference in your bunker play. Find a practice bunker and knock some sand out of the bunker. Notice how far the sand flies, where the divot starts and the sound of the club hitting the sand. Ask yourself these questions: Was the divot long and shallow? Are your divots starting back of the center of your stance? Does the contact with the sand sound like a "thump" or a "thud"? (You want to hear "thump.")

Once you are controlling your divots, place a ball slightly forward of the middle of your stance. Stay focused on the divot of sand as if the ball was a large speck of sand. Make the same swing as before, taking a long, shallow divot. This swing will explode the ball onto the green. Your bunker success depends on your ability to take the same long, shallow divot and start the divot in the same place every time.

Distance control is relatively easy. Just hit the sand short, medium and long to hit short, medium and long bunker shots. You can control the distance with the length and speed of your swing. Put these ideas into practice and maybe you too will be able to proclaim the bunker shot the easiest shot in golf. Watching this video will help too:

Golf Magazine Top 100 Charlie King is director of instruction at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga. He is the star of the most-popular video in golf.com history, "The Proper Way to Throw Your Club," which has been viewed more than 1.8 million times. You can also read his golf tips blog here.

December 17, 2008

Ask the Top 100: How to Raise the Next Golf Superstar

Posted at 2:56 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

E-mail askgolf@golf.com 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.,
My daughter is 8-years-old and she plays pretty well. Could you take a look at her swing and recommend any drills to practice over the winter.
Greg, Columbus, Ohio

Dear Greg,
My first word of advice: Take advantage of the real estate bargains in Florida right now and buy yourself a condo. It will make it easier to train this budding super-starlet during the winters to come. Somebody has done a heck of a job bringing her along.

The one thing she should work on is her forearm rotation -- it's much too active as she takes the club away. The left arm is over-powering the right and, as a result, the clubhead rotates too deeply behind her body line. Stop the video when the clubhead reaches the tree line and you’ll see how much she’s over-rotated her forearms -- both the clubface and the back of her left hand look at the sky. This happens to a lot of juniors who start golf when they’re not strong enough to set the club upward, so they let it swing too much around them. She’s strong enough now to break this habit.

The Drill

Use a thin stick or a clubshaft as a pointer and slide it into your grip so it becomes an extension of the butt end of the shaft. Assume your normal address position and swing back until your left arm is parallel with the ground about halfway up your chest. The pointer extension should aim at the target line.

Look at the player below (you might recognize him). In this picture, he is perfectly on plane with the clubhead over his right shoulder. The yellow line represents the pointer as it aims at the target line.

Tigerarrow_400

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 tjtomasi.com

December 10, 2008

Ask the Top 100: T.J. + YouTube = No More Over the Top

Posted at 10:12 AM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

E-mail askgolf@golf.com 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.

Hi T.J.,
In the last two months I have been working to pick up golf again. I managed to cut down my handicap from roughly 28 to 18, but my swing is pretty inconsistent. When I am not playing well, I tend to shank, dig and come over the top. Can you give me some advice on my swing?
Gary W., Moscow, Idaho

Hello Gary,

Your swing is very close to being single-digit quality (assuming your short game is decent), but your diagnosis is correct. Like many players, you start the downswing by spinning your shoulders and this pushes your hands out toward the target line. Pause your swing video where you start down and you can see that your front arm is across the high part of your chest and the shaft is so steep (that is, perpendicular to the ground) that viewed from behind it looks like it’s across your neck. From this position, any attempt to turn through the ball forces your hands farther away from your body and you risk making contact near the neck.  When your front arm is parallel to the ground, the shaft should be just below your shoulder, bisecting your upper arm. Here's what to do to get the feeling, and you can practice it indoors.

First, set up a mirror behind you (facing the target line) and make a practice swing. Swing to the top and stop, then look back into the mirror moving only your head. Next drop the club to when your front-arm is parallel to the ground and make sure the shaft bisects your right arm. Complete your swing by simply turning through the ball -- then do it all again nine more times.

Next, instead of stopping at the top, swing from your setup to the point in your downswing where your front arm is parallel to the ground and stop. Pose in this position while you rotate your head to see how close you are to the correct position. Do this a bunch of times until you get it exactly.

Now comes the fun part: Tape a half-full plastic water bottle to the neck of the club. [See photos below.] You're not going to hit a ball or make a full power golf swing, but if you pose the positions I just described you'll feel the weight of the clubhead in the correct pose and the club will feel very light in the incorrect, vertical pose. This is a great drill to practice during that long winter in Idaho and by springtime "feel" and "real" should be the same.

Waterbottle1

In this vertical position, the club's weight is supported by the pedestal of your hands, so it feels very light. From here you'll have to drop the bottle behind you to make solid contact. That's a compensation that's tough to time.

Waterbottle2

From here the club feels heavy in a nice, powerful way. All you have to do is keep rotating with no excess moves.

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 www.tjtomasi.com

December 08, 2008

Michelle Wie proves something to peers and herself

Posted at 10:52 AM by Brian Mogg

Wie_300 I have received three sponsor’s exemptions over the years when competing on the PGA Tour and it is an odd feeling. You feel a sense of gratitude toward the sponsor, but among your peers you can’t escape the feeling that you haven't qualified to play as virtually everyone else has.

When Michelle Wie plays LPGA events in 2009, she will feel more comfortable and should receive warmer treatment from her peers because after Q-School they’ll now see her as an equal and not a novelty act with a sponsor's exemption. We can all remember our first year in junior high or high school and how awkward it was to initially fit in. Michelle has had to deal with being the newcomer as well as some jealous feelings from her peers at the financial perks she has received--in addition to the exemptions--just to play in some events.

For her to go through Q-School and actually "earn" something on her own will carry much weight with her peers and more importantly with her own psyche. Michelle’s family didn’t take the route Earl Woods chose for Tiger, where Tiger learned to win and dominate the junior and amateur ranks before becoming a professional. By turning pro so early, Michelle missed the lessons that winning teaches: one of the most important is how to parlay your early wins into even more success. Q-School is probably the most grueling experience of any sport. For Michelle to go through the first stage several weeks ago and now to go through the final five rounds and play well is a real accomplishment.

The pressure from Q-School is unparalleled within the game. It is either “Yes, I got my card" or "No, I missed it.” As I look back at my own experiences from successfully making it through two Q-Schools, and missing about eight times, my strongest memory is the raw emotion of it all. I remember coming off the 108th and final hole one year realizing I had made it. I got into a cart with my wife to ride back to the clubhouse and I was overcome by an ecstatic feeling of accomplishment. However, we shared the cart with a player who had missed by one shot. Tears were streaming down his face at the effort he had put into accomplishing his dream and the realization that it wouldn't happen. Controlling my happiness and also coming up with words of encouragement and empathy for my fellow competitor is something that still stirs strong emotions.

Q-School stories of horror and disaster are countless and I am sure that Michelle was thinking some of these thoughts Saturday night as she approached her final round. She had a large cushion and could afford a poor round, but the mind is powerful and some of the negatives that can creep in are almost enough to make you freeze up. We all probably remember the scorecard mistake by Jaxon Brigman several years back. Brigman made it on the number the last day but had an extra stroke on his card that he didn't catch and had to accept the higher results.

As a coach it is difficult to follow your students at Q-School as you want so badly for them to have the success they are striving for. All you can do is prepare them and do your best to share from your experiences what you believe they will need to do to pass the test. As I watched Michelle to see if she was going to make it, I was also watching two of my students and their progress. I have helped Molly Fankhauser with her short game over the last four months. After almost keeping her card as a rookie this year, Molly decided to go back to Q-School and finished comfortably in the top 10. Lisa Ferrero is a very talented girl who had a solid year on the Futures Tour. She was 3-under par through two rounds of Q-School and in good shape but had a tough third round and ended up missing by a few shots. She will need to go back to the Futures Tour and see if she can improve and get one of the top five spots from the money list that will give her direct access to the LPGA and not have to go through Q School next year.

I hope Michelle and Molly use their Q-School experiences to achieve even more success on the LPGA Tour next year. They sure earned it.

(Photo: David Walberg/SI)

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brian Mogg is director of instruction at Golden Bear Club at Keene's Point in Windemere, Fla.

December 07, 2008

Michelle Wie earns a card, and respect

Posted at 7:10 PM by Carol Preisinger

I have to admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Michelle Wie camp. I’ve seen firsthand the high expectations a father can have for his child’s playing potential. As the daughter of a retired life member of the PGA, I’m occasionally reminded of my father’s hope, way back in the 1970s, that I would be the next Laura Baugh. But my father’s dream never turned into a nightmare. I’ve always disagreed with the way B.J. Wie chose to orchestrate his daughter’s public persona, and as that arrangement started to melt down, I began to feel sorry for Michelle. Now, I have made a 180-degree turn. I owe her respect, although the verdict is still out on the people around her.

Still a student at Stanford this fall, Michelle decided to go for her LPGA Tour card and succeeded. She made good decisions and produced great results. So far, the only controversy she has created is by keeping quiet, choosing to stay focused on her game. She has finally accepted that there are no short cuts to success.

Of course, she needed her LPGA card more than ever this year, as her sponsor's-exemption act was wearing thin at age 19. But whatever her reasons, at least she is out there earning her way like everyone else. She will wake up next week with her Tour card, and perhaps look back on the last several years as just a bad dream.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Carol Preisinger has been LPGA teaching professional for more than 20 years. She teaches at the Kiawah Island Club in South Carolina

December 05, 2008

Ask the Top 100: What kind of putter should I use?

Posted at 6:09 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Dear T.J.,
Over the past four or five years I have used both a mallet putter and t-line putter and recently decided to stay with a t-line putter, Scotty Cameron Circa-62.  Is there one swing sequence preferred over the other with a particular type putter? I have always used the straight-back, straight-through putting method not the gate-door method.

Bruce L.
Annapolis, Md.

Hi Bruce,
To putt your best you need to match up three variables correctly: 1.) Your putter type; 2.) Your stroke type; and 3.) Your posture.

Your Putter Type
There are three basic types of putters: "Toe-Balanced," "Face-Balanced" and "45 Degree Hangers." You can tell the difference by the way the putter face hangs when you balance it by its shaft across your finger. If the putter face is perpendicular to the ground with the toe hanging straight down, the putter is Toe-Balanced. If it balances with the putter face running parallel to the ground, it’s Face-Balanced. And if it balances so that the putter-face is hanging somewhere in-between perpendicular and parallel, it’s a 45 Degree Hanger (some hang at exactly 45 degrees but your putter face hangs anywhere in between Toe-Balanced and Face-Balanced it is still defined as a “45 Degree Hanger”).

Putters_003

The putter on the left exhibits toe-down balance; the putter in the middle has 45-degree balance; and the putter on the right is face-balanced.

Which One's For You
Your putting stroke dictates which type of balancing is right for you. If your putting stroke swings on a constant arc (inside, to square, to inside again--like a door as it opens and closes), then a Toe-Balanced putter is for you because it allows for a slight opening of the clubface on the takeaway and helps square the face at impact.

If your putting stroke is straight back and straight through (pendulum style -- as yours is) then Face-Balanced putters are best. They help to maintain stability by resisting any opening or closing of the clubface through impact.

If your stroke is neither straight or uniformly arced than you need a 45 Degree Hanger. The rule of thumb: The more your putting stroke tends to open and close the clubface, the more degrees (measured from horizontal) the putter-face should hang.

Match Your Posture and Your Putting Stroke

The conventional wisdom is anything goes in putting but there is one fundamental that should not be ignored: How you stand to the ball conditions how you stroke it.

Upright Posture
Tjputt1

Your shoulders naturally work perpendicular to your spine and when you’re standing upright your shoulders move “around” rather than “up and down.” This merry-go-round action opens the clubface during the backswing then [without any excess manipulations] squares it coming to the ball. While this is a very effective way to putt--used by many good putters including Ben Crenshaw and Greg Norman--other great putters such as Jack Nicklaus and Dave Stockton favor a much more bent posture at address.

Bent Posture
Tjputt2
In the bent posture the front shoulder moves down while the back one moves up, with the see-saw move reversed on the down stroke. This up-and-down action keeps the clubface more or less square to the intended line of roll throughout the entire stroke. 

Here’s the takeaway for you: If you feel comfortable standing upright over the ball then don’t try to keep the putter face looking at the target while you putt -- let the clubface rotate with your shoulders both back and through.

If you chose a bent posture then the pendulum stroke is the correct match. Once again simply let the face match the up and down action of the shoulders.

An upright putting posture promotes an “around,” open-to-square stroke because your shoulders are flat.

A bent-over putting posture promotes a more up-and-down, pendulum stroke because your shoulders are tilted

Be Careful What You Change
If you do change your putting stroke, take care to do it correctly. When I say that your putter face “opens” it is not by conscious manipulation of the hands or arms--the death knell of any stroke--but by simply allowing the putter head to swing slightly to the inside as it comes away from the ball. This permits the face to look to the right of the target [open] without spinning the shaft of the putter which would open the face to the path or arc. Your face looks to the right of the target but it is square to the path. Too many golfers think that to use the 'open-to-square' method they must spin the face open to closed during the stroke and this leads to disaster.

So please remember that in both methods the face stays square to the path--it’s the path that changes.

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 www.tjtomasi.com


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