Roll Your Putts
Sometimes we get so focused on swing mechanics, often with the help of training aids, that we lose sight of feel and creativity in putting. We've often heard of putting described as an 'art'. When we putt, we need to control speed and distance, AND we have to get the ball ROLLING. One way to understand what I mean by 'rolling' is to putt with one of your wedges. Grip down a bit with your putter grip and give it a try. You'll have to strike the ball close to the equator with a level to slightly upward strike. The object is to get the ball rolling smoothly. Keep trying until you figure it out, and incorporate the feel in your putting. Commit to a specific line to get the ball rolling on and let it go.
Put Some 'Happy' in Your Swing
One of the biggest challenges in creating an effective swing is achieving correct body movement sequence, especially in the forward swing motion. A common fault is starting the forward motion with the upper body instead of from the ground up with a weight shift to the target side foot and good lower body and leg action. So to put some 'happy' in your swing, channel Happy Gilmore form the movies. Happy was a former hockey player who would take a run up to hit the ball. Make sure you have adequate space, tee the ball up, step a few strides away from the target, start moving toward the target, step into it and swing while you keep moving towards the target. Start slowly.
Finish What You Start
A balanced finish. I love watching a tour event to see the best players in the world develop swing speeds in excess of 100 mph and finish in perfect balance. Just marveled at Rory and Ricky. A balanced finish isn't that easy. If you can do it the quality of your shots will improve, guaranteed. You have to have good things going on in your swing before the finish to get to a good one. We all suffer from trying to hard to get more distance, losing our sequence and rhythm in the process. As with all swing changes, start slow and build up speed. Start without a ball and then with a ball. As far as your flexibility will allow, try to finish with your weight on the outside of your target side foot, your trailing shoulder closer to the target than your target side shoulder, and the sole of your trailing foot facing away from your target. Swing effortlessly and tension free, especially through the ball. The best thing about this exercise is monitoring your success is easy, all you have to do is hold your finish and check your position.
Try putting while looking at the hole. It's a great way to work on distance control on medium to long range putts. It is also a great way to feel what might be your 'natural stroke'. You will be amazed at how well it works. It takes away the need to look up too soon to see where the ball is going and it creates a more intuitive way to feel distance control.
Hit The Little Ball First
Now what does that mean, you might be asking. Well the little ball is the golf ball and the big ball is the earth. This means a well struck shot has ball first then ground contact. If you are hitting the ground first you might be trying to help the ball into the air or scooping it up. Trying to get the ball up isn't necessary. To hit the ball first, your weight must be on your left side, get your sternum over the ball or to the target side of the ball prior to impact. Do this by shifting towards the target to start your forward move. Visualize the grip of the club closer to the target than the head of the club at impact. As always start with small slow swing motions, chips are great, to get the feel of ball first contact.
If you are finding short chip shots difficult to control, try a chip/putt. Start with an 8I and grip down the shaft almost to the end of the grip. You can use your putting grip if you like. Make some practice strokes as you would if you were putting, then try it with a ball. You'll see the ball get a bit of elevation, not much with an 8I. To chip/putt it longer, keep the same putting stroke feel and add a bit of pivot to the target. Don't get wristy. You should find distance control easier, like a putt. Then try different clubs.
Taking your range game to the course is a vital step in the learning and improving process. The golf course presents challenges you don't get at the range. A playing lesson addresses these issues as well as course management, short game situations and technique and shot selection strategy. It also gives me the opportunity to see you in action, check your alignment, pre shot routine and general approach to playing.
If you aren't happy with your ball flight, don't be afraid to experiment with your grip, ball position, swing path and swing shape. Best grips keep the palms aligned (hands like a praying position), have the top hand heel pad (the one down from your baby finger) on top of the grip (where the arrows and writing/logos are) and the base section of the lower hand index finger on the trail side (side away from target) with a slight separation from the middle finger (in a like pulling a trigger position). Whew. Now try turning those praying hands (both of them) more to the right or left. This should change where the face of the club points. Move your ball position further forward of back to change the angle your club is moving on at impact. Change you path. In your address position hold a golf ball in your trailing (away from target) hand and imagine you are bowling the ball to the right or left of the target. Duplicate these arm swinging motions on short shots. Change the shape of your swing by feeling your swing more in the shape of a Ferris wheel and then in the shape of a merry-go-round. One or more of these changes should produce a ball flight change. Your main job is to get the face of the club looking at the target at impact. Try to swing effortlessly and tension free as you make these changes.
Provide Your Pro Feedback
Be an active participant in your lesson. By that I mean, let your pro know what you are thinking, what you are experiencing and your concept of what you are trying to do. I've seen many people multiple times and then out of the blue hear, "well I'm trying to do....., or I was told to.....". What you tell your pro can be very revealing and a tremendous help. Don't ever be embarrassed to speak up about your swing concept. Many aspects of swinging the golf club are counterintuitive to what most people think. Improving your technique is a team effort, and you are responsible for more than just swinging during a lesson.
Build a Solid Base
Build a solid base with an athletic stance, knees flexed, bend forward at the hips, back straight, arms hanging and feel like you are in a ready to move position or a solid "New York won't be pushed off my spot stance". Now watch the tour players on TV or in the magazines and look at the top of their backswings and take note of their right legs. They don't look like they have gone anywhere on their backswings, not much straightening or lateral move, and they haven't, legs separated and knees pretty level. If you have the flexibility try this for yourself. Your flexibility might not allow as big a swing as you are used to, and this might not be for you.
How's your putting? Next time you're watching golf on TV, look for these two things. Leg/hip movement and putter shaft angle. You'll see that the pros don't move their hips/legs during their strokes. To get the correct feel either have someone hold your hips while you putt, or at home hit some putts with your seat against a wall, don't let your seat move. As for the shaft angle, get in front of a mirror(either putting towards or away from it) and match the angle of the shaft to the angle of your forearms. You might have to slide up or down the grip or change your distance from the ball to get in line. Once there you might find you need a putter adjustment. Make both of these changes, keep your head still and you'll be making more putts.
Club Head Lag
We all want more club head lag, that's where the power is, we see it in the slow motion replays every weekend. Lag is the head of the club trailing the handle on the downswing, the longer it trails the more power. Lag is a result, meaning it happens instead of trying to make it happen. First, you've got to get the tension out of your wrists and arms, loosen up. Second, you've got to get moving. To get moving and feel motion, get moving with some "related sports" motions, such as: throwing, start with a small tossing motion and build to a long throw, bowling, same thing, small roll to faster roll, fly fishing, start with small casts then cast it further and further. Notice how you use your body more and more to add more energy to the motion, and how your body moving in the direction of the throw leads the action. Now grab your club and pretend it's a fishing pole, cast back and forth, back and forth, further and further. Now make some swings using the same body motion to lead the forward motion. Make sure your back swing has motion too. The whole thing will probably feel a bit out of control, and that's a good thing. When we "hit at" the ball we aren't "swinging through it", like the ball isn't there. Lagging the club head is especially challenging because you won't feel like you are aiming and controlling the club, but that's how it works Give it a try.