Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 – Why this number is fundamental to Golf?

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 – Another Who Knew?-Certainly not me!-Aha moment Blog Entrynumber_9_green

This is a bit about golf swings and how many unique types of ball flights are generated from a classic golf swing.  I may have written about this last year but I think it’s worth repeating – for my practicing’s sake.

But first, a little bit about that title? – Yes, I was one of those music fans who contemplated the notion that John Lennon may have taken out, offed, rubbed out (call it what you want)  Paul McCartney back in the day (for those of you too young to remember the Beatles craze, there is lore concerning the White Album’s song that repeats the phrase ‘Number 9’ for like 100 hundred times and ends with a muffled voice that sounds like John Lennon saying ‘I buried Paul’ or ‘I murdered Paul’ in slow motion – it was a street myth that went on for years) and that the living bass player is an impostor.  Takes you back to those brilliant 70s radio daze when DJs would do anything to keep their listeners tuned in and once in a while blessed us with a full weekend of nothing but Beatles day in day out.  Not so much these days when Silicon Valley innovations  have practically mummified “by-appointment radio music listening” habits by supplying music subscription services for our mobile phones like Pandora, Soundcloud, Spotify and Itunes.

But I thought of that song title when researching the golf swing and what the basic patterns for golf ball flight are.  So when I stumbled on this seemingly common data point regarding the 9 fundamental swing paths for a golf ball, I figured why not tie in my crazy brain-connect-the-dots machine to come up with a catchy title.

Swing batta' battah!

Swing batta’ battah!

But it’s true.  About the 9 fundamental flights that is.  After getting over the fact that shanks and wicked hooks don’t count, I’ve come to realize there are only 9 true ball paths.  And, more importantly, as I getting better at actually striking the golf ball, I’ve also come to realize it’s important to try and effect one of these paths while practicing and aiming for a precise target on the driving range – versus just wailing away and feeling great that I didn’t clock the guy standing just 10 feet to my right with an errant knuckle sidewinder  – and there’ve literally been times when I was truly afraid that might could happen, much earlier in my practice days but nonetheless still haunting my brain cells every now and again.

So – if you weren’t aware there are 9 fundamental golf ball flight paths that should be part of any proficient ball strikers repertoire – the execution of which would prove one’s mastery at effectively controlling the golf swing.

9 ball flights 2

The 9 swing paths are

  1. Pull Hook
  2. Pull
  3. Pull Slice
  4. Draw
  5. Straight
  6. Fade
  7. Push Hook
  8. Push
  9. Push Slice

This website explains the ‘who-and-a-what-now?’ details http://www.tutelman.com/golf/ballflight/ballflight.php

By the way – a fade and a draw are the most minor deviations from a straight correct ball flight that lie within the first off-axis flight types – the hook and the slice.

I like to think of these ball flight paths as being analogous to the various travel paths of a tennis ball and their associated spin: such as cross-court top spin, straight center flat, under-spin cross court, down the line etc.  Another analog might be the various ball placements for a pitcher as he tries to place the pitch down the middle, inside right, outside left, high/low, etc.  There are only so many fundamental ball paths that need to be mastered and executed – after which you’re in outlander territory including beaning the batter, throwing fouls, or spinning up dirt.

There are other golf ball paths or variations like a ‘cut’ or even a ‘chardonnay fade’ (I heard that one on the Golf Channel) and so on – but it’s the little tidbits like this that make me always say “who knew?”  As an amateur, this stuff just doesn’t come up while talking on the range or flipping thru mags.

9_ball_flights

This game of golf, no matter how accessible the USGA and the PGA and other organizations are trying to make it, is full of fundamentals that are so numerous, I consistently find myself saying “who knew?”  Learning it is definitely not for the faint of heart.   And I haven’t even begun to read up on the rules of golf.  I mean, for realz – this is not a sport for someone who just wants a few pointers and then they’re off.   It is complicated, complex, befuddling, mathematical, precise, and filled with painstaking minutia.  Look at how changing the grass to fescue in the US Open befuddled some of the world’s top players.  What sport do you know of – other than maybe tennis – that can change the actual playing surface type on you, not to mention the entire set-up from one tournament to the next?  Chambers Bay was the trifecta on that score – actually changing par on some holes from day-to-day.  What the?  They actually changed par for the holes 1 and 18!  A baseball field is always the same (sure there are some minor deviations but they mostly affect things like hitting a home run).  A basketball court is always the same and all tennis courts have the same dimensions even if some games are played on grass or clay. But not golf.  No siree.   The depth of knowledge and ability to adapt required to execute, understand and excel at the game is substantial.  And that’s before you get into the inner psyche-ego-id challenges one needs to be aware of and overcome in order to maintain some level of decorum and consistency while executing said swing.

So what is one to do?  Keep on learning I guess while reminding oneself that golf isn’t a destination – it’s a journey – like life, love and dare I say, enjoying music – a journey in search of a holy grail, I guess, but a journey nonetheless that mandates a desire for continuous seeking and discovery.  I’m not giving up.  But I think I’m gonna create a new music listening station on my Pandora titled No.9 and I’ll playing it the next time I’m looking for my golf ball in the trees somewhere well off the fairway.  I wonder if any of the fab four were ever smitten by the siren song of mother earth meeting time out of mind?

SVG-out

What do I mean “I’m a Width Golfer?”

So I’m walking thru this recycled book store as I often do with my daughter – and, as I often do, I went to the golf book section to see what words of advice I might scan thru and I came across an old book that talked about the Laws of the Swing.  It’s called “The Laws of the Golf Swing” by Mike Adams.  It’s an older book but it talks about body types and various golf swings.

The basic gist of it was – there are three basic types of physics for executing a golf swing and they are based on your body type.  Many other bloggers (like Grateful G) have talked about how there are as many different types of swing set ups and such as there are batting styles or pitching styles or methods of striking a tennis ball etc.

But the reasoning behind it is as follows.  If you’re taller and thiner than you are wide you’re a leverage player meaning you use height to generate power in your swing and your swing plane will be more up-to-down or vertical.  You’ll arc your swing more than others and really reach behind you at the top of your swing.  Think Bubba or other tall golfers.  If you’re medium build you’ll have a different set up that is more fluid and circular.  And if you’re like me – less flexible, shorter than most golfers (barely 5’10.5″), and stockier – you’ll generate more power by swing side-to-side – using your width and generating power laterally or horizontally.  I was a little disappointed to have to come to terms with my body type but I tried some of the methods suggested for figuring out my body type such as folding my right arm with my thumbup and seeing if my thumb touched below, at, or above my shoulder plane – and it rang true.  The tests in the book are pretty simple and quick to do.  Plus I showed my wife the pictures of the different body types and she immediately identified me as the stockier wider type guy.  Welcome to my middle-aged-dom right?

Anyway, as I read on it made sense.  What it meant was I should disregard techniques and advice that try to make me swing very wristy or talk a lot about the top of the swing and such.  I now know that a lot of the advice dished out in Golf magazine or even by pro golfers are for a body type that does not necessarily jive with mine.

I swing best when I swing like I’m doing tug of war with a rope that runs along the the target line.  To go back to the baseball analog – If i were a pitcher I would pitch side-arm versus overhead or even at 10 o’clock.  I much prefer and have better consistency when I cock my right arm at 3 o’clock and limit my backswing so I don’t have very much turn.  If I were a batter, I would swing more like Babe Ruth – like I’m prepping to give someone an upper-cut in boxing – i wouldn’t hit the ball at the bottom of the batter’s box but would do better to swing at a fastball high because my batting plane would be much more horizontal  so I would sway or float backward than forward.

The takeaways for me were to execute a very short backswing, pushing my club away from me backwards-directly opposed to the target with my left arm and tugging it away as well with my right – trying to push the circumference of my swing to create a horizontal oval shape versus an vertical one.  I would bend at the hips and lean forward a little more to get around my somewhat wider chest which prevents me from effectively marrying my hands beyond a certain point during my backswing because to do so sorta forces me off-plane because I’m not very flexible anymore.  So my swing is faster and shorter in length and looks like I use way more chest and arms than most people do but my plane stays consistent and I’m less likely to come over the top of the ball.  It also means, I stand a little wider, have much less arc (even though I finish full swing and have no problem getting the club all the way around), and I place the ball just a little bit farther back than most – closer to center for my irons versus in-line with my left heel.  It also means I need to flare my feet just a little (my left more so than my right) so I can add some turn to my hips beyond what my arms allow me.  And I move my right foot back just a smidge to help clear my hips.

Still taking my lessons, I really didn’t want to add more adjustments to my repertoire and louse things up – but I went to the driving range to practice and I have to admit – the adjustments worked.  I had more consistency and confidence and had a much lower tendency of chunking the dirt early or coming up over the top.  I was striking 80% accuracy towards my target (within a margin of error of some 10-15 feet, aiming at a target 135-150 yards away using my 9 and 7 irons) and had only one shank out of a bucket of 50.  Maybe the first time ever  that has happened to me!!

The biggest thing for me was to consciously not try to overdue my backswing but to stop as soon as my left arm crossed my chest and lay horizontal.  I also became more comfortable bending at the hips so my arms really hung like sausages instead of trying to mimic great erect posture like an Adam Scott or somebody.  Let’s face it, many of those guys on the Champions Tour hang over the ball like gargoyles perched on a roof top more than some 20-something 360 degree swinging arch-angel.

So – I’m pleased with this finding.  It tells me that: 1) I need to filter all those magazine articles and TV shows words-of-advice because often, I imagine, their talking to that younger more agile player than someone like me; 2) It’s worth the effort to keep digging for more information all the time because the more I learn the more likely I am to find suggestions that match me; 3) if advice is going to help me, it should generate fairly immediate and visible results.  In fact, I remember Paul Azinger in one of those very same golf channel shows saying that if you don’t see fairly quick results from a word of advice (assuming you’re following them correctly) then just maybe it’s not great advice – for you.

Net net, my confidence in my swing just went up a notch.  Here’s a picture of the book cover.  Yes – I had to come to terms with the fact that I have a belly, and I’m not so flexible, and my chest gets in the way of my swing – but knowledge is power if you don’t take it personally I guess.  Besides, I’m starting to run again and I should lose 20 lbs in no time – yeah, right.  Famous last words.  Every year, I tell my wife – “Just give me a month and Shazzamo! I’ll be back to my old self !!”

The key to success is self-knowledge sometimes.

And, next to it – another picture from a Paris Golf Poster that I’m thinking resembles my style as a width player.DSCN1264Laws of the Golf Swing

Retro Journal Notes No.9 – Raymond Floyd on Fundamentals

These notes were taken last summer as I tried to get a firmer grip (pun intended) on golfing fundamentals.  As usual they are from a recorded training show from one of the golf channels.

Raymond Floyd is known as the guy with no discernible flaws in his golf swing and is a 4 time Major champion.

Swing Technique

Swing Technique

Fundamental No.1 – the grip. How do you ‘take’ your club?  His suggestion;

  • Lay it down (as you address)
  • Get your left hand in position
  • Then marry your right hand to the left

Fundamental No.2 – Set-up – like just about everything else in golf, including practicing, it’s good to have a routine that you follow each time.  He suggests;

  • Start from behind the ball
  • Pick a target (I’ve heard others say it’s important to be very precise about your target – not just a general area like a tree – pick a branch on the tree or a noticeable sub-part of a bush or something – the important thing is to be precise)
  • Then pick/draw your target line
  • Then address the ball (“Hi, you cute little simple little ball you – now let’s do this!” – SVG trying to be funny)
  • Lastly, adjust your body by shuffling it to adjust to the club

    No discernible swing flaws for Floyd

    No discernible swing flaws for Floyd

I would add that you should make sure your club face is facing the target spot-on the target line.  Sometimes it helps to find a near spot on your target line (just 10-15 feet in front of the ball to align to). For me, when I address the ball (this is a new routine I started after reading another blogger) I now make sure my club face is square on target while my two feet are together. I do so with my right hand on the club but maybe I should change that up.  Anyway, then I move my left foot towards the target and then my right foot back to its position as I get set and assume the right posture.  I think I need to make sure that my arms are truly hanging freely during the set-up process but I haven’t incorporated that just yet into my routine.

Anyway – I think Ray’s main point is that you let the club lie and club position dictate your body positioning versus the other way around – starting by getting set-up and THEN placing down the club.  Too many chances for getting your alignment messed up if you do it backwards.

Fundamentals No.3 – Alignment and Related Issues

  • Try to imagine right angles as you align yourself.  Ray believes alignment is one of the biggest things amateurs fail to do correctly.
  • Also – weight distribution is important.  Try to get your weight sorta on the balls of your feet and then settling back thru to your heels.  Feel like you’re planted.

Fundamentals No.4 – On Transition

There are 2 distinct pieces to the golf swing – Don’t Mix Them! First you get set then you go. [This resonates with other words of advice I’ve stumbled across.  Many state that the first part of the backswing is really all about getting your club in place to swing forward – think more like getting ready before taking off in a sprint and putting your feet in the blocks and your fingers on the track and getting locked into take-off position….first you get your feet and body set and then your go…., or, more appropriately, like getting into position as a batter in baseball with the bat cocked behind you.. ONLY, you have to get the bat – or club in this case – from the ball-address position to the start position – that’s what the beginning of the swing is for, no more no less.  The main point is that the beginning of the back swing is all about getting your club ready – it is NOT the real part of the swing.]

More from RF:  make sure it’s a 2 piece move – 1, get set, then 2.ray floyd1

  • Keys to remember: Get the shoulder rotated and pointed towards the ball (the left shoulder for you right-handers).  Turn the right hip to point behind you.

A Practice Drill:

  • Rotate hitting hooks, draws, punches and high shots – all at the same target.  This is a useful drill for the driving range.  Try and focus on your weakest of ball flight shapes.

end notes_svg

Retro Entry No.8 – Daily Diary: 9 Golf Paths

[Stardate: sometime last late-spring/early summer.]

SVG Practice Target Tidbit – who knew? There are 9 fundamental golf swing paths of ball flight.

A picture

A picture

 Logged sometime last spring/summer….. (side note: the constant discovery of fundamental truths in golf just kept coming as I continued working on my pitch shot) sidenote2: actually – a lot more than just a tid bit but a very usefully chunk of information).

Maybe it’s common knowledge but it wasn’t to me. Knowing these 9 fundamental golf swings and fundamental ball flight paths will help me practice smarter. Instead of just aiming for a target with my long irons, I can aim and practice deciding the best ball flight to get these.

Step 1, however, what the heck are these 9 ball flights and why ONLY 9 not more or less?  Basically, I guess it’s like the other “small object” sports – I’m thinking baseball and tennis. There are only so many pure ways to strike the ball efficiently and place it within a targeted space. Dead straight, slight right or slight left on slight up and slight down.

So in tennis you can hit a ball flat straight, down the line or cross-court. You can hit it topspin straight, down the line or cross court. And same for underspin or drop shots. These are similar in concept to the fade, draw, dead-on etc. (side note: gotta love my vocabulary huh?).

Same could be analogged when thinking about pitching in baseball and strike zone and such.  Why it gets to 9 I guess has something to do with the 3×3 strike zone boxes kind of thing.

Plus I remember watching a Golf Channel special with Bernhard Langer on flight paths and he kept showing how by shifting your toe-line’s relationship with the ball’s target line (dead-parallel, closed or open) you could consistently change your ball flight path from fade to draw, push or pull, high fade/ high draw, etch.  It was quite uncanny and all how deceptively simple it was to do that – for him at least, on camera no less – by just swinging the same but just changing the alignment of his toe line by some 20 degrees – facing inwards or out from parallel..

So maybe that’s why those practice line-sticks are so important! (SN – funny, I ended up buying a pair of yellow sticks about three months ago when picking up some used Titleist performance enhancing clubs in preparation for my first set of golf lessons. I think they really help with immediate corrective feedback).

Go figure. It was totally news to me. (SN: I really should be thinking more in terms of those fundamental flight curves when visualizing ball flight and breathing so I can play more with my heart and lower body tension like my new instructor is saying)

Song List: Sunday – Time Outta Mind

Had a decent day yesterday.  Went to the range with my PW and 7-iron.  Perfect crisp 70 degrees clear blue sky.  Just butter!

It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood

It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood

Took time to stretch – including my fingers and wrists.  With a bucket of 40 balls I’d say 50% had good flight path and fell within a respectable margin of target.  Another 15% were tugged left but hit far and straight.  Another 15% fade/sliced right.  A couple just shanked to the extreme right.  And a good 5-8% were like dead on.  Not too shabby.  I’ll take it for having just introduced a new swing adjustment.  Here’s a quick pass at the gory details for learning’s sake… thinking about it I did a lot better when I finally established the pre-swing routine and when I took less of a backswing but tried to focus on keeping my right elbow close to my right hip, focused on a full follow-thru AND trying to keep my left hand on or inside a line across my toes during the backswing.  I know, that last one sounds weird but that’s my attempt at trying to think my body to swinging inside-out.

What else did I do?

I made sure to swing thru and hold my finish until the ball landed.  I also followed GratefulG’s routine of starting to go thru a routine for each or almost each swing……

  1. stepping back,
  2. finding my line,
  3. finding a very precise target
  4. and then walking up and placing my clubbed down the line with my right hand and my feet together facing the target.

Then I move my left foot over until my left heel lines up with the golf ball and I step back with my right foot until I feel planted.

I was kinda making it up at first but then I got a rhythm going.  If it’s putting I can tell you I’ve got a real good routine for that since that’s much of what I practiced on this winter – but I decided I should try and make one up for irons.  So after set-up, I borrowed from my putting routine – I just stepped back to a parallel line and did 1-2-3 (sometimes 4-5) easy mini swings just to get a feel for when the leading edge would sweep the practice mat.  When I got it close to my left heel without chunking or digging but just swishy – usually that happens in the 1st or 2nd practice if I really just swing like it didn’t matter – I would step back up take one more gaze at my target and then swing with full intent to turn and hold a full finish.  I Don’t know – but it felt good towards the end of the bucket when my consistency started to dial-up.

Steely Dan - Gaucho

Steely Dan – Gaucho

And then – I went home – all jazzed at what I thought was respectable practicing session and ended up practicing my chip shot in the front yard with this new sturdy practice mat.  Work is still crazy but I’m happy I forced myself to get back into practice after a couple weeks off.

And here’s a song list of stuff I was listening to – just for grins…..

  • Time Out of Mind by Steely Dan on Gaucho
  • Sky High by Donald Byrd on Black Byrd
  • I.G.Y. by Donald Fagan on The Nightfly
  • Satellite by Günter on Ganging Up
  • Who Makes Your Money by Spoon on Transference

    Donald-Byrd-Black-Byrd

    Donald Byrd

  • Static Society by King Kooba on OM10 A Decade of Future Music
  • Optimistic by Tom Middleton on Lifetracks
  • III Street Blues by Moonrock on Café Del Mar Volume Series

00.+Tom+Middleton+-+Lifetracks+[FACTOR+19]_a

Spoon

Spoon

Daily Diary: Backswing Practice n Balance

After warming up I was able to connect cleanly with 8 out of 10 swings. 6 swing drove the ball within 10 degrees of desired trajectory – nice straight hits. I hooked two and severely sliced 2 others. I need to continue turning all the way thru the swing and keep practicing bringing my right knee in.

I’m also trying to keep a tempo and to turn on my backswing until my back faces the target or my left shoulder touches my chin and or points to the ball.

I did the balance on one foot thing. Getting better. And I remembered to stretch. One more week and ill schedule lesson number 2.

20150216-175049.jpg

David Leadbetter – Tips on Golf & Golf Instruction

Continuing with my self-indulgence of documenting my “retro-notes” from my golf and observations notebook from last year – below are some Leadbetter notes that I gleaned once again by watching TV.  I’m not doing this just for grins.  I know I wrote these down because I either found the points interesting or thought provoking but also because I thought they’d be worth remembering as I sought to take my practice regimen seriously.  Of course, at the time – for a variety of reasons including money, time commitment and maybe even a belief that sheer will and desire could help me improve my game along with a little help from TV programs and magazines – I was not willing to entertain formal golf instruction.  That changed towards the end of the year and maybe one day I look back and think of 2014 as a pivotal year in my golfing golfiness apprenticeship journey.

TrackmanDave Leadbetter – On Golf Instruction In GeneralDavid Leadbetter1

  1. First –  analysis has improved – thanks to pervasive video-access and smartphone apps and things like, Trackman.
  2. Second – equipment is far more precise and varied to the point that each player can get what fits him/her exactly
  3. Third – physical readiness is important (hmm – I guess way more so than just a few decades ago? – golfers sure seem hecka way more athletic these days AND bigger, as in, taller -)
  4. Fourth – the common uncommon observation – equipment, technique, physical, mental and nutritional aspects are all important.
  5. Tangent – Calvin Peete – a golfer worth looking up and reading about
  6. The importance of glutes in your swing?  They let you shorten your backswing.
  7. On the backswing – Shorten it. (self note: hmmm really?).  Importance of arms and body to sync.  The swing of the club and the body rotation must sync. (self note:– I guess what he’s saying is it’s better to have a shorter swing and keep everything in sync than it is to try and over-extend the backswing in order to improve something like power.)
  8. On the biggest mistakes by Amateurs
  • The grip.  Check it.  Grip with your fingers (NOT your palms).
  • Keep club head outside the hands – for example like Jim Furyk, Jack Nicklaus or Calvin Peete all of whom kept the club head outside.  (note: he seemed to suggest this is contrary to more classic training methods).
  • Pursue a simple back swing – just stand the shaft up.