Random Observation on the Golf Swing & Weight Balancing

InStanceHipDown_igor-ovsyannykov-270958When instructors talk about shifting your weight during the swing, they’re really referring to shifting your pressure – as in the pressure points where you feet connect to the ground. This is why so often you might hear about the swing really starting from the lower body and the feet. Go ahead and Google videos on “foot pressure and the golf swing” and you’ll see what I mean.

When I hear ‘shift your weight’ invariably I try and move my body mass and center of gravity (which usually involves my head) laterally to the left or right – which isn’t comfortable and often makes the small of my back hurt. However, when I try to shift pressure points it’s all about where my weight presses against the ground in term of the ball of my feet and the heels and which foot.

So when I need to shift right, my body stays in the exact same place mostly but my left ankle relaxes and flexes up from the heel so that most of my pressure glides over to my right foot and rests between the big-toe ball and my inner heel. The more my swing goes back, the more the pressure transitions to the back of my right heel and my left foot goes into a mini high-heel position which may or may not also result in my left knee rising – much like a batter winding up to strike the ball. Shifting pressure points back left again is more footwork with a push off the right foot and a slight bend back to the front, while my left heel returns firmly down to the ground bracing itself for me to begin rotating around my left leg as an axis. All this coincides with a similar change in vertical-ness as far as my shoulder sockets go – because we all should be starting off with the right shoulder slightly lower than the left but during the backswing the right shoulder will switch height location with the left in a way that matches what’s going on ‘down-ground.’

But the huge AHA takeaway for me is – it is NOT about moving my shoulders and torso laterally from left to right or really about me feeling a lot of strain in my thighs but rather about this groove and shift between my left and right feet. That’s why the head needs to generally stay in place – even though many great pros like Jack Nicklaus actually move their head behind the ball when swinging through.

Observation #2. Golf is a lot of math and geometry. Golf is so much about circles and straight lines. Every round part of our bodies – from the balls of our feet and our ankle, to our knee sockets and hip sockets, to our arms and elbow and shoulder sockets – needs to rotate and un-rotate in sync to get that straight bone that’s connected to the socket in question to swing groovy and smoothly.

But when I think about the pressure thingy – the analog of the swing being more like bowling & throwing rings true for me. The way I rock before winding up to bowl a bowling ball and how I try to roll the ball onto the wooden floor works better than the image of trying to hit a baseball even if there are many similarities in the wind up and delivery.

Golf swings are also very unique for each individual depending on the measurements between all these round body parts as explained in the article which really shed more light on what my swing should be like. I started measuring myself – my wingspan, my forearm, etc., and I’m beginning to think that mine’s more of a swing that settles below the plain of my shoulders at the apex of the back swing versus above the shoulder line. And who knew? Many pros reach high points in their back swings that are either above, at, or below their shoulder planes as also described in this piece. It was very enlightening. And it makes sense – after all – every one has a different combinations on pant & inseam, neck and shirt sleeve and waist dimensions along with height dimensions. So what works for a tall golfer doesn’t necessarily translate for a stocky or long-armed or short-legged or whatever-dimension-ed golfer.

Now I won’t try to force myself to rotate so much and have my left wrist reach above my ears during the back swing – which is very uncomfortable. Instead I’m going to swing back in a way that more mimics a side-arm pitcher. I feel much more comfortable that way.

Glad to be back after many months away and hoping to get back into a rhythm. Happy Friday.

Royalty Free Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Check it out. THE SWING PLANE EXPLAINED.

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Practice Notes to Self on the Backswing – Think Frisbee

wrist, arms, shoulders, and hips turning in sequence with a frisbee

wrist, arms, shoulders, and hips turning in sequence with a frisbee

Did some front yard practicing today with my at-home practice station. Took out my SKLZ target netting, a fairly huge contraption but easy to set up (don’t worry I don’t use real golf balls – i use the perforated plastic ones instead), and tried out my new grips and tried to focus on some backswing drills that work on the CASH principle of trying to move/turn the clubhead (in other words – the wrists) first, then the arms then the shoulders and then the hips.

I did a few swings slow motion but it was hard to think it through on a normal swing and I started to get all jumbled.

Then I remembered a thought I had after reading something online – about the swing really being all about the left arm.  If you use the left arm to move the club instead of your right arm – you’ll have a better chance of guiding the club correctly.

That’s the thing with golf – it’s such a game of opposites – swing down to get the ball up, focus on calming your mind instead of getting all pumped up, work on being more humble instead of brandishing your ego.  When it comes to the swing – I’m figuring out it’s about using your non-dominate arm instead of getting power and control from your right arm (if you’re right handed).

frisbee3So I had a little Eureka moment.  When i tried to focus on that – I came up with the thought of trying to throw a frisbee with my left hand.  I was playing with the idea that the backswing and the swing all together is more like a left-handed backhand in tennis.  I read that in one of the blogs or a magazine.  And I always heard that the swing altogether is like trying to skip a stone across a pond or similar to a pitcher throwing a baseball.  But the latter images made me focus on my right hand and action with my right wrist arm and shoulders. But when I tried to emulate throwing a frisbee with my left hand I sorta kinda really got the sensation of having to keep that left arm extended, turning my wrists at the right times and leading with my hips as I tried to shift from back to front. It was palatable and replicable and natural even if awkward.

I also got the feeling that I could also emulate the sensation of trying to hit a nail with a hammer – something you hear many pros talk about when talking about the precise nature of getting the sequence for power right…the idea that you delay the striking of the hammer until just before you hit the nail much like you need to delay the club head from swinging forward until it comes back down below your hips. The whipping sensation came about naturally when I tried to swing like I was throwing a frisbee – because the speed of the frisbee comes from delaying the flicking of the wrist until the last moment.

Anywho – the ‘throwing of the frisbee with my left hand’ seems to work conceptually for me much more so then trying to think clubhead, arms, shoulders, hips.

So my practice session was useful in that regard.  Now I’ll have to see if that sensation remains after a few more practices.  But after several weeks of feeling like I haven’t started making improvements on anything except putting, this is a glimmer of hope.

That’s golf for ya’.  Just when you start to get discouraged, she throws you a bone and you’re right back in it like its the first day. Hazzah!!

frisbee motions similar to golf swing

frisbee motions similar to golf swing

Backswing Basics – CASH into a good sequence

So I’m back into focusing on my game.  I played 9 holes a couple weeks back and although it wasn’t a great round I did notice that the one area I did well in was my putting – which is the one area I’ve been focusing on since the beginning of the year.  I can’t beat myself up too much because work’s been a grind and I haven’t been able to focus or practice much but I need to double down and re-look at my goals for this year.  But it felt great having such a grooved routine that I didn’t have to even think about for my putting.  I never 3-putted and I guess that counts for something.

I’m almost done with my batch of lessons – my very first batch of lessons from an instructor EVER! – and I have to admit that the greatest benefit from this is that I swing all the way around in one full motion now – instead of decelerating or stopping short.  My instructor’s been good with giving me mental thoughts and I’ve changed out my grips (per his advice) for the first time ever.  Who knew? (common phrase for me it seems) but grips are like running shoes – you have to replace them every so often even if you don’t play with them – they dry out from use and/or age.  At a minimum you should wash them often to get the grit off.

So now I have a new set of Golf Prides’ that are a smidge wider than my older grips on my new/used set of Titliest DC9’s.

And now I have a confidence that if I focus on a particular area of my game, I will see improvement over time – so I’m gonna focus on my irons. 3-9.

Recently I read a GratefulG blog about the many resources available to us die-hards and I decided to take advantage of online videos and such to research how to practice my backswing where I have a lot of trouble sequencing club movement and staying on plane.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the real sequence evolves from thinking purely about the left arm’s movement and to think: clubhead, then arms, then shoulders, then hips when it comes to what rotates in what order. The acronym is CASH.  Move the clubhead to 730pm on the clock face, then move the arms to 9 oclock, then turn the shoulders until the left shoulder is under your chin/chest over your right foot, and lastly turn your hips until your back faces the target.  Also, I’m learning that the backswing is not where you get power – it’s just the set-up to get into position – like pulling the bow back before you release the arrow.  Once I got the CASH thing in my head, I saw it every where – on TV, in magazines and in a ton of online videos so this is a fundamental that I need to groove into a routine.

Anyway, that’s where I am for now.  I haven’t written in a while but I’m gonna try and get back in the saddle for that as well.

My Pittsburgh Steelers are playing tonight – whoo hoo! life is good.  I love my new grips – they feel great.  I shoulda done that a long time ago.

SVG-out

Backswing_CASH

Take a Pause & Shake A Hand

Couple of quick notes as I shake of my work week (phew – what a doozy, nothing but non-stop digital marketing stuff AND I had to compile a bunch of end-of-quarter budget and projections stuff. and i hate working with numbers (except on the course, chuckle chuckle…. “for the love!!!”).

Note #1: Hadn’t been to my favorite before-work putting green in a while but I didn’t have to drop my daughter off at summer school this morning so swung by and did a few putts trying to a do nothing but 2-putts from about 30 feet out.  Hit them all. I really developing confidence and trust in my routine.  And it’s becoming natural – I don’t think to much at all about it.  About time I guess – I’ve been working on it since January.  My first putts were all within 5 feet and I nailed them all in.  Sidenote – it was a damp morning.  I always seem to do better on damp greens (not wet enough to leave grass on the ball – just la little moist).

Note #2:  I’ve been working at my at-home practice station on pausing at the top of my swing – very deliberately – and I’m getting a much better feel for my transitions from front to back.

Greg Norman1Note #3:  Watched the shark (Greg Norman – who also makes a fabulous Pinot

The shark has a nose for good wine

The shark has a nose for good wine

Noir and you gotta love his apparel too, right?) on the Golf Channel and he talked about getting to a position halfway in your backswing where you could literally shake hands with someone standing directly behind you if the butt end of your shaft was pointing directly at the target.  To do this you have to really focus on keeping your swing low and extending that left arm so your outer circle keeps it’s proper circumference.  Anyway, I’ve been practicing that to good effect as well.  Swinging from the ground up he says – really keeps you from going inside to quickly.

Note #4: Sitting down after this long week, with nobody home, so the first thing to do is flip on the Golf Channel and the JAMESDRISCOLL-PROPEN_depth1Web.com tour is on and this golfer – James Driscoll – was sharing some practice tips for after his -7 round.  He has a club with some pebbles or bullets in it or something that makes a audible sound – he takes the club to the top, waits for the stones to drop and for the noise from rattling around in the shaft to stop, and then swing.  He was working on deliberately pausing at the top of his swing.  So that re-affirmed some of the direction I was taking the past two week.

Going slow, taking my time, learning to pause and shaking the hand of the invisible guy behind me are thoughts I’ve been holding onto with good result.  This game takes time to dial-in but persistence seems to pay off.  Maybe I’ll get to play a 9-holer this weekend before I dive back into the melee.  That’s the valley – what can i say!

The A Swing – A new approach and new book by David Leadbetter

QuDave Leadbetter_A Swing Bookick notes from Golf Central on the Golf Channel with Martin Hall.  I feel affirmed about my hunches about the backswing that I blogged about a couple days ago.

  1. New book released by David Leadbetter called “The A Swing – the alternative approach to Great Golf”
  2. DL’s 8th instructional book.  Why?
  3. It’s about the backswing – because the backswing is really difficult to repeat on a consistent basis .  Most amateurs go way inside too quick or turn too soon versus really good athletes who can compensate better.
  4. It’s all about synchronization between the inside circle (your hands) and the outside (the club head) of the body or the 2 circles of the swing.
  5. Leadbetter mentions Calvin Peete as one of his favorite players with a great swing.  Up there with Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus, etc.  Interestingly, Calvin swung with a bent left arm because it was broken during childhood and never re-set properly.  He died recently.David Leadbetter2
  6. Calvin Peete never let the clubhead get behind his hands.  Hands stay in and the clubhead stayed out.
  7. He likens it to a batter in baseball – go figure, just like I mused about in my recent random thoughts blog entry and I know the Grateful Golfer mentions this in his blog as well.
  8. If you keep the clubhead outside all the way to the top  you end up in a sorta natural batter’s set-up position which sets you up for more consistent down swings where the club head levels out perfectly to strike the ball.
  9. Closing comments – It’s all about simplicity.

I’m gonna take a look at some Calvin Peete swings on Youtube or something.  And next time I’m in the book store, I’ll check out the book.

David Leadbetter1

But this is re-assuring …. Leadbetter’s approach.  Because I still don’t fell ultra-confident about my ability to be consistent with my backswing.

What a nice end to what was an unusually grueling day in the Valley.

What is the Role of the Backswing? Some Thoughts

The master - Ben Hogan tells it like it is in pictures

The master – Ben Hogan tells it like it is in pictures

  • The backswing really shouldn’t be thought of as part of the swing – really.  It’s incorrect nomenclature in a way if you think about it.  They should call it the ‘get ready to swing –  swing’
  • It’s what gets you into position to swing.  As if you are just trying to get into position like a baseball batter after addressing the ball.  Only baseball players get to stand in the ‘correct’ ready position with the bat already at-the-ready over their back shoulder.
  • Really it’s a pre-swing. Get into position movement.
  • Just like bringing the ball back to your shoulder before taking a jump shot or a foul shot isn’t really the shot.  You pause, then you take the shot.
  • Or just like serving in tennis requires you to toss the ball up and just before you swing as the ball gets to its apex, you circle your wrists and then lunge into the shot.  It’s the lunge that’s the shot.
  • When you fail to do these things you end up throwing the ball like a novice.  Have you ever seen a kid try to throw a football or baseball before s/he understands the need to really take the arm back and get the wrist cocked into position?  It’s like they’re pushing the ball instead of throwing it.  These are the images that come to mind as I re-think the role and purpose of the backswing.
  • In fact, I wonder why one can’t just swing at the golf ball from a batter’s position. Is that like against the rules or something? Because, that’s exactly when you would get that opposite directional thingy where your hips and body start moving forward while the arms almost seem like their lilting back for a second before catching up and going forward. Transition comes much easier that way in my humble opinion.
  • I’ve tried during practice sometimes to look away from the ball and stare at the target like it’s a pitcher throwing a ball at me in a way that it would hit the ‘homeplate’ right where my golf ball is sitting so that i would start my backswing and lock into position before striking – and invariably this helps me have a better sequence of transition.
  • And when I observe LPGA players, especially women from Asia who are so deliberate sometimes in form (and to be fair – some of the PGA players who don’t have such quick swings, like maybe an Ernie Els), invariably I see them take that long very slow backswing and then almost freeze at the top before beginning the forward swing.
  • I think much of my casting or swinging outside my plane comes from hurrying my transition and not allowing for the mini-pause from back to forward.
  • And I do recall hearing many a pro or many a quick-tip on the Golf Channel talking about the need to count your tempo with a “1-AND-2” with the AND being that split second of pause before moving forward. It let’s the body really get into that position.  Just like when you’re trying to skip a stone across a pond’s surface.
  • Now that I’ve gotten much better at thinking more about my finish and the need to swing through and stay balanced – thanks to my instructor at Los Lagos Golf Club,Matt Flenniken – I might could focus more on having a slow backswing and taking that moment to pause.
  • That’s my random thought for the day.  Came to me while sitting in another work meeting trying to think of more ways to market this blimmey cloud service with a catchy digital marketing campaign that’s suppose to revolutionize the world. Oye!

C’est la vie in Silicon Valley!

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