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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1 Week Later and It’s GO Time

Just a quick note of thanks to the words of encouragement from you fellow good golfers and hacker golfers out there.

Not long after I made my journal entry about failing to accomplish much of any of my 2016 golfing goals, the universe seemed to take pity on me and I stumbled onto a friend who belongs to a group of guys – some hackers some quite good – who play once a month as a kinda club.

He invited me out. And I actually took him up on it instead of hiding behind some excuse that was really disguising my fear of having to display my lacking abilities in public (I’m always coming up with excuses). Talk about rare. I decided to say “Yes” to the universe this time.

And guess what?…….. wait for it…………….. wait for it

I played 18 holes at the Half Moon Bay Golf Course right next to the Ritz Carlton (beautiful place) south of San Francisco on a gorgeous Saturday last last weekend.

Don’t ask me how I did. This was a binary victory. Did I play – Yes/ No. Yes – you win!

It was a good time.

I am getting some more motivation. And I actually struck my first shot – a 3 iron on a Par 4 dog-leg left perfectly. And then it went down hill – but overall, not too shabby.

Fear is such a big resistance engine. I’ve just gotta get over myself and my fear. Turns out – nobody really cares as long as we have a good time which we did.

Next step: re-evaluating my stance. I think my stance is too narrow. I was flipping thru an instruction handbook and it recommended that you drop a club from each shoulder straight down and your heels should be just outside of the line where it lands. If so, I’ve been depriving myself of stability with a way too narrow stance.

But we’ll see.

Anyway – that’s all I got.

I’m back in the game for now and hopefully for a much longer stint this time. Better yet – hopefully – forever! If I remember one of our other popular golf writer’s comments – “It all starts with making a decision and listening to your motivation and desire.”

Next stop – signing up with the NCGA and working towards establishing my official handicap number.

Question: “Can they go into 4-digits?”

Yuck yuck – I’m such a comedian.

SVgolfer_out.

 

 

Back to The Future 2017 – Part II

This is what I wrote on January 04, 2017:

starttrek

Captain’s Log (I always like to pretend I’m Captain Kirk). Journal Entry Title – “Try Try Again & Back to the Future Basics.” 

“Well it’s another New Year and I have to stare into my mental mirror and be honest with myself while trying not to extinguish any new flames for getting back onto the golfing saddle so to speak.

pastLast year I set out some serious goals that I thought would be easily attained in terms of improving my golf game. One of them was to play in a local tournament before the year was out. While on our way to San Diego for a little sun and warmth, my daughter asked me if I had accomplished this simple goal and I had to reply, “No.” I then heard all of my words of advice offered up to her freely in terms of improving at playing the Viola or mastering Calculus assignments or completing her Girls Scout project – how genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration, how putting in the time and making important things a priority in one’s daily life is essential for success at anything…. and all the other sage words I offered to get her through her fall school semester.

COME ON! – How hard is it to play and practice at least 3-4X a month and enter a tournament – ANY tournament?? It could’ve been a tournament for people who never held a golf club and I still would’ve been able to ‘check the box.’

But NO – Bupkiss – I failed. I failed to get myself where I wanted to be by December 30, 2016. I didn’t practice at the range, I didn’t play the easy 9-hole course only 10 minutes ways, I stopped watching Golf Academy, I let my Golf magazine subscription lapse and my clubs gathered dust.

And then. I thought a little harder. But you know? Now that I stop and think about it – HOLD ON! It wasn’t a complete wash. I did make some forays and I did check some boxes. I signed up for lessons and took 4 out of the allotted 5 lessons. And for about 5 weeks I did practice routines that the instructor suggested and did some of my own investigation and work on my balance, foot positioning and swing. I got a pre-paid key for the ball machine and use up half of the $100 dollar allotment. I picked up a new Titliest pitching wedge 56 degree. And I did spend a lot of time online watching Hogan’s and Palmers and Oosterhuis’ and other players’ golf swings ( to see whose body type most matched mine and what they did with it). I gave a ton of thought during meetings at work or while waiting in the security line at the airport on weight shifting and stuff like proper posture and how nothing should be hurried in the backswing. And after a lot of thinking I actually arrived at a conclusion: That I had yet to settle on some of the best basics for my swing – namely my grip and my posture.

As much as I like the pinky grip because it feels more secure, I think it wasn’t allowing me to grasp the club properly with my forefinger and thumb. SO I played around with it – starting around October. And recently decided to experiment with the overlap grip. It wasn’t entirely comfortable at first but it did make me feel like I had more control and consistency in maintaining a firmer but more supple grip all around. overlap1

And there was more!!

I also decided that I was bending over too much – and definitely from the waist instead of from the hips and, most importantly, that my lower back was not as straight as it should be. So I started practicing around the house – bending at the hips and settling into a position that had my back-end pushing out as if I was just getting ready to sit down. And I read and Googled more on it and went to the range only a few weeks ago standing taller and more erect. While there, I also flared my left foot a little more to help with some rotation and I tried to keep my chin up a little more in order to really allow room for my shoulders to rotate – something I fail to do a lot but which can really mess with my arc causing a lot of adjustments in the downswing and often making me hit turf before ball.

And, You know what? My first 2017 practice swing at the range with my new Titliest pitching wedges was delicious. And this was after months of not practicing but just mentally and randomly working on some fundamentals until they made sense.

drivingrange-2There I was after a long time off the range and I hit several shots that really felt good. After striking a bucket of ~80 balls I had maybe 8 shanks or flubs. 40 swings resulted in fairly straight solid trajectory paths with respectable arcs across my wedges, 8-iron and 5-iron. About 2 strokes were super sweet with the ball flying like it wanted grow feathers and keep going and with barely any sensation on the club head. The rest were pulls or pushes but they stay relatively on course and, considering how long I’d been off the range, I could not be disappointed. Frankly I was pleased.

I had reached a decision for 2017 by concluding several things:  now

  • Sometimes you’re doing work even when it seems like you’re doing nothing
  • Basics are the 80/20 rule of work. To go beyond is not advised until you have them down and sometimes it worth taking one step back in order to get those fundamentals down.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself – the past is the past and having a short memory actually can be a good thing in most cases. Because in order for the future to be bright there’s no harm in letting go and getting started again today.
  • And sometimes even when you can’t check the box on a big goal you may still be able to point to a few steps in the right direction.

I further thought that this type of thinking is exactly the kind of advice anyone can use when pursuing just about anything including trying to kickstart a start-up company, design a self-driving car or write that great American novel. If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again. Failure and false-starts go hand in hand with perfect passes, winning touchdowns and eventual Super Bowl victories.

And with that – I re-committed.  touchdown

I’m Back to the Future and I’m headed back to the golf course! 

Svgolfer – signing out.

Back to The Future 2017 – Part I

Back to the Future and Why a Short Memory Is a Good Thing for Golfers & Start-Up Innovators

Many times I hear a sports commentator reflect on the mental game of a good quarterback, basketball player or golfer and they’ll say something like, “He has a short memory and that’s something that serves him well.” They’ll continue and say something like “You know he’s gonna fire that touchdown in there if he’s given a chance. He’s always thinking about the next down, the next play…. and doesn’t let bad passes, turnovers or interceptions throw him – You just can’t teach that stuff!!” football-pass

Confidence and the ability to ‘get ‘er done,’ comes from constantly looking forward and letting the history a mistake or a bad decision or a lapse in performance be exactly that – history. 20/20 hindsight often offers little except stoked fires of regret, resentment and self-degradation.

I think this viewpoint also applies to my journey of  trying to get to a point of comfort playing golf. A journey that’s always exacerbated by the time commitments of working overtime in the grueling new technology economy that’s fast-paced and where often the phrase ‘everything is new and has never been done before,’ stands as the crucible of what it means to be a worker in Silicon Valley. And that applies to start-up founders as well as your run of the mill everyday employee. I’ve had the luxury of being both.

EW20th_infographic_FINALThis experiment called Silicon Valley is quite amazing if you stop and think about it. Even though there are many huge billion dollar companies in the Bay Area – many of them are no more than twenty years old and that includes household names like Google, Apply and Amazon. Old-timers like Intel and Oracle are only twice as old thereabouts. Nothing here resembles the lifestyle, workstyle or pace of change found in more traditional last- century economies.  And even behemoths like Intel are still relative newborns compared to most old-economy companies. The parlance around here often refers to ‘lava formation’ as the state-of-creation that makes up everyday life and the challenges inherit in learning how to build stuff that’s never been created before – to do something new, to learn new techniques, to improve on what’s been built and to look for that proverbial touchdown after making a series of mistakes – and failure and mistakes run a plenty in this former land of “Heavenly Delight.’ We just don’t ever hear about them.

Which brings me back to my golf game. And a recent bout of retrospection I ended up grappling with over the holidays. I’ve spent some time musing over all the things I had planned to do in 2016. This was triggered by an innocent question from my daughter while on vacation. “Dad?” She asked “did you play that tournament last year like you said you would Dad?” She added “You know, you’ll never get better if you don’t practice.”

I was going to do so many things last year. I was going to be so discplined and get to the golf course and practice aspects of my swing and stance and grip while at home. I was going to get home training equipment. I was going to practice with a net in the front yard. I would get an instructor. I would play at least once a month and my crowning achievement would be playing in a tournament – any tournament! I hardly accomplished anyone of these goals – in fact, I hardly accomplished anything the more I looked backwards. My mental judger started issuing proclamations. What a loser I am. I’m never going to get anywhere. I’ve wasted so much time. Why should I bother? Making resolutions is a pointless thing to do.

Thinking about making commitments for this year became harder and harder. And then something changed. I decided to focus on the present and realized how what I decided to focus on NOW could make all the difference in how I would feel one year from now and beyond. There’s nothing I can do about yesterday but I still can impact tomorrow by doing something now. One day maybe I will be a 65 year old Unicorn tearing it up in some senior tournament – who knows? But I won’t get anywhere worrying and feeling down about the past. My biggest challenge wasn’t to figure out where I went wrong but to make a decision to re-commit today. And I thought about the sports commentators. The difference between success and failure starts in the mind. Deciding to try again isn’t really that hard a decision to make. And after much trepidation, I did.

….continued in Part II

PGA Golf Lessons Apply to the Silicon Valley Start Up LIfe

Out here in the Valley all the news is always abuzz about a new start-up that’s become the next “Unicorn” – that rare little 4-person operation that started in a garage with just a twinkle of an idea and little faith and lots of chutzpah and a desire to change the world – and then Boom! “It’s a Unicorn!!” an unbelievable entity of the likes of Google or Instagram or Facebook Uber or whatever.  One day you’re like “Who?” and the next day everyone is using that smartphone gadget or uploading photos using that must-have app.

Myth of the Unicorn

Myth of the Unicorn

I think many of the qualities that are required to make it as a start-up founder (or start-up marketer for that matter – my bailiwick) are quite similar to the one’s that make for a pro golf contender.  Very few that apply to one don’t apply to the other.  Here are some of the mental game qualities I heard Sir Nick mention in the commentary before the start of the final round this past Sunday.  Life is golf – golf is life, is how I see it.

Courage – Whistling Straits demanded it of all players.   There was no room for error.  the Penalty for missing the fairway or the green were scary and sometimes insurmountable.  Courage and conviction with one’s shot selection and swing were key.

An Uncluttered Mind (Focus) – is how Jack Nicklaus described Jordan Speith, according to Sir Nick, and his ability to play consistently and to bounce back from a setback.  Setbacks are common when building a startup.  Set-forwards, if you will, are called “pivot-points” around here.  It means staying positive while learning from one’s mistake and making adjustments and coming back even stronger.  Jordan’s greatest quality perhaps is his ability to stay clear of mind and light spirited and to keep his mind uncluttered.

Courage

Courage

Visualize – you’ve heard it all too many times but you need to see your future in order to make it happen just right.  Same thing with the golf balls trajectory.  See it and believe it and chances are it will become.

No fear – I guess that’s the brother to courage.  It’s also a sticker found on many a car. And I guess that’s what Grateful Golfer’s friend had the other day when playing that impossible shot from deep in the woods.

Right Intention – I thought Nick made a particularly rare point here.  See the shot and adapt to the shot with the right intention.  I think that means letting go of the negative and holding on to the real goal – which is to be your best self regardless of the circumstance.  To not play from a place of anger or negativity.  There’s a little bit of letting go that is a part of this – I think.

On a mission – with all that said – you still have to have that Rocky Balboa attitude that you’re going after a goal and you’re going to make it.  Can you hear the brass horns playing as Sylvester runs up the stairs?  Often in the Valley we call it the “Stormin’ Normandy” mentality recollecting the beachhead strategy by the allies that required sheer will and determination despite the obvious downside to the strategy.  Another way to say it is “By any means necessary.”  This is about grit.  This is about believing with your head, heart and soul and beyond.  Nothing’s gonna stop you.  Jordan seems to have this.  Tiger had it (and I would argue, despite his lackluster results of late – is still really showing it, even more so because no one believes in him anymore and yet he’s still out there giving it the best he’s got).

And then ( 2 commercials later)….. I was struck by an equaling compelling thought pattern that applies to golf, life, and start-ups.  When asked how he did what he did in his 3rd round performance, Matt Jones replied he “pretended like it was a practice round, tried to relax and decided to just have fun with it.

As serious as all this stuff seems to be – in the end, as long as we remain gentlemen and hold onto our integrity and play fair….. all of it, life, golf, startups, the daily grind, – all of it is intended to be fun – it’s really just a game.  It just becomes really hard when we forget that.

courage2

SVG-out

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

Or maybe I’m just a Fool Chasing Fool’s Gold

Or maybe I’m just an idiot making things harder than they have to be and stubbornly refusing to follow instruction so I make up my own lesson plans and take months to accomplish what could be more efficiently done.

Part of me enjoys the detective work and uncovering the principles that lie Behind good golf mechanics – things like confidence, truth, simplicity , no sudden movements, mind and body synchronizing , positive attitude, discipline – each attribute taking on a personality in the quest that the whole lot of traits brings to mind Jason and the Argounants – which by the way is a great title to a great tune by a great band XTC. But I digress….

Anyway, I should really think about getting an instructor….

Maybe

No really