Went to play 9-holes at Pruneridge. COVID had some impact with signing in but people were out. Got in a few practice swings. Some key learnings include:
I’ve realized I do much better when I pause for 1-2 seconds on the backswing. Almost like when a quarterback checks his pass before releasing. I need to actually turn my back by tucking my right elbow even further back after pausing. Like many an instructor probably told me already, one needs to have your back facing the target to properly wind up. It also almost forces me to bend my left knee because my center of gravity has me falling backwards (or forwards) towards the target – almost making me start to sit down just as I begin the downswing. This is useful and I need to practice it more. A couple of other things too ….
- I’ve switched to a baseball grip. It’s way more manageable and puts my fingers where they need to be.
- I’ve come to realize what they mean by ‘gripping the club with your fingers.’ I’m reminded of a passage in Hogan’s book where he shows his right hand holding the club with mostly his two middle fingers. I did some online research. These two fingers are least likely to tug on the club. There a whole anatomical thing to it that basically explains why were not like apes and have the ability to do fine motor skills like writing and cutting a steak but also can bludgeon an enemy with hammer-like motions when holding a club (as in the weapon kind of club). This ability allows for incredible striking impact – such as when you use a hammer on a nail. The left hand is where the hammer motion is – and the right hand is where a lighter touch is needed as in when pitching or trying to skip a flat rock across the surface of a lake. The forefinger is the culprit that moves the club all over the place. The 2 middle fingers let you treat your hand more like the fulcrum or hinge used to lever the club. I wonder if that’s why pitchers do a lot of their stuff with their two middle fingers. And quarterback often try to eliminate the role of the pinky and the forefinger in order to throw a perfect spiral – at least that’s what it seems like. And all basketball players use these fingers for the final directional flip of the hand when going for the jumper or the 3-point shot. Watching Michael Jordan in the Last Dance I observed how he often made his shots with a separation between these two fingers and the others were off to the side. But I could just be trying to force a theory into a belief system – I have a tendency to do stuff like that. I always like to feel like I’m Indiana Jones finding the hidden secret to opening a vault or something.
- My left hand? I now use the last 3 fingers to grip the club more like a hammer. My right pinky used to cause all sorts of trouble with the pink grip because my hands never wanted to align right. Now I kinda crink it and tuck it away or lightly put it around the grip. But gripping with my 2 middle fingers has made a huge difference in club control. And treating my left hand like its swinging a hammer has also helped.
- I’m not looking at the ball so much. Not sure where I’m going to go with this new technique but I find if I look at my club head on the way back and just kinda look anywhere along the target line behind me and then turn my head to look at the ball as I make that last back tuck with my right elbow (basically the final effort of my wind up) and then start down – I’m way less nervous and anxious and I’m forced to just swing thru and forward – and I connect much better. I was pure magic on the practice matt – just drilling the ball straight with beautiful tall parabolas.
- Starting out on the 1st hole – totally different story. You’d a thunk I just picked up my clubs for the first time. Miserable. That there was a line of waiting players because everyone wanted to golf today didn’t help. On the 2nd hole – after triple bogeying a par 3 – I was dismayed and the group behind me asked if I wouldn’t mind being the 4th. I’m as anti as it gets as a golfer – kinda funny when you think about it … it IS a gentlemen’s game for socializing after all, right? – but I found myself saying yes. One guy was super smooth, the second was a judicious laboring golfer who was successful 75% of the time mostly because he focused so damn hard and the third guy was worse than me. I went second on the 2nd hole – a par 5 – and just nailed my driver, the new Ping driver I picked up last year. It drifted right but it sailed unbelievably far. I made bogey. I was pleased.
- The rest of the 7 holes were good and bad but I kept trying my new look-away-look-back technique and each time I did – Shazzam! It’s unorthodox but it just makes it feel more like I’m batting versus trying to avoid hacking up a chunk of earth – which is my biggest fear. I’m just terrified of hauling a pile of grass and dirt 10 yards in front of me. It’s nerve racking. If I wait to look at the ball just before I swing, it’s kinda like trying to make contact with a pitch. You only look over the plate when you want to connect and most of your swing just kinda happens on its own. It feels more kizmit. I’m reminded of how – what’s his name….. Jordan Speith (?) looks at the hole while putting instead of right at the ball. You know? What’s his name again? I’m getting senile.
- Also – on the 4th or 5th hole for some reason I used my Ping 7 iron instead of my Titleist. My entire set is Tiltiest – D7s or D9s or some series from back when, I don’t really know – but I had this extra Ping in the bag. For some reason it felt really good. Not sure if it was because of my changed grip or what.
- I had also changed up all the grips on my standard clubs to Lamkins – mediums. I love them but they’re thicker. That was good when I was doing the pinky grip but now that I switched to the baseball grip it’s still fine but the Ping was a smaller grip – more narrow and I felt like I had even more control with the baseball grip. But I’m not changing grips AGAIN. At least not any time soon.
- I was pleased today despite the embarrassing start. I was doing some things that I could remember and replicate – especially counting “and 2 & 3” before completing the back-swing and tucking my right elbow to face my back towards the target. That check thing really works. It even works better if I double clutch because it forces me to re-set my right foot and push off it as my left knee bends in concert with my right elbow (it’s uncanny how those two joints work in sync when it comes to bending and having a good swing sequence) and get my weight moving forward instead of staying on my right foot which oft-times results in me falling backwards after completing my swing. The other thing I’m thinking of trying is to start with weight on my left foot and keep leaning forward through my back swing but that’s a little complicated.
- Captain out.
I’ve been hacking at improving my game
Since last I wrote, I’ve been digging and studying a practicing. This truly as an argonaut’s journey.
- Mike Austin – this guy from back in the day who made some videos with himself in a skeleton body suit to discuss the pair of ball joints and motions that are involved in the golf swing. The videos are really quite informative – check ’em out. I’ve never seen anything else explain it quite the way he does. You’ve got the connection between your skull/neck and spine which is a pivot area, your shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, ankles, knees and so on. He concludes many videos by emphasizing that the swing is about the sequence of these joints operating in pronation, flexing and extensions and a bunch of other muscle-motion related terms but it all makes sense when you watch. THIS has made an impression on me and I’m incorporating it into my practices
- My Grip – I’m done with the pinky grip. I’ve been using this grip since I’ve started learning on day one. I’ve now decided, “Who cares if Tiger uses it?! – it does not help my hands work as one!” I’ve played around and found that the baseball grip works much better for me. It was a little awkward at first but …. waddayagonnado? – it’s now quite comfortable. I can actually feel more of a pendulum motion at the top of my back swing and the bottom and the follow thru. I just have way more fluidity. In addition, after practicing with wiffle balls and a portable mat at the local university – SJSU – I made an adjustment to my baseball grip by putting my left thumb under the palm of my right hand instead of having it wrap around the club like a baseball bat. Both ways are better than the pinky but this small adjustment stops me from pulling inwards and coming over the top on my downswing. My fingers (especially my forefinger) don’t get in my way – meaning they don’t get excited and trigger happy making my arms and wrist tense up – who knew that the ability to pinch interferes with the ability to grip and hold. With this new method, I can really feel the club AND control it.
- More on posture – when how-to instructions talk about putting your weight left or right they’re really referring to your CoG (center of gravity) which requires a different mental calculus than just shifting some weight to one leg or the other. I finding that the imagery of having my head/neck act as the fulcrum in a catapult that is trying to fling a canon ball (that is cradled to the golf head) along an arc to its destination target – this helps me understand how the whole head-neck-shoulder-armpit-arm apparatus is suppose to ‘work-as-on’ and why my head needs to stay till. It’s all about the swinging – not the pulling or the batting but the rocking motion of an oil rig or those sailing ship pendulum swing rides at the amusement park. More importantly, I’ve realized that because I’m of average height (5’10.5″ – 11″) but have a low center of gravity (maybe its my runner-thighs) that I establish a much better pendulum flow and arc if I assume a fairly – actually very – straight posture – like I’m barely leaning forward. Basically, just slightly bending my knees and tilting my head a bit. Maybe it’s because I have a fairly pronounced curvature in my lower back already or something but …. things are more natural and my swing’s more consistent and the sequence of interplay between joints more natural when I do that.
So it feels like the good weather is bringing back some good spirits and good willingness and aptitude for this year’s attempt at improving my golf game. Maybe it’s related to the fact that my daughter is back home studying college courses via distance learning – because it’s been some time since I’ve focused this much. Or maybe it’s COVID-19. Or maybe my brain finally got tired of me trying to mentally imagine how to improve my swing.
But I must say – today’s practice felt good and generated good results. Out of about 100 wiffle balls I had only 6-7 shanks or pulls or top-overs. I had a couple balls fly right. And the rest all fell in a radius of 8 feet about 25-35 yard straight ahead of me with about 70% of those within a radius of 5 feet.
It was a nice day on the open grass. A lot of students were taking graduation pictures since there was no graduation ceremony. The flowers were blooming and it was a classic dry, clean sunshine, cautiously breezy easy kind of day.
I’ll take it.
February 26, 2020: San Jose, CA.
Abstract: Grab a car floor mat, preferably a front seat mat. Hold it as you typically would at one of its corners, prepare to thwack the dirt off of it by find a vertical surface like a wall or one of those yellow hip-height gas station pilon/pole things that protect gasoline pumps from fender benders or, better yet, something that looks like a telephone pole …… the type of pole you might find, say, at a car wash next to the big vacuum machines ….. – and then start thwacking it like you’ve done all your life – and voila!! You too may realize my AHA moment! From this silicon valley golfer’s perspective you’re (I’m) performing every aspect of winding up (with no chicken wing), pausing at the top, transferring your weight with your hips and legs, and swinging thru with perfect timing to have the club head – i mean, the surface of the mat – smack the pole perpendicular for maximum dust jettisoning effect … and you’ve assimilated all those tips and tricks every golf instructor or YouTube video has been trying to explain to you but for some reason you could never translate to your real-time golf game. Phew – long run on sentence there – my bad.
Even your fingers will be grasping the mat in a manner that amazingly matches the ideal golf club grip (you know, like those holding-a-gun analogies or a baseball in preparation to pitch analogies or a skipping stone at lakeside analogy or pick any number of mental images) that requires the cocking of the forefinger and V-shaped pressing of your thumb’s plumpy base against the base of said forefinger and where middle, 3rd and pinky fingers curl and tuck in nicely behind the aforementioned duo. (Sidenote: The only other previous best analogy for me to conjure up a mental image up until now was holding a carving knife with a nice big chef’s handle … the thumb, fore finger and other fingers seemingly fall right into place without me having to see if my second knuckle is visible and all that other mechanical garble-dee-goop). It is the perfect analog, to my mind, for what you’re trying to accomplish with a golf club from a balanced position which, by the way, you also natural assume as you prepare for maximum dust-thwacking propulsion effect. So that’s the shorthand abstract of my AHA golf swing story. But wait – I know you. You enjoy my clever anecdotes, ramblings and digression – yes? no? No matter, the long form in all its glory follows. That’s how this golf Argonaut rolls. Happy visioning!
FULL NARRATIVE: I’m one of those people who needs to visually and mentally understand a concept before I can execute anything that is difficult to do especially when it comes to sports. This is especially true for my attempts at understanding what the golf swing is suppose to feel like.
For years I’ve struggled – even though I’ve improved – to develop a sense of fluidity with my golf swing like I have, say, for shooting a basketball three-pointer or pitching a baseball. I might not be a professional but I completely and conceptually understand the form, flow and function of every part of my body for these motions. And, more importantly, I can actually perform the proper sequence in good form too I might add. However, try as I might, this has escaped me in terms of the golf swing until now or rather until a few weeks ago when I was cleaning my car at the do-it-yourself car wash or more specifically while I was whacking the dust out of the car’s floor mats – that’s right, I found the answer I’ve been looking for low these past 5+ years while pounding out dust from a car’s floor mats – go figure. This! … after having contemplated any number of metaphors and similes and analogies and suggestions as to what the golf swing motion resembles ….. some of which are listed below.
Any number of visualizations have been offered via live instruction, books, magazines and TV shows. “The swing is similar to throwing a freebie, or like the set-up and bowling a bowling ball or cracking a whip or driving a top-spin cross-court backhand in tennis.” And the stance is all about setting up in a balanced way much like a weight lifter prepares to lift bar bells (back posture, posterior pushed back, arms hanging loosely in front, etc.). The motion is not dissimilar to the process of throwing a javelin or a discus or even sweeping the floor with a broom.
Over the years, I’ve spent considerable time trying to understand the fundamentals of the grip and the angle of my back and how to bend at the hips and not at the waist and all other such basics the lack of which everyone agrees conspire to complicate one’s golf swing. For the grip, I’ve finally agreed with Curtis Strange who I believe emphasized that you hold the club with your fingers which I’ve finally taken to mean that the middle fingers of my right hand have the most grip and my fore finger and thumb play a lesser role in terms of forcefulness. In time, I eventually came to the concept that my right hand should mimic holding a steak knife (if you cut a steak in the french way that requires switching the knife from the left to the right hand as you cut and then back to the left for eating) – or, for example, if you’re slicing a tomato or an onion with a butcher’s knife. Paying attention to how I hold the knife in these circumstances is very instructive – the middle fingers have the most command, the forefinger behaves like a cradling hook that guides and navigates action and the handle sits in the crux created where the base of the thumb meets the base of the forefinger of the hand exactly as golf instructors describe the “V” that should occur as the thumb presses up against the hand. Another example might be how a well trained drummer holds drum sticks or how one might hold a flat rock before preparing to skip it across the surface of a lake. You don’t drum a drum by holding drum sticks in the palm of your hand – how could you ever play Grateful Dead drum solos or master cool jazz music and cascading cymbals with that kind of a hold ….no, it’s all in the fingers, that’s where you get the power along with the flexibility and ease of movement.
I continued to visualize other analogies for set-up and balance that included the way a tennis player prepares to launch himself towards the ball as it reaches its apex in the toss or how all athletes – football players when they set before the hiking of the ball or basketball players on defense or a tennis player preparing to receive a serve – they all establish a posture that maximizes the power of their core by having firm straight backs and balancing their weight with a wide stance so they can spring into action in any direction. Nobody bends at the waist. Each of these examples requires angles that incorporate firm control of the core and the hips. I also recall how some instructors talk about standing ‘at attention’ like a soldier – tall and straight, chest kinda out, stomach kinda in, head and eyes looking forward – and only then bending the knees and bending at the hips to reach a balanced but strong position to take action.
All this is well and good and has been informative. But then, after months of randomly visiting the topic as time permitted, I found myself at the car wash – the ones where you can hand wash your car in a bay and where there are several power tube vacuums and other accouterments for detailing your car. I had pulled out the floor mats and, as everyone does, I began whacking them against a metal pole to knock out the ground in dust – and the AHA! appeared literally out of thin air.
In order to have the mat strike the pole squarely face on I noticed that my body was doing all the things in the right fluid order that seemed right for a golf swing – especially how I gripped the mat with my fingers but most importantly how my wrists behaved. Everyone talks about how your wrists are supposed to roll over as you strike the ball – from the inside of the wrist looking like its facing the sky at the top of the back swing to it turning over and facing perpendicular to the ground as you follow through – in a sense this wrist motion mimics the power that is derived from similar action when pitching or swinging a baseball bat or throwing a football (perhaps not skyward vs. ground-ward but the wrist does follow a circular trajectory to end 180 degrees opposite from where it started) and demonstrates why it’s so hard for novices to have the power to throw anything well because they only use their arms and elbows but fail to get the right wrist action going.
But as I struck the mat against the pole – it was all so natural. I drifted the mat backwards, turned it as if towards the sky – in a nice slow leisurely fashion and then my body legs shoulders elbows and core all cooperated to gently shift and fluidly re-direct it towards the pole until at the last moment – THWACK – I hit the mat straight on, perpendicular to the ground with the face of the mat perfectly up/down. Had I continued the swing as if the pole didn’t exist, my wrist would have continued to roll until the mat faced the ground. It clearly faced skyward at the top of my ‘back swing.’
So now – finally – I have a concept and a visual that I understand wholly and believe in. Instead of all that other stuff like whipping the golf club by holding it upside down or pretending to use a horse whip or whatever – if I visualize trying to strike a floor mat downward at a golf ball – I have a sense of surety and comfort and faith that I am using the right fluid motion. It inherently makes sense to me.
I think that’s what the SKLZ golf hitting practice bag is also trying to impart but this analogy just strikes home for me in a more fundamental and natural way. It’s been 2 1/2 years since my daughter started college and my efforts at improving my golf game remain as erratic as they’ve ever been despite my belief that I’d have more time during this new chapter in my life and despite the fact that I can play all year round. And although I’ve developed a method of quickly converting her room into a practice chipping green while she’s away – the truth is I’ve spent the past couple years steadfastly stuck and focused understanding how to implement the fundamentals as they must apply to my body.
I now have an understanding of how to hold and swing the club. And I’ve done some others things along the way to reaching this epiphany. I’ve changed my grips to a size larger because I figured out I have long fingers compared to the size of my palms (math and ratios play such a large yet quiet role in so much of the fundamentals) and the standard grips didn’t allow me to use my fingers as optimally as I should. I’ve learned that I’ve been bent over way too much and that I have a fairly low center of gravity which means I can and should stand much more erect – kinda maybe like Fred Couples does maybe?. This is also due to the fact that my spine really curves frontwards a lot at the base near my hips so my arms still get sufficient clearance despite my erect stature. Even though the fundamentals are the same and ring true for all players and all sports, they can be and often are implemented in very custom fashion to suit the body and preference of the player. For example, I’m reminded of how the basics of a tennis serve are the same for all players and yet John McEnroe’s set-up was radically different from most players while Bjorn Borg had a classic set-up and yet they both were great servers.
So now I have a concept of how I’m suppose to handle the club, the club head and my wrists – which in turn informs my elbows, arms and horizontal motions backwards and forwards.
I just have to ‘Feel the Force’ of the floor mat thwacking the metal pole at the car wash and I’m on my way to entering a new chapter in my journey learning to play golf. And yes – that last sentence was a nod to the latest Star Wars movie in the wings. This last chapter marks the beginning of a new one for me.
When 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.
Check it out. THE SWING PLANE EXPLAINED.
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!!”
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.
This 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
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.
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 Web.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 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!
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.
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.
The 9 swing paths are
- Pull Hook
- Pull Slice
- Push Hook
- 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.
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?
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.
Also, note to self – keep tension out of shoulders, and finish with elbows pointing down which is much easier if you don’t tense up in shoulder area. I got at standing workstation at work also to help counteract poor posture and muscle tension from sitting at a desk all day.
Some 18 months or more into my serious journey and I really feel like I’ve turned a corner.
Thx guys for encouraging me along and chiming in with your learnings as well