Archive for April, 2012

April 26, 2012

My Winter Swing Tune Up – Part 5

Since my last meeting with mike I took 4,000 reps across three of the drills I mentioned last time.  The one drill I didn’t track was the drag the club down the line drill.  The reason for this is because this drill can be very effective without massive amounts of repetitions.  I did it a few times every night just to get the feeling and I really feel that this was sufficient.  I focused mainly on the set up to impact drill, the handle to impact drill and the rope swings.  I really enjoy the rope swing drill even though it is tough to get just right.

When I got to the meeting Mike and I discussed how he recently went to a chiropractic office and got a full physical evaluation.  He was having trouble clearing his left hip with his longer clubs and the guy at the chiropractic office told him that his left hip was definitely weak and considered a power leak.  He suggested that I go for an evaluation and I think he is right.  I am going to try and look into it this week.

After we were done talking I hit a few chips and they were pretty good.  Each time I go my impact position is getting better and better.  My chips are starting to feel better, sound better and look better.  The anxiety I used to have around chipping the ball is quickly dissipating as I am working through all of these drills.  I am much more comfortable and confident standing over the ball now as opposed to five weeks ago.

After I hit a few chips Mike told me that I was going to have my “aha” moment at this lesson.  When he said that I thought he was full of it, because how could he predict when it would all click for me?  Strangely enough, he was right.

He had me hold a golf ball in my right index finger and my thumb and take my back swing and try to throw the ball at a ball set up where I would normally have a ball I was trying to hit.  On my first throw, I threw the ball a good two feet behind the ball.  The next few got closer but they were going way off to the right.  The reason this was happening was that I was flipping my hands and not pushing my hands (the handle) through the ball.

Next, he moved the ball about five feet out in front of me and told me to throw the ball at that ball.  This was much easier for me to do and when I released the ball it was going straight and not off to the right.  Mike was trying to show me that my visual needs to be throwing my hands, and in particular my right index knuckle, out in front of the ball instead of directly down at the ball.  The reason this clicks for me is because I tend to bring the club back a bit from the inside, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily.

The next thing we did was take a golf ball and put it in between my index finger and thumb and then grip the club and hit chip shots.  I was visualizing throwing the ball in my fingers out in front of me at an imaginary ball.  This is when my chips really started to sound, look and feel really good.  I was having my “aha” moment.  I dropped the ball and hit a few shots without it and still trying to visualize throwing the ball.  I was able to do it fairly consistently and I was getting excited.

Next time I am bringing my 9 iron and we are going to start trying to take some of these fundamentals to more or a full swing.  Until then I am working on throwing the ball at a ball in front of me as well as swinging a club with a ball in my fingers and against the shaft.  The other drill I am working on is taking a shaft and holding it almost like a javelin on the handle between my index finger and thumb and taking my back swing and pointing it at a ball in front of me.  I am working on extending my right arm and keeping the angle of my right wrist in this drill.  I am going to do as many concentrated reps of each as I can over the next week, but I am not going to set a numeric goal this time around.

I am also going to add another piece to my workouts this week.  I went and got a chiropractic assessment this past week.  I wanted to see my range of motion and physical limitations and determine where I can work on my strength and flexibility in my swing.  I was pleased to find out that I am not that terrible in my range of motion and flexibility in my swing areas.

The doctor pointed out two key areas that he saw room for immediate improvement.  The first was in my hip flexors.  He said they were noticeably tight and probably restricting my hip release in the swing.  He gave me a few stretches to really open them up and I have been doing them every day at least twice a day.

The second area he mentioned to me was my upper shoulders and the muscles under my shoulder blades.  He said that my upper shoulder muscles were really tight and the muscles under my shoulder blades are weak.  This causes my shoulders to almost give out when they come down from being extended.

Both of these problems are largely caused from sitting at a desk all day so I am working on my posture as well as a few rehab exercises and stretches.

April 23, 2012

A Short Game Drill You Will Love

My main focus this off season was to reshape and sharpen my fundamentals and my short game.  They were both the clear cut weaknesses in my game and I worked to put a plan in place to fix them both.  You can go back and read my step by step progress here, but I wanted to share one short game drill that I have found fantastic for getting rid of the dreaded hand flip.

As I worked on my chipping I found that occasionally my old habits would return and I would flip my hands sending the ball thin over the green or fat right in front of me.  The drill that Mike Thornburg (@thornypga) gave me that helped me truly feel my hands leading in front of the club head without flipping the club head through impact was to take a golf ball and place it in between my right index finger and the shaft of the club.

From here I would hit chip shots keeping my right hand pressure focused on the golf ball.  It has helped me get rid of the “flip” feeling and it has produced more consistent and cleaner contact in my short game.  If you have trouble hitting short game shots consistent and are frustrated, like me, give this drill a shot.  You will be surprised how it helps your short game confidence.

April 17, 2012

My Winter Swing Tune Up – Part 4

Before I went to this meeting I made 3,700 turns with a shaft across my chest to work on my back swing hip turn.  I didn’t make the full amount of turns that I had initially planned, but I still feel I made effective use of the practice I did do.

After the week of practice, I can feel myself dropping my right pocket back instead of swaying as well as keeping my weight on the inside of my right foot instead of swaying to the outside.  It was actually easier to make this change than some of the other changes in the past.  It is obviously something I still need to keep in my mind and work on, but it feels much better now.

When I got to the meeting, I hit a few chips just like I have in the past and I am still having a little bit of trouble letting go of my old habit of trying to hit the ball with the club head instead of leading with my hands in front of the club head.  It is frustrating because I know what I am doing wrong, but I have so much bad muscle memory stored up it is hard to break the old bad habits.  Mike wasn’t concerned.  He told me that what I am doing now is already 100% better than what I was doing when I first came to him.  He also said it is great that I am starting to understand what I am doing wrong.  He really wants me to understand what I am supposed to do so I can make adjustments and work on my own with out him.

After I hit the first batch of chips we started to circle back to working on impact position.  Mike gave me a few drills that will help me really feel where I am supposed to be at impact.  The first was to set up to the ball and then move into the impact position and hold it.  From there all I was supposed to do was bend my right elbow to take the club back and push my hands through the ball leading with the handle.  I really liked this drill and it also brought up the point that I was gripping the club too tightly.  I made a few attempts at this drill with my right index finger and thumb off the club to really feel a light grip and it was a very different feeling.  My grip pressure is something I will be working on a lot more throughout this process.

The next drill was to simply take the club from set up and drag it along the ground (in a straight line) all the way down the line.  The point of this is to feel the hands in front of the club head on a straight line.  I need to do this drill a lot.

The next drill was to swing a rope.  At first I thought Mike was crazy because how can you swing a rope like a golf club?  Then he showed me how you can.  The point of the drill is to get the rope swinging back and forth then make a back swing and pause until it comes to rest under your left armpit.  From there you just make your normal swing and try to get it to gently come to rest under your right armpit.  If the rope whips you at either point you know you are doing it wrong.  It was hard, but definitely do-able.  This also helped me feel loose in my swing instead of griping the club tightly and trying to muscle shots.

The last drill Mike gave me before I left for the night was to work on my impact position with just a grip handle.  He said it is much easier to feel where your hands should be when there is no club head attached to the handle.  He was right.  All I am doing with this drill is making small swings with just the handle to try and finish with the handle in the proper impact position.  Hopefully that will translate to a better position when I start swinging the club next week.

My goal is to make 2,000 swings of each drill over the next week.  It is a tall order, but that is my goal.

April 11, 2012

My Winter Swing Tune Up – Part 3

Since last Tuesday I was able to make 5,000 total practice swings with a yardstick and hitting an impact bag.  My main focus during those swings was to keep my head and body quite, fanning my right hand on the take away, taking the club to parallel and no further and then swinging the club through to the impact position and hitting the impact bag while leading with my hands in front of the club.

When I got to the lesson, I hit a few chip shots and with a small adjustment from Mike I was hitting much better chips.  It felt natural and I wasn’t thinking about anything technical other than where my hands should finish.  I can tell that I am starting to lose some of the anxiety and uncertainty that I have had for so long around short game shots.  I attribute this relaxed feeling to the focus Mike has placed on understanding the fundamentals of the swing.  Now that I have a better idea of what I am trying to do it isn’t such a daunting task.

I am very pleased with the step-by-step approach Mike is having me go through right now.  At first, I thought I was going to get frustrated with not being able to hit golf balls and make full swings, but I understand what he is doing.  By getting me to focus on the fundamentals of my right and left arm first then adding in both hands and a focus on the impact position he is allowing me to piece it together on my own.  I am able to take one piece away from each meeting and work on it for a full week, then when I get to the next meeting we tie it together, talk about it and add another layer.  It feels like I am learning and not just replicating a desired swing fix.  When I miss hit chips I can feel what I did wrong.  I am starting to understand a lot more.

The approach is also keeping me excited about the practice and anticipating what he will add at the next meeting.  It feels like the material is fresh every time we talk.  I have fully committed myself to following this approach and will not waver from it.  I am not going ahead of his plan by going to the driving range and hitting balls, just yet.  I am taking this step-by-step.  No promises once the weather clears up in Chicago though!

The focus of this latest meeting was getting me to work on my shoulder and hip turn on the back swing.  I have taken a few lessons in the past and most of the teachers have pointed out that my back swing needs improvement, but none have given me a plan for making that happen.  This wasn’t the case with Mike.  He saw what I was doing wrong with my turn during our first lesson together, but hasn’t brought it up until now.  He allowed me to focus on the other fundamentals first so now that I am ready to work on back swing my fundamentals of the take away and impact position are much improved and ready to work in conjunction with the added layer.

The basic message he was giving me was that I put my weight on the outside of my right foot on the turn and this makes me move my head and straighten my right leg.  These moves are not good and add to inconsistency in my shots.  As soon as he explained it and I took a back swing I could see what he meant.  I wasn’t even aware that my weight was on the wrong side and as soon as I made an adjustment it felt much different.  Just like the other changes, it felt awkward at first, but I know that after a week of practice it will feel much better.

The drill I am working on this week is to take a shaft and put it across my chest and cross my arms over it and make a back swing.  My focus is on the visual of having my right pocket move directly back and turning my right butt cheek to the target all while keeping my weight on the inside of my right foot, not letting it straighten all while not moving my head.  I am dropping my right pocket directly back and not swaying forward.

This might sound like a lot initially, but it really isn’t.  As soon as I started focusing on just keeping my right knee bent with my weight on the inside of my foot and turning my right butt cheek to the target the rest fell into place.  Those are the keys I am going to really focus on this week while I am practicing.  I am also not forgetting to focus on keeping my head still!

The last thing I will be working on this week is my flexibility.  I am committing myself to 30 minutes of stretching every day to improve the flexibility of my hamstrings, lower back and my legs in general.  Right now, I can’t even touch my toes and that is just embarrassing.  This won’t be the case come next week.

My goal for next week is to be more flexible than I am today (touch the ground in front of me with flat hands).  I am also going to make 1,000 back swing turns a day to get it engrained in my muscle memory.  The 1,000 a day seems to be helping so I don’t see any reason to change it.