Posts tagged ‘Golf Swing’

April 17, 2013

Stop Thinking about Your Swing!

If you are anything like me you desperately want to get better at golf. You think about your swing at night, at work and maybe even while out at dinner. You probably even stroke putts and hit chips somewhere in your home. You watch golf on the weekends and you read about it during the week. You have taken lessons, purchased strange training aids and struggled to get significantly better. I am guilty of all of the above and I am beginning to think it is more of a detriment than anything else. The reason I say this is because the more I think about my swing the worse it gets. I’ll explain.

I recently came back from a six-day golf trip in North Carolina. While I was on the trip I played a lot of golf. I played so much golf, I didn’t have time to think about my swing. I never had a long period of time where I was sitting at my desk wondering what my next round would hold. My next round was always the next day. The next range session was only a few hours away. It was easy to let go of some of my swing thought anxiety because I knew I had a chance to work on it in the very near future.

Now I am back in Chicago and I am thinking about my swing again. I’m thinking about it  a lot. Sitting at my desk not knowing when my next round will be is causing me to think about my swing more than I want. Since I have been back, I have played two rounds of golf. They were my two worst scores I have ever shot on this course. Being stuck at a desk and having two terrible rounds of golf to reflect on is causing me to think about the mechanics of my swing way too much.

Last night I went to the range to pound out some of these new demons. I bought a large bucket and went to work. I knew my grip was a bit off, as was my takeaway and my release just wasn’t getting the job done. I was determined to fix all of these things. Want to know the result? The WORST bucket of balls I have ever hit. I was hitting my pitching wedge a good 20 yards left of my target. 20 yards!!! I was furious.

I bought a second bucket. This time I said to myself, “keep your head still and hit down on the ball.” The result? A bucket full of golf shots. I started to hit the ball straighter and further by just trying to smash the ball into the ground. I wasn’t worried about my takeaway or my angle of attack and blah blah blah. I have written this before, but over thinking the swing is an absolute game killer.

A lot of mechanics goes into the golf swing. My experience so far has been that over thinking those mechanics can be a real pitfall. This might be a gross over simplification on my end and I recognize that. My experience has shown me that getting the swing thoughts out of my head is the best way for me to play golf. There are a few more range sessions in my near future as well as a few early morning 9 hole outings before work in order to keep working on my game. If I don’t have something on the horizon I know I will let myself fall back into over thinking and analyzing my swing.

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February 22, 2013

Play 18 Session – 2/22/12

I just had a great session with Mike over at Play 18. The two weeks leading up to this session I have been working on short chip shots with my 7 iron working on hitting the ball first and moving my hips forward of center and towards the target. It helped but I still had some major issues going on. The dead right shank was still coming out when I tried to speed things up and hit full shots. Long and short of the problem was that I was coming too much from the inside with the club, my grip was too weak and too tight and I was swinging the club out and right of the target. All of this equalled an open club face and the hossel on the ball. To make things better, my left wrist at the top of the back swing was bending the wrong way. Seems like a lot to fix in one session, but I have to say Mike made it pretty simple to feel what I needed to feel to get my swing on plane.

First Mike told me he was going to get my swing on the proper plane by switching up three main things.

The first was my grip. Mike had me move the club in my left hand even further into the fingers. He had me hold it straight up in the air in front of me so it felt light. Once I had my left hand on it correctly he had me put my right hand on and keep the light feeling. After that, he said keep that pressure and feeling throughout the swing. I instantly felt that my grip was much tighter in my old swing than what he currently had me doing. I hit a few shots with the new lighter grip and it felt much smoother and had a bit more of effortless power.

The second item to address was my address set up. I was getting into my set up with too narrow of a stance. This was probably the most bizarre thing Mike had me do in our lesson. He had me take my set up without my club and close my eyes. From there I let my hands swing out and in. Because my stance was too narrow my hands were actually missing each other when I brought them together. When I widened my stance a little bit the started hitting perfectly together. I can’t explain why, but it was weird. Widening my stance made me feel more connected to the ground and on my back swing my weight was more in the instep of my right foot than rolled over to the outside. This actually made me feel more comfortable over the ball.

The last thing Mike had me work out was feeling like my hands were swinging to the left of my target. Mike put down a foam roller and put the ball right up next to it and gave me the classic “miss the foam roller, hit the ball.” My swing was hitting the ball and then right into the foam roller. Ahhhhh, so I am coming way too far from the inside? Bingo. Once Mike got me thinking about hitting the ball and getting the club to the left I started to miss the foam roller and hit the ball fairly well. The key here was that I wasn’t drastically hitting the ball to the left, but actually was getting the club back on a decent plane. The feeling for me that produced an on plane swing was getting my hands to the left of the target. The more I tried doing this the more comfortable it felt. It immediately got rid of my dead right shank shot.

I left today feeling much better about my swing and where I am heading. There are still a few things that I really need to get more comfortable with and work on. Mainly my left wrist at the top of my swing and feeling my hands swinging to the left of the target are things I need to work on a lot in the next few weeks. I have my big golf trip to North Carolina coming up in the next two weeks so I am going to get in a lot of practice and one more session with Mike. Hopefully this is the start of a great golf season!

January 21, 2013

Winter Work at Play 18 Chicago

Last week I got a chance to get some winter work on my game in. There is a facility here in Chicago called Play 18 that is very cool. They are located right in downtown and they have tons of hitting bays and simulators tucked away in their lofty space. The other cool item that Play 18 has is a Tour Bound Golf Academy Robot. I wasn’t completely sure what I was expecting the first time I walked in, but I was pleasantly surprised. The place is just down right cool.

I made my way to Play 18 to get a tune up from my coach Mike Thornburg. The session was great and I have made a ton of progress since we first started working together. There were a few standout areas that I need to work on that he identified early on in the session. With a few tips and drills I was on my way to straightening those out, but it will no doubt take some time to get the timing and feel down.

The strangest part of the lesson was getting on the Tour Bound machine. It was strange to be guided through what a tour pros swing feels like, but it was also a learning experience. The biggest thing I felt different was the lag. Wow do they create some serious lag in their swings. I couldn’t believe how much lag the machine made me feel. It also made it clear that I don’t create much in my swing at all. I’m not convinced that doing reps on the machine will make your swing perfect, but I am convinced it is a good learning tool to feel the difference between how the pros swing the club and how you swing the club. At the end of the day, I would recommend it as a learning tool for someone looking to get better.

I’m working on some drills that Mike gave me over the next two weeks and then getting back to Play 18 for another session. My golf trip to North Carolina is coming up in March so I don’t have a lot of time to get my swing tuned up. I’ll keep the updates coming and hopefully a video update on the swing soon. Here is to hitting ’em straight!

July 11, 2012

Morning Golf is a Stress Reliever

I got up this morning and got in 9 holes at a local public course and still made it to my desk by 9am.  I used to do this all the time when I lived up closer to the course, but I haven’t since I moved closer to downtown.  This morning made me realize just how much I miss it and just how realistic it is to get some golf in during the week even with a full work schedule.

The golf wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t bad either.  I had one scramble Par, which I now treat like birdies, and another great up and down for bogey from a shot that normally would have terrified me and led to a double or triple.  It is still crystal clear that I absolutely must clean up my short game if I want to break 80 this summer.  I am on a mission to find a way to get some indoor practice both at my apartment and at my gym at work.  I have a few ideas that I think just might work.

Besides the short game, my full swing actually felt really good and I attribute that to my decision to go back to two swing thoughts I used to have some success with.  The first was to swing 80% and think about having an oily swing.  Too often in my past rounds I have tried to muscle the ball and really hit it with speed only to spray it all over the course.  Last summer when I was playing well my swing felt effortless and I got a bit of that back today.

The second key was to be relaxed and natural in my back swing.  Recently I have been trying to produce a swing that looks “correct” according to the pros on TV and magazines.  The reality, for me, is that I am not flexible enough to have a completely straight left arm on the back swing.  It creates tension for me and gets me into all sorts of bad positions simply because my body doesn’t move that way.  This morning I allowed myself a slight bend in my left arm at the top of the back swing and it very quickly helped me hit the ball more consistently.  I wasn’t fighting my body during the swing and it felt natural.

The last good piece about having this relaxed and natural feel to my swing was that I was actually RELAXED while playing.  I wasn’t worried about my score or the shot at hand.  I was able to stay in the moment and hit some good shots when I needed to.  All in all, I was very pleased with this mornings progress and will need to make my way out there again very soon.

 

May 7, 2012

My Winter Swing Tune Up – Part 6

Since my last meeting and chiropractor session I have been working on my flexibility and range of motion drills as well as my chipping motion.  When I got to my meeting, I hit a few chips and quickly progressed into longer pitch shots.

When I transitioned to the pitch shots I wasn’t hitting the ball all that great.  As soon as Mike told me to focus only on releasing my left hip and letting the club fall into place I started striking the ball much better.  This became a big key for me.  In the past I have really just swung the club with my arms and upper body and never focused enough on getting a proper turn on the back swing and a proper hip move to initiate the down swing.  Once I stared using that as my swing thought things started to come together.

After a few pitch shots and talk about range of motion Mike had me hit a few 9 irons.  A few things popped out at me once I started to hit some full 9 iron shots.  The first was, I was gripping it too hard and not focusing on my fundamentals.  There is something very strange about how quickly things go out the door once a small white ball is placed in front of you.  Second, I felt very comfortable over the ball.  I wasn’t that concerned that I was going to shank it or miss hit it as much as I had in the past.  Lastly, my balls were being left out to the right a lot.  Mike assured me that it was just bad contact and that my swing was actually looking pretty good.

The big takeaway from this session was actually my takeaway.  Since I have a tendency to swing with my arms I was taking the club back way too far to the inside by rolling my left forearm over to my right.  This caused me to really have to fight on the downswing to get the clubface back to square.  This was causing me to lose power and hit the ball out to the right.  I was also not clearing my hip to start the down swing, which was also keeping me from really releasing all of the stored up energy of the back swing into the ball.  Another thing I am trying to focus on is keeping my left arm connected to my chest throughout the swing.  If I am able to do this, I hit the ball great.  If I don’t and my left arm gets away from my chest I tend to hit it with an open club face or off the hossel.

Leaving the session, I was given homework to keep up with my range of motion exercises as well as to strictly focus on my takeaway.  If I can keep my left arm from rotating on the takeaway then I know all I have to do on my downswing is release my left hip and let the club release into the ball.  It feels much more natural this way and it doesn’t feel as though I am fighting my own swing.

The last thing I am focusing on is a shorter backswing.  My rotational limitations mean that I should really never let my hands get too far past my shoulder on the backswing.  This lets me store up the most energy, stay solid over the ball and keep my head still.  With these as my focus points I know that when I work with Mike again I will be hitting the ball much more solid and hopefully a bit straighter.

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.

March 30, 2012

My Winter Swing Tune Up – Part 2

Since my last meeting with Mike I made 2,000 practice swings with my right arm only working on fanning my right hand and letting the handle lead the club head through the ball as well as 2,000 practice swings with just my left hand working on rotating my left forearm and releasing the club properly.

When I got to the second meeting I hit a few chips like I did in the first time and I had improved by a good amount.  I was able to lead with the handle much more than before.  As a reminder, at the first meeting I was trying to hit the ball too much and I was flipping the club head in front of my hands.  I still hit a few where I flipped my hands, but I wasn’t expecting to have fixed all my bad habits in one week of practice.

I was pleased with my progress and I was very much ready to take the next step and build on that progress.

Mike seemed reasonably pleased with the progress I had made and was ready to get me to start focusing more on my impact position as the next step.  He had me use a gadget that tried to get me to piece together leading with the handle (creating lag) and rotating my forearm in an abbreviated fashion.  By abbreviated I mean that it was not a full swing.  It consisted of taking the club back to less than parallel to the target line and pushing the right hand against the handle and through the impact position and then rotating the left forearm to simulate the release.

Mike was trying to get me to realize that pushing the right hand forward and creating a bit of a bow in it as it pushed against the handle the left hand flattens out and brings the club head to square at impact.  If the right hand is bent the left has to be straight.  If the left is bent the right has to be straight and if the left is bent it equals death in golf.  The whole point of this was to feel how the club should feel when it is square and impact.  A square club creates a straighter ball flight and that is what I am trying to accomplish.

Next we worked a bit with a yardstick and an impact bag.  The yardstick served a few purposes that I found interesting.  It helped me with my grip.  It is clear when gripping the yardstick that it should rest in your left index fingers joint and under the pad of your hand.  This allows it to rest more in your fingers and give you free motion of the club.  The left thumb should be slightly over the yardstick and it creates a nice little fit for the right hand to just slide right in to.  I was pleased with how the grip adjustments felt.

This wasn’t the focus of the drill though.  Mike wasn’t giving me a lot of instruction on my grip.  He gave me a quick suggestion and moved back to the focus of the drill.  I know he was doing this on purpose because he was trying to teach me the fundamentals of the swing from the ground up.  One step at a time.

Next we worked on taking the yardstick back to parallel of the target line so that none of the front or underside of the ruler was showing.  Again, this was really an extension of what I was working on in the past week.  It took the principles of the right and left hand swings and put them together with the yardstick in my hand.

After taking the yardstick back to parallel with my right hand fanned out I was trying to hit an impact bag by pushing my right hand into the bag and against my left thumb while keeping my head and body quite.  Naturally, my hip started to clear but I was really just trying to focus on keeping my body as quite as possibly while striking the impact bag with the yardstick completely square to the target after taking it back with a fanned right hand to parallel to the target line.

This brought up an interesting point about ball position that I was not fully aware of.  I will talk more about this later on as Mike and I fully dive into it, but I don’t want forget that it came up.

My homework after this meeting was to work with the yardstick and an impact bag like I mentioned above.  I am going to make 5,000 swings in the next week in order to engrain it into my muscle memory and make it become second nature.

February 20, 2012

A Change in my Takeaway

I have recently made a few changes to my swing and in particular my fundamentals.  These include my hip rotation on my back swing, my grip and my balance over the ball on the back swing.  I wouldn’t consider any of these changes drastic, but they have all had a positive impact on my swing thus far.  The biggest and best change I have made recently is on my takeaway.

The other day I was hitting balls and I was having a really hard time squaring the club face up at impact.  My shots weren’t terribly off line, but they weren’t flush and they weren’t as straight as I had hoped.  It was quickly pointed out to me that on my takeaway I was rolling my left forearm over too much.  The best way to describe this is if you were to stand up straight and put your left arm straight out in front of you and then rotated to your right as if you were making a back swing your arm would stay straight and the palm of your hand wouldn’t rotate up at all.  Mine was.  This was causing me to bring the club way too far inside and on the down swing I was really fighting to bring the club back to square.

In order to fix this, I got a great visual tip.  The tip I got was to picture that my left palm was going underneath the club on the takeaway.  At first I felt kind of weird with this, but it turns out that it really helps me keep my left arm straight on the back swing and not rotating to the inside.  When I pair this with taking my back swing to just above my right shoulder and not much further I get the club perfectly on plane and am able to release all the clubs energy down into the ball.

Out of all the small changes I am making this season this has been one of the most eye opening in terms of something glaring I was doing wrong.  Can’t wait to go hit balls again tomorrow and keep working on this.

August 26, 2011

Here is the Swing!

I finally took the time to video tape my swing the other night at the driving range and I wanted to share.  When I look at my swing the first thing that jumps out at me is the fact that I take the club too far back.  I know this is a problem I have, but I have yet to find a drill or swing thought that really helps me fix it.  In all of these swings I don’t feel like I am swinging 100% but it is clear that my backswing is going back too far.

The second thing I notice is that my take away seems to be too far outside of the ball.  I don’t know if this is really affecting my swing that much, but it looks funny to me.  All of these shots were actually good results, but it is clear I have flaws in my swing and I have room to improve in a bunch of areas.

I sent these same swings to the guys over at FixYourGame.com and am interested to see what they have to say about the swing.  Hopefully they don’t rip me apart too bad.  I will be posting their video lesson based on these swings as soon as I get it back from them.  If anyone else has comments or tips please feel free to send them my way.  I am all ears and  am eager to hear what people have to say.

Full Speed Swings

Slow Motion Swings