Posts tagged ‘Short Game’

October 2, 2013

Fall in Love with Your Weaknesses

There was an interesting article featured on LinkedIn, via the Huffington Post, yesterday by James Clear called “How to Stay Focused When Working on Your Goals Gets Boring.”  The article is interesting and incredibly relevant the everyday golfer. We have limited time to practice yet we all strive for exceedingly lofty goals. We all want to shoot lower scores and have lower handicaps. There is a reason that it doesn’t happen for a lot of us. Mainly it is the way we practice.

The author asked a coach he saw in the gym the following question, “What’s the difference between the best athletes and everyone else? What do the really successful people do that most people don’t?” The coaches response made me really stop and think about how I truly practice my golf game. The coach said, “At some point, it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day and doing the same lifts over and over and over again.”

After I read this quote I thought about how I go about practicing to improve my game. I thought back to my last session at the range and which clubs I spent a lot of time hitting. I started with some PW’s, 7 irons, a few 5 irons then spent quite a while hitting my 3 wood off the deck and my driver. After all that I chipped and putted for 20 mins and went home.

Next, I went through which clubs I hit the most during my last round. I only hit one 3 wood off the deck, driver on most holes, no 5 irons, and more PWs, SWs and shots around the green than I can count. My practice session did not reflect the weakness in my game at all. If I had been practicing smarter I would have spent the time on my wedge game instead of the macho long game.

The quote from the coach in the article made me think about how much I neglect my short game practice. I have put a lot of work in on it over the past year, but I have been committed to making it something I love to practice. It has to be something I am committed to practicing above every other aspect of my game. Right now, it is just another part of my game. I want it to be the BEST part of my game and think there needs to be a shift in my practice schedule to make that happen.

For the remainder of this season and the winter time I am going to make it a goal of mine to wear my wedges out. I want to go into next season needing to buy brand new wedges since I have absolutely worn them out from practice. This probably sounds excessive and it might be, but it can’t hurt to set a goal and go for it!

May 13, 2013

The Scoring Cliff

Thus far, this season has been a strange up and down of scoring. I opened up my official 2013 season with a bunch of scores in the low 90s coming off my winter workouts. Although my scores weren’t thrilling, I was encouraged that I was close to the 80s right out of the gate. Then my scores went north in a hurry. I put up three rounds in a row in the 100s. Even today, I can’t fully explain what went wrong in those rounds. It was as if every aspect of my game was collecting rust every time I stepped out on the course. I was at a point of severe frustration and was almost resigned to say that the work I put in during the off-season was for nothing.

Saturday morning rolled around and I was on the treadmill getting a work out in when my phone rang. It was my good friend Rob asking if I wanted to sneak in 18. I looked outside and it looked cold and doomed to rain. After some thought I said sure why not. I figured with some bad weather and no real preparation I could use this round to make some adjustments to my game.

We got to the course and walked onto the tee box immediately. No chipping, putting or warm up at all. Just two practice swings and let it rip. I found the dead center of the fairway with my first drive and found my way to a double bogey after a shaky short game shot. On the second hole I made another double bogey. Great start!

On the third hole I gave into my frustration and told myself that no matter what happens with my swing I am just going to keep my head down through the swing on all my shots. After telling myself that I went on a string of pars that included a birdie on a par 5 and 4 straight pars to end my front 9. I was out in 40 and felt like I was getting up and down from everywhere on the  course.

I hit a few loose shots coming home, but managed a 44 to post an 84 for my round. Although I know the round could have been much lower, I am encouraged again that the work I put in this off-season on my short game was finally paying off. I am excited to play again and I know that I am getting closer to breaking 80. As long as I keep that scoring goal out of my head on the course I think I have a great shot at making it happen this season.

January 30, 2013

Indoor Short Game Practice

This winter I have dedicated myself to fine tuning my short game and putting any way I can. I figured I would give a brief update on how I have been doing this. Every morning when I get up I do some putting on my carpet. I know this isn’t ideal, but it is better than nothing. Each morning I pick a different distance and hit about 30 putts. The longer putts are all about finding the right speed and the shorter ones are all about aim. This has been fun because it has been a good change of pace and it doesn’t feel very repetitive. It has also greatly boosted my confidence with the putter. There aren’t many better feelings in golf than sinking 30 five footers in a row into a coffee cup. Trust me, it is addicting.

The other piece to my short game tune up is my chipping. Last season I struggled with my chipping the most and finally took the approach of getting the ball on the green as quickly as possible. I hit a lot of 8 iron runners and it definitely helped. I realize that this isn’t the best approach, but last season I was desperate and needed a quick fix. After I hit my putts I move on to some ship shots. Every morning I pick a new club and a new landing spot. I don’t focus on where the ball ends up, just where it lands. Often times I will put a pillow down where I think the landing spot will be and I will hit chips onto the pillow. I will do this with my 7, 8, 9, pw, 50, 54 & 58 clubs. The biggest thing I have taken away from this is how the ball comes off each club and how much takeaway I need to get the ball to land on the pillow. I know that when I finally get outside and onto a green I will need to calibrate a little for the rollout of the longer clubs, but right now I am getting very confident in getting each club to come off higher or lower and land where I want it to.

It will be a few more months before I know if this new practice routine will pay off, but right now I have never felt more comfortable or confident with my putter or wedges in my hands. It has been fun changing it up each morning and I love the lack of doubt I now have especially with my chip shots. Last year I was just looking to get the ball on the green, now I feel like I can take advantage of my short game to help me really drop my scores down. The winter won’t keep me down this year.

November 5, 2012

Goal Setting Winter 2012 & 2013

Winter is creeping in on the city of Chicago and I am taking a look back on the goals I set for 2012. Sadly I didn’t accomplish a single goal this season. In 2011 I accomplished 4 out of the 11 I set. As I look at the goals I set this past year, I am upset that I didn’t accomplish any of them, but I am not completely at a loss. Over the winter I went through a swing overhaul and struggled with it for most of the season. The changes didn’t start to show meaningful results until the end portion of the season.

Below are the goals I set in 2012 for a point of reference.

Golf Goals 2012

  • Break 80 – Closest so far this summer is 87
  • Play a round with no 3 putts
  • Get up and down more than 50% of the time, including sand saves
  • Commit to playing the next shot at hand and not let myself focus on shooting a score (Subjective goal)
  • Never give up on a round

I am going to take a different approach to goal setting in 2013. I am going to set SMART goals. If you are unfamiliar with SMART goals, it stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

The first goal I am going to set for 2013 is that I am going to enter into a City of Chicago Public Golf tournament and I am going to break 80 in both rounds. This tournament takes place in August every year and it is only a two-day event. This goal is something I have wanted to do for a while and I am going to put it down here so I can’t back out.

In order to accomplish this first goal I am going to have to work much harder throughout the winter to increase my short game efficiency as well as maintain my full swing. I am going to do this, by chipping and putting every single morning until I play in the tournament. This goal is specific to my short game, measurable by checking off the days on whether I did it or not, attainable because I can easily chip and putt before work no matter the weather, relevant because my short game is the weakest aspect of my game and timely because there is a specific date that the tournament takes place on.

The second goal I am going to set is twice a month go to the outdoor driving range or the indoor simulators to work on my full swing. There is a new facility here in Chicago that has a room full of simulators and although it is pricey it is a great option when the outdoor range is just too cold to tolerate. The goal is specific to maintaining my full swing, measurable by checking off if I went twice a month or not, attainable because it is realistic to go twice a month, relevant because I need to maintain my full swing and timely because I will be able to do this twice a month until it gets warm enough to go play on the course.

Once it gets warmer and I survive the winter in Chicago I will reset my goals to be more specific to playing full rounds of golf, statistics and scoring. Right now, I want to make sure I have a plan in place that will help me improve over the winter months and not take a step back once I start playing again.

Please feel free to offer up any other suggestions for goals I should be setting or winter tune up tips.

July 2, 2012

Short Game Update

I haven’t been playing all that great recently and I attribute most of that to some trouble off the tee and way too much tinkering with my swing.  I keep trying new things and messing up all of the fundamentals I worked so hard all winter to solidify.

The one highlight of my play though has been an improvement in my chipping.  Last round I had to pull out a few different short game shots that normally would have me terrified.  Normally, I will default to a sand wedge or a 60 degree wedge around the greens and pretty much without fail fluff the ball and come up way short.  I decelerate through the ball and thin it out of tight lies and fluff it out of the rough.  This past round I went back to my old tricks and found some quick success.

The first short game tester was about a 30 foot chip shot right in front of the green from far enough off the fringe that I didn’t feel comfortable putting.  This is a great example of how I used to take my 60 degree wedge and try to fly it all the way to the hole only to come up way short and be so angry that I probably ended up three putting.  Instead, I took my 8 iron and just hit a nice easy putting stroke and watched it roll all the way up to the hole for a two foot par saving putt.  My takeaway from this was that it is much easier to get the ball rolling with a higher lofted club when you have enough green in front of you to do it.  I have had success with this in the past, but some macho gene in me is gun-shy about using it and I’m not sure why.

The second shot that always gives me trouble is the short pitch shot out of the green side rough.  This is a shot I will normally take my sand wedge and try to move my hands through and ahead of the ball to hit a nice chip.  The problem is that I almost always decelerate, let the rough grab the club or slide right under it and come up still in the rough or barely on the green.  Instead of doing this, I took the same sand wedge and took a more aggressive pop stroke at the ball.  My thought process was to just pop the ball up in the air and let it release to the hole.  I short sided myself on a par 4 and had a few feet of green to work with and used this shot.  I popped the ball up and it rolled three feet past the hole while burning the edge.  I made the comeback putt to save par.

Normally both of these shots would lead to bogeys or even double bogeys for me, but I am starting to learn how to manage my short game in these different situations to give myself a chance at par.  I can’t tell you how great it feels to scramble for a par.  They are almost better than two putt tap in pars…almost!  The thing I am taking away from this improvement is that it is a step in the right direction.  I know my full swing will come around with a few trips to the range this week, but I have always struggled with my short game.  Improvements in that area are huge for me and I am going to continue to ride the momentum and keep up with the practice.

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.

May 16, 2011

Bogeys, Divots and Gators!

I am back from my trip to Kiawah, S.C and the weather in Chicago still sucks!  How is that possible?  It was very depressing getting off the plane to rain and cold weather after a week in 80 degree sunshine.  Oh well, life goes on.

The golf down in Kiawah is truly amazing.  It is a little bit pricey, but the lack of crowds and caliber of the courses makes it worth while.  I ended up playing four times in the week I was down there, but hit balls every day.  I played Cougar Point (97), The Ocean Course (110), Daniel Island: Ralston (93) and again at Cougar Point (87).

My biggest take away from the week golf wise was a putting tip from my caddy at the Ocean Course and the realization that you absolutely have to hit balls (off grass) every day or close to every day to get better.  I have been struggling through bad weather conditions in Chicago and a range that only has mats so far this season.  That paired with limited practice time makes getting better much harder.  Just from being down at a place where I was free to chip, putt and hit balls on real grass (not astro turf) made all the difference in the world.  I made more progress in my game during one week of un-interrupted golf than I have in two months in Chicago practicing inside and playing only on the weekends.

After three days down there I was hitting the ball cleaner and much more consistently.  My short game got much better.  My putting got better and my confidence was through the roof.  Besides the Ocean Course (110) I wasn’t all that upset with my scores.  I got better every day and hit some really good golf shots over the week.  Being able to hit balls consistently and hit balls off of grass made a huge difference for me.  I am all for hitting off of mats if you don’t have any other options, but nothing can replace the feeling of hitting the ball first and taking a divot.  The feedback is amazing and crucial to striking the ball better.  As the week went on I could clearly see that I was hitting down on the ball better and taking a divot in front of the ball.  My ball flight was straighter and more consistent and my scores dropped as well.  I really need to figure out where a grass range is in the city!

Quick side note: The Ocean Course is absurdly hard and I don’t care what your handicap is, nothing will prepare you for the waste bunkers on that course.  They don’t fill the bunkers with fresh sand because the wind blows it all over the course so most of the waste bunkers (not the green side bunkers) play like they are basically cart path.  They are impossible to get out of.  The 2012 PGA Championship will be interesting to say the least.

So, on my last day at Cougar Point I played at 7:30am and on the fourth hole ran into the guy below.  He was about 8 feet and once we passed by him he strolled out into the fairway and laid down to get some sunshine.  I can’t imagine the view from the tee box for the guys behind us!  Sorry for the poor picture quality, but I didn’t want to get too close.

If you made it this far I feel it is only fair that I share my putting tip with you that I got from my caddy at the Ocean Course.  It is not revolutionary by any means, but it made a big difference in my game.  He noticed right off the bat that my putter was toe up a little bit.  He suggested that I move closer to the ball to get the toe to lay flatter on the ground.  Instantly, my putts were hitting the sweet spot and rolling smoother.  I nailed a few longer range putts throughout the weekend and can tell it is going to help me immensely this season.  This is obviously not a huge tip, but if it weren’t for the caddy I never would have known.  I suggest to everyone that they get their putter checked/adjusted to fit their set up and game.  It makes the most difference out of any other club in your bag and deserves a little attention if you are serious about shooting better scores!  Despite the bad weather and lack of practice facilities, I am glad to be back!