Stopping the Suffering
One of the most painful things for me to watch is someone struggling in an effort to play golf at a level where pars can be achieved with some optimism, bogeys are probable and at the very least, the golf ball leaves the club on a reasonably predictable path. It amazes me to see golfers . . . active, committed golfers . . . who are flailing around, hitting shots all over the place, not even making contact sometimes, moving tons of earth, blades, skulls, tops . . . . well, you get the point.
I know I've been blessed in my life to have been introduced to the game by a devoted father who was a good player, and for having never wanted for instruction by him or my doting golf professional. They set the stage for a lifetime in this game and this business. And I realize how difficult this game must be to learn for an adult who didn’t have that childhood attention . . . but it's not that hard, is it?
I firmly believe that anyone with mostly "normal" physical capabilities can learn a basic golf swing that puts the club on the ball solidly, with reasonably consistency so that they can move the ball generally north and south to make their way around the golf course. I’m not talking about driving your average scores into the 70s, but today, I’m talking with all of you who find 90 to be the Holy Grail. Those of you who are packing handicaps over 18. Who often times see shots so far short of your most basic expectation that you find yourself embarrassed on the golf course.
If you’re one of those, let’s get you headed in the right direction with some basics about this game that you might not understand. If you are shooting in the 90s and above, what have you got to lose by trying something different?
Golf Basic #1. It’s not a “hit”, it’s a “swing”. The vast majority of us are right handed, and so we play golf by trying to hit this little white ball with this ill-conceived implement, by trying to control that implement with our master hand. Well, that's completely wrong. The golf action is a “swing”, and as such, it is a pulling action with your left, or lead side. The right hand is along for the ride. The only way to get to that motion is to learn how to swing the club back and through with your left side controlling. Making this change in your basic concept of striking the ball will change your world, I’m convinced. I could write a whole column on this, and I just might.
Golf Basic #2. A proper release is key. Most golfers do not release the club properly through impact. Because they are “hitting” at the ball with their right hand, rather than swinging the club with their left side, the arms get too far from the body and they become a straight line with the club before impact. In reality, the club is rotating through impact, with the butt of the shaft pointed almost directly at the belt buckle or navel in this area. A distinct angle is formed by the club and arms through impact, when viewed from behind.
This may by the hardest thing to learn, but I recently found a product that illustrates this better than anything I’ve ever seen. It's called the ZoomBoom (www.ZoomBoomGolf.com) . Funny name, I know, but I've tried it and shown it to a number of golfers and all of them immediately felt what I’m talking about. The owner of the company, and inventor of the ZoomBoom, is a little "out there," but he's created a product that really does work. If you’ve had trouble understanding or achieving a fundamentally sound release, I really do think this product can show you what it should feel like.
Golf Basic #3. Putting and chipping ain’t that hard. Just spend a little time practicing and you’ll get better. It is a touchy-feely part of the game and you can’t just “have it”. You have to practice to develop a good touch for how far to hit the ball. 15-20 minutes a session on your chipping and putting will pay huge dividends.
So, all you high-handicappers out there . . .beginners, strugglers, etc. This one was for you. And I’ll address your thoughts and concerns here anytime you want me to. Just write in and let me know your questions, confusion and needs.
See you all Tuesday with another reader question, and another EIDOLON wedge winner.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.
[ comments ]
I'm currently listed as a high "34" handicapper but my past few outings I'm playing closer to a 20 handicap. In fact I got my first ever in my life birdie this past week! Terry's points above are all right on. 2 things that have helped me most is to 1; walk up behind the ball and align the club face to your aim point then set my stance. 2; swing about 75% effort. I usually take an extra club now but my accuracy has improved immensely. Lastly practice your short game! Thanks for all your article Terry!
I hate to see my playing partners struggle (unless its my father in law HA!). I feel so bad and try to help and that might work on one or two shots at most. I finally got it with pulling my left arm down and rolling over my forearms for my release. I am hitting it much more consistenly and a whole lot straighter. Good tips for sure!
The other very satisfying aspect of my first birdie was it was during the first hole of our men's league and my opponent was a 19 handicap and it rattled him so bad he shot a 53 to my 43!
Not a fan of seeing people struggle either. It actually hurts me sometimes, because there's really nothing you can say to a person that's normally a better player (even an 18 handicap) and they're shanking, sculling, and just generally playing a horrible round. In fact, most of the time, anything you say will be met with disgust and disapproval. LOL. Oh well. that's golf. One day you shoot 79, the next you could shoot 97.
I would like to know what you like about the Zoomboom. I checked out the web site and watched the video. He says that on a normal club the weight of the club head causes people to release the club to early. The zoomboom has no club head and a higher center of gravity so you can feel what a proper release should feel like. Okay, but can't I do this with a broken club with no club head or a broom handle for that matter. Why do I need to spend $99 for a Zoomboom?
Kurt Ehlert says:
Unfortunately, your description is perfect for someone with the yips - putting, chipping or full swing. These people are devastated by their swing and changing their mechanics does not help. They need to address the yips and deprogram their misfiring brain.
SD Charlie says:
Two words - Thank you. I've been struggling lately, and I appreciate the post aimed at those who struggle. I've only picked up golf in the last year (age 29-30) but I am determined to get better. I enjoy playing, and each round usually has one or two awesome moments to keep me motivated.
I agree SD Charlie.
I started two years ago and I'm determined to shot better. In the last year I have started to grove my swing and I'm making better contact. My second shot (irons) is what keeps me out of shooting in the 80's. I have been there (last year with people from work) where you start shanking and can not hit anything straight. Very embarrassing. I know I am better than that but could not show them that day. That one moment on the course where you hit that perfect shot exactly like you planned on is what keeps me motivated.
Scott Shields says:
I'm by no means a pro, but my handicap is steadly going down...and its because of focused meaningful practice. Not just whacking balls at the range. But turning my weaknesses into strengths. i.e. I used to be horrible chipper / pitcher, I'd skull it back n forth, all over and lose several strokes per round...so what I started doing was forcing myself to hit at least one bucket at the range on the chipping green...and if from 50 yards I couldn't hit the green, 10 times in a row ... I'd force myself to start the count again from 1...and do that as long as it took. Then moved to 40 yards ... and so on.
High handicappers can drive the ball and for the most part keep it in play ... but my experience says to me that 150 yards and in is where golf is really played and scoring happens. Now all I do is practice iron shots / wedges / and short game, and if I do well I'll reward myself with a bucket for my drive ... then and only then do I worry about ripping drives.
I've noticed many people struggling have an off tempo and rhythm to their swing. Just getting a consistent tempo helps a lot.
The other quality I see a lot is people "reaching back" in their swing rather than rotating around their spine. I can see it best from the side and it looks like they are trying to pull-start a mower (straight back and not enough around).
My favorite blog by the WG.
Watching someone struggle sucks, but it sucks more when it's you!
I went form a 6.3 to 9.8 index (April to July). I have been struggling to find my rhythym and consistancy. Decent chipping and putting is all I can count on during my slump. I am slowly clawing my way back.
For me, it's a "mental" thing. I got way too caught up on score (I know I can break 80!!! but recently have been shooting in the high 80's). I started trying to avoid trouble, instead of just making a good swing.
Scott Shields says:
There is alot to be said for course managment and pin seeking. Holes under 400 yards ... don't tee off with a driver. You don't need it. And aim at the middle of the green, bringing water / trees / bunkers into play in order to pin seek is foolish.
@wrhall02 - Been there and feel your pain... All I can say is take it hole by hole; shot by shot. Don't worry about your last shot and don't worry about your next shots... The only shot you can do somehting about is the one you are about to hit. Play it conservative and and the end you'll se your scores back to where they should be. All this is easier said than done ;)
Oh, and always remember that a bad day on the course ALWAYS is better than a good day at the office.
I've been trying to break 90 for three years now. Each year I get close. a 93, a 91, 94.
I can chip, I can putt and I can drive up the fairway. My irons suck. On the range they work fine. WTF?
But after one good round I'm back in the hundo's again and again. Aaaargh!
thanks for these tips, I'll give em try.
I am one that struggles a bit on the course. It is my chipping and pitching that plague me the most. Irons are solid, and so are my 3w & 5w. Sometimes the driver needs to stay in the bag.
I recall back in '07, I was reading this tip, that tip, this move will improve..., try this to remedy that, and when I addressed the ball, the swing thoughts came in by volume, and I found myself playing worse than ever. I bought Ben Hogan's 5 Lessons, and forgot all of the other things I had learned. Back to basics, and it helped greatly. I will try those tips above during tomorrow's round. Thanks WedgeGuy.
Thanks for the info, enjoyed the article. I have really struggled the last few rounds. Where my swing was solid earlier in the year (drive was practically automatic) i now find myself pulling everything hard and even shanking my tee shots at times. The last few outings i just feel lost in my swing and frustrated.
That's the plan. Stay relaxed and take it shot by shot. When I do get mad on the course, it lasts 5 minutes max.
SD Charlie says:
Man, you guys are speaking my language. Tomorrow is going to be about just swinging. I like the idea of swinging not hitting. Keep it loose, and let the swing do the work.
Swinging easier is the way. Take more club and swing easy. It will go just about as far with a lot more control.
I was working with the intern at the club I work at today, and his first comment was "well, you don't release the club at all, you just sort of pull it through". I thought I was an idiot. It's reassuring to see that it's a common issue.
He had me just take 3/4 swings, really focusing on releasing the club head, focusing on the right moving over the left hand. It worked well, until I started to try to hit full shots. Gotta learn to walk before you can run. I'll be back at it tomorrow.
Optimus Prime says:
Good article and good advice from all. My take is struggling is one process you go through to better golf. Everyone struggles at one time or another. All the good advice in the world won't change that. There is no substitute for practice.
Bryan K says:
I think that I find this particular article a little bit offensive.
Matt F says:
Great topic Terry. I've improved a lot over the years for many reasons - it's not always practice (especially now with young kids), and it's never gimmicks. I love to hit the ball and play golf. It's done way more for me than church or therapy combined - free lessons in humility. A friend of mine recently had his life turned upside down and said that without golf he may not still be here. Humility is the best teacher, and high handicappers should have more.... you would think.
But it doesn't seem to be so. Like life, golf has its share of honeymoon phases - especially for those new to the game.
I mostly go to public courses on my own and prefer to join up with others - my friends also have young kids. So I play with a wide range of people from all walks of life and with different skill sets. It's rare that I play with scratch or better golfers.
Last week I played a nine hole course twice, each time with different golfers. The first group had a dad and his adult son and friend, the second group was a dad my age and his young teen son. So each group had this kind of golf mentoring situation. The first group had a guy (20 maybe) who was real big and strong but was playing for the very first time (only putt-putt before). His dad and his friend had played a bit (the dad was in a league), but weren't much better. The newbie was actually counting strokes and getting really into it ("I got a triple bogey," or "I got a real bogey!!") I was actually playing even par, until some errant shots into unseen bunkers. And these lousy mentors were constantly giving all sorts of awful advice - and not scoring correctly either. The newbie was both loudly frustrated and also loving it: "!@#$@!$@!... oh I'm totally hooked!!! It's all over, my life is all over now, I'm totally hooked, bitten," etc.
What I was trying to share was that even someone like myself who has come to play better and enjoy the game more, has setbacks, frustrations, and plenty of humility, but it's worth it. The first thing you have to do is get over yourself and unrealistic expectations. The best golfers have highly variable results and unpredicatable outings. Also, once you start playing the game well, the emphasis shifts from a mostly physical game (getting the sweet spot of the club on the ball with an efficient athletic movement with the desired distance and loft and spin) to an almost entirely psychological and emotional game. However, beginners and high handiappers often get cought in this kind of vortex of bad advice, unreasonable expectations, bad application of the rules, and bad results. It's a wonder most of us are still playing.
golf seems to just take time to understand and get the concept of the game. practice is always an important factor, but not many people like practicing anything.
So Terry, given that few of us ever take lessons, or spend any time practicing (and you know I'm not the biggest proponent of the above), the kind of mentoring situation above abound! I think most of us were or are involved as mentors. How would suggest that mentors do a better job? Is it spending some time on the practice green after the round? Is it taking clubs out of our friend's bag? What kind of examples should mentors set (especially if we're not playing so well ourselves)? How much intervention is appropriate during the round? Should there be a debriefing? Should we apply special rules? Is there a formula for an instructive round, intstructive language?
The father and young teen were pretty quiet, the father only issuing positive feedback when things went well for his son - who was still growing into his gangly body, no advice. He said "my son's plenty competetive without any help from me. He can be real hard on himself, I just want him to relax and enjoy the round."
Just read your article and I'm excited about playing tomorrow. It makes a lot of sense to use your left arm to lead the way. The beauty of this game is each new tip or idea is all you need to meet your next goal. And if it's doesn't work there's always the nest one. Like what you do, Wedge Guy.
It is a good article. I will say while those tips seem simple; sometimes they are simple and sometimes they aren't because golf is just as mental as it is physical. All it seems to take is one bad hole, or even one bad swing, and then you have to battle mental and confidence issues, no matter how much you are focusing on swing, release, or good chipping and putting fundamentals. But this is why I keep playing; knowing that I can (and hopefully will) get better, the competitive drive to seek consistency, and that handful (or more) of good to great shots I hit every round keeps me coming back. I'd say that's why most of us play, whether we are a 15 handicap, a 5 handicap, or a 25 handicap. That's one of the many reasons golf is such a great game.
Great tips. This struggling player thing fits me to a tee. I play OK, or for me play a great 9 holes once in a while. But, most of the time I struggle. I especially seem to struggle when I play 18 holes and play better when I play only 9. I shot a 39 (9 holes) on a pretty difficult track and two days later shoot 110. My play is inconsistent during rounds and in between.
Tempo seems to be the key to a decent swing and the other article on the site today really is a big help too.
Sorry to be so late with this, but what I like about the ZoomBoom is that it really does illustrate the correct feel of a late and proper release of the club through impact. Because of the heavy weight above the hands, it helps you pull the butt of the club down through the address position, then feel the clubhead whip through. It's just one of the better swing trainers I've tried, is all.
I think I might just try that product out, my biggest problem from 120 yds and out is that I miss it both ways, almost always because my hands are poorly timed.
Great advice about putting/chipping though! Feel is everything, and practice time is the only solution.
Tim Horan says:
#1 Think of your golf swing as a two handed tennis or squash back hand. #2 I have found that splitting the grip (lower hand away from the upper hand) baseball fashion and swinging gently demonstrates what your wrists and arms should do through release very well. Two practice swings at half pace like that, regrip with normal grip and go for it. Muscle memory should reproduce that feeling for the actual shot. #3 Practice, practice and more practice.
Played 18 twilight holes one night after work this week, no time to warm up or putt to get the full 18 in before dark, "struggled" until the 9th hole, when miraclously my swing, release, and putting aligned by karma to work together. Went 4 pars and bogie bogie before I found a sand trap on my third shot, ended carding a nine, then went par bogie.
Point is- My swing was there and so was scoring well, however alot of people like myself just dont have the time or money to devote to getting drastically better, maybe in the future when the kids are gone and other committments dwindle, I can devote more time to practice, play more rounds and get much better. Struggleing Golfers are inconsistent golfers.
[ post comment ]