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The three things that need to correlate for more driving distance

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By now, each of you has heard that if you want to drive the ball farther you must increase your driver’s loft to increase carry distance. And I know what happened to most of you when you went out to the range the next time and tried it. You added loft, teed the ball higher, put the ball more forward in your stance and smacked that ball WAY up into the air expecting 50 more yards!

But what happened from this point forward is something you didn’t expect — the ball did indeed fly higher and it did carry a touch farther than before, but it landed dead with absolutely no roll. So even though you hit the ball higher, your overall distance output was lower than before. What gives?

What people tend to forget is that there are three things you must correlate in order to hit the ball farther:

  1. Impact point on the club face
  2. Dynamic loft at impact
  3. Descent angle upon landing

Impact Point

If you hit the ball on the incorrect portion of the face, you can decrease launch and increase spin. That causes the ball to continue to land with little forward momentum. For the best launch conditions, you MUST hit the ball above the center of the club. If you hit the ball low in the face, regardless if it’s a centered hit or not, you will decrease your launch angle and increase your spin rate.

Use Dr. Scholl’s Odor X spray to audit your impact point with your driver. This will help you to increase your launch without increasing your spin rate.

Photo 01
Low impact equals low launch and high spin

Photo 02
For increased launch with LOWER spin, you must hit the ball above the center-line of the driver. I know these hits are on the toe, but they were my first and second swings of the day!

Dynamic Loft

Most golfers have also heard that they must have “club-head lag” so they can hit the ball farther. If a golfer’s club head lags behind them and the shaft is forward leaning to the extreme, then they will turn a 10-degree driver into a 6-degree driver adding distance, they think. This is 100 percent untrue!

While golfers must have solid impact alignments and control of the club’s actual loft at impact, too much lag or too little lag is a bad thing. I would strive to create an impact when your left arm (for a right-handed golfer) and club shaft are in-line with one another the instant the ball leaves the club head for best results as it pertains to your dynamic loft at impact.

Photo 03
In efforts to create the proper dynamic loft at impact, control the “in-line” relationship between the club shaft and the left arm instantly after impact!

Descent Angle

Pay attention as this is the key to more roll upon landing. Yes, golfers must hit the ball higher into the air for more carry distance, but in order for the ball to roll out when it hits the ground golfers should have the ball landing at about a 40-to-45 degree angle so it has the ability to run along the ground when it lands. Sadly, when most people hit the ball higher they also increase their descent angle as well, and this causes the ball to land dead with no roll.

Photo 04
Flat shots with no height rely on ROLL for increased distance!

Photo 05
The key is to hit the ball higher coupled WITH a descent angle below 45 degrees for additional roll when the ball lands!

So what’s the solution?

I would highly recommend you find a club-fitter or teacher in your area with a Trackman or FlightScope who can correlate these three factors so you can hit the ball farther than ever before. It’s just hard to manage dynamic loft and descent angle without a launch monitor. Believe me, if you do this, you will thank me.

Read More Tom Stickney II : What Flightscope and Trackman can tell you (and me)

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. GolferX

    Feb 6, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Tom, do your numbers work for sweepers? Because I tend to hit under the ball when I tee it high. I hit a 20 year old Big Bertha 10 degree, tried the newer 460’s larger head, don’t like them.

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 7, 2014 at 1:41 am

      Hitting “under” the ball when it’s higher indicates a plane issue…tee it high and come in more shallow and you’ll be set!

  2. Jim Benjamin

    Feb 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    What can a player do to learn to hit higher on the clubface to achieve the optimum strike? Is it just focus or is there a reliable method?

  3. Chris Burke

    Feb 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    The big thing that affects distance is angle of attack. see BubbaWatson who has a different angle of attack then Charles Howell 3rd Bubba Watson can use a seven and a half degree driver .Where Charles Howell uses a 10 and a half 11

  4. bryan

    Feb 3, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    I don’t get the descent angle comment. The angle of descent is an effect, not a cause. The cause is a combination of spin and speed.

    No one can optimize their descent angle. The descent angle is optimized when people optimize their spin, launch angle, for their speed.

    Am I crazy?

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 3, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      You are mostly correct but impact point can alter your angle of descent as can the ball you play.

  5. Ponjo

    Feb 3, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Hi Tom. I recently seen a teacher for a lesson using my Nike Covert 10.5 degree driver. These are my figures based on your screen shots above from trackman.

    Thoughts would be appreciated please

    DL. H. C. T. LA
    14.8. 49. 187. 228. 24.6
    13.1. 46. 193. 235. 23.1
    16.8. 64. 201. 234. 30.2
    18.7. 78. 207. 234. 34.6
    17.6. 65. 198. 233. 30.o
    14.0. 52. 199. 237. 25.5

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 3, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      Looks like the 18.7 one is best. What’s the spin rate on that shot?

  6. mark

    Feb 3, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Two different clubs?

  7. DK

    Feb 2, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Tom,
    For clarification: high launch isn’t the enemy, spin is. You can launch it high with spin at or below 2000 rpm and descent angle will be decently shallow…

    Find yourself a very low spinning driver head and you’ve found a winner!

    • Xreb

      Feb 3, 2014 at 7:50 am

      Too low spin will result in the ball falling out of the sky reducing carry if you do not have sufficient club head speed. Blanket statements such as these tend to confuse people….

      • Tom Stickney

        Feb 3, 2014 at 10:04 am

        Agree, but we can’t discuss every nuance in a quick tip article.

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 3, 2014 at 10:07 am

      How is high launch bad? Don’t understand your statement. There isn’t a low spinning head that can recover from a low hit in the face due to vertical gear effect. Sure these heads can help but vertical impact point is the key.

  8. Sean

    Feb 2, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    I am just really impressed with your ability with your first 2 swings of the day to hit the ball on the face of the club to show 2 different shot shaps for the example’s that you did.
    Golf Clap ))(( awsome

    • Tom Stickney

      Feb 3, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Thx. Slow motion swings do wonders. 🙂

  9. Martin Chuck

    Feb 2, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Tom, great job! Keep up good work.

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Instruction

Clement: Best drill for weight shift and clearing hips (bonus on direction too)

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This is, by far, one of the most essential drills for your golf swing development. To throw the club well is a liberating experience! Here we catch Munashe up with how important the exercise is not only in the movement pattern but also in the realization that the side vision is viciously trying to get you to make sure you don’t throw the golf club in the wrong direction. Which, in essence, is the wrong direction to start with!

This drill is also a cure for your weight shift problems and clearing your body issues during the swing which makes this an awesome all-around golf swing drill beauty! Stay with us as we take you through, step by step, how this excellent drill of discovery will set you straight; pardon the pun!

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Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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Instruction

Golf 101: What is a strong grip?

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What is a strong grip? Before we answer that, consider this: How you grip it might be the first thing you learn, and arguably the first foundation you adapt—and it can form the DNA for your whole golf swing.

The proper way to hold a golf club has many variables: hand size, finger size, sports you play, where you feel strength, etc. It’s not an exact science. However, when you begin, you will get introduced to the common terminology for describing a grip—strong, weak, and neutral.

Let’s focus on the strong grip as it is, in my opinion, the best way to hold a club when you are young as it puts the clubface in a stronger position at the top and instinctively encourages a fair bit of rotation to not only hit it solid but straight.

The list of players on tour with strong grips is long: Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Fred Couples, David Duval, and Bernhard Langer all play with a strong grip.

But what is a strong grip? Well like my first teacher Mike Montgomery (Director of Golf at Glendale CC in Seattle) used to say to me, “it looks like you are revving up a Harley with that grip”. Point is the knuckles on my left hand were pointing to the sky and my right palm was facing the same way.

Something like this:

Of course, there are variations to it, but that is your run of the mill, monkey wrench strong grip. Players typically will start there when they are young and tweak as they gain more experience. The right hand might make it’s way more on top, left-hand knuckles might show two instead of three, and the club may move its way out of the palms and further down into the fingers.

Good golf can be played from any position you find comfortable, especially when you find the body matchup to go with it.

Watch this great vid from @JakeHuttGolf

In very simple terms, here are 3 pros and 3 cons of a strong grip.

Pros

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and helps you hit further
  2. It’s an athletic position which encourages rotation
  3. Players with strong grips tend to strike it solidly

Cons

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and can cause you to hit it low and left
  2. If you don’t learn to rotate you could be in for a long career of ducks and trees
  3. Players with strong grips tend to fight a hook and getting the ball in the air

 

Make Sense?

 

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