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Short on time? Improve your game at the microwave

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Having grown up in the Midwest, I less than fondly remember this time of the year, when the post-Thanksgiving weather would force me into the practice net in my basement until March. We might catch the odd day or two that would let us get outside to hit balls (or even play a few holes), but most of that stretch was spent doing whatever practice we could do indoors. This was coupled with the pain of watching early-season PGA Tour events from warm-weather locales in Honolulu, Phoenix, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Pebble Back and San Diego, leaving us chomping at the bit.

Here in Florida we can work year round, but I still have players who I coach that are successful in other parts of their lives and have limited time to work on their golf swings or short game. They might find only one day a week to hit balls because of business and family requirements, and being married for 25 years and raising two college age kids… trust me, I get it! This is where I give my players homework away from the course to help them improve. I call it “microwave work,” which are drills I give my players to practice when weather, life or a job keeps them from getting to the course, specifically, when they are in the kitchen heating something up.

So let’s get started. What is something that you would normally put in the microwave?

I am guessing that most answers are coffee and/or leftovers. How do you spend your time while your item warms up? If it is coffee, you probably stand there with your eyes half open in full zombie mode. What if you used that time to work on your golf game? If you use your time wisely, you will see a faster change in your game for the better.

Below are four of the basic drills I give my players.

Get in the Lineup

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This is a good one for players with an overly active left hand that is passive and drags the club through.

To perform the drill, setup with your lead foot against the cabinets like you are going to hit a mid-iron into the microwave. Take a three-quarter backswing and turn through slowly until the back of your left hand hits the edge of the counter flush and flat (it helps to drape a hand towel over the edge of the counter so your hand makes contact with the towel instead of the hard cabinet). Hold and press there firmly for a count of 10.

Keep doing sets of these until the timer goes off. It is also a kinematic feedback drill and you will feel “after effect” when you finish, such that if you took a swing you would feel like you are still pressing against the counter when you reach impact.

Put a Bounty on Bad Putting

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Full disclosure: I didn’t make this one up.

This is from one of my tour players who had his head moving all over creation when he came to me for help. We fixed all the other things in his stroke and went after the simple task of keeping his head still. One day, due to bad weather over the summer, he was stuck inside and wanted to hit putts and work on keeping his head static throughout the stroke.

He came up with the paper towel drill.

This one is easy! Get a paper towel roll and put one end on the refrigerator and the other on your forehead at setup. Then take practice strokes with your hands together focusing on how it feels to keep your head in place as you take a stroke. This is a huge error I see in about 7 out of 10 tour players. It is amazing how many golfers retreat their head at impact. Practice this and you will find your stroke produces many more solidly hit putts in the new season.

Getting Hip

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One of the things that drive instructors crazy is keeping their students’ rear ends from thrusting forward at impact and losing pelvis and spine angle. This is called early extension. Among other things, it is one of the natural results of the shoulders trying to seek the same orbit as the hips and turn at the same level.

To perform this drill, turn your back to the counter-top and put both cheeks against it. Now cross your arms and turn back and through to a balanced finish and hold. While you are turning, fight to keep the right hip on the counter as you go back. More importantly, keep the left hip on the counter when going to the full finish and hold. Do as many reps as you can before the timer dings! You will find, when done correctly, that you finish with your right shoulder slightly lower than the left.

How to Get Cleaner Floors While Fixing a Bad Takeaway

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A huge backswing issue that I often see is active hands that rotate the clubface way too much early in the start of the backswing. This throws the clubhead behind the hands when the shaft reaches parallel to the ground creating all kinds of bad things.

Here is a fun drill that is also a huge challenge because it is fraught with disaster if you fail.

Grab a coffee cup from the cabinet before you start microwaving, and fill it a third of the way full of water. Take your setup and grip the handle on the mug so that the cup is hanging downward. Use as close to a real grip as you can. The water should be very near the lip of the cup at this point. Now, from this setup position, take a backswing to about 8 o’clock with your hands and stop. If you do it correctly in one piece, you won’t spill any water! If you spin the mug — look out, water everywhere! If you really want danger, use milk or orange juice!

This drill will encourage a solid one piece takeaway without any fast moving parts and the club face and hands will be positioned correctly early in the backswing. Here is what it looks like from face on (above) and down the line (below) when it is done correctly.

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And done incorrectly.

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These are just a few of the Microwave Drills that I give my players to do when they are in the kitchen. Pick one, or do them all during the winter and watch your game come alive in the spring!

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Jadon

    Jan 5, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Oh wow, the cup drill. I need this badly.

  2. Golfraven

    Jan 1, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Love it. Wonder why I just spent the cash on the Swing trainer tools.

  3. Al385

    Jan 1, 2015 at 2:39 am

    These tips are so good. They are also great to practice while I’m in business travels.

    Thanks so much!!!

  4. Tj

    Dec 30, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Great Instruction right there, Wish everyone could read this, Including the members at my club.

  5. MCK

    Dec 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    This is awesome and useful.

  6. Brody

    Dec 30, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Creative article, I enjoyed it!

  7. Tom Stickney

    Dec 30, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    You should do the cup one at AJ’s! I miss destin!!! Best 7 years of my life.

  8. Jeff B

    Dec 30, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    agreed, i am able to golf year round when my back is in good shape but these should be a fun way to stretch and get back in the swing groove before i go back out there.

    fun read!

  9. Ian

    Dec 30, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Great article!
    These look like fun, although the climate where I live allows for year round golf, I will definitely have to give these a try.

  10. TR1PTIK

    Dec 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I like these a lot since I currently live in Missouri and am going through exactly what you described in the first paragraph! Excellent tips, and I would think that you could modify the first drill a little bit to work on weight transfer at the beginning of the downswing – or “bumping” the hips to the lead side as some would describe it.

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WATCH: What to do when you’re short sided

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney shows you how to avoid compounding a mistake when you’ve missed the ball on the wrong side of the green.

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Why flaring your left foot out at address could be a big mistake

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In his book “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” published in 1957, Ben Hogan recommended that golfers position their right foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line, and then position their left-foot a quarter of a turn outward at a 15-degree angle (Note: He was writing for right-handed golfers). The purpose of the left-foot foot position was to assist in the “clearing of the left hip,” which Hogan believed started his downswing.

Through this Hogan instruction book and the others he wrote through the years, there four categories that defined his advice;

  1. He accurately described what was occurring in his swing.
  2. He described a phantom move that never occurred.
  3. He described something that occurred but to a lesser degree than indicated.
  4. He inaccurately described what was happening in his swing.

As evidenced by today’s modern video, Hogan did not open up his left hip immediately as he described. This piece of advice would fall into the fourth category listed above — he inaccurately described what was happening in his swing. In reality, the first move in his downswing was a 10-12 inch shift of his left hip forward toward the target before his left hip ever turned open.

SPINNING OUT

Those amateur golfers who strictly adopted his philosophy, opening the left hip immediately, ended up“spinning out” and never getting to their left foot. The spin-out was made even worse by the 15-degree angle of the left foot Hogan offered. That said, based on Hogan’s stature in the golf world, his advice regarding the positioning of the feet was treated as if it were gospel and adopted by both players and teachers. Since that time his hip action has been debated, but the positioning of the left foot has remained unquestioned — until today.

THE FLARED FOOT POSITION

The flared position of his left foot may or may not have been of assistance in helping Hogan achieve the desired outcome in his swing. That really is not the point, but rather that over a half-century there has never been a voice that argued against the flared foot position he advocated.

The rest of the golf world accepted his advice without question. In my opinion, the left foot position advocated by Hogan has harmed countless golfers who slowly saw their swings fall apart and wondered why. His well-meaning advice was a poisoned pill, and once swallowed by golfers it served to eventually erode what was left of their left side.

DEAD WRONG

The subject of this piece is not to debate Hogan’s hip action but the piece that accompanied it, the 15-degree flare of the left foot. I’m of the opinion that it is not only wrong. Because of its toxic nature, it is DEAD WRONG.  The reason has to do with the tailbone, which determines the motion of the hips in the swing. The more the left foot opens up at address, the more the tailbone angles backward. That encourages the hips to “spin out” in the downswing, which means they have turned before the player’s weight has been allowed to move forward to their left foot and left knee.

As a consequence of the hips spinning out, players move their weight backward (toward the right foot), encouraging a swing that works out-to-in across the body. You can see this swing played out on the first tee of any public golf course on a Saturday morning.

FOOT FLARE ISSUES

The problem with the 15-degree foot flare is that it promotes, if not guarantees, the following swing issues:

In the backswing, the flared left foot:

  1. Discourages a full left- hip turn;
  2. Encourages the improper motion of the left-knee outward rather than back
  3. Reduces the degree that the torso can turn because of the restrictions placed on the left hip.

In the downswing, the flared left foot: 

  1. Promotes a “spinning out” of the left hip.
  2. Does not allow for a solid post at impact.

STRAIGHT AHEAD

In working with my students, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most advantageous position for the left foot at address is straight ahead at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The reason is not only because it encourages a positive moment of the player’s weight forward in the downswing, but it also improves the player’s chances of making a sound backswing.

THE POWER OF THE LEFT HEEL

There is an inherent advantage to placing the left-foot at a 90-degree to the target-line. It is the strongest physical position against which to hit the ball, as it provides a powerful post at impact that serves to increase both power and consistency.

JACK NICKLAUS

A number of years ago, Jack Nicklaus appeared on the cover of Golf Digest. The byline suggested that in studying Jack’s footwork, they had discovered something that up to that point was unknown. The “secret” they were describing was that after lifting his left heel in the backswing, he replanted it in the downswing with his heel closer to the target line than his toe. The intimation was that this might be a secret source of power in his swing.  This was hardly a “secret,” and something that Nicklaus was probably unaware of until it was pointed out to him, but it’s a demonstration of the fact that his natural instinct was to turn his foot inward, rather than outward, on the downswing.

THE DISCUS THROWER

The discus thrower whirls around in a circle as he prepares to throw. On the final pass, he plants his left toe slightly inward, relative to his heel, because this is the most powerful position from which to cast the discus. This position allows the thrower to draw energy from the ground while at the same time providing a strong post position from which additional torque can be applied. The point is that as the discus thrower makes the final spin in preparation for the throw, he does not turn the lead foot outward. Why? Because if it were turned outward, the potential draw of energy from the ground would be compromised.

The same is true when it comes to swinging a golf club for power, and you can test the two positions for yourself. After turning the left foot into a position that is 90 degrees to the target line, you will immediately note the ease with which you can now turn away from the target in addition to the strength of your left side post at the point of impact. Conversely, when you turn your left foot out, you will feel how it restricts your backswing and does not allow for a strong post position on the downswing.

REPAIRING YOUR SWING

Do you have trouble cutting across the ball? You might look to the position of your left foot and the action of the left hip. The first step would be to place your left foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The second step would be to turn you left hip around in a half circle as if tracing the inside of a barrel. The third step would be to feel that you left your left hip remains in the same position as you scissor your weight towards your left toe, and then your right heel, allowing the club to travel on the same path. The combination of these changes will encourage the club to swing in-to-out, improving the path of your swing.

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WATCH: Over-the-top vs. over-and-through: 1 destroys a swing, 1 can save it

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This video is about OVER-AND-THROUGH, which is very different than being over-the-top. Over-and-through is a great recovery from a backswing that is not quite in the right position. Over-the-top is flat-out a full default to the ball. See how you can bridge the gap with getting your swing to deliver better to the target!

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