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Play out of your comfort zone: get creative

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Have you ever found that sometimes your game completely changes when you leave your home course?

Sometimes getting too comfortable with a golf course can actually hurt our game. Playing the same course over and over often requires that you hit similar shots over and over. I say similar because we will never play the course the exact same between two rounds but you will often have similar distances to greens — on par 3s for example. Now certainly if you are playing a tournament or an important round that is the time where you want to be as comfortable as possible with the golf course, but if you really want to improve your game you need to take yourself out of your comfort zone.

Usually I am going to say that entertainment (non-instructional) golf movies are not the best source of good advice but every now and then a real gem does stand out. In this particular case I am going to use the scenes from Tin Cup where Roy plays a round with garden tools and also when he shoots even par with only a 7-iron.

Now, I am not telling you to go to your local course with a bag full of garden tools but what we can learn from this is creativity. With most amateur golfers (high and low handicaps alike), I see they have only one way in their mind to hit each club — a 7-iron goes 160 yards, an 8-iron 150 yards, and so on. The problem is that these same people would never think to hit 7-iron if they were 140 yards from the green.  Being locked into a set mindset will not benefit you in golf. In this game there is no right or wrong —  it is instead about options. How many ways can you get the ball in the hole? Options are what make Phil Mickelson’s short game as good as it is. For any shot he comes up to I can assure you he is thinking of several different ways to get the result he wants.

One of the best ways to take yourself out of any comfort zone is to play a round with only a few clubs. Limit yourself to three or four clubs and see how you can get around the golf course. Another benefit of this drill is after doing it several times you will realize which clubs really make a difference in your actual score.

Club selection when you are only allowed a few clubs can make a world of difference. Another way is to play from different tees. I don’t recommend going back to a longer tee box than normal but certainly don’t be afraid to move up. Play a few rounds from the front tees just to change things up.  It may hurt the ego walking up to the short tee boxes every time, but it will help in seeing the course from a different angle and having to hit different shots than normal. One of my favorite drills, from Jim Flick, is to hit every club in your bag 100 yards (Use the 14-Club Rule.) Again the purpose of this drill is to show that there are many ways to get the ball in the hole. The best thing for you is to give yourself options.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum.

By Matt Newby

Matt Newby is a PGA Member and Certified Personal Coach at GolfTEC in Irvine, Calif.  He has more than 10 years of experience as a teacher and other facets of the golf business. In the past he was mentored by three PGA Master Professionals and has worked with the instructors of Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington, Jerry Kelly and Inbee Park.</em>

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. James Lythgoe

    Aug 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Depth perception is very important to golfer. Playing the same golf course over and over again really doesn’t test your depth perception because you know the golf course so well. Before you even reach your golf ball, you know what golf club you will use because you have played the same course so many times before.

    If you go to a golf course that you haven’t played and you haven’t walked off the distances, you can get an idea about how good your depth perception is. If you find that you are not too comfortable with your distance, you may not have the best depth perception. If, on the other hand, you do feel comfortable with the distance and your shots are ending pin high, then you may very well have very good depth perception.

  2. Matt Newby, PGA

    Jul 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Troy,

    You are 100% correct, Playing with just a few clubs will do exactly that…help you learn new shots. The more options you have at your disposal the more likely you are going to execute. If you typically only play on the weekends I would suggest giving this a shot late during the week before dark. Usually at this time the courses have a lower rate so you are not spending a whole weekend green fee to just go out with a few clubs. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Troy Vayanos

    Jul 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I can definitely relate to us. Having played my local course most weekends for the past 20 years you tend to get used to hitting the same clubs into the same holes.

    I actually enjoy playing around there in winding conditions last weekend because it enabled me to play a lot of long clubs with a lower ball flight.

    I have heard playing a round with just a few clubs is a great way to develop skills and learn new shots.

  4. Matt Newby, PGA

    Jul 31, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Here is the link to the Jim Flick drill (Use the 14-Club Rule)

    http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-instruction/mental-game/flick_gd0808

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Instruction

How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Instruction

Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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Instruction

How to eliminate the double cross: Vertical plane, gear effect and impact location

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One of the biggest issues teachers see on the lesson tee is an out-to-in golf swing from a player who is trying to fade the ball, only to look up and see the deadly double cross! This gear effect assisted toe hook is one of the most frustrating things about trying to move the ball from left to right for the right-handed golfer. In this article, I want to show you what this looks like with Trackman and give you a few ways in which you can eliminate this from your game.

Below is the address position of a golfer I teach here in Punta Mita; his handicap ranges between scratch and 2, depending on how much he’s playing, but his miss is a double cross when he’s struggling.

Now let’s examine his impact position:

Observations

  • You see a pull-hooking ball flight
  • The hands are significantly higher at impact than they were at address
  • If you look at the clubhead closely you can see it is wide open post impact due to a toe hit (which we’ll see more of in a second)
  • The face to path is 0.5 which means with a perfectly centered hit, this ball would have moved very slightly from the left to the right
  • However, we see a shot that has a very high negative spin axis -13.7 showing a shot that is moving right to left

Now let’s look at impact location via Trackman:

As we can see here, the impact of the shot above was obviously on the toe and this is the reason why the double-cross occurred. Now the question remains is “why did he hit the ball off of the toe?”

This is what I see from people who swing a touch too much from out-to-in and try to hit fades: a standing up of the body and a lifting of the hands raising the Vertical Swing Plane and Dynamic Lie of the club at impact. From address, let’s assume his lie angle was 45 degrees (for simplicity) and now at impact you can see his Dynamic Lie is 51 degrees. Simply put, he’s standing up the shaft during impact…when this happens you will tend to pull the heel off the ground at impact and this exposes the toe of the club, hence the toe hits and the gear effect toe hook.

Now that we know the problem, what’s the solution? In my opinion it’s a three stage process:

  1. Don’t swing as much from out-to-in so you won’t stand up as much during impact
  2. A better swing plane will help you to remain in your posture and lower the hands a touch more through impact
  3. Move the weights in your driver to promote a slight fade bias

Obviously the key here is to make better swings, but remember to use technology to your advantage and understand why these type of things happen!

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