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8 adjustments you can make right now for a better short game

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There is a big disconnect for many golfers when it comes to their short game. Too frequently, golfers are trying to implement characteristics of their power game for their short shots. I am a firm believer that all golfers need to perfect four different golfing movements to help them maximize their games. They are…

  1. Rolling the golf ball on the ground, or putting.
  2. Maximizing distance when hitting the golf ball off of a tee.   
  3. Maximizing distance when hitting the golf ball off of the ground.
  4. Minimizing distance when hitting the golf ball off of the ground.

What this article hopes to address is some different concepts to help our GolfWRX readers excel at movement No. 4, or minimizing distance when witting the golf ball off of the ground.

To keep things simple, I want my GolfWRX readers to start asking themselves, “Will this concept help me hit the golf ball farther, or shorter?” If you’re not sure, go on out and experiment yourself! Or, let’s take a look at a few variables to help you get a head start.

1) Ball position

Which ball position will hit the golf ball farther; toward the target foot or the back foot? Many golfers are taught to place their ball position towards their back foot for short shots, especially chipping. While this does encourage ball first contact, it also de-lofts the golf club, which typically produces golf shots that launch lower and travel farther. The more you have your ball position starting at the middle of your stance and moving more towards the target, the higher your golf ball wants to launch and the less it wants to travel.  

2) Lower body positioning

Which lower body positioning will hit the golf ball farther; a lower body that is open and facing the target, or facing the golf ball? Many golfers are taught to open their lower body at address, or have their facing the target more than they are facing the golf ball. This is frequently taught because it helps golfers get a head start on returning to a similar impact position that is achieved with your full swing. If we want our hips to be facing the target to maximize distance, starting with our stance in that position seems to be defeating the purpose of hitting a golf ball a shorter distance. Rather, I want you to consider keeping your body facing the golf ball and limit your lower body’s rotation, especially on your down swing. Your lower body should be used more as a resource for stability, not power.

3) Width of stance

Which width of stance will hit the golf farther; a wider stance, or a narrower stance? Many golfers are taught to widen their base to maintain balance and supports lateral motion for full swing shots, or golf shots we want to travel the farthest. Unfortunately, this wider stance really affects the consistency to the bottom of our swing arc for short shots. To add fuel to the fire, a wider stance can encourage lateral motion, which can be an unnecessary source of power for short shots. Therefore, for most short shots, I want to encourage a narrower stance.

4) Club face positioning

Which club face will hit the golf ball farther; a club face that is closed, or a club face that is open? When the club face is open (or pointed to the right of the target for a right handed golfer), there is more loft and less mass behind the golf ball, which produces shots that launch higher but travel shorter distances. When the club face is closed (or pointed to the left of the target for a right handed golfer), there is less loft and more mass behind the golf ball, which produces shots that launch lower but travels greater distances.

5) Grip

Many of us are taught to grab the golf club in a closed face position to help us square up the club face for our full swing shots. This is a characteristic that matches up well for skill sets No. 2 and 3, hitting the golf ball as far as possible. However, to have a better chance of hitting shots a shorter distance, you can choose the grab the golf club with a more open faced grip to help you keep your club face open and hit higher launching, shorter traveling golf shots.

6) Wrist positioning

Which wrist position will hit the golf ball farther; a wrist position in flexion (bowed) or a wrist position in extension (cupped)? When you look at Dustin Johnson’s swing, you see wrists that are in flexion, which is a big component that helps Dustin keep his club face closed throughout his golf swing. Wrists in flexion are a wonderful component to hit the golf ball a long way, but may not be the greatest position to hit the golf ball a short distance.  Consider placing your wrists in extension, which helps open the face through out the strike.

7) Forearm rotation

Will you hit the golf ball farther if you pronate your forearms, or supinate your forearms? If you rotate your forearms counter clockwise, or pronate them (as a right handed golfer), you’re closing the club face. If you rotate your forearms in a clockwise manner, or supinate them (as a right handed golfer), you are opening your club face.

8) Path

Which path will help you hit the golf ball farther; a path that is a draw oriented path, or a path that is a fade oriented path? Assuming you are trying to hit golf shots straight, a draw oriented path matches up more efficiently to a closed club face. Likewise, a fade oriented path always matches up to an open club face position. Per our conversation above regarding club face properties, we want to encourage a fade oriented path to help hit the golf ball a shorter distance.

The big key for all of you GolfWRX golfers reading this article is to now go out and experiment with all of these variables, and see which components work for you! You might find that the extended wrist positioning works well for you with thick rough conditions, but poorly from tight lies. You might find that a square body helps you from tight lies, but maximizes your ability to hit the golf ball with your sand wedge at 30 yards. You might find that playing from more of an open faced grip helps you for all shots inside of 40 yards. Experiment with the variables and find the right components that work for you. Good luck!

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. TheCityGame

    Sep 10, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    There are 256 different combinations of these variables. And that’s if we limit each one to only two options (which isn’t the case).

    I’m almost convinced this is actually a humor piece.

    As instruction, it is probably worse than useless. Like actually harmful in its complexity.

  2. Mike

    Sep 9, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Some decent points made, but, forearm rotation? I’m a 16 index, that’s way above my comprehension level.

  3. Rusty Chambeauner

    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:16 am

    I found this article to be especially helpful, and reminds me not to get sucked into a consistent routine when trying to hit different shots

  4. Bryan

    Sep 8, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Possibly the worst article I’ve read on this site to date. Article is unclear on several fronts and think any of these tips are helpful when witting a golf ball.

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Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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