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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

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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Instruction

How to stop 3-putting and start making putts

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When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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Instruction

Golf 101: Why do I chunk it?

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Whether you are a beginner, 10 handicaps, or Rory McIlroy, no one player is immune to the dreaded chunk. How many times have you hit a great drive, breathing down the flag from your favorite yardage and laid the holy sod over one? It’s awful and can be a total rally killer.

So what causes it? It could be several things, for some players, it could be a steep angle of attack, others, early extension and an early bottoming out and sometimes you’ve just had too many Coors Lights and the ground was closer than your eyes told you…been there.

This is Golf 101—let’s make it real simple and find one or two ways that a new golfer can self diagnose and treat themselves on the fly.

THE MAIN CAUSE

With beginners I have noticed there are two main things that cause the dreaded chunk:

  1. Players stand too close to the ball and have no way to get outta the way on the way down. This also really helps to hit Chunk’s skinny cousin: Skull.
  2. No rotation in any form causing a steep angle of attack. You’ve seen this, arms go back, the body stays static, the club comes back down and sticks a foot in the ground.

SO HOW DO I FIX MYSELF?

Without doing all-out brain surgery, here are two simple things you can do on the course (or the range) to get that strike behind the ball and not behind your trail foot.

This is what I was taught when I was a kid and it worked for years.

  1. Make baseball swings: Put the club up and in front of your body and make horizontal swings paying close attention to accelerating on the way through. After a few start to bend at the hips down and down until you are in the address position. This not only gives your body the sensation of turning but reorientates you to exactly where the bottom of your arc is.
  2. Drive a nail into the back of the ball: This was a cure-all for me. Whether I had the shanks, chunks, skulls, etc, focusing on putting the clubhead into the back of that nail seemed to give me a mental picture that just worked. When you are hammering a nail into a wall. you focus on the back of that nail and for the most part, hit it flush 9 outta 10 times. Not sure if its a Jedi mind trick or a real thing, but it has gotten me outta more pickles than I care to admit.

As you get better, the reason for the chunk may change, but regardless of my skill level, these two drills got me out of it faster than anything all while helping encourage better fundamentals. Nothing wrong with that.

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