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Evaluate your swing with these three shots

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The driver off the deck, “the cut-off” swing and the off-speed shot are all good indications of where you stand with your golf swing. If you can master these shots, you are probably doing more right than wrong. In this article, we will examine what it takes to pull each shot off, and why you not may be able to.

The Driver off the Deck 

This is by far one of the hardest shots in golf, because the driver head must strike the ball with the perfect angle of attack. To achieve this, a player must have the correct body angles at address and maintain them throughout the swing. When done correctly, a player will have the sensation that they are more “over the ball” with their top half at impact.

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Golfers who struggle with this shot usually lose the body angles or “body shape” they started with at address. The most common fault I see is golfers “falling back” with their upper half on their downswing.

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Creating the proper attack angle is critical for a crisp driver off the deck, and a player must create width on their downswing for a shallow angle of attack to pull pff the shot. It is a common misconception among players and instructors that a narrow downswing with as much “lag” as possible creates speed. It’s actually true that a wide downswing that creates speed.

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If you can’t pull this shot off right now, practice at half speed until you make contact. Check your setup for the proper body angles and make sure your takeaway isn’t too wide, which tends to result in a too narrow downswing.

The Cut-Off Shot

This is one of the best shots to get your body and arms working together through the shot. In the cut-off swing, a player abbreviates their finish after impact. This is done to get the right side of your body working more around and through the shot. If done correctly, your arms will stay in front of your body with the same wrist angles. To check the position, you should be able to bring your body and arms right back down in reverse to impact without any manipulation.

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Players who struggle with this shot have bad timing with their arms and body. When a player’s body stalls through impact, the hands will flip over rather than letting the right side of your body rotate around.

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The “early clear” is the swing that results with a player attempting to clear their left side too early. Our arms generate speed, which pulls our body around. We still hit the ball with our core, but at the correct time. It’s important to understand how speed and inertia will clear our body.

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The cut-off swing is a great drill to not only check positions, but to learn how to generate speed, especially shaft speed. In fact, the finish position could technically end in this cut-off position. Anything more — for example, the body rotating around or the shaft wrapping around your neck — is just pretty on the eyes. A great example would be the finish of Henrik Stenson; note where his arms fold up and body finishes, even with his 3 wood off the tee. A player should be able to cut off any swing just a few feet after impact.

The Off-Speed Shot

If you can’t do it half speed, you can’t do it full speed. A sign that players have control of their swing and trajectory is their ability to take any club and take some off it. Take your 7-iron and practice hitting shots to targets at varying distances. Start with 25 yards and work your way up to your full 7-iron distance.

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If you struggle with contact on off-speed shots, more than likely you have “match-up” moves in your full-speed swing. This means you have created extra movement to make up for another position to make solid contact. When going off speed or to shorter distances, these match-up moves will be exposed as you may not have time in your swing to add that extra movement.

Practice these and pay attention to how your body is moving. You may find a part to your swing you can subtract.

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Kelvin is a Class A PGA golf professional in San Francisco, California. He teaches and has taught at some of the top golf clubs in the Bay Area, including the Olympic Club and Sonoma Golf Club. He is TPI certified, and a certified Callaway and Titleist club fitter. Kelvin has sought advice and learned under several of the top instructors in the game, including Alex Murray and Scott Hamilton. To schedule a lesson, please call 818.359.0352 Online lessons also available at www.kelleygolf.com

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. TheCityGame

    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Love this article. This is about learning TO swing. . .not learning A swing.

  2. Mike

    Feb 15, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Great advice. One of my big regrets in golf is that I didn’t practice partial speed shots more from the beginning. Those shots are one big difference between really good players and OK players.

  3. Jack Nash

    Feb 15, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    I like trying driver off the deck but as another poster stated it might help seeing a correct photo. I would imagine more of a feeling of slightly hitting down on the ball? I can usually make decent contact but if I get it 10′ in the air I’m doing good. It’s fun to try though. Specially against the wind.

    • Kelvin Kelley

      Feb 15, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      The cover image would be the correct “feel” of impact. Make impact feel close to the address position, where you have maintained your original body shape. Your hips will naturally clear, but you will be covering the ball more.

  4. Andrew Levy

    Feb 15, 2017 at 10:16 am

    can you put the correct pictures up too?

  5. Jason

    Feb 15, 2017 at 9:18 am

    For the off speed shots–are you suggesting to make a full or small swing to the shorter distances?

    • gdb99

      Feb 16, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      I’ve had my instructor tell me to make a full swing to a shorter target. He told me most people have a hard time doing it.

  6. M.

    Feb 15, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Spot on… taken years to figure this out!

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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