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Golf is not a game of consistent

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into a small hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the task.” -Winston S. Churchill

In general terms, the golf club is covering perhaps a 30-degree arc, traveling at maybe 90 mph, attempting to hit a ball lying on the ground that is 1.68″ in diameter in less than two seconds. If that isn’t enough, we are expected to strike it with a golf club that is three-feet or longer, and we have to hit precisely in the middle of the face of that club, an area comprising maybe one square inch. To boot, we stand well above the ball, to the side of it and in a variety of lies and an even wider variety of weather conditions. In that light, Churchill’s comment seems pretty spot on.

And yet, the number one comment I have heard over my 35-plus years of teaching is: “I just want to be consistent.”

Now when we come right down to it, getting consistent results in golf is pretty much mission impossible.  Yes, there are degrees of consistent, but when the great Jack Nicklaus says that in his best days, he hit maybe three or four “perfect” shots in a round, where does that leave the rest of us?

Yet we still long for “consistency,” knowing full well that if the strike is just one inch (or less) from the center, the shot will go awry.  Or if the swing direction does not match the attack angle or the face does not complement the path, we hit some degree of a foul ball.  What is consistent is the sequence of motions, but not the strike of the golf ball.  During the .0004 seconds of impact a whole lot can, and usually does, go awry.

The bottom line is this:  Golf is not a game of consistent (results). and to expect it of ourselves is unfair, damaging to our learning process and our level of enjoyment.  Expect and accept the unexpected and you will not be disappointed.  We see the greatest players in the world every weekend hit foul balls.  Of course, they are more consistent than average golfers, but ask them how many times they execute the actual shot they are trying to hit, and you might be shocked by the answer.  The best we can say is that their bad shots, the shots that come off with less than desired results, are still very playable.  And therein lies the key: improving at golf for anyone is simply hitting “better bad shots” yet aware that a poor one will come sometimes.  Accept it, learn from it (the darkest hour is just before dawn) and play your next shot.

Anticipating  some unreasonable level of consistency is unrealistic at best, and down-right frustrating at worst.  The unknown is what makes our game so wonderful.  Heck, even really well-hit shots do not always have the desired outcome, let alone the misses.  For more perspective on it, consider that the best in the world miss five or six greens every round, and miss more putts than they make from eight feet! I have always loved the unexpected, the “where did that come from moment”…it is what gives golf its mystery, its lure, and above all the pure joy of excitement we all get when the occasional great shot does come off.

Golf cannot be won, only played” Bagger Vance told us, and so we keep playing.  So we keep trying to master a game no one will ever master, and we have our brief glimpses of brilliance followed by hours of mediocrity and inconsistency, and we accept the whole game, not just the success we have at it. Let the foul balls be a teacher, not a frustrator.  Learn to love mystique and the wonder of the game.  It is, after all, the greatest of games because of that magic.

The next time you hit a foul ball, don’t look away in disgust, and think, “that’s not me.” Instead, think “that’s golf, and I love it.”

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. RBImGuy

    Feb 13, 2019 at 11:20 am

    once your swing path is the same you will be consistent like Moe Norman was and as long as Mike Austin was.
    Yes coming a how to

  2. hal

    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    As Tiger Woods said; Golf is a game of misses, he who has the smallest misses usually wins!!

    • Peter McGill

      Feb 12, 2019 at 6:45 am

      Good misses usually make for a good round.

  3. Juststeve

    Feb 11, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Dennis:

    I’ve read your previous posts with interest and usually find them spot on. With this one however I think you are way off target. You have conflated perfection, which is unattainable, with consistency which has been attained, to a greater or lesser degree, by every good player. Were it not for consistency we wouldn’t know how far our next 7 iron would fly. We do know because we have attained enough consistency to know at least roughly what to expect when we hit the club. Consistency is how we know that club to pull. I would venture to say that in almost ever case the better player is the one who hits the ball more consistently. When people come to-you looking for consistency they are looking fir the right thing, the thing that will make them better.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 11, 2019 at 11:27 am

      I agree. Better players are more consistent, almost by definition. But it’s still a game that the “out of nowhere”shot is never far away. I played some years ago with a very good player (I’ll not say name) who hit me in the back of the leg with a SHANK! He shot 67 that day! Thx for reading and the comment.

    • Mel

      Feb 11, 2019 at 1:38 pm

      I agree, Juststeve. In most cases (within the article) if “perfect” replaced “consistent” it would have been more helpful to me. And less incongruous too. The author/instructor mentions how few perfect shots touring pros hit while almost in the same breath admits they’re more consistent golfers than amateurs. We’ve all achieved some level of consistency and our time on the driving range, in my opinion anyway, is to increase that consistency and not necessarily to increase the number of perfect shots. Although we love those! Anyway, I won’t let this article dissuade me from trying to improve my consistency. To be fair, there were several helpful concepts which I appreciated.

  4. Mike Duranko - GolfToons

    Feb 11, 2019 at 5:22 am

    Fantastic. Thank you
    I do get inspiration watching the pro mistakes during tournaments, not to see them fail but for the encouragement. 1/2 the 8 footers are missed by pros!!!
    My game is not so bad.

  5. John

    Feb 9, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    Best article I have read on here in a long time. Spot on. Thank you, Dennis.

  6. Nack Jicklaus

    Feb 9, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    If only I could remember this article next time I flail a tee ball over the trees and into the next fairway… Golf really is a lot more enjoyable when I don’t beat myself up over bad shots.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 9, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      And…it detracts from your ability to correct the foul balls.

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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