Hints & tips

--provided by Mr Handicapper

These tips are based on the Paul Wilson method. Paul Wilson is the pro at the Bear's Best Las Vegas course and the lead trainer at Revolution Golf, an online source of coaching tips. He is the developer of the “revolutionary Swing Machine Golf Instructor”.

The tips are Mr Handicapper's summation of Mr Wilson's recommendations, and cover areas such as Putting, Chipping and Fixing Common Problems.

The set up & swing

NB: Throughout the following I shall use the terms “front foot/leg” and “back foot/leg”, with the “front foot/leg” being the one closest to the target.

The basic premise of these tips is that to get more distance you should use your body to generate power (torque), rather than your arms. This may sound weird but hang in there.

The 4 Basics

1. The Grip

The purpose of this grip is to make the left hand relatively weak, so that you are less likely to use your arms in the swing.

Grip the club with your left hand, thumb to the right of centre, to the point where you can see the first two knuckles of the left hand. Lay the club across your right hand so that the shaft is in your fingers, NOT your palm. Place the right thumb to cover the left thumb, so that the left thumb nestles into the fleshy part under the right thumb. The thumb and first finger of both hands should form Vs which point towards your right shoulder. Straighten your arms and turn your forearms inwards. Try to be relaxed!!

2. Your Weight

Get up from the computer. Take your normal stance and turn your belt buckle and shoulders away from the target, as far as you can. As you complete this you will notice that your weight has moved to the outside of your back foot. This is normal. But here is the trick: it needs to be the inside of your back foot. It is this opposing force that generates the torque.

As you take the club head back your weight should be on the inside of your back foot. Make sure your weight is on the inside of the back foot by turning your back knee in a little to exaggerate it. Note: There will be a tendency to sway back. Try to stay upright and steady. Keeping your eye on the ball will help in this respect.

3. The Takeaway

Holding the club with your normal stance, turn your belt buckle and shoulders away from the target 45 degrees, or as far as you can. Let your arms drag the club head back. You should be able to feel the drag. There should be a noticeable delay between the moment you start to turn your belt buckle and the club head starts to come back. If you can’t feel the delay and drag it means you are still using your arms to take the club head back.

4. The Swing

To trigger the down swing, turn your belt buckle back to face the ball. The critical thing is that the down swing starts after the trigger. There should be the drag and delay mentioned previously. The down swing starts, not because your arms are bringing the club down, but because the turning of your middle and lower body brings the club down. Think: “body — then the club”.

As the club head goes through impact your front leg should straighten and your weight should be transferred from the inside of your back foot, to the front foot, in a spring-like motion.

The Complete Process

Grip the club as described. Take your stance. Feel your weight on the inside of your back foot. Turn your back knee in a little to exaggerate it. To start the take away, turn your belt buckle away from the target. Feel the delay and drag as the club head comes back. To kick start the downswing, turn your belt buckle back towards the ball. Again feel the delay (called “lag” in golf parlance) and drag. As the club head goes through impact your front leg should straighten and your weight should be transferred from the inside of your back foot, to the front foot.

Your body should be relatively still during this process, ie. you are not leaning towards or away from the target.

“All very well for you to say”, I hear you thinking, and you are correct. Breaking the habits ingrained over a long period will not be easy. You are thinking — put the weight inside of the back foot – kick start by turning the belt buckle – turn the belt buckle back toward the ball – through impact transfer weight to the front foot – keep still – #@%*! – I took my eye off the ball!!

Introduce this process slowly. It is more important that you be relaxed during your swing than anything else.

To start with concentrate on just two things: (1) your weight on the inside of your back foot; and (2) turning your belt buckle away from the target to kick-start the backswing. You must feel the delay and drag. And always remember to keep your eye on the ball.

Warm up and swing drills

Following are some pre-swing drills that may help.

Touch the knee Drill 1

With your weight on the inside of your back foot, turn your belt buckle away from the target. Then turn your belt buckle around to face the target using a circular motion. During this process your front leg should lock, and the back knee should touch the front knee. Think of holding a piece of paper between your knees. You should be able to feel the weight moving from your back leg to touch your front leg.

You don’t need a club for this drill. Do it at home. Do it shopping with your wife. Your wife may refer you to a psychiatrist but do it there anyway.

Touch the knee Drill 2

Practice, without a ball, swinging through the air about a foot above the ground. Have your weight on the inside of your back foot and kick start the take away by turning your belt buckle away from the target. Kick start the down swing by concentrating on bringing the back knee around to touch the front knee. Your back foot should come up about 4-6 inches. It is a good pre shot drill.

With these “Touch your knees Drills”, I use them all the time. But at this stage, because I am concentrating on the 2 major things, it rarely happens automatically. It is interesting to note that when you actually do hit a cracker, that is how you end up: with both knees touching and your back foot off the ground, looking just like a real golfer. I think it is a long process.

Club across the shoulders Drill

Place a club across your shoulders. Keeping the club horizontal, move the club around from right to left, as if you were taking a shot. Think “circular motion”. Think “coiling” at the shoulders, “uncoiling” at the waist. Keep the body straight and the club horizontal. Do not bend and move the club up and down.

Other Swing Tips

Aiming at the Target

Standing behind the ball, check the line (direction) you want the ball to go. Pick out an intermediate target (3-5 feet) in front of the ball. Go to a position 90 degrees along that line and place the club face behind the ball.

The Stance

The stance should not be too wide. Basically, the feet are just outside the line of the shoulders. Arms should be fully extended. Wrists should be loose. Bend knees - stick backside out – straighten chest – turn your back leg in slightly to make sure your weight is on the inside of your right foot. Try to be — and stay — relaxed. That’s it!

How far back?

Most people take the club head back further than they need because they are looking for power. A good basic rule is that you should not take the driver back further than parallel to the ground. As age wearies us we are less able to turn 90 degrees. Thus, for most of us, the club will be less than parallel at the top of the back swing. Just exactly how far back you take the club is your decision. But less than parallel is better than more than parallel. NB: As you move through your clubs, the higher the club number, the less than parallel the back swing.


Chipping and Pitching

What is the difference?

The object of the chip is to land the ball just on the green and have it run up to the pin.

The goal of the pitch is to land the ball close to the pin with back spin so it pulls up close to where it lands.

Which is best?

It depends on the circumstances. If you have a bunker or some other impediment in front of you it may be best to pitch. If not, in my opinion, the chip is the easier shot. Deploying the chip your club options range from the 7 iron through to a sand wedge, depending on the distance from the edge of the green to the pin.

The pitch requires a high lofted club, 56° or 60°, which for me always spells trouble. And to impart the back spin, I am told, as well as hitting the ball correctly, one must be using a high quality ball such as a Titleist Pro V1. Sadly, the balls we generally use are not conducive to imparting spin.

Chipping

Grip and Stance

A primary cause of misplayed chips is players' hitting the centre of the ball with the leading edge of the club, causing it to shoot across the green and (mostly) lodge itself in the nearest bunker. Try this:–

  • Take your stance with the big toe on your back foot in line with the ball.
  • Move your left foot one step towards the hole.
  • Turn your back foot slightly out. This helps to have the club head come through cleanly.
  • Grip the club so that you can look down and see 3 or 4 knuckles on the left hand (effectively gripping the club on the side).
  • Grip down the club and bend your knees at the same time.
  • Place the club face behind the ball, and move the top of the club across to your left hip.
  • Your weight should be 70% on your front leg, and stay there during the shot.
  • Take the club back and up, and then accelerate through the ball. Don’t bend the wrists.

Which club?

Many people chip to the green using the same one or two clubs, the pitching wedge and/or the sand wedge. To use this method successfully you need to take the club head further back in your swing as the distance to the flag increases. In effect, you are guessing how far to take the club head back.

Another way is to take the club head back the same distance every time, but use the full range of clubs to get the ball to the flag. The aim is to land the ball one foot in from the edge of the green for every chip, and let the loft of the club take the ball to the flag. A 7 Iron is going to run a lot further than a sand wedge.

Walk to the edge of the green and compare the distance from your ball to 1 foot onto the green, and the distance from 1 foot on the green to the flag. Paul Wilson recommends a sand wedge where the ratio is 1:1 (50% fairway/50% green). Other ratios are; 1:2 – pitching wedge; 1:3 – 9 iron; 1:4 – 8 iron; 1:5 – 7 iron.




You will need to take into account the speed and the slope of the greens when selecting which club to use, but the ratios are a good starting point.

Special Note from Mr Handicapper: When I started following this advice I found myself continually short. The reason is that the ratios come from a Pro well-used to the fast greens that Pros play on. Often our greens are much slower. So choose a club lower than you think you should use, eg. a 9 iron rather than the pitching wedge (1:2 ratio), and work from there. It may require two clubs lower.

Pitching

The following pointers are from Martin Hall, another of the trainers at Revolution Golf.

  1. The set up is normal with the feet not too far apart and the ball in the centre of your stance.

  2. Your chest should be turned a little towards the flag.

  3. As Seve Ballesteros said, "A little lean keeps it clean." You should lean a little towards the flag. Take your top hand from the club and slide it down your leg closest to the target until the finger tips reach the top of your knee. That is the amount of lean you should have.

  4. Taking the club back, as the club head passes your knee you should cock your wrists.

  5. You need to remove any distractions. To do this Martin says that you should count 1-2-3; 1, with the 1-2-3 on the back swing and the final 1 as you bring the club down. Do a couple of practice swings with the 1-2-3; 1. In fact, Martin advises that you do this with all club swings.

  6. The swing should be relaxed. Go with the flow. How far you take it back will be trial and error but you should let feel get involved. Your chest should end up facing the target.

  7. Try to keep your eyes level and parallel (LAP). This is critical. Your eyes should be LAP, definitely not right eye down (code red). In fact a lot of players are left eye down, ever so slightly.


Putting

Target orientated

Most people are thinking too much about their stance, grip etc. Try this. On the practice green (10-15 feet from the hole), throw a few balls underhand towards the hole. You will be surprised at how close you get. Then practise putting from the same point with your right hand only on the putter. When you are out on the course, forget your left hand totally, and putt with the right hand as if you were throwing the ball towards the target. The object is to think less about the stance, grip, etc., and concentrate on the right hand and the target.

The Grip

Whatever grip you use, both thumbs should be straight down the shaft, not the sides. Place the club face before the ball. Touch your sides with your arms and then bring your hands together. That is where the grip should be on the shaft.

The Ball

The ball should be 3 ball widths (a gap of 2 ball widths) inside your left instep, ie. forward of centre.

The Stance

Arms should NOT be straight as this tends to cause you to hit long. The stance should be slightly open (no real rules here), but your shoulders should be straight.

Putting Drill

When players take to the practice green before a match, they try to sink balls. There is an argument that you really ought to be getting a feel for the speed of the greens. Try the following drill. You can do this out of the way of other players on the practice green. Take 3 balls. Hit the first one 1 metre. Then hit the second ball 1 metre past the first one, ie 2 metres. Then hit the third 3 metres. Then repeat the process hitting 3, 4 and 5 metres, then 7, 8 and 9 metres, and so on. Then you can try and sink a few putts.

Fixing Common Problems

Topping your fairway woods

If you have a bad tee shot, or your round is not going too well, you often find that you are topping your fairway woods. It happens because you start trying to hit the ball harder to make up the lost distance, and during this process, taking your eye of the ball. SLOW DOWN YOUR SWING – a good piece of advice when any part of your game is not travelling well.

Driving high right

The cause of this problem is that the club face is slightly turned out at impact. Run through the Touch the Legs drill (mentioned earlier) a couple of times, before your take your shot. Keep wrists loose.

Driver not working for you

Can happen at any time but usually, it is late in the round because you are tired or because you are over thinking your game. Simply grip down the shaft 3 or 4 inches and take a ¾ swing. This will reduce the chance of an error. You will be surprised at the distance you get. Once comfortable, move back to your normal swing.

How to avoid slicing that drive off the 1st tee

You are at the first tee. You have had to rush a bit, have had little or no time to warm up, and you want to hit a cracker of a first drive. How often do you slice that first shot? How often does it set the tone for the rest of the day?

The reason for the slice is that the club face is open at impact, and the reason for that is because you are all locked up and tight. Try taking 5 – 10 practice swings where you turn your wrists over just after the club head starts to come down.

Then forget all about that; go to the tee and tee off using your normal swing. Hopefully the pre-swing exercise will have loosened your wrists up and you won’t slice. The author provides no warranty as to the efficacy of this tip. Also, there is no need to try and belt the cover off the ball on that first shot.

Are you driving hard right or hard right with a fade?

Read this:

Driving your hips and body too hard

If you have been following the process described in our tips, or even if you have not, you may find this helpful. If you find that lately you have been topping shots or pushing the ball hard right or hard right with a fade, it could be that, because you have become more confident with the elements of the swing, you are turning your middle and lower body too fast, trying to generate more club head speed, in an attempt to get more distance. You drive your body forward, resulting in the club face being open at impact. Here are three ways it could be happening.

Your body gets too far ahead of the ball and the shot goes right or right with a fade, depending on how open the club face is.

Your left arm “disconnects”. At the point of impact you should be able to feel the top of your left arm against your body, under the armpit. If the left arm “disconnects” (known in golf parlance as a “chicken wing”) the result, again, is that your body is too far ahead of the ball.

Because you are trying to hit the ball too hard, you start to “stand up” coming through the swing, which can result in topping the ball or, if you do connect, the club face will be open.

How can this be corrected?

If you have been using your arms to hit the ball, and are trying to change to using your body to hit the ball, then it is not going to be easy to master, and you have to be patient. So the first thing to do is SLOW DOWN. The same advice applies to any method.

Practise the “Touch the Knee Drill 2”, described above, as much as you can, particularly as a pre-shot drill. Because you are not actually hitting the ball, you can concentrate on the feel – the weight on the inside of your right foot, the back knee coming round to touch the front knee, etc. Hopefully, it will eventually become second nature.

The “disconnect”

Grab the top of your left arm with your right hand, with your hand passing under the left arm. Then practise your body turns away from the target and then back towards the target and feel the top of the left arm touching the body under the armpit. NB: It does not have to be tight, leaving you scrunched over. It should be just “some” pressure. It will be easier if you slow down your swing.

The “stand up”

There are two ways to combat this. First, keep your head down for 2 seconds after impact. Second, when you do come up, keep your head tilted to watch the flight. Don’t bring the head up straight. Your head is tilted when you hit the ball. By concentrating on keeping it tilted, you are less likely to “stand up” through impact.

Finally, because you are driving your hips and body too hard, it is likely that the crossover of the wrists is taking place after impact. You need to start the crossover of the wrists just before impact, so that the club face is square at impact. Practise the “Touch the Knee Drill 2” as a pre-shot drill, exaggerating the crossover before impact. Keep your wrists loose.



How to get out of a bunker

Choke down on the golf club. Have your right index finger about an inch from the bottom of the grip. Choking down gives you control of the club and allows you to feel the shot rather than hitting it.

Narrow your stance a little and play the ball forward of the middle of your stance. This will aid in controlling the shot and will contribute to higher ball flight.

Dig a little into the sand with your feet and get comfortable.

Keep your body completely still throughout — no twisting hips.

Start your swing with your arms and keep your swing vertical. The end of the grip butt should be pointed at the ball at the top of your backswing. Don't bring the club straight back, remember: steep is better, here!

Your left arm should be parallel to the ground and be fully extended at the top of your swing.

Start the downswing at the sand focusing to hit 1 to 2 inches behind the ball. Don't focus on hitting the ball. Hit the sand behind the ball.

Remember — a steep angle into the sand is key, here. You don't have to swing too hard. Start with an easy swing and increase the speed so that you reach maximum speed a foot or so after the club head has passed under the ball. Most importantly, make sure you have a full follow through. This is essential.

As you become more proficient and comfortable, try opening the club face to 1 o'clock. This will give you more height and less distance. Experiment with opening the club face more or less to try to get closer to the pin, rather than just get out of the bunker. You need to aim left of the pin to compensate for opening the club face (vice-versa for southpaws).

The Quiet Eye – The "Eyes" have it

Joan Vickers of the University of Calgary, Canada, a professor in Kinesiology (the study of anatomy and body movement), was one of the early pioneers of the process and gave it its name, the "Quiet Eye" (QE).

Vickers first used this technique to improve the penalty shots of the University of Calgary's women's basketball team. First, she trained them to say "Nothing but net" to settle themselves down. Then, as they stare at the net, they say "Sight, Focus," ensuring their gaze remains steady on the target for at least two seconds and then shoot. The team's penalty hit rate increased from 54% to 76%.

Vickers next looked at putting. She used a helmet outfitted with cameras and mirrors to track where the athletes looked as they putted. In the seconds before a stroke, amateur's eyes tended to dart around without purpose or function. As well, almost all amateur golfers followed the ball with their eyes after they hit it. By contrast the professional golfers looked steadily at the target, then looked back at the ball and let their gaze rest there, before and even after the stroke. The duration the professionals looked at the hole and the ball, was 50% longer than the amateurs.

Tests showed that QE trained players were not only more effective at sinking putts, they also missed by smaller margins.

The Quiet Eye - The Process

The process uses a 10 second count. Choose your line of putt, take your stance and pick out a dimple on the back of the ball. It is important that it be the back. The easiest way would be to mark a dimple and set the ball with it at the back.

Look at the hole for 4 seconds, look back to the chosen dimple on the ball for 2 seconds, stroke the putt on counts 7 and 8, and keep your eyes down for counts 9 and 10.



Not following the ball is the hardest part.

Question – But how do I know how hard to hit it? Answer – You leave that to your instincts.


The Quiet Eye - Why is it so?

Theory 1

This is the left brain/right brain theory, my favourite. Left brain thinking is logical, analytical, understanding tax forms (no doubt a problem specific to our group). Right brain is rhythm, feelings, visualisation and intuition.

The argument goes that when you set up to a putt you are thinking - grip, stance, line, distance, pace, the green, all left brain stuff, shutting out the right brain. The QE process shuts out the left brain focus, allowing feel and intuition to take over.

Theory 2

Another theory is that your brain needs a window of time to receive the right information in order to organize the movement and then control it while it is occurring. Focus and concentration through QE needs to be directed to the locations or objects that matter, while all else can be ignored. Focusing anywhere else can interrupt the organisation of millions of neurons in the brain that convert the visual information into movements of the putter.

When more time is taken to view the target and the ball, before initiating a movement, more relevant information can be processed sub-consciously about the target and what is required to hit it. It allows the golfer to take in only the necessary visual information required to make the shot.

Theory 3

It can also be argued that having a set process to concentrate on simply shuts out other things going on around you, and reduces anxiety. It could be reduced to the age old mantra:—

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL!









Course Lengths

How long is long? Some interesting measures of course distances brought to you by Mr Handicapper