Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Can Fix Your Golf Swing

Relax Man!!!

I would love to have the opportunity to talk to Charles and fix that thing that he has that is sort of referred to as a golf swing that is like no other persons on the planet, but I have seen many that bear a close resemblance to this wonderful man’s efforts to try and play the not so simple game of golf.

For many years I had the privilege of working at a golf course that catered to mostly what we affectionately referred to as casual golfers. Most of them were just plain bad mainly because they didn’t play that often and never got instruction on how to hit a golf ball properly. That little round white thing has a nasty habit of just reacting to whatever physics experiments that you unknowingly apply to it and all it does is react in kind. And I use the plural experiments for a reason since most causal golfer’s swings have a multiple of things going wrong all at once so the ball is ultimately confused and refuses to go in a straight line as you were expecting it to do.

So as a starter and course marshal, I saw thousands of that type of swing. I always hated the term marshal which implied that I was some sort of golf course police. I still did all the time management stuff required to keep the course flow moving as well as can be with this type of golfer but I felt that it was my responsibility as representative of the course, which is in the hospitality business, to do a bang up job of making sure that the players enjoyed themselves while on the premises. It made it easier to deal with the few corrective actions necessary if they didn't show the course or other customers the proper respect they deserve and I seldom ever had any problems since they would have to let down a new friend that they just made if they acted like a bozo. Regular customers were more like family.

But let us go back to the golf swing and how to correct it. When you see a lot of bad golf swings and where the ball goes from a position behind the player (NEVER STAND IN FRONT OF A PLAYER HITTING A GOLF BALL) it all comes into place quite quickly. Standing in front of the player means anywhere in a zone that is equal to or slightly ahead of where the player is and is sort of 9-3 o’clock and that arch in between. It always surprise me how casual golfers would stand in front and off to one side of another casual golfer about to swing. Even the pros sometimes hit an “oops” and utter the most common word you will hear on a golf course. Yes it is only 4 letters long and this is a family show.

So when a player starts the motion of his back-swing and it follows a path that now cuts across the direct line to the hole and finishes far to the left of a right handed swing, the ball is going to start straight and start curving to the right which is the classic slice. That is because that action imparts a clockwise rotation on the ball and those little dimples in the ball react with the resistance to air and cause it to perform a physics experiment that makes the ball do that bending curve. What did you think they put the dimples on the ball to make it look pretty? And any wind only increases the left to right flight action of the ball.

The correction for that is to get the golf swing to finish in a more straight line that matches the desired path and to finish high instead of left. So my simple correction is to advise the golfer to try finishing towards the sky and about 5 holes later they are saying thank you so much. It only lasts for a few more holes because they completely forget that and revert back to their old swing and the ball goes hunting in the woods on the right again.

Another one that gets misconstrued is don’t move your head when you swing or you are lifting your head which are both misinformation. You can’t possibly hit a golf ball properly if there isn’t well-timed head movement and you don’t actually lift your head, you end up standing more erect and top the ball. So the correction is more like keep your focus on the ball until pretty much directly before impact and stay down in the swing and smoothly move through the forward motion that is actually quite natural when you don’t try starting to think about every single step.

And that is where Charles comes into the story now. He does not take a basketball jump shot that looks anything like that even after his playing career has ended. And that is where I would try to start with Charles getting him to understand that the golf swing is a very fluid motion not unlike a well-executed jump shot in basketball. Apparently Charles has a mental image of an actual earthquake taking place at the point of his backswing stopping for way too long and moving forward into motion that generates the power behind a well-executed golf swing. Nothing else really explains that hitch he has or had in his swing.

Looking at the picture I would also take that 3 metal out of his bag and let him hit with maybe a 5-metal, 7 and 9 iron and putter and that is about it.  Use the driver maybe on a tee and that would be pretty much it. No point in using all those clubs if you can’t even hit with one now is there? Looks like the ball may be too far back in his stance (hard to tell with angle of the photo) and get him to stand more erect. His grip doesn’t look all that terrible so it may need less work. And get him to relaxxxxxxx. He looks more like someone who is going to visit a team of doctors about to perform a prostate examination than someone who is supposed to be playing a game. Games are about having fun and that picture doesn’t look much like a man having fun, in my opinion.

So my approach would be to work with him on his rhythm and swing fluidity and use basketball analogies because that is a language he totally understands. He speaks basketball fluently so why not try to teach the game of golf in his language. And that is what is different about my approach to helping a golfer improve his or her swing. I do not have my card nor was my game any better than a 15 handicap mostly (maybe 12 if I played regularly) so I am not allowed to teach at a course.

I cannot be considered an instructor but more of a coach as one player/employee at the course said of me when I was helping him correct his putting stoke a the practice green one day just before he successfully gained his card. He had this unnatural stance that had him standing behind the ball and looking at the hole as he hit the ball which resulted in the ball either pulling slightly to the left or curving to the right if he hit across the ball on impact just like the players on the tee.

And after all of that I would direct any casual golfer to his nearest golf teaching professional to work on fine tuning his swing. So you might think of me as a rough carpenter would be to building a well-carved wooden sculpture. I would do well at getting the basic shapes of the sculpture in place and the teaching professional would fine tune all the nuances that give the sculpture its final shape and form.

The key to a good golf swing is to do it naturally and not think about it so much during the actual motion. So learn how to have a nice relaxing time out there on  the course and keep up with the group in front of you and everyone will have a great day.

Why Casual Golf Should Only Be 12 Holes

Not everyone plays like the pros

I can hear the purists right now bellowing out an “Auck No, laddie” (I think it really isn't auck but it’s almost impossible to understand a true Scotsman). It was a bunch of Scotsmen that did make the game of golf 18 holes in the first place. Rumour has it that they originally played on an 11-hole course and played it twice—once out and once back or in. The greens were probably not what we would be accustomed to in today’s game so they probably had a flag and a tee paired together at each end of the golf hole. So it was 22-holes long initially but even this was too long for the Scotsmen (probably cut into their drinking time or other social activities) so they decided to remove 2 holes and make it 9 out and 9 in making for the 18 holes we now suffer through. So it would appear that it was totally arbitrary.
Having worked at a golf course for many years as a starter and marshal, I learned that the average foursome takes an average of 15 minutes to play a golf hole (12 for a par 3, 15 for a par 4 and 18 for a par 5). The average course consists of 4 par 3’s, 10 par 4’s and 4 par 5’s. Doing the math, that works out to a total of 72 strokes to make par but the average golfer does not break 100 in a round. If you play in a threesome, twosome or solo or are also above average golfers or have no one playing in front of you, then you do stand a chance to play in less than 4 and half hours. And that is where the game of 18-hole recreational golf is too long for most average players.
There is also a greater chance for fatigue after 12 holes or boredom for some so I propose that recreational golf would be better served if it were 12 holes, especially on weekends. So the game would take 3 hours or less and more players would have access to generally overcrowded public or semi-private courses.
Interestingly enough when I discussed this concept with customers and staff alike, it was older golfers and women who thought the idea had merit but it was not limited to these groups. The average golfer plays on lower priced courses which likely means that the tracks are public and semi-private. The average golfer plays the game more for a social event with friends and not to be the next Tiger Woods. So let them play in less than 3 hours on a 12-hole course.
But that won’t happen because courses are designed by people that are relatives of the original players out of the “royal and ancient” in Scotland. Purists be damned, the game of golf needs to be played two ways. Keep all the arcane rules and the 18 holes in place for competitive golf and make allowances for recreational golf which would include, among other things, 12-hole games and more liberal rules since it is leisure we have in mind here and not competition.
Common sense would say that you should move your ball away from a tree, rock or other obstruction that would likely result in a damaged club or injury. The recreational golfer is not sponsored by one of the many club manufacturers so they would have to buy a new club if they broke it. Common sense lift and place without penalty would speed up the game and add to the enjoyment in recreational golf.
But the purist would still bellow out “Auck no laddie, that be against the rules of the royal and ancient game”. I never liked playing with that type of golfer. They did not understand that games are about having fun and winning is the result of having way too much fun.
I don’t play the game anymore since the course I worked at closed down and became another location for oversized ego boxes that only the insanely rich homeowner could afford. But if I did I would like to play the game for fun. Maybe keeping score is the problem for the recreational golfer, trying to find a lost ball or doing other things to try and avoid another stroke. It’s funny how the 19th hole always seems to be the most enjoyable. Now that might be a problem with a 12-hole game since the 19th becomes the 13th but I don’t think that many will care. It’s about having fun in recreational golf and that is what is most important.
After all, we are trying to avoid a stroke.
And stay tuned for another article entitled I Can Fix Your Golf Swing and even one as strange as Charles there. He is improving and I could help him with that since I have seem many just as worse and know what to look for and how to get it back looking more like the ones you see every Sunday with Mr. Feherty doing the fun commentary.

OK so I took more than an hour to write the second story. I had to eat something lol.