Game Improvement

In this section we dispense wisdom and review products aimed at lowering your score.

The Best Training Aid Ever Invented

is in Your Pocket Right Now

The TrackMan 4 will set you back about twenty large and that’s without the upgrades.  The 3e is a great deal at $14,999.00.  The TrackMan is a tool out of reach for most everybody except teaching professionals, really rich people and a few fanatics.  (I unsuccessfully tried to get my banker buddy to buy one.  Seems he’s more addicted to money than golf.)

Or there is the RoboGolfPro, a wonderful machine that will groove a swing for you at a very affordable $150,000.00. (I didn’t even bring this one up with my buddy.  In hindsight, though, I should have brought this idea to him first – comparatively, the TrackMan is a bargain.)

We would never discourage anyone from dropping the equivalent of a modest Midwestern two story colonial, but we will point out that you already own a high tech training aid that costs a lot less and has more technology in it per cubic nano-meter than the TrackMan and the RoboGolfPro combined.  And you’re sitting on it right now. That makes it free. That’s right, it’s your smart phone.  And here’s what to do.

Film your swing and play it back in slow mo.  That’s all there is to it.  Ok, so maybe more detail is in order, but it will be the most enlightening thing you have ever done.

You’ll need a tripod or reasonable equivalent.  I used an old hospital IV stand and some scrap wood to cobble together a platform then employed two rubber bands to hold my phone in place.  A friend put a music stand on a chair and duct taped her phone to it.  But we’re pretty cheap.  A selfie stick leaning against something or impaling the ground will work or you can spring for a tripod. Maybe 50 bucks at Amazon but still less than a 911 Cabriolet.

For me, I have a slice. Don’t need a TrackMan to tell me that. For years, pros and amateurs alike tell me that I swing from the top.  Outside to inside. Casting. Swiping. You name it, but even after 30 years of playing I didn’t really understand what that meant.  I simply could not picture it.  Until I did.

I positioned the camera straight behind me and filmed five swings. Setting it up for replay, I took a straight-edge and ran a Sharpie line along the shaft of my club at address up over my shoulder and continued up and behind me creating the ideal swing plane.  (The Sharpie ink comes off with a little spit and finger nail scratching.)

The “trim” function in video playback allows you to progress and reverse your swing slow enough to track the swing path.  In my case, it was crystal clear that my back swing was a thing of Ben Hogan swing-on-plane beauty but at the moment of transition from backswing to downswing -  a moment clearly captured in all its stop frame gory glory on tape – the club started its downward path in a totally different direction from the one it started up on. 

At the top of the swing, the shaft is picture-perfect parallel to the target line yet when it starts to change direction it lurches toward my head and plummets steeply plunging like an axe splitting wood.  The swing approaches the ball steep and outside cutting across it right to left producing a slice or a dead yank depending on the orientation of the club face at impact.  Intuitively, I knew this but was not able to understand it until I saw the area the size of Montana between the ideal swing path depicted by my Sharpie line and the swing path that I was embarrassed to see as mine

Your issues may be different, though probably not since 95% of mid-handicappers suffer a slice, but in any event here’s the moral of the story: The feel is not real but seeing is believing.  Once you can see your issues, it is much easier to begin to fix them.  That’s a topic for a later date.

Fat Putter Grips

Putting may not be the most fun part of the golf game but it certainly counts the most.  Nothing lowers your score – or devastates your opponents – like putting well.  Conversely, nothing is more frustrating or confidence sapping than three putting. If you have tried different putters and still have failed to find a rhythmic stroke, an obese grip may be your answer.

Putters of yester-year generally used a more hands or wristy putting stroke.  But today’s best putters use a pendulum stroke using the big muscles of the shoulders to start the ball on its way.  The thinking behind a pendulum approach is that it produces a more consistent, reliable stroke.

The fat grip is a significant aid in promoting this feel.  The sheer volume of the grip eliminates or reduces the role of the hands and wrist in the putting stroke.  This in turn promotes a more pendulum like swing led by the muscles of the shoulders and arms.  The grip size works on cognitive as well.  Since this grip feels so different in your hands it serves as a reminder to initiate your swing with a rocking motion of the shoulders.  If you have not found consistent success on the green, this big cushy grip could be for you. And it is certainly a cheaper alternative than a new putter.

Putting is, of course, the most personal and artistic of all the golf strokes.  One size and style of putter head, putter grip, putter shaft does not fit all.  Just one afternoon watching the tour is proof enough of that.   Without a doubt a fat gripped putter will feel odd in your hands and look strange to your eye at first but that is the point; you need something different to kick start your improvement. 

Demo’ing a fat grip for yourself, as with any product, is the true test.  If it starts to feel natural after a few strokes and after a few more you start holing some, you may have found your next putter.  Be prepared to share it though, your pard's will want to try it! 

Ease the Tension

Over a critical shot... and aren't they all critical? Each and every shot counts the exact same number of strokes, exactly one. No more or no less. To continue, over any shot that feels more important you are bound to have tension. And even if you don't feel it, the tension is there. The answer is to focus on the fingers and the grip.  Consciously relaxing the fingers easily releases the tension throughout the body.  Picture the target and swing away.

Channel William Tell

Part of your pre-shot routine should absolutely be to pick a target line. And it should be precise... the chimney, the gum tree, the hillock, left of the flag. It doesn't matter what it is, and of course you won't hit it on that line every time, but it focuses your mind and gives each swing purpose. As you stand over ball and swing, you don't need to have the target in your swing thought - though you can, whatever works - but having established a target line sometime during your routine quietly sets it in your head and almost subconsciously transfers to your swing.

250 Yards Equals 1 Inch

Only in golf, right? Each stroke, no matter length or direction counts a stroke.  The tip here is never give up.  Great shots count one, bad shots count one. So give just as much focus to the stroke for boogie as you do for birdie.  The pros do, shouldn't you?

The Eyes Have It

If your round is going south and you find yourself struggling for composure, it may be time to get out of  your own way. One simple trick is to think about keeping your eye on the ball. Ideally watch it as the club face makes impact. It is harder than it sounds, but it works for two reasons. First, maybe most importantly, it gives your mind something to focus on to the exclusion of distractions. Second, the eyes have great leadership qualities. With your eyes focused on the ball, the rest of your body follows suit and at the very least you'll get good contact.