Archive for the ‘Short Game’ Category
I was recently invited to present at the Illinois PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit alongside Stan Utley and Chuck Cook. Besides it being a tremendous privilege for me the day was both educational and entertaining. I thought it would be beneficial to relay a few of the nuggets they shared during the course of the day.
The theme of Chuck’s presentation revolved around what he teaches and why. His themes were:
- a flat or bowed lead wrist
- a straight plane line (similar to the “one-plane” look, but with the elbows staying in front of the chest like Jason Dufner)
- lag is a major power source – use it, don’t lose it!
A few important ideas he shared with the group were:
- There has never been a swing method that has lasted
- If the face is shut you need to outrun it with something
- The weight moves where the hips are pointing
- I don’t like a lot of hip drive
- Both feet should be flat on the ground at impact with irons
- To make any golfer better, take their weakest element and turn it into a strength
- Let juniors smash the ball with all they’ve got until they stop growing – then work on technique
Here is a swing by Jason Dufner, one of Chuck premier students – this swing seems to epitomize so much of what Chuck stressed as he spoke about the swing…
As you may well know Stan’s teaching focuses primarily on the shortgame and putting. Here are some of the important principles Stan shared in his presentation:
- Putt with dead strength – he described “dead strength” as being similar to dropping your limp arm against your side
- Let the putter drop and crash into the ball – I love saying it that way!
- An important point in both chipping and putting is to put pressure on the ball
- He is an advocate of wristy putting with soft, loose elbows
- Where you strike the ball on the face vertically with the putter is very important
- Finish the putting stroke with the putter low and the right shoulder high
- Have the handle travel more slowly so the clubhead can travel faster
I really enjoyed so much of what Stan had to say as he seemed to be a proponent of so much of what I preach in both the shortgame and putting.
It was great to listen to these exemplary teachers, but the highlight of my day was being able to present my teaching approach to the Illinois PGA membership. Thanks to Nick Papadakes and all the staff at Olympia Fields CC for a very cool experience and I look forward to my next opportunity…
I have never watched a shortgame or wedge video where I agree 100% with everything that has been said. Here is Jason Dufner and I agree with every single thing he says in this brief video. I am not being arrogant, after all he is the PGA Champion, but I seldom go through an entire wedge presentation without hearing something I want to question. Really good stuff from Duf and his coach Chuck Cook….
I thought the following points were important: shallow angle of attack, quiet wrists, straight right arm
A few of my findings on the shot:
What do racing tires have in common with wedge play in golf? Read on because there might be a lot more to this than you might think.
It’s all about traction or friction, or more simply put – grip. The more the tires grip the road, the faster the driver can go and the more our clubface grips the ball, the lower the flight and the more the ball spins. Let’s look at how these tires work and see if we can draw a few parallels to how the specialized clubface on our wedges interact with the golf ball….
On a dry, sunny day day a race car will have tires that are wide, soft and completely grooveless. The tires are wide and grooveless in order to get as much rubber in contact with the road. Any grooves simply decrease the amount of traction the tire exerts on the road. They are softer than normal tires to increase traction. In rainy conditions the drivers will switch to tires with grooves (as seen above). The grooves on the tires channel water away from the road and thus allow the flat portion of the tire to grip the road cleanly. Grooves reduce the amount of rubber in contact with the road, thus reducing traction.
Club manufacturers now make their top tier wedges with a milled, legally grooved clubface. The milling on the clubface represents the softness of the racing tire as it allows the cover of the ball to settle into the mini grooves, even on these partial shots, and friction is increased. Our clubface needs grooves because we encounter many different lies during a round of golf. Many of those lies dictate that matter (grass/moisture) will be trapped between the face and the ball, greatly reducing friction. Grooves are not on the clubface for spin, but primarily as a channel to keep matter from being caught between the face and ball thus decreasing grip. Race car drivers have the luxury of changing tires for rainy conditions, while golfers do not have the luxury of changing their clubface for a variety of lies.
If we hit all our pitch or partial wedge shots off a tee using a premium ball and there was no way any grass or moisture could interrupt friction I actually believe a non-grooved, yet milled clubface would actually spin the ball as much or slightly more than the current grooved clubface designs. Good luck trying to convince your playing partners to go for that idea, but isn’t it helpful to know how the clubface is really designed to interact with the cover of the ball?
A milled clubface will increase friction in a similar fashion that softer racing tires will, but those milling lines also wear out like a softer tire does. If you are a competitive golfer have a practice set and a tournament set of wedges. This way you’ll always have that lower, spinning wedge shot when it matters most….
As many of you may be aware I have done a tremendous amount of research on pitching the last few years. My research continues and I wanted to share a few important truths regarding this often misunderstood stroke:
- Great pitchers generally take very little divot, flight the ball low and create high spin rates
- Lower trajectory shots are substantially easier to gauge than higher ones
- When struck correctly lower trajectory shots will have more spin than higher lofted ones
- Most golfers perform better when pitching with their second most lofted club (SW vs LW)
- There are two controllable ways to stop a golf ball – high spin rate and a steep land angle
- Thin shots have more spin than you might think
- The quality of the clubface to ball interaction (friction) is very important in generating spin
- The quality of the lie plays a big role in determining the clubface to ball interaction
- The optimal lie for amazing pitches is a fairly tight, downgrain lie
- Any moisture that gets between the face and ball will decrease friction and thus increase launch angle and reduce spin
- Sand between the face and the ball will increase friction and thus lower launch angle and increase spin
- When practicing it is important to keep a wet towel handy to clean the face after every few shots – don’t use a tee
- Older clubs with worn down grooves or without a milled face will never spin the ball as much as a fresh wedge with a milled face (all else being equal)
- A fresh (new), milled face is more important than fresh grooves or even square grooves
- Premium golf balls flight better and spin more than inexpensive golf balls
- The optimal technique is based almost entirely around managing the angle of attack
- Controlling what the handle does through impact is vital in managing the angle of attack
- A club path that tracks from from in to out will most often lead to better strikes, lower trajectory and more spin
- Where a golfer seeks to add loft – bounce, and thus the grind/shape of the sole, will play a bigger role
- For stock. and thus lower flighted shots the bounce plays less of a role than you might imagine
I have found there to be a multitude of different, and somewhat unusual techniques that work well for certain individuals. My objective has been to find a pitching technique that works best for the majority of golfers. I have found a technique that fits the bill and I am able to explain it simply and vividly.
Please note that I will be producing a video on pitching that will be for available on my website in the Fall. I had previously indicated it would be available in the Summer, but I want to make sure I have the best product available for you, thus the delay. The video will explain all my findings including what I have found to be the optimal pitching technique…stay tuned!
We should all be looking to spin the ball around the greens. Which of the current crop of wedges will give us the best chance to do that? If you have read any of my previous research on wedges you will know that friction between the face and the ball plays a huge role, not only in generating spin, but also in lowering trajectory – both vitally important for control.
The most important part of the clubface of any wedge is not the grooves, but the texturing of the flat areas between the grooves. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of grooves is to channel “matter” away from being caught between the flat areas and the ball – they are not in place to create spin. When you look carefully at the flat areas between the grooves of your wedge you should see some fine milling which looks like corduroy to me. Most club manufacturers will mill the clubface of their premium wedges and it makes a massive difference to the control and ball flight.
The idea behind the test was to see which wedge generated the better grip between face and ball. I had four very new 58 degree wedges available for the test:
- Titleist Vokey SM4 with a DG Spinner shaft – conforming grooves with standard mill pattern on face
- Ping Gorge Tour with a DG Spinner shaft – conforming “gorge” grooves with standard mill pattern on face
- Callaway X Series Jaws CC with a stock steel shaft – additional conforming grooves with no apparent milling on face
- TaylorMade ATV with a KBS shaft – conforming grooves with two-way mill pattern on face
You may notice that the wedges had differing shafts – I obviously would have preferred to have had all the clubs built to the exact same specs, but that was not feasible for this test. Apologies to all Cleveland Golf fans – would love to have had a Cleveland wedge in the mix, but did not have a new version. I had four golf professionals each hit four shots with each wedge. All shots were hit off a mat in order to limit friction being interrupted by matter being caught between face and ball. Titleist ProV1 golf balls were used and each shot had to land somewhere between 40 and 60 yards (ideally at 50 yards). The clubface was cleaned often even though it never appeared to need it. The “normalize” feature on TrackMan was off.
Here are the results:
- ATV 7365 rpm average
- Vokey 7210 rpm average
- Gorge 7193 rpm average
- Jaws 7163 rpm average
As you can see the ATV wedge led the way in generating the highest spin of the four – albeit by a slender 2%. If I was a betting man I would have bet the ATV would generate the most spin as I have always loved the two-way milling treatment on the face. I would also have placed the Jaws wedge at the bottom of the pack, as no matter how many groove edges come in contact with the ball, there is way more flat surface area contacting the ball and it should be milled.
If you do take one thing from this research let it be the following: A fresh wedge with a clean, milled clubface will allow you to generate more spin and a lower trajectory – both important factors in controlling your golf ball around the greens.
Thanks to Zack, Mark, Rick and Joe for your help with this article!