Let's Get This Straight!

If you, as most golfers do, struggle with consistency then this article is for you. We all do really! The number one culprit for off target shots is the club face being misaligned at impact. We struggle to control the face through the strike. This simple video will give you some insight as to how you can start to do a better job. Keep in mind we’ll never be perfect, but we can be better. Watch…

Far too often I see golfers consciously trying to swing down the line. This forces the hands out and necessitates a flip through impact. You can hit good shots with a flip, just not enough consecutive good ones to play well for all 18 holes.

Here are a few keys:

  • Work the handle around the lead hip through and post impact. It turns the corner

  • The clubhead should arc back inside the flight of the ball very soon after impact whether you’re hitting draws or fades

  • Don’t be afraid to keep the club face relatively quiet, particularly if you struggle with blocks and hooks

Here is a simple half swing I made with a seven iron using a ClubHub sensor that clearly shows how the handle (light blue line) tracks inwards (and upwards) during the impact interval.

ClubHub 3D Track

Get to the range, start with the small shots I demonstrated and I believe you’ll very quickly gain a sense of how this works to quiet the club face through that all important strike zone.

Thanks for reading.

Should you be interested in getting together for some work on your golf game click HERE.

The What, the Why and the How about "Getting Open" at Impact

What does 'get open' at impact mean? Why is it important to be open with your hips and chest as you approach impact? Now for the million dollar question - how can I do it? Start by taking a few minutes to watch and listen as I address all of these questions here...

What is it?

  • PGA Tour players are on average around 45º open with their hips and around 25º open with their chest at impact
  • Some are more and some are less, but all are open to some degree

Why is it important?

  • Getting the body rotating through impact allows for the hands to play a more passive role, thus allowing for a quieter clubface through the strike
  • Most golfers hit shots off line due to an inability to control the clubface through impact
  • All golfers would like to be more predictable with their ball flight and a quieter clubface through the strike will typically lead to improved control

How can I get open?

  • Get the clubhead deeper/more behind you as you start the downswing
  • Use your wrist angles to maintain control over the clubface and get it in place for a passive ride through impact
  • Observe your lead arm position going up and most importantly, coming down, while avoiding anything extreme
Impacto.jpg

The great golfers pictured above have an uncanny knack at controlling the clubface through impact. I'm convinced that getting the hips and the chest more than less open as the club strikes the ball will help you to become a more consistent golfer

Get to it!

Clear as Mud...Balls!

mudballs

It's never a good feeling when you've striped one down the middle and you get to your golf ball only to see a large chunk of mud attached to one side of your golf ball. For years I had heard that mud on the right would cause the ball to go left, but I never was sure. The best way to build some clarity - do a test! Here's a sampling of what we found...

For the "Facts of Golf" series I filmed recently with Revolution Golf in conjunction with PING this was one of the first ideas we were interested in testing. Thanks to some guidance from Erik Henrikson, Director of Innovation for PING, these were our findings:

  • Mud on the left with a 'neutral' swing will almost always cause the ball to move strongly right in the air
  • Mud on the right with a 'neutral' swing will almost always cause the ball to move strongly left in the air
  • The large clumps of mud will be 'ejected' off the ball very quickly after impact, but it's the remaining small particles that alter the ball flight
  • Mud that's located on the top, front or back will cause for quite a significantly shorter shot without much directional change
  • It's hard to find good quality mud to do a test like this

Shot data for mud on the right (a fairly neutral swing) from TrackMan:

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Shot data for mud on the left (a fairly neutral swing) from TrackMan:

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As I hit each of these shots I was floored at how much the ball moved in the air relative to the feel of the shot. The feel was neutral, yet the ball seemed to take off with a mind of it's own. I hope this information helps you save a stroke or two the next time you encounter the dreaded mud ball!

How to Practice: 3. SHOT

In this series on practice I have mapped out a plan to help each golfer take ownership of their technical upgrades (SWING), dedicate a portion of the valuable practice time developing skills by hitting unusual and ‘outside the lines’ type shots (SKILL) and now the time has come to bridge the gap between the practice ground and the course by turning our attention purely towards results (SHOT).

With this mode of practice there should be a constant changing of clubs, targets, lies and intent. Here the golfer should incorporate their pre-shot routine as they hit specific and on-course styled shots.

I’m a big fan of hitting irons to a specific side of a flag or target. Create scenarios in your head as you execute each unique shot.  There’s a deep pot bunker just in front and slightly right of this pin. I’ve got to keep this eight iron about twenty feet left… Drivers should be played down imaginary fairways from Augusta, Pebble Beach and Royal Troon, with trouble invariably looming on one side or both. Get into each shot just like you would on the golf course. Be sure to:

·      Change clubs after no more than two shots

·      Switch targets for every shot

·      Use your pre-shot routine just as you would on the course

·      Be specific with your intent for each shot

Don’t attempt crazy or unusual shots; we’ve already done that in our skill session. It’s time to step back inside the lines and play your go-to ball flight. For an added challenge you could even keep yourself accountable and see how many consecutive shots you can hit to the appropriate side of a target. Everything about this practice mode should simulate real, on-course golf. Play golf!

One final swing and the Open Championship is yours…

Be sure to read my two previous segments on practice:

How to Practice: 1. Swing

How to Practice: 2. Skill

 

No More Weak Iron Shots

We've all heard the sound. And we've all felt it too. That sense when you literally melt a ball off the clubface and you know instantaneously that you've hit the shot you've been waiting for all day. That feeling is compression! To learn more watch this....

Here is an example lesson where I felt it appropriate to use this drill with a student who was struggling with the quality of his strike and high, weak ball flight in particular. Here is his initial TrackMan data for a typical 7 iron shot...

It's important to be aware that the height of this particular shot was 103 feet! This player's club speed is only a few mph short of PGATour average, yet he is only carrying a 7 iron 145 yards. After working on his compression (spin loft) via the drill illustrated in the video this is what a typical shot looked like in drill mode (note the slower club speed)...

The exact same ball speed with more than 7 mph less club speed! The spin loft, which is not an easy change to make, has gone from 31.1º to a slightly low 24.8º and the height has come down to a more manageable 76 feet. I anticipate that as this golfer works to get comfortable with their new feel they would increase their compression to a more appropriate 26º or 27º.

Before on the left and while doing the Compression Drill on the right

Before on the left and while doing the Compression Drill on the right

Thanks for reading and for greater understanding on what compression really is please read:

 Compress the Golf Ball — Andrew Rice Golf

Swing Pattern vs Strike Point

You may have heard me talk about how common it is to see golfers hit a tee shot with a fade (out-to-in club path) swing pattern, yet strike it off the toe for a baby draw or vice versa. The other day I was giving a lesson and a student hit a shot that was too interesting to not share. Here are the TrackMan details of the driver shot:

trackman heel hit

First a few basics:

  • Club path is primarily responsible for the curve of any shot
  • The direction of the club path relative to the target, out-to-in (fade pattern) or in-to-out (draw pattern), is what I refer to as a players swing pattern
  • Players that swing from in-to-out will tend to hit draws and players that swing from out-to-in will tend to hit fades
  • Where the ball is struck on the face of the driver (strike point) can drastically alter the effect of a players swing pattern on ball flight
  • Shots struck off the heel will tend to fade more or draw less and shots struck off the toe will tend to draw more or fade less

The player who hit the above shot has a fairly strong draw bias to his swing pattern and we are always working to neutralize his strong in-to-out club path as he tends to struggle with blocks and hooks. As you can tell from the above shot the club path (first highlighted yellow box) was strongly from in-to-out - 9.2 degrees to the right of the target. Well then why did the ball fly straight (spin axis 0.2)

The particular shot we're looking at was struck well off the heel (yellow circle) and essentially what happened was the draw bias of the swing pattern was cancelled out by the fade bias of the strike point. Notice how in the second yellow box above there's a closed face to path relationship, which should lead to a hook, but the ball flew straight - always a dead give away for a heel strike.

I've come up with a simple formula to help explain this:

A + B = C 

Where A is the swing pattern, B is the strike point and C is the resultant ball flight. You see it's the combination of A and B that gives us the ball flight - not just A. Here's a video I did with TrackMan that might help to explain some of this more clearly:

When you're practicing driver you should always mark the face with some Dr. Scholl's Odor X foot spray. If you do that you will always get B (strike point) and C (ball flight) from any shot. Should you be practicing without a TrackMan you'll at least have a clear idea as to what your swing pattern is and can make well-informed adjustments if necessary.

All the best and thanks for reading.

 

TrackMan Teaches the Teacher

Five years ago I thought I knew just about all there was to know about ball flight and teaching golf. Then I started using TrackMan and my, how very quickly my eyes were opened. I came to realize that I had a long way to go, not only in truly understanding ball flight, but in understanding golfers and what their tendencies might be.

I think it's important to understand that TrackMan will not teach anything - it is purely a measuring device. A tool that better allows the teacher to perform their job. It allows me to diagnose a golfer's problems more quickly and start making improvements without any doubt as to what is causing a golfer's poor shot pattern. Once the technology has helped me diagnose a problem I then start using it to inform me how my recommended changes are working - if at all. If those numbers are not improving I'll change my approach very quickly.

TrackMan has taught me so much about ball flight, but it has also opened my eyes to patterns that exist for almost all golfers. Here are a few nuggets that myself and fellow TrackMan users Martin Chuck, Jason Sutton, Tom Stickney have noticed over the years:

Strike Point:

  • Where you strike the ball on the face plays a far bigger role in determining the flight of the shot than what was previously believed
  • As a result heel and toe misses can lead people down a road of trying to fix something that isn't broken

Advice - Use Dr. Scholl's Odor X footspray to mark the face and get a better understanding of where you are striking the ball on the clubface.

Swing Appearance:

  • The two dimensional appearance of the swing on video is not what determines the flight of the ball (Swing direction vs 3D club path)
  • The look of a golf swing has very little to do with the message the clubhead relays to the golf ball
  • Better players have to swing way more left than they often feel in order to hit predictable fades
  • You do not have to roll your hands to hit draws

Advice - Don't get too caught up in the look. It's all about the physics at impact, so always go for function over form.

Angle of Attack:

  • The angle of attack is hugely important in determining the shape, distance and trajectory of any shot
  • Most golfers hit down too much while many of the best golfers tend to have a shallower strike on the ball
  • A positive or upward angle of attack has a huge effect on tee shot distance for slower speed golfers

Advice - Almost all golfers should be working towards a shallower more "sweep-like" strike on the ball. With the driver you should learn to hit up as the gains are too great to ignore.

Shot Shape:

  • The clubface is primarily responsible for the launch of any shot
  • The loft of the face at impact (dynamic loft) will largely determine the launch angle of any shot
  • On full swings the launch angle is often lower than you might expect it to be
  • The clubpath is primarily responsible for the curvature of any shot

Advice - to hit draws (and most of us should) we need an in to out clubpath. To improve the launch you either need to change the loft of the club or improve the loft delivered at impact.

The Human Element:

  • It is all too rare to meet a man who hits the ball as far as they think they do
  • Or who swings the driver as fast as they think they do
  • Mention clubspeed to any golfer, male or female, and there's a 95% chance the next swing will be faster
  • While there are patterns, anything and everything is possible

Advice - check your ego at the door. You'll start shooting better scores when you plan to hit the ball the distance you're capable of hitting it.

TrackMan is a fanatstic tool - one that guides the teacher to what the problems are and then vets the quality of their solution. As a player I believe you will find it to be a feel machine. If you've had a first rate lesson you should leave with a clear understanding of what the problem was and the feel required to overcome it.

If you happen to be on Twitter please follow Martin Chuck, Jason Sutton and Tom Stickney - great guys, knowledgeable teachers and you won't regret it.

Thank you for reading and as always your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

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Controlling the Clubface

Here's a great drill that will help to create awareness of where the clubface is angled at impact...

Keep in mind that the clubface is PRIMARILY responsible for where the ball launches, while the clubpath is PRIMARILY responsible for the curvature of the shot. If you know the predominant shape of your shots, the key is to launch the ball in the proper direction - this drill will help! Give it a try and please let me know if you've made any progress.

Understanding Shot Shape

Please watch....

I have never taught a predominant slicer that did not always have their clubpath travelling from out to in on a very consistent basis. I have never taught a predominant hooker that did not always have their clubpath travelling from in to out on a very consistent basis. In order to upgrade these golfers' ball flight we needed to improve their path first and then work to adjust the face to point somewhere between the path and the target line.

Here is an example of a lesson I might give to a golfer who predominantly fades/slices the golf ball:

I hope these two clips help you to better understand what it is you need to do to improve your ball flight and have more fun out on the golf course.

Hitting Draws and Smash Factor

Bobby Locke There has been a fair amount of banter online recently regarding various topics and I thought it would help both of us if I jotted down a few thoughts:

Hitting Draws

A functional draw is one that finishes at the target - something many of us strive for. In order to hit functional draws you need a clubpath that is traveling outward (in to out) and a clubface that is angled slightly closed relative to the clubpath, yet open to the target (assuming center contact). 

It is possible to hit both functional draws, ones that finish at the target, and bad draws, ones that move away from the target, with a clubface that is open, square and closed to the target at impact. You can even hit good and bad draws with the appropriate clubpath, but I believe an outward moving clubpath is integral to hitting functional draws. And here's why...

I am yet to teach a golfer who fades the ball that consistently swings from in to out!

Clubpath is king and clubface is queen - I might get the desired shot shape with clubface, but I cannot get the desired result without clubpath. It is simply not possible to hit a functional draw with a clubpath that travels from out to in (assuming center contact). It is clearly not the only thing, but in my opinion it is the most important thing.

I am well aware there are many different ways to achieve this and whether as a coach or golfer you upgrade the clubface first or the clubpath first is entirely up to you. After all it's all about results no?

Smash Factor

Many golfers and TrackMan users are under the impression that smash factor indicates how well a ball was hit, or how centered the strike was - this is not necessarily the case. A high smash factor purely indicates high ball speed relative to club speed. Here is the simplified formula:

Smash Factor (Simple)

It is quite possible to have  a smash factor with irons that is too high. Golfers who play from a closed face position and who tend to flight the ball low will often have a higher smash factor than golfers who flight the ball appropriately. This does not mean the low ball hitters are striking it better, it just means they are generating too much linear ball speed off of a particular club.

It is important for golfers to understand that ball type and condition, dynamic loft, clubhead mass, attack angle, CoR and of course quality of strike go into determining the smash factor for any given shot.

The objective with the driver should be 1.50 or higher, but with the shorter clubs a higher smash just might not necessarily better. Go for solid hits and ball flight over smash factor any day!

A Note to Golf Coaches: 

I have made more than my fair share of mistakes in life. From these mistakes I have learned and improved as a coach and a person. One of the many valuable lessons I have learned from making mistakes is to never deride, belittle or insult another golf coach. It does nothing to enhance your image or reputation and you will never look better while attempting to make someone else look worse. Be wise when addressing other coaches and the methods they employ - you'll be better off for it.

Ultimate Spin Wedge Shootout

The Line Up 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.

Milled Face

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:

TaylorMade ATV 58

 

Titleist Vokey SM4 58

 

Ping Gorge Tour 58

 

Callaway X Series Jaws CC 58

  • 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!

Ball Flight - What You Need to Know

The-Ball-Flight-Laws
The-Ball-Flight-Laws

There is so much complex information out there regarding the Ball Flight Laws - a ten second Google search yields enough confusion to get my head spinning for a month.  The "old" or "new" ball flight laws, Dr. Wiren, TrackMan.....who or what should you believe?

albert einstein
albert einstein

In light of Dr. Einstein's insightful quote I am going to give this touchy topic my best shot and try to keep it as simple as possible.  Please don't check out!  This is important information for any golfer to comprehend, so bear with me and you'll gain a far better understanding of why your golf ball reacts the way it does.

There are only four factors that influence ball flight when clean (not necessarily solid) contact is made between a golfball and a clubface.

They are:

Club Speed

The faster the clubhead travels the further and higher the ball will travel - generally with more spin. Compare a chip (slow speed) with a pitching wedge vs. a full swing (faster speed) with a pitching wedge...simple enough.

Clubface Orientation

Orientation is a fancy term that refers to where the clubface is angled.  Keep in mind that the face angles both left or right or up or down - left or right being an open or closed face and the up/down variable (although hopefully never down) referring to the loft imparted at impact (dynamic loft).  The face angle largely determines where the ball launches - left or right of the target and at what angle relative to the ground.  A good general point to remember is clubface (for the most part) = launch.

Clubhead Direction

Once again the direction the clubhead travels relative to the target line at impact - left or right (clubpath) and up or down (attack angle) - plays a role in determining ball flight.  A lesser role than the clubface, but a role nonetheless.  A good general point to remember is clubpath (for the most part) = curve.

Centerdness of Contact

This is a big one and something the vast majority of teachers and golfers tend to underestimate.  Most golfers strike the ball on the sweet spot far less frequently than they think .  I often see golfers that swing for a draw, yet strike for a fade - in other words they have a clubpath that is in to out, yet hit the ball slightly out the heel which leads to a fade.  An off center point of contact on the face leads to gear effect, which overrides or reduces the effect the face orientation and clubhead direction have on ball flight.  This factor plays a bigger role than most realize - watch out for it.  And the best way to do that - a  spray of Dr. Scholl's foot powder.

impact point
impact point

Read an earlier article on centerdness of contact and a great article on the TrackMan blog illustrating the importance of center contact.

Here are a few simple factors to understand and remember:

  • The ball launches primarily in the direction of the face - varying degrees of up and either left or right.
  • Given a centered hit, clubpath leads to curve.  With the curve being away from the clubpath.
  • Hitting down does not increase spin, and conversely, hitting up does not necessarily reduce spin.
  • Heel hits encourage fades or reduce hooks and toe hits encourage draws or reduce slices.
  • The more you hit down on the ball, the more you will swing in to out and the more you hit up on the ball the more you will swing out to in.

Now that you're finished reading shoot back up to the top and read again.  This is vital information to assist with your understanding of of how your golf club "communicates" to your golf ball.

If you'd like to try out your new understanding of the Ball Flight Laws in southwest Florida check out this Fort Myers Golf Guide for a great course to play.

Thanks for reading and feel free to fire away with any questions you may have.....

News and Notes from AndrewRiceGolf.com

There is so much happening at AndrewRiceGolf.com at the moment that I thought this would be an opportune time to let everybody know what's been happening and what's coming up....

Peter Millar

I have just formed a relationship with Peter Millar for 2013. I am very excited as I approached the company about wearing their line - it has always been a favorite of mine. Look for Peter Millar clothing in all AndrewRiceGolf.com photos and video shoots.

Comprehensive TrackMan Days

This in-depth day long program will explain all the factors that influence ball flight and clearly illustrate what is required for you to perform at your best. All elements of ball flight  and club delivery will be addressed - from drivers to wedges. Clubfitting will also be included. Due to the intensity of this  program there will be a maximum of 3 students in each school. (Minimum 2) Cost is $650 per person and lunch is included.

9AM-5PM Wednesday March 20, April 17 and May 8
Please call Andrew Rice at (843)247-4688 to sign up.

Modern Golf Comes to Berkeley Hall

Modern Golf will be coming to Berkeley Hall to do professional clubfitting from March 13-16. Have you ever wanted to be fitted like  a Tour player and have access to the same equipment they do? This is your chance. The guys from Modern Golf are simply the finest clubfitters I have been exposed to and this is an opportunity not to be missed. They do not recommend clubs and then order them for you - they actually build each club specifically for you!
Each fitting will be 2 hours and the cost is $150. Please inquire with me at (843)247-4688 as space is limited.

South Africa 2013

As many of you may know we recently returned from another fantastic South Africa trip. Here is a short video showing some of the sights and sounds that we experienced along the way.

Looking to Get Longer or Straighter this Year?

Once again I am offering my "Results or FREE" sessions! Spend 20 minutes with me on TrackMan hitting your driver or 7 iron and I guarantee you will get longer or straighter or it's on me. These fun and educational mini lessons cost $60 and have proven to be very helpful to all attendees in the past. Here is an interesting READ from the last time I offered these sessions.
Tuesday March 12, April 23 and May7 from 9AM-2PM
Please inquire with me at (843)247-4688 for reservations.

Atlantic Golf Club

Once again I will be returning to Atlantic Golf Club for the summer season. My final day of teaching in the South Carolina Lowcountry will be May 15th.

Thanks for reading and please shout if you have any questions....