A Better Downswing to Reduce Blocks and Hooks

As we all know most golfers tend to struggle with fading and slicing the ball, but there is a large portion of the golf population, typically lower handicap players, that struggle with hooks and the occasional block. This article is for you!

There's a huge correlation between between a golfer's club speed and their handicap. The higher the speed, typically, the lower the handicap. The key is being able to manage the golf club while generating higher club speeds and that can only happen with a proper pivot and more specifically, a proper downswing pivot. Here's how...

As you begin your downswing you want to feel the following:

  • The weight remaining on the trail foot for longer
  • Cast your net! More rotational and less lateral
  • The legs separating slightly
  • The handle of the club working out or in front of you while the clubhead stays behind you

The objective here is to get the clubhead traveling less outward and along a more neutral path through impact. Getting your body to rotate on the way down in more of a 'merry-go-round' fashion and less of a 'ferris wheel' fashion will deter the clubhead from getting too far to the inside.  

Try this feel slowly and with soft shots before working up to full swings. You'll be amazed at how challenging it is to actually stay back and rotate versus driving forward. Stick with it and realize that in order to improve the quality of your shots you're going to have to improve how the clubhead communicates with your golf ball.

Thanks for reading and if you have a friend who you feel might benefit from this information please share! 

Centeredness of Contact

As you may have heard, it's all about impact! And it really is. The most important part of the golf swing is the point at which the golf club communicates to the golf ball - impact. The ball spends 1/2000 of a second on the face and it's during this sliver of time that the outcome of every shot is determined.

I often share with golfers how the laws of physics cause the ball to respond to the club, and while this information is helpful it refers primarily to centered hits. It is too seldom that I discuss off-center hits and how the ball responds to this frequent occurrence. Today's the day!
When the ball is struck anywhere other than the center of the face a phenomenon called gear effect occurs. Ever heard of it? It causes the ball to draw (or fade less) on toe oriented hits and fade (or draw less) on heel oriented hits. I often see a golfer struggling to stop the ball from fading, yet every shot is struck off the heel or inside of the face. Gear effect is elevated when you use clubs with larger heads such as a driver and it's actually the reason why the face of a driver is curved from toe to heel and from top to bottom. The curve on the face of a driver actually gets the ball, when struck off the toe for example, to launch to the right (for right-handers) and then gear effect causes the shot to curve back to the target. Gear effect plays a role in all shots where the ball is not struck in the center of the face and let's be honest - and that is most shots.
The research I have conducted using TrackMan has shown that better golfers (single figure handicaps or better) hit the sweet spot or center of gravity less than 20% of the time! Think about that for a second...
The best method to ascertain where you are striking the ball on the clubface is to use a dry erase marker to cover a portion of the face. Hit a shot or two, take note of where the strike occurs and then re-apply. After a handful of shots you'll start to get a good idea as to what your tendencies might be because, while you may not hit the sweet spot often enough, most golfers are fairly consistent with where they miss.

Keep in mind that it is very difficult to influence where the ball is being struck on the face by altering your distance from the ball. For example, heel hits do not mean that you should move away from the ball as this will more than likely cause you to reach out for the ball even more and exacerbate the problem.
Once you start to learn what your tendencies are an excellent drill is to position a row of tees just outside the toe if you hit shots predominantly off the heel and vice versa for toe hits.
After a few shot you will start to sense what the body and arms need to do in order to make a quality strike in the center of the clubface. Give it a try!
Another important note: andrewricegolf.com is pleased to announce that Derek Lemire,

Fitness Trainer at Berkeley Hall and trainer to recent PGA Tour Champion Kyle Stanley, will be making regular contributions to this site. Derek will be offering important advice to all golfers concerning exercise programs, stretching and even nutrition. I have worked with Derek at Berkeley Hall for a long time and I am excited to share his passion and knowledge with all of you.
Thanks for reading and good striking!

Golf Impact Drills

In order for a golfer to improve their ball striking they must get into a better impact position.  Here are a few tried and trusted impact drills to help you get to where you need to be: (Use a seven or eight iron when a club is required in all of the drills below)

  • The first drill is the down slope drill.  Simple enough!  Just watch for allowing your upper body to sneak down the hill as well - try to ensure your head remains over the ball.  At address, make sure you maintain a regular ball position.

Downslope Drill

  • The impact bag drill.  Another fairly straightforward exercise here, but the benefit lies in the details.  When the club impacts the bag be sure to get the shaft to contact the upper part of the bag before the club head gets there.  This will ensure that the handle leads the clubhead.  Also, save your joints, club and impact bag by not whaling away at the bag too hard.  You just want a feel to carry over to the real deal.

Impact Bag Drill done Correctly

  • The 'hip press' drill.  This is a great drill that will give you a very good sense of body position at impact and also provide you with an amazing stretch.  If you slice or fade the ball this is for you! Set up to a ball without a club and your hands on your hips.  While maintaining your head position over the ball drive your hips as far toward the target as your body will allow.  Your back heel should come off the ground slightly as you feel the back leg straighten.  It will feel like you are pointing at the ground with the big toe on your back foot!  Hold for five seconds and release.  Afterwards try this with a club in your hands.

Hip Press Drill

  • The towel/line drill works wonders for compressing the ball and taking those ideal 'bacon strip' divots.  It ensures that the golfer shifts the weight onto the front foot at impact.  Practice as pictured, making sure the towel provides a slight amount of elevation and all the ensuing divots occur forward of the line of golf balls. 

The Towel/Line Drill in Action

To get a little more sizzle on your shots, irons or woods, try the above drills!

I look forward to the Open Championship tomorrow.  Golfweek has a great slideshow that captures the vibe.  The weather looks good and the rough looks brutal.

It seems that the two Scottish greats, Monty and Sandy Lyle are feuding over who should be Ryder Cup captain first and who cheated! Shame on ya wee laddies!

I look for Padraig and Rory to perform nicely! Here are the latest odds. 

Enjoy!

Golf Has Only Nine Shots!

I've got all the shots I'm just not sure when I'm going to hit them!

Control Your Ball!

Or what about a shank, a top, a blade, a whiff?  Okay, there are only nine proper shots that a golfer needs to master.  They are the low draw, straight one and fade; the regular height draw, straight one and fade and the high version of each option.  Tiger Woods incorporates all of the above shots into his practice sessions - shouldn't you?

Try this fun and challenging exercise in your next practice session:

  • Be sure to use an alignment string that is set up to a target within range of a 7 iron.
  • Keep the size and pace of your swing at around 75%.
  • Start on the 'ground' floor (low) with the shot shape that is most comfortable for you (draw or fade)
  • Stick with the low shots until you have hit one of each.  Keep in mind the draws/fades should start at the target and curve away from it.
  • Work up to the medium and high trajectory shots until you have also hit one of each.
  • Keep track of the number shots required to complete the SLAM (all nine shots) and set yourself a target score for the next time you practice.  The fewer shots, the better.

This exercise will illustrate to you the type of shot that is most difficult for you to hit. (Hey, some golfers just don't know!)  Practice the most difficult shot until you can pull it off on the course.  This will serve to neutralize your swing and allow you to ultimately hit the ball straighter.

If you struggle with slicing the ball, practice hooking the ball!  If you hit the ball inordinately high, practice hitting low punch shots all day long until you can hit it at a regular trajectory.  Get to a point where your extreme misses are less extreme than before and the ball will stay closer to the intended target and your scores will do the same!

Over the upcoming week I'll address the techniques required to hit the ball low or high and with a draw or fade.  Check back!

Things to Ponder:

  • At the Texas Open this Lance Ten Broeck, both caddied for Jesper Parnevik and played in the event. They both missed the cut but what must it feel like as a player when your caddie beats you! (Ten Broeck 141 vs. Parnevik 144)
  • The PGA Tour must be struggling to find players.  I can think of 20 golfers better than a caddie and a dozen washed up golfers from the 80's to play in a PGA Tour event!
  • And this little interesting snippet from www.geoffshackelford.com

John Huggan with this nugget from last week's Players:

Not only did the diminutive leader of the world's richest circuit manage to mangle the champion's name, calling him "Heinrik" more than once, Finchem's minions were apparently hard at work pressuring host broadcaster NBC into not mentioning just how many Fed-Ex Cup points the Swede picked up along with the $1.7million first place cheque. Embarrassingly, that number is nil, due to the fact that Stenson (who will no doubt have welcomed the sizeable boost to his bank balance in the wake of losing a goodly chunk of his fortune amidst the recent Stanford fiasco) thinks he can muddle by without being a PGA Tour member.

  • Don't think the PGA Tour does not go out of their way to censor what information we get during the broadcast of their beloved 5th major!
  • Zach Johnson is quietly becoming a top five player in the world.  Gutsy!

Prevalence Under Pressure!

Cabrera and Co.Congratulations to Angel Cabrera on winning the Masters and his second major. It's true what they say about the Masters, "It all comes down to the back nine!"  The difference this year was that it all came down to the final two holes. Seventeen and eighteen favor a straight or left to right ball flight and I believe that really made all the difference in the outcome. The major players were Cabrera, Perry, Campbell and Mickelson. Cabrera was fading the ball comfortably all day, Perry and Campbell are known drawers of the ball and Lefty had his fade working. Mickelson attempted three draws on the back nine, all with poor results - tee ball @ 11 (trees), tee ball @ 12 (water) and tee ball @ 18 (bunker). Every other tee shot on the back nine played into his fade perfectly.

Perry and Campbell started to come unglued down the stretch with typical mistakes that drawers of the ball make - blocks and hooks.  They both hit a few of each and it was clear that the recent constriction of 17 and the fade required off 18 did not fit their eye. Now, they both hit the 18th fairway in the playoff, but the doubts raised by their earlier mis-steps remained and eventually proved to be their undoing.

Cabrera was a different story. His fade seemed to hold up when he needed it most (18 in regulation and the second at 10) and with a few saving par putts he was able to keep himself in the game. What a beautiful shot he hit into 10 for his second!

Here are a few points that caught my eye during yesterday's broadcast:

  • A fade holds up better under pressure as there is less timing required
  • There is no such thing as a perfect swing, only a functional one
  • Never give up! No matter how many trees your ball hits you are never out of a hole
  • Once the Tiger and Phil show ended it was nice to watch the Masters
  • I like Billy Payne - I think he will do a great job for Augusta National
  • Phil is now officially longer than Tiger (even when he fades it!)
  • Tiger curses on live television more than anyone I have ever seen!
  • I would like to play Augusta National every day!

Remember this - draws go further, but require more timing and are thus less consistent. Fades finish straighter, require less timing and are thus more consistent! Every good golfer I have ever taught is seeking consistency.