Making Gains

It seems like just the other day that I embarked on my teaching career, yet it was almost 30 years ago. As a young coach it didn’t take me long to get to a point where I thought I pretty much knew everything there was to know about the golf swing. My how things have changed! I remember saying that one day on Tour we would get to a point where there were no more ‘bad’ or unusual looking swings. Ha! Anyone seen Matthew Wolff’s golf swing?

ManyWays.JPG

When I first started coaching Phil’s backswing would have been too long, Bubba’s feet would have been too active, Jordan could never be successful with a bent lead arm, DJ’s club face would have been impossibly closed and Jim Furyk - well that just had no chance.

Perhaps it’s my experience speaking, but I believe the golf instruction industry has come a long way in the last two decades. We have made more progress in this time than all the years before. Our eyes have been opened to the uniqueness and intricacy of the golf swing and how there truly are many ways to get the job done. A better understanding of the forces and torques that golfers are exerting on both the ground and the club has opened our eyes to perhaps why the players pictured above are successful.

Another important revelation over the last two decades has been the value of skill. Your technique allows you to hit the ball towards your target, but its skill that enables you to adjust the flight, shape, distance and ultimately, the outcome of each unique shot on the course. So many golfers were falsely led to believe that if they simply upgraded their technique/mechanics/swing they would be world-beaters. Technique, no doubt plays a role, but the value of skill can no longer be over looked. The great Seve Ballesteros is a fabulous example of a golfer that relied more on skill, and heart, than technique…

Seve Ballesteros

Seve Ballesteros

I feel that the internet has been an important catalyst in our improvement and understanding as a community of golf coaches. Sound information is out there, if you simply know where to look or who to contact. I cannot overlook the role technology has played either. I know that having the opportunity to teach with TrackMan, SwingCatalyst and K-Motion over the years has served to make me a better informed coach.

We have also improved our knowledge of how people learn and we now know it’s not all about pounding balls and getting your reps in. Sure, we still need to work hard, but we have a better picture of how to effectively take full ownership of changes and better incorporate them into who we are as a golfer.

Are we there yet? Do we have all the answers? As an older, more seasoned coach, I never think I know it all anymore. Our understanding is significantly deeper than it was 20 years, but we still have much to do.

It’s an exciting time to be a coach and a golfer.

A Golfer's Instinct

It never ceases to amaze me how important instinct is in any golfer's swing - that instinct to position their body or the club in such a manner as to give any shot the best possible chance of finishing at the target. Good golf instincts are the result of years playing the game, but also to a lesser degree, a player's innate talent.

In order to test and better understand this instinct I came up with an idea - I would change my normal grip to 90 degrees open and then 90 degrees closed as shown below and test my ability to adjust to the vastly different clubface angles - yet still attempt to get the ball to the target.

Now, as you might imagine, with an approximate 180 degrees difference between the face angle for these two shots I didn't get up and hit it beautifully straight away, but I was amazed that it only took 2-3 swings with each to adjust and get the ball to fly pretty much toward the target.

The image below shows the drastic difference that was required at impact in order to produce an acceptable result for each option. (The "weak" grip option is on the left while the "strong" grip option is on the right) It's also important to understand that the difference you're looking at is not from grip alone, quite the contrary. It is primarily my instinct to get the ball to the target that leads to the changes.

The TrackMan data shows how much the change in face angle altered both the shape of the swing and my impact alignments. There was more than a 10 degree difference between my clubpath with each swing and the swing plane (VSP) with each swing - both numbers that golfers tend to be very consistent with.

What can you take away from this test:

  • A golfer's primary instinct is to have the ball finish at the target. This instinct might cause them to swing and respond in unusual ways, but they are doing all they can to generate a successful outcome
  • Face angle can greatly influence the appearance and effectiveness of any golf swing
  • An open face throughout the swing will often encourage an out-to-in clubpath, while a closed face throughout the swing will often encourage an in-to-out clubpath
  • An open face will often promote a lower swing plane while a closed face will often elevate the swing plane through impact
  • Practicing unusual techniques and methods that are well outside your comfort zone will actually improve your instincts to make the ball go to the target and ultimately make you a better golfer

The next time you go out to practice, work towards bettering your golf instinct. As Chris Como once said:

 Repeatability does not necessarily come from just trying to be more repeatable. Learn to solve similar 'problems' in a variety of ways...

Think, and practice, a little outside of your box.

The Wedge Project and a New Look!

I am very excited to announce the release of The Wedge Project. It has been a long time in the making and I have learned so much more than I ever thought I would when I departed on a simple research project almost four years ago. That idea, to learn more about that low launching, high spin pitch or chip shots that golfers would sometimes hit, has opened my eyes to what I now view as the "missing link" to short game instruction.

wedgeproject

Thank you all so much for your patience as you have waited for me to get this "project" out to you. I am pleased with the product and know that everyone will benefit from the information presented. If you like/enjoy/appreciate what you see could I ask that you please share with your friends how they too might be able to purchase the video - unless of course you don't want them pitching/chipping any better. 

Thank you for your support and readership and I am grateful for anything you could do to help get the word out. Please share your thoughts here and on Twitter using #wedgeproject

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Also, I hope you enjoy the new look of Andrew Rice Golf. We would love to hear your comments, both positive and constructive. If there is anything wrong or missing please shoot me a note and I'll work to get it taken care of ASAP.

Thanks again for everything - without you this site would not be possible.