Improve Your Putting Skills

If you’re fed up with wasting strokes on the greens then this challenge is for you. Try this putting drill the next time you’re out practicing on the putting green. It will challenge and engage you to the fullest…

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One tee, three balls, a putter and a plan! While you might never get to a point where you hole all 18 putts, you will start to develop your skill with the putter in hand. Prepare to be engaged! All the research shows that when we are engaged we learn, and when we learn, we improve. I believe that if we wish to become better at completing a task (hit the ball into the hole) then the more ways we can complete the task, the better we become. Have some fun with this one and see if you can beat your personal best score each time you accept the challenge.

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?

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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.

Develop Your Skills

Getting better at golf should be fun! As I become a more experienced coach I'm finally grasping the role that skill plays in lowering any golfer's score. I think of skill as what you can do with your technique. What shots can you hit? How well can you control your golf ball? That's achieved with skill. Check out this drill that I came up with to not only help you become a better golfer, but also to help you have more fun while you practice...

We all need skills. Hopefully wicked skills! By giving yourself ONE opportunity to hit each of the shots required to complete this drill you are continuously challenging your ability to adapt to the requirements of each unique situation. Something real golf requires on every shot! The seven required shots are a big slice, a medium fade, a baby fade, a straight one, a baby draw, a medium draw and a big hook. Don't hit them in order, but mix it up. Real golf doesn't work in a neat and smooth progression - neither should your practice. Keep a score too. It will help you strive to achieve full marks! 

Add golf skills to your resume...

Add golf skills to your resume...

Give this drill a try the next time you go out to practice. In fact, any skill based challenge or drill you can come up with will help you to develop wicked golf skills that you can take out on the course with you to start shooting lower scores.

Thanks for reading.

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

 

How to Practice: 2. SKILL

Boys are typically much better chippers than girls! And it's not because they're more creative or the fact that they're stronger physically which allows them to hit a broader variety of shots. It's because they love to practice 'dumb' and crazy shots! Boys continually strive to outdo one another and I believe it's via this innate behavior that they learn to hit those amazing and skillful shots around the green. Ever seen a female trick shot artist? Hmmm...

My approach to developing skill is that we take this 'outside the lines' approach to practicing the shortgame and apply it to every element of golf. From driving to putting we can develop our skill and our ability to control the golf ball by spending time purposefully hitting 'abnormal' golf shots. Watch...

When practicing to develop your skill challenge yourself to become better at intentionally controlling the following elements of a golf shots:

  • Distance
  • Launch direction
  • Peak height
  • Curvature of the ball flight
  • Where you strike the ball on the face

When practicing 'outside the lines' change your intent after every second shot. Use a variety of clubs, targets and lies. Keep in mind it's really easy and fun to practice these elements when you have a TrackMan, but they are entirely doable without any technology. Here are a few ideas:

The 3 Ball Strike Point Challenge

The 3 Ball Strike Point Challenge

This drill is great fun for golfers of all abilities and ages. All you need is a can of Dr. Scholl's Odor X foot spray. I firmly believe we become better at completing any task when we learn to complete it a variety of different ways. Shot 1 is outside the vertical line, shot 2 inside it and shot 3 is on the line.

The Spin Axis Challenge

The Spin Axis Challenge

When taking on this challenge you want to use a 6 iron and try to hit the biggest hook or slice possible for your opening shot. From there the objective is to progressively reduce the amount of curvature until you get to a straight shot. If you can get 9 shots, as in the example above, you're doing very well.

When practicing to develop skill I cannot encourage you enough be creative, have fun and think outside the box. You can even hit one-handed or one-legged shots! Close your eyes, change your grip, hit it out of divots - anything goes. Come up with your very own, out of the ordinary practice session. Now get out there and start spending some time practicing like a teenage boy...

Here is the first article in my series on how to practice:

How to Practice: 1. SWING — Andrew Rice Golf

How to Practice: 1. SWING

This is the first in a series on how to get the most out of the limited available time you have to work on your game. I'm a big proponent of allocating a portion or your practice time to taking ownership of mechanics and SWING, another portion to SKILL development and finally executing SHOTS to carry the upgrades to an "on-course" styled environment. Each session should be filtered through the swing, skill and shot mantra.

Let's get started with understanding what should be going into the swing segment of your practice. This is block practice and that is a good thing! We need it. Block practice is a necessity as it allows us to get enough technical reps in to start taking full ownership of the upgrades. Block practice only becomes a problem when that's the ONLY way you practice. If you can find a way to incorporate swing, skill and shot into all of your practice sessions I have a sneaky feeling things will start to get better. Check this out...

When in swing mode this is what I'm looking for:

  • I use a 7 or 8 iron and practice off preferred lies or even tees
  • I'll most often use an alignment aid and hit all shots to one target
  • I don't pay much attention to the shot. My focus is primarily on the motion
  • I make a number of practice swings and feels between each shot
  • This is the only time I'll devote to doing swing drills
  • A nice addition to this segment of your practice would be a mirror as it allows you to 'feel' the look you're after

Make sure that to avoid the trap of trying to hit result based shots while you're attending to mechanics - that will come later. Check back next week where I will share my take on how to develop your skills as a golfer.

Trip Update: I have an opening for one more couple to New Zealand in February 2017 and space for a few more couples to South Africa in January 2017. Should you be interested check out www.syncexcursions.com or shoot terri(at)andrewricegolf.com an email. Would love to have you join me!

How to Shallow the Attack Angle

I teach far more golfers that hit down on the ball too much more than those that don't hit down enough. If you are one of those golfers that typically takes big divots and hits a low ball flight then stay with me....

I have found this sequence to work nicely with all golfers looking to shallow their attack angle and improve the crispness of the strike. Try the following (with either irons or driver):

  • PHASE 1 - 5 drags over the top of the ball
  • PHASE 2 - 5 low to high pitch style shots, keeping clubhead low in the backswing
  • PHASE 3 - 5 half speed and half size swings sensing an ascending strike (even with irons)

(all shots are struck with the ball on a tee)

Another drill I like to use to help golfers learn to deliver an ascending strike with the driver is what I call the Box Drill pictured below...

Place an empty sleeve box between a teed golf ball and the target as indicated. The box should be approximately a grip length ahead of the ball. On a windy day it might be necessary to use tees to anchor the box in place. This is a costly addition to this drill!

If you can hit shots without running the clubhead into the box then chances are that you're no longer hitting down on the ball and you should see an increase in both distance and the altitude of your tee shots. Keep in mind that as you "upgrade" your attack angle, should you have an adjustable driver, you might need to alter the loft.

Thanks for reading and I hope these ideas are going to help your game. Cheers!

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.