Shortgame - Land the Plane

Whenever you struggle with chipping and pitching you’re not making solid contact with the ball. The strike is off. This could take the shape of sticking the club in the ground or completely whiffing the ground. Landing the plane is an analogy I came up with many years ago that refers to how we should get the sole of the club to interact with the ground. There should be harmony. Watch….

A checklist to help you improve the quality of strike when wedging:

·      Feet should be narrower rather than wider

·      Weight should favor the front foot – slightly

·      Keep your chest rotating through the strike

·      Feel that you elevate slightly throughout the downswing

·      Avoid trying to stay down

·      Limit the hand and wrist action

One of the big no-no’s I see with golfers who struggle with the club to ground interaction is this over-riding objective to STAY DOWN. Stay away from it. It will wreck your ability to repeatedly land the sole of your wedge harmoniously on the ground through impact. So many of the world’s best wedgers actually lengthen the radius of the motion by elevating in some form or another.

Plane.jpg

Practice helps, but the correct concept is always the best starting point. Start with a few practice swings keeping the plane on the runway for as long as you can. Clip a few shots and then get to work on taking ownership of the motion.

Thanks for reading/watching and I sincerely hope this information in some way contributes to your enjoyment of this awesome game.

Updated Pitching Thoughts

This article is an update on the many pitching and chipping articles I've written over the last few years. Not much has changed since I did the Wedge Project video, but there are certain elements I have a deeper understanding about. Experience and the smart guys at PING have gone a long way towards advancing my understanding. Let's take a look...

Discussing pitching at a Three Day Golf School

Discussing pitching at a Three Day Golf School

  • Great pitchers typically take very little divotflight the ball low and generate high spin rates
  • Lower trajectory shots are significantly easier to gauge than higher ones
  • When struck correctly lower trajectory wedge shots will almost always have more spin than higher shots
  • Most golfers perform better when they deliver 45º-40º of loft at impact off a normal fairway. The club they use is irrelevant
  • The quality of the face to ball interaction (friction) is primary in generating spin and determining the launch angle
  • The quality of the lie plays a big role in determining the amount of friction at impact
  • Any moisture/matter that gets between the face and ball will typically decrease friction and thus increase launch angle and reduce spin. Control will be reduced
  • I used to say that sand increases friction and that is often the case, but I've found it depends on the 'angularity' of the sand
  • Cleaning the club face should be done often and with a wet towel - don't use a tee
  • The primary role of grooves is to disperse moisture and matter from between the face and the ball, not generate spin
  • Older clubs with worn down grooves will not spin the ball as much as a fresh wedge (all else being equal)
  • Premium golf balls, when struck correctly, will always flight lower and spin more than non-premium golf balls
  • The optimal technique is primarily based around managing the club to ground interaction 
  • As the player alters trajectory so shall the club to ground interaction change. Lower shots with less loft will often lead to a steeper angle of attack
  • Controlling what the handle does through impact is integral to controlling the club to ground interaction
  • I've come to learn that there is no single ideal spin loft to generate the most spin. Every different lie, situation, golf ball and golfer would require heir own unique "optimal" spin loft
  • I've been a proponent of draws for pitch shots and I've seen too many golfers have success with fades or draws to continue advocating strictly for draws
  • For stock, and thus lower flighted, shots the bounce plays less of a role than you might imagine
  • The number one absolute worst thing to work towards with your wedge play....stay down. Please don't EVER work towards that
  • I've become a big fan of 'core' distances. Depending on the amount of time you have I'd recommend practicing two or more of these 'core' distances and really taking ownership eg. 30/50/70/90 yards
  • Incorporate variety and skill development into any and all forms of practice

I have found there to be a multitude of different, and somewhat unusual techniques that work well for certain individuals. A good general guideline that might help:

With the weight slightly forward and utilizing a narrow and square stance with the ball positioned centrally, be sure to keep your chest rotating through the strike in order to have the sole of the club skimming along the turf. Stay tall and keep the chest moving!

All the best.

The Art of Being Skillful

As many of you know I enjoy deciphering which elements contribute to being a great wedge player. Ever since I started with my 'Wedge Project' research in 2010 chipping and pitching have really piqued my interest.

My recent testing, and philosophy, has been aligned alongside golfers using one club and applying their skills to control the trajectory and outcome of their shots in close proximity to the green. For ease of illustration and testing I selected a 58º wedge and a 15 yard carry requirement. I then played three different trajectory shots - a high, mid and low shot. I recorded each version in slo-motion and at regular speed along with running TrackMan in the background to capture data on a handful of each type of shot.

As you can tell there is a dramatic difference in the pace required to execute each intended trajectory. The technical changes for each shot changed as follows:

High: ball positioned off front big toe, face square at address and a sense that the handle slows dramatically approaching impact as the clubhead passes the handle prior to impact. Freddie Couples is a good image here.

Mid: ball positioned centrally, face square at address, medium pace and a sense that the shaft will be vertical at impact.

Low: ball positioned off the back big toe, face square with hands forward as a result of the ball position and an upbeat pace that encourages the handle to 'beat' the clubhead to the ball at impact. Zach Johnson's brisk pace comes to mind with this type of shot

At Impact

At Impact

The TrackMan data provides some interesting differences:

Club Speed: Low 23mph; Mid 30mph; High 37mph

Ball Speed: Low 27.8mph; Mid 28.5mph; High 28.0mph

Smash Factor: Low 1.2; Mid 1.0; High 0.8

Launch Angle: Low 29.6º; Mid 40.6º; High 51.6º

Spin Rate: Low 2230rpm; Mid 1630rpm; High 1250rpm

One thing that struck me was that the average ball speed was the same for each type of shot, yet the club speed was very different. The attack angle was steepest with the lower shot primarily due to the ball position and the shaft lean. I also found it interesting that there was roughly 10º difference in the launch angle of each version.

The numbers might be important for coaches to understand, but what can you, the player looking to save strokes take away?

  • Stick with one club around the greens - you'll become a skilled artisan with it in your hands.
  • Alter the trajectory with subtle changes at address and less subtle changes in the pace.
  • The manner in which you release the clubhead through impact will make a big difference
  • Now get to work!

Thanks for reading and please share with a friend. Happy New Year and all the best for a fabulous 2018. #birdies

Trajectory Tricks

The loft on the clubface at impact is largely responsible for the launch of the ball. When it comes to wedge play friction also plays a significant role in determining the launch angle, but the purpose of this article is to share an idea to help you improve the loft you deliver to the ball at impact.

Most of us will either hit the ball overly high or too low. This video illustrates a simple drill to get you to feel what you need to feel in order to grasp what is required to deliver either more, or less, loft.

For the high ball hitters:

  • Using a pitching wedge get set up with a narrow stance
  • Position the ball off the tip of your front foot
  • Feel the handle or butt of the club travel a long way forward into impact
  • It’s not easy but do all you can to hit low launchers

For the low ball hitters like me:

  • Stick with the PW and a narrow stance
  • The ball should be in line with the tip of your back foot
  • In the downswing you’ll feel the clubhead swinging a ton. The clubhead should feel like it outraces the hands
  • This will feel scoopy and that’s a good thing

Notice where my hands are just post impact in the image below - the low ball hitters need the hands less forward while the high ball hitters need to sense how much more forward they need to be…

It’s never easy making changes as they always feel so uncomfortable. Let’s get away from associating discomfort with ‘wrong’ as you work towards improvement. I know this exercise seems like it’s the opposite of what it should be, but as the task becomes more challenging (which this one is) we have no choice but to adapt.

The good news is that this drill applies directly to your long game too, so don’t be afraid to incorporate a few of these drills with those full swings too.

Thanks for checking in and I hope this helps you to enjoy your golf a little more.

3 Key Drills for Great Wedge Play

Far too many golfers struggle with their wedge play. I see it all the time! In this article and video I have dug deep and come up with my three favorite drills for you to practice if you'd like to get better from close range. Take a look...

Impact Drag Drill

  • Using an alignment rod in lieu of a club take your normal pitching address position
  • Place the tip of the rod on the ground about 3 feet behind where the ball would be
  • Keeping the arms extended, rotate and elevate the lead shoulder to get the rod through impact

Pitching Draw Drill

  • Tee the ball up and place an alignment rod between the ball and the target
  • The objective is to get the ball to draw around the rod
  • Have the handle traveling up and in while the clubhead travel down and out for draws

9 Ball Trajectory Drill

  • Using nine balls to develop skill and adaptability
  • Hit the first three balls to three different targets with your stock trajectory
  • The second three balls are hit with a slightly higher trajectory to different targets
  • The final three are hit with a lower trajectory to different targets as well

My hope is that these drills will help to upgrade your technique, develop your skill around the greens and ultimately help you become a more well-rounded golfer.

Thanks for reading/watching and if you enjoyed this article please share it with a friend who you feel might benefit.

My 3 Keys to Great Wedge Play

If you dread any form of pitch or chip shot then this article is expressly for you. If you feel like you could save a few more strokes around the greens then this article is for you. Utilizing better technique will literally make these shots easier. Here are a few straightforward improvements that will get the job done. Watch...

Key #1: Set Up

  • Feet should be close together. The most common mistake I see is a stance that's too wide.
  • Alignment should be square. Yes, square.
  • Ball position is centered to slightly forward.
  • Weight distribution is slightly favoring the front foot.
The Proper Set Up...

The Proper Set Up...

Key #2: Wrist Action

  • Wrists should be relatively quiet in the backswing.
  • Avoid excessive cupping in the lead wrist. The left wrist for you righties out there.

Key #3: Body Pivot

  • Keep the chest rotating through the strike in order to shallow the attack angle.
  • Extend the lead side through impact.
  • Avoid thoughts of "stay down", "hit down" or "pinch the ball".

As you work towards better technique be aware that your results are not going to transition from bad to good instantaneously. Taking ownership of the upgrades will take time and patience. Get the set up correct, use the wrists properly and shallow the angle of attack with good chest rotation. Now we're talking!

If you'd like to learn more about improving your wedge play check out the Wedge Project.

 

 

Knowledge to Help You Spin Your Wedges

When it comes to wedge shots, spin has always been somewhat mystical. Why will one shot check like crazy while most shots seem to want to scamper well beyond the pin?

This is a little experiment I do in all my Three Day Golf Schools to illustrate a few of the important factors that influence spin rates...

This video clearly illustrates the role of water, grass, a premium golf ball and a clean clubface - the big factors that influence friction between face and ball and ultimately, spin.

As a golfer you are fully responsible for how the sole of the club interacts with the ground while you are only partially responsible for how the face interacts with the golf ball. Understanding factors that serve to decrease friction will only help you from trying to fix a motion that isn't broken.

While it is important to realize that we don't need maximum spin in order to pitch well, we do need ENOUGH spin. To generate more RPM's use a professional grade wedge, replace it as often as needed, keep the face clean and dry and use a premium golf ball. Of course hitting from a tight, dry fairway would be nice too, but we cannot always control that one...

For more on wedge spin and improved wedge play see:

The Wedge Project

Spinning the Wedges - Friction