Do you know how to set up your “Setup”?

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Practice Fundamentals

Well now…just when you thought the Sherpa was out for good…I AM BACK!

The arm still hurts quite a bit and the wrist is very very stiff, but I am in shape enough to write on a keyboard without “level 10″ pain so here goes…

As is well documented in my earlier post (replete with Xray), the Sherpa is using the untimely and excruciatingly slow recovery time (from a broken left wrist) to re-baseline my approach to golf.

A couple of posts ago, I talked about how I was going to attack the fundamentals and really re-evaluate my knowledge and approach to practice in particular.

Today, I will wax philosophic about how the Sherpa will re-tool his “set up”.

“Context please, Sherpa smartypants”, I can hear you already…

Simply stated, your “set up” position is the position you are in immediately before you swing the club.  It is literally how you are aimed.

The key is that whether you are deliberate or not, the “setup” defines where the ball is going to go…so it is very important that you understand and build it very carefully…if you intend to be consistent.

Think about driving a car and not knowing exactly how to use the steering wheel relative to the aim of the tires…if you lived long enough to pay them, your insurance premiums would be astronomical.

To keep my golfing “wheels” between the medians more often, I am going to recalibrate my “setup” and here is how…

Practice objective: Use fact based knowledge to practice the science of ensuring that my set up is calibrated with my grip and target so that I am consistently lining up on my target.

Key fact(s):

  1. A ball that spins sideways at a relatively high rpm when compared with backspin has as strong tendency (like a gyroscope) to move in the opposite direction of the sidespin applied to the ball at impact.
  2. Some balls are engineered to spin more than others.
  3. Long irons impart relatively low backspin…when compared with wedges.

Practice Regime:

The very specific objective is to calibrate my aim relative to the target or setup.  To do so I will optimize the conditions for practice and observable feedback, while removing as many variables from the system as possible.

From the facts and objective, therefore, I will use high spin balls and practice this module with only long irons.

Why?

I know what direction I am hitting it already.  (If you don’t,  try the 06/09/09 posting entitled “The Sherpa rises from the golf Ashes”.  It is a great little module on understanding where you are hitting it.) 

What I want to know now is how to build a set up that will get a ball to consistently travel to a target of my choosing, WITHOUT SLICING OR HOOKING after I have sent my pill on its merry way.

To do so, I have to calibrate two key variables: Grip and Aim. 

Why Grip and Aim?

Grip defines clubface, therefore, spin.  Aim is the path the ball is intially put on by the swing.  When these work in unison you can send the ball to the target.

It will be especially important that you pick a day with very little wind to perform the following practice steps:

  1. Warm up and hit 10 low spin balls (range balls are ok) with  a wedge taking close notice to what path you are putting them on. Don’t worry about spin, just what direction you are sending them in.
  2. Now hit ten more at a target or until you can hit it at a target relatively well…we are not looking at perfection, just “hand grenade” close.
  3. Next take a long iron (3 or 4) and hit 10 high spin balls, aiming the same way you hit the wedge.
  4. Note how the ball spins…only casually noticing direction (you should be hitting the side of a barn at least based on your “rough” aim preparation in step 1 and 2). Obsess only on spin bias.  The holy grail is a personal personal “neutral grip”.
  5. Hit more balls using the following guideline:
  • If it hooks or even draws,  weaken your grip and keep hitting balls and adjusting your grip until they go straight.
  • If it slices or even fades, strengthen your grip and keep hitting balls and adjusting your grip until they go straight. 

Once you can hit balls with little spin bias (neutral like a “knuckleball”), all you have to do is….tweak your “aim”.

How?

If you noted, for instance, you were hitting it a little right of the target when your ball started going straight (ie with no sidepsin)…aim a little left…without changing your grip.

Viola! You will be in your personal “setup” that is aimed at the target with no sidespin…beautiful.

Special note:  Though I adore you for reading the Sherpa’s musings, I don’t want to over sell this practice module.  Your results will vary depending on your skill level, so stay with it…it’s why they call it “practice”…not “review”.

Trust with the energy of a zealot, however, that the approach is sound and will lead to good results.  Learning to practice properly is a fundamental requirement, and the Sherpa wants you to continuously improve.

Play on…

The Sherpa

The Sherpa rises from the golf “Ashes”…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Practice Fundamentals

In the immortal words of James Tiberius Kirk to Dr. “Bones” McCoy…”I’ve…got a plan”.

Yes dear readers, instead of sinking into a wallowing pile of self pity and depression, the Sherpa has decided to chart my plan for returning to the sacred game. 

On that glorious day when my surgeon (Dr. Sawbones) declares my left hand more functional than a creepy paperweight, I wish to be prepared, without any delay, to begin practicing once again.

My approach? 

Hint…no new wheels are going to be invented.  I will operate from pure, old fashioned and practical notions.   The Sherpa is resolved to KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID (aka KISS methodology).

Too many complicated theories have crept into so called “golf knowledge”, that make a logical and relatively straightforward game seem mystical and out of reach…kind of like the pretty cheerleader that you knew was never going to date you…no matter how cool you  and your chess club buddies were.

I digress…

I resolved first to take my own advice and have a practice plan of attack.

I also resolved to put my ego into park and review each key fundamental for the gift that it is.  No detail will be trivial, no core premise will considered less important than it’s peer and above all I am committing to reacquaint myself with each fundamental with curiosity and total committment.

Few times in your life are you motivated…or forced…by circumstances to pour a new foundation in a well worn “house of golf”, and the Sherpa has developed a sense of expectation and excitement for the journey ahead.

So…to specifics.

I will share with you in the next series of posts my “Sherpa Syllabus” of “golf fundamentals 101″.

The Sherpa will live by and practice these funddamentals, just as the Golden Bear did each year with Jack Grout in preparation for a career that included 18 majors.  I will be happy just to hit it pure again…occasionally.

Today’s practice notion in the Sherpa Syllabus of “Re-Entering the Game 101″ is…

Aiming.

Thought I was kidding huh?  No joke, I am literally going back to each fundamental and applying concrete sequential steps for reviewing, re-examining physics and understanding relevance of each principal within the golf game.

Onward..

Practice objective: Use fact based knowledge to practice the science of consistently aiming at very specific targets with the objective of doing so with more observable accuracy and confidence.

Key fact(s):

  1. A ball that spins backward at a relatively high rpm when compared with sidespin rpm has a strong tendency (like a gyroscope) to follow the path on which the ball was originally sent by the golf club.
  2. Some balls are engineered to spin more than others.
  3. Wedges impart relatively high backspin…when compared with mid and long irons.

Practice Regime: 

The very specific objective is to aim and send balls at targets.  To do so I will optimize the conditions for practice and observable feedback, while removing as many variables from the system as possible.

From the facts and objective, therefore, I will use low spin balls and practice this module only with short irons and wedges.

Why?

I want to see where I am hitting it (ie where I am aimed when the club hits the ball).  Remember dear reader, this is not a ball flight practice objective.  Using a low spin ball will lower the effect of sidespin, keeping backspin relatively high…giving the Sherpa the truest sense of where I am sending the “pill”.

With these optimized conditions and assuming good weather, the practice will be structured as follows.

  1. Select a target within wedge or short iron range.
  2. Use a rangefinder or step off the distance so that you know the yardage and are comfortable with it.  This is not a yardage drill per se, but knowing will keep you from being distracted by yardage during this session…key in staying focused on you stated practice objective.
  3. Lay down an aim club which aims exactly at your target.
  4. Lay down a parallel club to aim youself with.
  5. Lay down ten low spin balls (range balls will work).
  6. Align your feet, knees and shoulders with the club from step 4.
  7. Hit ten balls and don’t concern youself with yardage…only aim.

At this point, I will have G money with me to address any alignment issues, but don’t fear, this can be a solo outing as well.  My point is just that it is usually more productive if you have a buddy with you to validate that your feet, legs and shoulders are aligned at address.

Did you hit most of them left?  If so, aim a little right.

Do not try to change your swing….today you are aiming.

As you move through trial and error you will soon discover whether you need to aim a bit right, left or precisely at the target to get the observable objective you seek (ie hitting the target area somewhat consistently).

Every person is different and so will be your alignment bias that eventually reveals itself in this practice regimen.  

I have a very good friend who is a scratch handicap, who would see that his bias requires him to aim a little right  and play a slight pull.  This is his natural tendency and because he  knows and trusts it he is an aiming “machine”.

Bottom line:  There is no single perfect alignment.  Each body is endowed by the creator with capabilities, biases and limitations.  The purpose of  this drill is to reveal what aim bias works for you so that as things become complicated under pressure, you will know on a very real and trusting basis what yours is. 

No kidding…to aim consistently, you need to know your personal tendency like you drivers license number or your wedding anniversary.

Play on…

The Sherpa.