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

Random golf Thoughts…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Uncategorized

The Sherpa as you well know by now, is recovering from a nasty, nasty break in my left wrist.  As such, the painkillers required to achieve even a modicum of rest have a tendency to tire the mind.

To combat the fatigue but still make this posting entertaining, I will go off the beaten path of my typical style and just riff tonight…just share some  random golf thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head.

Golfers are great people:

I have lost count of the wonderful souls I have met playing this wonderful game.  My best friends are golfers.  Not because they can hit a ball well or putt lights out…

Simply, they embrace the character, manners and generosity that good golf demands.  Don’t think golfers are generous? 

Last year the PGA gave more money to charities than the NFL did in two, and last night my buddies all volunteered to cut my steak for me because I could not…solid guys.

Not everyone should play golf:

Sorry…but I can’t un-ring that bell now.  I really think that golf is an aquired taste and I know several people whom I would not recommend the game to. 

At the same time I would say that everyone should commit to at least one hobby, sport or past-time that engrosses the senses and releases their minds completely from the mundane nature of life…

Freeing them to live …”in the moment”.

Speaking of the moment…all golfers should understand Zen :

Afraid the Sherpa is flaking out on some new wave jibberish?  Consider these well worn comments from the world’s best players…

“play one shot at a time”

“let the round unfold”

“don’t press”

“don’t get ahead of yourself”

“play within yourself”

This is Zen 101…trust me…it matters.

Anger is irrelevant in golf:

Too many golfers get angry when they hit a bad shot…throw clubs…say bad things…ruin things for other golfers.

To be blunt…unless you make a million dollars a year doing it…

In the immortal words of Claude Harmon Sr. (to his now famous son Butch after cussing in a tournament)…

“You aren’t good enough to get angry”.

Don’t get too happy to see Tiger fail:

While the Sherpa’s integrity and basic curiosity about the human condition require that I call out when #1 stumbles…it is never with a sense of pleasure.

Quite the contrary, it is with a sense of foreboding.  I recognize, as do all pro players that Tiger is the reason that my new driver is made of titatnium, my golf shirts are moisture wicking and my golf ball sits in a field of over 20 competitors….

Just ask anybody what was in their golf bag in 1985 and you will realize that even Jack did not create the level of wealth and therefore equipment innovation.

Please Tiger…break par often, but not anything else…ever.

Daddy wants this golf “cash cow” to live forever.

Alas dear readers…the Sherpa is out of gas for the night.

Have any random thoughts to share? 

Leave a comment.

No charge…anytime.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Ouch! A picture is worth a thousand disturbing Words…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Golf Fitness

In case you thought The Sherpa was just whining about a sprain…see for yourself.

 

titanium-plate-side-view7

 Suffice it to say…my new “ouchie” was a little more than a sprain. 

The Sherpa’s Distal Radius (arm bone) has a Titanium plate as sexy and hot as my new FT9 Driver…

Now I can use my new rangefinder to gauge shots and my left wrist to gauge the weather.

Rehab starts next week and a timeline for resuming play will depend on how quickly my surgeon gives me the go ahead…

Now that I have no doubt disturbed you with the alarming photo, please accept my apology.  I just wanted you to see, believe and understand how severe my injury was and why you can see it has slowed my writing down considerably.

As soon as I can get both hands on the keyboard again, you can count on me returning to my old prolific self.

Now down to business…

In my last post I talked about my plan to return to the game…once healed.

This week I will be posting Lesson Two in the Sherpa Syllabus that I am compiling for my glorious return…titled “Grip”.

Since mine hurts so dearly right now…sadly…this post will have to wait acouple of days.

Thanks dear readers for your patience and understanding during my rehab…

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.

The Sherpa golfs no More…at least not for a while…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Golf Fitness, Uncategorized

Normally the inspiration for my blogs emanates from the environment around the Sherpa. Sometimes they occur subliminally then sometimes they appear with the suddenness and ferocity of a train wreck…guess which kind this inspiration was?

The day began quite innocently with the Sherpa clan spending a leisurely weekend at the seashore with in-laws. We were celebrating my brother in law’s birthday and the weather was idyllic. It was Sunday afternoon, I was 90% through the posting for my take on the Byron Nelson and my beloved father in law invited me to take a ride in his amazing new 28 foot Boston Whaler…awesome.

We head out into the inter coastal water and this boat is earning its reputation for stability and speed.  The Sherpa is amazed by the Whaler’s technical capability and is soaking up the zen of the waves.  I am thoroughly enjoying the wind as it crisply and sharply blows over the bow and past my face.

It was then,  I now realize,  an old Mexican proverb (my father taught me) governed events.

Dad is fond of saying, “en cada vida hay quince minutos de pura pendejada, lo que importa es que estas haciendo, dentro esos quince minutos”.

Roughly translated, “in every life, there are 15 minutes of pure stupidity, what is important is what you are doing during those 15 minutes”.

If you rare lucky, you are sleeping, locked in a padded cell or tied to a gurney…..the Sherpa was riding in a $100K boat at 35 miles a hour. 

Crap.

As I became more and more comfortable with the ride and the incredible stability, the Sherpa decided to ride on the front of the boat. 

Now I am really feeling it.  The wind in my hair, the sun shining, I am free and riding high…lovin it baby.

Off on the horizon I see a typical scene…a large barge headed perpendicular to our path.   As we near the path of the barge the wake looms much larger than I anticipate.  I have just enough time to brace myself with my left hand on the railing before we do our Dukes of Hazard jump over this tremendous wake.

Two things happen…

  1. I keep from being thrown from the boat
  2. I help make the down-payment on my wrist surgeon’s new Porsche while ending my golf career until 2010.

When we recovered from the turbulence, the 90 degree displacement of the bones in my left wrist and the freakishly searing pain told me this was more than a “sprain”

This was old school, mideavil, “kick your dog in the teeth” kind of pain….so complete in its envelopment of your senses that you wonder if it really just happened.

Pain gave way to nausea, then fear for the damage I had most assuredly done to half of my golf swing, work capability, typing..you name it.

When my brother in law came forward to check on me, his reaction was nearly as frightful as the break…poor guy’s face turned green when he saw the fracture, so I sent him to get me a magazine to fashion a splint…knowing he would not want to watch what I was about to do…

I could not bear the pain of such a crooked wrist, so I gently grabbed the finger tips and pulled my hand outward until my left wrist looked more like my right wrist…the wrist was at least straight now, and I felt like I was taking control…an important feeling when every tiny movement of the ocean reminds you about the real meaning of pain.

When things hurt this much already, the pain of setting your own bones is just incremental, so I figured the trade off would be worth the relief I would feel when my bones were more in line with “the creators”  blueprint.  

My gamble paid off and I was energized that I had taken back the situation and felt somewhat in charge again.  We radioed Mrs. Sherpa who showed up at the dock with Tylenol and a map to the local hospital.

The Xrays confirmed what I already knew.  I had a severe break of the radius just above the left wrist and even though I had straightened it, the fracture was severe and would need a significant repair once the swelling subsided.

Back home, three days later, I went to get an Orthopedic consult and had surgery the following day.  

Like my new driver, I now have a titanium plate, that should allow my wrist to heal.  With rehab, I expect to get back at least 90% of my old range of motion, but the time to do so will not see me swinging a club until late 2009 or early 2010.

I apologize for not posting sooner, but pain killers have a way of making you sleepy and my doctor said no driving or blogging, while on the hard stuff.

I am typing right handed, so these posts take a bit longer, but fear not dear reader, I will use my rehab time to improve this site and share any rehab tips I learn along the way.

Bottom line:  Every day is a gift.  Do not take your health for granted.  The Sherpa is lucky the injury was not worse.  Keep healthy, and never..ever ride on the front of a boat…even if it is a whaler.

Play on…

The Sherpa