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

Think foreplay is only for Lovers? Golfers need to warm up Too…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

“Whoa Sherpa”, I can hear you gasping…”this is a family site, where on Earth are you going with this”, as you rush to cover your children’s eyes.  Unless this is the first post you have read, you know by now that the Sherpa sees golf metaphors in EVERYTHING…

Let me give you some background.

Good Golf (like all enterprises that fill your mind and senses with tactile and cognitive delight) should not be entered into abruptly…without proper “warm up”.

Good golf, rather starts out slowly…in what the Sherpa likes to call “Pre-Round FOURPLAY”…clever huh?

Why?

Like the “oldest past-time known to man”, good Golf requires your body to adjust.  Swinging and aiming at targets at the range before a round gets the blood moving and the muscles properly warmed to deliver the required performance…you know…to play golf…why are you looking at me like that? 

Moving along.

The key here is to feel the swing deeply with your body.  Stop snickering dear reader…I definitely heard snickering. 

Remember, the swing you brought with you is the one you have to play today.  This is “Fourplay”…not practice.  Your smirk is quite noticeable dear reader.

I swear I can hear laughter…lets keep it serious please…the Sherpa has to concentrate.

Now where was I?

Ahh, yes.

The more ready your body is…the better balance you will have between the proper muscle tension and the low level adrenaline you will require to physically deliver results.

Is it just the Sherpa, or is it getting hot in here?

Anyway…your body is not the only thing that needs preparation.

“Good golf”, as the Sherpa has been quoted as saying, “happens between the ears”. 

Good pre-round “fourplay” involves getting your mind focused on the objective of playing golf…namely sending balls to targets.

Good mental “fourplay” raises awareness,  gets you excited, creative and anticipatory about the look, feel and sensations you will bathe in…during your ROUND…what were YOU thinking?

I SWEAR I am STILL talking about golf…sheesh!

Bottom line:  The experience of golf…good golf…starts well before you hit a ball.  If you want to really enjoy it, sneak up on it slowly and the sensations and performance you will experience (during the actual event) will be much more focused and intensified.

The Sherpa needs a cigarette…and a cold shower.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Practice doesn’t always make perfect in Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Uncategorized

Sometimes the Sherpa needs no inspiration to write about things I think plague the beginning golfer. Sadly, one need only visit the driving range to see one of the major impediments to golf development for beginners…practice.

“Sherpa”, I can hear you saying, “now you are just be provocative”.

Let me lay some context on you.

Perhaps the Sherpa should have said “poor practice”. Feel better?..I do.

Think back at the characters you have seen at the range almost every time you’ve been on the holy practice ground…

Each have the same thing in common..see if you can guess what it is.

  • Quick shot McGraw – This person typically is more concerned with getting practice over with. You have seen this character…tees up and hits a ball and before the first one has even hit the ground, rakes over another one and hits it “lickety split”. Doesn’t look at ball flight, direction or even where it came down. Rake, hit, rake,hit….
  • The Mechanic – This person is looking at their hands, their feet, the clubhead… Obsession with swing positions clouds their mind to the exclusion of what is happening to the ball. Grip, waggle, look at hands, swing…repeat.
  • The Beater – This person is obsessed with the amount of balls they hit, as if a quota were in place that will improve swing capability if only 300 balls get hit in one practice. If a little is good…then a lot is great. Not true in medicine or golf.

Have you seen the connection yet? Sure you have…none of them are practicing….they are just hitting balls, hoping that things will get better.

None of them are measuring success as it is measured in golf.

Broken record alert…for those of you who dutifully read my blog…the Sherpa is at it again…you’ll see.

Said a different way, the only thing that matters is whether they are getting better at sending the ball to a targetnothing else is “golf”.

It saddens the Sherpa to see this happening day after day at golf ranges around the country.

It honestly breaks the Sherpa’s heart to see good people with good intentions taking the time to get better at this wonderful game, only to be rewarded with worse swings and less accuracy,

How do you keep from falling into this trap?

  • The most basic and simple rule is from the “Godfather”..Harvey Penick.  Be quick, mechanical or beat a million balls…if you must, just don’t do so without picking out a target EVERY TIME YOU SWING. How will you know if you are getting better? Never break this rule.
  • On EVERY swing evaluate the flight of the ball and do not come out of your stance until the ball has hit the ground. Volumes have been written on how vital it is for your brain’s learning capacity to stay in your stance until you SEE THE BALL HIT THE GROUND. To connect your mind to your swing, the absolutely most effective way is to keep the feel of your swing fresh as you see the ball react. When you step out of your stance, you lose the connection..instead you witness the ball fly, as opposed to connecting it to your swing feel.
  • If you get tired, quit. You are not going to hit the perfect 6 iron every time and chasing it will only make things worse. Jack Nicklaus was very careful with this rule. He was certain that you could turn good feel into bad feel if you practiced tired. Better to finish when you are still relatively fresh and haven’t allowed fatigue to put you in poor posture (or some other swing killing move)  that could masquerade as something you need to “fix” (when in reality you are just tired..and nothing is really broken).
  • Have a plan…work on one maybe two drills “tops”. This is marathon, not a sprint Tiger. Learning one thing well is much more valuable than working at 5 things poorly.

Bottom line: This issue causes the Sherpa to lose more sleep than any other in amateur golf. The driving range, if used wisely, can derive real improvement, but left to chance can create havoc and misery. I want you to be wildly successful..or at least steadily improve. Practice with good habits and you improve your odds impressively.

Play on…

The Sherpa