What I miss about Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Key Golf Fundamentals

Greetings dear readers…

During my injury induced hiatus, the Sherpa has had time to  deeply reflect on what makes golf such an integral part of my life.

Introspection brought about the most curious of truths.  Surprisingly…I don’t miss what I thought I would.

Oh sure…for the first couple of weeks I missed my new shiny driver…made with the same titanium alloy they used to fix the Sherpa’s badly broken wrist.

As the days went by, however, I found myself thinking less and less about “golf gear”  ( my grips, the newest style of golf shoe, etc).

Even later, I stopped looking longingly into my special “man closet” (designed by Mrs. Sherpa to corral the detrius of a lifetime collecting golf equipment). Up to that point I had been checking my beloved golf accouterments daily in some vague hope that if I did, I would feel satisfied somehow in a “golfy” sort of way…

Pathetic…

Kind of like when you open the fridge, even though you have no real intent to eat…you’re just “browsing” (as Sherpette #2 is fond of saying).  Don’t look at me that way…you know you have done this before.  Admit it…you’ll feel better.

Where was I?  Oh yeah.

At some point I even began leaving my brand new golf magazines untouched for a couple of days after Mrs. Sherpa had thoughtfully put them in my “to read” pile in my office (aka the “man room” where said “man closet” lives).

At this point I started to get nervous.  What next?  Will the Sherpa stop watching pro golf on TV? 

The Horror!

To calm myself and re-center my mind, I took a mental inventory of the things I still had a keen interest in.

  1. First, I have delighted in reviewing the fundamental mechanics of the golf swing.  In my studies I  have learned much about the swing and ball flight characteristics.  This intensive review effort is feeding a growing confidence that I will be both a much improved player and enlightened Sherpa for others seeking knowledge and guidance.
  2. I love being outside…enough said.
  3. I adore my friends and meeting people with the same interests.

Calmed now and in better control of my faculties, the Sherpa  finally made it to the golf course last weekend (after being cleared for “chipping and putting” only by “Dr. Sawbones”).

My enthusiasm was well curbed as I tried not to oversell myself on the idea of going to the golf course to “play”, when the doctor really hadn’t cleared me for removal of my training wheels.

I honestly thought, “well… I won’t play but at least I will be near it”, pathetically reasoning again that I was going to be content to just “look in the fridge”.

Then a wonderful thing happened.  I had the time of my life…

I was outside all day, hanging out with my friends and meeting great people.  G-Money asked if I would loop for him in an important golf tournament later this year…a sobering honor to say the least.

Just when I thought things could get no better, I was able to diagnose and help a fellow golfer who was topping his ball badly.  I changed one thing I saw in his grip and “bang” he started hitting frozen ropes down the middle.

The look on his face as he crushed it in front of his young son was invaluable…and tremendously fulfilling for me.

As if to reward my good deed the golf gods allowed my pent up potential and intensive studies to bear fruit. As proof,  I drew upon all of the things I have been working on during my studies and holed 3 chips.  I also putted better than I recall…

Ever…

Fan freakin’  tastic!

Bottom line: I guess each person finds his/her own path in golf and in the world.   For me it was about capability, camaraderie, nature and goodwill.

Luckily these things are priceless but cost nothing.

Play on…

The Sherpa

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

Take a bite out of golf swing Tension…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Key Golf Fundamentals

The Sherpa is usually low tension on the golf course, but watching one of my Sherpettes put me on a path to discovering a good (cost free) tip on reducing swing tension without any practice.  What I like so much about this tip is that I was able to help my daughter instantly (and I hope to do so for you).

It was just a few weeks ago and the Sherpa and his lovely Sherpette were at the driving range.  After a few swings, I noticed that her normal full swing was kind of recoiling at the end.  Instead of swinging to a full finish, in other words, she was kind of chopping the end of the swing off.

“Daughter”, I asked “why are you swinging so hard”?  “I’m not Dad” she replied.  After another couple of swings, I noticed she was right.  She wasn’t swinging too hard, she just wasn’t “flowing” and “graceful”.

I then asked myself, “what is the opposite of graceful”?  All I could come up with was thoughts like “choppy” and “rigid”.  I then asked her to swing again, and as I looked at her angelic face, I noticed something very telling.

She was clenching her jaw. …So clear was her facial tension, that I could see little ripples of sinew in her cheeks. 

“Daughter”, I asked again, “are you mad or in pain”?  “No Dad”, she replied, ”I am just trying to swing good”.

It was then that I formulated a powerful thought (almost made me pass out from pure genius).

“Self”, I thought, “we need to get this kid to lighten up without thinking about it”.  I decided  to target the tension where I saw it…her face.

“Daughter”, I asked, “Can you rest your tongue between your upper and lower front teeth, then take another swing that way”? 

Now the Sherpa’s children adore the sire, but even my own flesh and blood was thinking this an odd request.

Hiding her skepticism like a true pro, she did as her loving father implored and “whammo”.  She tagged it right on the sweetspot and finished with a lovely and graceful finish.

Bottom line:  Even if you are not aware of tension or feel tension, it can creep into your flexibility and golf swing.  If you unclench your jaw, it is difficult to carry tension while your mouth is in such a relaxed state. 

Next time you step up to the ball…let your jaw stay loose enough to easily rest your tongue between your front teeth.  Doing so will allow you to take a very solid step in systematically reducing tension.  Best of all (its free).

Play on and stay loose…

The Sherpa

Was this tip helpful?…Let me know.

The Golf Grip…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Key Golf Fundamentals

Golf grip pressure is an issue that virtually every renowned golf instructor and published professional golfer has written about.  Why?  Because it has a very basic and powerful affect on how fast the end of your golf club moves.  Don’ t think so?

Imagine you have a mint 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback with a 4:11 gear ratio, traction bars, cool mags with centerline racing rims, and a 25 coat candy apple red paint job (or anything you think is supremely awesome).

Next, visualize that a scary and very jeleous person with a gun forces you to hit your supremely awesome car with a two iron.  If you wanted him to think you were taking a whack but wanted to minimize damage to your car,  you would instictively grip the club like you were trying to choke it to death.  This would enable you to use your wrists to slow the club head.

The same hand and wrist leverage you create to save your sweet ride in this nightmare scenario also robs your game of power and distance. 

So what is the proper grip pressure?

Here is where the debate takes many forks.

  • “Slammin” Sammy Snead was fond of saying he held the club as light as he would a baby bird.  He was also very fond of saying he never developed calluses because of his light pressure.
  • Tiger Woods tends to hold his clubs a bit firmer.
  • Most advocates say, depending on the shot, pressure should range between 5 and 7 on a scale of ten.
  • I have only read one article on a shot that required very firm grip pressure…hitting out of heavy rough.  This shot requires strong grip pressure to keep the club from shutting down when the hosel gets stuck in heavy grass.

“So”, you ask, “what is the anwer Sherpa?  Guide me please”!

The best drill I have ever used was one I read in an article by  Jim Flick.

  1. Take the golf club and hold it parallel to the ground at waist height.  Notice that this is where the club is heaviest in your hands and requires the firmest grip.
  2. Next pivot the end of the golf club upward until it is straight up and down.  Notice that this is when the club feels the lighest and requires the lightest grip.
  3. Finally, slowly lower the club head 45 degrees  (half way between the previous two positions).  Take note of how the club becomes slightly heavier and your grip pressure is slightly firmer.  This is the grip pressure he recommends and the one I use religiously.

An easy way to practice this feel is to try it a few times when you are practicing.  Simply take your grip when the club is at the 45 degree position (step 3 above) then set the club behind the ball, (taking special care not to change your grip pressure) and take your normal swing. 

Bottom line: “Lighter” is more powerful than “too firm”.  There is no perfect pressure, but this one has worked great for me.  Try it and tell me how it works for you.

Special shout out to GiGi’s comment for inspiring this post.

Play on..

The Golf Sherpa