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

What is aggression’s proper role in Golf…?

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

The other day as the Sherpa was walking 9 and (as usual) waxing philosophic with my dream foursome, the article I wrote 4/12 about who won the Green Jacket became the topic of conversation.  During our banter, the ideas of aggression and ego came up as a natural offshoot.  True to form I was curious so I asked as simple yet (as it turned out) provocative question…

What is aggression’s proper role in Golf?

Allow me to contextualize my foursome (albeit briefly, because my next article will be on them specifically).

They are a multidisciplinary bunch of guys from all walks of life, who have one thing in common.  They are all whip smart.

Knowing that each would have an opinion, the Sherpa remained quiet and curious.

The first notion was the most obvious.  Namely that aggression is the mind killer and while it can make you a terrific pass rusher in football, it can kill your touch and feel if allowed to rush the swing.  Quite “Sherpalike” was my initial read and I almost stopped listening until another idea began to gain momentum.

This second notion was that you can lose focus in golf if you are so aggressive that you stop playing golf and sub-optimize your thinking.  For example, you may think “I am going to kill this ball a mile”  as opposed to “I am going to send this ball to that spot, so that I have the approach shot I need”.  This time the Sherpa really thought we were done and again my mind almost wandered..

Then G-Money (not his real name) blew my mind..

“Sherpa”, he said, “I read your site every morning with my cup of coffee, and if you will indulge me, I think I have your next article”. 

You could have heard a pin drop.  Everyone in our foursome was captivated by the sincere pronouncement of an otherwise reserved and unassuming buddy.  The Sherpa could no longer stand the suspense.

“G-Money”, I said, “what prey tell is your insight into this most vexing question”.

Without skipping a beat, he said the magic words..

“Sherpa”, he calmly replied “aggression is not the enemy, it is about how you channel your aggression that counts”.

“Tell me more”, I asked as his unfettered clarity of thought kept me hanging on his words.

“You see dear Sherpa, aggression is part of the human condition that cannot be denied.  You don’t stop it… you control it.  If a hammer hits you on the thumb while driving a nail, is that powerful force considered bad? No, it was just misused”.

By this time, I am so floored with his metaphor that I wonder if he has been brewing this for awhile just to get published.

“How then is aggression properly channeled then G-Money?”, I ask impatiently wanting the punch line.

“The answer is in the lessons you already teach Sherpa”.  The Sherpa is not used to getting “Sherpa’d” himself and I was having a ball.  Wanting to learn every day about myself and the game I love, I asked “be specific”.

He said, “I will illustrate by using one of your own articles back on April 5th about the ‘most dreaded shot in golf’.  In that article you talk about every shot counting”. 

Then came the punch line…like a ton of mental game bricks.

“I would say that on every shot you have to ‘aggressively commit’ “, he said with a look of self aware cleverness that belied his normally sincere and thoughtful demeanor.  He was all Cheshire Cat.

“Bravo”, I exclaimed, “more maestro, more”.

“The idea has such power”, he went on. ”If you are over a layup shot and need to get out of the junk, you must not think ‘tentatively’.  No indeed,  you must AGGRESSIVELY COMMIT TO A CONSERVATIVE SHOT”.

Somewhere in his speech I think I actually heard a marching band and cymbals as he dramatically closed his argument.

He was absolutely right.  If you do not aggressively commit, you will undoubtedly smash your thumb at the most inopportune time.

Bottom line:  G-Money has his moments, and I would definitely listen to his guidance.  He was the man that day…Thanks ”G”. 

 

Play on…

The Sherpa

The Indian bought a new Arrow (i.e. The Sherpa bought a new golf Club)…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Equipment Advice

Yes dear readers..like other long range patterns..lunar eclipse..Olympic games…presidential elections…the Sherpa makes a momentous decision.

He buys a new driver.

While the Sherpa is happily married to his putter, all other clubs in the bag get much wear and tear.  My last driver, a Taylor Made R7, lasted seven years.  Point in fact, it still is functional and is on its second shaft, but the head size is like a pea compared with the “block o’ cheese” head sizes that they offer now.

Taking my own advice, I went and had myself fitted for the proper driver set up.  In my case the characteristics that optimized my ball flight were:

1: A neutral bias weighting system – meaning that the club would not intentionally try to close or leave the face open.  Nowadays, you can get drivers that are designed for either swing tendency to help straighten your ball flight out.  Pretty cool, but not what I needed.  The Sherpa wants total freedom to work the ball either way, given the situation.

2: Stiff shaft – meaning that with a swing speed of 95 to100 miles an hour, the shaft will not flex too much.  It feels kind of “boardy”, but keeps the clubhead out in front of me when I hit it.   This key variable keeps the Sherpa from having to pretzel himself to close the clubface at impact

3:Good MOI – meaning that the club will not twist too much if I don’t hit it perfectly on the sweetspot.  This forgiveness keeps distance more consistent even if you don’t catch it pure.  Sherpa…he like MOI.

4:  9 degree loft – meaning that I get optimal launch angle (13 to 15 degrees) with low loft (9 degree), enabling a lower penetrating flight that spins at the right rate and rolls out like a marble on a slab.

5: It has got to look and sound cool – meaning that I am not going to plunk down hard earned cash for something that is artless for the sake of function. I am “the Sherpa” after all.

I found it….drum roll please.

And the winner is the Callaway FT9.

I got onto Callaway after playing a used FT5 and loved how it performed, looked and sounded.

While I was getting fitted I started thinking about you guys and realized if I was thoughtful, I could ask the fitter a few key questions to see if I could harvest some new insights.

Wow did that turn out well…

I asked simply, “Mr. Fitter, since you see hundreds of pilgrims like me on our quest for a better game, and since you are not a coach, what do you have to fix most often so you can sell your wonderful products?”

Without hesitation, he said “easy, it’s usually one of three things. First I check left hand grip, 95% of the time it’s too weak (see only one knuckle or less).  Second, I check their hand position at address.  Usually folks have their hands behind the clubhead at addess (causing open shoulders and a wicked banana slice).  If they are ok with these two things, but still slicing badly, I’ll notice that their swing sequence from the top is out of whack”.  After a stunned moment of silence, I asked “what do you mean”? 

He grabbed a club and showed me that many players with slicing or duck hooking problems make a good backswing, but when they start to turn, they do so while still on their back foot instead of bumping forward then releasing their arms on the downswing.

It was like lightning.  This guy, had been forced to correct probably 100 swings this year so that he could effectively sell clubs.  In doing so, he had boiled the process down to about 250 words.  He was like some kind of Haiku golf poet.  So I put him to the test.  I got on the monitor and kept hitting fades.  He said, “I like your left hand grip…nice and strong.  Do you want to play that fade?   If you don’t then move your hands forward to keep them even with the clubface at address”. 

Wow…I hit a beautiful little draw that gave me awesome yardage and terrific roll out. 

Bottom line: Never stop learning…the game has valuable secrets that are told by all who come under its spell.  Secondly, learn how to technically use every club in your bag.  Really commit to understand how the club was engineered and you will get much better performance out of it.

In celebration of my wonderful new purchase, I looked for a terrific lesson for you on driver tips that I think is a beauty.

Enjoy..

Play on…

The Sherpa

 

What you can learn watching the Masters…

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

Once a year, the Sherpa goes into one track mind mode…to distraction if you will.  Yes, the Masters represents the acme of the most consuming elements of the golf game that envelope me with  a numb sense of wonder and awe. 

Why such prose?  “It’s just another tournament” some might say.  “BLASPHEMY”,  exclaims the Sherpa!

The context is clear…this is the strongest field in golf, probably the most breathtaking course on the planet, advertising is subtle, the tradition is decades old and Bobby Jones (who still owns a record that Tiger has not broken) is credited with it’s original DNA.

It is an event that is so emotionally taxing on players that it sincerely and heartbreakingly brings them to tears.  The desire to win the coveted Green Jacket serves as performance rocket fuel for the very best players on Earth…it gets no better than this…anywhere.

So what does the Sherpa do when he thinks about such grandeur and momentous happenings?  Naturally, I want to give you perspective on how you can profit from what you see, so that you can take it back and apply it to your game.  Just because you aren’t playing in the masters doesn’t mean your game is any less valuable.

So what do we look for this week?

This week I would humbly ask that you watch for the deliberateness of shots being made…specifically one that we all face at least once a round.

The layup.

Why has the Sherpa chosen such a stock shot?  We could have talked about the atomic wedge shots they’ll have to hit onto some of these greens or we could have talked about  how to focus on a part of the fairway for driver…you know “Sherpa stuff”.

The Sherpa has chosen layup, because you will see a lot of them.  If you study how they have set up the graduated rough on Augusta, you will note that in the secondary rough it is almost a crap shoot.  This lie will likely force players to go sideways back onto the fairway (unless they are among the very strong in field…I am talking “muscles strong”, like Tiger).

Even so why am I choosing this shot?  I am doing so dear reader, because the Sherpa believes:

  1. You will face this shot more than once a round.
  2. You can immediately improve performance here, without a swing tip, if you currently struggle when hitting one.
  3. It will cost no money to improve (the Sherpa’s favorite price).

What is the key?  Committment to it…as you would any other shot.

The mistake the Sherpa sees most golfers make when hitting this shot is a mental resignation to hitting a “less satisfying” shot  (when compared with something sexier like…hitting into a narrow green or a tight fairway).  The sense of forward motion tends to keep us engaged while the “low satisfaction” thought of a layup,  by contrast,  is commonly characterized as ”taking your medicine”.

Such negative connotation and mental state, rob us of focus.  Its almost as if we forget that if we screw this shot up it will,  somehow,  not count as much on the scorecard. It is ultimately this line of reasoning that turns bogies into double bogies as we rush to make the “medicine” shot too quickly.  Why?  To get it past us so we can go on to hit more satisfying shots..you know “the fun stuff”.   

The problem is that when you do this you stop playing golf and begin swinging like the nutty professor, foregoing every bit of natural and developed talent you  have so patiently and diligently cultivated.

Next time you are out of position…realize that the scorecard is still interested in you keeping your focus and doing your absolute best with the shot you have in front of you,  whether you are hitting it sideways to get out of the junk or putting for eagle. 

Your layups will have more purpose (fewer spasitc swings) and will get the credit you owe them because of  the clever and aware ”golfer mind” that you represent.

Bottom line:  All shots count…even when they are not sexy.  When you watch the Master’s this week, watch how the Pro’s handle this shot.  You’ll note that they will deliver 100% committment backwards, sideways and toward the pin…every time.  You owe your game the same engagement.

Play on…

The Sherpa

A quick lesson on Tempo from a “Sherpa Approved” Instructor…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Key Golf Fundamentals

As I posted the other night, I trust your swing with an instructor I have come to really like.   Now that you have faithfully practiced the “feet together drill”, I want to expose you to this next video which is a great next step in your development…tempo.

Please enjoy and review the video in its entirety.  It is a very, very well done lesson on a key element.  Try it and give me your feedback.

Get your timing right..whether you have played 3 days or 30 years…Jack Nicklaus always reviewed his each year and he was pretty good.

Play on…

The Sherpa