By Bob Duncan
SLICE! It’s the biggest problem golfers’ face – next to chipping. Over 60 percent of shots are hit inside of 100 yards, and if you can’t chip well you’re going to add strokes to your game … But, many players say that if you can’t get off the tee you can’t score, so how do you hit it farther and straighter off the tee? Or even hit a *gasp* DRAW?
Three keys that significantly affect driver performance:
· DRIVER LOFT
· TEE HEIGHT and ANGLE OF ATTACK
· PLAYER BALANCE and SWING PLANE
DRIVER LOFT is the single biggest killer of driver performance. Even Bubba Watson’s keys to driving include using a driver with a higher loft (see http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-instruction/2010-07/10-rules-watson). It does make sense. Every lower loft can produce more slice. use more loft to decrease slice less. Many players are beginning to use a 13 or 15 degree driver, or a 13 or 15 degree fairway wood as a secondary driver to keep them in play. If direction is your biggest issue off the tee, get more loft first.
TEE HEIGHT and ANGLE OF ATTACK is a big key. The lower you tee the ball the more steeply you are apt to approach the ball, which causes a downward angle of attack, usually with an open face. Interestingly, a high-right slice is almost the same problem as a low-left duck hook. With the duck hook the wrists are released, while the high-right slice is prior to release. Many players swing over-the-top and down on a driver. Fix the angle of attack first by making it shallow or even striking the ball on the upswing. You’ll hit the ball straighter.
PLAYER BALANCE and SWING PLANE are closely related. Many players are taught to place their balance on the balls of their feet. This enhances a more upright swing, which normally has a reduced clubface rotation, enhancing a slice. Flatter swing planes rotate the clubface more on a shallower plane, but it’s difficult to perform a flatter swing plane without changing your weight. If your weight is actually slightly on your heels and you perform a flatter swing plane, it should enhance the possibilities of a draw – combined with a proper grip, more loft, a higher tee and a shallow angle of attack.
Great chipping performance also comes from 3 points:
· VERTICAL SHAFT and TOE-DOWN POSITION
· BRUSH STROKE and FINISH
· CALIBRATED DISTANCE CONTROL
VERTICAL SHAFT and TOE-DOWN POSITION A toe-down position sure helps. Getting the shaft more vertical and the club toe-down is big. As Annika Sorenstam recommends, “Stand a little closer to the ball to compensate for shortening the club. This will get the clubhead up on its toe, reducing the risk of chunking the shot” (www.golfdigest.com/golf-instruction/short-game/chipping/annika_gd0804). Toe-down chipping helps with reducing drag on the sole, helping the club to skip across the ground.
BRUSH STROKE and FINISH A low, brushing motion will help insure that the ball gets off the ground. The over-emphasis on hitting down on a chip often creates an angle of attack that is too steep, causing chunking the shot. Try keeping the clubhead low, brushing the ball off the ground, with a finish the same length as your backswing. Remember that if you don’t touch the ground, you won’t get the ball off the ground. The toe-down position supports this move. No method is foolproof for chipping, but this one seems easy for players to learn and perform.
CALIBRATED DISTANCE CONTROL This is where the rubber meets the road. This might take an hour to figure out, but it’s well worth it. Start close to the green with a 7 or 8 iron and no target, perform the toe-down position and the brush move 10 times, and note in paces how far the ball flies and how far it rolls on your best shots. Do the same for the 8, 9, pw, sw, and lob, and you now have a calibrated method of controlling distance. The remaining issue is knowing just how far you are from the flag. Pace it off, check your distances and you’ll know which club you should use. Chipping performance is 1/3 club choice, 1/3 more effective technique, and 1/3 execution.
Chances are if you can drive in play and chip the ball effectively, you’re probably beating all your buddies in that Saturday morning Nassau bet, or taking the top spot in the weekly competition!
Bob Duncan is the developer of the internationally recognized Golfer Positioning System, an on-course playing method that is exploring what it means to play the game of golf. He is a 30-year PGA Member with over 9,000 hours of instruction and has custom fit over $1.6M in golf equipment. His website is www.bobduncangolf.com and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Bob Duncan
Have you really experienced a ‘Rub of the Green’ lately? Players often attribute a bad bounce or an unexplained shot to a rub of the green, but according to the 2012 Rules of Golf you probably haven’t had many rubs of the green, unless one of your friends has had some fun at your expense. The use of the phrase ‘Rub of the Green’ is often misused under current rules, but perhaps not based on its original intent.
According to the USGA Rules of Golf, a “rub of the green’’ occurs when a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency (see Definition for Rub of the Green, and Rule 19-1). In a normal rub of the green, the ball shall be played as it lies.
If we go back a few years, the game of golf was originally built on integrity and a rub of the green was a significant element. According to phrases.org, the rub of the green was originally attributed to snooker commentators with an emphasis on luck, but prior to that it was actually first used in the game of bowls. A “rub” is any hindrance or impediment that diverts the bowl from its proper course. Referring to luck, these hindrances might not be considered in the play of a shot and may result in either good or bad bounces or rolls.
As golf developed in Scotland, it might seem that the Scots are ‘daring’ you to compete under marginal conditions, considering that links-style courses do not have the most pristine grass conditions or level fairways, and also feature strong winds and rain at times. For a time in the 1800’s the Rules of Golf included the phrase “Whatever happens to a ball by accident, must be reckoned a rub of the green”.
In contrast to the courses of Scotland, the courses in the United States went through a period of eliminating hindrances and impediments through improved maintenance practices and thereby taking bad luck out of the game. With improvements in turf grass and maintenance practices as well as the design and manufacture of clubs and balls, technology in golf has come a long way. In some cases technology has somewhat eclipsed older course designs. Technology has allowed designers to shrug conventional design, such as building fairways that compare to green conditions, making the game somewhat different than it was 100 years ago. And yet there are some signs that the maintenance trend has been slowed or even slightly reversed with some new links-hybrid designs and different grass conditions.
The lies players face on the course are more likely to be less than perfect because the ball is more likely to roll into lower positions. In fact, there is evidence that with any given lie there are more bad lies than good. Yet the push in golf has been to make every lie and shot consistent and eliminate the old ‘rub of the green’.
Perhaps the push is to try to make the player solely responsible for performance by competing on as ‘level’ a playing field as possible, and making the game more ‘fair’. Yet I imagine the Scots would say that if the competition is on, it is fair.
Another rule might be applicable in this case: Rule 6-1 states that “The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the rules.” This includes knowing the course itself. Many tour players are known for their knowledge of a course, including yardages, hazards, and lines of play that are more safe or conservative.
And, when was the last time you hit a really good tee shot and found your ball in a divot, or a horrible lie? We all know Rule 13-1, which states that “The ball must be played as it lies.” How many players disregard that rule and move the ball out of the divot? While it’s not a rub of the green under the current rules, it is bad luck and it’s okay to call it a rub.
As my father would say, in his Scottish way, “Bad bounces happen. Deal with it. That’s life.” As much as he knew that he couldn’t always explain what happens, he was priming me for the fact that despite my best efforts, a bad bounce and the old ‘rub of the green’ will occur on occasion. It took me a long time to understand that what he ultimately wanted was for me to ‘figure it out’, and when I did I would be a better player!
Bob Duncan is the PGA Teaching Professional at the David McLay Kidd designed Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Oregon. He has developed a new on-course playing method called the Golfer Positioning System, or GPS, and you can learn more on his website at bobduncangolf.com. Bob has custom fit over $1.6M in golf equipment and has given over 9,000 hours of instruction and coaching. Contact Bob at email@example.com.
Occupation-Golf Fitness Instructor
Titleist Performance Institute Certification
Some people get into golf because of a relative or friend drags them out to the course. Some turn to golf because it is a sport “they can do.” Soon they discover what we all know. Golf is life. It is not something we “can do,” it’s “what we do.”
Adam Huycke discovered golf after being a non-player on the soccer team. “I grew up playing soccer,” Adam said, “but I was overweight and the coach never played me. I always loved sports, so I tried golf.”
In the summer before eighth grade, Adam began to excel. He made the high school team as a freshman, qualifying for the third spot, and continued to play all four years of high school with the last two in the number one position.
Around that same time, Adam began working with a fitness trainer. He went from 20 percent plus body fat down to 6-8 percent. “I knew from there that health and fitness would always be a part of my life,” he said.
While going to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, he continued to play golf as a hobby, and worked at a local health club as a fitness aid, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Art and Business. When he returned to Oregon, he managed a fitness club before opening his own studio in Bend, Ore. In the last 10 years as a fitness professional, he has earned his Certified Personal Training (CPT) and Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) credentials. Adam is just now entering the PGA apprentice program.
Currently, after a chance meeting with Chris van der Velde, the managing partner of Tetherow Golf Club, and “lots of conversation,” Adam is working with Chris on a web based training program Chris created while working as the head coach for the Netherlands Golf Federation.
The stat based program compares a player’s on- and off-course stats to those of the PGA, European PGA and LPGA. Once the stats are entered into the system, video drills that focus on particular weaknesses can be downloaded to an iPhone, iPod or any other internet device.
“The program is a perfect fit with Tetherow’s, soon to be built, Academy building,” Adam said. “The academy will be a total performance facility including golf fitness, a Taylor Made Performance Lab (3D analysis) and on-course instruction from our professionals.”
Golf has taught Adam a lot about life and how to live it. Take it one shot at a time, don’t worry about the past and enjoy the journey. He believes it’s less important to teach a player the perfect swing, but more importantly, to have an impact on the mentality of a player’s approach to golf and how it translates into everyday life. Carry on, Adam.By Bob Duncan
The USGA is telling golfers to play shorter tees to enjoy golf more.
Equipment manufacturers and teaching professionals are claiming the game is easier with better clubs, longer golf balls and a better swing.
And, course designers are coming up with ever more challenging – some even say diabolical – layouts.
So is the competition in golf only between the player and the course, or do the designer and teaching pro enter in as well? And who’s winning?
“Is there a battle between the designer and the player and teacher? I don’t think so,” said course designer and Scotsman David McLay Kidd. “What is frustrating is that the average player is using little if any course management – while his abilities are quite good enough to get a ball competently around a golf course.”
Kidd’s authentic Scottish brogue and background provide an endearing and credible flavor to his philosophy.
“My biggest bug bear is that the USGA is giving public announcements asking players to move up to shorter tee boxes, but then they turn back to watch Rory hit one 360 yards,” Kidd said.“They really need to deal with the golf ball in the professional game.”
There’s no question Kidd’s course layouts are popular and can be difficult, yet he prides himself on their playability.
“The 18 handicap player in the U.K. knows he’s an 18 and knows what he can do, while the 18 in the U.S. learns to ‘bomb and gouge’ with a driver and a wedge,” Kidd said. “At Tetherow and Bandon Dunes you need to put the driver and wedge away in many cases. Sometimes the play from 90 yards might be a half-swing 7-iron.”
Getting creative and thoughtful is what it’s all about for Kidd, and Tetherow in Bend, OR, and Bandon Dunes in Bandon, OR are prime examples of his work. Each layout offers openings in the front of many greens for lower trajectories to hit and run up, which means that 18 handicap player doesn’t need to change his game all that much to play.
“Coaches often teach the ‘bomb and gouge’ because that’s most often what they see on the PGA Tour,” Kidd said. “Of course my perspective could be unfair because I’m a designer. But what many courses have become is a driving range with 18 more driving ranges attached.”
“Course design is somewhat reverting. We’re revisiting designs like Carnoustie in Scotland, which is really hard for the low handicapper but still isn’t that difficult for that 18 handicapper,” said Nick Schaan, one of Kidd’s design associates. “The low handicap will generally take far more risk and pay the price. For the low handicapper to make birdies, it just isn’t easy at all.”
Kidd’s and Schaan’s perspectives are admittedly from a designer’s point of view.
“I’m hoping the non-thinking player’s mindset is rare. Being creative doesn’t mean hitting a high-drawing 3-iron or making it harder. The execution of many more creative shots really is simpler than executing a full swing,” Kidd said. “I want players to think.”
As a teacher and coach at a Kidd-designed course, his philosophy is evident to me every day. The performance players receive on the range and in swing-modeling lessons is just the beginning of their performance. Because of the slopes and grass conditions they face on the course, they cannot possibly maintain that model range performance all the way around.
The teaching professional’s job is to help them evaluate the shots they face and learn what they can and can’t do. Sometimes the answer is not to try to get the ball as close as they possibly can, but to get it in position to have an angle for the next shot.
As another associate of Kidd’s, Tom Larkin, put it, “I’m a 15 handicap. As I played Tetherow I’ve learned to take the wedge out of my hands because of the tight lies, and it’s made me a better player,” said Tom Larkin, another associate of Kidd’s.
Golf has not become harder for the average player. It’s just that expectations have well exceeded abilities, thanks to the bomb and gouge mentality. Sure, the flop shot has a huge razzle dazzle appeal. But the bump and run has the predictability and safety. If you’ve left yourself in a position in which you need to hit a flop shot, you’re in the wrong position.
At Tetherow, the 10th hole is a very short par four – 316 yards from the back tee – that’s some of the longest players can reach. But, if the pin is on the left side and you’re 40 – 60 yards out it’s a very difficult shot, though relatively easy to get on the right side of the green. That 40 – 60 yard shot is definitely something that the designer consciously thought about and designed into the hole.
Kidd-designed layouts are not the parkland-style, tree-lined courses that dominated design in the U.S. for years. Playing his courses often comes down to recognizing when you are in position to ‘go for it,’ and more importantly, when you’re not. If you have the wrong angle into a pin and go for it anyway, your risk is magnified when the ball bounces and rolls into perhaps an even more difficult position. As is traditional in Scottish golf, at Tetherow and Bandon Dunes, the player must worry about his ball just as much after it hits the ground as while it is in the air.
“Tetherow has fescue grass everywhere, including tees and greens,” Kidd said. “Fescue goes somewhat dormant under hot conditions, so the course gets much firmer and faster in July. We have a Pacific Northwest Golf Association event coming up at Tetherow. Because of that, I predict that the main pack of golfers will generally have higher scores, and the winners will be able to go pretty low.”
And as for the golf ball, Kidd’s perspective is equally unique.
“In Squash, beginners don’t start with the same ball that tournament players use. It’s much softer. Let’s make it easier – beginner golfers should start with a ball that goes a lot straighter.”
So, does learning on a Kidd course make a player a ‘links-only’ player that can’t play on parkland-style courses in the states? Not according to Kidd: “Learning on links didn’t screw up Rory’s game…”
Who’s winning? Apparently it’s the players who can competently play their ball around the golf course.
Bob Duncan is the PGA Teaching Professional at the David McLay Kidd designed Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Oregon. He has developed a new on-course playing method called the Golfer Positioning System, or GPS, and you can learn more on his website at www.golfecoach.com. Bob has custom fit over $1.6M in golf equipment and has given over 9,000 hours of instruction and coaching. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.