Archive for July, 2008

Golf Advice for Beginners

July 29, 2008

Fun fact:  did you know that Rule 8 of the USGA golf rules says that “during a stipulated round, a player must not give advice to anyone in the competition playing on the course other than his partner, or ask for advice from anyone other than his partner or either of their caddies”?

Needless to say, in spite of Rule 8, I have gotten a lot of tips out on the course – you could say I’m an advice magnet.  Could it be that I have not yet managed to look like I know what I’m doing?  Ha…

Joking aside, I have gotten a lot of good pointers on and off the course — from my husband on the psychology of golf (“if you’re going to let this get to you, you should quit now…”) to a fitness fanatic friend (“legs and core, legs and core, legs and core…”).  One of the most helpful pointers came when I was playing Northwest in Silver Spring, Maryland.  A gentleman joined our group and when I apologized in advance for my beginner’s knowledge of golf etiquette, he gave me a tip on the spot.  He explained that when putting, you should move your bag to the far side of the green, both to avoid getting hit by an overeager golfer in a group behind you, and to keep from delaying play by having to walk all the way to the front of the green to retrieve your bag after putting.  I had no idea about this and appreciated both the good advice and the gracious way it was delivered.  It turned out that the kind gentleman advising me was a 40-year veteran of the New York Times and the founder of The Hill and Politico newspapers – Marty Tolchin.  It’s amazing who you might meet on the golf course, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post…

So my question to all you golfers is, what was the best (or the worst) golf advice you’ve ever received?


GolfTec Lesson: Arms on the Backswing

July 29, 2008

Golftec Lesson: Arms on the Backswing

My last GolfTec lesson focused on my arms on the backswing. Yes, still the backswing.

On the arms, I had been bringing my arms around practically behind my head, left arm bent, right elbow sticking straight out, club parallel to the ground with face totally closed. My “before” swing was not pretty sight. (In GolfTec, you end up with a “before” swing and an “after” swing that you can play back when you log in to your lesson online.) The goal was still to get my arms out away from my body, left arm straight, right arm tucked under at the correct angle. My instructor had me bring my arms back to where the top of the backswing should be, focusing on the correct form, several times, and then complete the swing from there. Another exercise was to complete the backswing while holding a golf glove under my right arm to help keep it tucked in. It exaggerates the position a little, but helps you get a feel for it. Another drill my instructor suggested for me to practice was to put my back against a wall or hedge and (gently) practice both the back and front of the swing. This keeps you from bringing the club way back behind you and helps keep your arms out. My “after” swing was a huge improvement, but the challenge will be getting consistent with this and making it my default backswing.

“Regression Analysis” — Putting

July 26, 2008

Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve suddenly gotten worse at something you could do decently at one point? My putting has totally fallen apart. What used to be a somewhat smooth stroke has become a choppy, stop-start motion and I can’t seem to aim anymore. On the last hole of 9 this morning, I found a clue about what the problem is when I accidentally touched my ball on my practice swing.  (Yikes.)  It seems I’ve been setting up too close to the ball. This has been crowding my arms and not allowing for that pendulum-like motion I was trying for.  I’ll have to get out on the course tomorrow to see if my initial assessment proves correct.  And a putting lesson might help.

About That Thumb Blister…

July 26, 2008

Very, very bad says my instructor. I should not have a blister on my right thumbprint area if my grip is where it should be. I’m not sure why I started putting my thumb flush against the grip of the club – I think because it seemed to add stability to my wrists. I felt like I was hitting the ball more solidly, but I also had a death grip on the club, hence the blister. So now I know… just a small part of the edge of the right thumb should be touching the grip. I have adjusted my grip accordingly and the results haven’t been half bad.

Four Buckets is Too Many

July 24, 2008

Today I attempted to try figure out my range with the various clubs in my bag. An hour and a half and 3.5 large buckets of balls later, I learned that less can be more when you’re trying to accomplish a goal on the driving range.

“Range” as I defined it was how far I hit the ball making good contact with somewhat decent form – not swinging like the Incredible Hulk or counting the several horrible shots that didn’t really go anywhere. All the while I tried to stay focused on controlling my backswing and keeping my left arm straight. I started through my irons and used about half a bucket each on my pitching and sand wedges, aiming for the flag on the driving range 106 yards out. I used my iPhone to make a note of what I was seeing…

SW — 75 yards
PW — 105 yards

I picked up the pace on my second bucket and made it through my 8- and 9-irons and 7-hybrid. The results were more frustrating than satisfying because I can’t seem to get close to any kind of consistency as far as where the ball goes. I found that when I relaxed and stopped gripping the club so hard, my shots often improved. I took some more notes….

9-Iron — 110 yards
8-Iron — 105 yards
7-Hybrid — 120 yards

At this point, my body was starting to feel a little tired and my hands were a little sore. But I still wanted to get through the rest of my clubs, so I took a quick break to buy two more large buckets of balls. When I started into the fourth bucket of balls with my 5-wood, I began to question how much progress I was really making – I couldn’t seem to hit the ball any farther with my 5 than with my 7…

6-Hybrid 145
7-Wood 150-155
5-Wood 150-155

By now I had developed a large blister on the pad of my right thumb and it was making squishing noises with each swing. But I was so close to finishing… stubbornness prevailed and I asked the nice guys at the pro shop for some Band-Aids so I could get through my 3-wood and driver.

Looking back, the sun must have gotten to me – I have no idea why this seemed like a good idea. I flailed my way through have a bucket with the 3-wood and the situation degenerated beyond repair. I was hitting all grounders, trying not to touch any of my blisters, now numbering three. If you’ve seen the episode of The Office when Andy flayed his hands raw practicing for a round with a big customer, you’re starting to get the picture. (See the whole episode here – it’s really funny.

A couple guys had started hitting balls next to me in the last five minutes or so. I gave them the remainder of the balls and was about to stagger home to nurse my wounds, but I hear a “Wait. Can offer you just one tip, just one?” I know the guy was trying to be nice, but I was already well aware that those last few swings were horrendous and not much he could have said would have made a difference. “You need to keep your wrists straight – that’s why you have blisters.” I just said thanks and trudged towards home… the wrists and the blisters were both products of the rookie mistake of staying way past any window of productivity. Lesson learned – golf takes patience and the investment of practice over time. Hopefully these blisters won’t take long to heal.

Take My Backswing… Please.

July 23, 2008

I headed out to the range today to practice the drills I’d been assigned in my last lesson at GolfTec. My focus has been my backswing: keeping it controlled, not turning too far back, keeping my lower body stable, and keeping my left arm straight and out away from my body. Focusing on all these aspects at once and incorporating them smoothly into a swing is next to impossible. Assimilating tons of corrections at once has to be one of toughest parts of being a beginners, when just about everything about the swing needs to be fixed. Following are some of the drills my instructor gave me to help with this challenge:

• Making “L’s” with the arms/wrist at the back of the backswing, and again at the front of the swing. This has helped quite a bit, especially when I remember to make a deliberate effort to include it in my backswing.

• One-handed swings with the right and left hands separately. This is done with the gripping hand choked up with the index finger touching the metal past the grip. There should be “L’s” at the back and front of the swing and the idea is to get a sense of how the forearm rolls over through the swing in a natural motion. This did help me get a feel for what the right swing should feel like naturally, with both arms completing this motion in tandem. I struggled to do this while I was focusing on L’s on the backswing and keeping my left arm straight. Maybe just too many things to remember at once.

• Stopping the back swing when arms reach perpendicular around waist level, then resuming the back swing in a controlled manner to the top and finishing the swing as normal from there. This is supposed to help keep you from going too far on the backswing and preserve the power of your swing. I felt a stronger “wind up” at the end of the swing that should translate into more power. This also ties into keeping the lower body stable – in my case, not letting my hips turn practically 90 degrees on the backswing. However, I found that breaking up my swing made it hard to make good contact with the ball. I messed up most of the shots I attempted with this, but I recognized the body position I was supposed to learn, I think.

My takeaway from all this… golf is going to be a lifetime pursuit, and I have nowhere to go but up.