Thursday, September 30, 2010

Winning Mental Management

A golfer over at Brian Manzella's forum ( asked about course management and how he can improve his management of the course. This rang a bell with me as the golfer discussed how he had a great score going, he tried to hit a tee shot over some trees and wound up in jail and then realized that it wasn't worth it and got mad at himself for trying. I think most of us have been there before. And what's particularly frustrating is that this isn't football or basketball or some other sport where you have to make split second decisions. In golf we have plenty of time to think about what we are going to do, so making dumb decisions becomes even more frustrating.

When I think of 'course management', I usually think of Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus was known for having a weak wedge game, wasn't that great of a chipper and was supposedly a horrible bunker player by Tour standards. But, he's still the greatest that ever lived in my book despite not having that great wedge game or that great game around the greens that everybody points out to being the key to just making the PGA Tour, much less being the greatest ever.

But as one PGA professional that watched Nicklaus and is friends with the man once told me, 'yeah, Jack wasn't a good bunker player, but tell me the last time you remember him in a bunker.'

Meaning, Nicklaus wasn't great out of the bunker but he was brilliant at not getting in them. And his contemporaries will tell you that nobody thought his way around a course as well as Nicklaus did.

I get asked quite a bit about why I never mention Dr. Bob Rotella's books. That's actually simple...I detest those type of books. I could go into why I think a lot of it is stuff we already know and it doesn't help us, but here's the killer part of those books I have a great disdain for:

'Play conservatively with a cocky swing.'

There's two big issues I have with this mantra.

1. You won't go low playing conservatively. In order to go low, you need to get the ball as close to the cup as you for birdie. Take a look at this chart of putts made by the PGA Tour from different distances.

As you can see, the PGA Tour makes 87% of their putts from 3-5 feet. Then there's a dramatic drop in 6-10 feet putts of 55%. Still though, if I can make 55% of my putts from a certain distance, that's where I think I need to be quite a few times for birdie in order to go low. From there the dropoff is much more significant as 15-20 footers are made only 18% of the time.

And let's remember, these are PGA Tour players who are far better putters than their average amateur, who have caddies who chart greens, know where the pin positions are going to be and how the ball will roll and read the putts. And the greens are far smoother than your average golf course. So chances are the average amateur isn't going to come close to making 55% of their putts from 6-10 feet.

And they want us to play conservatively?

2. The other problem I have with the 'play conservatively, swing cocky' approach is that it more or less plays a tug of war with your brain. If you're playing conservatively, you're sending signals to your brain that you're not all that confident with your golf swing, otherwise you would be quite aggressive out on the course.

Typically what I see from amateurs who try this 'play conservatively, swing cocky' approach is that they pull out a 3-wood and lollipop one into trouble and say to out loud 'gee, why did I play it safe if I was going to hit that?!?'

I think by and large people would rather 'go down swinging' than anything else...meaning that they would rather take the shot with the aggressive play and fail over trying to play it safe and fail. It's something men are taught as little boys playing Little League baseball, if you have 2 strikes against you, 'go down swinging.'

And if you watch Touring professionals play golf courses, they typically play them far more aggressively than your amateur will, even the very good amateur who can hit the ball as well as they can.

It reminds me a bit of the club championship I played last year at Windermere GC in Cumming, GA. I finished 2nd. 1st place was a kid out of college who was a D-II All-American and is now a touring professional. 3rd and 4th place went to a couple of guys who were pros, but regained their amateur status (one of whom played at U. of South Carolina).

The 3rd hole is a par-5 teeing off a cliff and playing about 510 yards and dog legging left. You can certainly reach the green in two. However, there's trouble both left and right if you hit a driver that is noticeably off line. It may not be the worst drive in the world, but if it's noticeably off line, you risk going into the woods or a hazard. The 'safe' play is to take a 3-wood where you can go a bit more off line, but be okay because you won't reach the trouble.

The problem is if you hit a 3-wood you have about 240 yards to the green with a very downhill lie and the green is going uphill. The very long golfers can reach it there in two, but the average length golfer won't. And it's not an easy shot to keep in play with a 3-wood on te second shot, so often we hit like a 5-iron and have 60 yards in.

If you hit a good driver off the tee, you will likely have an iron into the green. It won't be as severe of a downhill lie as well.

To me, the decision was easy. Hit the driver. Why? Because I knew that if I took a pretty decent, but not a great pass at the ball, I would find the fairway and be in excellent position. And THAT is why in large part I practice so much, so I can make those 'pretty decent, but not great passes at the ball' almost on command.

That's the thing I think so much of these mental game and course management books don't get. There's a reason why we practice and it shouldn't be to play conservatively.

To me, it's like rebuilding a '69 Camaro and putting a brand new engine in it and making the car pristine.....only to drive it 45 mph on the freeway.

I guess you would say that you have a 'cocky car that you drive conservatively.'

Personally, I would recommend listening to Moe Norman's videos about the mental game instead to put you into world of how great, champion golfers think.

You can find them if you follow this link, but you have to register (it's free)

The thing about Moe is that I always thought it was nearly impossible and freakish for a guy to hit the ball as well and as consistently well as he did. While it certainly was, I believe that it would have never been accomplished if it wasn't for his true confidence in himself and his aggressive play on the course.

Certainly, Moe had the skill. But Moe would've never blinked on #3 at Windermere because he understood that you're on the golf course to take a pretty decent pass at the ball and that should be okay.

So instead of playing 'conservatively with a cocky swing', I prefer to play 'fearless, but smart golf.'

But that doesn't mean 'go for everything.' More often than not, what amateurs do is play really dumb golf, expecting to hit a shot that they may hit 5% of the time with little reward and tons of risk, and do it with a lot of fear stepping into the ball. No wonder why they can't break 80.

I think a lot of this could be helped if they slowed down their pre-shot routine *a tad* and had this little mental checklist:

1. What 'bad spots' do I want to avoid if I miss this shot?
2. What are the odds that I can execute this shot?
3. If I take a decent pass at it, what are the odds I'll be in good shape?
4. What is the 'value' of the reward and what is the 'penalty' of the risk?

#1 at Eastwood golf club is about 390 yards par 4. The fairway narrows quite a bit once you get past the 150 marker and there's water right and woods left. In fact the fairway in that stretch is only 21 yards wide. The green is extremely narrow. So if you hit a driver down the pipe, the reward is you'll have a 9-iron or a wedge into a narrow green and your chances of hitting the GIR are certainly better. But the risk is jail or water.

For me I simply take a 3-wood off the tee and never think twice about it. Mainly because a 3-wood will put me about 150 yards away and leave me with an 8 or 7-iron and I should be able to hit a GIR from there, plus it completely takes the water and the trees out of play.

THAT is how I think around the course. That being said, since I'm a member at Eastwood, I have my gameplan set BEFORE I go out an play.

The problem is that people tend to overdo it. Being fearless doesn't mean playing stupid For example, the 2nd hole at Cornell GC is a 180-190 yard par-3 with a green this about 125 feet wide. In tournaments they like to stick the flag as far to the right of the green as they can, right where this giant gorge is. One could be completely fearless and try to hit one at the flag. But if they take a good swing the could still wind up in the gorge because they may not have the right club or the wind may take the ball, etc.

Instead, the smart play is the middle of the green and take a little extra club and then try to 2-putt from 30-50 feet.

I think that if you think a little better around the course and play more aggressively, but smart and fearlessly, you'll shoot better scores and you will enjoy the game more.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mike Jacobs Golf Channel Instructor Search Vid

Here's 3Jack Top 50 Instructor, Mike Jacobs' entry for the Golf Channel's instructor search.

As far as combining easy to understand subject matter and camera presence, this is one of the best I've seen so far...although I have only seen about 20 of them.

I think the big question would be the worry that if you come in at a flatter lie angle than your driver's lie angle, I would assume you have heel hits. Obviously, we tee the ball up with the driver so there's a difference between that and hitting an irons, but I would probably like that explained further.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Line It Up!

And here's the final part of the putting lesson series by 3Jack Top 50 Instructor, Shawn Clement.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Read 'Em Right

Here's 3Jack Top 50 Instructor, Shawn Clement, on how to read greens. Shawn is also a Geoff Mangum 'Putting Zone' Certified Instructor.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ted Fort Instructor Search Video

Here's 3Jack Top 50 Instructor, Ted Fort, and his entry for The Golf Channel Instructor search (

I thought this was really good. Obviously, TGM oriented but a great job explaining the 4 power accumulators in a very clear and concise way. Ted Fort, rocking the knowledge again.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Getting the (Putting) Speed

3Jack Top 50 Instructor, Shawn Clement, on the #1 important facet of putting, speed.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lynn Blake Golf Channel Instructor Search Video

Here's 3Jack Top 50 Instructor, Lynn Blake, and his entry for the Golf Channel Instructor Contest (

Obviously, this is very TGM oriented but we are not sure exactly what the Golf Channel is looking for and if you want to understand TGM, this video is a good start.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Maximizing Driver Distance

Here's a nice video by 3Jack top 50 instructor, Martin Chuck, on how to maximize driver distance.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Manzella Instructor Search Video

Here's a video that 3Jack Top 50 Instructor, Brian Manzella ( did for The Golf Channel's Instructor search.

You can give Brian a thumbs up along with other 3Jack Top 50 Instructor's...Shawn Clement and Denny Alberts and 3Jack blog follower Steve Bishop (aka Ringer), right HERE

As usual, Brian's excellent at speaking to the camera from years of experience and working very diligently to make a good presentation. That's probably one of the things that turned me onto his instruction, his ability to present it understandably and in a 'fun' way.

Obviously, I don't find anything bad or flawed with Brian's video although I would have done 2 things differently:

1) Give a very brief way to explain the laws of ball flight, like 'we know from physics that the ball initially starts in about the direction to where the clubface is pointing at impact' or something to that effect. This would explain why the slice happens and why golfers tend to try and counter to the slice by coming over the top and trying to get the ball more to the left.

2) A brief overview of what he went over.

I think it's a very good video, but with those 2 things I think he would've nailed it and if TGC couldn't accept that, then this new instructor search isn't what we are looking for.

A big thing that Brian goes over, without actually saying it, is the inside hand path and the tendency for OTT swings to over-rotate the left arm flying wedge in the backswing. In my last blog post, we showed a female golfer with an OTT move that had a club path of -7*. This golfer over-rotated the flying wedge, which got the clubhead inside the hands on the takeaway (or what we call the z2 position). Then the golfer tried to re-route herself back on plane and wound up coming OTT. That golfer had good hand-eye coordinator and looks like a pretty good golfer, but only generated 92 mph of clubhead speed with the driver due to the lack of angular momentum which comes from the OTT move.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Trackman Analysis 9.13.10

****JUST A NOTE: I will be cutting down my posts on WEEKENDS as it's football season and I'd like to have more of my weekend time to myself. Plus, the blog traffic on weekends is significantly lower. That doesn't mean I won't post on the weekends, but the amount of posts on weekends will be cut down. Thank you.****

Here’s some Trackman data for a female golfer with a driver. Let’s go over it:

Clubspeed: 92.4
Attack Angle: 3.6
Like most female golfers, they do not generate a lot of clubhead speed and to make up for this, they tend to hit up on the ball so they can hit the ball further. IIRC, the average LPGA golfer hits about +3* up on the driver. Whereas, the male PGA Tour average attack angle with a driver is about -1.3* downward.

In order to hit it dead straight at the target, this particular golfer needs to have a ‘horizontal swing plane’ of approximately +3.6* as well.


Well, what we know about attack angles is this:

Positive attack angle = the clubhead has reached the low point and will hit the ball *after* the low point

Negative Attack angle = the clubhead has yet to reach the low and will hit the ball *before* the low point.

Now, PRESUMING that we are setting up everything right directly at the target, we also know the following about attack angles (for right handed golfers):

Positive attack angle = since the clubhead has already reached the low point, it will go UP and LEFTWARD (staying on the circle and on the inclined plane) as it is about to make an impact with the golf ball.

Negative attack angle = since the clubhead has *not* reached the low point, it will go DOWN and RIGHTWARD after it makes impact. This also means that as it comes into impact, the clubhead is also goind down and out to the right as well. Eventually it will hit the low point, and then start going up and leftward.

So, let’s assume that this golfer is aiming at the target with everything…the clubface, body, etc. Since they hit up on the ball (+3.6*) with the driver, their low point can very well be directed right at the target as well. However, since the clubhead goes upward and left after the low point is reached, that means that this golfer’s path would be to the left (or ‘outside-to-in’).

What is one thing the golfer can do if they want to square up the path with this upward attack angle?

Find a way to direct their swing out to the right. Almost like the old ball flight laws would have you try and hit a hook, with the face pointing at the end target and the body pointing right of the end target.

HSP: -4.2
This golfer’s HSP was actually -4.2* (left). This is problematic because with this attack angle, had the HSP (low point) was at 0.0*, that would make for an ‘outside-to-in’ clubhead path. But at -4.2*, this path is very much ‘outside-to-in.’

Club Path: -7.0
As we see, a -7.0* path is extremely outside-to-in. In fact, anything over -3 or +3* is very much outside-to-in or inside-to-out.

According to Trackman, the most leftward path of a PGA Tour golfer is Colin Montgomerie at -6* and the most rightward path is Kenny Perry at +6*. So I wouldn’t advise anybody to get outside of those numbers and more than likely getting close to those numbers could cause a problem. And because of the different attack angles of golf clubs, that’s why Perry is a great driver of the ball who isn’t a great wedge player and why Monty was much more of a great iron player than a great driver of the ball.

VSP: 51.5
The numbers so far signify a golfer with an over the top move of sorts. However, the Vertical Swing plane, which is really a measurement of the golfer’s downswing plane, is sort of low. However, given she is a female and is shorter, that may have played a role in this VSP.

Face Angle: -2.3
She’s learned to play the slice spin she puts on the ball by having a closed face at impact. I think Monty would do the same thing, closed face at impact to start the ball off left of the target and then slice it back to the target.

The problem is that closing the face at impact will reduce the loft of the club a bit. She counters that though with an upward attack angle.

Vertical Launch Angle 13.0
Good vertical launch angle. Karten Mfg. (Ping) recommends a launch angle of 11 to 14*, but from looking at last year’s PGA Tour radar stats, I recommend a launch angle between 12 to 15*. She’s is good shape though.

Horizontal Angle: -3.0
This is the direction the ball went. Her ball went initially 3* left of the target, like we expected with that closed clubface. Had she mis-hit the ball, like on the heel of the clubface, she could have see the ball start out to the right of the target instead. But with it starting left like we expected it to, it’s obvious she hit the ball well here.

Spin Rate: 2279
This spin rate is a bit too low which could mean that the ball flies too low and she can lose power that way.

Spin Axis: 7.7
We also suspect she would’ve hit a big fade/slice. The spin axis is a positive number, meaning that the ball’s axis was spinning to the right which is a slice spin.

Landing Angle: 31.2
She could use a different driver right now because the landing angle should be in the 40-45* range. When it’s this low, that means she didn’t much trajectory on the driver which would be suspected with a closed clubface angle and a low spin rate.

Now, let’s take a look at the swing:

As suspected, the downswing plane is pretty steep although she does make a pretty good swing at it. I think a decent golf instructor can see that without Trackman, but the launch monitor does help in some areas.

1. It shows the golfer first hand how the laws of ball flight work. Some golfers need that extra bit of convincing that the ‘old ball flight laws’ are pure rubbish. Some golfers never get it

2. It shows what the ball is actually doing and suggests that with her current swing, she needs to make a few tweaks to her driver dimensions in order to optimize its performance.

3. In this case, if the golfer has access to Trackman…she can work on some things and check that from time to time against Trackman’s VSP, HSP and Path data. Most golfers will want to figure out where they want that data to be eventually and try to work their way to that point and monitor their progress.

Either way, Trackman is a great way to effectively make the most out of your practice time.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Moneyball and Golf

Here's a recent article (it's long) on new statistical research and the game of golf.


Much of what is being written about here in the article relates to the book "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis where they discuss how the baseball team the Oakland A's used a different approach to make their team a perennial winner.

For the international readers who don't know a thing about baseball, baseball has always been a very statistically driven game. This is because while baseball is a team sport, it has the unique dynamic of being very individually performance driven because the it's really a series of one-on-one matchups.

Unlike a sport such as Rugby or basketball or football, if you take a great baseball player on one team (and you can see how good they are by their statistics) and trade them to another team, they will still likely perform at a high level. In those other more team-oriented sports, a good player on one team may not perform well on another team because they might not fit into the coach's scheme, work well with other players, etc.

In baseball, there's no salary cap. Meaning that a team can spend as much as they want to on player's salaries. So, the best players in baseball usually command the most money, so the teams that can afford to spend the most money usually get the best players and thus usually win the most games. However, 'Moneyball' is about how the Oakland A's, who cannot afford to spend that much money on players, yet are a perennial winning team.

That's due to the A's using different type of statistics to judge players and not get so bogged down on traditional statistics and traditional scouting reports.

For instance, in baseball the common traditional statistics for hitting are usually batting average (number of hits / at bats), home runs and RBI's. However, in 'Moneyball' they prefer to look at On Base Percentage (number of times the batter gets on base, which includes hits AND walks / at bats) and Slugging Percentage (a percentage that adds points for doubles, triples and home runs hit).

So, let's say we have Player A and Player B.

Player A

.320 batting average
30 home runs

Player B

.280 batting average
20 home runs

In *traditional* statistics, people would take player A over player B. But, in the 'Moneyball' stats (often referred to as 'Sabremetrics'), their stats may look like this:

Player A

.320 batting average
.340 on base percentage
30 home runs
.550 slugging percentage

Player B

.280 batting average
.410 on base percentage
20 home runs
.575 slugging percentage

In 'Moneyball' stats, they would actually take player B every time because the on base percentage is higher (.410 vs. .340) and the slugging percentage is higher (.575 vs. .550). Essentially you could draw the conclusion that Player A is better at hitting home runs and hitting singles. But Player B isn't too far behind and hits a lot more doubles, triples and takes a lot more walks...all of which put the team in a better position to win the game.

And that's a big basis of what the Slate's article is about...disregarding the 'traditional' statistics for newer, more accurate statistics.

Are their flaws?


As the Slate describes, the Shotlink technology had some glitches early on which created inaccurate data. And when you're playing for that much money on the PGA Tour, you don't want inaccurate data influencing your decisions.

Also, Moneyball has some holes in it as well. As evidenced by the 2004 Boston Red Sox who hired Bill James, considered *the* Moneyball guru of baseball. James' Moneyball approach favored those high On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage guys and worried about good defense last. It also didn't care for a 'closer' (a relief pitcher that usually pitches the last inning of the game to 'close out' the victory.

The Red Sox struggled heavily midway throughout the year and were in doubt to make the playoffs. Their defense was killing them in games and they couldn't sure up a win with such a shaky relief pitching staff.

They eventually decided to change course to a more 'traditional baseball approach.' They traded away high OBP and Slugging Percentage Shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra, for the good fielding, poor offensive player in Orlando Cabrera. They also got a formidable closer, traded for good defensive firstbaseman and got a good pinch runner in Dave Roberts.

They basically had all of the offense they needed, so they just needed to get a defense that wouldn't give up runs so easily.

That's part of the problem with these type of statistics, they can lead to erroneous conclusions...or conclusions that need to be tweaked for optimal effect.

But, here's what 'MoneyGolf' people have come up with so far:

It's not that putting doesn't count. It does. But a golfer without a world-class long game simply can't be world class. The importance of power is confirmed by Mark Broadie in a forthcoming paper. Thanks to his shot-value analysis, Broadie is able to isolate particular skills. The areas that have the most influence on a golfer's score, Broadie found, are long-distance tee shots, shots from 200-250 yards, and shots from 150-200 yards. It's these locations on the course—not the greens—where golfers are most able to distinguish themselves from the pack.
As I mentioned, sometimes these theories need to be tweaked, but the interesting thing about good statistical data is how it can detect more of the 'truth' about a subject. How many times have we heard 'the key to success on the PGA Tour is being able to hit your fairway woods and long irons?' I would say not very often, if ever.

Of course, it should be known that statistics are about probability, not certainty. Meaning, that there's no statistic (that's not at 100%) that will guarantee an outcome, but it will give you an odds of that certain outcome.

That's one of things that kills me when you say something like in the NFL that 'the team that passes more efficiently will win the game about 80% of the time.' Then you hear somebody point to a game where one team passed less efficiently and still won. It's not that the statistic is 'wrong', it's just that the team happened to defy the odds in that game.

The big problem for the average golfer like myself is that we don't have access to Shotlink data. However, we have to remember that this data is in its infancy stages and as time goes along, there's a good chance that it will get better and there may be something that develops to allow the average golfer to figure out their own strengths and weaknesses.

In a world of probability, you just never know


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fixing Tiger's Swing Parts III & IV

Here's parts 3 & 4 on how 3Jack Top 50 Instructor, Mark Evershed, would fix Tiger's swing.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

How To Fix Tiger's Swing Part I & II

Here's Part I and II by 3Jack Top 50 Instructor, Mark Evershed, on how he would fix Tiger's swing:


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Look At The Ryder Cup Picks

US Ryder Cup Captain, Corey Pavin, has selected his Ryder Cup picks. They are:

- Tiger Woods
- Ricky Fowler
- Zach Johnson
- Stewart Cink

The top 8 (Mickelson, Stricker, D. Johnson, Overton, B. Watson, Furyk, Kuchar, Mahan), statistially are very strong. The stats I looked at were total driving, GIR, my personal 'ballstriking' stats, total putting, birdie percentage from the rough, birdie percentage from the fairway, par-3...par-4...and par-5 scoring average, a statistical ranking based off those scoring averages, proximity to the cup from 175-200 yards, proximity to the cup from 50-125 yards and there were a few other stats I looked at.

For the most part, the top 8 are strong because while it may not be pretty for some, they hit a lot of greens. Plus, some guys I feel would work extremely well together in the alternate shot format and some with the low score format. The guys that I would probably try to play the most are Stricker and Kuchar. Particularly Stricker who is pretty much strong in every category and would fit with just about every player in either format. Mickelson is the guy they'll try to use, but I would be tentative using him because he needs the right type of teammate for the formats. I do think that Pavin will probably give Stricker and Mickelson a try in the alternate shot and that's a very good matchup because statistically there's a lot of chemistry there.


I was skeptical about getting Tiger Woods about a month ago because if I were a Ryder Cup captain I would prefer players that I would have a good idea of what I'm getting so I know what their strengths and weaknesses are and what players to put them with. Plus, we don't know how the Wales crowd will treat Tiger.

But while the top 8 was pretty strong statistically, the rest of the Ryder Cup picks were not very promising statistically.

The Tiger situation reminds me of a NFL team taking a flier on a really good player who suffered a major injury and you don't know how well he'll recover from the injury. But if you can get him for cheap, it could work out brilliantly. If not, the damage may not be too bad. Plus, Tiger should have the stamina to play in every match if needed.

I think why I wound up changing my mind was Tiger's attitude by saying he wanted to make the team by finishing in the top 8, but still would love to be on the team if he didn't. His play has also shown some flashes and perhaps coming into the Ryder Cup it starts to click.

Lots of upside and if he doesn't meet expectations, it should be minimized if Pavin plays it carefully enough.


I had some leery feelings on Fowler because a lot of his stats were very good, but his putting needs to improve and he doesn't have that great of a wedge game at this point in his career.

However, I would rather take youth over experience in the Ryder Cup because youth tends to do very well. I think of a young Seve Ballesteros, a young Sergio Garcia and last year when the US took a chance on Michelle Wie in the Solheim Cup. I think Fowler will have the fire to make up for any worries about some of his weaker statistical categories.


Zach Johnson has always made sense once the final 8 was decided because he was playing pretty well down the stretch, had pretty decent overall statistical numbers and the team's weakest part (putting) is something that Johnson does very well. He has also performed well in the Ryder Cup before (which is far more important than having 'experience' but not being a good Ryder Cup record).


This is the pick I'm not high on because Cink's stats this year were not very favorable and he hasn't played that well this year. Plus, he's a career 4-7-2 in the Ryder Cup. I understand that he won the British Opne, that was over 1 year ago. Personally I would've selected somebody like Bo Van Pelt.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Key To Understanding...

Great little video with 3Jack Top 50 instructor, Mark Evershed.

definitely agree with Mark on this point. I used to work for a company where I was completely new to the industry that was filled with, IMO, a lot of useless and non-sensical jargon. It was so crazy with all of the jargon that it was almost like listening to people speak Japanese to me. Eventually my boss at the time didn't think I asked enough questions and I told her 'I don't know what questions to ask!'

With golf the instructors usually are willing to take the time to re-explain things to the student. So if you ask an instructor a question and they don't answer it or won't answer it, it's probably time to find a new instructor because chances are that they really don't know the answer.

When you can truly understand the how and the why, that's when you start to 'own' that part of the swing and are on a path to better golf.


Monday, September 6, 2010

A Cricket Player Learns to Play Golf

Very good video by Ted Fort (3Jack Top 50 Instructor) showing a common compensation golfers with closed clubfaces do during their golf swing. This was similar to the problem that I had when I first came to Ted, although not quite as extreme.

When I do see golfers working on their swing, usually they are always thinking about the plane of the backswing and they usually ignore the clubface which is usually too open at the top of the swing for the higher handicappers and too closed for the lower handicappers.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

The People vs. Sean Foley

Saw this article on Tiger’s new ‘interim swing coach’ Sean Foley that had some interesting quotes:

Foley admits that he enjoyed discussing the intricacies of the swing with Plummer and Bennett, whom he likes and respects, but ultimately, he credits them with “maybe 5 percent” of the inspiration behind his own, very similar, swing ideas.

“Andy and Mike are very bright guys, but how much of what they teach is Mac O’Grady?” Foley said of golf’s Bobby Fisher, a tortured genius who’s spent years breaking down the secrets of golf.

“And how much did they take from (Sam) Snead and (Ben) Hogan? And how much of it is taken from (Isaac) Newton?”

“Mike and Andy aren’t reinventing the wheel,” Foley said. “Like me, they watched old school players hit it good and realized there was something to what they were doing, but they didn’t invent the 1950 golf move.”

The most obvious difference between Stack and Tilt and Foley is that all the players taught by Plummer and Bennett swing very much alike.

Foley’s three highest-profile students (before Woods), Sean O’Hair, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose, don’t swing anything alike.

“Stack and Tilt is one method of swinging,” Foley said. “If it’s such a great system, then why are people coming for a ‘watered-down version’ from me?”
When I saw this quote it reminded me a lot of David Leadbetter aping a lot of Jimmy Ballard’s work and then creating the ‘swing link’ training aid, which was really Ballard’s training aid and pocketing the money for himself. The problem was back then without the internet and without instruction being as highly marketed as it is today, nobody really cared if one instructor aped stuff from another instructor for their own profit. Plus, Ballard was/is a bit ‘rough around the edges’ when it comes to saying the right things and was/is a bit of a rebel when it comes to the PGA. In fact, Ballard hasn’t been PGA certified for 30 years.

The same thing happened with a lot of TGM instruction where instructors would take bits and pieces of the stuff that they could understand for their own good and then claim TGM was ‘worthless’ or some other demeaning adjective. Dr. Gary Wiren developed most of the training aids we see today like the impact bag and that and other training aids were based very much on the core TGM fundamentals.

There’s also Mac O’Grady when guys were trying to do stuff like CP and CF Release for years on the Tour based off of what other instructors learned from O’Grady only to claim that MORAD (O’Grady’s golf research) was ‘too complicated’ and ‘worthless.’ Like Ballard, O’Grady was a rebel in the PGA circles and those who saw that his stuff was being lifted often didn’t care.

But with Plummer and Bennett, both certified by the PGA and with the internet and instruction being what it is today, I think it’s more difficult to ape somebody’s stuff and get away with it. While Plummer and Bennett have drawn the ire of many teaching professionals (particularly O’Grady and Ballard), they don’t have that rebel and ‘kook’ stigma attached to them.

So we’ve seen this stuff before and it will most likely continue to happen. Perhaps it’s something we should have seen with Foley before. Here’s a quote from Mark Evershed’s blog
At one time Sean Foley used to credit me for helping to guide his teaching. Since making it big, he has taken the attitude that no one helped him.
Foley’s first assertion is that only 5% of his work is influenced by Plummer and Bennett. I call bullshit on that one.

First, Foley consistently went to Plummer and Bennett for insight, info and advice on the swing and their Stack and Tilt golf swing. From what I’ve been told he did this while traveling the PGA Tour and did it for over a year. And he approached P&B, not the other way around. And this has been noted long before Foley started working with Tiger.

So, he’s definitely discussed with them in detail about the golf swing and since he did it for an extended period of time, I will draw the conclusion that he found a lot more than 5% of their stuff appealing.

Let’s take a look at some of the changes he made to Sean O’Hair’s swing in GolfWeek Magazine.


In that article we have a very similar to the S&T downswing leg actiona and inside hand path in the backswing.

Let’s take a look at some Sean Foley videos.

Here’s one of him showing Tiger about the downward left shoulder turn in the backswing and keeping the upper body centered, something that is also a core fundamental of the S&T swing.

Or this video where he talks about where the weight should be. Which is a sign of things to come as he says ‘I think I found a pretty good way to hit the golf ball.’

Or this video on ‘saving your back.’

Yet, when it comes to one of his students talking, we get this video (which we know that Foley talked to O’Hair about and Plummer & Bennett have repeatedly stated that the S&T pivot is about being *centered* at the top of the swing)

So what we know is that Foley has discussed at length with P&B about the Stack and Tilt swing and then has a lot of Stack and Tilt components in the swing he teaches. Clearly to me, the S&T has influenced his swing theories by far more than 5%. Probably more like 85%. And as we have seen from the Evershed comments, he has a history of learning from people and then acting like he came up with this stuff on his own.

Of course, Plummer and Bennett are accused by Foley of taking stuff from O’Grady and basically implies that they didn’t give him any credit for the S&T swing that they have developed/marketed. But on page XVI of ‘The Stack and Tilt Swing’, Plummer and Bennett clearly note the influence and help they got from Mac O’Grady (and others)
During this period we were introduced to The Golfing Machine, a somewhat obscure instructional book written in 1969 by Homer Kelley. Kelley was not a competitive golfer or even a teacher until later in life, but his book showed us how science could be applied to golf. The same laws that govern the universe also govern golf. The book used classification as a way of separating the individual elements or components of the swing. This was what we were looking for in our own games; a system of organization. The advice of great teachers like Larry Batosek, Tom Tomasello, and Mike Bender helped us put into context many of the principles laid out in The Golfing Machine.

With the help of another teacher, Mac O’Grady, we started to refine our perspective on the golf swing. His knowledge and guidance encouraged us to dig deeper into the patterns that exist in the game.
As far as ‘taking from Hogan and Snead’, it’s really a silly argument/statement because what they’ve done is study Hogan and Snead’s swings, which every teacher…including Foley…have done. Plus, they readily acknowledge what they’ve learned from Hogan and Snead’s swing. I’m not sure what Foley is shooting for there. It’s really an apples to oranges comparison.

As far as claiming that ‘they are not reinventing the wheel’, which is implying that P&B are saying that, I disagree…although I can see where somebody could draw that erroneous conclusion. The Stack and Tilt is marketed as the ‘revolution in golf’ which gives the idea that it is ‘reinventing the wheel.’ However, in page X of ‘The Stack and Tilt Swing’, it says:
As you will see, much of the Stack & Tilt is not new. Elements like straightening the right leg on the backswing, swinging the hands on an inward path, and keeping the weight on the front side can be found in many books that predate us. What is new is the establishment of true fundamentals and the explanation of how they function.
Then it’s said that the S&T guys all swing the same, which doesn’t ring true to me. Here’s some swings of S&T guys, and tell if me if their swings are all the same:

Foley’s last quote is an obvious dig at P&B, claiming that “If it’s such a great system, then why are people coming for a ‘watered-down version’ from me?”…which is very contradictory to his 5% claim. I don’t think I’d call anything that influenced me by 5% as being ‘watered down’, unless we are talking about a 6-pack of Old Milwaukee.

Of course, the issue that the public takes with P&B in this situation is that they feel that Foley shouldn’t have to credit them every chance he gets and one cannot ‘own’ a golf swing from an instruction standpoint.

I agree. However, I’m don’t believe that’s what P&B are looking for here. I think what they are looking for is to not have a guy like Foley who has obviously been heavily influenced by their work and philosophies to go out and then bash those philosophies to the public. Even if he didn’t use any of their stuff, the fact that they took the time and effort to give them their thoughts and advice deserves the courtesy of not bashing their work. If you don’t like what they tell you, just don’t bring it up. But it’s obvious that Foley not only liked their work and philosophies, but they liked them a lot.

Instead of politely saying something to the effect that ‘I learned a lot from P&B an I think they have a very valid way of swinging the golf club, I just have some different thoughts and different ways of approaching the swing’, he took the ‘they act like they reinvented the wheel’ and ‘if it’s so great, why are people coming to me for a watered down version’ route.

I think what probably happened is that much of what P&B discussed with him were things that Foley had thought about and contemplated for quite some time before he ever met them. But he could not get into the specifics about what he was thinking and just couldn’t articulate it as well as he wanted an he needed their help for that. That doesn’t mean that they were basically your thoughts anyway. That means that they greatly helped you understand your thoughts better and you should show some gratitude for that.


Swing Update 9.2.10

Here's a latest swing update.

The first swing was made with an 8-iron, the last 2 were with a 5-iron. My swing had been slipping quite a bit this week and I was able to grind out some decent rounds of golf, but it wasn't pretty. This week on the range I was hitting the ball pretty well, but the swings on camera looked awful. For now I think I finally got more of the backswing down. The downswing needs a lot of work as my left knee straightens too much and I have too much weight on my back leg on the downswing. But for now I'm trying to keep the backswing short so I can stay on plane and then get on the elbow plane on the downswing.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

What Will Happen To Tiger's Swing

I've had a lot of my friends ask me about Tiger's swing changes and what will happen to his swing since he's now working with (or trying out) golf instructor Sean Foley.

First, let's take a look at Woods' old swing under Hank Haney:

The DTL swing is much more concerning and he had been swinging like that for quite some time. As you can see, he's very laid off in that swing. He does make a very good downswing and probably hit this one on the green, but when you start flirting with such a misaligned clubshaft like that at the top, you start flirting with getting 'off plane' on the downswing, leading to disaster.

So while people will pinpoint his off course issues for his struggles, and I don't think they have helped, the golf ball doesn't know if you're cheating on your wife with strippers, reality TV stars and Perkins waitresses.

IMO, it was just a matter of time before his ballstriking went extremely south with swings like this. One of the instances that I thought was an indictment against his swing was in the final round of the PGA Championship against YE Yang. In that round Tiger hit the irons quire well, but was so afraid of using driver that he would have such long approach shots into the green. Again, he hit the approaches well, but when you're hitting them from 190 and Yang is hitting them from 150, it's advantage Yang. In order to start dominating again he needs to become a better driver of the ball and hit good tee shots when he needs it.

Anyway, let's take a look at some of Tiger's 'new swings.'

Sean Foley has utilized a lot of the Stack and Tilt pieces in his golf swing philosophy. It seems like Foley did not want to mention that, but it also seems that S&T 'founders' Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer made it be known that Foley has asked them for quite of bit of advice and their thoughts on the swing.

The one thing we do know that Foley has worked with Tiger on is keeping his head steady in the backswing. As Foley says 'the eyes have to make a calculation (actually, the brain makes the calculations, not the eyes).

This is prevalent in the S&T swing. Although I don't think that this is Tiger's biggest worry.

Another thing that they are working on is a drill where Tiger puts a glove under his right arm. This is to get the hand path more inside (another piece of the S&T swing) and in a round about way, something that Kostis discusses in his video.

I think what we'll see is something a bit more like his swing under Harmon, except it won't be the 'across the line' backswing and more 'on plane' swing.

But, we'll see a much more inside hand path with a more upright shaft. He'll probably have a shorter backswing to keep himself on plane and will also work more to CP Release the club and 'swing left.' Lastly, he'll probably get a bit more upright on the downswing plane so he doesn't have to change his grip.

I think Tiger has already seen some results ballstriking wise that have been better than what he's been doing the past couple of years. But, for now they are flashes in the pan and will continue to work to start a real fire. And while he is Tiger Woods, remember that even for the greats swing changes take some time.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Best Ever...

Over at the Manzella forum the question was asked to name the best ever at the following aspects of the game. Here is mine.

DRIVING - Jack Nicklaus

When the PGA Tour kept stats, Nicklaus was no higher than 14th in total driving from 1980-1984 which included being #1 from 1980-1983. This was when Nicklaus was 40-44 years old. I couldn't imagine him in his prime and while he is known for the long irons and clutch putting, I think he's the best ever because of his superior driving.


When I think of fairway woods, I think of Pavin. He had to use them a lot, knife them around bunkers, carve them so the wind could take them, hit 'em low and high.

LONG IRONS - Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus was known for his long irons, with the saying he could hit them and have it long like a butterfly with sore feet.

MID IRONS - Ben Hogan

Tough one to pick here. Johnny Miller could stake claim here, but when it comes to an aspect of the game, I'd have a hard time not finding a spot for Hogan, somewhere.

SHORT IRONS - Lee Trevino

SAND GAME - Paul Azinger

This could probably go to Chi Chi Rodriguez or Lee Trevino, but I picked Azinger because I never paid much attention to their bunker game like I did Azinger's.

CHIPPING - Raymond Floyd

Floyd was the best I've ever seen. If you ever get the chance to re-watch some of the '90 Masters, you'll see Floyd put on a clinic during that tournament. It's easy to see why Floyd was such a great player despite an unorthodox swing. He was very good with the driver, decent with the irons and putter, but if he missed a green, he could get up and down with ease...if not chip in.

PITCHING - Seve Ballesteros

Seve has pretty much been the model for pitching the ball.

PUTTING - Ben Crenshaw

I'm sure Geoff Mangum would be more qualified to answer this, but Crenshaw's putting is the best I've ever seen.