As we all huddle around the fire and try to survive the big chill of winter 2003, it may be a good time to reflect on our overall golf game and how we may improve it as things thaw out in the weeks to come.
Dr. Putt invites you to engage in some objective self-evaluation in this newsletter, and he also has some tips for those of you who are lucky enough to be able to play a little during these cold months.
1) Putting tip for the winter greens
2) Keeping it on the line
3) Time for basic change?
1) Putting tip for winter greens
Winter grass is generally much slower than the running grasses on most courses in the summer. It grows straight up and is not cut as short. So it produces more friction on the ball. But if your area of the country has had some really cold temperatures, as have many areas, you could be in for a surprise when you hit some putts.
All the summer grass is gone now and a good portion of the winter grass may have been killed. There may be almost nothing to slow the ball on the greens.
You will notice this especially on downhill putts. Where a downhill putt may have only gone 25% further than a level putt during the summer, it may now be double the distance, or even more!
Take note of the difference by putting uphill and downhill using the same stroke on the practice green before playing.
When playing, look over the entire line and take careful note of areas where the grass may be really thinned out. If the greens are at all hard, you may be putting on asphalt!
2) Keeping it on the line
Dr. Putt has received several letters in recent weeks concerning keeping putter head moving along a straight line. If you are using the EOB aiming alignment device, you will see the line and observe the path of the putter head more accurately. If it is not moving straight back and forth, you will certainly notice it.
To keep it on line, three things need to happen. First, the hands must be directly under your shoulders. Set up beside a full length mirror and check yourself out.
Second, you must keep you hands and wrists quiet, maintaining the triangle formed by the shaft and forearms throughout the stroke.
Finally, you should execute the stroke by tilting or rocking the shoulders up and down. Do not by rotate them around the spine. That will cause the putter head to move in an arc. Then you must strike the ball precisely where the arc is tangent to the intended line of the putt. This only adds another variable to the stroke -- one more thing that can go wrong.
Check yourself out this winter by standing over a floor with straight lines on it. Place your toes parallel to a line and put your hands together, palm against palm. Assume a putting stance and practice executing the stroke. Try to move your hands by just rocking the shoulders so that the hands move on a straight line. You can sight the line by lining your thumbs with a line in the floor. Again, keep your hands below your shoulders (step one). Adjust your stance so that you can sight a line below your thumbs. Don’t just move your hands out or in.
Work on this until you are very comfortable with it. Then try it with a putter in your hands. By the spring thaw, swinging on a straight line by rocking your shoulders will feel completely natural.
3) Time for basic change?
Ask yourself some questions about your game—and be brutally honest in your answers.
* Did you improve last year?
* Did you improve in the last several years?
* Are you reasonably confident that you know where the ball is going to go when you step up to a shot?
* When you play, do you pretty much keep the same swing throughout the round and not make changes every few swings to try and fix things that go wrong?
* Are you able to swing with no back pain?
* Are you happy with your distance?
* Do you hit the ball the same distance consistently?
* Are you able to practice at least three times a week for several hours?
If you said “no” to several of these questions, then you may want to consider some really basic changes. You may want to consider an alternative golf swing next season.
Why? Alternative swings are generally (though not always) more simple to execute, which leads to more consistency with less practice. Moreover, they place less strain on the back because they use more arm motion and less of the traditional coiling motion. Alternative swings have less club face rotation so that you are less likely to slice or hook—the face is square longer through the hitting area. Finally, consistency and a square face means more solid hits more often, and consequently, more distance.
Drawbacks? You will look a little unorthodox as you address the ball and as you swing. So if you want to emulate Ernie Els, alternative swings are not for you. You will also lose a little distance at first, and of course, you will feel funny. So you must be a little patient, as one should when learning any new motion.
So if alternative swings are so easy and wonderful, then why are more players and professionals using them? It is because they are unorthodox and because so many people have so much time and effort invested in the traditional swings. As soon as someone comes along and wins a few tournaments with an alternative swing, then they will become more popular.
But if you have not heard, alternative golf swings are growing in popularity. The best known and marketed alternative swing is the “Natural Golf” swing. The Natural Golf Corporation is slowly building market share. They have some professionals using their swing. Former British Open and Master’s champion Sandy Lyle, after “losing it,” is trying to make a comeback with the Natural Golf swing, and having some notable success. So it is only a matter of time. The real breakthrough will be when a young player enters the stage with a new look. That may take a while because all young players want to model their swings after Tiger right now.
Who would benefit the most? Beginners and high handicappers. If you are reading this newsletter you are probably not a beginner, but if Dr. Putt were teaching his children the golf swing all over again, he would employ an alternative swing. Indeed, as all the little Putt’s have recently left the nest and Mrs. Dr. Putt has decided that she now has time to play again after twenty years away from the game. Dr. Putt took her to the course and showed her the natural golf grip and swing. In 30 minutes she was hitting shots that were as long as and more consistent than the shots she hit 20 years ago.
Who will benefit the least? Single digit handicappers who play a lot. The greatest benefit for you is that you can maintain your current level of play with less practice time. You will probably not improve your average score that much, but you will find much less variation in your play and scores.
Which alternative swing should you use? A search on the Web will reveal many of them to choose from. Here is a url with links to several of the alternative golf swings that are out there:
But the Natural Golf swing is probably the most simple and has the best instructional package. Dr. Putt has tried the original instructional package, which includes a video and book, and found it very user friendly. This year they have come out with a new package, which they claim to be even easier to use.
Incidentally, Dr. Putt has absolutely no financial ties to Natural Golf. So this is not a plug for that particular company. Indeed, he has differences with them about their ideas on natural putting, arguing that his own method is more “natural.” See a letter on this at Dear Dr. Putt:
Most of us would like next year to be the year that we really improve. Perhaps you have been saying this for several years, and it never seems to happen. If you are really serious about changing your game for the better, then perhaps it is time to change how you swing.
Remember to check the Dear Dr. Putt web site for all your putting questions – a search feature now allows you to look up almost any subject you like – and the references are growing all the time!
Thanks for all your letters, questions and orders. Many are learning that putting can really be fun when you know where you are aimed and can hit it there. Let’s hope the weather breaks soon for most of us so we can get back out to the course.
PS--If you want to be removed from Dr. Putt’s newsletter list, please just reply to this email and ask. He will remove you – really!