Dear Dr. Putt:
I have just recently taken up the wonderful sport of golf. So far I have played about ten rounds and I am quite happy with my progress so far. My iron play is great as long as I can take a full swing. However, if I have to take less than a full swing, I'm all over the map. Any tips for that? Also, I have problems with hitting the driver consistently. Mostly slicing, although there is an occasional hook. I love your site, I think that some of your putting tips and green reading tips are going to shave several strokes from my game. Thanks for your help.
My Dear Ryan,
Welcome to the wonderful world of golf! In the process of learning about playing the game you will learn a lot about yourself, if you pay careful attention! And as you improve your game you will also improve yourself, again, if you pay careful attention as you go.
On to your questions. Most people on less than full shots attempt to slow the swing down through impact area rather than really take a shorter back swing. Decelleration is the number one fault on poor short shots, chips, and putting! Every shot should be struck at the same tempo with a finish (follow-through) that is the same length or a little longer than the back swing.
So look at yourself in the mirror and learn to take the arms back to the 7:30 and 9 o'clock positions (a quarter and half swing), then swing from there with the same tempo as a full swing. Do the same with chips, except keep the weight on the forward foot (about 80%). Learn to take a 12 inch backswing putt consistently and use this as your reference putt.
As you get better, you will learn how far you hit each club with each of these backswings, on regular shots, on chips, and on putts. Then you can add other length backswings, but wait till you can hit these with consistency!
Remember the key is tempo -- same on each shot, or else the clubhead speed will change with each shot regardless of backswing. Try saying a little ditty in your head or even counting as you swing to help you keep on tempo. Dr. Putt uses a little poem that has nothing to do with golf or any physical activity.
This idea of tempo also applies to driving. Most people try to hit it all out on drives, and tighten up the hands and wrists thereby preventing them from releasing through the ball, which leaves the clubface open at impact. Then they try to correct by pulling the shot, with the same open face thereby causing the all too familiar pull slice.
You can put all kinds of band-aids on this, but the best solution is to keep hands and arms loose throughout the swing (gripping it at about 2 on a 1 to 10 scale), finish high (not to the left) and swing at the same tempo as you would hit a middle iron. The only real difference is that you play the ball a little more forward (just inside the heel of the forward foot) so that you hit the ball a little on the upswing rather than at or just before the bottom of the swing arc.
How you accomplish this varies with the individual. Some feel that they swing with their legs or even feet. Others by turning the body. Others by a weight shift. Dr. Putt is best able to keep the arms and hands out of the swing by thinking about turning the shoulders and just letting the hands and arms follow along.
But whatever you think about, it should not be the hands and arms, as they rotate much too fast for any conscious manipulation or any consistency. That is what produces slices with the occasional hook when you manage to rotate the hands and arms a little too fast and consequently hit the ball with a closed face. Work for a smooth consistent tempo with the arms and hands going along for the ride the same each time.
Please let Dr. Putt know how you are doing, and thanks for the compliment on the website!
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