Grip It Good – A solid grip sets the foundation for everything else in the golf swing
By TIM CUSICK
One of the most basic things in the golf swing is often times overlooked. I’m talking about the grip. Golfers take the grip for granted far too often. Outside of impact itself, the grip is the most important part of the swing, because it has a direct relationship with impact. How your hands are positioned on the club will control the clubface.
This is why you see golfers use the grip as a compensation for their wayward shots. It doesn’t take long for someone that slices the ball to start making his or her grip stronger. It’s not something you consciously think through, it just starts to happen after you start slicing the ball.
Let’s walk through the important aspects of the grip:
- In the top hand, the club should run diagonally from the pad of your palm to the bend in your first finger. You close your top hand with the last three fingers first to get the proper pressure in the hand. This should produce the view of the first two knuckles on the top hand when you look down, while making a “V” with the thumb and first finger.
- The seam of the bottom hand fits against the thumb of the top hand as the bottom hand closes. A ‘v’ again is made with the thumb and first finger. Both Vs should point toward the back shoulder.
- The pressure of the grip should be the same in both hands. I like to equate the grip pressure as the feeling you have from a nice handshake. If you squeeze too tight, you will tend to resist a release and block. This is a characteristic of a slicer. Golfers that hold the club loosely tend to be ones that can release the club more. The extreme with this feeling could result in a hook.
When your grip is correct, there’s not a better feeling than having the back of your lead hand rotated back to square at impact. The lead hand should face the target, resulting in a square clubface squared at impact. I like to say that the top hand creates the impact by rotating back to square, while the bottom hand supports the impact moving in unison with the top hand. You should check your grip every time you pick up a club. See if the palms are matching, the Vs are in the proper spot and the grip pressure is consistent between the hands at a comfortable level.
Make a practice of paying more attention to your grip. It’s the direct relationship with the clubface, which controls the impact and creates the shots you desire. All golfers want a better feeling impact. Your grip is the path to this feeling.
Tim Cusick is the Director of Instruction at the Four Seasons Resort and Club/Dallas at Las Colinas. The Northern Texas PGA named Cusick Teacher of the Year in 2005, 2009 and 2015, as well as the 2014 Horton Smith Award winner for education. He’s the author of ‘The Four Keys to Improve your Swing.’ Follow him on Twitter @timcusickgolf and visit his website: timcusickgolf.com.
The Alignment Bureau – Getting properly lined up to fit your natural shot shape builds the foundation for better golf shots
By JUSTIN GUEL
Too often, when I am giving a lesson or playing with amateurs, they take themselves out of the shot or hole before they even take a swing due to poor alignment practices. Most amateurs fall victim to the thought that they need to line up directly at their target – be it on a drive or from the fairway – instead of lining up to account for their natural shot shape. This is a recipe for disaster. What you need to do is align yourself so that your natural ball flight leaves you in the best position for your next shot.
Here is a simple, two-step way to address your alignment issues:
- Knowing which direction your ball naturally curves, align yourself so that when you hit your natural shot (left-to-right or right-to-left), you play to the safe, wide portion of the green or fairway.
- When you set up, pick a small target a few feet in front of you that lines up with when you want the ball to start, and focus on hitting the ball over that target. On the range, practice this by setting a few golf balls in a line in front of you toward your target. This will give you a good visual key to where you want the ball to start.
Alignment is a simple but important part of the setup and the swing. By properly aligning yourself to fit your ball flight – not your idea of “the perfect shot” – and playing to the safest part of the fairway/green, you will hit more fairways and shoot lower scores.
Justin Guel is the Head Golf Professional at Coyote Ridge Golf Club. He is also a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three Ways to Fix a Slice – We are tackling golf’s oldest foe – the slice – with three easy-to-do drills on the range
By KELLI MCKANDLESS
Almost all high-handicappers I see struggle with a slice. It is the most hated shot in golf. Well, I’ve got three fun drills for you to try on the driving range to get rid of that nasty slice once and for all.
Tip 1: Grip with an Alignment Stick
When you take your setup, make sure you grip with the alignment stick along the shaft of the club. The stick is going to sit on the left side of your body. Once you start your downswing, you want the end of the club and the alignment stick to point at the golf ball or a hair outside of the target line. If that alignment stick starts pointing at your body or your toe line, then that club is going to extend outside your hands, which can create a slice.
Tip 2: Drag an Alignment Stick
You want the alignment stick in your hands to touch the ground at the start of the alignment stick lying on the ground. With the alignment stick in your hands, press it into the ground and drag it parallel to the alignment stick on the ground. This drill will force your hands to press forward through impact, extend your target hip behind you, and help you square the clubface to your target line.
Tip 3: Don’t Hit the Noodle
Cut down a pool noodle and place it over an alignment stick. Insert the alignment stick into the ground at the angle of the plane line of your golf club, about two feet outside and behind the golf ball. Avoiding the noodle and swinging beneath it will keep your hands inside and on-plane instead of coming over the top. Start off by hitting a tee, then increase difficulty by adding a golf ball on the tee, then just the ball. Swinging “underneath” the noodle will help you eliminate your slice.
Kelli McKandless is the Director of Instruction at Brookhaven Country Club. For information on lessons, please call (972) 488-4896 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
Knowing How to Work It – Understanding the relationship between the clubface and the path of the clubhead is key to curving the golf ball
By ANDY TRAYNOR
One key to playing golf at a course such as Watters Creek – with 10 holes that dogleg either left or right – is the ability to curve the golf ball off the tee. Being able to draw or fade the ball into the proper portion of a fairway or green can lead to easier approach shots, shorter putts and lower scores. Understanding how to curve the ball is the first step to actually doing it.
Aside from missing the center of the clubface, the curvature of the golf ball is directly influenced by the impact direction of the clubface and the club path in relation to each other. Understanding how these two factors relate to each other is vital in understanding how to work the golf ball.
If the direction of the club path is leftward of where the clubface is aimed, the ball will rotate in a clockwise direction, causing it curve from left to right (fade). If the path of the club is rightward of the clubface, the ball will rotate counter-clockwise, causing it to curve right to left (draw).
A drill that we use at The Plane Truth Academy at Watters Creek to illustrate how to curve a golf ball is called “The Ball Flight Pyramid” (illustrated in the photos above). Assuming our club stays pointed at the target, if our swing path orients toward the first ball in the swing arc, we get a club path rightward of the clubface resulting in draw-like curve. If the club path orients towards the last ball in the swing arc and we get a club path leftward of the clubface, it results in a fade-like curve.
If you can understand and feel the direction of your swing path in relation to where the clubface is aimed, you can start to curve the golf ball and be in better position on holes that dogleg.
Andy Traynor is an instructor at The Plane Truth Golf Academy at The Courses at Watters Creek, and the only Trackman Master Professional available full-time in Texas. He can be contacted at 469-999-1191 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Par 5 Strategy – Know just how far you want to hit the ball and play to your strengths on par 5s to make more pars and birdies
By DON KENNEDY
On the Bridges Course at Firewheel Golf Park, we have a couple of par 5s that are risk reward. Too often I see our amateur players simply reach for their 3-wood and try to blast it down toward the green, which, more often than not, gets them in more trouble than it does them good.
If you want to make more birdies on par 5s, you have to have a strategy for your second shot, not just mindlessly beat it down the fairway. When I’m teaching a player, I ask them this: “What is your most comfortable golf shot?” For me personally, my favorite shot is from about 90-95 yards – I know I will hit it close from there. So, if I am laying up on a par 5, I make sure I select a club that will leave me 90-95 yards for my third shot (or as close to that as possible).
Even if you feel comfortable hitting a 3-wood or long iron (and can maybe reach the green), strategy is still involved in your decision-making. As you can see in the picture, I’m faced with a layup shot with a large fairway bunker and a water hazard on the left, and OB tight to the green on the right. Even if I was able to hit a 3-wood on or near the green, is it the right choice? If I hit it a bit right, I’m OB; a tug left, and I’m either left with a long bunker shot, or I’m in the water. The smart play is a safe layup to my comfort zone.
If you take a minute to think your way around par 5s, you’ll leave yourself easier shots, have more fun and make more birdies.
Don Kennedy is the Director of Golf at Firewheel Golf Park. To contact him about instruction, e-mail email@example.com.
Gettin’ Rough With It – How to handle the long pitch and lob shots from the deep greenside rough with ease
By ALAN RASBERRY
Out here at Tangle Ridge, I constantly see amateurs faced with tough pitch shots from the low areas between mounds around the greens. When the rough is thick and your ball is well below the putting surface (so you can’t actually see the hole), the shot can seem quite daunting. But, if you understand what you need to do – and how your clubs can help you – the shot becomes much more manageable.
- Here are the simple keys to managing the pitch from the rough:
Select your wedge based on the distance of the shot. If you have some green to work with and a longer carry, grab a less-lofted wedge. It will still do the work of getting the ball up in the air, but it will also run out.
- Play the ball in the middle of your stance with a square clubface. There isn’t anything fancy about this setup. You just want to ensure solid contact, and let the sole of the wedge move through the grass.
- Make a compact, aggressive swing through the ball – especially if you are in the really thick stuff – and finish with the club pointing toward the flag.
Now, a few things to avoid when executing the shot:
- Don’t automatically grab your highest lofted wedge and open the blade up.
- Don’t play the ball well forward in your stance.
- Don’t try to fly the ball all the way to the hole, as it won’t have much spin.
One point of note: if you get a buried lie in the thick rough, like in the photo below, it is OK to move the ball back in your stance for better contact. While the visuals of this shot may be intimidating, if you understand what you have to work with and take the complexity out of your setup and club selection, you’ll start conquering the rough and getting up and down with ease.
Alan Rasberry is a Certified PGA Professional of Instruction who gives individual, group and junior golf team instruction at Tangle Ridge Golf Club. To schedule a lesson, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.alanrasberry.com.
Going Low Greenside – In many instances, using a hybrid club around the green can be a safer, easier shot
By CHARLIE MABIE
Nothing is cooler than watching a PGA Tour pro hit a giant, soft flop shot or a sharp chip that takes two hops and stops on a dime, but for most golfers, those shots often end in disaster rather than success. At Heritage Ranch, many of our greens are elevated and surrounded by tightly mown areas instead of rough. In these cases, using a hybrid to chip instead of a lofted wedge is a great bet.
The sole design on most modern hybrids makes them a very versatile club around the greens, especially from tight lies or damp areas, where a normal wedge will dig into the soft turf or prematurely bounce off hardpan. There are two keys to using your hybrid around the green:
- Set up with the ball well back in your stance, even off your back foot. This will promote crisp contact with the ball and get it rolling forward along the turf.
- Make sure you keep your hands forward and solid at and through impact. You don’t want to flip your wrist or roll your hands, which can lead to inconsistent contact. Keeping your hands forward will promote a low ball flight and a strong roll off the clubface.
The hybrid is a wonderful tool to use around the greens. It minimizes the risk of hitting a fat shot, and gets the ball rolling quickly and effortlessly. It may take you some time to figure out just how far the ball will roll with the hybrid, but once you do, you will find yourself hitting better chip shots from trouble areas around the green.
Charlie Mabie is the PGA Head Golf Professional at Heritage Ranch Golf & Country Club. For information on lessons, call 972-886-4700 or e-mail him at email@example.com