“I’ve lost so much distance, I just don’t hit the ball far enough,” is a common complaint. The golf companies every year at the beginning of the season try to come to the rescue, offering five to ten more yards with their new drivers.
Unfortunately for the average golfer that new $500.00 driver with the ultra-light graphite shaft is usually not the answer.
I've found that with the majority of my students, not completing the backswing on full shots causes their loss of distance. This can be a problem with young players as well as seniors. Being anxious and rushing the backswing is one of the major causes of not completing the backswing. Also, as a golfer's body ages, the tendency is for the golf swing to shorten with the loss of clubhead speed and distance. If you watched the opening tee shots hit by golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at the 2019 Master's golf tournament; these great players were hitting their drives with what looked like half backswings. This is an example of how an aging body restricts the golf swing. In their prime both these great players had full powerful swings.
Another cause of losing distance is not swinging the golf club. If the golfer holds the fingers on the handle of the golf club too tightly, or if you tighten the fingers on the golf club and change the grip pressure when you swing the club the ball does not go as far as it should. This can happen on all kinds of shots, putts and chips and pitches to full iron shots and drives. Everyone does it, even the pros on the PGA tour.
It’s much more evident on shorter shots--putts never get to the hole, and on chips and pitches, the ball is usually short of the target. Sometimes on longer full shots the clubface does not square up and the ball goes to the right of its target. You correct this by maintaining the same light grip pressure throughout your swing.
A good test is for you to grip the golf club and extend your arms in front of you at waist height. You should be able to cock your wrists upward without letting go of your fingers on the club. If you have to let go of the fingers to cock the wrist, you're holding the club too tightly. Remember to maintain this same grip pressure throughout the swing.
Before I give my students a putting lesson, I ask them to stroke a few short putts. Most of them do not have a set-up routine before they putt; that is a way of sighting their aim-line and positioning their body. Usually their putting stroke is a wristy movement with their hands with little motion with their arms.
Today I am giving you just a few tips for better putting. So let’s get back to a few basic fundamentals. Before you can think about putting you have to have a setup routine: how to aim, how to align your body and how to grip the club. You aim the same for all golf shots, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a driver, an iron shot or the putter. What you do is stand behind the ball at least three feet or farther.
If you are too close to the ball you don’t have a good perspective to find your line. Now sight an imaginary line that runs through the center of the ball to the center of the cup on the green. This is called the aim-line. On full shots it’s called the target line. Now place the ball on the green with the name of the ball to serve as your aim-line. Most good golfers use a “Sharpie” to draw a line on their golf balls.
Next place your hands on the putter grip with both of your thumbs on the flat part of the putter grip. The fingers wrap around the grip with your hands close together. The forefinger of the left hand wraps over the little finger of your right hand. This is called the reverse overlapping grip.
Now place the putter head behind the ball with the sight line on your putter lined up with the name on the ball or line on your golf ball. The putter’s face should be perpendicular to the aim-line. This is a square clubface. Once you have placed the putter head behind the ball, bend from your hips with your backside out. Do not stand up straight. Position your shoulders, hips and feet parallel to the aim-line. The feet should be shoulder width apart with the ball inside your left heel.
Some of my students ask me how far they should stand from the ball. The answer is when you set up you should be able to drop a ball from the base of your nose on top of the ball you are setting up to. If you are standing too close to the ball, the ball when dropped will fall outside the ball. If you stand too far from the ball, it will fall inside the ball. The idea now is for you to move the putter with your forearms and hands back on the aim-line low to the ground and through to hit the back of the ball. It’s important that you try to putt the ball always on the aim-line. It’s a mistake to putt at the cup. That’s not as good. Most of my beginners have a difficult time knowing how hard to hit the ball. They are either long or short on their putts. This takes practice to be able to feel how hard to hit the ball.
To learn to putt the ball straight, it’s best to practice putting short putts three to five feet. It’s helpful to try rolling the ball on the aim-line to the cup. A good hardware store sells a device that makes straight chalk lines. You can put this chalk line on the green and practice rolling the ball on this line to the cup. On longer putts the putter head as it is taken back comes slightly inside the aim-line.
I hope these tips have been helpful. Good luck with your putting. If you have any questions call me at 305 609-4968 or take a golf lesson from Richard Metz, PGA golf professional.
Last Summer, I went to Minnesota for a vacation to visit my good friend Jim and his family. While I was there, of course, the word “golf” came up. Jim told me he played but never had a golf lesson from a PGA professional. So off we went to his local golf course. The reason I am telling you this is because Jim’s fault is a common one among many golfers. I watched him warm up as he hit a few balls on the practice range. Some of Jim’s shots were either to the left or to the right of his target. Once in a while he hit the ball straight; but he wasn’t consistent.
The problem was that his arms and hands were not rotating with his body on the downswing. As a result of this his clubface was open at impact and the ball went to the right. Sometimes unconsciously he corrected this by closing the clubface with his hands; this closed clubface made the ball go to the left of its intended target.
How do we correct this? You start by hitting balls with a half-swing. It’s best to use a short iron like a pitching wedge. When your torso (the area of the body between the sternum and the naval) turns on the backswing, your arms and hands should also turn with a wrist-cock so that your left arm half-way back is parallel to the target line. The right arm is slightly bent and the toe of the clubhead should face the sky. This is a square clubface. Now when you start your downswing, as your torso turns back to hit the ball, the arms and hands should also turn back with the body. At the completion of this half swing, again the toe of the clubhead faces the sky and the clubface is square. Both of your arms should be extended with a wrist-cock with your left arm slightly bent.
This swinging motion allows the clubface to stay square throughout the swing and the ball should go straight. The problem arises when the left arm does not rotate and extend as the ball is hit. It’s called a “chicken wing”, a golfer’s term for a bent left arm at impact with a collapsed left wrist. This causes the clubface to be open at impact. A good exercise to give you the feel of how your left arm and hand work in the swing is to grip down on your pitching wedge and hold the club with just your left hand and arm, and place your right palm on your left bicep.
Now practice swinging the club half way back and half way through looking to see if you’re keeping your left hand and arm straight without the bend between your left arm and hand as your body turns. Again the toe of the clubhead faces the sky on the half backswing and the half follow-through. If the golf club is held too tightly it is harder to coordinate this arm and hand swing with the turning of the body. Now put both hands on the club and start to hit balls with this half swing.
Remember to take practice swings watching to see if you are making the correct motion. Look at it and get the feel for it. Once you learn to do this with a half swing, you should extend this motion into a full swing. By this I mean a fuller rotation of your torso and a longer backswing with your hands and arms into a full follow-through and finish.
Toward the end of Jim’s lesson he started to be more consistent. It was fun working with him and I hope on my next visit to play golf with him.
Remember: a good golf swing involves coordinating the body’s rotation with the correct arm and hand motion..