I hope everyone had a good holiday season and a happy New Year. Now that I have covered how to assess and analyze your game, it is time to get to work on how to improve. When talking about improvement, there are two main areas I focus on: technique or skill. As an instructor, it is always a tricky question when working with a student and deciding does the technique need to change or is it good enough to focus on building skills. For the purposes of this newsletter, the one thing I will not do is give technique tips. I believe technical work needs to be done on a student-by-student basis, and a tip may help one player and send another in the completely wrong direction. There must be a full understanding of the issue for the information to be relevant. For those reasons, in this email and the next few I will focus on the skills you need to develop to play better golf and reduce your strikes.
The most important skill in golf, in my opinion, is the ability to strike the ball solidly and consistently. If contact is not solid and consistent, it is impossible to make good decisions, control distances or direction. Dispersion patterns become unmanageable, and I believe it leads to too much doubt. So, what goes into controlling contact? To control contact, you must be able to control the low point of the arc in the golf swing. The low point is not just where the club impacts the ground, it has 3 parts to it: the height in relation to the ground (which will control contact high/low on the face), the left/center/right location (which will control contact, heel/center/toe on the face) and then the front/back location (which will control quality of contact fat/solid or thin).
Ideally, for any shot where the ball is on the ground, the goal would be to strike the ball in the sweet spot and have the club hit the ball and then the turf. You can see the visualization of this in the trackman photos that show swing plane and impact location. Note that the angle of attack is negative, meaning the arc of the club is still descending as the club hits the ball. The club was low enough to make contact with the center of the face and aligned so that contact was middle, not heel or toe.
To practice and test low point control, there is no better place than sand. Sand gives incredible feedback for where the club hit the ground, the general direction it was traveling and the depth of the arc. One of my favorite exercises is to draw a line in the sand with 10 perpendicular lines. The first line represents the impact line, the perpendicular line represents the target line. I do this exercise without a ball to test the skill of the player in their ability to control where the club bottoms out. I’m looking for 2 things, precision and consistency. The better the ball striker, the closer they are to the impact line, and the less variance from swing to swing. Hitting the line is great, but if it only happens one time out of 10, then we need to build more skill.
If the test goes well, do the same exercise and introduce the ball. Place the ball at the intersection of the impact and target line and hit 10 shots, see if the results change. When the ball is introduced and our intention changes to trying to hit a good shot, you may notice a new pattern. If you can master this skill, there is a very good chance that you will be able to consistently hit solidly struck golf shots which will allow you to make a better plan and have more manageable patterns on the golf course. Sand is the least forgiving surface to hit off, if you can hit it great on the sand, the rest of the playing surfaces will be a breeze.
I hope you enjoy this test and way of practicing. To improve your skill, the feedback you take in is so important. This should expedite the learning process and lead to a clearer understanding of how to improve your ball striking. If you have any questions or need help changing your patterns, feel free to email me or set up a lesson on my booking page. The next article will focus on the skill of driving and speed.