Month: October 2014

  • October 31, 2014
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TOUR PLAYERS TODAY ARE NOT AS GOOD
AS YESTERYEAR

TOUR PLAYERS TODAY ARE NOT AS GOOD AS YESTERYEAR

Don’t let the new GPS system in your cart depress you just because you found out those three hundred yard drives you were crushing were actually only two ten. Drive your cart another hundred and look back toward the tee and appreciate that a bunch of skinny guys on all the major tours hit the ball that far on a regular basis. Realize that they are hitting wedges into most holes, and turning par fives into par fours.

Staggering, right? Then why haven’t scores plummeted? Why isn’t sixty the new seventy? Back in the day tour pros hit mid-irons into many par fours. When do we see that today? Par fives were for the most part three shot holes. The greens sucked back then, hairy things that wouldn’t pass for fringe today. Tee boxes were uneven. Fairways were patchy. Guys smoked and hit the bar instead of the barbells.

Are players today really better than the pros of yore? What would Lee Trevino’s scoring average have been if he had hit wedge everywhere? The pros today are not better than the guys who came before them. There are just more of them. Advancements in equipment and agronomy have leveled the playing field and allowed guys with what once would have been considered marginal talent, a ticket to the big show. Does anyone out there remember the anonymous rumblings when Mark Calcavecchia hit the scene in the eighties? Remember the disparaging remarks regarding his talent and how his results were a product of the new fangled perimeter weighted, investment cast PINGS he was playing? Was it fair to dismiss him? Since then there has been a technological sprint for equipment enhancement. Some would say enough is enough.

The modern swing is based on the fool proof construction of the equipment; two levers and swing hard. Timing, though still important, takes a back seat to speed. When once it was imperative to swing in a more flowing, almost elegant motion in order to let the torqued out shafts catch up and fall into place, it is now a wonder that the young players of today can keep their internal organs within their thoracic cavities when they swing.

To the young guys I would recommend going out to their dad’s garage and digging out his old irons from the seventies and swing ‘em. Heads the size of butter knives. Shafts that were for the most part mismatched. Take them out and see what you can do with them. Maybe there is an old MacGregor Tourney ball or two you could play with. That’s what Nicklaus used. Those things were barely round. Hell, those old clubs and balls were a giant leap forward in the technology department compared to what the guys played with thirty years before then.

BTW Byron Nelson averaged 68.06 strokes per round in 1945.

Am I alone in this assessment? Am I correct? Or am I a bitter, reactionary old dinosaur? Go ahead and give it to me one way or the other. Weigh in. I’m waiting.

 

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  • October 28, 2014
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BORN TO RIP IT

BORN TO RIP IT

Are certain people born to succeed in sports? Are some of us just naturals? Was it nature that made Michael Jordan Michael Jordan? Mike Trout Mike Trout? What percentage is present at birth, and how much of the end result is earned through blood, sweat and tears? As a golf instructor I see different degrees of organic influence every day, whether it is a propensity of some for better balance, or hand eye coordination, or maybe the natural advantage is a more advanced ability to process information, the bottom line is we all have some inherent ability. That is not to say that if we all practice hard we can one day slam dunk it from the foul line, or drive it three thirty. Physical limitations will always supersede genetic pre-dispositions when it comes to sports. But we all have a spark inside us, whether it is learned or genetic, we need to find it and make it work for us.

Every lesson I begin by asking the student about his or her game. In other words, why are you here? The answers vary. “Oh, man, I stink.” Or “I don’t have a clue as to what I’m doing. I feel like my swing is all over the place.” I ask them to make some ‘air’ swings to loosen up. It is within these ‘air’ swings that I see their immediate potential, their ‘spark.’ It is where the stuff you are born with shows up first. I will even video these swings so they can see just how good they look. They will invariably tell me that that pretty swing turns to crap when we put the little white ball down in front of them. But that is not the point. The point is, we can all be better than we think we can. Like John Lee Hooker sang, “it’s in him, and it’s got to come out, boogie chillen.”

Ever watch MLB Network? The show Quick Pitch? It’s a re-cap show with Heidi Watney as the host. Prior to Quick Pitch, Heidi had been the Red Sox reporter from 2008-2012. She is a rising star in the sports broadcasting world who also happens to be cousin to PGA Tour multiple winner Nick Watney. They are the same age. They grew up together in Fresno like brother and sister. Heidi’s dad was Nick’s college coach at Fresno State. Dad Mike was inducted into the Golf Coaches Hall of Fame last year. Golf is in the gene pool, that’s for sure. You just have to watch Heidi swing the club on my website paulrudeen.com to see that. The amazing thing is she is a beginner. She gravitated to other sports as a kid, and stayed away from golf. Even now she rarely touches her clubs. Once in a great while she tees it up for charity scrambles, but that is it.

Over the course of twelve lessons for my site, Heidi’s golf swing improved exponentially. She was getting the ‘big picture.’ The major elements of her swing were taking shape. Her real swings started to imitate her ‘air’ swings. There were obvious improvements to her weight shift and turn. She was able to maintain a stable spine angle in relation to her swing plane, and on and on. The bottom line is she started getting results.

So don’t be a nattering nabob of negativity. Even you have that spark. Find a good teacher and flush it out.

 

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  • October 25, 2014
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DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YA
WHERE THE DOG SHOULDA BIT YA

DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YA WHERE THE DOG SHOULDA BIT YA

It’s seems as if it were just last month that Ted Bishop was beaming down the fairways of Gleneagles, riding shotgun alongside his hand picked Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. Wait a minute, it was just last month. My how time flies. Following the Euro beatdown, Ted took some hits, but nothing compared to his captain. We all remember the ‘team’ press conference where Phil Mickelson whined about the way we operate in all things Ryder Cup. He might have been better served to have whined about his own coaches, Butch Harmon and Dave Pelz, considering that he stunk the place up all weekend (except for Saturday when Captain Tom had the gall to sit him him down for his poor play. Imagine that.). If you are hell bent on passing the buck, why not start with Butch? Hell, why not start with the quality of the amniotic fluid in the womb?

But I digress. Ted is the issue this morning. From this point forward let’s refer to him as Poor Ted. Poor Ted meant well. Like so many leaders he became a victim of his own self-certainty. Remember George Armstrong Custer? Same sort of deal. George knew how to get ‘er done. Follow me boys! Buck up, tis but a flesh wound.

But like all overly self-assured numbnuts Poor Ted lost his way. He lost his way because much of his self-governing personal boundaries disappeared. Did he learn nothing from the game of golf? Successful golf is a product of knowing what you can and cannot do. A lay up on the par five is sometimes the prudent play. But there was no lay up in Poor Ted’s mind. In Poor Ted’s mind he ‘had that shot.’ This attitude was no doubt fueled by the overall positive reaction to some of his good work. He closed the gap between the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. He worked hard to fight the ridiculous ban of anchored putters (and don’t tell me that the ball and the big headed drivers were not a more obvious assault on the integrity of the game. Long putters don’t make great golf courses obsolete.). He had the wheel when women were finally being heard outside the gates of Augusta National and the Royal and Ancient. He seemed to be going along just fine. So what happened?

The Ryder Cup outcome stung him like a swarm of hornets. He was a walking open wound, and when he read about Ian Poulter”s remarks he lashed out without thinking. His choice of words were stupid to say the least, especially at a time when the PGA is trying to embrace all demographics, but it wasn’t so much his words, as it was his reaction to being called out. His ego did not allow him to put forth a heartfelt, contrite and unconditional apology. He had to add the sinful and irrevocable three letter word at the end: BUT. Oh, Poor Ted. BUT for three letters you might still have your throne, junkets and photo ops with celebs galore. BUT, that is not to be. Like Harry Truman said to General Douglas MacArthur, it’s time to go.

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  • October 22, 2014
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TOUR PROS DON’T GET IT

TOUR PROS DON’T GET IT

What’s worse, a player blaming the coach, or a coach blaming the player? Seems the Ryder Cup has inspired both sentiments recently. Just when the furor of the Blame Captain Tom For No Pods press conference is finally dissipating, more hubbub from the other side of the Atlantic is taking on a life of its own. Those of us who were watching the first day of this year’s Ryder Cup competition recall when commentator Nick Faldo blamed Sergio Garcia for being useless in the 2008 event in which the Euros went down in flames at Valhalla, and Captain Nick went home a loser. My first reaction was: Wait a minute, Sir Nick, Sergio didn’t lose it for you, we had pods. Hello.

Obviously golfers don’t know how to conduct themselves in team competition. If there is no “I” in TEAM, then “I” can’t blame anyone else. Whatever happened to “We win as a team, we lose as a team?” Sure, in the vast history of sports there have been famous goats. Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner comes to mind. But how many of his teammates poured blame on him after the 1986 World Series? Uh, that would be none. Real sportsmen know how to act. Blame and harassment come from the media and the fans, never the teammates. What is up with golfers? Why don’t they get it?

They are spoiled. Most guys on the PGA Tour come from white bread cultures where they heard the word ‘no’ about as often as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. They simply cannot wrap their heads around disappointment as well as athletes in other sports, and therefore respond inappropriately. I promise you that Tiger Woods would have never in a million years cast blame on Captain Tom. It is not that the fourteen time major champion is some paragon of virtue. Hardly. But he did grow up hearing the word no. He went through things as a kid that the vast majority of us could not imagine, such as being turned away from a golf course because of the color of his skin. Real competitive fire grew inside of him. There is a fierceness there that transcends the game of golf; an ‘I’ll show you’ attitude, not an “I’ll show you until I lose and then I’ll blame someone else.”

Give me scrappers. Give me the Billy Horschels out there. The throwbacks. The guys who have had to scrape and claw to achieve anything. Give me guys with chips on their shoulders. Guys with something to prove. Where have you gone Ben Hogan? Lee Trevino? Arnold Palmer? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

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  • October 17, 2014
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RYDER CUP TASK FORCE: HERE WE COME
TO SAVE THE DAY

RYDER CUP TASK FORCE: HERE WE COME TO SAVE THE DAY

Finally, a task force. PGA of America big shots, some former Ryder Cup captains (can’t have Tom Watson on the force because he was the sole reason why we lost at Gleneagles because he didn’t employ pods), and some current players are going to have yet another reason to ensconce themselves in a luxury hotel no doubt somewhere atop some glorious cliff overlooking a breathtaking view so they can pat each other on the back over cracked crab and a case or two of Glenfiddich, and tell themselves that this is the only possible answer to the question of why we keep getting the crap knocked out of us every two years by a bunch of guys who talk funny. And what about that french guy who never talks? What’s up with him? Aw heck, we put our heads together we’ll figure him out, pass me them pigs in a blanket, will ya?

The first order of business at the summit will be to determine whether the task force should be broken up into pods. This question, a damn good one, will have to be voted on and then sent to committee for ratification. There it will be passed by a unanimous first vote which will set the no-nonsense mood of the meetings. Prior to organizing the pod situation, the esteemed members will have a private short straw drawing to see who gets stuck with PGA of America president Ted Bishop. There will be some murmuring about Ted being the reason they are there in the first place since he was the one who chose Tom ‘The anti-Christ, half a commie’ Watson to head up the 2014 Ryder Cup team. And didn’t he look smug that first day riding right alongside Captain Tom, tooling down the fairways of Armageddon. You take him. No, you take him.

Once the members break up into their pods, the flow of ideas will be inspiring. Small conference rooms will be set up to accommodate the steady flow of mensa-like repartee. U.S. flags draped everywhere, an audio feed of George C. Scott’s speech from the movie Patton will be piped into the pods to welcome the members. Blood will surge. Adrenaline will pump. Some of the members will wear camouflage to show they mean business. It’s all about image, they will tell you. Someone will suggest that the 2016 team unis ought to be camouflage. Positive nods and grunts will ensue around the pod. Things will get straightened out if its the last thing they do. The mount Everest of doughnuts is a nice touch after the buffet breakfast. Iced shrimp will be waiting just outside the door for the ten o’clock break. The wives will be leaving for a tour of a winery at nine, back at the spa for full treatments at one, then cocktails…

It is decided early on, that the foursomes part of the match needs to be done away with. It’s not even golf, someone will blurt. Where’s the rugged individualism in that format? Leave it to the Euros to come up with a format that requires participants to bail each other out. We’re tired of it. Sure, the Euros will complain, one of the older members will say. Let ‘em. We can always hit ‘em with a trade embargo. If they get too nervy, we can hit ‘em with something a little stronger, if you know what I mean. More nods and grunts abound in the pod.

A suggestion that maybe the Euros cheated arises. Heck, they were 110 under par for the three days. Heads nod. This is a new wrinkle. Not a few of them suspect the french guy. Ted Bishop, sitting alone in the rear of the room, suggests we use surveillance drones next time. U.S. air space. We can do whatever we damn well please. Heads turn, more nods. Now we’re getting somewhere. One of the members invites Ted to sit up here with the rest of us. Ted blushes and slides his chair forward. Soon, cocktail hour beckons. Where did the time go? The Star Spangled Banner is piped in as the august members, each imbued with a sense of solemnity and purpose, exit the pod.

A good first day of meetings. Pods, cammies, drones, possible embargoes. How can we lose?

More to come, because this task force has not yet begun to fight!

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  • October 10, 2014
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THE SOFT FLOP

THE SOFT FLOP

Wanna hit those high softies that land next to the hole and stop like a cow pie on the Mass Pike? No probs. Here’s what you do. Open the club face then take your grip. Play the ball slightly forward in your stance, maybe a ball left of center. Position your hands even with the club head. Widen your stance and flex more at your knees. Put seventy percent of your weight onto your left side and leave it there for the whole swing. As you take the club away from the ball feel as if it is looping to the outside of your target line. Don’t go crazy with the loop, just a subtle move maybe three inches to the outside. When the club head reaches the apex of its arc, loop it back to the inside. Remember, you are only hitting this shot from fifty yards and in. Be aware of how far back you are swinging. Have a friend watch you. If you don’t have any friends, go home to your bunker and oil your guns. Your swing path should resemble one half of a bow, or for you geometricians out there, a parabola. Maintain the open club face position through contact and into your finish. The key to the shot is steady acceleration. Feel as if you are cutting the legs out from under the ball. If you slow down, you’ll blade it or chunk it; the only thing it will have in common with a cow pie landing on the Mass Pike is it will stink.

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  • October 7, 2014
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PITCH PERFECT

PITCH PERFECT

One of the best tips I can give you regarding chips and pitches is to have the courage to hit them hard enough. I realize some of you are saying, “Hold on there, bucko, I’ve hit too many knife jobs across the green in my time nearly kneecapping my playing partners, and you want me to hit it harder?”

Simply put, yes. The old knife job, or skull shot is a direct result of a decelerating club head. When the club head decelerates it rises up and above its plane thus catching the ball in the equator rather than the point where it rests on the turf.

There are three common reasons for the club to de-cel on the way down. The first is a result of swinging the club too far back on the takeaway. When this happens the neurons in the brain start screaming at your muscles to slow down or you are going to hit it into the next county. The second reason the club decelerates is because you are using a too flat faced iron with too little loft. The third reason is a result of trying to help the ball into the air. The old scoop shot. When you scoop it the club head passes the hands and ugliness ensues.

So what can be done to correct this slowdown? To keep it as simple as possible, there are a few things you can do and you will be pitching the ball close to the hole with confidence. First, use more loft. More loft will allow the ball to ride up the club face and travel more up than out. The second thing you can do is take the club back shorter. This will rewire your brain into seeking power from speeding up rather than relying on a backswing of varying lengths. The last bit of pitching wisdom is to keep your hands moving ahead of the club head at all times. The instant they slow down, you are doomed. Just remember that the more the hands lead the club head, the lower the trajectory. If you are trying to hit a high shot, position your hands only slightly ahead and keep them there.

So that’s it, you ask? Not by a long shot my instant gratification seeking golfer. These are techniques that require mucho practice. Go to an area at your course and work on these things. Experiment with loft. Try different shots with different clubs. Get familiar with how the ball reacts both when it leaves the club face and when it lands on the green. Scatter some balls around the chipping green and play them as they lie. Don’t fall into the habit of nearly all golfers of setting your ball up into a perfect lie every time. That’s not real life. Play it down. Watch the pros on TV. Watch their technique and copy it. Much can be learned from watching the best in the world. Just remember, they didn’t get there over night. Good players practice hard. Keep at it and you will get there.

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  • October 6, 2014
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RYDER-GATE

RYDER-GATE

More revelations this weekend regarding Ryder-Gate. It appears that U.S. Captain Tom Watson told his team they “stink at foursomes,” and dissed the gift they gave him at their Saturday night dinner. I wonder if they each called their mommies and daddies when they got back to their five star rooms. Do you think they complained that the Euros were nine thousand under par and just whuppin’ the bejesus out of them, and why did they have to be so good? Maybe the U.S. side should opt for a mercy rule like they have in Little League.

It seems to me that these pampered zillionaires want to feel like a real team, yet are put off when real team things happen, like having your coach or captain, or manager get up in your face for a poor performance. Imagine if Bill Parcells were their captain. Or how about Bobby Knight or even a softer spoken Pete Carroll. Do you think for one minute any one of them would have tread as lightly as Captain Tom? Coaches coach, players, hopefully, play. What was said in the team room should have stayed in the team room. That’s the way real athletes on real teams handle things. These guys who represented our country seem to be extremely confused when it comes to team sports protocol.

BTW, folks, the gift they presented Captain Tom with was an imitation Ryder Cup with their signatures on it. Had Woody Hayes been the coach, I wouldn’t have wanted to be the player closest to him when he unwrapped it. Can you imagine a more inappropriate gift? ‘Here Cap, since we can’t seem to get you the real thing, we thought this might be nice.’ OMG. What were they thinking? How about a gift of a sworn statement pledging that anyone who has been on three or more losing sides never plays again?

Say what you will about Tiger Woods, but had he been healthy and ready to go, he would have responded to Watson’s brusque treatment with an explosive and punishing victory in the singles. The guy lives for ‘I told you so’ ops. Also, imagine blue collar FedEx champ Billy Horschel. No doubt he would have responded in a similar fashion. How about Brian Harman, the PGA Tour’s answer for Dustin Pedroia? The little lefty can go deep. Really deep. Let’s groom him and some other new blood at the next President’s Cup. Guys like Russell Henly and Chris Kirk. Dig deeply enough and we’ve got twelve guys with some hard bark on ‘em. Tough guys with enough resiliency to handle a captain’s reprimand.

It’s time to flush the system.

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  • October 5, 2014
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SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT!

SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT!

Have your attempts at the game of golf seemed more like an adult version of Whack-A-Mole? You get one thing down, then another problem pops up? Don’t feel alone. Golf has driven its share of aspirants into the fetal position, quivering in that dark corner of the mind where all the hard truths lurk; the place where Confidence and Hope melt into viscous residue at the feet of Despair.

But there is something indomitable about the human spirit, and something about the game akin to an unreachable itch, that brings you back the next day, something that keeps you pushing that rock up the hill. Take heart, Sisyphus, help is on the way.

The reason the game has proven to be one insurmountable obstacle after another is because you have been going about things backwards. That’s right. You have put the cart before the horse. Simply put, you have been trying to hit the ball. Hitting the ball successfully is a result, not a process.

Let me explain, my mentally exhausted and confused Grasshopper. In the game of golf there are processes and results. There are also causes and effects. The process of swinging the club correctly will produce a result which is a solidly hit shot where the club face, moving at maximum speed, is perpendicular to the target line at impact. That’s it. The causes are what make up the process you need to achieve the desired effect. You have been going after results and effects without considering the process and its causes.

Learning how to swing on plane is the Holy Grail of processes. In fact, striking a golf ball correctly is all about swing plane. Get with a PGA Professional ASAP. Have him video you from the down the line position. He will draw the proper shaft plane line over your swing. He will work with you on the things that cause an on plane swing such as a proper grip, a stable posture, perfect aim, weight shift and rotation. The beauty of video is it presents irrefutable evidence. It also gives you the green light to make the sometimes needed drastic alterations in your motion. Get someone who has video display right on the tee with you so you can get instant feedback. Having to run back into the pro shop is a hassle and it defeats the purpose. Ask the pro when you call if he uses that sort of all-in-one on the tee video set-up. If not, find one who does. Instant feedback is money. It is the fastest way to make big changes. This goes for beginners as well as experts.

BTW, if your instructor tells you you need to change your grip, do it. If there is one thing that has astounded me over the years, it is a resistance to a grip change. Here’s a heads up. If your teacher tells you to change your grip, and you don’t want to, go back to pushing rocks up the hill, because you will both be wasting your time.

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  • October 4, 2014
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FIND THE CAUSE

FIND THE CAUSE

You all know the old joke: Guy says to his doctor, “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” The doctor responds, “So don’t do that.” Maybe not the soundest medical advice, but simple, yes? I for one might want a more in depth examination than that, but that’s just me. However, if we are talking about golf, and we are since that’s my thing, simplicity in instruction is king. That’s why it is imperative to find the right teacher. Unless you are an engineer or a Virgo and like to analyze the bejesus out of everything, find someone who boils down your problems to their root cause and goes from there. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Too many instructors now a days start out way too late in the cause chain instead of nipping the bad stuff at its roots. The further back you go, the problem solving gets easier.

Let me give you an example: Guy comes to me and he’s is a pull slice master of the highest order; giant sweepers that start somewhere over Nantucket and end up in Connecticut. He’s been living with this affliction for years. He can’t seem to figure it out. He’s been to several teachers and they all tell him he is coming over the top, or outside in, with his forward swing path. They tried to get him to loop the club the opposite direction so it would come from inside out, they set up barriers and told him to hit the inside of the ball, they tried to strap down his right elbow at the top of his swing and on and on. At the end of the day, they tried everything but electric shock therapy, and nothing worked.

It was clear to me that yes, the guy did swing from the outside to in. And yes, his slices were both prodigious and remarkably consistent. And yes, his elbow did fly out away from his body at the top of his swing, and yes, he hit the outside of the ball every time. But for me to tell him to lock his elbow down would be like a doctor ordering a nauseous patient to stop throwing up. Unless we got to the root of the problem, this poor guy’s golf balls would be making right turns until doomsday. So what could I do to help?

Well, glad I asked. The answer was plain to see. The guy had a grip that looked like he was trying to strangle a wildebeest. His left hand was so far to the right and on top of the club that his wristwatch was literally pointing somewhere right of his right shoulder. His right hand was underneath the shaft of the club and his left shoulder appeared to be jammed deep inside his middle ear. Yikes! I said to the guy that we needed to fix the grip. Fix the grip, and so long to the banana ball. His response, and I kid you not, was “Oh man, don’t mess with my grip.” True story. Mess with your grip? I couldn’t mess it up more if I tried. I explained to him that because his hands were positioned in such a ‘strong’ position on the club, it was virtually impossible for him not to snatch the club back to the inside on the take away. When we snatch the club back too much to the inside it loops across the line at the top (the line at the top is an imaginary line parallel to the target line), the left wrist cups, and the club has nowhere to go but to cast outside to in. I videoed this ugliness and he began to give ground on the whole grip change idea. We neutralized the hands on the club. I got him to form ‘V’s’ between his index fingers and thumbs and make them point up to his right shirt collar. I told him to buy a grip and practice holding it while watching TV. I had him hit half shots off a tee with his seven iron until the new grip felt more comfortable. Small and slow, build up to big and fast, I told him. Don’t rush the process.

I’d love to tell you that this guy grew up to be Rory McIlroy, but that would be such a big fat lie. He is a decent player now who from time to time struggles with his swing path, but at least is aware that the cause is in his hands before he even draws the club back.

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