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Short Game Frustrations

Long on desire, short on game…at least short game that is.  Anyone else having issues with chipping and short pitches?

I like to think I have pretty darn good hand / eye coordination.  I flew helicopters in the Marines for crap sake.  But, for some reason, I find myself flinching at the chips and short pitches.  Some days on the course I see more chili dip than a Super Bowl party.  Other days, its all about the blade.  What the hell?!

I have resolved to correct this issue this spring.  I believe these short shots are a combination of technique and confidence.  As confidence wanes, it seems, technique gets adjusted until it is all lost.  I have been searching for instruction to get me back to a basic primary approach to each – chipping and short pitches.  (We all agree that there is a distinct difference here right?)

I took a lesson in Florida this past December with a young pro.  Explained all this to him and he offered me the “ball off right toe, lean the shaft to the left thigh” approach to chipping.  Nothing new here, but to be fair because of my lack of confidence, I had begun to move excessively on these short shots as well.  He helped me with some of that.  It was a good start, but I need more. (OBTW he really helped my putting set up as well.)

Paul Runyan is a renowned short game artist from years WAY past and he has some videos on YouTube worthy of review.  He has a very distinctive approach to both chipping and pitching.  I am watching them and learning – he is very good at explaining his techniques and certainly demonstrates them to perfection.

I like to watch Adam Bazalgette (Scratch Golf Academy) on YouTube for tips, he gives some great 4-5 minute instruction on all aspects of the game.  He referred to a gent in one of his videos on chipping and pitching who I am watching now – James Sieckmann.

James is Director of Instruction, Shadowridge CC in Omaha, Nebraska and is on the Titleist staff.  He teaches many tour pros on the short game and has some things to say in his videos that are very encouraging.  One was particularly instructive for me – on a Golf Channel instructional episode (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ikSZqh0s5c) – he said some things that helped a light bulb come on for me.  First thing, I have been treating these finesse shots with too much of a mechanical mindset…that is…holding too tight, too stiff, my hands too far forward, etc… He says in the video that from the backswing to essentially “let the club make its way to the ball then turn your torso”…in so many words.  That is the kind of guidance I require!  It is from this mindset that you can manufacture shot trajectory and spin for many different variations. Most instructors say something like let your arms hang loosely and hold the club with an easy grip and leave it at that.  He takes it slightly farther in this video intimating to just let the clubhead release – not a wristy flicky thing – but as a natural result of the rotation.  Eureka!

Anyway, it has been exceedingly frustrating for me to hit a good drive and a decent approach only to screw up the hole with a pitiful attempt at a chip or pitch.  Chili dip a couple and all of a sudden your entire round seems to go down hill.  Lots of work to do around the green and so far, I’ll be practicing Mr. Sieckmann’s approaches to the short game.  Maybe, if you’re in the same boat I am, give him a try.

The Ben Hogan Collection and More!

Ben Hogan

I bought The Ben Hogan Collection interactive CD set a couple of years ago. It had been some time since I reviewed it in any detail, so I broke it out a week or so ago and went through all of it again.  I am as impressed now as I was then with the quality of work, archive films, and the analysis of Jim McLean.  The folks at McTee’s Champions LLC have done a wonderful job of putting this together.

The set provides a “Legacy DVD” which is a brief biopic of Ben Hogan, two instructional DVDs (Swing Revealed 1 & 2), and a software CD.  I normally look for things on Amazon.com first and the package can be purchased there for just under $60.00.  Unfortunately, the set is “temporarily out of stock” on the Amazon website.  With a quick google, I found the set on PracticeRange.com for $35.00.  If you are any kind of a golf aficionado then this is a must for your library and continuous review.   

As I re-reviewed it and listened carefully to McLean’s analysis while watching the vintage footage, I had a couple of epiphanies.  One especially enlightening segment for me was in the chipping/pitching segment.  McLean shows the viewer in detail how Ben Hogan pitches the ball with a “mini-swing.”  Interestingly, McLean uses the cigarette, still in Hogan’s mouth, as a reference point for analyzing his head movement through the pitch.  I have incorporated Hogan’s pitching technique to great reward!  (8 birdies in 27 holes yesterday!!!  Won a few “cuts” thanks to Mr. Hogan, Jim, and McTee…)

McTee Champions LLC has some exciting new products out and coming.   Tom McCarthy of McTee –  “Thanks for the compliments on the dvd set.  I worked really hard to get that done over the course of several years and Jim McLean was terrific. 

We have put together a couple of new things recently.  One is the iPad app called Ben Hogan 5 Lessons.  It works on the iPad and Android type tablets.  The spirit of the Five Lessons book is in there plus some!  We are also building and soon to release the Ben Hogan 5 Lessons mobile app that marries the critical information in the Five Lessons book to the V1 instructional software.  It will include some Hogan video clips for swing comparisons. 

Jim McLean and I just finished in January a new book with Wiley & Sons called ‘The Complete Hogan.’  I took old pre-accident footage of Mr. Hogan’s swings and made stills with Jim providing observations and analysis over 30+ frames for each of 3 swings.  Plus, Jim has some incredible additional information in the book.  I am pretty hyped up about it.” 

Whether a seasoned player or a beginner, The Ben Hogan Collection will inform and entertain.  Spend the few dollars and put it in your library.  Also, look for the new McTee products  – I am excited to get the mobile APP and book Tom describes above!

 

 

Chips and Putts

–  Congratulations to “Roar-y” McIlroy on his win at Quail Hollow in Charlotte!  That was the kind of finish I think we all love to see.  A terrific talent, I have his swing sequence on power point (and a few others).   As I turn 50 this summer, I doubt I can get his full turn in, but his move to the ball is spectacular.

–  Update on Hogan instruction and my progress.  I am going out most days at lunch and either hitting balls, chipping, or playing nine.  Marked improvement since my “epiphany” last post.  My key swing thought is Hogan’s shoulder to chin key.  You may recall he stated in his book that it got so that he would wear out the left shoulder of his golf shirts.  When I am doing that, I am really striking the ball.  I am finally getting a turn in that means something.  I was having real issues with my 3 wood, but since the swing key I have been killing it.  I am letting the swing happen and it feels great!

–  Trying out a new ball.  Srixon Z-STAR.  I was previously using the Pro V1x.  The Srixon ball feels markedly softer, yet it is at least as long as the Pro V1x  and even seems a bit longer…it may be the swing improvement though.  It seems to spin more, I get more zip on short wedge shots (100 yards and in) than my Pro V1x.  Srixon’s website has the following to say about the Z-STAR:

  • Contains a large, varying stiffness core (Energetic Gradient Growth Core Technology), providing high ball speed and low spin off the driver, resulting in longer drives
  • The Z-STAR’s enhanced Powershear® dimple technology keeps ball flight straight and long even in windy conditions
  • Iron impacts feel soft and pure, providing a tour-proven response
  • Players wanting more spin on approach shots will benefit from the Z-STAR’s thin, soft urethane cover

I concur with the soft feel, wind play, and more spin.  The length may be attributable to a better swing, but maybe not.  The price is right, about $10 less a dozen than Pro V1x has convinced me to switch.  Uh oh, just got a notice that Andy Giles, the pro at Bide-A-Wee (number 1 Muni in Virginia!), is sponsoring the Bridgestone people in a couple of weeks for “ball fittings.”   More later on that!

–  The Players this week.  Chris’ prediction – “Young gun” week again…Mickelson…another second…Tiger…favorite on the Golf Channel…wild card in my book until he fixes “getting stuck.”

–  We all love weddings, don’t we?  I missed playing golf this past weekend because I traveled with my wife and daughter to a wedding Saturday in Pennsylvania.  OK…I took some “executive time” Friday afternoon to make up for it (and shot 75 – thanks Mr. Hogan).  We are friends of the bride and her parents, the lovely girl she is, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the extended family, the groom, and his family.  It seems, that on that day like on the golf course, I met some terrific people.  Lots of baseball coaches, tennis players, and guys who just want to hit a golf ball better.  Funny how in a conversation with athletes these days, no matter their age and no matter the venue, the talk eventually moves toward golf.  It is a common theme these days.  Like “how ’bout those Bears” in times past.  Our best to AJ – the Groom and Jill-Bean – the Bride…what a wonderful adventure you have before you.  AJ, I think you need a lesson on the course…1 a side in a $5 nassau sounds about right.


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