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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!

 

 

Range Balls and Distance

I have seen a lot of questions and discussions on range balls and distances in the Blogosphere. Seems there are a lot of golfers out there that are not aware of the distance differentials you can expect depending upon the kind of range balls a given range provides. I have found myself frustrated at the range until I took the time to really think about it and do some research.  When you think about it, a person should expect that balls hit day in and day out at a driving range, even if they are the kind you buy off the shelf for on course play, will not fly as far.  Now factor in those balls manufactured for the range with durability, not necessarily performance, as the primary quality and you can see that you should probably expect even less distance than your “gamer” ball.  I am speaking of golf balls manufactured with “RANGE” painted on them – normally a TOP-FLITE or SRIXON or WILSON ball. Finally, you may be at a range with limited acreage where they provide limited flight range balls.  These too will be manufactured with “RANGE” painted on them as well as some acronym or wording identifying them as limited range, limited flight, or restricted flight balls.
So, first thing to do is look at the balls. If they are old performance balls (shag bag balls) that may or may not have stripes painted on them then some may perform to standard, but you can expect some degradation – perhaps up to 10%. If they are standard RANGE balls, look for 10-15% degradation in distance. Finally, if they are limited flight balls expect to realize about 20-25% degradation in distance.
Now, the next thing to understand is that unless you are fortunate enough to be practicing at a high end range or country club and using Pro V-1 practice balls or some other top tier practice ball or performance ball, don’t count on zeroing in on distances with your clubs for on-course use. Use the range time to work on contact, direction, and ball flight – however, especially with limited flight balls, ball flight may be a waste of time as well.
So, unless you are independently wealthy, belong to an exclusive club, or have your own practice facility, you will likely be using a range that provides balls that give less performance than the ball you use on the course. Determine the kind of range ball you have and factor it in.
I put together a little cheat sheet for myself accounting for the simple average percentage degradation of 12% for RANGE Balls and 22% for Limited Flight RANGE Balls. This way, when I am at a range and I am hitting RANGE Balls with my 7 iron 145 yards when I normally hit my Pro V-1s 165 yards with the same club I can assume I am in the right neighborhood for distance. I have provided my simple cheat sheet below:

Range Balls

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