Winterize Your Golf Game

Winterize Your Golf Game

There's a common misconception that when the cold weather moves in, golfers place their clubs away in the closet and don't take them out again until Spring. If you take your game seriously, you know it doesn't have to be that way.

Practicing your golf game in the winter requires determination and creativity when living in a cold climate. Freezing temperatures and snow drifts make it hard to get outside and work on your game. However, there are many drills you can do to improve your technique, even when it's cold outside.

Strength and Flexibility

Touring professionals Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, for example, use the offseason to improve their physical conditioning. Improving your physical fitness may not appear as an avenue to bettering your technique, however, enhancing your strength and flexibility allows you to find correct positions in your golf swing. For example, a stronger core allows you to stay in your posture longer with less effort.

Swing a Weighed Club

There are many advantages to swinging a weighted club; improved strength, flexibility and swing mechanics. The element that will be benefit the most from swinging a weighted club this winter is your mechanics.  Find a mirror in your home and swing a weighted club slowly. By swinging slowly, this allows your muscles and brain to learn the correct positions faster than at full speed. Use the mirror to validate the key check points of the swing; address, club parallel, top of swing, club parallel, impact and finish.  

Use an Indoor Driving Range

There is no alternative to seeing ball flight. Yes, launch monitors, Trackman and Flightscope, are great avenues for club fitting and instruction but nothing compares to seeing the flight of the ball. When there is snow on the ground, this can be a difficult task. In 2016 the majority of cities have a driving range with heated stalls and some even have indoor facilities. In Pittsburgh, we have the RMU Island Sports Dome where we can see ball flight up to 100 yards in a controlled climate. Try and get to a facility once or twice each month to see the ball flight you are producing.

I promise you, if you do these tasks this winter, your game will come out better than it came in. And that is a gift even Santa can’t provide! 

How to Stay Still Through Your Putting Stroke

How to Stay Still Through Your Putting Stroke

Admit it, you love watching the ball roll into the hole. Unfortunately, many golfers miss putts they should make because they’re anxious. If you take a peak before you’ve completed your stroke, there is a good chance you are going to roll the ball offline. When you turn prematurely to look, your weight shifts onto your back foot and your upper body opens. This causes the path of your putter stroke to move inside of your target line and then all you do is get to watch the ball miss the hole. 

Here is a drill I use with my students (photo above), it helps keep the body still until the ball is long gone. Next time you are on the practice green, set your back foot up on its toes placing the majority of your body weight onto your front foot. Now hit a putt. Even if you look up before your stroke is complete, your body won’t open up and alter your path of your putter stroke because you can't shift your weight onto your back foot. Now when you miss a putt, it’s the green's fault.



An Opportunity To Come Home

When I first started playing this game, I had no idea that I would be making my living in the golf industry.  At 12 years old, I fell in love with the challenge of the game, the test of trying to shoot as low of a score as possible. I was addicted, and there was no stopping me. I had found my first love and was never going to take my hands off of her. As I grew older and my skills progressed, my competitive side did as well. I have always been highly competitive, whether it is in the school yard playing pickup basketball or playing a board game against my parents. So when the opportunity to test my skills against my peers became an opportunity, I was ecstatic. My competitive attitude and ability to play the game took me to the collegiate level. With some success in the college golf ranks, my “I can do anything” attitude lead me to believe I could take my game to the next level. However, I quickly learned that playing golf for a living was not in the cards. But the silver lining that appeared during this time was a passion for teaching, I fell in love with golf instruction and helping people get better at a game they love.

My first "real" Assistant Professional job came at the Longue Vue Club under the tutelage of Steve Antenucci. Steve quickly taught me how to conduct myself as a professional and how to make a living in the golf business. These are values that I think about every day. My next Assistant Professional job came at Shannopin Country Club. Shannopin gave me the opportunity to develop my teaching style and refine it. I had the chance to teach a broader range of student while learning the golf business from a different perspective. I will always be grateful of the opportunity that Shannopin gave me but I could not pass up this opportunity. Not every day does a person have the chance to go back home. And Youghiogheny Country Club is home; I grew up five miles from the club and always dreamed of the possibility of becoming its Head Golf Professional.

And now that dream of being the Head Golf Professional at Youghiogheny has come true. There are many emotions involved; excitement, joy, fears just to name a few. I would have never imagined this coming true so quickly but I am very thankful. The one thing I do know is that I will give it my all because that is the only way I know how to do it. 

Learn To Play The "Can't Miss Chip"

Use a Hybrid instead of a Wedge for an easy "Up and Down" 

 

Do you generally miss a lot of greens? Do you lack touch with your wedges when around the greens? If you do, then this article is for you. Did you know the average 10 handicap golfer hits less than 5 greens in regulation on average during their round? 

THE PROBLEM:

When you miss a green  you immediately go to one of your wedges. The problem is, you don't have a ton of confidence in your wedge game and tend to make poor contact on delicate chip shots. But you still pull out your sand wedge and end up too far away from the hole to one-putt. Yet another bogey or worse is put on your scorecard. 

 

THE SOLUTION: 

Ditch your wedge and chip the ball with one of your hybrids. The sole design of this clubs allows you to catch the ball and get it rolling consistently toward the hole. Follow these three simple steps and you will be lowering your scores immediately.  

 

Step 1: Assume your set up position with the golf ball off of your back foot. Lean the shaft of your hybrid toward the target so that your hands are positioned in front of the golf ball.

Step 2: Keep the clubhead low to the ground in the backswing. Imagine it as though you're sweeping with a broom. The clubhead should not lift higher than a few inches off of the ground. 

Step 3: Lead the clubhead into impact with your hands ahead, this will allow the ball to roll like a putt. You will need to strike the ball with about 20 percent less power than you would if you were to use a putter from the same distance. 

"A Tradition Unlike Any Other"

Being a resident of the Northeast portion of the country, the Masters signifies the start of spring. Seeing the azaleas in full bloom, that provides the pink, purple and fuchsia backdrop that fills the television screen, can warm even the most arctic climate.  Augusta National has been referred to as “Heaven on Earth.” Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts hired Alister MacKenzie to design Augusta National, and in 1933 his greatest masterpiece was born. Augusta National is one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world; African-American members were not permitted until 1990 and Female members were welcomed in 2012, but for one week a year every April, we get to feel like members. It is truly a “tradition unlike any other” 


The 2015 Masters tournament has many exciting story lines – Can Rory complete the career grand slam at the age of 25? Can Phil Mickelson win his 4th Masters and 6th major since 2004? Can Bubba Watson become only the 4th golfer to successfully defend a Masters title? How will Tiger Woods play at a place he used to dominate? 
Let’s start with Tiger Woods.  The former world number 1 for 683 weeks and winner of 14 professional major championships has not hoisted a major championship trophy since June 16th, 2008. Tiger last won the Masters in 2005 beating Chris Dimarco in a sudden death playoff. In the last 11 years, Tiger has had multiple opportunities to win the Masters with 7 top 6 finishes since his last victory. Tiger Woods has owned Augusta National since turning professional in the fall of 1996, with 4 victories and 9 top-10 finishes in 17 starts. But his knowledge and ability to play the course is not what is being questioned, it is what game Tiger will bring to Augusta National. Since beginning the process of changing his swing in the fall of 2014 with new instructor Chris Como, Tiger has only appeared in 3 tournaments, finishing last in his Hero World Challenge event, missing the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and withdrawing during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open. What has been evident in that time period is that Tiger is a shell of his former self. Tiger once had a short game that was compared to the great Severiano Ballesteros, now his short game is more comparable to the 20 handicap club golfers I see on weekly basis. Also, let’s not forget that Tiger’s full swing is nowhere near as sharp as what it needs to be to compete on the PGA Tour. It will have been 62 days since Tiger’s last competitive round when he tees off Thursday. I certainly hope he has been able to clean up his game in that time period, because the game is better with Tiger playing at a high level. 


Phil Mickelson did not win his first major championship until he was 33 years old at the 2004 Masters. Since then he has put together a major championship career that has cemented him with the greats of all time. Phil Mickelson’s career has been compared to Tiger Woods since Tiger hit the professional circuit in 1996. They were both child prodigies, college standouts, and great amateur golfers winning countless tournaments along the way. Up until the 2004 Masters, Phil Mickelson was a great PGA Tour player with multiple victories setting him as Tiger’s rival but there was no evidence that he would be able to do it on the Major Championship stage. Then came April 11th, 2004, where Phil Mickelson was playing in the last group and birdied the 17th hole to tie Ernie Els at 8 under par for the lead. Then in heroic fashion, Phil Mickelson birdied the 18th hole to win by one shot and get the major championship monkey off of his back. Since then he has won 5 major championships which is second to Tiger Woods at 6. Phil Mickelson is one of golf’s greatest talents, hopefully he can find the spark that lead him to his first Masters victory in 2004, and bring home his 4th Green Jacket. I certainly know that the Masters patrons would love it. 

Bubba Watson is seeking to become the 4th golfer to ever win the Masters title in back-to-back years since Tiger Woods achieved that feat in 2002. In the modern golfing era, it does not seem as though there is a golfer better fit to win at Augusta National than Bubba Watson. At Augusta National the majority of the holes call for a right-to-left ball flight off of the tee, which can be difficult for right-handed players to do today because of the modern equipment. Since 2003 there have been 6 Green Jackets won by left-handed golfers where there was zero before 2003, I believe this was aided by modern technology.  Bubba Watson’s go-to shot off of the tee box is a fade which is ideal for Augusta National, combine that with his prodigious length and marvelous shot-making ability makes him a contender for years to come. The only item that holds Bubba back from becoming a consistent dominate force is his attitude. When Bubba can stay positive, there aren't many who can compete with him.  

And finally we arrive at Rory McIlroy, the undisputed world number one. Rory is seeking to become the 6th golfer ever to complete the career grand slam at the ripe age of 25. Rory is also looking to win his 3rd consecutive major and 5th overall. In 2012, Rory held the lead of the Masters through 54 holes until his game derailed on the back nine on Sunday. Since then, Rory has refined his game with the aid of his lifelong instructor Michael Bannon and adding Dave Stockton to his team to improve his putting. Rory has become a complete player in the last 3 years while developing his body to improve his strength and endurance. Normally, a player seeking to complete the career grand slam at Rory’s age would be the top story in the game but luckily for Rory, Tiger announced that he is playing.  The spotlight may be a little dimmer and allow Rory to fly slightly under the radar. 

The 2015 Masters has the opportunity to be one for the ages.

What Has Happened to Tiger Woods?

When arguably the greatest player to ever swing a golf club has a plummet as large as the one Tiger Woods is currently on, a lot of questions get raised. Being a golf instructor I often get asked “What is wrong with Tiger’s swing?”, “Can he ever comeback?”, “How would you fix it?” First, I’d like to say that I believe he is on the correct path to regaining his stature in the game. Since Tiger parted ways with Hank Haney and began working with Sean Foley and now with Chris Como, he has been able to get the golf club in a more neutral or “on plane”   position at the top of the golf swing. 

Unfortunately, this is where the correct path becomes derailed in my opinion. Since the 2006 season, Tiger has developed a pattern of dropping his hands in a “straight down” direction during the transition phase of the golf swing. This was a product of Haney’s teaching philosophy and this pattern has been a primary reason for Tiger’s poor driving accuracy. When the hands drop straight down in the transition period of the golf swing, it retards the body from opening as well as causing the right arm to become stuck behind the body. The result is a golf club that is being delivered to the golf ball from a position that is too far from the inside or “trapped”. When this occurs your ability to hit the ball straight is extremely compromised as your release become reliant on timing. This is where the “foul balls” come from.  This point is illustrated by the images below from the 2009 Presidents Cup during the Haney Period. 

Tiger needs to get the golf club out in front of his body so that his release can be in a more neutral position; this position will cause the release to not be as reliant on hand action to square the face. He can achieve this is by getting the butt end of the golf club traveling towards the golf ball in the transition period of the golf swing. From the beginning of Tigers professional career up until the year 2005 he employed a downswing path where the club would travel in front of his body. This approached made him the most dominate player in the games history, allowing him to hit the golf ball prodigious distances while being deadly accurate. Ben Hogan described the golf swing as a side arm throwing motion; this concept allows the golf club to approach the golf ball from the ideal hitting position. These photos below are of Tiger from the year 2000; these images illustrate the path he used to play with. 

In my professional opinion, Tiger needs to study these images of Hogan. This man is considered the greatest striker of the golf ball in this game’s history. Hogan’s hand path in the transition came out directly toward the golf ball, this allowed his body to open as well as get the right arm and club in front of his body. This concept will allow Tiger to regain his dominance on the tour.

 I have heard that Tiger and his new coach, Chris Como, have looked at old tapes of Tiger’s swing and are trying to rekindle that magic. I am just not so sure that they are looking at the right things.  Hopefully they find the correct path, because this game is better when we have a healthy Tiger Woods playing at his best. 

Going Back To Where It Started

I recently had the opportunity to go back to my alma mater and work with four of the current professional golf management students as they prepare for their playing ability test. It is always a great opportunity to help young golfers attempt to accomplish their goals. And this was a wonderful experience because these students will become my colleagues in just a few short years.

The instruction was performed at California University’s Professional Golf Management facility over two days. Where we discussed swing theories and changed motor patterns. No matter how many times it happens, I am always excited when students are eager to learn. When this is the case, the speed of improvement becomes rapid. The most satisfying part of the experience is seeing their faces when they see improvement.

The pictures attached feature before and after images, with the before on the left and the after on the right. The information we focused on most was creating a structure at address that would allow the right arm to create space in the backswing as well as working on teaching the lower body the correct slide and twist “slide 45” along with educating the right arm. When the right arm has space, you can drive it forward and approach impact from a simpler position. Opposed to when the right arm becomes trapped behind the body and the release become compromised. This reason alone is why I stress the concept of driving the weight deeper and left so that space can be created.

Overall, this was a great success and I look forward to watching these young men achieve their goals.