Pro Tips

Pro Tips

Spine Angle When Chipping

I’m a big “spine angle” person. To me, there are a handful of big concepts that drive success in golf and spine angle is one of the most important.  Put simply, when the object you’re swinging through (not at, through) is only one inch in diameter, best not to have any “jack in the box” action in your motion. 

As it pertains to chipping, the concept is more subtle.  Even the most basic chipping instruction emphasizes the need to keep your weight on your front foot — from address, through impact and into the finish position.  Often, as newer golfers try to execute this concept, they jut the front hip toward the target, thus accentuating the spine angle away from the target. Taken to the extreme, this exposes the front edge of the club to the equator of the ball and can result in the dreaded skull.  If anything, as you set your weight on your front foot, try and tilt TOWARD the target, steepening the angle of attack, de-lofting the club a smidge and putting more backspin on the ball. 

As you organize your practice time, keep in mind that good chipping translates into good ball striking.  Chip chip chip to improve your entire skill set. 


"Play Through" Etiquette

It’s the dog days of summer and with the heat and humidity come issues with pace of play.  Everyone moves slower this time of year, and the pace on the golf course is no exception to that reality.  Pace of play conversations can be as tricky as conversations about politics – just as heated and irrational, just as based in “I’m right and you’re wrong.”   The truth is, we ALL need to be conscious of pace of play because at times we are all guilty of slow play.

Golf was invented in Scotland and it is their national sport – everybody plays, regardless of age or ability level.  Everybody plays and they have absolutely no issues with pace of play.  Why is that?  Because just after being weaned from the bottle, Scots learn the magic of allowing others to “play through.”  Generally when I teach new golfers the importance of maintaining pace of play, I emphasize the need to stay connected with the group in front; as long as you are within one stroke of the group in front of you, you are doing your part to maintain the pace.

But should you fall behind, what are you supposed to do?  Especially for those players who want to submit a legitimate score, this poses a dilemma.  The solution?  Let people behind you play through.

What does that mean, and how is it done?  Simple.  If there’s a space in front of you, and a group nipping at your heels, choose a hole (par 3s work particularly well for this) where you hit your tee shot, then wait for the group behind to join you on the tee.  Allow them to play through—they hit their tee shot and then they finish the round in front of you.  Everyone is happy –the faster players are on their way, and the slower players can resume their more leisurely round, complete with legitimate 9-hole score at the end.

Remember – the pace of play at Nehoiden for 9-holes is projected by the USGA to be just under 2 hours.  Even in the dog days of summer, players should be finishing in 2:20.  Slow play can ruin a great day on the golf course – be sure to do your part, and learn to let faster groups PLAY THROUGH.

You, too, can learn to draw the ball

Most golfers crave distance.  A draw produces maximum-distance ball flight.  Yet most golfers cut/slice. What the heck?

Anyone can learn to hit a draw, with some practice.  To begin with, it’s important to understand what produces a draw.  Let’s assume that a right-handed player wants to start the ball right of the target, then have it turn left, into the pin.  How do you do that? You have to set up to hit a draw, then trust your swing. To get started (oversimplification to follow, duly noted), set your clubface square to the target (perpendicular to the target line).  Close your stance (put your left foot staggered slightly in front of your left). Swing away, with your follow through heading toward “right field.” You must, must, must release the club and finish your swing around your body (more merry-go-round than ferris wheel).

The hard part about hitting a draw is allowing the ball to start out to the right, and trusting that the relative position of the clubface, path and target line will induce the spin needed to turn the ball over.  When you first try this, expect to hit dozens of pushes, off to the right (as a righty). Remember – a push is the first half of a draw, and a push is a “professional” miss.