Earl's Recent Past Golf Blog's
Developing feel with your wedges
Like putting, your wedges and shots around the green are feel shots. First there are fundamentals that need to be learned and refined, but learning to know the difference between a 40 foot chip to a 43 foot chip, or a 75 yard wedge to a 72 yard wedge cannot be accomplished without practice, feeling your clubhead, length of swing, body rotation, and speed of your club. The highly skilled players spend countless hours honing these abilities.
There are numerous practice methods that will help you learn better distance control. I will give you my personal favorites to give you a work sheet to reference. Starting with a full wedge at 100 yards (you might hit it further or shorter), mark off distances at every 10 yards. Then practice hitting to each distance. I like to pick out a distance, let's say 80 yards, and make my 80 yard swing and before the ball travels very far, I mentally say to myself: "is it long, short, right, left, or correct". Therefore I am getting feedback on each swing. Another method is knowing how far your half-swing (9 o'clock), three-quarter swing (10:30 position), or full swing goes with three different clubhead positions. The club positions are square, ¼ open (about 20 to 25 degrees open), and ½ open (about 45 degrees). Swing speed should be the same for each club position and length of backswing. These are great drills to fine tune your sense of feel for the longer wedge shots from 50 yards and up. Touring professionals have developed their feel to the degree that some can drop their wedges within ½ yard of their landing spot.
When you get closer to the green the sensitivity gets greater. The technique is still extremely important, but the visualization and feel is more critical. Tight muscles and exacting movements are doom for consistent shots around the green. This one exercise has helped many of my students get a better feel for the letting the club swing freely with better feedback in the hands.
One arm swings with both the right and left hand. Setup in your normal short pitching position and grip only with one hand, swing the club smoothly back to around halfway back In your backswing. Now let the gravity of the clubhead swing down and through to your finish. Remember you should swing the clubhead and NOT THE HANDLE first. Let the clubhead strike the ball and then let the body react and finish towards the target. Work both right and left hand drills with an emphasis on relaxed motion and smooth clubhead speed. Be sure to finish towards your target. Then put both hands on the club and replicate the feeling that you had with the one hand swing.
Ideally you have a practice green that you can work on these drills. I do not advocate hitting hundreds of balls in one position. What you should do is take three to four balls and pitch or chip to a target. Then change the target and distance each time, so that you visualize and adjust. Don't try to make this a mechanical method, but be instinctive and feel each shot.
.At the golf schools that I have taught, the emphasis is to make the game more enjoyable for the students and to have them lower their scores. Most want longer drivers, or more consistent irons shots, etc. Of course that is what we worked on, but being an all-encompassing golf school we worked on all aspects of the game. I emphasized the importance of the short game and the fact that the best players in the world spend between 50 to 75% of their time on shots within 100 yards. Given that fact shouldn't we all be spending a little bit more time on what really could lower our scores?
Nice to have golf back!
It is wonderful to have real golf action back to watch. I thought CBS did a great job in televising the event. Even though there were no spectators, I felt the players were motivated and put on a great show. Lacking crowd noise the leaders didn't always know where they stood, but there were enough scoreboards and officials around to keep them properly up to date. Speaking for myself, I was absorbed and excited; I didn't think the lack of crowds distracted me or the TV audience from the competition.
The leaderboard was about as good as you would want. At the end of the day there were at least 10 players that could kick themselves for not taking advantage of a winning opportunity. Daniel Berger, the winner, was one of those players that were just hanging close to the lead and then birdied the last hole to force a play-off. Others had the same opportunity, but couldn't finish. Kokrak, DeChambeau, Rose, and Schauffele all had chances on the 18th, but came up short. Only Berger was able to convert that last putt. Daniel has been inconsistent and missing for the past 2 ½ years due to injuries. With his wrist healed, his last four events have been top 10, so his win shouldn't have been a surprise. But even so, it was a surprise, because of how well Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele had been playing.
Morikawa and Schauffele are two of my favorite players. Both have similar temperaments and physical game. Both are destined to be major winners in the near future. Both were solid until Xander pulled a fairway bunker shot into the water on 15. He rallied with a bogie saving putt on that hole and a birdie on 16, before failing to convert his birdie putt on 18. Collin on the other hand looked like the winner after Xander's mistake on 15. Solid play through the final holes and a wonderful iron shot to inside six feet on 18. I never thought he would miss that putt, but he did! Both Xander and Collin missed short putts on 17, first Xander in regulation and then Collin in the play-off. Each were cruel lip-outs, but I never saw Tiger do that when it counted. If they are to raise another level, those mistakes cannot happen.
Jordon Spieth had a "nice" tournament, but he couldn't be pleased with his inconsistent putting and ball striking. It appears his swing and putting stroke are much better than the past couple of years, but his confidence is still lacking. You can easily tell when a player is over-thinking or putting too much pressure on a particular shot. They take longer to decide on the shot and then spend much too long over the ball before swinging. Jordon has been self-destructing like that for a while. Besides the "yips", indecision and over-thinking in golf is a tough obstacle to overcome. Hope he is on the road to total recovery.
Two players that should have run away with the tournament were Justin Rose and the "mad scientist" Bryson DeChambeau. Rose had some mental lapses in the end of the third round and the start of the last round. If he didn't do that, he could've won going away. The same could be said for DeChambeau. His putting just killed him and one bad wedge shot on 17 ruined his chance for a play-off. Bryson added 40 pounds of weight and muscle and is going all-out whenever he can with his driver. He was easily the longest driver at Colonial this week. It will be interesting to see if his added length will result in more tournament wins in the coming weeks.
Have to mention Rory McIlroy. As I have stated before, when he is "on", there is no one better. But when he gets off, he doesn't seem to be able to adjust. The last round front nine was a disaster of poor shots and bad decisions that resulted in a six over par total. But unlike Spieth, his confidence will not be shaken by this nine hole score. He has one gear and its full speed ahead. He will be back next week at Hilton Head and it would not be surprising for him to win.
Congratulations to Daniel Berger, the PGA Tour, CBS crew, and the players for an outstanding event. Nice to have golf back.