Friday, May 8, 2020

A Drill to Develop Great Impact with Irons

My student, Dane Connery, has been working on improving his impact position for more solid iron shots.  We have worked on several drills but this was a great one that really made a difference.

In this particular drill we utilized a shallow fairway practice bunker.  The ball is placed on a painted line and a pitching wedge was used.  The goal is to make sure the divot starts slightly in front of the painted line and if struck correctly, the ball will travel on a lower than normal trajectory and go about 75-80 yards. By performing this drill in the sand, if the club enters the sand before the line, immediate feedback is felt and seen.

In the set up the ball is played slightly behind center and the hands are positioned in front of the line. This helped him get the feel of the hands leading the clubhead to impact.

Since we are trying to hit the ball shorter than normal, the backswing can be less than full.  This also helps with the left hand leading to impact.  If you tend to have a long backswing, it is more difficult to get to a strong impact position.

This is the moment of truth and mission accomplished.  The orange line is still in sight as his divot is in front of the line.  His left arm and club are in alignment which indicates he didn't release the club too early.

In the finish his arms are extended to the target and his weight is mostly on his left leg.  Both indicate he has accomplished his goal of ball first, divot second.  Once we got back to the grass, Dane started to have much better impact.

Monday, April 27, 2020

The 1995 Shell Houston Open was Special

It was this week (April 24-30, 1995) in which Payne Stewart won the Shell Houston Open at the TPC at The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas).  I was the host professional for this event from 1989 through 2001 and now, knowing the fate of Payne, it makes this a special event to reflect on 25 years later.

Payne Stewart pictured with his long time caddy Michael Hicks
Payne won on the first playoff hole over Scott Hoch.  This was Payne's eighth of his eleven PGA TOUR titles including the 1999 U.S. Open.  If there was one golf swing I would watch over the years as host professional it was Payne Stewart.  Just the rhythm and fluidity of his swing was beautiful.  For weeks after the event, I seemed to play my best golf feeling like I was emulating his action.

Another reason this event is special is I qualified to compete that year and again in 1999.  From 1989 through 1996 the Southern Texas PGA Section hosted a qualifier for section members and four professionals would advance to compete in the Shell Houston Open.  I was fortunate to advance in 1995 as I won in a playoff for the 4th spot.  Beginning in 1997, the PGA TOUR changed the number of qualifiers from four down to two.  So to qualify in 1999 was very exciting and difficult.

In addition to competing in the tournament, this was also my busiest work week of the year as we would achieve almost 50% of our annual retail sales in one week.  So even though I missed the cut with a scores of 75-79 I was fairly satisfied with my play.  In 1999 I scored rounds of 79-80 and I was physically tired due to the number of hours worked that week and the week prior.  The event had grown since 1995 and there was so much more to do.  Fortunately I had a great staff and they did super job of covering for me while I would exit for 5 hours to go compete.

I'll never forget the nerves I felt on the first tee in 1995.  The crowds were large and I had lots of friends and staff there to encourage me.  I remember being on the putting green and walking between the ropes to the first tee.  As I approached the tee my heart rate was hard to control.  When the starter announced my name and the crowd gave me a welcoming applause I couldn't even feel my feet or the club in my hands.  The first tee shot was down the middle and from that point on it wasn't near as tense.  In the second round I almost holed my second shot for an eagle on the difficult 18th hole and the roar from the crowd was unbelievable!

Hard to believe it was 25 years ago but I will never forget my experience of competing in the Shell Houston Open or my tenure as head professional at the TPC at the Woodlands.

Following are a few pictures from 1995.

On the 14th tee with my friend and caddy for the week, Rene Nino

The official scoresheet from 1995

ABC televised the event in 1995 and I snagged a great souvenir

Monday, March 30, 2020

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Be Safe on the Golf Course with your Children


I have noticed during the last few days more parents bringing their young children to the golf course.  This is due to more parents working from home and school not being in session. Yay!!  It is a great way to spend quality time with your kids away from the computer.  With the COVID 19 shelter in place order, you have to get out for fresh air and most golf courses are remaining open.

BUT, I would like to provide a couple of simple rules to make this time safe for all.

First, if only one parent is present in the golf cart, please take the key from the cart with you when you step away to hit a shot or look for a ball.  It only takes a second for your child to either slip and fall or just be curious and step on the accelerator in the cart.  The golf cart would become a run away train and could crash into a tree, roll over on a slope, speed down a ravine or into a lake.  This would be catastrophic and cause serious injury.  This can be avoided by simply removing the key and making sure the parking brake is set.

Second, if you are looking for your golf ball in high grass or in a bluebonnet patch, remember this is natural habitat for snakes.  Rattlesnake sightings are happening almost daily on central Texas golf courses.  Now is not the time to go on an Easter Egg hunt looking for a $2 golf ball.  Besides rattlesnakes, there are copperheads and coral snakes hiding out of sight.

The bottom line is have fun with your kids on the course.  Introduce them to this great game, but do it safely by adhering to these simple rules.

Thank you!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Simple Putting Drill

This is high school senior, Mason Richter, working on a simple putting drill.

In the first video Mason is set up with his hands slightly behind the ball.  This leads to him breaking down his left wrist through impact causing the ball to hop too much off the face.

In the next video we put a golf ball between his left wrist and the putter grip.  This helped him set up with his hands slightly in front of the ball and he had a better feel of his left hand leading through impact.  The end result is a ball which rolls smoother and stays on line.

How to Make an Impact in your Golf Swing!

This is another lesson with high school junior, Jordan Reed.

This lesson was about getting in a stronger impact position for improved ball striking.  The main focus was learning to strike the ball first then take a divot with iron shots.

The first video was her golf swing at the beginning of the lesson.  She has a beautiful golf swing with great speed.

When we took a snapshot of the impact position, her hands were aligned with her right leg behind the golf ball.  In a strong impact position, the hands would be slightly in front of the ball or in alignment with the left leg.

We used the impact bag to help exaggerate the feel of the hands leading the clubhead into impact.  In this video her hands are definitely leading and the clubface is striking the bag squarely.

 The end result is Jordan's impact position improved significantly and her irons shots were crisp!

Drill to Improve Path

This is high school junior, Jordan Reed, working on a drill which improves the path of the swing.
She was hitting the ball to the right severely with her driver due to taking the club outside the target line on the backswing then coming across the ball on the downswing.

I used two alignment rods to help guide her to a better path to create a draw.  The first rod (orange) was placed just to the right of the target line and parallel to the target.  It is in the ground at about a 30 degree angle.  This rod prevents taking the club outside on the backswing.  In addition, she has to come back down underneath that rod and not strike it.

The second rod (blue) is placed a few inches in front and left of the golf ball.  The rod is aimed slightly left of the target and is in the ground at about a 20 degree angle.  The goal is to miss this rod as well on the through swing.

I did have her focus on a rotation of the right forearm on the downswing to help get the face of the driver to square up at impact.  The end result is she started hitting nice draws and increased her distance as well.

When using rods in this nature you need to be safe and start with a wide path then narrow it down as you get better.  Also, using a pool noodle on top of the rods adds a little bit of safety in case you nick one of the rods.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Improve your Path with the Putter

This is one of my high school students (Dane Connery) and we are working hard to improve his putting stroke.

In the first video, the stroke is way outside-in and was mainly due to his shoulders being very open at address.  In addition, he was opening the face a bit on the backswing.

We used the Pro Slider from Eyeline Golf to help him grove a more down the line stroke.
The idea is to keep the shaft of the putter on the rod through the stroke.  As you can see, he began to make more putts as the path was improved and the ball had more topspin and less sidespin.

In this video we worked on a drill to help him make more short putts by improving his path and length of backswing.

His scores will start dropping very soon!