Wedges Are On Fire

Although I probably haven’t made it clear yet…I ALWAYS look to Phil for inspiration on how to use a wedge and stick it close.

There was a time when I carried a 64* wedge in my bag, waaaayyyyy back in the day when I first starting playing golf at 18 years old. Phil was really getting the wins under his belt at that point, and that’s when the Majors started coming for him. I watched week in and week out wondering how he was able to do so much magic with a wedge. I found the cheapest wedge I could buy that was 64* and started practicing with it to see if I could do what Phil was doing.

These days, I don’t carry anything beyond the 60* wedge. I started to take that Seve mentality that anything beyond a sandwedge was not needed if you knew how to open the face and play the shots. I have worked hard but realized that the 54* sandwedge I carry was not enough, even with the face open, the ball forward and lofting it as high in the air as I was capable of. Sometimes the greens are just too quick, or the lie almost necessitates that I use something with a little more loft. I also find myself in some really strange predicaments on the course and the 60* is the wedge that seems to be able to dig me out of most of them.

Now with that said, I have really been digging in to practicing my wedges and learning how to control the spin. I prefer to play mid-to-high spin shots because I know my miss is short, so why not just play long and spin it back? (I’ve now got a Suaoki Rangefinder in my bag and my hope is that I’ll be able to train my eyes a little better to see distance and fix that fault.)

My older dog, who sadly passed in December, was not much for playing with tennis balls. He liked to chase a laser pointer, which worked for me because I could let him run off in the distance, hit a wedge shot to where he was standing before he turned around and ran back, then walk to the ball with him still chasing the laser and repeat. The dog we adopted in July last year LIVES for the tennis ball, which means that I now take three or four out in the back yard with us when we go outside and I hit high spin flop shots all over the yard for her to chase. The foster dog is learning too, although my suspicion is that he too will not be a bad tennis ball guy.

What I’ve learned from hitting these wedge shots is as follows:

Short swing with the proper coil can still mean good distance and high spin

Chipping is definitely a practice, much like medicine or Yoga. If you don’t practice, you will suck at it.

Opening the face can be the scariest thing imaginable if you aren’t paying attention to the fundamentals.**

**(For reference, I actually carry a PW- 46*, W -50*, SW – 54* and LW -60* but I practice in the yard with an old Cleveland RTX 2.0 – 58* wedge. That thing shows no mercy if you mishit with the face open so it almost forces me to work harder on ball position and hitting the ball correctly)

I must say that the Winter is taking much longer to leave that it usually does. I have gotten to play exactly one round of golf so far this year, and that is surprising in North Carolina. The day I did play, it was a high of 78*F and it was pretty much a perfect day to get out. I have hope that as long as the temperature is above 55* and the rain doesn’t show up, I can get out. We did just suffer through something like nine or ten straight days of rain. So here’s hoping that the weather breaks already and I can go back to playing more often.

Sam Snead Was Right!

I think the title says everything. Sam Snead definitely knew what he was doing when he had a club in his hands.

I was horsing around with the MCS swing model because I have a TON of rhythm and tempo issues that I’m always trying to work out. Most of it is because I have a hard time getting over the “hit” impulse. I mean, it did take me several months to get past the “rotate, rotate, rotate” impulse. To me, rhythm is more the flow of the swing and the tempo is how quickly you are actually swinging…if you break it all down to basics.

Sam Snead has offered what I believe he considered his best tip when he said that everyone should be using a forward press when they start their swing. I found that the struggles I have in my swing stem from starting from a static position and going right into my swing. What I was doing was setting up, getting my right side bias and kicking in the knee and then a starting from the static position like I always have with my golf swing. I wish that I would have heard this tip before.

I decided to get myself *close* to the normal MCS stance (that being slightly angled, legs lightly flexed and bending at the hips) and then doing what Mr. Snead said. Now, I think most of us would argue that this is just the Mike Austin method, which is true. I just try to set up more like Snead than MA (because there is a difference to me) and then start by kicking in my right leg and lightly pushing on the shaft rather than actually leaning my hands forward. This move alone made my swing longer and more leisurely than it normally is.

So for anyone that is looking for something to help them get their rhythm and tempo flowing, this is a great place to start. I like that despite the fact there is an absolute optimal way to swing, there is room for some “improvisation”, if you will. DJ definitely knew what he was doing when he put together the MCS method and I hope he doesn’t mind too much that I am taking liberties and making it easier for me to slow my tempo down.

And speaking of Sam Snead….

I am also scouring eBay for old Sam Snead branded Wilson clubs from the 60’s and 70’s for my own practice. I really enjoy the length, lie angles and feel of the older blades, so I’ve been looking for the perfect clubs to add to my own collection to take out and play with. I have plans to attend some tournaments with my company this year and I thought it would be fun to be the only guy out there hitting old blades, and actual wooden woods/driver! I do have some balata balls I could take with me, but I think they’ll hit my Bridgestone B330S just fine. I’ll get some pictures in when I find the right set for me!

First Round of 2019!

This past Thursday I took the day off of work because the high that day was to be 79*F. The first few days of the week had been beautiful Spring-like weather that made me fidget knowing that full on golfing weather was getting very close. So I headed out to the course I live on and played 18 holes to see how things have been going since the last time I was out on the course!

To start with, I shot 85.

The course is a par 71, a touch over 6600 yards from the back tees. It can get narrow as it runs through the back part of my neighborhood, but overall, it does have its merits and challenges. The greens were actually it really good shape this time out, and that led to me discovering some things about my putting that are very interesting. Let’s recap how it went.

The first 4 holes are Par 4’s, all in the same general yardage range. Then comes a par 3, then back to a par 4 and so on. It’s an interesting layout to be honest. It does have some very narrow spots that can be challenging, especially given the fact that houses line both sides of the fairways on certain holes.

Off the tee? Well, it took two holes for me to get back into my normal power fade. While I wasn’t really having that much of an issue trying to work the new move into my irons, the driver and three wood had different plans for me. I lost strokes on two holes because of errant tee shots and then had to rely on my wedges to make things easier for me. On the shorter holes on the back 9 I decided to switch to the hybrid for my tee shot and things got much better there.

In The Fairway? That was better than its been in a while. I was striping short irons and my hybrid was just plain vicious. I sent more than one shot dead on the line I chose and put myself closer to the flag than I’m used to. I’m guessing all that work I’ve been doing in the backyard is finally paying off. Wedges were tight and they had spin to spare. I saw one that was something Seve-esque that bounced once and damn near stopped immediately, leaving me a 3 footer for par at the par 5 with such a severe dog-leg left, it leaves you no choice but to bend it like Bubba or make it a three shot hole.

On The Green? I was carrying two putters that day. My Cleveland Huntington Beach #3 and my Odyssey Metal-X #8. They require two different putting styles, and I’ve always felt more comfortable with the Odyssey. I discovered that my putting stroke is just too damn long. I don’t remember why, but I tried the Brandt Snedeker “Pop Stroke” and suddenly the ball was rolling more pure than ever before, leading me to save most of these holes from 8 feet and in. I never would have considered that maybe my stroke was too long, but now that I’ve seen the benefit of hitting the ball with that type of stroke, there’s a good chance I’ll probably stick with using it.

Overall I was very happy with the first trip out of 2019. I’m sad that it took so long for me to get around to going out and playing, but I have plans to make the most of the Spring when work is still slow for me and make sure that I’m getting out once or twice a week, not including the weekends that I play with friends.

I get the feeling that with a little more work and maybe a quick swing check with coach, I’ll be dropping those scores fast!

The Weather Finally Breaks…

North Carolina has been exceptionally cold over the last couple of weeks. The “nice” days (meaning in the 50’s temperature-wise) have mainly been rainy. That doesn’t lead to enjoyable golf. That also means that I have not been doing much golfing lately and I think that’s not really that bad.

I posted in my last blog that I was seriously overthinking my swing, and that with some video reviews, I was able to pinpoint where I was having an issue. That actually led to another realization that I think is really starting to bring everything together for me. I noticed the big lateral shift I had, which was started by not planting the lead foot and staying behind the ball. This weekend I hit on something that has been helping my backswing which is helping me stay on a much better plane when I’m swinging. Still has a strange feel to it, but I think it’s starting to get me to where I need to be.

This week is bringing temperatures in the 70’s during the week, so as of the writing of this post, my plan is to take at least half a day off of work and walk the 3 blocks to the clubhouse and get some golf in. Part of the reason I moved to where I am is because the golf course is right close by! I have no excuse and the warmer weather will leave me with very little to do at work, so why not take advantage of it?

Stay tuned, as I will likely try to post some video of the adventure provided I don’t get teamed up with someone that is continually rushing me as I won’t have my normal playing partner with me.

Overthinking: The Easy Part Of Golf

I think you can tell by the title alone exactly what I’m going to say in this post!

I have been working on my swing relentlessly over the past few weeks. I have scrutinized everything about the takeaway, the backswing, the transition, impact…you name it, I’ve looked at it 10,000 times. The security cameras on my house get a workout since I go back and watch my swing every time I’m outside with a club in my hands because it seems like that would be an optimal situation. I won’t be making my best efforts on those swings because I won’t be aware of the cameras. Genius, right?

All that hard work has led to a single conclusion, though. I

I am SERIOUSLY overthinking it.

The golf swing isn’t as complicated as it sounds and not nearly as difficult as modern instruction makes it seem, I can promise you that much. I re-watched my 9 hole course vlog where I had played very quickly just to see how well I can do under the pressure of having to move a camera around and set up before each shot on a busy Saturday morning in the summer. I saw something when I reached hole 3 and the angle on my tee shot changed, because the tee box slopes down into a main road just behind where I was standing. It was there I noticed that my grip was MCS, my stance was *almost* MCS (could’ve use a touch more right side tilt) and the backswing was just about what I’ve been looking for. It would have been pretty much ideal if I was tilted a bit more. And then, BAM! I saw it.

If you slow the video down and watch my move from the top, the lateral shift is there, just EVERYTHING goes with it. Instead of stomping my foot down and dropping behind while my hips are shifting and starting to turn a bit, I take everything with me and have to maneuver myself out of the way to get the ball to go. I typically end up hitting a fade with the driver all day, likely because of how I am able to get myself just enough clearance with my OTT move that it doesn’t slice completely. Some shots are gentle fades, some are power fades, but nothing that is a complete slice. My irons are the opposite all that day too. The face to super closed at impact because I’m not behind the ball and it leads me to hitting a lot of draws and one big hook.

That is a breakthrough for me, I should think. I’ve now kind of identified that biggest troublemaker in my swing and I can really set myself to working on it.

I’ll admit that I don’t really do the exercises that DJ gives us in the MCS videos because I almost always have a club in my hand, but I will be making an effort to get myself an appropriately weighted kettlebell this weekend to really optimize my in-home practice and finally start getting that transition right!

Ah, the magic of YouTube and the .25 speed setting!

Cold In North Carolina?!

Yes, that title is correct. It is cold in North Carolina.

When I got up this morning it was a balmy 25 degrees outside, which is fairly cold for North Carolina. I’m born and raised in New Jersey, so the cold is not unknown to me. I actually do very well in the cold. The only thing is, it sucks to hit golf balls when it’s cold outside, so my practice yesterday was just some simple swings, making sure that I’m hitting all the points I should be and a little bit of putting practice on the carpet. Sure, the carpet doesn’t mimic Augusta National’s greens, but it does give me the opportunity to at least work on the putting stroke.

In my previous post I talked about E=MCS, MCS being the method of golf swing that I am currently working with. I consider DJ (the man behind MCS) to be my coach of sorts. I’ve yet to work out a Skype session with him, which I believe may be a good option just to start the Spring off right, but I have had him look at my golf swing via video on a few times to make sure that I’m headed in the right direction. This golf swing has something to it that just simplifies everything, making it very easy to repeat and maintain, which I love.

With that said, the cold means that my real practice is going to be held up a bit. I don’t mind practicing in the cold, I just feel that I don’t get accurate readings on my distances and since they’re changing (getting longer) from week to week, I’d like to get a good baseline and then worry about how much distance I lose in the cold. Might be a backwards way of doing it, but I think that is what’s best for my game right now. If I start pulling clubs based on what I’m getting at the driving range right now, without knowing where my limits are for a half, three-quarter, and full swing…then I’m not really doing myself any favors.

As soon as the weather warms up a few degrees and I start seeing 50+, then I will be jumping back out on the course and driving range to get some work in. 55 degrees is usually a good place to start, I think. For now, I will be working on some things to get my putting stroke a little more stable as well as working on my MCS to be sure that the engine is running smoothly early in the season. The weather down here can be crazy. It might be cold for a week or two straight and then suddenly it will be 70 degrees again. Thankfully, the winter is typically short, so I’m hoping that’s what I have to look forward to. Until then, it’s “a-putting we shall go”.

The Golf Swing: 3 Method Shoot-Out

It will become pretty apparent to anyone who reads my posts that I am no stranger to “stirring the pot”…rather, I enjoy the opportunity to really egg someone on enough to see what they really think. In recent months, my favorite subject has been the golf swing. In particular, the “Modern Method” versus the “Classic Method”. I will share with you the three methods that I took some time to try and see how they worked for me and share my final thoughts on what worked best and why I think that is. Keep in mind, this is my own opinion and your mileage may vary…but this is what I found to be best for me.

The reason why I mention this is because I spent a lot of time over the last 2+ years working with a couple of different “methods” and inadvertently pitted them against one another. I hadn’t initially planned to try things for as long as I did, it sort of happened that way. What happened was simple: I picked up the game of golf and found that I needed some instruction to better understand the mechanics and just couldn’t find the time or the will to part with the amount of money that local coaches were asking. I figured the next best thing would be to find something on the internet, because that’s just how we do things now. If we can’t find it cheap enough, we look on the internet.

I found Me and My Golf first, via YouTube. I signed up for their site and worked on their plan for just about 6 months. By then I wasn’t really happy with the progress and the constant need to try and find a new way to fix my swing. This site utilizes a simple strategy: teach the basics and then use their “Shot Fixer”, which is an interesting matrix that helps provide drills that help with the current swing issue that you have. I found that I was able to get rid of my swing problems, the only problem was that it required a ton of maintenance and a lot of drilling to make it.

That led me to the next internet coach: Top Speed Golf.

Their platform was rather interesting and, at the time, seemed rather tedious and time consuming. It was a lot of practice and working on things step by step and that made it feel like I wasn’t really getting much of anything done. I felt like some things were coming together but the way the program was progressing made it feel like it was far more complicated than it needs to be. They used a method that was like reading the alphabet from A to Z. You practiced step 1 the prescribed amount of times before moving to step 2 and so forth. The idea is sound, it just seems to take quite a long time to get through.

YouTube brought me to the last one via Mike Austin. DJ Watts of WaxGolf.com was where I ended up and I’ve been very happy with the results so far. This “method” was pretty straight forward and really spelled out what should be happening in a Classic Golf Swing. This was a great advancement for me and after a couple months of working on the movement passively, I was finally able to feel the “move” properly and the ball was doing exactly what I expected it do be doing.

I’ll go into a little more detail on this particular swing method because it is the one that I have stuck with and that has worked the best for me. I gravitated towards this once I read a little about DJ Watts, the man behind the method. at this point he is at 14+ years of swing research and he suffered from back issues, which I can sympathize with. I have mentioned that I herniated the L5 disk in my own back, leaving me walking on a cane and in pain for nearly two years. It took patience, a good Chiropractor, yoga and a caring woman to help me get everything working again. I still have some minor back issues, but I certainly didn’t want something fun and recreational like golf to create a much worse issue for me.

E=MCS (Mechanically Correct Swing) is the name of the program, and it seemed like the right match for me. After working with it a bit and experiencing a dramatic drop in the pressure and tension in my lower back, then soon after, seeing an increase in distance and accuracy as I crafted my swing…I was sold.

Let’s get to the bottom line here…is one better than the other?

First, I’d like to mention that while Me and My Golf and Top Speed Golf are taught by gentlemen that come from the more modern golf swing school of thought, they both have recently begun to share videos and drills that have included incorporating my classic swing elements into their teaching. Lifting the lead heel, utilizing the lower body to drive the swing and not doing the “release left” (vice versa for the left-handed among us) thing is bringing them more in line with the way the classic swing works. This is a good thing, I think, as the only person on the PGA Tour that is jumping into the air and not really risking much injury is Bubba Watson…everyone else is a back injury waiting to happen!

With that being said, I personally prefer how simply the E=MCS method was taught as well as how easy it is to maintain. You can work on your setup, pivot and “One Major Move” (which you will learn about when you get to the website) all without a club in your hands. If I am standing still, I am probably working on my pivot. My wife thinks I’m crazy to be trying to work on my golf swing while I’m standing next to her in a store, but it’s been helping my game, so I think I will keep doing it! Both Me and My Golf and Top Speed Golf are deserving of a look and will work for most everyone. My personal opinion is this: If you want to work on a simple golf swing that you can easily maintain and will make getting your distance and accuracy up…MCS is the way to go.

Stop by http://www.waxgolf.com and get into it!