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Tips from the Pro

Oct. 2015: Bigger Drives

Bigger Drives

Give the Ball an Uppercut to Hit Your Best Tee Shots Ever

To maximize driving distance, long-ball hitters like Rory McIlroy catch the ball on the upswing. Sweeping it off the tee increases the duration that the ball stays in the air and reduces backspin, so it rolls more when it lands. All you need to do is make some easy adjustments to hit longer drives is to follow these simple steps.

  1. Tilt Behind the Ball - Address the ball so it's in line with your left heel (for right handed golfers) and widen your stance beyond shoulder width. Your swing should be tilted away from the target and your sternum behind the ball. Also, make sure the shaft is NOT leaning toward the target.

  2. Smooth to the Top - Rhythm is the key to consistency, so it is important to put some flow into your backswing. Use your core muscles to start the club back, and try to keep your arms relaxed as you swing to the top. Don't let anxiety cause you to rush.

  3. Don't Lunge Forward - At the start of the downswing, resist the urge to shift all of your weight toward the target. You need to keep your upper body behind the ball to hit up on it. Feel as if some of your weight is still supported by your back foot during the downswing.

  4. Thurst Up On Impact - Thrust your lower body upward as you swing into the ball. Your torso will tilt farther away from the target, and you'll be a little taller than you were at address. This thrust causes the arms to extend so you can hit up on the ball with some real power.

By using these tips you should find that your ball is travelling farther in the air as well as roll out once hitting the ground which will result in longer drives off the tee.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

Sept. 2015: Curve Control

Curve Control

How to Turn it Left or Right on Command

Curving the ball is a subject I only cover a lot when working with a low handicap students mostly because most of us are trying to get rid of too much curve. But if you want to become a complete player, you need to know how to move the ball both ways to go around obstacles. To make the ball hook (right handed golfer), you will want to do the following.

  1. Move the ball back in your stance slightly.

  2. Close the clubface a few degrees and make your grip stronger, turning both hands away from the target. (Pictured below)

To slice the ball or make it go from left to right (for right handed golfers) you will want to set up doing the opposite. (Pictured below)

  1. Move the ball forward in your stance slightly.

  2. Open the face slightly.

  3. Take a weaker grip.

In both cases, adjust your aim to account for the big curve you're setting up for. Note: most golfers don't change their aim enough and end up hitting the obstacle or curbing past the target.

Next time while practicing, try these simple tips when trying to curve the ball. The more you practice curving the ball, the more control & confidence you will ultimately have when hitting standard golf shots.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

Aug. 2015: Long Blast

Long Blast

Getting to the other side of the Green

Most golfers understand the concept of executing a basic greenside bunker shot: you want to swing through the sand under the ball. But when it's a longer bunker shot, say 20 - 40 yards, the fatal mistake I see is swinging harder to try and hit the ball farther. By doing that you usually end up taking too much sand and dumping the shot well short of your intended target. Try using this checklist when hitting long bunker shots across the green.

  1. Use a Less Lofted Club - The longer the shot, the longer the club. Don't be afraid to use as much as an 8-iron. But before you take your grip, open the face so you'll have enough loft to get out and enough bounce to slide through the sand.

  2. Aim Closer to the Ball - Instead of trying to get the clubface to enter the sand a couple inches behind the ball, as you would on a standard bunker shot, try to touch down about an inch behind the ball. Nipping it this way will help get it to the flag with the distance you desire.

  3. Make a Full Turn - You might be tempted to shorten your swing for more control over this shot. You need to make a full turn to generate enough power to propel the ball all the way to the hole. This will also help with your rhythm.

  4. Maintain Knee Flex - Keep your legs bent well past the impact to ensure the club glides through the sand under the ball. Don't just chop and stop. Keep swinging through to a nice high finish. A high finish will help loft the ball into the air and send it the distance you need.

These guidelines are crucial to the success of hitting long bunker shots. By incorporating these checks into your practice routine, it will make you a more consistent long bunker player during your round of golf.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

July 2015: Feeling Yippy?

Feeling Yippy?

Try this Drill to Steady Your Chipping

Here's what jumps out at me when I see players yipping chip shots - the left arm stops dead just before impact, and the right hand flips. Does this sound familiar? You know who you are. The trick is to learn to keep your left arm moving through the shot.

I have a drill that can help.

  1. Take your normal setup: stance narrow, ball just behind center with your weight favoring your front foot (for a right handed golfer)

  2. Then make your regular chipping stroke, except from your right hand off the grip just before impact.

  3. Focus on keeping your left arm swinging to the target.

  4. With your yipping hand off the club and your lead arm moving through, you physically can't do what yippers do.

The other part of yipping is the fear that you can't control it. To combat that, don't delay. Make two practice swings, dropping your right hand off, then get in there and make your normal stroke. Your swing thought: Keep the left arm moving!

Try this Drill - Set a headcover a foot behind the ball and practice chipping without touching the headcover. Play the ball back, lean left, and swing (right handed golfer). Miss the headcover, and you'll catch the ball flush.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

June 2015: Tips to Prevent Golf's Nightmare Shot

Simple Tips To Prevent Golf’s Nightmare Shot

Nothing sets panic into a golfer’s mind like a case of the “SHANKS”. There’s no great mystery around when these shots occur. When you make contact with the ball on the neck of the club and the shot screams off sideways, it’s because your hands were closer to the target line at impact than they started at address. To fix this fault before it ruins your round-or your game-follow this checklist.

  1. Lighten your Grip.    When you have too much tension in your hands it prevents the club from swinging down and through the impact zone properly. The feeling you want is that the clubhead is “releasing” past you. You can’t do that with a stranglehold on the golf club.
  2. Flex your Toes Upward.    If your hands and body shift out towards the ball-setting up a shank-your weight moves onto your toes. One way to prevent the shanks is to keep your toes flex upward inside your shoes. This will help keep your weight back during your golf swing.
  3. Hold your Chest High.    Some shanks are caused by diving into the golf ball with your head and upper body like your chopping wood. Avoid this by keeping your chest up through impact. Don’t change the spine angle you established at address.
  4. Keep your Hands Close.    As the club moves through; focus on the grip end staying near your body. A good drill is to put a tee in the ground just outside the toe of your club at address. Miss the tee at impact and you’ll hit the ball in the center of the clubface.

Drill.   Place a golf tee just outside the toe of your golf club at address position. Implement the four tips explained above and make your normal golf swing impacting the ball without hitting the golf tee. I you are able to hit the ball without hitting the tee you are demonstrating good fundamentals that are explained above and will make impact with the ball in the center of the face. See pictures below on proper set up off this drill along with what it looks like upon completion of impact.

 

nightmareShot1

nightmareShot2

Club at address position with tee just outside toe of the clubface.

 nightmareShot3 

nightmareShot4

After impact... Notice that the tee is still in original position.

 

We have all hit this shot at some point in our golfing career. If you ever find yourself hitting shanks or to far on the heel of the club on a regular basis use these tips to build confidence and ultimately eliminate this shot from your bag.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

May 2015: Perfect Pivots

Perfect Pivots

How to Train Your Body to Add Power

The pivot motion is the lifeblood of any golf swing. How the body winds going back and unwinds coming through is the key to creating energy and transferring it to the ball. All good players get this right. Learn to pivot correctly with these four steps.

  1. Get Into Your Tilt - Without a Club, mimic your address posture, but place your hands on the sides of your legs, with your right hand a few inches lower than your left. Your spine should tilt slightly to the right.

  2. Rotate to the Top - Simulate your backswing turn, keeping your arms against your sides. As you coil your upper body and shift your weight away from the target, your right hand will slide up and your left hand will slide down.

  3. Shift to the Left - Before you start unwinding, transfer most of your weight from your right foot to your left with a lateral shift of the lower body. Your pelvis and legs should shift toward the target, but your head should stay in place.

  4. Turn to the Target - Just like in an actual golf swing, rotate your hips and torso so they face the target. Let your weight settle into the heel of your left foot, and make sure your hands return to where they were at the beginning.

These four guidelines are crucial and must be done consistently on each swing in order to maximize your speed through the golf swing. This in turn will give you the best opportunity to maximize your distance with each club.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

Apr. 2015: Rollerball

Rollerball

How to use your putter off the green

As long as there's smooth ground leading up to the fringe, putting from off the green makes great sense. Martin Kaymer did it a lot in winning the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June 2014. A good rule is to treat these putts like they're 10 to 15 percent longer than they really are, in order to compensate for starting off of the green. Follow the below steps to make a good stroke form off of the green.

  1. Take Your Regular Grip - You'll have much more power for this shot if you hold the club with your normal, full-swing grip. You'll naturally put some wrist action into the strike, which will help you get the ball into the hole.

  2. Stand Tall at Address - You're going to need more room for your hands and arms to make a bigger stroke than normal, so stand more upright. If you're hunched over, you'll struggle to swing the putter freely.

  3. Don't Jab at the Ball - The common mistake when putting from off the green is to try to hit the ball harder with a short, jabby stroke. Swing back longer and let the flow and acceleration of the putter head feel natural. Don't Force it!!

  4. Use Your Lower Body - Let your hips and knees move a little toward the target, especially your back knee kicking in. This helps generate more energy so you don't have to try and muscle the ball with your hands.

The old saying goes...
"Putt when you can, chip when you can't putt, and pitch only when you have to."

By using these guidelines when putting off the green, you will find your approach shots onto the green being closer on a more consistent basis.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

Mar. 2015: Go Down After It

Go Down After It

Treat a Hybrid like an Iron

If you're struggling to hit good hybrid shots off the turf, it might be a case of mistaken identity. Hybrids look like fairway woods, but you should use them as if they were irons. In other words, you want to hit down on the ball to impart enough backspin to launch it higher, so you can hold the green from longer distances. Consider these four steps to improving your hybrid play.

  1. Favor Your Front Side - To encourage a steeper angle of attack into the ball, set a little more weight on your front foot (leading foot to the target) than you would with a fairway wood. Your front leg should support roughly 60% of your body weight.

  2. Ball Position - Play the ball farther back in your stance than you do for a wood shot. Position it close to center as if you were using a middle iron. This will help you hit the ball with more consistency.

  3. Finish your Backswing - Facing a hybrid off of tight turf can be unnerving and result in a shorter "safer" swing. A good thought to override the fear of a miss-hit and complete the backswing is, "Turn your chest away from the target."

  4. Stay Down on the Shot - Resist the urge to lift up and try to help the ball into the air. Instead focus on watching the clubhead meet the ball. Impact happens too fast too actually see, but this thought will help your strike down on the ball.

By practicing these four steps with your hybrids, you will see more consistent contact, which will result in higher ball flights and softer landing shots onto the greens.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

Feb. 2015: Crispy Chips

Crispy Chips

"A technique so easy you can do it one handed"

If you're making poor contact on chip shots, hitting behind the ball or catching it thin - it's probably because you're trying to help the ball into the air. Your hands are too active and you're hitting up at impact. I'm going to walk your through a chipping technique that will make it easy to pinch the ball crisply off the turf.

  1. Lean to the target - Take a narrow stance, angle your feet toward the target, and play the ball off the big toe of your back foot. Lean your chest and hands slightly toward the target as you settle over the ball; you want the butt of the shaft to point towards your left hip for a right handed golfer.

  2. Let your wrist hinge - You don't need a lot of wrist action but by letting your wrist hinge naturally, it allows you to accelerate the club on the down stroke while leading with your hands - a key to solid contact.

  3. Keep your chest moving - Even with short shots, it's important to keep your body pivoting forward. Your chest should be turning toward the target even after impact. Feel this by practicing chip shots right handed only.

  4. Focus on impact - Make a smooth swing and literally stare at the clubface as it strikes the ball. Solid contact is vital. Once you get a feel for making a crisp strike, you can shift your focus to the target.

"Good Chippers turn through. Bad ones flip their hands."

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

Jan. 2015: Become a More Consistent Bunker Player

Become a More Consistent Bunker Player

It happens to all of us. Laying two in the greenside bunker and by the time you finish the hole you're writing down (8) on your scorecard because it took you four strokes to get out of the sand trap. People who struggle in the bunker tend to have two major issues. First, is impacting the sand consistently 2-4 inches behind the ball. And second, is a lack of acceleration through the golf swing. To become a consistently good bunker player, you must be able to do both. Here are some guidelines when setting up to hit a greenside bunker shot.

  1. Establish a firm footing that will support the swing without slipping.

  2. Take an open stance to restrict backswing length and to steepen the angle of attack on your downswing.

  3. Play the ball slightly forward in your stance and open the face of your club to compensate for an open stance on the target.

  4. Set up with your weight favoring the left side at address (For right handed golfers).

  5. Strike the sand two to four inches behind the golf ball.

  6. Continue to accelerate through the ball to a normal finish (Finish with hands high).

Ball Positioning - This fundamental is key in all facets of the game but even more so in putting. A good ball position in a putting stroke has the ball positioned slightly forward of center in your stance. When the ball position is in the correct spot it allows the ball to roll true to the surface with little or no resistance. A common error when teaching putting is that the individual has the ball too far back in their stance which causes skidding and resistance on the putting surface, which results in inconsistent distance and direction when putting.

Line Drill - Start out by drawing a line in the sand across the entire bunker. Place golf balls in variations of 2-4 inches from the line in the sand. Start at one end of the line and practice impacting the sand and accelerating through the shot to a full swing finish. This drill will give you instant feedback. If you hit behind the line you have taken too much sand which will result in not getting the ball out of the bunker. When striking in front of the line you will not have enough sand to impact the ball correctly on the clubface and result will be a shot that travels low and too far in the distance.

If you can become more consistent impacting the sand and maintaining acceleration through the golf shot, you can then develop feeling in your bunker play to help you judge distance which will ultimately help you to become a more confident and consistent bunker player.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

Dec. 2014: Eliminating 3-Putts

Eliminating 3-Putts

Unlike other parts of the golf swing, putting is very unique to the individual. When I am giving a lesson on putting I look for three key things. These fundamentals include ball positioning, eye line in relationship to the ball, and set-up.

Ball Positioning - This fundamental is key in all facets of the game but even more so in putting. A good ball position in a putting stroke has the ball positioned slightly forward of center in your stance. When the ball position is in the correct spot it allows the ball to roll true to the surface with little or no resistance. A common error when teaching putting is that the individual has the ball too far back in their stance which causes skidding and resistance on the putting surface, which results in inconsistent distance and direction when putting.


Too Far Back

Too Far Forward

Ideal Ball Positioning

Eye Line - This fundamental directly affects the path of a person's putting stroke. When your eye line is inside the path of the golf ball, the putter will tend to travel too far inside on the takeaway, which will result in missed putts to the right. The opposite would be when your eye line is too far outside the ball, resulting in the path of the stroke to be outside of the proper path on the takeaway, that will cause the ball to go left or be pulled (for right handed golfers). The proper eye line is when your eyes are directly over the ball, allowing the putter head to travel more on a straight back, straight through stroke giving you a more consistent strike and direction on your putting stroke.


Eye Line Inside

Eye line Outside

Perfect Eye Line to the Ball

Set-Up - Set up is always crucial to the success of any golf swing. When looking at your posture, you want to make sure that your feet, hips, and shoulders are parallel to the left (for right handed golfers) of your target. When these parts of your body are not aligned properly, it will directly affect the path of your putting stroke.


Closed Set-Up

Open Set-Up

Square to Target

Drill - 3 Foot Challenge
Is it easier to putt a ball into a 3 foot circle, or a 4 inch cup?

Place 10 balls in a 3 foot circle around the hole. Work clockwise around the circle until you make all 10 putts in a row. Try to incorporate this drill into your warm-up prior to your round.

Once you become consistent at making 3 foot putts, it will allow you to become more aggressive on your longer putts, because you are not focused on the 4 inch cup, but rather the 3 foot circle. Over time you will gain more confidence and become more aggressive which will result in more putts made.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club

Nov. 2014: How to Wedge It on the Number From Inside 100 Yards

How to Wedge It on the Number From Inside 100 Yards

What if I was to tell you that you can regulate the distance you hit your wedge shots inside 100 yards by doing nothing else but changing the width of your stance. Sounds easy? It is!

Let's say you hit a full Sand Wedge 100 yards. In order to do this you set up in the normal full swing stance. This allows you to make your full rotational turn away from the golf ball which maximizes the amount of clubhead speed you can generate to hit your full distance of 100 yards. Now, what if I ask you to hit it 50 yards? What do you do? You will now do nothing in your setup other than narrow your stance. How much? If you hit your full sand wedge 100 yards, you would narrow your stance by half in order to hit the ball half the distance. Once your stance has been narrowed by half, take your normal golf swing. Narrowing your stance won't allow you to take a full rotational turn away from the golf ball, which also affects the amount of club head speed generated in the swing, which will result in less distance. From this point, vary your stance between full swing all the way down to as narrow of a stance that you can produce and still maintain your balance throughout your golf swing.

Note, when working on different distances make sure to focus on carry distance only, not where the ball ends up. Take a look at the pictures below to view examples of proper stance when practicing different distances.

Full swing set-up & ball positioning for a 100 yard shot

Set-up & ball positioning for a 50 yard shot

Narrowest set-up & ball positioning

Adjusting the width of your stance is the easiest, most effective way to learn distance control. By incorporating this drill during your practice time, you will become more comfortable on the course, which will result in closer shots on the pin, lower scores, and a more enjoyable golfing experience.

Brian Hart, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Gateway Golf & Country Club