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My Swing (Darkfrog)

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Note to future self:

Check grip in pre shot routine at setup.

I used to always check my grip at address to make sure I had a good hold on the club for my swing. Stopped doing it because I felt I had a good feel for where the hands should be on the club, and moved my focus to other things like choosing a target, slow feel rehearsals, and alignment.

Hit a bunch of pulls, pull hooks, and toe hooks in my round over the weekend. Couldn’t correct it on course so started aiming right and it worked out okay...

Later I recorded about 20 minutes of face-on swings and noticed that on about half my swings I fiddled with my  grip at address and ended up in a really strong grip, especially the right hand, with V pointing well right of my trail shoulder. Something I wasn’t even aware I was doing.

Proper grip strength is something I’ve worked on a bit In the last few months with my instructor. My normal shot shape is a slight draw, and when grip gets too weak, I hit a slight push with ball flight my instructor calls a “bunt cut” - guess there’s nothing wrong with that except if it’s not what I’m expecting the ball to do.

So now pre-shot routine is:

  • Select far target, and pick close target (18 inches from ball) for alignment.
  • Two slow rehearsal swings, focusing on whatever feel I am working with.
  • Align club face to close target, take stance, check grip, waggle, go. 
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  • 2 weeks later...

I have my monthly lesson scheduled for tomorrow. My ballstriking has really improved over the last 6 weeks so I am satisfied with how I am progressing with the full swing. Contact is consistently near the center of the face and inside the grooves, but strike location does vary day to day; some days are center, some days are more toward toe, some days are more toward the heel. But I seem to have eliminated extreme variation in strike location. Thin shots happen more often than fat shots, but both of those misses are infrequent. That said, I still have a lot work to do.

Since adding a grip check to my pre-shot routine, I haven't hit any snap hooks. My ball flight on good shots is generally straight and high with a slight draw. Occasionally I will hit a cut, which starts on target and fades a bit right, maybe losing a little distance (0.5-1 club), but goes where I am aimed.

My main miss right now is a block out to the right, especially off the tee with 4 iron - 3W. Doesn't seem to happen with driver or 6 iron-LW, and doesn't seem to happen on approach shots. In my last round this directly cost me 5 penalty strokes, and this doesn't account for negative strokes gained from being in a bad position approaching the green. I would guess I might be losing another 1-2 strokes from being out of position on the right when the ball stays in play. My initial thought is that this is a path issue, but I don't know mechanically what I am doing to cause my path to be too far in>out on some swings. There's also a possibility that I am hitting the ball where I am aligned, and I just suck at alignment sometimes. If I can get out for a twilight round before my lesson I am going to bring an alignment stick and use it to align myself on tee shots to see if this is a problem.

Notes for tomorrow's lesson:

  • What am I doing when I hit a big block out to the right? Most of the time it happens on tee shots, rarely on approach shots. Usually happens with 4/5-irons, 3h and 3W, but not recently with driver, and almost never with 6i-LW.
  • Might have the same priority piece as last lesson, which is to continue working on hip/core turn. In the last month, I've made some progress in hips getting more open at impact, but not sure if I'm all the way where I should be.
  • Need some tips on uphill lag putts. Struggling to get a feel for the right speed. For downhill putts, I give myself a mental target short of the hole, and this works really well for me (usually end up lagging within 2-3 feet). For uphill putts, if I give myself a mental target slightly past the hole, I end up hitting it past the hole. Could be I just need to calibrate my mental target better, or maybe I need a different method.
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Great lesson today - got some new stuff to work on for next time. Only had time for full swing work in the less, so didn't get to my putting inquiries.

  • We had a good chat about alignment, and discussed how tee box setup and the view/shape of the hole from the tee can influence alignment. The gist was that even if a good target is selected, sometimes what you see can trick you into setting up with bad alignment. Her advice was to play some practice rounds and use alignment sticks on every shot to get a sense for this, and that sometimes I'll need to make a conscious effort to align in the right direction even if my brain is telling me otherwise.
  • Club face sometimes gets too shut on the takeaway. I was aware of this before, and it's just something that I need to be mindful of.
  • My angle of attack had drifted to about 0.2 degrees up, when normally it's more like 2 degrees down, so we worked briefly on making sure I was covering the ball, and it got back to my normal range of 1.5-2.5 degrees down. 7-iron carry increased from ~160 to ~170 yards with a better angle of attack.
  • Main thing we worked on was rotating through impact and keeping the right arm from rolling on top of the left through the finish. Did about 25 minutes of short, very slow swings, just feeling this and learning to not push too much with the right hand/arm. This is my homework for the month. Tried a bunch of different feels, and didn't find one that resonates yet. I think this is something that planemate and pump drill will be good for, so there's a lot of that in my future practice.
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  • 5 weeks later...

Notes from lesson on 9/9:

A downward angle of attack was maintained since last lesson, which is good, since this was kind of a sub-priority piece. Typical was around 2-3 degrees down.

Priority piece from last time was to feel trail elbow moving across my belly button to help get shoulders and hips turning more. Shoulder piece was improved, but still stalling hips. Hip move is still more of a slide with minimal turn.

Focus of the lesson was to get my hips to open more, and get the lead leg/hip working more. The feel that really did it was to "turn and jump" with the lead leg. Worked with pressure device during the lesson, and it was enlightening to see the difference between before and after working on this. Started getting a nice spike with the lead leg, although the timing of it was a little late. Left with an interesting drill to work on this without a golf club, which is jumping up onto a stool behind me, while rotating 180 degrees in the air. So this is my new priority piece.

Also came away with couple sub-priority pieces. First one is that for longer clubs (hybrid, fairway wood, driver) I drag the club too far inside during the backswing which gets me into a tough spot to recover from. So got some pre-shot routine stuff to incorporate on this one. The second sub-priority piece was for clubface control - working on the new stuff I started to leave the clubface open, so just need to make a conscious effort of keeping knuckles toward target at impact.

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  • 1 month later...

Lesson today 10/15

I explained my paralyzing ballstriking issues to my teacher. She puts the GC4 dots on my 6-iron and has me warm up while she watches in the background.

Swing 1 - pull hook

Swing 2 - pull hook

Swing 3 - shank

Swing 4 - pull hook

She stops me and says you’ve got an extremely closed club face through the ball. She has me address the ball and checks my grip. Grip is neutral, maybe a bit weak. Resume warmup.

Swing 5 - shank

Swing 6 - pull hook

She stops me again at finish position of swing 6 and has me carefully, without moving my hands on the club, return the club to address. Right hand is super strong, face pointing 45 degrees left. She has me take some practice swings and catches that between address and A1, my right hand is sliding into a super strong position. We do some practice takeaways focusing on keeping the right hand firm on the club. Then some practice swings. Then hit some balls.

Swing 7 - straight

Swing 8 - straight

Swing 9 - straight

Swing 10 - straight 

My relief was palpable. My swing hadn’t totally unraveled in a month. Another moment of extreme gratitude for good golf instruction.

Turns out I made good progress on hip rotation priority piece from previous lesson. We went on to work on getting a better turn on the backswing. Objective was to get lead shoulder behind the ball, and to get hips fully turned to feel weight/pressure more on inside of trail heel. Priority piece for now is to continue working on hip rotation and get the backswing rotation improvement she’s looking for.

Finished the lesson with some 3W and driver work. I rarely hit 3W, so I lack confidence on course when I do. Biggest takeaway was that my ball position was too far forward (I was playing it in a driver-ish position), and I was crowding the ball. No major problems with driver with the initial issue of right hand moving during takeaway fixed.

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Played 18 yesterday. Didn't score well due to some lapses in my priority piece on the course and associated penalty strokes. When I executed the swing I worked on in my lesson and recent practice sessions (mainly the takeaway/backswing), the ball was going where I aimed it. Short and mid irons were straight, maybe with a touch of fade or draw to them. Longer clubs were a little bit of a pull-fade flight. Of course, this is n=1 so who knows if this pattern holds over time. My miss was a cut/fade that starts on target, or maybe a bit pushed, and moves moderately to the right, and comes up short of typical distance. This miss is much more playable than the violent hooks, pull hooks, and shanks I was hitting previously. Overall I'm feeling optimistic that I can solidify these changes quickly, and hopefully get some decent rounds in before rainy season.

Another thing my teacher asked me to try was not hovering the club at setup. She thinks it can help with my commitment to my target line/setup. I didn't take this advice as something that is right or wrong, but just a new approach to try and see if there is any improvement. I tend get fidgety with my feet when I am hovering the club prior to takeaway and start repositioning my feet and changing my alignment. I tried it in my round yesterday when I remembered it, but reverted back to hovering often.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Lesson Today 11/12

Worked on two main things today:

  • Getting more depth in the backswing. The move we worked on makes me feel kind of like I'm doing a Matt Wolff move, but on camera it looks nothing like Matt Wolff at all. A side effect of this was my hips started sliding a bit, so I also had to focus on making a centered turn. The feel for hips is related to my right pocket moving in a way I can't describe.
  • Did some tempo drills to work on finishing backswing before starting the downswing. When my swing is off, I tend to rush transition and get all out of sync. Drill was doing a backswing to the top, pause for a count of three, then swing. Then after a few successful reps, shorten the count, repeat until I'm at a normal swing with no pause other than what is natural for my swing.
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  • 3 weeks later...

Last lesson of the year today 12/2:

Full swing stuff - backswing and tempo were much improved which is what I’ve been working on so happy with that. We discussed the block fade miss caused by open club face. My transition is aggressive which pulls the club face open when the handle of the club starts moving too quickly (or something like that). Quick fix was to have a feel for the club head moving and widening the arc before the handle starts going. Did some work on this at about 75% full speed and then added speed back as I got the hang of it.

Putting work - did a putter fitting and when selecting the alignment aid design, I learned that they don’t matter at all for how I aim. Apparently no matter where the target was, I tended to line my aim up around the spatial configuration of the putting area (e.g., aiming parallel to the edge of the putting surface, or a nearby wall). Once I was aware of this behavior and able to consciously overcome it, my initial aim was really good. When I scheduled the fitting with my teacher I had my mind made up on something from the Edel product line, but I tried one of those ridiculous looking LAB putters and it was undeniably good for me, so that’s what I ended up going with.

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Posting my 2021 goals so I don't have to search the 2021 goals thread to keep track. Also may add some extra goals or more detail here...

1. Reduce handicap index by ~2 strokes. I'm sitting at 13.3 now with probably 4-5 more rounds to play this year. I don't expect my index to change much in the next three weeks so reaching this goal would bring me to around 11.

1A. Reduce handicap index by ~3 strokes from handicap index (aggressive goal). This would bring me down to around 10, and possibly dip into single digits.

2. Take putt-outs seriously. I'm not talking about the times where someone in the group knocks the ball back to me when it's close. This is a personal behavior goal, not necessarily a scoring goal. Often when I have made an utter mess of a hole, once I get the ball near the hole on the green, I just dick around with putting out, and often add unnecessary strokes to an already bad hole. I also do this with short game stuff too, but it happens more often with putting.

3. Eagle a par-5. Carrying this one over from 2020 goals just in case I don't make it in the next 3 weeks.
4. Play 5 new to me courses. I usually stick to the courses that are familiar to me and close by. I'd like to get a chance to apply some LSW concept to unfamiliar spaces.

5. Break 80. I've scored 80 twice, and had enough low 80s "what if" rounds where without a one or two high event holes I could have met this milestone. My teacher says she believes I am capable of scoring in the 70s, and I think I have what it takes too, but hasn't quite come together yet.

5A. Accomplish the "No Sixes" challenge. Major stretch goal here...

6. NEW! Develop a B-swing that I can rely on when things aren't working the way I want. When I'm having a bad day, especially off the tee, and especially with driver, I can get a pretty bad two way miss going, and I want to have something to fall back on when this is happening.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Lesson today 1/4 - priority pieces from the previous lessons of making a good/full backswing and not rushing transition were pretty successful. These are pieces that I think I will always need to spend some time working on to make sure I don't revert back to partial turns and rushed downswing.

The big miss since my last lesson has been a hook. When I start the ball with a push, it's usually okay, but straight start or pulled balls are dead. I've also been hitting longer clubs, mostly hybrid and 3W a bit thin.

My teacher identified a couple things, so I have some new dynamic stuff to work on.

  1. My left hip was sliding and getting out past my left foot, and my sternum was a little behind the ball. This seemed to cause a push with the right hand to catch up. My AoA increased from around 3-4 degrees down to 0-1 degrees down. I was able to change this by feeling like pressure is staying on the inside of my left foot, resulting in more rotation around the left hip and less slide. This fixed the hip slide and brought AoA to around 2 degrees down. This also helped fix the thin contact with 3W and hybrid.
  2. Also need to work on keeping sternum over the ball instead of hanging back. Not sure when I started hanging back, since this hasn't been an issue recently. This one was a little harder, but when I executed well, AoA was back to around 4 degrees down again.
  3. Finally, worked on finish position, since my awkward finish position on some shots is the result of failure of #1 and #2. This isn't so much of a dynamic thing but rather more of a thought prior to addressing the ball.
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