Larry's Golf Tips for the Northeast Golfer

October and November Golf Tip

When it comes to bunkers, amateurs fear them far more often than do touring professionals. It’s ironic, considering that most bunker shots require the kind of swing many amateurs have, which is a shorter, steeper golf swing. I suspect a lot of trouble in the bunkers has to do with a lack of both confidence and know-how, two things we’re going to look at here. I’ve broken down a few bunker shots, with hopes of helping you to make your escape and get up and down.

Greenside Bunker Shot

To hit a short bunker shot, it’s not always necessary to dig deep into the sand and make an overly aggressive and steep swing. If you set up correctly, the shot becomes a lot easier. Start with a narrow stance and an open clubface, then place the ball forward in your stance. As you start your backswing, you’ll want to make an early hinge of the wrists. These four components will steepen your swing automatically, meaning there’s no need to try to dig or scoop the ball into the air. Instead, allow the arms to swing down and make contact behind the ball on the forwardswing, just as you would a normal shot—only this time you’re making the divot before the ball, not after. As far as how much divot behind the ball you’ll need, forget about any standardized method. All players have different swings, meaning you need to find a practice bunker and see how far behind the ball you can hit the sand and still execute a good shot. By the way, different sand conditions and types can change the amount of sand you’ll want between the clubface and ball, too. As you swing down and through, allow the hands to hinge after the shot, as well. Do what you can to keep that clubface facing the target while hitting a moderate amount of sand no more than an inch or so deep. Last but not least go to a practice facility and hit bunker shots just like you would go to the practice range and hit a bag of balls; you will be amazed of how quickly you become more comfortable with arguably the easiest shot in golf.

Hinge The Wrists

Because your clubface is open, the wedge will have more bounce than usual—again, meaning it’s going to take some experimentation to discover the right amount of sand you need to catch behind the ball. The club and sand will do the work for you, so there’s no need to dig deep and/or try to scoop the ball.

December, January and February Golf Tip

With the Golf Season around the corner, holiday season being over, and a good amount of cold weather ahead - What can we do to improve our golf games?

This is a great time to read some insightful instructional books and watch videos. My recommendation is to pick one of the top instructors in the world and only read their books and watch their videos. I would recommend Butch Harmon, Sean Foley, Jim Mclean, Mike Bender, David Leadbetter, and Hank Haney. If you don't have a ton of time to dedicate to reading and watching several books or videos my recommendations would be to dedicate some efforts to reading Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, The Plane Truth For Golfers by Jim Hardy and Dr. Bob Rotella's Golf is not a Perfect Game. If you're looking for a good Instructor in your neighborhood or on a vacation I would be happy to recommend a PGA Professional.

March Golf Tip

March is when most avid golfers in the Northeast begin getting the golf bug. Even though March is historically not a great weather month, especially this year, we all tend to run out on a decent weather day and hit balls at the range or play a quick 9 holes which is fine if you're ready!
What I mean by being ready - is your body ready? March is the best month to spend time doing 8 basic golf stretches. If not daily at least 4 times a week to get your body ready and all 8 are included below.

Golf Flexibility Stretch #1: Side Stretch
Stand with your feet slightly apart, aligned with your shoulders. Keep your hips facing forward. Lift your left hand in the air and stretch it to the side over your head. Hold the position, release and repeat with your right arm.

Golf Flexibility Stretch #2: Reach Down Stretch
This exercise focuses on your triceps. Grasp your hands together. Reach them behind your head and try stretch them down your back. Your elbows should be pointed up. Hold the position then release and repeat.

Golf Flexibility Stretch #3: Rotation Lunge
Put your hands on either side of a golf club and then put the golf club on the back of your shoulders. Take a big step into the lunge position. Turn your body in the direction of your extended knee. Hold the stretch for two counts. Release and repeat.

Golf Flexibility Stretch #4: Rotator Cuff
Hold the golf club at its center point. Keep your arm extended. Turn the golf club to the right and then to the left. Repeat and then change to your other hand.

Golf Flexibility Stretch #5: Hamstring Stretch
Lie flat on your back with your legs straight out. Lift one leg into the air and hold the back of your thigh with your hands. Pull your leg towards you. The other leg should be flat on the ground. Hold the stretch and then release it. Repeat, alternating legs.

Golf Flexibility Stretch #6: Cats Up and Down
This exercise stretches the lower back. Get onto all fours. Your arms should be in line with your shoulders and your legs should be in line with your hips. Arch your back and hold this position for a count of 30. Then flatten your back for the count of 30. Your eyes should be looking at the floor and your arms should be kept straight.

Golf Flexibility Stretch #7: Neck Stretch
Turn your head to the left and hold for the count of two. Turn your head to the right and hold for the count of two. Repeat. Bend your head forward so that your chin touches your chest and hold for the count of two. Touch your left ear to your left shoulder and hold for the count of two. Touch your right ear to your right shoulder and hold for the count of two. Repeat.

Golf Flexibility Stretch #8: Forearm and Wrist
Stretch Lengthen your right arm in front of you without bending your elbow. Use your left hand to bend your right wrist down and stretch it. Repeat for the opposite side. If you have a golf question feel free to give me a call or send an email and I would be happy to help or recommend an Active Golf Professional to suit your needs. Enjoy your 2014 Golf Season.

April Golf Tip

Most golf courses are not in desirable shape in April in the Northeast, therefore this is a great month to really work on getting your ball striking in order. Most of us have not hit a ball since the fall and we are as rusty as can be, start slow. What I mean by start slow is to re-learn your hand eye coordination and reacquire that good feel of solid contact. All of us go out to the range for the first time of the season and within 10 minutes; oh yeah that Driver is already in our grip! My strong suggestion is, and it will take some self control, to only carry all your wedges to the range, most of us carry at least 3 wedges.

When you reach the practice area hit 50 to 100 short little pitch shots inside of 20 yards with each wedge and what I always referred to as "feeling the hit". Once you have completed this series of pitches and feel as if you did well compared to your mid -season form, previous year so to speak is to then move to step #2 if not repeat the pitches with all your wedges again. Step #2 is where you will actually hit half to full shots with all your wedges, for example if you hit your sand wedge 80 yards then start out by hitting 40 to 50 yard pitch shots and work up to 80 yards and back down with 50 to 100 balls with each wedge. I know it can be boring for some of us and maybe even feel its a waste of time? I will say with confidence that on your next practice session after your typical warm up and you start hitting 9 irons and 6 irons fairway woods, and yes the Big Dog you will be pleasantly surprised how solid you're hitting it ("feeling the hit").

As far as direction that's a complete different practice and routine. The beginning of the season you want solid contact and hit your planned or normal consistent distance with each club and then work on direction and shape. If you have a golf question feel free to give me a call or send an email and I would be happy to help or recommend an Active Golf Professional to suit your needs. Enjoy your 2014 Golf Season.

May and June Golf Tips

Alignment is probably the biggest problem among amateur golfers and something that the professionals work on every time they have a club in their hand. Even though most amateur golfers understand the importance of lining themselves up correctly on the golf course (and have a fair idea what it consists of), I still see alignment issues in the majority of players I meet. There are 2 reasons for this:
1.They have altered their stance and address position to try and compensate for a fault in their golf swing (such as a slice).
2.They simply fail to check their alignment on a very regular basis and bad habits silently creep in.

  • A consistent golf swing and a consistent golf game can only be built on proper alignment. Don’t try and correct faults in your game before addressing this issue.
  • To check your alignment, pick a target in the distance and set up to the ball as normal. Place a club along the line of your toes, step back and see where the club points:
    • If the club points directly at the target, or to the right of the target, your stance is what we call closed.
    • If the club points way left of the left of the target, your stance is what we call open.
    • The club should point parallel left of the target (imagine the line along your feet and the line from the ball to the target are like 2 train tracks). This is a square stance.
  • Remember – your knees, hips and shoulders should be in line or parallel to your feet. If you can, have a friend hold a golf club across your hips and then your shoulders while you are in the set up position.
  • Step away and check where this club is pointing.
  • Don’t forget the angle of the club face as you address the golf ball. This should be square (at right angles) to the ball-to-target line (see image below).

One point I always make to the average golfer is "If you're aimed 20 yards to the left of the green and you make the perfect swing and hit that perfect pretty high shot it's going to land 20 yards to the left of the green. If you aim directly at the middle of the green and maybe hit the ball on the thin side and maybe a bit in the heel and maybe not your best swing the ball will still find part of the green" As the greatest ball striker that ever played the game quoted "Golf is a game of misses"and that Golfer was Ben Hogan. So the point is aim good to miss good or aim bad, swing good and still miss bad.

Make Great Golf Alignment Feel Like Second Nature. If you have a golf question feel free to give me a call or send an email and I would be happy to help or recommend an Active Golf Professional to suit your needs. Enjoy your 2014 Golf Season.

July Golf Tip

I hear people complain constantly about their putting game. Over the years, I’ve noticed that speed is the biggest problem with lag putts or putts over 25 ft. and direction being the biggest problem with short putts less than 8 ft. Here are a few tips that I recommend to improve your putting:

Putting is the opposite of your long game meaning we have 14 clubs that we swing back and through and each club creates a long or shorter distance that the ball will travel. With putting, we have one putter that we need to control all distances with. Only you can find a comfortable speed-putting stroke, then all you need to do is learn that. Let’s say, a 10 ft. putt, the putter swings back and through let’s say about 8 inches (depending of the speed of green and speed of stroke). On a 25 ft. putt, the putter will need to swing back 16 inches and through 16 inches (again depending on the speed of green and speed of stroke).

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE is a MUST! I’ve never known, seen or played with a good putter that did not practice.

Lastly, always practice your putting with two golf clubs laying on the ground parallel to one another, similar to railroad tracks. They will be a greater distance apart than the width of your putter (50% wider). If you place the ball between the two clubs and use the clubs as a track, that will improve your alignment and most importantly keeping your putter head inside the track on the back and forth stroke. Of course, adjust the clubs or track to accommodate any slight break in your putting line but it is typically best to practice on straight putts.

Good luck and keep practicing! Feel free to email me with any golf game questions – You can also contact Matt Callahan, who is the PGA Professional at Twisted Dune and David Lee, who is the PGA Professional at Blue Heron Pines, they will be able to give lessons or tips.

Until next time….

August and September Golf Tip

Now that your putting game has improved its time to improve it even more with a strong supported chipping and pitching game!

One of the most common causes of bad pitches and chips is the dominant hand (right for righties) taking over the swing. The result is typically scooped or thin contact that produces fat or sculled shots. To alleviate this tendency, learn to make your hands work together by experimenting with the triple-overlap grip. This technique effectively takes the dominant hand out of the swing, and promotes a descending blow, which is absolutely critical to creating crisp contact and consistent results.

When the hands aren’t working together properly in the golf swing, it’s usually the lower hand (right hand for right-handers) that attempts to make up for it by trying to lift the ball into the air. Rarely, if ever, does the lower hand produce a good result, especially when it comes to delicate chips and pitches around the green. Instead, the lower hand forces the clubhead too far ahead of the arms, en route to producing a skulled or flubbed shot. The key to hitting chips and pitches while completely avoiding the dreaded right hand-dominated flub or skulled shot is to grip the club in a way that limits the right hand’s involvement as much as possible. To do just that, I like to prescribe to my students what I call the triple-overlap grip.

To use this grip, first make sure you set up to the ball correctly. With a slightly narrow stance, position the ball two inches inside your front heel. Your top hand and club should form a straight line from your shoulder to the ball. Lean your upper body toward the target so you have at least 60 to 70 percent of your weight over your front leg. From this position, you’re ready to work in the triple overlap.

Take your normal full-swing grip. Then take your bottom hand (right for righties, left for lefties) and reposition it over your upper hand so that you overlap your pinkie, ring and middle fingers on your top hand. Back away from the ball and try some practice swings, making no more than knee-high backswings and knee-high followthroughs. Remember, this grip is intended for shots within 40 yards. Any farther away will require a standard grip.

Pay attention to how your hands (specifically your upper hand) lead the clubhead while using the triple-overlap grip. With your weight on your forward foot, you’ll be inclined to strike the ball with a downward blow, just as you should with all chips and pitches, and the triple overlap will help guard against the right hand dominating the downswing and flipping the club over too soon. After a few practice strokes, give it a shot. You’ll instantly notice how much more effectively both hands work together as a unit.

Plain and simple, the triple-overlap grip works great around the green and is equally effective when it’s time to make a few putts as well!