Canadian Fade - Play, Practice, Enjoy

Swing To The Rhythm

I love to watch experts perform their craft, whether it is painting a portrait, playing an instrument or hitting a golf ball.  No matter what the activity or skill that you are watching you always come away amazed at how easy these professionals make it look.  Granted they have near flawless mechanics, optimized potential and a huge amount of talent, but what brings it all together and gives it that look of effortlessness, what makes it pleasing to the eye, is rhythm.

So how can this help you and your golf game?  Well, you can work really hard, taking lessons and hitting range balls, trying to get your club in all right positions and searching for a repeatable swing, but if you do not have rhythm it’s hard to bring all the pieces together.  Similar to a dancer who may know all the right steps needed to perform the waltz, without rhythm it just doesn’t work.  Rhythm has to be the cornerstone of your golf swing.

Golf Swing Rhythm

So how do you find your rhythm?  The key part of this question is “your rhythm”.  If you are someone who walks fast, talks fast and drives fast then chances are you are going to swing fast, the opposite being true for those of us who may move a little slower.  Think of Nick Price compared to Fred Couples.  Great swings, great golfers, great rhythm, just different tempos.

To develop great rhythm and find your tempo try this drill. It involves three positions. The top of your backswing is position 1, the top of your follow through is position 2 and your in-balance finish is position 3 (see picture). From your set-up position, take the club to the top of your backswing and count “1”.>Swing through to a complete follow-through and count “2”.  Now with hips, shoulders and belt buckle facing your target bring your hands down to your waist and count “3”.  Repeat this over and over counting 1-2-3 out loud or in your head.  You don’t need a ball for this drill.  You can do it anywhere, your garage, your office, your kitchen.  Concentrate on swinging in balance and finding your natural rhythm and tempo, all the best golfers in the world have found theirs.  Once you have honed in on your rhythm repeat this drill as often as you can to really ingrain tempo because it is going to be put to the test once you step onto that first tee and have a golf ball in front of you.  Will you be disciplined enough to make the same beautiful rhythmical swing that you where making in the comfort of your backyard? That’s the challenge.  Once the rhythm goes, mechanics are quick to follow.

If you ever get the chance to get out to a professional tour stop to see the best in golfers in the world in person, watch the rhythm. Try to find a player with similar rhythm to yours and visualize their rhythm the next time you are playing or practicing.

They make it look so easy!

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Dedicate Your May Practice Sessions To Seve

May 7th will mark the one year anniversary of the passing of Spanish golf legend Severiano “Seve” Ballesteros so I find it a fitting time to pass along this great practice routine.

Seve is generally regarded as one of the best European players of all time, famous for his amazing short game and his extraordinary imagination around the green.  Seve was a magician when it came to saving strokes with his wedge play.  Most golfers understand that the best way for them to quickly lower their scores is to improve upon their chipping and putting but I rarely see players practicing this aspect of their game.  The main reason being that most feel that spending time chipping, pitching and putting is not as fun and exciting as blasting away at a bucket of balls with the driver.  Hopefully this routine will help to even things out a bit by making you short game practice a little more interesting. 

The “Seve Game”, as it is known livens up short game practice sessions.  It is the perfect way for you to measure your current short game ability, sharpen your skills around the green and incorporate fun into your practice, all while paying tribute to the “Maestro” himself, Seve Ballesteros.

Here is how it works:

You need to pretend that you are Seve and you have missed all eighteen greens during your round.  The goal is to still achieve the lowest score possible.  To really make the game fun you need to find a practice green that has a bit a room around it so you can get some variety in your shots and you will also want to have a bunker available.

Start by choosing eighteen different spots around the green.  You are going to play one ball from each spot, onto the green, then putt out into the hole.  Keep track of all shots played so that you get a total for your round.  For example if the master himself, Seve was to get each of the eighteen balls up and down (one chip and one putt) he would shoot even par.  For the sakes of our game we will make it a par of 72.  Quite a feat!

To give yourself variety here is how you need to break down your eighteen shots:

  • 3 shots from about 5 feet off the green (simple chip shots)
  • 3 shots from about 15 feet off the green (simple pitch shots)
  • 3 shots from rough around the green
  • 3 shots from a bunker
  • 3 shots that have to carry over a bunker or other obstacle (flop/lob shots)
  • 3 trouble shots; be creative (in bushes, under branches, off cart path etc)

Play all eighteen shots, tally up your score and see how you did.

I love this drill because it keeps short game practice diverse and fun and it allows you to measure progress and challenge yourself to keep setting personal bests.  But most importantly with the “Seve Game” you are simulating real play which makes it easier to transfer your practice over to the course where it really counts.

So for the month of May release your inner Seve, it will do wonders for your game.

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Is It a Pitch Shot or a Chip Shot?

I get asked this question quite a bit during short game clinics. "What is the difference between a pitch shot and a chip shot?"  Well, the easiest way to think of it is, swing mechanics aside - a chip shot has more ground time than air time and is more of a low running shot while a pitch shot has more air time than ground time and is more of a mini version of a full swing.

Now, as far as the mechanics for each shot, the main difference between the two is “wrist hinge”.

With the chip shot there really isn’t going to be much wrist hinge at all, for all intents and purpose your chipping stroke is not much more then a putting stroke with a lofted club.  That is assuming that your current putting stroke does not have a bunch of wrist hinge in it and if it does … well … that’s not good, and I’ll have to get another article together for you.

With the pitch shot we introduce a bit of wrist hinge and the amount of hinge plays a roll in the distance control of the shot, the more wrist hinge the farther the shot will travel.  To control the height of your pitch shots play around with the ball position.

If you place the ball “back” in your stance, the ball flight will be lower and have the most roll.  Positioning the ball in the middle of your stance will produce a shot with a bit higher/mid trajectory with a little less roll, while a ball positioned forward in your stance with produce the highest lofted shot with the least amount of roll out.  Practice varying the height of your pitch shots using this technique; you want to avoid at all costs getting into a habit of trying to lift the ball up into the air.  If you want a higher shot, use a more lofted club and move the ball forward in your swing, keep the same swing technique.

Knowing what height of pitch shot to play depends on how much green you have to work with. For example, if you have 30 or 40 feet of green between you and the hole, you may be able to put the ball back in your stance and hit a lower, running pitch that may only have to fly half way to the hole and release the rest of the way. This shot can be done with a sand wedge or even a pitching wedge. This is the more favorable type of pitch shot, as it is the easiest and allows the most room for error.

Some situations may call for a higher, softer pitch shot.  Situations where you have to go over a bunker, water or to a pin that may only be a few steps onto the green. A lob wedge is best utilized for this shot. While this is a prettier shot and may draw a few oohs and aahs from your playing partners, most would agree that this shot is one of the harder ones to play and most often you are better off simply avoiding this shot.  But if you really feel a need to pull out your best Phil Mickelson impersonation do yourself a favour and practice the shot a few times before breaking it out on the golf course.

I believe the chip shot is a much easier shot to play and is not used often enough. The chip is a low shot that is only in the air for a pace or two and then rolls most of the distance to the hole.  To effectively play this shot, position the ball in the middle to back of your stance.  Make sure that your weight remains on your forward leg, this will help you stay steady throughout the shot.  There is no weight shift for this shot.  Once you feel comfortable with this set-up, play around with the clubs you chip with.  The lower lofted the club (a 7 iron for example) should be used for long chip shots while shorter shots may call for a more lofted club like your pitching wedge.

Both the pitch and the chip are “stroke saving” shots, meaning there is no better way to lower your scores then by getting very skilled with your short game.  One key to remember is hitting slightly down on the ball with both these shots is what makes the ball go up into the air.  If you're constantly "sculling" or “chunking” these shots, you're most likely trying to help the ball up in the air, commonly referred to as "scooping" or "flipping" your hands.  This is the biggest killer of most short games and trust me, no matter how often your partners tell you this, I promise, your poor chipping and pitching is NOT because you are "lifting your head or looking up"!

Good luck with both of these shots.

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