Three Great Golf Training Aids for Christmas

This is the LAST weekend before Christmas!  It’s not too late to pick up some awesome gifts for the golfer on your holiday gift list.  Today we are featuring three fantastic golf training aids.

Arc Angel

The compact and easy to setup Frogger Arc Angel is a putting training aid which helps golfers groove their putting plane and sink more putts.  Arc Angel folds up and stores easily in the golfer’s bag, and comes with an instructional DVD.  Golfers can use a golf club as the alignment stick (photo below), or the Frogger Alignment Sticks (below).

arc-angel-setup

Swing Hero

Golfers who grip the club too tightly suffer bad scores as a result of the “grip of death.”  Gripping the club too hard leads to distance loss, bad accuracy, and bad scores.  That all equals less fun.

Swing Hero helps golfers get the feel of the proper grip pressure, and can also help golfers change grips to reduce slices, promote draws, or promote fades.

Alignment Sticks

Golf is a game of physics and geometry.  When a shot travels 250 yards, the originating angle being off by a degree or two at impact can result in dozens of yards of inaccuracy.

Many golfers practice and setup with alignment sticks to make sure their setup is aligned properly.  There are countless drills and benefits to having Frogger Alignment Sticks in the practice bag.

Tuesday Tip – Same Swing, Different Club

golf-finish-by-tonykorologosMany amateur golfers make the mistake of thinking they need to swing harder for longer shots.  More often than not, swinging harder will produce all sorts of problems from poor strikes to bad accuracy, to….  less distance!  Yes, less distance.

There are 14 clubs (the legal number of clubs a golfer can carry) in the bag for a reason.  Some clubs go longer than others.  When faced with a longer shot a golfer should use the proper club and put the same swing, with the same tempo, on that club that he/she would use for a shorter club.  That’s why there are different clubs.

The longer the club is, the longer the shaft is.  The longer shaft produces a wider swing arc and therefore gets the club head moving at a faster speed than one with a shorter shaft.  Therefore the same swing one might make with a 7-iron would have a higher club head speed than it would with an 8-iron.

Some golfers may also think that the swing for a longer club should be harder than for shorter clubs.  Once again, the swing should be the same.  It is not necessary to “swing harder” for a 4-iron versus a 6-iron.

So the next time you need to hit the ball farther, don’t swing harder.  Use the same swing with more club!

Friday Fun – Two Ball Practice Round

balls-on-greenOnce in a while we golfers find ourselves out on the course as a single player, with nobody else around.  This is a great time to practice some shots, and experiment with different clubs and strategies on the course.

Two Ball

Provided that there’s nobody else around and the pace of play is not impacted, play a practice round with two balls.  Mark each ball in some unique way to be sure you know which ball is making what score.

In my case I’ll mark the first ball with a big letter C on it.  The C stands for conservative.  This ball will be the conservative ball.  On all the holes this ball will be used in a conservative strategy, such as playing irons off the tees on par-4’s, playing for 3-shots into par-5’s, and aiming for the fat of the green instead of the pin.  Putting will be conservative as well, such as lagging to insure two putts rather than hitting harder putts trying to hole it.

The second ball will be the A ball.  As you may have guessed, the A ball is the aggressive ball.  Play with this ball will be taking chances, going for par-5’s in two, aiming at tucked pins, etc.  Putting will be more aggressive as well.  Try to hole them all.

How Will It Come Out?

In the end which ball will card the best score?  Which style of play will be the most enjoyable?  Results will vary and hopefully you’ll learn a little bit about your abilities, and how you make your best scores.

Tuesday Tip – Hard Packed or Wet Sand

Sand TrapWe will all run into the hard packed or wet sand situation at some point in our golfing adventures. The sand may be hard packed because of lack of maintenance, or it may be packed due to hard rains the night before, or possibly even the course’s sprinkler system.

Previous rain or the course’s sprinklers will obviously be causes of wet sand, which from a shot perspective presents the same issues as hard packed sand.

Regular Sand Shot

In a regular sand shot we are taught to open our sand wedge up and take quite a bit of sand with the ball. Depending on the distance the shot needs to carry, we may aim one inch to several inches behind the ball. The design of the sand wedge’s bottom allows the club to dig in just enough, then bounce through. This keeps the club from digging in too far and stopping.

The result is that the ball comes out soft, accompanied by a hand full or two of sand.

Hard Packed or Wet Sand

The above technique does not work for hard packed or wet sand. If the player were to open up the sand wedge in those conditions, the bounce of the club and hardness of the ground would cause the club to bounce too much. The increased bounce causes the club to strike the ball with the blade.

Bladed shots are among the worst shots in golf. The ball will either fly 100 yards too far, or it may not clear the lip of the bunker and might embed.

To properly hit the hard packed or wet sand shot, only open the sand wedge slightly, or perhaps not at all. In fact, sand wedge may not even be the right club. Perhaps try a gap wedge or pitching wedge.

Try to skim the club over the top of the sand and keep the finish lower than a typical high sand shot finish. The ball will come out lower, perhaps with more spin.

Tuesday Tip – Swinging on a Slope

froggerfeetUneven lies.  Even slightly uneven lies can produce some unwanted results.  If the ball is above or below the player’s feet, many problems can occur if the golfer is not swinging and setup properly.

Uneven lies make it difficult for the golfer to make solid contact.  The club will “bottom out” at a different place than it regularly would, depending on the angle at which the golfer is positioned.  Depending on the lie, the ball flight will tend to vary.  For instance, a ball which lies above the feet of a right-handed golfer will tend to veer to the left.  Conversely, a ball which lies below the golfer’s feet will tend to go right.

Rehearse The Swing

Before hitting a shot from an uneven lie the golfer should take a stance near the ball or in place which has the same slant.  From this position the golfer should take practice swings, noticing the point in the stance in which the club strikes the ground or bottoms out.  This is the position in the player’s stance in which the ball should be placed.

For instance, a golfer may have a severed downhill lie.  Most often in this situation, the club will bottom out farther behind the ball.  The golfer should put the ball farther back in the stance to insure that the contact is solid.

Setup

One great way to prevent the club from bottoming out at the wrong place is to make sure the stance is parallel with the slope if possible.  Two checkpoints are the hips and shoulders.  If a leg is bent to compensate the upper body position on the slope, the hips and shoulders may be level, but not parallel to the slope.

Conclusion

These tips work for full shots or even chips on hilly areas around the putting green.  Check your setup, then check where the club bottoms out and make sure the ball is in that position.

Tuesday Tip – Controlling Bunker Shot Distance

Kitty litter.  Sandbox.  Bunker.  Trap.  Hazard.  Sand traps have many names but the results are usually the same for most amateur golfers.   Traps are usually score killers.  Sometimes amateurs hit their shots too short, leaving them in the bunker.  Sometimes they hit them way too far, flying over the green and perhaps ending up in a trap on the opposite side.

Sand TrapSo why do some shots come up short and some go too long?  How does a golfer control distance out of the sand?

The answer usually lies (no pun intended) in how much sand is taken out of the trap with the swing.  On those shots which fly over the green, one might notice that this shot is a product of hitting it too thin, and not taking much, if any sand.  The shots which are too short and often end up in the same bunker are usually results of hitting too much sand.   The sand slows down or stops the club so much that there’s not enough velocity to get the ball out of the bunker or even airborne.

  • More sand = shorter shot
  • Less sand = longer shot

Next time you are practicing your sand shots, try to concentrate on the amount of sand taken and notice how far the shot goes.  With the same basic swing, try hitting directly behind the ball and you’ll likely notice the shot goes far.  Next, hit 5-6 inches behind the ball and you should note that the shot goes very short.

In Play

Next time you are in a sand trap and short-sided, with the pin very close and not much green to work with, take a lot of sand out with the ball by aiming several inches behind it.  The ball will come out short and soft, and roll out with little spin.

Next time you are in a sand trap and the pin is on the other side of the green or far away, take less sand.  The ball will fly farther and stop quicker, as the ball will have more spin.

Try it!

Tuesday Tip – Putting Deceleration Cure

Golf Ball Line

Start from this position and push the ball toward the target to eliminate deceleration

One big problem golfers can have on the green is decelerating.  Decelerating means that the club is slowing down at impact.

Problems Caused

Deceleration can cause all sorts of problems.  First, the putt will likely travel off line, and probably to the left for right-handed golfers.  The deceleration causes the putter face to close and the putter to go from outside the line to inside.

Another bad problem with deceleration is distance control.  If the putter head is slowing down at impact, it is nearly impossible to putt with any distance accuracy.  Most often putts will end up short due to deceleration.

Deceleration Cure

There’s a very simple and effective drill to cure putting deceleration.  A hockey style sweep of the ball is the answer.  Pick a putt at a certain distance to practice, for instance if you decelerate on 3-foot putts.  Place a few balls down to putt.  Instead of taking the putter back, then through, start the stroke with the putter touching the ball.  Push or sweep the ball toward the hole.  It is impossible to decelerate when starting at zero!

After practicing pushing or putting hockey style, try to carry over the feel of accelerating through the hitting area to your regular putts.

Tuesday Tip – Embedded Ball

091212-embedded-golf-ballIn golf we’ve been told to “play it as it lies,” but in actuality there are times when the rules allow us to improve the situation.  One example is with regards to the “embedded ball.”  An embedded ball is one which ends up in its own pitch mark, like the photo above.  This can happen in wet conditions or when the ground or dirt is very soft.

Relief “Through the Green”

In the embedded ball situation the golfer is entitled to free relief, through the green.  What does “free relief through the green” mean?  Let us break it down.

First, “free relief” means we are entitled to remove the ball from its pitch mark and take a free drop without penalty.  Any time a golfer takes a drop, with or without penalty, the golfer can clean the ball.

“Through the green” describes the area in which an embedded ball can be dropped from.  Through the green essentially means anywhere except in a bunker or hazard.  So obviously the ball in the attached photo qualifies for a free drop.

Knowing this rule can be a big help, even when not on the fairway or in the grassy rough.  Perhaps one’s drive has gone way off line and into a native area which is only covered by dirt and rocks.  If the ball embeds there as well, the golfer can take a drop without penalty as long as the area is not deemed a “hazard.”  A hazard would be a sand trap, water feature, or any area marked with red or yellow markers and/or lines.

Knowing the rules can save a golfer strokes and make the game more enjoyable.  Golfer’s should study up on the rules and in case one runs into a situation in which the ruling or procedure is unknown, carry a small copy of the Rules of Golf in one’s golf bag for reference.

Tuesday Tip – Line on Golf Ball

Golf Ball Line

Line up the ball and putter lines, then perform the stroke along those lines…

One of the biggest keys to making putts is getting the ball to roll true and straight. If the golfer is not able to get the ball rolling true, and on the proper line, the best read and analysis in the world is worthless.

A great way to make sure your putts are rolling true is to mark the golf ball with a straight line. Many of the world’s top professional golfers, like Tiger Woods, do this. Most golf shops or stores have a ball marking device which can help you mark a straight line on the ball. The line can be on just a side of the ball, or all the way around.

The line on the ball helps in two ways. First, the line helps the golfer align himself, the putter, and the stroke on the target line. The line on the ball should be the same line of the putt, not necessarily the line to the hole. If it is a straight putt, the line should point straight at the hole. If the putt breaks one foot to the left, the line should be aimed one foot right of the hole.

Second, the line on the ball will show if the ball is rolling straight and true. Putts which come through the impact area off the proper line will result in a wobble in the line on the ball as it is rolling. Putts which are stroked on the proper line will result in a straight and clean line appearing in the roll of the ball.

Such a simple tip can help reduce strokes drastically and all it takes is a black marker!

Tuesday Tip – Grain

TNGCEver hit a putt which broke one direction but the slope of the green read to break in the other direction? Ever hit a putt which you thought should be fast but was much slower, even though it was downhill? Ever hit a putt which should have been slow, but for some unknown reason is was considerably faster?

If you’ve run into the above scenarios, or similar, you may need to learn a bit about “grain.” Some grass types on greens have a “grain” to them. Grain occurs when the blads of grass lay down in a certain direction. The ball rolls faster “with the grain,” meaning rolling in the direction the blades are laying down. The ball rolls slower “against the grain,” or “into the grain.”

Grain can affect the break of putts as well. If you read a putt to break from left-to-right, but the grain is laying right-to-left, the putt may roll straight. This can be quite puzzling to see.

Conversely, if the grain and the break were in the same direction, the putt will break more than the read would indicate.

Seeing Grain

How does one see the grain to read it? The color of the grain will be lighter or darker depending on which direction the grain is laying. “Down grain” views will be shiny and brighter as the sun is reflecting off the tops of the grass blades. “Up grain” views will be darker as the sun is not reflecting as much in the tips of the blades.

A putt may have several different grains to it, depending on the drainage of the green and the angle of the sun. Looking at a 50 foot putt one may see several light and dark areas, indicating different grain directions.

Conclusion

Now that you know a little more about grain you can hopefully make a few more putts. If a putt puzzles you as to why it broke or didn’t break, or perhaps is off on the speed, look back and try to find light and dark areas. More than likely, the miscalculation was due to the direction of the grain.