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Playing the Lie

I'm frequently told by players that they never miss a shot on the range, and yet the moment they take it to the course the wheels fall off. I find that most struggle simply from the fact that while on the range, they're providing themselves the perfect lie on every shot. The issue with this, is more often than not, we do not find ourselves in the perfect lie on the course. Whether resting in the fairway, tangled in the rough, or buried in a bunker, each lie demands a unique approach, set up, and skill set. Let us look at the various challenges when playing out of different lies and offer some insight on how you might improve your shot making from each.

Deep Rough

Adjust for the thicker grass by moving the ball back in the stance and adopting a steeper angle of attack.

Choose clubs with more loft to help lift the ball out of the rough.

Focus on maintaining clubhead speed through impact to prevent getting stuck in the grass.

Standard Bunker

Set up properly with an open clubface and an open stance.

Utilize an aggressive swing to "splash" the ball out of the sand.

Maintain acceleration through the sand and complete your body's rotation.

Buried Bunker

Set up with a squarer face than usual. 

Adjust ball position to provide a steeper angle of attack. 

Accelerate through the ball and anticipate a lower trajectory with more roll.

Uphill Lie

Adjust your stance and ball position to accommodate or "match" the slope.

Utilize a less lofted club as the hill will increase your effective loft on the club.

Ensure your weight remains stable throughout the swing to maintain balance.

You may have to align further right as an uphill lie can promote a right to left shot shape.

Downhill Lie

Adjust your stance and ball position to accommodate or "match" the slope.

Utilize a more lofted club as the hill will decrease your effective loft on the club.

Ensure your weight remains stable throughout the swing to maintain balance.

You may have to align further left as a downhill lie can promote a left to right shot shape.

Ball Above Feet

Grip down on the club to accommodate the slope.

Aim further to the right as this lie will cause the ball to start left of your alignment. 

Take less club as the ball will typically roll more with a right to left shot shape.

Ball Below Feet

Utilize the full length of the club to accommodate the slope.

Aim further to the left as this lie will cause the ball to start right of your alignment.

Take more club as the ball will typically fade and lose distance. 

By understanding each lie and implementing the appropriate techniques, players can more easily take their game from the range to the course with confidence. With practice and repetition, proficiency in playing different lies will elevate one's golf game, ultimately leading to lower scores and greater enjoyment of the game.

Filling the Gap

As the game continues to evolve, golf courses and equipment will also undergo changes. Many of us currently have our focus on the impending ball rollback, leading us to reflect on the distance we hit the ball more than ever. However, it's crucial not to divert our attention from other aspects of the game, particularly the 'scoring zone.' This zone is where most of our strokes occur. Therefore, it should receive the majority of our focus. Don’t neglect your high lofted equipment to ensure that your wedges are operating in your best interest.

Several factors should be considered when evaluating your wedge setup. Many bags I see have an assortment of wedges with no two looking the same. Some show different wear or age, while others don't share similar specs with the rest of their irons or even with each other. Most importantly, players' wedges often don't have the correct lofts to provide optimal gapping within their set.

The first step in getting your wedges to work in your favor is to ensure that your wedges generally match your irons. I typically recommend using the same shafts in your wedges as you do in your irons. Some players prefer slightly heavier and/or softer flex shafts in their wedges to promote more touch and feel on less-than-full swings. Others prefer a slightly flatter lie angle so the wedge's heel doesn't dig into the ground when playing shots that require an open clubface. Wedges need not be the same brand, but they should at least generally reflect the same weight, length, lie, and loft as your irons.

The loft is typically the most important factor to consider. Too many golfers put traditionally lofted 'sand' wedges in their bag without considering the loft and distance they hit their most lofted iron. As iron sets have continued to get stronger lofts, players should adjust their wedge makeup to accommodate these changes. It is not uncommon for a current-generation wedge to measure out to 43 degrees compared to 46-48 degrees twenty years ago. A traditional 56-degree wedge may not be best suited to a player’s needs with these modern lofts. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than 4 to 6 degrees of loft between each wedge in your set. Any more than that, and you'll see yardage gaps of upwards of 20 yards. For the average golfer, having equipment that forces finesse shots is far less desirable from a scoring perspective than having the right tools to hit a full shot for the given yardage.

If you aren't filling the gaps on the lower end of your set properly, you are doing yourself a disservice and likely costing yourself strokes on your score. We all want to see better scores, and having your wedges dialed in is an easy first step to reaching those goals. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any concerns about your wedge makeup, and I will be happy to take a look.

The Mental Game of Golf: Strategies for Success

Golf, often described as a sport of precision and patience, requires more than just physical skill; it demands a strong mental game. While perfecting your swing and mastering different shots is crucial, understanding the psychology behind golf and learning mental strategies can be the key to success on the course. Let’s explore the mental game of golf and review valuable strategies to help you elevate your performance.

The Psychology of Golf

Golf is known as one of the most mentally challenging sports. Unlike other sports, there are no defenders or opponents actively trying to compete against you. Instead, it's just you, the ball, and the course. This solitude can create immense pressure, making mental strength a critical component of success.

Overcoming Common Mental Challenges

Handling Pressure: Pressure is an inherent part of golf, especially during crucial shots. To manage it, practice deep breathing techniques and establish a pre-shot routine that helps you stay composed under pressure.

Dealing with Negative Thoughts: Negative thoughts can plague golfers, leading to self-doubt and poor performance. Combat these thoughts by replacing them with positive thoughts and maintaining a focus on the task at hand.

Staying Present: Golfers often make their best shots when they're fully present in the moment. Mindfulness and even meditation can help you maintain focus, making each shot count. Worrying about your previous shots or upcoming holes will do nothing more that distract you from the current moment.

Visualization and Pre-shot Routine

Visualizing your shots before you take them is a powerful mental tool. This allows you to see the shot in your mind's eye before executing it physically. It also helps to keep the negative thoughts of the “miss” from sneaking into the forefront of your mind. Couple this with a consistent pre-shot routine to build confidence and improve your game.

Course Management and Decision Making

Strategic decision-making can reduce mental stress on the golf course. Take time to assess risks, choose the right clubs, and plan your course strategy. Confidence in your decisions will translate to better performance.

In conclusion, while perfecting your swing is essential, don't underestimate the importance of the mental game in golf. By mastering mental strategies, you can improve your performance and enjoy the game even more. Remember, the most significant obstacle on the golf course might just be the one inside your own mind.


The Art of Spin

For golfers, there's an undeniable sense of satisfaction in watching a well-struck wedge shot hit the green, take a few hops, and then abruptly stop, seemingly defying the laws of physics. This mesmerizing display of spin is not only visually appealing but also crucial for controlling your approach shots and maximizing scoring opportunities. Let’s dive into the techniques and strategies that can help you generate more spin from your wedges, elevating your short game to new heights.

Understanding Spin

When it comes to wedge shots, backspin is the key to stopping the ball quickly upon landing. By generating more spin, you can have greater control over your shots, enabling you to attack pins and get closer to those elusive birdies and tap-in pars.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Before delving into the techniques, it's important to ensure you have the right equipment. Wedges with sharper grooves and fresh, clean faces provide better grip on the ball, increasing the chances of producing spin. Regularly inspect your wedges for wear and replace them when necessary to maintain optimal performance.

Proper Ball Selection

Selecting the right golf ball can significantly impact your ability to generate spin. Opt for balls specifically designed to promote spin, typically categorized as "tour" or "performance" balls. These balls feature softer covers that grip the clubface, allowing for enhanced spin and control around the greens. Experiment with different models to find the one that suits your game and desired level of spin.

Techniques for Generating Spin

Clean Contact: Achieving clean contact between the clubface and the ball is crucial for generating maximum spin. Place the ball slightly back in your stance, ensuring a ball-first contact. Focus on a descending strike, allowing the clubhead to make contact with the ball before the turf.

Accelerate Through Impact: To maximize spin, it's essential to accelerate the clubhead through impact. Avoid decelerating or "scooping" at the ball, as this can result in inconsistent strikes and reduced spin. Maintain a smooth, controlled tempo and let the loft of the club do the work.

Open Clubface: Opening the clubface slightly at address increases the effective loft of the club, promoting higher launch angles and more backspin. Experiment with different degrees of face openness to find the optimal balance between loft, control, and spin.

Quality Divots: Divots play a crucial role in generating spin. Aim to take a shallow divot after the ball, ensuring that the clubhead continues its downward path through impact. This helps create the necessary compression on the ball, enhancing spin production.

Utilize Groove Technology: Take advantage of the grooves on your wedge. The sharper and cleaner the grooves, the better they can grip the ball, generating more spin. Regularly clean your clubfaces and ensure the grooves are free from debris to maintain their performance. 

Practice and Experimentation

Generating more spin with your wedges requires practice, experimentation, and an understanding of your own swing. Dedicate time to honing your technique at the practice range and focus on executing the aforementioned principles. Experiment with different clubface positions, swing speeds, and ball positions to find the combination that yields the desired results.

Mastering the art of spin with your wedges is a skill that can significantly enhance your short game. By understanding the principles behind spin generation and implementing proper techniques, you can add a new dimension to your approach shots, allowing you to attack pins with confidence. Remember, practice and experimentation are key to refining your skills. 

Putting with Sole
Far too often I see players who struggle with alignment and contact on their putting stroke. The most frequent mistake I find has relatively nothing to do with the stroke itself, but can be corrected quite easily.

Many players do no sole their putter properly at address. Most have the putter’s toe too far in the air, and don’t even realize that it is not soled correctly. The same concerns are present for the player who has a heal that floats in the air at address.

There are three reasons you should be concerned if your putter looks like the above photo at address:

1.    Direction: The initial direction of your ball will be pointed left of where the line on your putter is aiming. This is because the small amount of loft (3-4°) on the face of the putter is no longer perpendicular to the target. This means you either need to train your eyes to aim further right to accommodate, or even worse, manipulate the putter during the stroke to make up for the misalignment. This frequently leads to players who struggle to square up the face at impact.

2.    Contact: The contact of the ball will occur below the sweet spot on the putter face as the center of the putter is slightly elevated. This will lead to a contact that tends to be “clicky” and produces inconsistent distance control.

3.    Roll: When the ball contacts the face lower on the putter, it will have a tendency to create more pop and skid after the strike. When we impact the ball higher on the face as we do when soled correctly, the ball will begin to roll significantly sooner.

What should the putter look like at address? The photo below depicts a putter that is soled properly and won’t produce the aforementioned issues.

The simplest way to get to this position at address is typically to stand closer, taller, and have your hands slightly higher. Alternatively, I’ve also seen many players that simply have putters that are too long or short, as well as too flat or upright for their stroke and posture. If the ladder is the case, some simple club repair adjusting the length or bending the lie angle may be needed.

The Search for Spin

I’m frequently shocked when I see the faces on many avid golfer’s wedges. I have seen some that are so worn, that they have a concave face. Much like putters, wedges become a very personal and comfortable tool that players rarely like to change. I’m often asked “when should I replace my wedges”.

Some say a wedge’s spin begins to decline at around 75 rounds. Others claim it has more to do with your turf conditions, and even what the loft is. As an example, Tour players replace their wedges several times per year on average based on the loft (Lob=3, Sand=2, Gap=1). Players who practice their short game frequently may need to replace them even sooner.

Most players wait until they struggle to stop greenside shots before making a change. What they don’t know is that wedge is significantly past it’s prime by that point. When a wedge’s grooves begin to wear, the ball progressively begins to flight higher as it tends to roll up the face more on each shot. Because it also is coming in at a steeper landing angle and still produces similar rollout, players tend not to notice the lack of spin. So, what is the best way to tell if it’s “time”?

A better metric to look for when contemplating new wedges is distance. It takes all of the aforementioned recommendations into consideration, and is much easier to track. If you hit your 56° wedge 85 yards when it was new, but can only get 80 yards out of it now, the grooves are likely the culprit. It’s really that simple. Use distance to help you make the call, and take all of the guesswork out of it. 

The Future of Equipment

While every year companies continue to crank out new and improved technology, the equipment itself has not really changed too much in its basic form. Much of that has to do with regulation. We have seen huge jumps in drivers as we went from persimmon, to steel, and then titanium. Club head size increased to create larger sweet spots. Center of gravity was moved to create lower spin. More recently, manufacturers have focused on lighter club heads and shafts to help players generate higher swing speeds. 

As manufacturers continue to push the envelope of technology, they must also consider and comply with the regulations set in place by golf’s governing bodies. While manufacturers could certainly produce and sell non-conforming clubs (TaylorMade and Callaway have in the past – see below), the reality is that most amateurs want the same equipment the Pros are using, and those clubs are heavily monitored and regulated. 

So, the question becomes “where do we go from here”? I believe the next three areas we will see slowly enter the market over the next ten years are: new materials, a larger focus on aerodynamics, and an increase of technology or “smart” features. 

Manufacturers have already begun the process using new and, in some cases, classified materials. In the case of the TSi drivers, Titleist was at the front of this trend with the use of the ATI 425 Aerospace titanium that was formally reserved for the US military as armor. I expect each manufacturer to continue to push their R&D departments to find and test new materials that may enhance the performance of their gear.

Aerodynamics is something that has been considered for a long time in the club designing process, but it has always taken a back seat to other variables like forgiveness, feel, and ball flight. Rightfully so, as those are all essential for producing a product for the masses. However, as we discover more flexible and durable materials, manufacturers will have the ability to move weight and shape clubheads in a more aerodynamic way, without sacrificing the aforementioned attributes. 

Lastly, technology will continue to creep into every aspect of our lives, and our golf equipment is likely not immune. I would expect products similar to Arccos Golf to simply be part of our gear and built into equipment by the manufactures in the near future. This would allow players to know exactly what yardage they hit their 7 iron by simply syncing data with your mobile phone. Stats could be tracked and sent directly to your Swing Coach to provide feedback on areas to improve. Scores could be automatically tracked and entered into tournament software or handicap systems live during your round. At this point, it’s not a matter of if, as much as a matter of when. It likely won’t be the norm, however, until it becomes cost effective enough for consumers to buy-in.

Titleist T-Series Irons

If you haven’t had the opportunity to hit the new T-Series irons from Titleist, you are certainly missing out! These have been the bestselling irons out of the gate for Titleist ever, which says a lot considering the preceding AP lineup was the most played iron on all worldwide tours for the last 6 years in a row. T-Series Irons represent an entirely unique approach to iron engineering built from the ground up. Powered by breakthrough technology – including new Max Impact – they deliver a balance of power and performance, unlike anything Titleist has ever made. And yet, with one swing, you’ll feel they are 100% pure Titleist.

Max Impact Technology is a striking innovation in T200 and T300 irons that extends maximum speed across the entire face while preserving superior sound and feel. An ultra-thin 2mm face is backed by a structural support and unique polymer core to provide precise sound and dampening qualities. Strategically placed high density tungsten has led to increased MOI (stability) and lower center of gravity leading to better dispersion and a steeper descent angle.

Whether you are looking for more distance, tighter dispersion, optimal angle of descent, or simply updated technology, look no further than the T-Series irons from Titleist. Contact Eliot if you would like more information or to set up a club fitting and raise your iron game to a new level.

The Need for Speed

In the June 2018 issue of Golfweek, David Dusek writes about his Q&A with Rand Jarris and the USGA in regards to the distance “issue” facing the game of golf today. In their Distance Insights project, the USGA discovered that distance off the tee has increased roughly 1 foot per year over the last 12 years on Tour, with an increase of 3 yards in 2017. Dusek posed the question of what can we attribute to this increase. Jarris replied that “it needs to be studied and understood better than we do today”. Essentially he doesn’t know for sure. 

 

The USGA has been regulating golf clubs’ COR and CT (spring-like effect) for years. These regulations put limits on the club that keep smash factors (ball speed/clubhead speed) to a maximum of roughly 1.5 with a driver. Because of this, it could be concluded that the equipment isn’t the largest contributor to this change. I would argue that the majority of this distance increase is due to increased clubhead speed on tour. The average speed on tour has increased over 2 mph during the last decade, with the low and high end of these tour players increasing over 4 mph.  At an average increase of 2.2 yards per mph, this accounts for a large chunk of this change.

 

What does this mean for you? You are no different than anyone else, we all want more distance off the tee. You can achieve the greatest distance increase through modifying your clubhead speed. There are two basic ways to increase speed: equipment & physical training. 

 

Equipment

 

Physical Training