With today’s equipment, hitting the ball farther, particularly off the tee, does not require hours of muscle building in the gym ala Ahnold. The secret to distance has to do more with where the ball strikes the clubface, which is extremely important to know. For it’s critical to hit the sweet spot to get maximum distance with all of your clubs. But most recreational golfers fail to hit that spot consistently. This is also true with the putter, which when struck on the sweet spot will require less effort and a shorter backswing to get the ball on line and up to the hole, minimizing three-putts and holing out more. With the putter, you can actually hear and feel the sweet spot. Have you noticed that? It’s pretty obvious with my Ping flatstick. It’s a…duh…ping. And the feel in my hands, when I strike it properly, is “solid Ted, nuff said.”
Irons and woods too have that unmistakeable sound and feel when hit properly. And you don’t necessarily need a Trakman with all the data. Golfers back in the day did fine without the high tech. They learned to play through what their senses told them. It’s a feeling that all the nerve endings in your hands pick up. You know the clank feeling on a mis-hit, especially with players clubs (but even, to a degree, with game improvement sticks). The opposite of that clank is a click which you realize the moment the club makes contact with the ball at impact. And we’ve all dropped or thrown our club to the ground before the ball lands the moment the clank happens. With a click, it’s more a Tiger twirl, and a kick of a back leg. And, like Mo Norman was known for, no need to even watch where the ball lands.
So how to produce that addictive click? First you need to know what that click feels and sounds like. What’s best is to grab a pitching wedge and take some half swings at the range. When you hit the sweet spot, you will surely notice that definitive sound and feel. And you’ll be amazed how far the ball travels without much effort. That’s the extraordinary revelation with this technique. It’s also going to more consistently go to where you are aiming.
Continue to work through a small bucket and see how often you can achieve The Click. It won’t happen with every ball, but that’s OK. You can’t know hot without knowing cold; nor can you know dark without knowing light. It’s a play of opposites. No need to get upset at the lousy shots. As when a thought arises in meditation, just simply note the shot without judgement, press delete, and proceed to the next ball, making sure you haven’t lengthened the backswing. Just keep it a half swing for now, the hands about nine o’clock, with the wrists fully cocked. The weight should remain mostly on the left side, with limited rotation of the hips on the backswing.
Start the downswing by pulling the butt of the club towards the ball, the hips turning out of the way to the left, the head steady throughout. It’s a pitching swing which is great since we all need to practice the pitch more. It’s one of the tougher shots in golf, and we don’t practice it enough. So with one drill, you’ll get the feel for the sweet spot and practice a stroke-saving short-game shot.
Once you get the feel for it, start to gradually lengthen the swing and see if you can retain that feel. Keep the pace the same as you lengthen the backswing and increase your hip rotation slightly. You’re still using the wedge. Then continue through the bag finishing with your driver. Same pace for all, the only difference being ball position at address (as Nicklaus recommends). Remember, you’re looking for that sweet spot click for each club and swing. Think Lee Trevino, Inbee Park and most of the South Korean LPGA women, Gene The Machine Littler, Luke Donald, and Mo Norman.
Of course, if golf is closed down in your state or if, like me, you’d rather not risk infection, then you’ll need to wait until you can safely practice or play.
These are extraordinary times that require extraordinary patience. But that is what mindful golf is all about, so you’re still making progress!
All the best. Stay sheltered, healthy, and happy. As one of my Buddhist teachers always said, “All things arise and pass away.” Together, we will get through this pandemic.
As always, my deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those who have died from Covid-19.
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