THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT

THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT

Keegan Bradley won a major with it. Bill Haas won the FedEx Cup with it. Webb Simpson had a career year with it.

Of course, we’re talking about belly putters. And, they’ve caused quite a stir. Many of golf’s greats and other observers make the case that using a belly putter isn’t a “real” golf stroke because the end of the putter is anchored against the body. They also decry the use of the long putter, where the left hand anchors the putter near the sternum. Bernhard Langer is the most noted user of this method.

Are these putters really a problem? If you look at the year-end statistics for the PGA Tour, no one who uses a belly or long putter is in the top eight of the “strokes gained” category, the most accurate way to measure putting success on Tour. Scott McCarron, who uses a long putter, is ranked ninth. What about those young guns who are causing traditionalists much consternation over their use of the putter? Bradley is ranked 97th; Haas 84th; Simpson 57th. Doesn’t seem to be much of an overall advantage to those guys, does it? How about Adam Scott, who claims the long putter has revitalized his putting? He’s ranked 143rd. Some revitalization.

We can see statistically that using such putters is no magic elixir. So, let’s go to the next question: Is the stroke made with the long or belly putter a “real” golf stroke? No less than Ben Hogan considered putting not even a part of “real” golf. He proposed a new scoring system where putts only counted as 1/2 of a stroke, thereby emphasizing the tee-to-green game.

This writer agrees with Hogan. Putting is simply different than other golf shots. The technique is completely different, the ball is rolled instead of elevated, and the instrument itself has its own set of rules apart from the other clubs. One example: Want to use a 52″ driver? Can’t do it. Want to use a 52″ putter? Have at it.

If even one touring professional would separate themselves significantly from their short-putter-using peers statistically, then we might agree the issue needs to be revisited. But for now, we say belly up to the bar…er, green…and putt away.
As Teaching Professionals

As Teaching Professionals

As Teaching Professionals we should be able to help our students improve their games with proper equipment. As many of you know there are many types of products on the market but a good full package set can have a dramatic effect on the improvement of players trying to get better if they don’t have clubs. A full package set has a driver, fairways, hybrid, irons, wedge, putter and bag. 

For years I have been working with Tour Edge golf, and I recommend a lot of full package sets to my students who are starting the game. For a little more then price of a top brand driver I can get a student into a full set of life time warranty clubs that will give the confidence to get better. It is so hard to learn the game with clubs that are the wrong flex or wrong length. I recommend that as instructors we pay attention to our students equipment because with proper equipment the students ability to get better will increase dramatically. As USGTF members you can even order Tour Edge club through the USGTF for your students and you can make some extra revenue. 

Arlen Bento Jr. is a USGTF Master Teaching Professional, former Head Golf Professional of the PGA Country Club and PGA Village and Director of Golf at Eagle Marsh Golf Club in Jensen Beach, FL. He can be reached via his website at www.abjgolfsales.com
In My Opinion….. Narrow Mindedness

In My Opinion….. Narrow Mindedness

I have a good friend named Perry Somers, an Australian who resides in Germany. Like me he has embraced playing golf with hickory shafted clubs. An excellent player he has competed in the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship. This year he returned to his native land to participate in the Senior PGA tournament and as a tribute to the game, he planned to play with his hickory clubs. Nice touch, most would say. Not the PGA however. They deemed Perry’s clubs illegal and refused to let him play. The reason? It would be unlikely that grooves made by hand would be exactly parallel and thus they would not conform to the rules. Are you kidding me? I read somewhere that those who think themselves wise are the greatest fools.

First of all, what are the odds that Somers would ever win? Secondly, does anyone believe these clubs offer any advantage? Heck, they were legal once. Even the square grooves had to be legislated into extinction. I think any equipment that was used legally in tournament play should remain legal until such time as the governing bodies of the game have a review and then vote on conformance. Yes, organizations can run their tournaments any way they choose, but is the greater good served by being so nitpicky? Think of all the good publicity that this could have generated. Here was a chance to honor the origin of our game. For the good of the game however, it is too bad a few don’t see it that way.
STACK & TILT (PART 3)

STACK & TILT (PART 3)

The Deception

When Stack & Tilt first appeared as a cover story on Golf Digest in June 2007, it made claims of it being the way most past champions move their body when swinging the club. In December 2009, Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer also appeared on the Charlie Rose show espousing their technique further by showing pictures of past champions. This is where the deception starts.

Many may recall their (Bennett & Plummer) marquee student Aaron Baddeley in the article, demonstrating in photos the leaning of the spine toward the target. Two years later on the Charlie Rose show, the two showed photos of past greats Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller at the top of their respective back-swing positions. They claimed the photos accurately demonstrated how each of these great players had their spine (upper body) leaning or tilting toward the target rather than away. Of course anything could be further from the truth.

In Aaron Baddeley’s original swing, he started with his weight relatively equal (50/50) on both feet with his head slightly behind his center especially with the driver. From this starting position his upper body rotation during the back-swing motion would naturally place more weight or pressure onto is right leg leaving less on the left at the summit of the backswing. Aaron’s never had an overly aggressive lateral lower body move during the downswing (ala Tom Lehman) which would not always get him back to his left side effectively (and again especially with the driver). He would lose accuracy as a result.

Fast forward to him working with Plummer and Bennett; they had Aaron start with more weight on the left at address and use the “tilt” of the spine toward the target during the backswing, simply as a drill and as a means to not turn off the ball too much. This however was not explained in the initial article and if you study video of Aaron at this time (

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTL8-1iuvd8&feature=player_embedded

), his spine simply turned as before with no tilt toward the target whatsoever and actually away from the target as usual. Due to his starting position favoring the left side, his weight became more equal at the summit of the backswing making it easier to simply fall back onto his left side during the initiation of his downswing and fire through. Being properly posted up on the left side (rh golfer) before firing (turning the hips with speed) is not only a key to solid ball striking but accuracy. This has remained with Baddeley although he no longer works with Plummer and Bennett. For this they helped him however, the fact the two instructors allowed such an egregious display of what Baddeley was doing in the Golf Digest article is simply irresponsible and deceptive, unless of course they believe it to be the truth.

Once again fast forward to the Charlie Rose televised interview in December 2009. The photos of the aforementioned great players in which both instructors insist show the forward spine tilt and the way all the greats swung the club is BEYOND deceptive. Any instructor with half an eye can easily decipher that the angle from where these photos were taken was well behind the players and not face on at the center of the body, although this is what both Plummer and Bennett would like everyone to believe.

See for yourself as you watch here: http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10775 There is no doubt I may be offending some Stack & Tilt converts with this article. Some may say that it was the editors of Golf Digest who insisted on a name for the technique and to include the tilt of the spine toward the target for “shock effect”. After all they do have to sell magazines. Stack and Tilt aficionados may also make claims that what Plummer and Bennett are referring to with the “Tilt” portion of their technique is the forward tilt of the spine toward the ball (steeper shoulder plane). I cannot agree with these contentions entirely because both instructors continue to adamantly espouse the viewpoint of a spine that tilts toward the target to be corrected on the downswing by a forward hip thrust. The turning of the hips (transverse hip rotation) toward the target, not a thrust, allows for the upper spine to tilt back away from the target naturally.

Bottom line for the golfer who has a difficult time in getting back on their left side effectively (rh golfer) during the downswing, starting with the weight slightly left at address while the head is centered and remains centered between the feet during the back-swing, will make the job much easier, without employing a spine tilt toward the target.

David Hill

Is a certified examiner for the USGTF and a ranked instructor.

• 24 year golf professional • USGTF Master Professional • Class Member Canadian PGA • Over 25000 lessons given in career • Director of Instruction Elm Ridge CC Montreal Canada • Owner Montreal Golf Academy (4 Locations) • President/Owner Marquis Golf (Corporate Golf/Travel) • Top 50 Canadian Teacher (National Post) • Top 100 USGTF Teacher
Should the PGA Merchandise Show Open its Door to more People?

Should the PGA Merchandise Show Open its Door to more People?

In a few weeks the golf industry will hold its annual gathering of merchants displaying their goods and services. Every possible item from tees to range rovers will be on display. Golf pros, retailers and service providers with proper credentials are admitted to show floor to view the extravaganza. The folks manning the booths greet their buyers and troll for new customers in hopes of increasing their market share and growing their particular business. I have been attending for about ten years and not much has changed. To be honest it has gotten a bit stale. The main reason I go is because I run into many friends I have made over the years. I’m sure a lot of attendees feel the same way. That in my opinion does not sound like a recipe for longevity.   Companies spend a lot of money trying to convince shop owners to stock certain products. It is kind of a top down approach. Basically you try to get one person to buy a lot of stuff and hope he can sell that stuff to a lot of customers. Some companies allocate additional money in advertising to show the buyer of their stuff that people will be breaking down doors to get a hold of that stuff they just ordered. On and on it goes, year after year. Yet I keep reading that sales are down.   Maybe it is time for a new approach. If I were the boss of the show, I would shake things up a bit. The event is three days. On the first two it would be business as usual. On the third day however, I would allow the general public to attend. The companies can put away all their wholesale pricing catalogs and just show their goods. I believe when those people go back home they would go to their retailer and say, can I get one of those new drivers I tried out at the PGA Show. Imagine thousands of people doing that all over. That will create demand and like it or not that is how capitalism works best – when there is demand for goods and services. How one creates that demand is the questioned that will need to be answered as we go forward.
Let the Belly Handle the Pressure

Let the Belly Handle the Pressure

In the last issue, Mark Harman insightfully illustrated in his article “The long and Short of it” that the incredibly popularly belly putter did not sink more putts than the conventional length putter when yielded by a PGA pro. While it looks like most pros are turning to the belly putter, Mark statistically proved that Keegan Bradley did not fare any better than Steve Stricker from 10 feet.

While putter length may not matter at the professional level, I do believe the belly putter will help any amateur sink more putts under pressure. The reason is simple.

Our core big muscles (such as our trunk and abdominal areas) are less susceptible to anxiety than our small muscles. The core big muscles are primarily used with the belly putter whereas the conventional putter uses our fingers and hands. Using your core big muscles when putting will help you sink more putts under pressure.

Why then would this not be represented in statistics with the PGA tour? The answer is simple. The PGA tour has the best putters in the world who can putt amazingly well under pressure. Pros who cannot sink key putts under pressure, have weaned themselves off the tour or, in most cases, never made it to the big show.

However, and interestingly, in some cases, we have seen some PGA pros go to the belly putter because it allows them to handle the pressure better. The best instance which comes to mind is Freddie Couples who has been a terror on the greens since he switched. His long game never left him, only his ability to make the key putts. We have also seen the same phenomenon with Billy Mayfair and Vijay Singh-to name a few. Perhaps the belly putter is best for the graying population.

To determine whether or not your student (regardless of age) should go to the belly putter, give them the pressure cooker test. First, have your students make 20 putts from four feet in a row using the conventional style putter. If they miss any, your students must start over. Next, do the same practice drill with a belly putter. See which technique can handle this pressure packed drill the best. I would predict in most cases, it will be the latter drill using the belly putter.

However, if your students want to only use the conventional style putter, it is still a good teaching strategy for them to practice using the belly putter. This technique will show them how to use their core muscles when putting, which I believe is essential to handling pressure.

As you and I both know, your students will be very happy with your teaching if they shoot about the same scores in practice as they do in competition (or when playing with their friends for a nassau). And there is a greater chance of this happening when they use their core muscles when putting.
The Value of a Knock-down!

The Value of a Knock-down!

Just got through watching Kyle Stanley triple bogey #18 at the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open, and it reminded me of Greg Norman during an extended portion of his career. Greg found it very difficult to get close to back pins, because he had the habit of bringing the ball into the greens with too much spin. It was very common to see him fly the ball past the hole and then see it spin back to the front of the green. Later, after working with Butch Harmon, he learned how to hit a knock-down with a little more expertise, although he never really learned to hit it with talent that was comparable to the rest of his game.

Some people said Kyle choked his guts out, while others said that he just caught a tough break when his wedge shot spun back into the water on 18 because he actually hit a pretty good shot. Pardon me if I’m a little hard on the guy, but honestly, a PGA touring professional needs to have more control over his game if he is to compete at that level with hopes of having any kind of consistent success. Personally, I believe he missed the short put on 18 and then another one in the playoff because of his flustered condition. He knew in the back of his mind that this thing should’ve never gotten into a playoff in the first place.

The value of having a good knock-down shot is absolutely necessary at the PGA Tour level, but it is a true weapon possessed by a small percentage of amateur golfers, especially at the club level. It is quite common, when listening to someone explain how to hit a knock-down on YouTube, to hear them explain some of the basics, but very few of them, if any, actually mention the most important thing that needs to be stressed if the player is truly going to be good enough at it.

If you happen to remember the 1982 US Open played at Pebble Beach, the wind was quite fierce that day, and on #7, the short par-3 that is usually nothing more than a sand wedge, the players were hitting a lot of 7-, 8-, and 9-irons. Since they were hitting more club than usual, they needed to hit more of a knock-down so that they would hit it a little shorter and keep it under the wind as much as possible. The vast majority of them missed the green left. About nine times out of ten, if a player misses the green with a knock-down, he’ll miss it left if he is right-handed. That result is one of the reasons why many people don’t like hitting knock-downs: They always seem to pull-hook it because they don’t quite understand how to execute it properly.

It reminds me of the older fella that was used to using his trusty hand saw to cut his trees down. A friend suggested that he go to Sears and get one of “them thar chainsaws,” because he heard that you could cut twenty trees down with one of those in the time it takes a person to cut down one with a hand saw. So, the old man reluctantly bought a chainsaw, and after a week of trying to cut a tree down and only getting about half way through it, he decided to take the chainsaw back to Sears to get his money back.

He arrived at the store, and after handing the chainsaw back to the clerk, he stated, “This thing is worthless, I want my money back! My hand saw will cut down many more trees than this piece of junk and with less effort!” The confused clerk said, “Let me take a look and see if I can find the problem.” After pulling the rope once, the engine started and the old man quickly hollered “What’s that noise?”

If you’re going to learn how to hit a knock-down, you need to learn how to hit it correctly, or it just becomes another shot that will get you into trouble. The reason that the vast majority of even top-level golf pros tend to pull-hook a knock-down is because they lack synchronization between the hands, arms, and torso when they try to hit it. The lack of synchronization is because they start their arms down too quickly relative to their torso, which causes the arms to make a slight to severe out-to-in path and also causes the hands to flip through impact, which closes the face.

If a knock-down is to be executed consistently, the upper left arm (right handed player) simply has to stay connected to the left pectoral muscle or lat (latissimus dorsi) so that they (arms and torso) are syncronized in their motion. This is why you’ll see virtually every touring pro, when hitting a knock-down, having his upper left arm still connected to his chest as he finishes his abbreviated finish while his right arm is almost fully extended.

If Kyle had played more of a knock-down, he could have made the ball check on the second or third bounce and then just relied on the natural slope to feed the ball back to the hole. A knock-down’s lower angle of attack coming into the green helps to kill excessive spin and is much more predictable. Remember: The key is to keep the moving parts synchronized so that their paths relative to each other are complementary, not adversarial.
THREE RULES I WOULD DEFINITELY CHANGE IF I WERE IN CHARGE

THREE RULES I WOULD DEFINITELY CHANGE IF I WERE IN CHARGE

Rory McIlroy was penalized two strokes for wiping away sand from just off the green that was in his line of play at a tournament in Abu Dhabi recently. He finished one shot behind the winner, Robert Rock. A few years ago, several gallery members lifted a boulder out of the way so Tiger Woods could play a shot. No penalty.

The rules of golf allow loose impediments to be removed from one’s line of play or around the golf ball. Size of the impediment should not matter. A grain of sand should not be considered any differently than a stick, pebble, or boulder. Here’s another rub. You can wipe sand from your line of putt if you are on the green, but not if it is in your line just off the green. Crazy.

The other two rules I would change involve divots and spike marks. Nothing is more aggravating than hitting a ball right down the middle and then finding your ball sitting in the middle of a divot hole. If it were a hole made by an animal, it would be a free lift. I guess human holes are not as bad as animal holes. One could argue that divots are a part of the game and landing in one is just rub of the green. You don’t get to move your ball out of a footprint in a sand trap. That is true; however, sand can be raked and the surface put back in perfect condition after a person plays. Only the vilest of human beings don’t rake after themselves. A divot cannot be repaired as easily, and it does not seem right that you have to play from a spot where the previous player had a good lie.

Lastly, spike marks. How can anyone justify that it is okay to repair a ball mark in your putting line but not a mark made by a footprint? There is no logic that I can think of to explain one versus the other. I suppose one could say that you have to fix ball marks because they damage the surface and not to repair them would ruin the putting surface. Okay, so repair them after you putt, just like you repair spike marks after you putt. However, in my rule book, golfers could repair both before striking the ball.

So, those are three rules I would change. We need rules (otherwise, as Cosmo Kramer would say, there would be chaos), but illogical rules should be eliminated. Just one man’s opinion.
From the Teacher’s Desk….

From the Teacher’s Desk….

The Demise of the Custom Clubmaker

One of the great life lessons may be that everything changes. Golf is no different than life. The days of the skilled custom clubmaker are slowly coming to an end. What once was a thriving sub-industry of the golf equipment business has taken a steady nosedive since 2005.

Although there is still a market for knowledgeable and skilled equipment professionals, the market is becoming very small. The demand today is more for adjusting or altering and reshafting name-brand equipment. Even in the day of very easy and affordable access to custom clubs from the big OEMs, golfers still buy ill-fitted clubs, so there will always some business for the custom shop. A small percentage of clubmakers saw the inevitable, and adjusted quickly enough to satisfy a changing market by offering more services and refined adjustments to equipment to help golfers.

There are several reasons for this gradual transition. One reason would be the industry foresight about consumer demand. Knowing that fitting was becoming more popular, the large equipment manufacturers responded reluctantly by adding custom club departments to their assembly facilities. Turnaround times became a priority, as well as more fitting options. Today, is not unusual to have six or seven shaft options and fitting specs for any OEM iron head and dozens for drivers. Another reason was the advent of the modern day fitting cart. The ability to swiftly switch shaft and head combinations for a better fit was something new for the large OEMs. The custom clubmaker initiated this technology as long ago as 1994, but having the money and name of a major corporation behind the idea proved to be the key factor for advancing this concept.

Golfsmith, the former giant of the custom industry, saw the inevitable coming. They changed CEOs and philosophy several years ago and now have become a massive retailer for the OEMs, their line of custom clubs almost nonexistent. The Golfsmith and Golfworks catalogs now mostly consist of shafts, grips, and supplies. There are still some custom suppliers like Wishon Golf, and there are still some golfers who seek out the personalized touch of the skilled clubmaker. But, the market share shrinks almost monthly, probably to the point of almost being nonexistent in three more years.

A few other reasons contributed to this situation, such as the OEMs having clubs assembled in Asia instead of importing the components and doing the assembly in the US. This has led to the offering of full sets of clubs – both woods and irons – with a golf bag for less than $300. To the trained eye, these are not high-quality clubs by any means, but it is a much less expensive way for someone to get started in the game. This entire market segment used to be satisfied by the custom clubmaker, except at a higher price. But, as we know about other products in our life, it is nearly impossible to compete with cheap labor from Asia. Another reason was the Internet. Mostly unqualified people started to glue together heads and shafts and sell them on eBay for very little markup. Since it was a cyberspace store with virtually no overhead, the key was volume, not quality.

The custom clubmaker has played a key role in the history of golf, going back to the origin of the game. Sadly to some, though, the obituary is beginning to be written today.
NO BETTER SPORT THAN GOLF TO REVEAL A PERSON’S CHARACTER

NO BETTER SPORT THAN GOLF TO REVEAL A PERSON’S CHARACTER

There’s an old saying, “It’s not what happens to you but how you react.” Kyle Stanley reacted in a spectacular way to failure.

On the 72nd hole of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Stanley had a 3-stroke lead when he put his third shot on the par-5 into the water. After a penalty and a 3-putt, Stanley found himself in a playoff with hardened veteran Brandt Snedeker, who won on the second playoff hole. The defeat was all the more crushing because Stanley earlier had a 7-stroke lead during the final round.

You might expect Stanley, being a young guy, to take weeks or even months to recover from such an event. Nope. Stanley promptly won the following week at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix by overtaking Spencer Levin, who ironically also held a 7-stroke lead at one point. (At the time of this article, written prior to Levin’s next event, it is unknown how Levin responded.)

What we can say about Stanley is that he reacted very well to his meltdown in San Diego. He could have let it affect him negatively in Phoenix, but he chose to put it behind him and put to use whatever lessons he learned from his previous week’s failure.

Many people say golf is a reflection of a person’s character, because how they operate on the golf course is how they operate off the course. Does a person cheat at golf? Likely he will cheat in business. Does a person throw clubs and curse when things go bad? Likely he will not handle adversity very well off the course. Stanley’s instant comeback was not likely forged over a week’s time. More probable is he has always reacted to adversity in a positive manner.

Golf has also been said to develop character, but more often, it reveals it. You can learn a lot about a person simply by observing how they conduct themselves on the golf course.