Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Playing In Wind & TGM

Thought I would use some of the translation to apply to the game. In this post, I'll talk about playing in wind and TGM.

Here's a general rule with golfers. Wind = higher scores. On a side note, the one weather factor that usually has differing results in rain and precipitation. Usually the good players do very well on a wet course. However, the average amateur struggles heavily on a wet course. But we'll get into playing on a wet course at a different time.

The big key to playing in wind deals with the #1 alignment in the golf swing according to TGM. That's the flat left wrist at impact.

That creates compression an compression will drive the ball into the air instead of letting the ball float or balloon into the air. That being said, I believe that playing in wind can help teach a golfer how to have that #1 alignment and compress the ball. When I think of some of the greatest ballstrikers ever, I think of Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino. All guys that grew up playing in Texas where it can get awfully windy out on the plains and the hardpan made things difficult as well. That forced these guys to learn how to get the #1 alignment and compress the ball.

The one thing you'll notice about playing in heavy wind is that it requires a lot of half shots. Get a lot of wind in your face, then you need to take a half shot to control the trajectory. Get a lot of wind at your back, then you wind up hitting a lot of half shots to hopefully control distance. In my estimation, the 3 most common ways to hit the ball lower are:

  • Choke Up on the Club
  • Play the Ball Back in Your Stance
  • Abbreviate Your Follow Thru
  • Weight Forward
You can do all four at once or any combination for that matter. Most high handicappers don't realize that choking up on the club will usually create a lower trajectory. But it does because it create a slower clubhead speed so the ball isn't as likely to scoot up in the air.

If I want to keep the ball really low, I usually find that choking up on the club by itself typically is not the answer. But it's important to note that if you have a tailwind and you are choking up on the club, the ball is likely to go low and you may wind up well short of the target because you didn't get enough height on the shot.

Playing the ball back in your stance is a very good way to keep the ball low. However, if you are taking your normal swing and just moving the ball further back in your stance, there's some things you should note:

The ball flight only goes lower with the ball back in your stance because the Angle of Attack is steeper. Contrary to popular golf instruction's beliefs, a steeper angle of attack will usually cause a lower trajectory. The steeper the angle of attack, the more left you need to swing in order to hit it straight. Ever hit a short, low punch under some trees? For most golfers who do not come over the top they almost inevitably hit a draw. That's because their Angle of Attack was steeper and they took their normal clubhead path. So if they want to hit that shot straight, they actually need to move their incline plane angle slightly to the left and 'swing left.'

The same applies if you're taking a full swing and moving the ball back in your stance to keep the ball lower. Provided that your clubface is relatively square to the target and you're not coming over the top, the only way to hit it straight with the ball further back in your stance is to swing left. But remember, it's not a big degree of swinging left. If your angle of attack is -10*, then you swing left by 5*, which is noticeably, but not wayyy left. But again, if you swing left, the face HAS TO BE SQUARE TO THE TARGET. If you want to hit a low fade, then you better swing very far left. That's why low fades are difficult to hit.

Now, the abbreviated follow thru part I find very important. This is often referred to as a 'knockdown shot' or a 'punch' or a 'stinger.' I feel the 'stinger' is basically punch or a knockdown, but with some type of wood, be it a fairway wood or a driver. Here's Tiger showing the punch and the stinger.

As you can see, the ball is moved a little back in the stance, the weight is a little foreward and the backswing is a full swing, it just doesn't go as far back either due to the club and/or the setup position making it hard to go as far back as normal.

But the main concept of the punch/knockdown/stinger is it's a full backswing, half follow thru. Or as Tiger has said, feel like you finish your hands at your rib cage. Of course, that's just a suggested feel, I suggest taking a slow full backswing and a slow downswing that stops halfway at the follow thru and see what that feels to you like.

The weight forward is just another way to help the golfer come down with a steeper angle of attack. And like I stated earlier, provided everything else is 'normal', if you come down with a steeper angle of attack you need to swing further left to hit the ball straight.

One other thing to keep in mind is the old saying 'when it's breezy, swing easy.' This is important for a couple of reasons.

1. An easier swing can generate slower clubhead speed which helps lower trajectory.

2. Since some of the alignments are altered, it helps to swing a little slower so you can still be precise with those alignments.

If I were to have a golfer come to me and ask me to eliminate the flip I would work on practicing a lot of punch shots. In fact, Ben Doyle is known to work on the punch shot with his students. I think this is fantastic because you'd be amazed at how many golfers cannot hit a quality punch shot, even from very short distances (say 120 yards) on a consistent basis. So if the golfer thinks they are eliminating the flip, I'd want to see their punch shot stroke. Furthermore, I'd tell them to go out and play a round of golf and add the twist that every full iron swing shot will now be a punch shot. They certainly will not score like they would, but they should be able to put in a decent score. I could probably shoot around an 80 doing that as a +1 handicap (remember, just full iron shots) and not even putt all that great.

Usually what happens with the higher handicappers is that they'll struggle a bit with a slice because they come over the top. Then once they get that down, they hit a hook...not only because they are not swinging far enough left, but because they are flipping the hands in order to keep the ball low and that closes the clubface quite a bit. A good player who doesn't flip can hit punches all day long because they know how to maintain their flying wedges with ease.

We talked a bit about the Aiming Point Concept and this is important to note here.

As I mentioned in the Translation Post of Aiming Point, if you choke up on the club, the aiming point moves forward. And thru trial and error I've found that if you move the ball back, the Aiming Point should move back towards the ball as well. If you move the ball up, the Aiming Point should be further out in front of the ball. That's important to note if you have a tailwind and you're trying to hit a big drive because it's so easy to let that lag pressure 'peter out' since your impact position is further ahead of where it normally is. And remember, once you lose that lag pressure, it's gone for that swing. Also with the ball up in your stance if you're trying to hit it high means you'll have to swing a little further out to the right to hit it straight, otherwise you'll hit a slice. To hit a high hook, you need to swing way out to the right. That's why it's hard to hit a high hook.

So here's a quick review:

1. When it's breezy, swing easy

2. Choking up causes the ball to go lower.

Ball Back In Stance = Aiming Point further back, swing further left

Ball Up In Stance = Aiming Point further in front, swing further right.

While all of these things can help dramatically improve your play in windy conditions, it's important to note that wind is usually the biggest weather deterent to low score. Mainly because it makes hitting GIR much more difficult and if you do hit a green, it's tough to get it close because your distance is likely to be off. So thus, putts/GIR becomes more difficult. GIR and putts/GIR are the top two statistics that correlate to stroke average. So with that, if it's windy you have to have the mindset that you will likely not hit as many greens nor make as many birdies. But the golfers who usually do well in the wind on Tour are usually the guys who putt and chip well, since it's unlikely somebody is going to go out and hit 16 greens and have a lot of close birdie putts on a windy day.



Dan said...

Great stuff as usual, Rich (sorry, I haven't commented on your posts, but I read them every day and I find them very helpful).

I especially like the point you make about aiming point in relation to the ball being up/back in your stance, and the danger of lag pressure petering out if you're trying to hit it hard downwind with the ball forward in the stance.

I think everyone could benefit from your suggestion to play an entire round hitting only punches for your iron shots. In fact I'll try it out today!!


Rich H. said...

Thanks, Dan. The 18th hole at the course I usually play is a par-5 that is hittable in two (I've had an 8-iron into it before). There's a big pond on the left that stretches about 120 yards out in front of the green. So if you hit a bad drive or you just cannot get on the green in two, you need to lay up in this narrow part of the fairway and leave themselves with about 100 yards into the green on their 3rd shot. You can watch golfers come in from the clubhouse. The play for this shot is a low punch shot. And you don't even need to take a full backswing, a 1/2 backswing can suffice. But you got to keep it low so you can control it in this very small area. What's funny is watching golfers try to hit this shot, you're lucky if you see 2 out 10 of them hit that punch shot well. Most of them flip and hook it into the water, the others will usually hit it fat.