Saturday, April 3, 2010

Steps to Break 80

I get a lot of blog readers who ask me for help on their game. Of course, since the game is individualized, I cannot give one diagnosis for everybody involved.

However, in this post I will go into what I think is the easiest route to go from say a 15 handicap to a 7 and breaking 80 on occasion.

I do believe I have some good experience in this because I have 2 friends that I play golf with and both of them improved in a similar fashion. One friend, a 44-year old father of three, went from a 12 handicap to an 8 handicap last year.

The other a 40-year old father of two, went from a 10-handicap to a 4-handicap last year. I didn’t really provide them with any real instruction and neither golfer actually took a lesson from a professional last year. However, thru hard work and more importantly SMART work (which I helped guide them on), they were able to lower their handicaps and have more fun playing golfer than they ever had.

Now, ‘hard work’ didn’t entail them becoming like Moe Norman on the range. But it did entail them playing at least once a week and seeing some time on the range at least twice a week.

And now I actually believe there’s some things that I could have tweaked or advised them that would’ve made the process even easier.


The one thing that really helped these guys was explaining them D-Plane…aka, the ‘new ball flight laws.’

It’s funny that I hear so many golfers talk about how much they love Ricky Fowler’s natural and holistic approach to working on his swing by just judging the ball flight and making adjustments off of that. But once you mention ‘D-Plane’ they start eschewing it.

The importance of understanding the ‘new ball flight laws’ is very simple. You can’t fix what you incorrectly diagnose.

It reminds me of 2-time Masters Champion Jose Maria Olazabal. Back in the late 90’s his feet were hurting him so bad that he was confined to a bed and literally couldn’t move due to the pain. Doctors prescribed him all sorts of treatment for the feet and the pain just kept getting worse and worse. Eventually as a last ditch effort, Olazabal sought out a German doctor who was known as sort of an oddball. The German doctor then diagnosed the problem correctly and said it had nothing to do with Olazabal’s feet. Instead, his back was the culprit and almost instantly, Olazabal was cured and a year later he won the Masters for the 2nd time, which IMO is one of the greatest comeback stories in sport that NOBODY ever talks about!

That’s the problem with ignoring the ‘new ball flight laws’ (D-Plane), you’re essentially the doctor who says Olazabal’s feet are the problem instead of the doctor who says his back is the culprit. And then you just get more confused and you start making adjustments you don’t need to make and that leads to more confusion.

We see this every Monday Night on the ‘Haney Project with Ray Romano’, the ball keeps flying a certain way and Romano gets more confused and frustrated.

I won’t post the ‘new ball flight laws’ here again, since a search on the blog can find them for you. However, a good way to start learning them is to think about what happened with the clubhead path and the face on every shot.

If you hit a straight push, we know the clubface was open and the club path was inside-to-out and was ‘matching’ the face. If you hit a duck hook, we know the clubface was dead shut.

Eventually, you’ll start to realize a pattern of your misses and then start to figure out the base of your problem. One of the friends of mine did this and realized that his miss shots are due to a wide open clubface. The other friend found that he had to change the face and the path as he had a very closed face and a very outside-to-in path. That would result in a low, pull cut shot…which he knew wouldn’t cut it if he wanted to take it to the next level. But I told him he would know he was on the right track when he started hitting pull hooks because that meant his clubhead path was getting more square and his face was still closed and then he would just have to work on the clubface.


I call them the ‘Big 3’ because they are what I believe a golfer needs to control in order to hit the ball consistently well. And understanding the ‘Big 3’ gets the golfer focusing on what’s really wrong instead of focusing on things like ‘keeping your head down.’

- Clubface Control
- Clubhead Path Control
- Low Point Control

I would say that the toughest to control consistently is the clubface. Then I actually believe the low point is the second toughest to control, then the clubhead path. That doesn’t mean that they have to be ‘zeroed out’, because if you have a clubpath that is time and time again 2* inside-to-out, that is very good control of the clubhead path.

This is another reason why doing a quick analysis after each shot can help diagnose your problems. If you are getting a lot of 2 way misses where the ball starts off in very different directions, then you know you have a clubface issue. If your ball is starting in the same direction, but curving in different ways, then you have a clubhead path issue. And if you are hitting shots thin or fat or both, then you have a lowpoint issue. If you are doing 2 or more then you have multiple issues.


Yes, go get a camcorder and record your swing from time to time. These two friends of mine found this helpful because since they didn’t play every day, there were old habits and new bad habits that they would fall into and when they would go on the range and struggle, they could then look to the camera and figure out why.


One of the things that I found helpful from the Lag Erickson Advanced Ballstriking Modules ( is that Lag recommends that not only do you get a set of vintage blades, but you get a vintage blade 2-iron as well. His reasoning is that ‘if you can hit a vintage blade 2-iron, you can hit anything.’

I agree.

Reading Michael Lavery’s book ‘Whole Brain Power’ he talks about the importance of testing our motors skills with activities that require precision or those motors skills will erode.

If you want a GREAT training aid, go on e-bay and look up a vintage forged blade 2-iron, which you can probably get for less than $20 with shipping. It certainly is a ‘truth serum’ as Lag likes to say. I probably hit more balls on the range with my 2-iron than any other club in the bag.


The great Brian Manzella video explaining the ‘Rule of 12.’

Developing a great short game won’t drop you from a 15 to a 2 handicap if your ballstriking stinks. But it can cut off some strokes. Both of these friends of mine swear by the ‘Rule of 12’ and as they say it ‘takes the guesswork right out of it.’


Understanding that you should not aim at the apex of the break on a putt and should aim well above that apex.

Again, this take out a lot of the confusion from the game. Those putts where you think you didn’t play enough break become putts where you realized you aimed at the wrong spot.

Again, it takes a lot of hard work, but I do not believe in Jim McLean’s theory in his old ‘The Eight Step Swing’ book that ‘confusion is a pathway to success.’


Hey, it’s understandable that you will get confused and you need to ask the right people the right questions to get rid of that confusion. But confusion by itself is a bad thing IMO and needs to be taken care of.



siegler said...

I love the idea of hitting a 2 iron blade at the range. I think I'll be lucky to hit it 100 yards at first, but it will definitely highlight any flaws.

Rich H. said...

It definitely highlights flaws for me. If you can hit a 2-iron, you can hit ANYTHING.