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In Uncategorized on August 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I’ve really had a breakthrough on my swing here this week, I suddenly grasp turning my wrists over at the point of impact in an intuitive fashion that I just didn’t have before. I can really feel the correct positioning in my forearms and my shoulders now and have eliminated that unhelpful tendency of sliding my upper body forward after I pop my hips and initiate my downswing. I look forward to finally getting through a bucket of balls without lobbing a few dangerously off to the right because I left the clubface open and hacked the ball like I was holding an axe.

I’ve been using an iPhone app to record my swings and watch them in slo-mo on my computer. It’s helpful to record yourself so you can really study your swing when you’re focused on hitting and not watching yourself in a mirror. Anyway they host all your videos on their website where you go watch them, although when I went there for some reason they had me on the mainpage under “recently added” videos, with like five of the swings I just took. Which is unnecessary social embarrassment. At least my form is sound.
I need to get back to improving this blog before people actually start finding it, meaning I need more articles and a better navigation bar. I don’t feel like working on the nav bar, but I am very interested in doing more articles. Preferably three more this month: one on putting, one on bringing your practice swing to the ball, and one clarifying video work more. Actually on bringing your practice swing to your actual ball striking, I hate that term “practice swing.” I know it sounds like a motivational speaker talking, but it’s when you’re holding a real golf club and performing your real swing, don’t call it a practice swing, it isn’t. It’s your real swing, the exact same one you will perform when you have a ball in front of yourself. When I use a practice club that doesn’t have a real head on it just to do fast form work, those are practice swings. Anytime you swing a real club, that’s a real swing.

Well that’s it for now,


Continuing Basic Techniques

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

So I’m really working on my fundamentals this week to improve and consolidate the gains I’ve made in my swing. One thing I like to get back to is my slow motion swing and my own personal list of things or points that I’ve made for it. On my backswing two important things for me is to purposefully start to bend my forward knee while keeping the rest of my lower body quiet (not just letting it bend with the turn, but allowing the turn by bending it first), and a nice controlled one piece takeaway where my arms and torso move as one.

I still really need to do more video and slow motion work on my downswing because I struggle with inconsistent form there. I haven’t done nearly the same amount of form practice (slow-motion mirror work and that sort of thing) on my downswing and so my hips and forearms don’t always do what they’re supposed to do. But this week I’m going to be doing lots of repetitions, focusing a lot on form, and getting that worked out to the same level as my backswing.

So I hope that I continue to improve and I’ll keep posting on my continued progress with that this week.

Going Back to Training Basic Techniques

In Personal on August 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I went out to the driving range over the weekend, and it would figure that right after I write an article about generating power I would lose all of mine. Last time out at the range I finished my bucket hitting my pitching wedge for 130 yards of carry, I finished this one hitting my nine iron well short of the 100 yard marker. My leg muscles got surprisingly sore after I started my new training regimen for August, which was theoretically supposed to be less stressful on my body. I couldn’t even feel the muscles around my hip very clearly and they definitely weren’t interested in snapping my swing around.

Which unfortunately seems to be the least of my concerns when it comes to my body. For some reason my elbow has been stinging me every time I rotate my forearm around and my wrist seems to get a little ache when I try to swing as well. I’m not sure if they’re connected or it’s just a bunch of little ouchies all happening at once. I’ve always had problems with my joints aching a little too easily, maybe it shouldn’t come as any surprise. But I’m taking time off this week to try and recover, and also to rethink my training.
It eats me up inside to lose days and to think about falling off an intense schedule, but with an undertaking this difficult I can’t become inflexible. It’s difficult enough just being me, I don’t need extra mental distress. I’m going to take the rest of the week off and see if my joint pain subsides. Then next week I’m going to really rethink everything based on what I learned from my first month and come up with a training plan I can stick to without maiming myself and that will help me actually get better.

My swing goal now is to take 1,000 “real swings” with a particular club I’m training that day, another 1,000 “practice swings” to work on my basic form with my practice clubs, and 1,000 practice putts. What I’m thinking is I can do this for two weeks, then take a week of rest where I do my form work and studying. My normal thing now is to go three days of full practice, one day of light practice with 1,500 to 2,000 swings, then repeat. That would be up to 39,000 swings during those two weeks. Maybe then during the rest week I’ll get in another 2,000-3,000 swings in form practice and putting.
Over a six week period that would be up to 84,000 swings. Still quite productive. Over 12 months that would equal 728,000 swings, assuming you lose some along the way, 700,000. At that pace I could still arrive at over a million swings by the end of 2013, not bad at all really. And possibly my training could pick up a little as I go, perhaps adding a few hundred swings to those daily totals. My first real goal though, is still to finish an entire year of this practice, no matter the specifics of the pace or style.

Generating Greater Swing Power

In Articles on August 2, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Hitting the golf ball a long ways was actually the first thing I learned. I didn’t even know how to do the upper body portion of a swing, I just started working on how to do the lower body portion of the backswing, then forcing my body weight into my hip. All based on slow motion video of golfers, especially Tiger Woods. (Which reminds me of an important rule I live by: no matter what you want to do, spend most of your time studying how it’s really done by those who are successful at it, and only a little bit of time learning what instructors and coaches claim you should do.) I immediately found that when you generate the force for your downswing with your hip, your upper body will naturally come swinging around, and after much more study, I had a functional, and somewhat powerful, golf swing

Hopefully my experience is something I can relate here, and help you start generating more force with your swing if that’s something you’re having a problem with. Hitting with more power is not very complicated, and I’ll give you the short version right here to start: you need to begin your downswing by driving your upper body into your hip or hips. Do that, and you’ll soon be whipping that clubhead around with a mighty swoosh, and you’ll come to understand why they talk about “easy power” so much when discussing professional golf swings.

How Athletes Generate So Much Power

I first got interested in how people generate a lot of force “with their bodies” when I started studying Jeet Kune Do. That’s Bruce Lee’s own martial art he made up. Lee famously had a strike called the “two inch punch,” a very literal name for what it was, where he’d set his fist two inches from his target and then punch it surprisingly hard even though he basically had no space to stretch his arm out. Those with experience on the subject said this was no mere push where he’d keep extending the punch through the pad or the person wearing the pad after he hit them, but an actual snappingly forceful punch. And the way he did it was by using his lower body.

It turns out, that’s pretty much the way every athlete generates force. They use their glutes (the biggest muscle on the body) to generate force and then efficiently transfer that energy to whatever it is they’re acting on with their arms and hands. It’s why a professional outfielder can gun a ball back to home plate at 85 mph, but most normal guys strain themselves to throw much above 30 mph. Or why I once saw a 12 year old girl throw a 60 yard Hail Mary in a Pass, Punt and Kick competition. Or why professional boxers can punch people with 8 to 10 times the force of somebody who doesn’t punch people for a living. Us non-trained individuals tend to do motions involving our arms using our arm muscles. Makes logical sense, but it turns out, learning how to to do those motions by moving our glutes and then snapping that energy upward using the mechanics of our bodies yields way, way, waaaay better results.

How Golfers Apply This To Their Swings

To further belabor the explanation, I present a picture of this: a trebuchet style catapult.

It’s a neat physical metaphor for what your golf swing is going to look like once you start swinging with your hip. If you’ve never seen one in action, I recommend checking out a Youtube video or two, but basically they work by allowing that big weight to start falling toward the ground, which then moves around that big lever arm, which is attached to a flexible sling cradling the object you wish to launch several hundred yards through the air. Simply put, big force pulls around a lever, which whips around the flexible end. That’s what you want your golf swing to feel like!

Alright, hopefully that all gives you more of an intuitive understanding for what you’re about to do. When I started studying how golfers swing on a drive, I noticed that to start the downswing, they don’t torque their hips around, or start to swing their arms, or whatever else nonsense I’ve seen and heard. They thrust their weight down into their hip (or hips depending on the golfer), and that initiates the downswing movement. To see this it’s helpful to watch video of professional golfers from the hard-to-find butt-centric view. Here’s video of Tiger Woods, watch his lead leg and see how to start the downswing he’s pushing his weight into it, his knee just slightly bending from the force (important of course not to let that knee crumple when you compress your hip). But as he does so, his glute pushes back, and the imbalance in his hips caused by the standard knee bend on the backswing, sends his body torquing around.

Watch till you get a feel for it. There are videos around for many of today’s pros so you can always find your favorite or model golfer and see exactly how he does it. The important point is, it’s a straight downward force which compresses your solid, largely unyielding hip joint, which creates so much force. It’s not a turning motion. You can’t generate very much force by trying to actively rotate your hips. But you can thrust down into your hips and let that energy be turned into a torquing motion.

Power Generating Drill

Okay, even if none of that made sense or you’re just largely untrusting of strangers on the internet, I would suggest it will all come round to you by doing this drill. First a disclaimer: if you have a bad hip, or frail joints, or for any other reason your body may be too infirm to go thrusting your weight into your legs and then come spinning around, you probably should be very cautious and not do this. Otherwise, hopefully you will not hurt yourself.

So the drill is to learn how generate force the same way I learned. Take an easy to swing club, like a wedge or even a shaft with no head attached, that’ll be what you use for this exercise. Get into position like you’re about to hit a mid-iron shot, very in the middle in terms of stance and all that. Do a normal backswing, making sure to send your weight toward your back foot (60%, 65%, 70% whatever amount you normally do), and then at the top of the backswing stop. Now comes the important part. Without worrying about making a correct swing, or about form, or about not looking like an idiot, or even accidentally falling down, thrust your upper body weight downward into your lead hip as best as you can figure out how to. Remember that your lead leg is not supposed to give, but should remain as strong as reasonably possible.

IF it works, you may find your upper body whipping around after. That’s a good sign. It probably will take awhile for the movement to make sense for you though, so after your first try, no matter what happened, if you’re still standing, try again. Backswing up to the top of your swing, make sure your form is good, thrust your upper body weight into that lead hip and let it push back.

This is literally what I did to learn how to initiate a downswing. I had no idea what I was doing, felt like I was going to fall down if I tried to do it, and yet when I did it, the club shaft came zooming around with no other thought or effort. I will note, it’s of course best to do this someplace with plenty of space around you, and nothing in the way that will get damaged should the club come out of your hands. Which is possible.

Again, do this drill as I describe, and don’t try to do whatever else it is you normally do for your downswing. If to start your downswing you begin to turn your hips, or start coming down with your hands, or tense up your back, or whatever else, don’t do that. Just get to the top of the backswing and thrust your weight down into your lead hip and don’t let your leg buckle under the pressure. If you can successfully get this working (and it may take some weeks of practice), you will be swinging like a pro does and I’m quite confident you can start generating more force for your swings.

Further Pointers

As you get used to downswinging with your hip, you’ll come to understand why pros talk about not tensing up the body, having relaxed muscles, easy speed. Basically all the tensing and effort goes into pushing down on your hip and your glute counteracting it. From there, the more your upper body and arms can act like a flexible whip, like the sling of the trebuchet, the faster you will be going. And you’ll feel it, your best swings in terms of speed will feel very relaxed, also slightly violent in terms of the spinning, but relaxed. Load up at the beginning of the downswing and let your body unwind.

There are of course more techniques to use from there. Proper wrist snapping allows you to unload all that kinetic energy into the ball at the most optimal time, and straightening out your lead leg right as your about to strike the ball can add a lot of power too. Those are things you can practice getting the timing down on. Even more advanced stuff can be used for driver swings, like letting your upper body pivot downward from your lead shoulder and letting your spine contort your torso into a backward C and all that. But for now, try out that drill and see if it helps you. If not, sorry, I tried. And if so, great! It’s a non-intuitive technique that you have to really feel out at first, but it’s the best way to swing for distance.

Month Two Begins!

In Personal on August 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm

So begins August. I feel much stronger after taking a week off, and I’m ready to start this month strong. I’m still a long ways from being in good enough shape to go full tilt at my training, but I get that now and know what I need to work toward. My goal is to take 70,000 swings this month, but still give myself a five or six day break during the fourth week.

That won’t exactly be easy from a mathematical point of view, but I’m working on finding a way to get in more practice on my light work days without it going from light work to heavy work. Right now I’d like to do 1,800 club swings, half with real clubs, half with my practice club, and then 1,500 putting strokes. Do that for three days, then do one or two light days, with around 500 practice club swings, and 2,000 putting strokes for them. I’d also like to use my practice net and hit 50 golf balls into it everyday.

Anyway that’s my plan for now. We’ll have to see how it goes, but at the very least I’m confident that I will continue to get stronger and find the exertion easier. I probably need to step up and do more endurance aerobics too. I miss living in a big city where the constant amount of walking kicked my body into a higher state of fitness no matter what and I had way more energy.

Alright, the next article I post will be about how to generate power with your swing. And then after that I will look into how to make this blog look better and be navigable. Until next time true believers!

Finishing Up the First Month

In Personal on July 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm

It’s been a good first month for my training project and while I’m not going to reach the amount of swings I’d like to have (not that that was a realistic number), I’m very happy with I have done. I noticed this week that the joints in my hand and fingers were beginning to grow weak and irritated so it was time to take a full break to recover. Meaning I won’t get to 70,000 swings, but that’s okay. What I’m most interested in right now is building a stronger body that can handle the load of training without becoming so overwhelmed that the entire point of the practice, to get better, is lost.

But my hand should recover by the end of the month so I can start off August strong. I may not get to one million by the end of exactly one year, but if I get to 900,000 that isn’t going to be too bad.

Blog’s Lacking Look

In Personal on July 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I really need to think about improving the appearance of this blog. At first I was thinking of one of those neat, picture heavy magazine type designs. But actually that’s a terrible idea. I don’t want to have to edit up some photographs every time I feel like making a post. I do need something more organized though, front page of the Wall Street Journal style more than multimedia heavy. Perhaps I can design a template since I haven’t seen anything to my liking, although that’s more computer work I will have a hard time doing. I once learned CSS and created a whole comedy website, and my memories of having to code out that whole thing are not fond.

Anyway, back to golf. Golf is going well. I’m trying to keep up pace and finish the month at or a little over 70,000 swings. Only around 10,000 less than what my monthly average needs to be in order to get to a million. Of course I’d like subsequent months to be in excess of that monthly average, this will prove to be a strong start if I can get that many in this first month. My joint supplements have definitely had an effect, my hip doesn’t ache like it used to, any pain can normally be stretched away. The stuff is called ‘Animal Flex’ and it’s basically a little plastic bag filled with pills you take everyday. It’s a strange sounding name, but bodybuilders on the internet seemed to swear by its effectiveness and I have to say my joints are feeling stronger, not weaker even with continued practice. So I’m a satisfied customer at this point.

Once July is over I’m going to double down on my form work, watch more video and do more slow motion practice. This month has really been mostly about conditioning, although my swing has become far more consistent. But that’s the basic idea behind my training, practice will make perfect. My midbrain and cerebellum organize the motion of my swing more efficiently with every passing day, and by the end of the year striking a golf ball will be as easy as walking.

I’ve been thinking about my long term goals for this a lot this past week, next spring I’ll definitely try a little low level competitive golf. I don’t expect to be a master of the game by then or anything, but work my way up from there once I see where I’m at. I’d love the chance to take a shot at joining the Nationwide Tour. Although I’ll never really be anything more than a true amateur golfer, my heart lies in the writing I can’t seem to do because of this odd mental disease. Still I can be that and a technically professional golfer at the same time, since it seems I’ve got the talent for it. Anyway, that’s all for now.

Mirror Work

In Articles on July 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

One of the great difficulties in learning how to improve your swing is that out on the range you can’t see yourself do it. And since you can’t see yourself do it, you’re assuming you’re doing something correctly or perhaps incorrectly by feel alone. Meaning you miss a lot.
The obvious answer is to use a reflective surface so you can watch yourself, and I’m going to tell you today that if you’re interested in really improving your golf swing you need to make this a significant part of your training. I’ve worked a lot in front of a mirror and it helped me create a good swing quickly when I started and it helps me continue to build that swing correctly as I continue to learn.  Sometimes I get lazy or pile laundry in front of my full length mirror and skip mirror work, and I start to get sloppy.

My recommendation is do 20 to 100 slow motion swings in front of a mirror or reflective window on every training day. Focus on what you’re worried is off in your swing or on making sure you’ve got your fundamentals sound for whatever club or clubs you’re working on that day.

Personally I like to look at particular joints and make sure they are all behaving the way I want them to in order to do this. I’ll watch my lead knee to make sure it’s bending without my hips sliding, my back knee to make sure it’s not moving at all, my lower torso movement, and of course my elbows, wrists, and especially the action of the club (which you can consider an extension of your own body).

I don’t have a lot of points of concern for my swing (certainly you’ll have your own personal ones for your specific swing), but to share: I make sure my lead knee bends out simultaneously with my takeway and is largely done moving by the time my club shaft becomes parallel to the ground, my back knee moves as little as possible, my hips do not sway, my arms and torso form a single simultaneous takeaway, my club shaft is parallel to the target line when I take it back, that my lead arm stays stiff, and that my back arm guides my hands back along the same path I’ve specifically practiced thousands of time to form that “triangle” you hear golfers talk about (hopefully you have heard about it because that’s not much of an explanation).

Anyway, my point is those are the things I focus on because they’re important to my mind in having a good swing, and when I do them correctly I do take a good swing. By doing slow motion swings over and over again in front of a mirror you can watch each thing on your personal swing list and make sure you’re doing them the way you want to, which in turn burns the correct motion into your “muscle memory.”
Also when over time people tend to develop bad habits, which are really mismovements your brain is making without you realizing it. Mirror exercises keep you on track or put you back on track if you develop some bad habits.
So remember, try and spend some time on your training days doing slow motion mirror work and focusing on your personal swing fundamentals. I talked about mostly backswing in this post, but of course follow through and make sure you’re performing your downswing correctly as well. If you don’t have a full length mirror they do sell cheap ones at Target or similar retailers that can be a bit thin but still work fine, or also if you go outside and find a highly reflective window that works to practice in front of as well.

I realize this is a pretty simple concept and most every reader probably doesn’t need it explained in great detail, but the thing I want to emphasize is DO IT. Really make sure you spend the time doing it throughout your training regimen and don’t stop as you get more advanced because you think you don’t need it anymore. It’s a crucial element in having your practice make you better.

Got a cold in the middle of summer and doing more stretching

In Personal on July 18, 2012 at 10:55 am

I got sick for two days after attending a party, which severely curtailed my efforts on Sunday and Monday. Fortunately I’m feeling much better and got a full 3,300 swings in yesterday.

I noticed I’ve fallen too far behind on my swing schedule this month and it doesn’t sit well with me. At this point I’ll be lucky to get anything over 60,000 practice swings. Of course I realize that this month should be my most difficult month since I’ve had to swing myself into shape. But still, 20,000+ swings behind is no good.

I’m starting to incorporate a more responsible athletic routine into all my golf training now as well. I’m working on stretching for my hips every day to keep them healthy and avoid pain. The joint supplements also seem to be helping as I feel not just less pain, but less of that specific grindy sort of ache you get when your joints are clearly getting overworked.

Well today I think I will get to focusing in on my driver swing, try to find the right groove for that and start practicing it much more. Trying to emulate Tiger Wood’s driver swing is what I started on so I know my basics for the form, but I’ve sort of gotten sloppy as I’ve worked more heavily with other  clubs. Anyway, that’s all for now.

Future Article Ideas

In Personal on July 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm

So I wanted to use a post to collect my thoughts about what things I can share which have been working for me on this journey to get better at golf. I have developed a few basic exercises which I think are really helping me perform what the 10,000 hour people call “deliberate practice,” or what I think of as practicing to get better.

Video work and mirror work are the first ones I’ll go over, both invaluable to finding your proper swing, then also my techniques for slow motion work, which roots out poor form and bad habits.

I also want to do a longer post on how to generate power, with illustrations to help show what I’m talking about. I haven’t had any test subjects try my methods yet (other than myself of course), but hopefully I can write up my methods for how to start generating swing power from the hip in a way that other people will find makes sense.

Oh, and I also want to write a better ‘About’ piece, maybe in a post at least, which explains what all this is about and what my ultimate goals are. That’s part of the overall building of this blog, which clearly still needs a lot of design work done on it. Fortunately I doubt anyone is reading this thing yet, so I don’t have to panic about it.