Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My journey to hitting the golf ball DEAD STRAIGHT

   Hi and welcome to my first blog. This is a story of my journey into the golfing world. As a kid, I used to go to the driving range and hit away for fun, not really knowing much about the how's and why's of different golf swing techniques. I would simply get up grab a rented club and smack away, trying to hit that ball 250 yards, and usually never getting it out there. So as the years went by, I pretty much never set foot on a golf course, maybe once every other year going to the driving range to eagerly spend my money on smacking some balls as hard as I could, and usually going home feeling pretty sore.

20 years later Age 40 first time ever on a golf course:
      So my cousin John, asks me if I want to play a round, 9 holes, at a local course. I said sure and kept an eye out on craigslist for a cheap used set of clubs. 25 bucks later and now I have a beat up, dirty set of irons, woods, and hidden gem in a Jack Nicklaus Golden bear driver...not bad.
      What an absolute nightmare of frustration, hope and fear. Every time I stepped to the tee, two things went through my mind. HOPE AND FEAR. Hope that the ball goes where it should and fear that there is no chance of me landing anywhere near the green or fairway for that matter. So after a long day of hooks, slices, skull shots and just plain terrible inconsistent golfing, it was time to go home all bummed know the feeling.

I told myself that day that I would never set foot on a course again until I could hit that ball dead straight every time. Now I just had to figure out how to do exactly that.

Now I have to tell you that I am an obsessionist, or have a touch of OCD when it comes to information and researching something, which I am good at. So I start researching all the greats of the game, Like Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Harry Vardon, Sam Snead, Walter Hagen, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Tom Morris....the list goes on and on, but you get the point.

The first thing I had to figure out was what they knew that I didn't know. The answer? Simple, proper grip and swing technique. Consistency is the key. And confidence, confidence is absolutely critical. If you do not step to that tee and have absolute 100% confidence in yourself, knowing that you can hit that ball exactly the way you need to to make happen what you want to happen, then you will have something other than confidence....HOPE AND FEAR.

Two weeks later for another 25 bucks I scored a backyard driving range net, a golf balls shagger/auto feeder and a nice thick professional driving range mat, which was filthy and beat up but after cleaning it really good with water and some dishwashing detergent, a brush and a high pressure hose, was looking good as new. I was ready to start my journey now....I was confident that after enough swings I could develop a solid technique that would put me to the top of the leaderboards....well maybe not but would certainly improve my golf game quite a bit :)

The first day I hit 500 balls into the net...skulling some ...shanking others....hooking and slicing until my hands bled and my back felt broken. A few days later after my hands healed up, I was back at it, and determined to make progress.

Here's the thing folks, if you make yourself a backyard driving range, after you spend the money, you're done spending money. A net, mat(not needed if you have grass which I don't I have concrete) and some can practice all you want and how you want for free. If someone goes to the driving range, and gets a large bucket of balls once a week...they get around 100 balls to swing at.

100 swings per week. If they go year round, every week that 5200 swings per year.

If you have your own backyard setup....and hit 100 balls per day...that's 700 balls per week.  That's 36,400 swings versus 5200 swings. Thats 31,200 more times you swing your club than they do per year, who's going to get better faster? I think you know the answer.

Hitting 100 balls per week, eh, you are not going to see much improvement at all, there's too much time between sessions to train your brain correctly.

Hitting 700 balls per week, 100 per day, now you're going to start seeing some change. At home you can easily setup a camera like I did to record yourself comfortably, with noone watching, to see what you're doing right and wrong. I bought a HD Kodak Playfull camera which has a mount for a tripod, and records 720p 30 frames per second, 1280p 30 frames per second, and 720p 60 FRAMES PER SECOND for 40 bucks at Best Buy. 60 FRAMES PER SECOND IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED TO ANALYZE YOUR SWING. You can slow your video down and not miss a thing. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND buying yourself a camera that records at least 60 fps. Even an el cheapo one like mine works great.

Back to my story...I was out of work, had some down time everyday at home, and was determined to figure out and master my own technique. So here's what I did, read read read read read about the Vardon grip, Ben Hogan's swing, the interlocking grip etc....then went to work. Now being 40 years old, I am in good shape, but not flexible enough to mimic Ben Hogan's swing, nor did I want to, I am not Ben Hogan. I told myself I would try every tip and technique I could find, until I found what works for me. Something that I could repeat over and over and over again.

After a week of trying different pinky variations of the Vardon grip, the most comfortable one for me was the interlocking version. Swing swing swing away, time to go test it at the driving range close to my house, called "Mulligan's Island" What happened? youbetcha, slice hook skull draw fade linedrives, everything off target and not even close to what I was after, time for more research into technique.

So this whole time, everytime I stepped to my tee in the backyard, I would fullswing and hope my technique was correct, which it wasn't. There were too many things I was doing wrong that would affect how square the clubface was at return to address. So I watched a hundred videos on youtube, like I am sure plenty of you have done with every guy out there preaching something different, about how easy it is to square up and hit straight. Guess what, in the end 75% of those guys want to sell you some crap that doesn't work for you.

See here's the thing with golf instructors, if you're going to hire someone to teach you how to hit a golf ball, then what you should say to them is, I want to watch you hit 25 golf balls. The first 5 are warm up, the next 20 should go straight with no fade or draw, with a driver. Sound unrealistic? Not if you're going to pay this guy your hard earned cash. If they can't do that or are not willing to, don't hire them. Now if they are teaching you chipping and sand play, thats entirely different.

Why should you not pay them if they cannot hit the ball straight?

Because they don't know how to hit the ball straight, and therefore, cannot teach you how to train yourself to do this. They might tell you you need to do this or that, but to show someone is a different story.  But you'll keep paying them, and they'll keep taking your money, and you'll keep on slicing and hooking, hoping and fearing, and they will keep right on telling you how much your swing has improved since the 100 balls you hit last week at the range, NONSENSE.

I decide for myself that the best thing I can do to start hitting straight is to go back to basics, and what I mean by that is simple, to hit a golf ball straight, you must contact the ball with the face of the club dead square every single time. Now how did I proceed? Grabbed a 2 iron and started with a 1/4 backswing, using no power at about 1/3 speed, with a full follow through. That's right, a 1/4 of a backswing. The object was to see what was happening at address and to feel it.

Now taking all the power out of the swing removes 90% of your bodies motion. 90% less room for error. I hit the ball with a 2 iron like this anywhere from 3-500 times. 1/4 swing, no power, full followthrough, and dramatically reduced leg motion, almost zero weight shift, the goal was simple:

Train my brain to understand what it should look like when the club hits the ball correctly, both visually and through feeling, and adjust my grip and arm motion to make it happen the same way every single time.


Ever seen a small child who is just starting to walk attempt to run? Usually they will fall flat on their face.

This is what was happening to me before my self taught technique. My 16 year old son was watching me hit the 2 iron with 1/4 swings and asking me, "why are you swinging like that?", all I told him with a  grin on my face was, "You'll see why", and told him I would teach him as well when he was ready to get back to basics.

Every time I would step to the ball I would run through a checklist which I came up with in my head:

Ball position
Foot position
Clubface square with the ball.
Lie angle of the club
Left hand grip.
Right hand grip.

HIT HIT HIT HIT all day long....slowly increasing my backswing to 1/2 and adding some power. As soon as I would hit a ball with too much power and would result in something not working, such as a toe or heel of the club digging and throwing me off, I would immediately back off on power until I had things back under total control. And I mean TOTAL CONTROL. No cheating, no switching it up, no showboating, no out of the blue thinking I can just smack it as hard as I want because now I am a pro. I thought outside the box, I wanted to repeat every single swing EXACTLY the same way. Repetition is crucial and will build confidence quickly.

So after a week of hitting between 3-500 balls a day with the different irons and woods, all at 1/4 to 1/2 back swing and low power with full followthrough, I am starting to see results. I can feel, see and hear when I am striking the ball correctly, and can tell at this point I am now ready to increase the body motion, a little at a time, so I can concentrate on doing things right. Slowly adding to the entire process, never forgetting that on every single swing...the following checklist goes through my head:

Ball position
Foot position
Club face square with the ball.
Lie angle of the club
Left hand grip.
Right hand grip.

Time to break out the video camera and start recording. Two weeks into it and I am to the point where I know with the utmost confidence that when I step to the ball, and use anything less than 1/2 backswing, I can contact that ball square and hit it solid, and straight. I setup the camera directly behind the ball, to test my theory, and wouldn't ya know it, bang bang bang, straight up the middle, and with low power at 60 frames per second slowed to .50X you can watch the spin on the ball. After watching a hundred balls get hit at super slow motion, a smile washed over my face, and I thought to myself, "you might be onto something here..."

Off to the driving range I go, with my beat up clubs, workboots, filthy jeans and a sweatshirt(just got done swapping an engine out of my truck), and I proceed to setup and go to town. I must admit, the first shot I took I went for broke, using my 2 iron and smashing the ball off the mat not the tee out to 215 yards with a slice. Not bad I think to myself, now if I can only teach myself how to eliminate that slice I should be in good shape. So I am smacking balls out there, full power, all over the place, absolutely inconsistent. I dont know what I am doing wrong, lol. At this point when I back down and stay low power my balls are flying pure. Nice and straight, but any attempt to bash that ball and I am in trouble. And I am sore when its all said and done from trying to hammer it out there. What a waste of time and money.

Now when you go to the golf course, whats the first thing you do on every hole? BASH THE BALL.

I am not ready to waste money at the course yet because my confidence in my swing is not there yet. I have to figure out how to maintain complete control at a full power swing.

So I dig deeper into swings.....Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, and I'm out there swingin away, adding power and trying to adjust. Watching my weight shift and hip turn, keeping the left elbow straight as I can, keeping my head down and finnessing my interlocking Vardon grip.

One week later at 3-500 shots per day, I have the ball somewhat under control around 3/4 swing and power, but its just not coming together. There's things I am noticing and changing through watching the 60 FPS video in slow mo...

Two weeks later, a little more than a month after I started this journey, I have a full understanding of what must happen every time I swing the club to maintain control.  At full swing, while I am smashing the ball and blowing holes through my net and denting the side of the garage, I have absolutely ZERO confidence that I can hit that ball at full power over and over again the same way and make it go straight.

Then I discovered something, or someone I should say, a rather strange character from Canada.

Moe Norman.

A man obsessed with the game of golf. So dedicated to the game he would hit 500 balls a day everyday, every month every year. He lived to hit the golf ball. He dedicated his entire life to the game. If you play golf, and  you don't know who Moe Norman is, you should.

Moe Norman is without a doubt, the best and most accurate golf ball striker in the history of mankind.
Moe Norman was the only person to ever live who had the technique down where he could hit the ball every single time with absolutely zero sidespin. Titleist tested him and paid him $5,000 a month for life just because he could do what he could do, and what he brought to the game of golf.

I studied every video that exists on moe, every picture, every video, every article. I slowed down all the videos and analyzed every frame(see where the OCD comes in LMAO)

Then I realized something, Moe Norman was right. His grip was different than most, during his tournament years he used the Vardon grip as well as most players did. But during his demonstrations on ball striking he would use almost a baseball bat grip. I was fascinated and had to try it out.

To the back yard I go, hitting and testing hitting and testing. The results were shocking after a week of hitting more balls. I decided to go to the driving range and buy a large bucket of balls and attempt to put this technique to the test with some distractions from other people talking, hitting etc.

I step to the tee, driver in hand and go through my checklist, I focus and block out all noise in my head concentrating on hitting that ball dead straight, and hard. My ball position is good, feet are where they should be, lie angle looks good, club is squared up, left grip, right grip and swing...BAM the ball launches and proceeds to fly out to the 250 yard range, bounces one time and hits the back fence(net) I was astounded that the ball went that far, but wait, there's something else that happened on that drive, The ball went DEAD STRAIGHT.
I mean straight as an arrow with absolutely zero fade or draw. The ball didn't come off course not even a tiny bit. I laughed out loud and people looked at me funny, probably saying to themselves "whos this guy, coming here in workboots and jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and a beat up bag of clubs? and why is he laughing?"

At that very moment in time, I said to myself, "It works, he was right, Moe had it figured out." For the rest of the 100 balls, I mixed it up with clubs ranging from the 9 iron to my 2 iron(don't have a 1 iron but I am searching) and my woods/driver and had a blast. Always, ALWAYS EVERY SHOT running through my little checklist in my head. The occasional fade, or skull still came, mainly due to my excitement and rushing of the shot, those time where you just step up and swing. MISTAKE. But the majority of my shots, I would say 75 out of 100, went right up the middle, dead on.

What a great feeling, a feeling of confidence builds inside you when you step up, run through your list of to-do's, and swing, and get the exact results you're after, and the confidence builds fast. I now tell myself, "If I did it once, I can do it again" and that is the truth.

I don't believe in a "single plane golf swing", its almost physically impossible to imitate the "Iron Byron" machine. But the one thing I figured out is that the longer face of the club is square with the ball, the more chance you have to put that slice or hook deep in your past, and now, for me, thats what they are, a thing of the past.

I will never hit the ball 350 yards, I don't pretend to think I can, nor do I even waste my time trying. But I know one thing, I can hit that ball straight. I can stand next to someone who has been playing recreational golf for 20 years, watch him hit away, slicing this one, fading that one drawing this one, etc....and then start blasting 2 irons off the mat out to 220 straight as an arrow. It's all about CONFIDENCE. You have to KNOW that you can and will do it.

You have to eliminate HOPING that you can do it and FEARING the worst. Whats the worst that can happen? You lose a ball, no big deal, its just a ball.Grab another, keep on playing and forget about that mess up shot, and run through your checklist and focus. Have confidence that you can do what you want. KNOW IT.

I will be updating this blog on a regular basis with any and all information that I can to try to help people to accomplish what I have. I am by no means a professional golfer, nor do I claim to be a superstar of the short game. What I can do is help you to stop shelling out your hard earned money to people who make a living off of patting you on the back and telling you how much you have improved.

Trust me, there is no greater feeling than when you get out onto the course, after working at it like I did, next to someone who's been playing for 10 years, and on the tee off, he hits a slice into the woods, and you hit id DEAD CENTER of the fairway LOL. It baffles them. It's confidence people, and practice.

I hope you have enjoyed this portion of my story, at age 40, I only regret that I did not know this information when I was 16 or 20 years old. What I did in a matter of months really turned golf from a frustrating thing into a great time. Please don't hesitate to leave a comment I will reply to all comments or questions, have a great day, Mike OD