The first video in our ten Module series, Jim Waldron’s Great Shot! Mastering the Craft of Ballstriking is now available for download. $69.95 One hour and 42 minutes of viewing time.
Module One A: The Six Laws of Club Motion covers how the golf club design requires that the club move according to six laws of motion, that will automatically create the ideal impact conditions, and thus a great golf shot outcome!
I have found in my twenty-two years of teaching that most average golfers have no idea that the golf club must move in a very precise way in order to create three essential outcomes: solid contact on the center of the clubface, accurate golf shots and long golf shots. Solidness of strike, direction and distance are the keys to better golf. And it starts with understanding what these Six Laws are all about. Once that understanding is in place, you will find that training the body motion to be closer to how a tour pro moves his or her body is much easier to achieve. This first in a series of ten videos devoted to the craft of ballstriking excellence is the essential first step in your journey to extraordinary golf.
Module One B and Module Two: The Arm Swing Illusion are coming soon. Module One B covers the basic building blocks of the Laws of Body Motion: grip, setup, aim, baseline balance and tempo, and swing theory. Module Two: The Arm Swing Illusion is an in depth exploration of Jim Waldron’s groundbreaking swing theory and a mind-bending introduction to the first real breakthrough in 21st century golf instruction: how to understand and visualize your golf swing in 3 dimensions.
My discovery of the Arm Swing Illusion is generating quite the buzz on golfwrx.com.
2015 looks to be an exciting year for myself and staff here at Balance Point Golf Schools! We are about one quarter of the way through the production of our brand new “Great Shot! – Mastering the Craft of Ballstriking” video program. Our plan is to finish up the videotaping of Modules Three through Five in Portland this summer, and then complete the final editing this fall, so that the program will be available for download from our website by December 15, 2015. Individual modules will be available once they are completed, with Module One and Two both about 90% to completion right now. The whole program will be about 24 hours of actual viewing time, divided into ten modules, and features a lot of really innovative information about the golf swing fundamentals, how to learn them and how to practice effectively.
We will be in production next summer on our Short Game, Putting Game and Mental Game video programs. They will be completed next summer and available for download from our website by December 2016.
The recently updated Great Shot! golf school training manual is now available in both paper and e-book formats. This is the 200 page comprehensive training manual from our ballstriking “boot camp” school and is a great resource for self-directed golf swing improvement. Updates to my Short Game, Putting, and Mental Game manuals are underway and will be available both in paper and e-book formats by December 2015. On my winter agenda is the completion of my book on the Arm Swing Illusion.
There has been a very interesting thread happening over at www.golfwrx.com, one of the most popular golf forums on the Web, about my Arm Swing Illusion concept and Balance Point golf swing theory. It was started by a longtime student of mine, who thought the forum members would benefit from this cutting-edge information. I think it makes a great read, with some good video clips. It has already helped several forum members breakthrough to better ball striking. The thread is now over seventy pages but you can grasp the essential concepts by reading just the first twenty to twenty-five pages.
I am really excited about my new blog here on the Balance Point Golf Schools website. As many of you know, I have been a prolific contributor to some of the major golf forums for the past eight years, posting on a variety of topics such as swing theory, mental game concepts, short game and putting. Now that I have my own blog, I will be posting less often on the public golf forums, and much more often here, at least once a week, and often daily. I encourage you to visit here often and email me your questions. I will try to answer them on a regular basis.
I know many of you have asked me in the past about what exactly distinguishes my golf instruction model from the rest of the golf instruction world. That is a pretty big topic, and a full and complete answer could probably require a short book.
But here a few key points. First, we use the mind-brain/body connection approach to all of our instruction, which means that your mind and body must both be taken into consideration when learning new golf skills. Your body does not learn new mechanics on it's own – the muscles do not have "memory." Any attempt by your conscious mind to direct or control your body parts and their motion will fail to work well whenever you are moving at normal swing speeds. At that higher speed, the part of your brain that can precisely control your body is the subconscious mind, which means involuntary control – the opposite of "making the body do something." Your subconscious has a Swing Map or blueprint composed of two main kinds of root causes for how your body will move in the golf swing. One, mental pictures, images, concepts, beliefs and feels about impact and how the club is used during impact, power application, the shape and plane of the swing and basic body mechanics. Two, established motor habit patterns that tend to repeat themselves automatically. Those dominant body movement patterns are the result of thousands of repetitions of your swing motion, or a strong neuro-muscular pathway.
The mental concepts part of your Swing Map is the easiest and fastest to change, and can literally change in one second, as a result of you experiencing a massive learning breakthrough or Light Bulb Moment. I call this Deep Insight and it is one of my most important teaching principles. When you achieve this insight, your very next swing will be much closer to how a tour pro does it, at least in terms of the swing part that you are working on, say wrist mechanics, for example.
Taking that new movement pattern to next level- of dominant habit – simply means making those thousands of reps to deeply ingrain it into long term motor memory.
More to come on this topic in the next two weeks.....
Learning how to develop the skill or craft of great ballstriking is by far the toughest challenge that every serious golfer will struggle with at some point in their playing career. It is the one skill area that I spend the most of my time helping my students with in their quest for better golf. So I thought I would devote this entire issue of our e-newsletter to that topic.
One of the most difficult things about the Long Game or “ballstriking” is that so many factors come into play that can have a profound influence on your shot outcome. Balance, Tempo, Mechanics, Setup, Grip and Aim are the main influences, and Fitness and Equipment also play an important role.
How does the average golfer prioritize all of these many influences when attempting to improve his or her own golf swing? Here are a few of my own general guidelines that I use when working with my students on their ballstriking.
The most important principle is to swing in “rock solid” Balance. If your body is making compensations with your arms and legs to keep you from falling over, it will not be performing the proper Mechanics essential to an effective golf swing. A very common teaching fallacy is to start at Setup with your weight balanced over the “balls of your feet”. I cannot tell you how many times I have worked with a student who struggled with poor Balance who was taught this fallacy. In golf your weight should never move toward your toes or toward your heels, but rather should stay centered in the exact middle of your feet, in the toe to heel dimension.
I call this the Vertical Balance Line. If you watch a tour pro from down the line viewpoint, you can clearly see this Line, i.e. they pivot their body in a centered way, so that you do not see any movement of the body toward the toes or heels during their golf swing. So if your feet are ten inches long, your toe to heel balance point is exactly at the five-inch mark, under the arch of your foot.
Einstein popularized the term “Thought Experiment” to describe a creative way to solve problems in Physics. Golfers can also benefit from engaging in their own Thought Experiments to better their understanding of the golf swing. Here is some food for your very own Thought Experiment, which is derived from my breakthrough discovery called the Arm Swing Illusion.
Great ballstrikers keep their arms and hands “in front of” their chest throughout the golf swing. The arms in fact move primarily up and down, and a little out and away in front of your chest, in a good golf swing. The arms move in unison, as two sides of a Triangle (one of Ben Hogan's famous “secrets”) Great ballstrikers – while making this independent arm motion – will simultaneously rotate their shoulder girdle/chest/torso underneath their steady head – mainly because they are already bent over enough at the start, ie Spine Angle. During the forward swing, their right shoulder swivels “underneath” their steady head on a slightly steeper plane that it swiveled under the steady head during the backswing.
The arms/hands or two sides of the golf swing Triangle (the shoulder girdle being the base of the Triangle) move in a V shape in front of the chest. They move away from the chest and toward the right side of the chest during the Takeaway, then upwards but still in line with the right side position, stay to this right side of the chest position during Transition and Release until after Impact, and then are moved by momentum across the mid-line of the chest after Impact, to the left side of the chest, and then away and up to the Finish, still to the left side of the chest.
Any attempt by the golfer to independently move the arms “around” the chest or “behind you”during the backswing will disrupt this proper V shaped up and down in front of the chest motion, and cause the golfer to “get stuck” with the arms too far behind the chest, i.e. too far to the right side. You will then “come over the Top” during Transition, trying desperately to get “unstuck”, and then of course the severe out to in clubhead path and early wrist cock release occurs, the signature start of the downswing move of the high handicap golfer.
Most of my average golfer students lack an understanding of the proper forward swing sequence of motion, or the so-called Lag Sequence. The fact is simply this – in the pro swing, certain body parts are leading and other body parts and the club are lagging. Here is the exact sequence that a tour pro uses: while the shoulder girdle is finishing the last ten to fifteen degrees of coil in the backswing, the oblique abs shift/rotate to the left, then the tailbone/pelvic girdle shifts laterally to the left for an inch or two, followed by the hips blending both more lateral shift left with rotation left. As the forward swing proceeds towards Impact, the hips rotate hard to the left, followed by the Core or belly muscles rotating to the left, then the shoulder girdle/chest/torso rotates left, while the upper arms stay glued to the chest, with both arms angled to the right of mid-line of the torso.
At Impact, the tour pro has a straight line (in the horizontal dimension or caddie viewpoint) from the left shoulder socket, down the left arm, through a flat left wrist (in-line with the top of the forearm) to the clubshaft all the way down to the clubhead. This straight line of arm/clubshaft is a Long Lever that is angled about 30-45 degrees to the right of the shoulder girdle/chest (I call this Arm Lag) or to the right of the torso's mid-line, (very much the same arm/chest position of a backhand in tennis or a backfist strike in karate). In the Halfway Down position in the forward swing, (hands about hip height on the right side of the body) the arms are lagging behind the chest, and the clubhead is lagging behind the hands/wrists in two different dimensions. In the vertical dimension, the clubhead is lagging behind the fully cocked left wrist. In the horizontal dimension, the clubhead is lagging slightly behind a bent back or “hinged” right wrist.
I spent part of my winter season studying Tour pro swing videos, and spent quite a bit of time analyzing Steve Stricker’s golf swing. He is the perfect Tour pro model for average golfers to emulate. And no, I am not talking about his much discussed restricted wrist cock action. Most of my average students already fail to cock their wrists enough in order to create sufficient clubhead speed to hit the ball a reasonable distance. So that is the one thing about his swing that you should NOT copy. What is worth copying is how he links his arm swing to his body pivot motion. He keeps his arms in front of his chest at all times, and uses only a very tiny in to out looping motion of the club on Transition, caused entirely by his right spine tilt, ie he doesn’t use his upper arm muscles or wrist muscles to flatten the shaft during Transition, like most tour pros do. I have found that most of my students cannot master that big looping action, but the tiny Stricker version of looping is much more natural and easy to do.
The other thing I like is the consistency of his Tempo, and the smooth, gradual rate of acceleration of his pivot on the forward swing. He lacks the violent “whipcracking” Pivot Thrust of most of his fellow tour pros. He looks more like an LPGA player in this regard, much like Anika Sorenstam, with the hips, Core and Shoulder Girdle all moving at the same RPM speed during the forward swing. This is a much easier to learn and to master move than the “kinetic chain” Pivot Thrust that all of the really big hitters on Tour employ. The Stricker method requires much less timing and so is a very accurate way to play, especially with the driver.
One of Ben Hogan’s most important rules of the mental game was Preparation. He meant the overall strategic approach a golfer takes toward game improvement, including how to both learn and practice effectively. Hogan understood the power of Intention, how clarity and a sense of purpose combine to focus a golfer’s energies in a positive direction.
One of golf’s most fascinating aspects is the subject of how one goes about learning new and better physical skills. And no, I am not talking in this case about the “content” that skill acquisition is concerned with, ie the usual technical information about plane angles and the mechanics of the hips, wrists, etc. All of that, of course, is very important and useful information. Rather I am concerned in this essay with the “process” of how to learn and how to train effectively. This issue is almost never discussed in the mainstream golf media, to the detriment of the average golfer.
Every golfer should know that there are several different types of physical skill instruction and that each of these has its’ strengths and weaknesses. Before I go through the list with you, let me start by describing one very common method that has quite a poor track record – golf “tips”. One of the reasons tips so seldom work at all, and never last more than a week or two, is because tips by their very nature are not meant to be an objective depiction of what actually occurs in a good golf swing. They are designed as a temporary stop-gap measure – to stop the “bleeding” that often happens with a golf swing that is not grounded in proven fundamentals.
The topic of this month's article is about how to “dial-in” or rehearse your short game and putting strokes for programming in the proper distance control for the shot at hand. There are two opposing schools of thought on this issue, and both can work very well. The first is called the Rehearsal Method, which is the most common among both tour pros and good amateur players, requires the golfer to pre-determine – through his or her Feel Channel – the desired length and speed of stroke to make the ball go the required distance. Hence the terms “dialing-in” or “rehearsal” strokes that are performed prior to actually hitting the ball. The conscious mind is “searching” for the proper feel for distance and cannot proceed to the next step of actually hitting the ball until and unless he or she has clearly determined that feel.
The second procedure, which in many ways is superior to the first method discussed above, does NOT require the golfer to pre-determine the feel for the length and speed of stroke in order to achieve the desired distance control. I call this the Trust Method since you surrender all thoughts of conscious mind “rehearsal” and just “let go” of conscious control. You trust – 100% - your Intuitive or Creative Mind (which is part of the Unconscious Mind) to achieve the proper distance control. Children naturally use this method and are often amazingly effective at distance control in putting and the short game. Although adults can certainly learn how to use this method as well.
Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses. The obvious major weakness of the Rehearsal Method is simply this – what do you do when you can't “find” the feel in your rehearsal stroke for the proper distance? You can't just keep making dozens of strokes, desperately trying to find the correct feel, because of slow play considerations. And there will indeed be days when you feel sense is poor to non-existent. The major weakness to the Trust Method is that sometimes you just will find it nearly impossible to truly “let go”. And if you don't “let go” 100% - you will not hit that putt or chip the proper distance.
A longtime student asked me at the end of last year's season, “Jim – if you had to pick one thing that would be the fastest way for most amateur golfers to achieve dramatic improvement in their putting, what would it be?” My answer – improve your Supershort putting ability (18” to 5 foot long putts) by switching to an special Short Putt grip that greatly reduces the chances of altering your putterface angle, either by flipping the wrists or rolling the forearms. This type of grip will also make it much more difficult to “yip” during your stroke. These Supershort putts are how you save par or bogey many times per round, and for the better player, can sometimes be birdie putts, especially on par 5's.
The Short Game of great players has traditionally featured many adjustments to stroke elements like ball position, grip pressure, amount of wrist cock, degree of shoulder turn, etc depending upon the type of shot the player intends to hit – trajectory, distance and spin are the main elements. Yet whenever golfers walk onto the putting surface, the assumption is that “OK, here I am on the green, so I have to use the same grip, stance, and stroke – no matter if I am facing an 18” putt or a 75 foot putt.” That just makes no sense to me. A Supershort putt of 18” to five feet has almost nothing in common with that 75 foot putt. The 75 footer is all about distance control – not line control, and the short putt is the exact opposite case, it is all about line control, and distance control is a side issue.
In other words, you generally miss a Supershort putt because of poor line control (caused by poor face angle control), not distance control. And you MUST make the three footer, or else you will rightly conclude that a miss is a complete waste of a stroke. That kind of internal emotional stress and pressure, of course, makes it more likely that you will “flinch” a little bit, usually by tightening your grip pressure or by changes to the muscle tension in your wrists and forearms, any of which will change your putter face angle from square to either open or closed, thus causing you to miss the putt.
I have been teaching this special grip for short putts now for over ten years and the feedback I am getting from students is truly amazing. Most will use it on all their putts from about 10 feet and in, and some have even found superb results out to as far as around twenty-five feet. There are many kinds of grips that can work: the Claw, the Paintbrush, Left Hand Low, Split Hand Left Hand Low are a few of the types you will see on the PGA Tour. (You can find photos and videos of these on the Web.)
Paddy Harrington's grip is a little bit Split Hand Left Hand Low with the left palm facing about on a 45 degree angle toward the sky, kind of “under” the shaft. This is the grip that I personally use, and I use it from 15 feet and in on average speed greens, about 18 feet and in on very fast greens.
The main features of all of those grips is that they isolate and weaken two common body parts that can wreck a short putting stroke: forearm rotation and wrist flipping. Bio-mechanically, these grips make it almost impossible to do either of those two common flaws. They also feature a firmer grip pressure than most amateurs employ in their traditional reverse overlap putting grip. That firmer pressure, about a six to seven on a one to ten scale, also reduces wrist flipping and forearm rotation. Be sure you don't grip so firmly however that you lose feel for the weight of the putter head, which is vitally important sensory feedback that your brain/mind needs in order to achieve proper distance control, i.e. length and speed of stroke.
The second Key to making more Supershort putts is better path control. If you are using the traditional arms/shoulder pendulum stroke (not a Belly Putter), then your path should be straight back and through on all Supershort putts. The putter head will not need to move inside on a slight arc as it will in a medium to long putt, IF you are setup properly with your hands directly underneath your shoulder girdle. If your path is poor, you indirectly suffer from poor face angle control since the face angle is dependent on the path. In other words, if your path is five degrees in to out (to the right of the target line) during Impact, and your face angle is square to the path (as it should be!), then your face angle relative to the target line is also five degrees in to out. Meaning you will miss that three footer to the right!
Since we teach that ALL golf shots – including short putts – should be 100% free of conscious hand-eye manipulation of the golf club (or “instrument”), we never want our students to “guide” or “steer” the putterhead on a straight back and through path. It should be ONLY the result of your proper posture at Setup, AND the proper shoulder girdle vertical rocking motion. BUT – there is one simple change you can make to your posture that makes that proper path much more likely on short putts. Simply bend over more from your hip sockets, i.e. increase your forward Spine Angle. You will instantly notice how the putterhead will naturally swing in a more straight back and through path on the short putts. This may require you to choke down an inch or two on the handle.
Try both of these simple changes and you will find dramatic improvement in your short putts! And if you want to really master all of the many elements of the Art and Science of Putting, consider attending one of full day Putting school “boot camps” at Quail Valley this summer.