Carmel Magazine

CM Winter 2016 Issue

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TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT B Y D A N PA S Q U A R I E L L O A N D L A I R D S M A L L s we start our new year of golf, we no doubt continue the search for ways to improve our play and enjoyment of the game. For many, the enjoyment comes from strik- ing the ball better, more efficiently, a longer distance and with more accu- racy. For others, the enjoyment is simply to trust our swing on the golf course! Many of us practice with the best intentions, but wind up practic- ing the wrong things, which leads to the same old frustrations. We also get discouraged because we don't know what to practice or how to practice to make progress. So we end up not practicing at all. Let's start with two ideas for the New Year, in a lesson from two U.S. Open winners at Pebble Beach : Tom Watson (1982) and Tom Kite (1992). The first lesson helps us shave off shots from just off the green. The sec- ond is to help us to grow awareness, and "feel" for our swing on the prac- tice tee and the course. Let's first share an idea from one of my students, Kite, the win- ner of the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and also the course record holder at Pebble Beach with a score of 10-under-par 62. Par tial-distance wedges are some of the most difficult shots to execute consistently. Kite is widely considered one of the greatest wedge players of all time, and says that the key to knocking down the flag inside 60 yards is exercising good distance control. "It's all about feeling the distance, feeling the touch, being able to make solid contact, and making the ball go the right distance," he says. "Everybody hits the ball reasonably straight from 30 yards out—they may hit it fat or thin, but they're not going to hit it 30 yards offline." The reason amateurs struggle to make the ball go the right distance on partial wedge shots is that they don't know how to throttle down their clubhead speed, Kite explains. "You see them swing the club back way too long and fast. There's way too much speed and length, and consequently they have to decelerate the club." "We all know the club is more stable when it's accelerating," Kite con- tinues. "That acceleration is the key to every shot, and you have to learn how to accelerate the club to make the shot go the required distance. Now, having said that, it doesn't have to be accelerating fast, but it has to be accelerating." As an example, gravity accelerates at a constant rate. Good wedge play- ers use gravity like acceleration on their downswing, no sudden accelera- tion or fast movement of the club. It's a constant gradual acceleration. Now here's a lesson from Watson, winner of the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, on finding your timing both on and off the course. I have had the pleasure of being with Watson on numerous golf exhibitions, and he would always share with golfers how to find their swing. When the wheels fall off the wagon on the course, or even on the practice tee, we want to immediately find our swing again on the next shot. So we set off on a mental search or checklist of all the swing thoughts we have, in hopes of finding the one that will work. What we lose, however, is the feel for and awareness of the club. We always tend to look for some- thing mechanical in the swing, like swing plane, when the culprit could be in the hands. If there is too much grip tension in the hands, then the club won't respond properly. It's similar to a checked swing in baseball—the more tension in the arms and hands, the slower the bat will move. One of the best ways to re-establish the proper feel for the clubhead is with a lesson from Watson. He used to beat tension on the tee with some unusual practice swings. Watson would turn the club upside down, gripping the part of the shaft closest to the clubhead, and make several Kite is widely considered one of the greatest wedge players of all time, and says that the key to knocking down the flag inside 60 yards is exercising good distance control. 106 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 6 Lessons from the 1982 and 1992 U.S. Open Winners at Pebble Beach A

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