Saturday, September 15, 2007

Teaching an Old Man New Tricks...

The senior golfer in the pictures remarked that you can't teach an old man new tricks. Guess he was wrong because by the second lesson, he was putting some serious compression on the ball.

The Incredible Power of Visual Learning

The Incredible Power of Visual Learning
Here is an excerpt from an article that just appeared in Scientific American Mind. It's from the April/May 2006 edition:

"Humans See, Human Do - Brain Cells That Mirror Actions We See Are Key to Learning..."
"[Mirror] neurons are scattered throughout key parts of our brain -- the premotor cortext and centers for language, empathy, and pain -- and fire not only as we perform a certain action but also when we watch someone else perform that action. These neurons have been studied in the past for their roles in movement and other functions. Now, however, researchers are examining them intensely for what seems to be an additional function -- the way they fire in response to something observed. The discovery of this mechanism, made about a decade ago, suggests that everything we watch someone else do, we do as well -- in our minds. At its most basic, this finding means we mentally rehearse or imitate every action we witness, whether it is a somersault or a subtle smile. It explains how we learn to smile, talk, walk, dance, or play tennis."
Scientific American Mind
April/May 2006
P. 23-24

Shaft Flex Point: Myth or Legend?

Golf Shaft Flex Point: Myth or Legend?
By: Mike Tait
President, and Club Designer of SMT Golf

You hear players giving advice all the time on getting the correct flex point on the shaft you are using. Retail store clerks tout the magic of this phenomenon when they have you in front of the display of brightly painted shafts on the wall. Truth be told, while not a myth, it has turned into one of the biggest mysteries in the sport.

Players have been conditioned to believe that the difference between a high flex point and a low flex point can be virtually from just below the grip to right above the ferrule on the clubhead. But the truth is that the distance between High and Low Flex Point is basically 2.5 inches in the middle of the shaft. Arguably hardly worth talking about, but I, of course, find myself unable to stop here.

Flex point is most talked about when discussing a shaft choice to make the golf ball trajectory change, The higher the "flex point", the lower the peak trajectory of the shot for that particular club. The lower the "flex point" the higher the peak trajectory will be for the club used. In reality, I have found that "flex point" is used more like a crutch in the clubfitting process and certainly when diagnosing playing problems. And is all too often used to help "ring the register" because it is something we have all heard of but really know almost nothing about.

Players and clubmakers are quick to want to suggest reshafting to a shaft with a different flex point, but in reality we might want to be looking at it a bit differently, perhaps a bit more logically.

We have all come to the golf course or driving range with a swing speed. I don't care what yours is, and you don't care what mine is. Each club in our bags really has a maximum speed that we can swing it. After a big bucket of balls, logic might tell us that we are probably swinging it a bit slower than earlier in the bucket due to muscle fatigue. We are not Tour Professionals and only have so many full swings in us before we lose a bit of the edge. As weekend players, we tend to reach that level sooner than your conditioned golf professional will.

That being said, and if you agree with that statement, you can agree that shaft WEIGHT has much more to do with trajectory and certainly has taken much more than its share of the blame, and of course, the glory, for the elusive "flex point" issue. What I mean is, if we all swing at a max speed, and we put a heavier product in out hands, we are certainly going to swing it a bit slower. If we swing it a bit slower, the ball flight laws tell us that the ball will not spin as much and therefore will not rise as high. Of course, if we go to a lighter shaft, we will swing the club just a bit faster, in effect adding spin to the ball causing it to rise quicker and higher. Either way, the blame or kudos are often given to "flex point". The example is really quite simple. Can you throw a bowling ball higher or a baseball higher? Remember, you came to me with a swing speed, and that did not really change within the two throws required to complete this simple test.

Don't get me wrong, flex point is not like the Loch Ness Monster, it can actually be found and identified. But just like the Loch Ness Monster, because we can find it, doesn't mean that we always know what to do with it, or if it has any real value once we have our hands on it.

I contend that shaft WEIGHT or overall weight of the club (not swingweight) has much more to do with the overall trajectory of our shots than "flex point" will ever have.

The answer, as with virtually all of my teachings and theories is really quite simple and basic. If you want to hit the ball higher, you can and should look to a lighter shaft or lighter overall product. If you want to hit the ball lower, you should look to a heavier shaft or heavier product.

Certainly loft and length are an issue, but for the sake of this topic, we will stick with weight and how it gets confused by virtually everyone for "flex point".

In the SMT - RLM shaft lineup, the sales leader Miridio is the lightest weight and produces arguably the highest trajectory of the three shafts available, while the Argent being slightly heavier tends to keep the ball down out of the wind a bit more than the others. The Basalt, is the perfect combination of the two. Experiment to see what works best for you, but take an assessment of your own game by asking yourself how you tend to hit the ball overall..... higher or lower, and how would changing that ball flight alter your game? But don't get bogged down in the marketing hype when looking to buy a new shaft. Close the catalogs and the golf magazines and use some common sense. If the shaft is heavier, the ball will fly lower in the same clubhead and if the shaft is lighter weight it will generally make the ball fly higher. It really is as simple as that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Has Golf Become a Frustrating Form of Recreation?

In an earlier article I spoke about the decline of the game and laid part of the blame at the feet of not only the governing bodies of golf but also at the feet of those who are developing and designing golf courses.

It is my opinion though that the majority of blame is directly on the shoulders of the PGA. It is my opinion that those who are responsible for the education and teaching of how to play the game have and are failing miserably. The fact of the matter is that though equipment has seen improvement beyond what many thought possible, the handicaps and skill set of golf players throughout the industry has improved ZERO. When it comes to true handicaps, way too many golfers do not have nor can they play to a 10 handicap or less.

In the beginning Medicus Golf was a training aid company with a purpose of helping golfers. We have now expanded our mission to include not only that of aids but to also assist golfers to improve through golf swing education. But this is not why I mention this. I mention this due to the fact that on a daily basis we are in contact with hundreds of golfers calling to purchase swing aids. In most cases these golfers are presently working with someone who is providing lessons for them. This does not make logical sense to me though I must admit that for our business this is a good thing. But, why would anyone who is working with a golf teacher/educator ever have a need for a training aid. It is one thing when an instructor would request the student to place an order to assist them with their swing faults but this is seldom the case. The students are the ones who are still searching on their own. The other amazing thing to me is that most students see and view their instructor as the best thing since sliced bread. This makes no sense.

It is my opinion that the students are not improving due to those who are providing the information are teaching a lot of experience and feel, and though in general the information may be good, it is far from being complete. With the information being incomplete the student never gets the correct mechanics for them and then the natural progression into their OWN feel, not the teachers, is never accomplished.

As Homer Kelley stated, “There are a lot of very smart people playing some very poor golf.” Why is this the case? They lack the information to succeed! Period! No ifs, ands or buts.

So until golfers, especially new to the game or those who have left frustrated with the game, can get the correct information, so the game is not a frustrating form of recreation, the game of golf will suffer. This added to the equipment issues, course design and other issues mentioned in the previous article, makes a turnaround for growth quite bleak but…..the fix is NOT that hard to implement, sell or get across to the public. All we need is to implement change with correct educational information of how to play the game and to make the game fun for all.

Randy Sparks

Monday, September 3, 2007

Jim and the Twistdown

Check out how Jim twisted his way to an inside-out clubhead path.


Lady-in-red after her 4th lesson. Her clubhead lag looks almost SERGIOESQUE.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Putt Like The Pros

Golf tip: Putt like the pros

Look at the world's best putters and they all have at least one thing in common: Once they pick the line, they focus on the pace of the putt. They do not "fall in love" with the line. This only leads to putts that are short.

The best putters use different types of strokes and grips. Some of them use a straight back/straight through type of stroke while others use the arc approach.

Let's examine these types of strokes.

1. With the arc approach the club moves back, up, and in during the backstroke, which means it has to move down, out, and forward in the downstroke. Because the player is using this arc approach, ball location is critical. Too far forward and you will pull the putt and too far back and you will push it.

2. The straight back and through method produces a putter face that essentially looks at the ball during the stroke. Since the putter is now moving on a vertical plane there is no inward motion, which means there is no outward motion. Ball location isn't nearly as critical since the face isn't opening or closing.

Players also have a variety of ways they stand at the ball when putting: Some use the so-called square stance, while others use an open one.

Then there is putter and grip styles.

Ken Green uses a putter about 30 inches long while other Bruce Leitzke uses a long putter anchored at the top of his chest. Grip styles range from overlap to reverse overlap, the claw, the saw, cross handed, you name it!

The bottom line is use whatever you want style you want, as long as you're making putts.

Don't be worried about what your playing partners may think or say, you're the one making the putts, not them.

Bernhard Langer has overcome the yips at several times in his career. Do you think he cares what other players think about his putting style?

Whatever you decide to do, stick to it and work on it. Good putting can make up a lot of strokes and bring that handicap down.

Chuck Evans is one of only 31 teachers worldwide designated to hold a "Doctorate in Golf Stroke Engineering." He is executive director of instruction for the Medicus Golf Institute and has served as director of schools for the PGA Tour Golf Academy , and the director of instruction for The Golfing Machine and the United States Golf Institute.