August 2013

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Shape IT!

Should you curve your ball or hit it straight? A lot of students come to me and say that they are not good enough to shape their shots and they just want to learn how to hit it straight. My answer is that, no offense, they are not good enough to hit it straight. Neither am I and neither are tour players. 

In order to hit a 175 yard shot straight, you need perfect aim at address, along with perfect path and clubface at the moment of impact. Oh, lets not forget, you also need sweet spot contact. Its impossible or at least extremely difficult and unlikely. If you are not perfect, every shot you hit will be moving away from the target and that's a tough way to play this game. 

To curve a ball, follow this simple formula. Aim the clubface where you want the ball to start and then swing your path left or right of that clubface in order to produce a curve. 

Lets take a draw as an example. If I want to draw my six iron, I aim the clubface slightly right of the flag because I want my draw to start to the right. Now I aim my feet more to the right of the clubface in order to create a path that is going more right than my clubface. This way my clubface is closed to my path and creates draw spin. 

I use Trackman because I like to quantify what I am doing so lets use some numbers for the aforementioned example. I aim my clubface 2 degrees to the right and I swing my path 4 degrees to the right. This is ideal as this relationship will start my ball right of the target and draw back to the hole. By the way, if my clubface is 3.5, 3, 2.5, 2, 1.5, or 1 degree to the right, I still get my draw working back to the target. I have a multitude of correct face angles that will help me draw this golf ball. Now I don't need to be perfect to play great golf!



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zander Tip zone

mental game   strategy tip   short game

Are you safe on the golf course or are you filled with anxiety? Most of us play this game for recreation. We are not trying to score to put food on the table. It should be fun!

A big source of anxiety is not knowing where the ball is going to go when you hit it. Even worse, you feel embarrassed in front of your friends when you don't play well.

I have two pieces of advice. First, worrying about what others think is not helping the situation. By the way,they are worried about what you think of them. How ironic. 

Secondly, you need to develop a "go to shot". This is a predictable curve on your ball. Predictability cures  anxiety on the course. 

I do want to add a third piece of advice. If you hit a bad shot, you are still going to be ok. The worst thing that can happen to you if you hit a bad shot is nothing. 


To hit the ball low, it is a good idea to play the ball back in your stance. It delofts the club and helps you hit down more which launches the ball lower. By the way, hitting down more on the ball does not make it go up in the air contrary to popular belief but that is a discussion for another time. The problem with playing the ball back is that it produces and inside out path thereby causing the ball to hook. If you want to hit a straight low one, play the ball back but open your stance to correct your path. Try this with your wedges as well. Great players bring their wedges in low. 


Take your glove off when you hit short game shots and putts. Short game is all about finesse and feel. You want that sensation in your fingers that you get from taking off your glove. It is also a great way to shift your mind from the power shot you just struck to finesse mode. The picture of my idol Seve that you see above shows him using a glove for his bunker shot. Seve learned how to hit high soft bunker shots with a cut down 3 iron. I guess if you were born with that kind of talent, you can keep your glove on. Of course, I doubt he had a glove on when he was a junior. 



Gravity walk


Most players read greens by bending down and relying on their eyes to tell how the ball is going to break. I'm here to tell you that your eyes will play tricks on you. Instead of using your eyes, use your feet. Take a walk on the green and feel where gravity is pulling you. That same gravitational force is working on your golf ball. I am an Aimpoint certified instructor. The basis for Aimpoint is how gravity affects your golf ball based on speed of the green, degree of slope, angle to the slope, and the time it takes for your ball to reach the hole. Short of learning Aimpoint and I recommend you do, take a gravity walk and you will know what your ball is going to do. Just make sure you don't step on anyone's line!


full swing


The best use for the alignment rod is to stick it in the ground about 10 yards in front of you and shape shots around it. As you can see by my feature article in this newsletter, I am not looking for my players to have perfect aim by putting the rod on the ground along their feet. It reminds me of a story that Hank Haney told me about 20 years ago. He was teaching a golf school at Pinehurst at the same time as another golf school was happening on the same driving range. On day one of the school, Hank was teaching everyone to draw the ball while the other golf school was working on perfect aim and alignment. In the afternoon, Hank went out to watch the students from the other golf school play 9 holes. Most of the seemed to line up well on #1. When they sliced it off the first tee, they immediately changed back to aiming based on their ball flight. Most golf instruction has it backwards. Lets get the shot shape working, then lets aim the shape. 

Curve your ball
health tips

Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book “Outliers: The Story of Success” put forth the notion that mastery of an activity (his examples were related to playing musical instruments) is only possible with an extraordinary amount of practice. This seems to also hold true for more physically demanding pursuits - including developing a repeatable and sound golf swing.

The problem is that such a commitment will very likely have physical consequences. I played golf last month with an LPGA Tour Hall of Fame golfer who pointed to overuse injuries due to excessive practice as one of the primary reasons that the top female touring pros enjoy brief success followed by a quick descent into mediocrity (Yani Tseng, anyone??!!).

So it is essential to listen to your body as you practice and play golf. That nagging elbow twinge, stiff low back, or balky knee can become a serious problem if you don’t give it the time and attention it deserves to recover. If you have an issue that persists for more than two weeks then you should contact your trusted clinical professional (e.g., physical therapist, chiropractor, voodoo doctor) and seek treatment. Golf is a game for the lifetime - make sure that your body comes through on its end of the bargain.

Till next month, keep it in the fairway!

Dr. Chris

Dr. Christian Thompson is the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions www.thompsonfitnesssolutions.comand has taught golf-specific fitness classes and clinics for the past 12 years. He has been on faculty in the Kinesiology Department at the University of San Francisco since 2002. Check out his golf fitness videos at