July 2013

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Ranger rick? 


I can't tell you how many times I have heard a golfer say that they can do it on the range but it does not translate to the golf course. In past newsletters I have talked about how you need to make your practice more like the actual game of golf. After all, the game of golf is not 20 six irons in a row to the same target off a perfect flat lie with an alignment aid and no consequences. You get my drift here. 

But there is another factor as well. We all play with swing thoughts. I once asked Tom Watson if he had swing thoughts while he was playing. His answer was that he definitely did. Just thinking about a target or visualizing is not always enough. I also asked my mentor Jim Hardy the same question. His answer was absolutely yes as well. He went on further to say that the only time you don't have a swing thought is if your swing is functioning perfectly, but since that is not always the case, you need some thoughts to get you through the round.  

This is where the concept of internal and external cues come in.  An internal cue is a swing thought that entails getting a body part to perform a certain function. For example, keep your back to the target at the top of your backswing so your arms can drop the shaft to the inside to fix your over the top move. In this case, the back has a specific function to delay moving in the transition. An external cue would be to put an impact bag just outside the target line to have the player avoid it thereby producing the desired inside path to impact. 

Research has shown that both are effective ways of teaching and learning the correct move. However, research has also shown that external cues translate better to the golf course. So next time you bring a swing thought to the golf course, make it an external one!







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zander Tip zone

mental game   strategy tip   short game

Expectations do not help you play better. It is the opposite of staying in the present. I remember playing a mini tour event and after having shot 68, 69 in the first two rounds, I was expecting to play great on the weekend. I played awful and made a very small check. I was at the clubhouse wallowing in misery when a friend asked me what was wrong. I told him that I expected to play well as I was hitting it great and 5 under after two rounds. Even worse, I had final stage of US Open qualifying coming up the following week. He told me that today's round had nothing to do with how I was going to play in Open qualifying, just like my first two rounds had nothing to do with how I was going to play on the weekend. He said all I could do was do the best on the shot at hand and nothing in the past or future mattered. He was right. I went to Lake Merced in 1992 as a 23 year old to try to qualify for US Open. I started off double bogey, bogey. 3 over after 2 holes! I looked at my caddie and said, I'm good enough to spot the field 3 shots. I hit the next drive in the fairway and went on to qualify for the National Championship at Pebble Beach. The Monday practice round of the US Open, I played a practice round with Freddy Couples and Tom Watson. Now I never EXPECTED that!!!




If you know how to shape shots you are in business when playing in to crosswinds. The key is to always turn your ball in to the wind. If the wind is blowing right to left, play a left to right spinning ball. Conversely, if the wind is blowing left to right, play a right to left spinning ball. The result will be a ball that you can control.The ball will start to turn in to the wind and then straighten out. Disaster happens when you curve your ball with the wind. The ball rides that wind and you don't know where it is coming down. Remember to take more club when you do this because as the ball curves, it is actually going right in to the wind which will decrease your distance. We used to say on tour that par goes up in the  wind. Simply put, windy conditions make the course more challenging. Shaping your ball in to crosswinds will help you deal with the challenge. 


I hate the term weak grip. It implies that it is not good. But weak is king when it comes to the short game. I like Pelz's terminology, he calls it a finesse grip. A finesse grip enables the player to use the loft and bounce of the club correctly for short game.

Lets take a standard sandwedge for example. It has 56 degrees of loft with 14 degrees of bounce. The loft gets the ball to fly high and land softly. The bounce enables the club to slide along the ground thereby giving you a nice margin of error for your contact. A finesse grip allows you to keep loft and bounce and play shots around the green with better touch. 

The skill set that makes Dustin Johnson a powerful ball striker is not the same one that makes Luke Donald a great short game player. I like my students to take their glove off for short game. This puts your mind in to finesse mode and that should remind you of using a finesse grip. 


putting tip


Keep your head still when you putt. How many times have you heard that. Its is hard as we are all curious to see if the ball is going in the hole. When Tiger was on fire with his putting in 2000, it was amazing how his head never moved on putts under 10 feet. He hit the putts so solidly due to the fact that he kept his head still. Next time you practice, bring a coin to the putting green. Have someone put the coin under your ball without you watching. Now hit the putt and look to see if the coin is heads or tails. Chances are as you are looking down, you will hear the sound of a ball tumbling in to the cup. 


full swing


The bottom line on the full swing is you want a correct, repetitive impact. I doesn't really matter if you are a one planer, two planer or a hybrid swinger. We need impact to be correct in any case. All great ball strikers regardless of swing style have a forward leaning shaft and a de-lofted clubface at impact. This is why I prefer a neutral to strong grip for the full swing. Next time you go to the range, do the following test. Take a really strong grip (3-4 knuckles on the left hand for a right handed player). This will make the clubface want to close. Now lean the shaft forward and see a de-lofted square clubface. Now do the opposite. Take a weak grip (1 or 0 knuckles on left hand for a right handed player). This will make the clubface want to open. You will now need to lean the shaft back to square the clubface. Have you ever seen a little kid who wants to hit the ball far have a weak grip? Never! Case closed!



AIM and Alignment
health tips

Pilates and yoga are popular forms of exercise, particularly among females. But they are often thought of as only being beneficial in improving posture and/or flexibility. Rarely are these types of exercise associated with improving sport performance, and that is unfortunate. Both Pilates and yoga focus on developing a better conditioned core, and core exercises are most definitely beneficial to golf.

Core exercises train the muscles of the pelvis, lower back, abdomen, and shoulders to work together to improve the overall balance and stability of the body. And golf most definitely is best played when the golfer can display balance and stability during the swing. Research has indicated that a strong core can actually help to improve the strength and power of all the muscles of the body because it provides a stable base from which all movements can be performed.

So get out there and give Pilates or yoga a try! You may find that the exercises that LOOK simple are actually very challenging - sort of like golf!

Till next month, I’ll see you on the short grass.

Dr. Chris

Dr. Christian Thompson is the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions www.thompsonfitnesssolutions.com and 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.