September 2013

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Swing Arsenal


I recently went out to do a playing lesson. My student wanted me to play so he could learn from my shot making and decision making. What he noticed is that I have many swings in my bag. I hit the following shots:

1) Driver with a draw into a left to right breeze.

2) Knockdown 52 degree wedge to a back pin.

3)  6 iron fade with an open clubface to hit it out of the rough.  

4) Trapped wedge into an uphill slope to produce some roll to a back pin.

5) Flop shot to a tight pin.

6) Driver teed up high to create a more ascending blow to take advantage of a breeze behind me.

7) Aimed left for a ball below my feet and swung 3/4 to keep my balance on an uneven lie.

And this was all on the front nine! One swing does not fit all situations. The best learning environment is the golf course as the situation dictates the shot. The more you play, the more you create an arsenal of swings that produce appropriate golf shots to help you score. The driving range has its benefits but there is no substitute for playing golf. Next time you have a couple of hours of practice time on your hands, consider going to play 9 holes. You might end up with one more arrow in your quiver. 






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zander Tip zone

mental game   strategy tip   short game

One of my juniors who is now 15 just had a breakthrough. He shot 6 under for 3 days in a AJGA national event and finished in the top 10. I always knew he had the talent but his mind was holding him back. I asked him what enabled the mental breakthrough. His answer was that his poor attitude on the course was not producing results and after beating himself up for a while, he decided to try another approach. That approach was being patient with himself and letting go of the negative attitude. The story he told me brought a smile to my face. He hit a drive into the trees and was left with a chip out or a hero shot through a small hole in the trees. He decided to be patient and chip out to the fairway. This would probably lead to a bogey but he was not going to beat himself up about it. He then proceeded to hole his shot for a birdie! Patience and a better attitude allowed for this to happen. My advice to you is when you are having a difficult day on the course, imagine that you could hit the best shot of your life on the next shot. This will put you in a frame of mind to allow for that possibility. 


Phil Mickelson perhaps has the best flop shot in the history of the game. You may have seen him flop it over a 6'5" Dave Pelz from a few feet in front of him. Kudos to Dave for having the guts to do that. But my point is that even Phil thinks of his flop as the last resort around the greens. Whether pro or amateur, your thought process should be as follows when you assess a short game shot: Putt if possible, if not then chip, if not then pitch, and your last choice is the flop. Use that mentality and you will get it up and down more often. Next time you go to the short game area, try all four options from the same spot. Have a contest and see which shot wins. My guess is that the flop shot comes in last most of the time so make the flop your last resort. 


Understanding the numbers on your wedges is very important to successful short game shots. Lets take a 56 degree sand wedge with 11 degrees of bounce. For every degree of loft you add, you add a degree of bounce to the club. Conversely, for every degree you de-loft the wedge, you have decreased the bounce by a degree. For example, if you de-loft your wedge by 12 degrees, you now have negative 1 degree of bounce. This will turn your wedge into a digging implement which causes chunking. In short, the forgiveness that the bounce gives you is now gone. If you open your clubface and add loft to your wedge, you are adding bounce. This can be dangerous on tight lies and hardpan bunker shots where the bounce will skip and the leading edge will thin the ball. Assess your lie, understand the bounce, and you are off to the races to building a disaster free short game. 




Why are downhill putts more challenging than uphill putts? The answer is time and gravity. Because you have to hit the ball softer, it takes more time for the ball to get to the hole. This means that you have to play more break and that all the little nooks and crannies on the green will affect the roll and can kick the ball off line. The actual putting motion is easier as you need to make a smaller stroke to get the putt to the hole but the ball often gets kicked off line. Be patient with the downhill putts and understand that there are forces beyond your control that will affect the outcome. If possible, try to leave yourself an uphill putt to the hole. Now you get to hit the ball harder which means that it will require less break and the ball has a chance to run through the bumps without deviating from the line. 


Pro side


You have probably heard of missing your putt on the pro side versus the amateur side. It means that your ball was above the hole so it had a chance to go in. After all, if your putt falls goes below the hole, it never has a chance to go in and, more importantly, it moves farther away from the hole. Think of the same concept with your full shots. Touring professionals call it never crossing their target line. If you draw the ball as a right handed golfer, it should start to the right of the hole and and never draw across the target line. This means that your ball is always moving TOWARDS the target. Great ball strikers not only hit it solidly, but they rarely cross their target line. Their draws start right and their fades start left. Next time you play, keep track of your intended shot shape and count how many times your ball crosses your target line. I also recommend that you do this when you practice on the range. Keep it on the pro side and your scores will definitely improve. Oh yeah, keep your putts on the pro side as well!



Chip with your Hybrid
health tips

Watch Tiger Woods swing the golf club and you will notice how he drops into a squatted position at the start of his downswing and then springs up through impact. Why does he do this and what can you learn from it?

Tiger is using the strength of his legs and the resistance of the ground to apply more force to the golf ball. The more powerfully you can spring up from a squatted position, the longer you can hit the golf ball. So my recommendation to you is to practice this move in the gym by doing plyometric exercises. Plyometric exercises are explosive movements which, in this case, involve jumping.

Place a bench or box on the floor and jump forward up onto it, landing with both feet at the same time. Try to land as softly and balanced as possible. Repeat 15 times. Turn sideways and jump up to the left, and then turn the other way and jump up to the right. Do two sets of 15 on each of these exercises.

If you have knee, hip, or low back issues, you may want to have your arms holding a stationary object such as a chair or wall in order to stabilize the body and reduce the shock on the joints. But you MUST train explosively if you want to hit the ball a long way.

Until next month, I’ll see you on the fairways and greens!

Dr. Chris

Dr. Christian Thompson is the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions ( 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.