The science behind your divots

I have had a lot of interesting conversations this week about ball striking on the wet, muddy ground and how difficult it has become. I thought it would be a good time to go into a bit of explanation about how divots happen to help you understand what you need to do to perfect your divot pattern.

Below is a video of some long iron strikes which show what happens wonderfully well. You only need to watch between the timings of 0:50 to 1:50…

https://youtu.be/OStvJf9qdUA?t=50
You’ll see a few patterns. More obviously, the clubhead slightly descends through impact but not much. It’s not a steep entry but actually quite shallow.

Less obviously, but critically, if you look at the clubhead itself right at and just after impact, the head twists down presenting the leading edge of the golf club to the ground. This is very important to know!

Let’s say the club enters the ball with an angle of attack at -2 degrees. By the time the ball has been hit the head twist and slight shaft bend (because of impact) make the angle of attack nearer -7 to -8 degrees. This is why you might see a few quite sharp divots from relatively shallow approaches.

There is a phenomenon called a ‘newton’s divot’ as termed by Dave Tutelman who noticed that even level entries (0 degree attack angle) to the ball create a small divot because of this downward deflection of the clubhead. It’s really bizarre but vital to know particularly when the ground is as soft as it is now.

So, you should definitely be looking to achieve a relatively shallow entry to the ball with your irons (-0.5 to -2.5 degrees would be ok) but your ball striking may suffer if it gets steeper than that. It explains why it can often look like tour players take huge divots from shallow entries when really it’s just the downward deflection of the head. Very deceptive!

Get in touch if you’d like some help with your game and click below to check out my previous blog posts or schedule your next golf lesson.

Lee Wilson

January 2022

The impact of internal and external focus on your golf

Whilst doing a bit of research recently I came across an interesting blog post by Adam Young. It revolved around the idea of internal and external focus (in darts) and I thought it was very comparable to golf and relevant for those who are or have had lessons. Here is the extract:

“a darts study showed that an external focus (where the dart is going) produced more consistent outcomes…However the crazy part was, the movements became LESS consistent”

In other words the darts players became better at throwing consistently but used more variable movement patterns.

Conversely, the same study showed that focussing on arm movement (internal focus) made the arm movement more consistent but produced less consistent outcomes (they missed more)”

” Neutral Focus – There have also been studies which show, that for skilled performers, having a neutral focus (such as your breathing) can increase consistency. This is because there is less conscious interference”

There are some really interesting points in here. Most of all, when the darts players focused purely on arm movement they initially got worse and that when they just focused on the task they played better, but with less consistent movements. The final point about neutral focus I think is a great one because it explains why golfers can struggle to take their lesson/ range work onto the course when they try to think about everything.

There is a time for thinking about your swing, and that’s on the range. On the the range you can improve the movements but you may not see the perfect results straight away and you shouldn’t expect to see that. The hope is that you can make the improvements more automatic and then once you hit the course you must just ‘play’ and eventually the movements you have worked on will begin to filter in. This will then start to bring your scores down.

A few questions for you to think about:

Do you struggle to take your shots from the range to the course?

When you play what do you think about – Lots of technique or more target based?

When you are on the range do you judge your success and improvement on how well you hit the ball that day or do you think differently?

When you played your best ever round what do you think you thought about?

When you are practising on the range have you ever just done drills or slower training movements for the entire session?

Take a moment to self-evaluate. I would say personally that I’ve never played well when I take my swing thoughts onto the course with me. My best golf happens when I’m relaxed and just keep picking different targets to hit at. Really that simple!

It doesn’t always happen because I can’t just switch my brain off but there are things that can be done to help. Maybe this will help you to understand a couple of things about your game and why perhaps you’ve not yet seen the results for your labour on the range.

Lee Wilson, November 2021

How can we make winter golf more fun?

Hi all,

I hope you are well.

Now that the Autumn/ Winter is setting in, it’s very important to keep your game going for the next few months. For those that will be playing through I have a simple idea for making your golf more enjoyable.

Play off the correct tees 

Your golf ball will not travel as far in the air and definitely not roll as far on the ground. Let’s say you lost 30 yards per drive and 15 yards per iron shot. That makes a Par 4 play at least 45 yards longer.

Your golf club may introduce some winter mats or continue to play off the grass but. there is no point just playing from the same tees as you normally would just 10 yards forward of usual because the course will become extremely long, particularly for low carry hitters.

At Horsham Golf we have 5 different tees- Black, Blue, Green, Purple & Orange, all rated purely by yardage – not a ‘ladies’ tee or a ‘mens’ tee. It’s down to your ability and your hitting distance. Saying that, I still see most men play from the blues and most ladies play from the purples. Realistically, we all should be moving at least 1 tee forward during the winter and in the summer playing from the tee that suits your ability.

This is the progressive way of golf and it’s how it should be because I know a lot of lady golfers who hit the ball further than men, but ‘have’ to play from a forward tee position. I also know a lot of players who have lost distance for various reasons and may need a help in hand to score around the course better and should move forward. To fully enjoy the game these players should find an appropriate level of challenge.

So, to create an equal challenge for you from summer to winter golf why wouldn’t we move up a tee block or two and plan to hit the same clubs (albeit shorter shots) and still be able to put a nice score together?

Maybe on your next round you could try this. Instead of the blues, maybe try the greens or instead of purples try the orange tees (or the alternatives at your club)?

Lee Wilson, November 2021

What is the best golf ball for distance?

As the cooler weather and softer ground will be here for while now, it’s worth considering what golf balls you are using. Most people have a mixture of lost and found balls with some ‘hard’ balls, some ‘soft’ balls and some are in the middle somewhere. With carry distance being a very important aspect off the tee, especially when there is no run on the fairway, it’s certainly worth knowing which are the longest golf balls on the market today. Here are the top 5 in a recent test by MYGOLFSPY…
What’s interesting with the results is that 4 of the balls are deemed to be ‘premium’ golf balls (all but the Titleist Tour Speed). Premium golf balls are often associated with spinning more or having a softer feel around the green. Most golfers believe that a distance ball will travel further, something like a Pinnacle distance. This clearly isn’t true. It really comes down to the production quality of the ball, which unfortunately for your pocket means they probably cost more compared to a ‘distance’ alternative.

In years gone by the balata ball was the premium soft, spinning ball for pro’s but it didn’t fly, or last, all that long at all. Nowadays, they are able to create soft feeling, high spin balls that don’t split or crack easily and also perform better for distance.

What I’ve noticed over the last few years is that the mid range balls (Srixon soft feel/AD333, Callaway supersoft etc.) are getting better. Softer for around the green and a nice feel on your longer shots. So you don’t have to spend loads and loads on your golf balls but don’t assume that the cheaper, distance balls are going to send it miles because they won’t!

Lee Wilson, November 2021

5 Keys to Winter Golf

It’s not long now until the clocks move back and we have colder, early evenings and very different conditions for golf. Below are 5 key points to help you adapt your game:

1) The ball will not go as far so know your yardages!

One great advantage of softer, wetter green conditions is that the ball stops quickly but you have to land the ball on the green to see that. My previous tip about playing to the back of the green yardage is a good one here. Also, don’t let your ego take over and take an extra club or two in order to make sure your ball makes the full journey. No one really cares if you hit a 5 iron instead of an 8 iron if the ball finds the target!

2) Practice from different lies

When the ground gets softer, the ball tends to bury to the bottom of the rough a bit more. The rough itself is also a lot thicker and heavier as it is wetter making these shots thoroughly difficult. Try practicing from all of the lies that you come across on the course, particularly around the green.

As important as your technique may be, the winter conditions highlight your adaptability more than any other time of year.

3) Green reading gets easier

As the greens are slower you have to hit your putts harder (relatively). This means that the ball will not break as much as usual on the green. Let’s say you have a putt that you would usually play a break of 12 inches to, try a 6 inch break instead and assuming the ball reaches the hole it shouldn’t be far away.

4) Warm up for longer

This may sound relatively obvious but it takes so much longer to warm up your swing in the winter. Make sure you dedicate some time before you play on a driving range or even just stretching.

5) Keep your grips and clubface dry

If it’s raining, whatever you do keep your grips dry. If the grips get wet you literally can’t hold the club properly. Hide them under your umbrella or waterproof jacket up until the last moment before you hit.

Also when you do a practice swing/ chip you may get water all over the clubface – wipe it off before you hit. If your clubface is soaking wet the grip you get from the grooves is significantly lower meaning you have less control.

Hopefully you are all wanting to play through the winter as it is such a useful time to improve your game for next year. Maybe some of these tips will help you!

Final point – accept that your scores might not be as good in the winter particularly if you are a shorter carrier of the golf ball off the tee.

Lee Wilson

October 2021

How do we get better at golf?

I recently came across a post from Sean Foley, who is coach to Danny Willett, Justin Rose and a number of other players. He is responsible for bringing a number of tour players back from tough periods of their career. Maybe no more so currently than Justin Rose early in his career and Lydia Ko who has regained her form dramatically over the last year.

I thought it was so good that it was worth sharing and highlighted fundamentally how we get better at golf and improve our skills. Here is his post following Danny Willett’s win in the Dunhill Links Championship last weekend:

“…sometimes in golf, wins seem to come out of nowhere, but those associated with a player, can see the evolution in the players understanding … When we PLANT THE SEED we have to trust that the soils nutrients, sunlight and water are going to help it grow. Those are the principles of growth. If each day we dig up the soil to see if the seed has growing we will have to plant it again and again, as we stress the seeds ecosystem. In our golf games, our physical skill sets follow this exact equation. When people’s passions become obsessive, they are plagued by self-judgement, ultimately becoming a slave to the result and find themselves constantly tinkering and thus their skill set will not root…”

I thought this was such an interesting way to describe the learning process. An idea that I believe to be true in a number of occasions is where the students wants to see better golf in 10 minutes time whereas the coach looks at where the swing will be in 3,6 or 12 months. Short term gratification in golf is no indication of your skills getting better long term. It’s truly about trusting the coaching process. There are so many quick tips out there that once read are hard to ignore and before long you end up with 10 swing thoughts. Of course, this is far too many and often has negative impacts on your game.

The best line for me in the quote by Sean Foley is where he says that you become a slave to the result. This is so true and something that everyone should be wary to avoid. A good swing does not guarantee a perfect result but in time with repetition and rehearsal it will can. As the swing improves so do the results.

Lee Wilson

October 2021

Are Swing Plane And Angle Of Attack Linked?

Swing plane is probably the most talked about swing characteristic in golf clubs, possibly because it’s quite easy to observe if someone has a more upright or flat backswing based on what we know about the ‘perfect swing plane’ (thanks again YouTube). Therefore, lots of people think they have swing plane problems because it doesn’t conform to this ideal position.

The truth is the perfect swing plane doesn’t exist and the way a lot of people see swing plane is actually incorrect anyway. Swing plane is measured from hip height on your downswing to hip height on your follow through only (like a little semi-circle at the bottom of the swing). Swing plane is not measured at the top of the backswing – therefore meaning that the 3 swings above are not flat, perfect and upright because they haven’t yet moved the club to the point where the measurement starts. We can say that they are moving through some flat or upright positions but it is the end goal that matters – pre-impact, impact and post-impact.

All great ball strikers look something like this  …

Players can have very upright and flat motions and still nail this pre-impact position. In fact, I’d argue most do it that way. So next time you see your buddy complaining that he is too steep (wrong word – means too upright) then it might not be the actual problem that he/she thinks it is.
How does plane link to ball striking and attack angle?

There is a common belief in amateur golf that more upright swings produce steeper attack angles (big divots after the ball); and flatter swings produce shallower attack angles (clean strikes or maybe divot before ball). Well, its not as simple and way more dynamic than that.

Check out the diagram below:

Effectively this shows that the ‘earlier’ you strike the ball in the swing the more steep your impact is and and the ‘later’ you strike the ball the more shallow it becomes. It’s important at this juncture to recognise therefore that swing plane (upright/ flat) is different to attack angle (steep/ shallow). You can have a very upright swing, lean back at impact and strike the ball lots on the ‘later’ shallow side. You can have a super flat swing, get your body ahead of the club and strike it very ‘early’ on the steep side.

There are a million combinations that golfers make work all over the globe and lots of them earn money from doing it. What’s important is that you recognise your pattern and know how to deal with it when it goes wrong.

What’s more is that the super steep backswing that you have been trying to kick out for years might actually be the most important thing that you do to hit the ball well … now there’s some food for thought!

Summary

So, are swing plane and angle of attack linked?

Yes, they do have an influence on each other but be careful with changing things. Some people hit it great with steep swings and some people hit it terribly with perceived ‘perfect’ plane. Just remember, like everything in golf, it’s about knowing how you can make your swing tick.

Is there a perfect swing plane?

Not really, but remember that swing plane exists only at the bottom. You’ll see way more similarities between great players just before impact. You’ll see lots of differences elsewhere.

Should I look to change my swing plane?

Not on your own! You need to consult a coach who understands a) is it vital to change it? b) if there is an issue – what is causing it?  c) how will the rest of your swing sequence be affected by such a change?

 

Lee Wilson

August 2021

The Open Round-Up

I hope you’re well and enjoying the UK heatwave and ‘freedom day/week’.

Last weekend Collin Morikawa won The Open at Royal St.Georges with an amazing final round on his first ever attempt. In doing so he became the youngest player to win 2 majors on debut and one of the quickest in history in just 8 major entries. Outrageous!

There are comparisons became made between him and Tiger, which I would usually say is just the media blowing a win out of proportion but there are some good links to this one…

Tiger and Collin are the only two players to win an Open and PGA Championship before 25 years of age and there statistics are spookily similar.

Collin Morikawa is absolutely dominating the strokes gained approach numbers this season – to the extent that Tiger used to. Remember that Tiger was never a great driver of the ball (Morikawa is decent) so this is where he made up his advantage. In fact, the stats between the years of 2004-2021 suggest that Morikawa is even better than Tiger in that period (Tiger in 1997-2004 I suspect would be better again).

So we know that the better the long game is (and particularly approach play), the more consistently at the top of the leaderboard you will be. To win, you then have to make the putts at the end of it. For his 2 major wins Morikawa has led the field in this stat and the evidence was there on the final day with a few really good par saving putts and a couple of birdie efforts. Every one seemed to go right in the middle also!

More majors in the pipeline? …. Absolutely. His approach game will always see him there or there abouts on tough courses. He isn’t the longest player but certainly not short either and on those weeks where his putter is hot he may well win.

What can amateur golfers take from this? … Collin Morikawa has one of the most repetitive, solid swings in golf, therefore he hits lots of consistent, solid shots. His swing mechanics don’t require him to fight anything and therefore he can reproduce the same shot over and over. He predominantly fades the ball off the tee and with his irons and he can trust that.

For club golfers at home, if you can improve your mechanics (doesn’t have to be complicated) and record how many greens you hit in regulation each round you can start to build some better results. Also, realise where your strengths and weaknesses are – your inability to hit a draw might not actually be holding you back as much as you think. Remember, that to improve you need to know where you are starting so a simple baseline stat is really important.

 

Lee Wilson, July 2021

How to create more spin around the green

This week the topic for the blog is wedge play and specifically how to spin your wedge shots more. It’s such a common thing that gets discussed in my short game lessons and there are some hard and fast rules that should be followed.

1- CLEAN YOUR GROOVES

If you don’t clean the mud, water and grass from your grooves then you are reducing the amount of friction that the ball and face can produce. Also, if you have an old wedge then the grooves will probably be worn and won’t grip the ball as much either

2- SOFTER GOLF BALLS WILL SPIN MORE

I’m not saying go out and spend £50 on a dozen Pro V1’s but the quality of your golf ball will have an impact.

3- YOU NEED LOFT

If you are the kind of golfer that uses a Pitching Wedge to pitch and chip the ball then you need to understand that you are losing loft compared to a 56-60 degree club. The more loft you have, the more you can get the ball running up the face and the more it will check on the green

4- YOU NEED SPEED

If you are the golfer listed on point 3 you probably also chip with a low speed swing. Having a bit more speed throughout will help to get the ball spinning more and landing softer. You need loft to do this!

5- BRUISE THE TURF

If you are striking the ball with a good, shallow angle of attack then you should feel like you can ‘bruise’ the turf without taking a divot. This will also help to run the ball up the face more. If you get too steep then the leading edge can dig too much and you might duff the shot or it may come off the face a bit hotter than you expected. Just remember that to get the strike you will need to contact the roots of the grass and not just flick the top of the blades.

6- BE MINDFUL OF PLAYING CONDITIONS

If your ball is sitting deep in the grass or is soaking wet (include the clubface in this too) then the ball won’t grip the face very well and will skid. To experiment with this situation try playing golf first thing when there is dew on the ground and then later on when it’s dried out. There is a big difference in the spin you can create.

One final closing point is to manage your  expectations. When playing shorter shots you won’t spin the ball to the point of seeing it roll backwards. It might just sit down a little quicker which is a great sign. Try these rules and see how you get on!

Understand your yardages!

We have some strange summer weather at the minute in the UK which is making courses as green as ever. This means that your golf course will be playing close to it’s full yardage and balls will be stopping quickly on the green.

When it becomes target golf in wet conditions knowing your carry distances with each iron is vital. Not only that but you have to know exactly how far it is to the flag or section of the green that you want to hit.

Something that always confuses me is how some golfers just assume they know how far it is by eye and based on past experience, without knowing where the flag is on the green that day – it makes no sense and is essentially guessing.

Golf is a truly difficult game that is different every time you play so wouldn’t it make sense to reduce the amount of variables?!

We can’t change the wind direction or strength, bad bounces or poor lies but we can control our club choices. Imagine if you knew how far each club travelled and you had a GPS or rangefinder device that told you exactly how far it is to the flag. Golf just got easier and you’ll probably hit more greens in regulation. It means that you will probably not come up short like 93% of shots in amateur golf and will hit more shots ‘pin high’ which will improve your proximity to the hole. All great tools to help you lower your score!

If the flag is tucked away then maybe you don’t want to hit pin high and what you need is to know what the distance is to the biggest part of the green. You may already think like this but if you don’t know a) your club distance and b) the distance to your intended target then what are chances of hitting it their!?

My simple tips:

1- Get yourself a rangefinder/ GPS distance measurer. Rangefinders are great for measuring to specific points (i.e. the flag, a tree) and GPS devices are great for front, middle back of green measurements and hazard distances. You don’t need such a steady hand for GPS devices either.

2- Spend time practicing your distances. It’s so important to help you get better. Remember you are not a robot so every shot with the same club won’t go the same distance but find out what your peak and your average distance is.

3- If you have played regularly at the same course for a long time don’t get complacent. It’s so easy to just assume how far the target is based on what you ‘usually’ hit. This leads to terrible habits when you play new courses. Keep a routine up where you include distance measuring. There is no guarantee that the flag is in the same position or the wind is in the same direction etc. Every shot you ever hit will be slightly different so treat it exactly like that.

4- Use the back of green yardage on your GPS device. A little trick which I’ve mentioned before is to try and hit to a distance that is closer the back of the green. This allows you a small margin for error for mishit.