Monday, December 7, 2015

Does Practice Really Make Perfect in Golf, Let's Ask Tom Kite in the 1992 U.S. Open

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   When most golfers begin to golf we're anything but naturals, and if we're honest and learn to keep a clean and honest score card we'll be having trouble shooting under 110 for the first year on 18 holes. Of course, during this formative phase of learning how to golf, we must practice a lot. 

The question I'm asking is: does it help so much for a golfer who is a 15 handicap or lower to practice a lot? In my opinion, at this point in our game, it's more of a mental problem we need to fix and thus practicing is not as important. Let me explain further.

“They” say golf is 90% mental, right? Well, who knows exactly how mental it is, but I think this is accurate - if not more mental when we get to the point where we're shooting around the low 80s and high 70s every time out. 

At this point, we have a decent swing, are making good contact, and are managing the course fairly well. The problem with my game is just some minor pulls and pushes at the wrong time, which seem to add up too quickly for me to recover. Basically, my problem is mental at this point.

I've been golfing for 24 years now, and there have been long stretches of time where I didn't play at all. Then I would get back on the course and it was like riding a bicycle, I was just the same as before. 

It would seem, I would play much worse taking a year off completely, but I just keep the same near bogey golf game no matter what. This is why I started thinking "me getting better is a mental thing". 

Now, I shared the strong-grip lesson I learned and have been applying, which has given me the breakthrough I was looking for, but really it's still a mental breakthrough. It only took me about two rounds to get comfortable with this grip, and now I'm hitting the ball better than ever.

It's near winter where I'm at, and although I could go play any day now, I wait for some reason. Not because I'm not thinking about the game, because every day I'm swinging the club in the garage at least 20-50 times. 

I'm just waiting out that Par game like I'm stalking my prey...I'm waiting for an urging from somewhere to know it's time to play. I watch some old golf majors and keep up on some of the new cookie cutter pros, but I'm playing golf already in my mind.

I get emails from a nice golf course called Emerald Valley in Creswell, Oregon. This is going to be my home course next year in 2016. To me, it's my Augusta or my Pebble Beach, and until I par the white tees I don't deserve to move to the blue tees. 

This is the only course I want to play right now. It's the course I had my breakthrough round of 79 (+7), and I feel a par round coming.

I know it's a mental thing at this point, although this post might not adequately describe it. 

Tom Kite and Practice

I respect the sweating and practicing til you drop attitude of Tom Watson and Tom Kite, yet they never won majors until they stopped practicing and just let go to play, especially Mr. Kite.

Tom Kite almost didn't learn this lesson until 1992 when he won his first and only major title at Pebble Beach at the U.S. Open!

What a victory Mr. Kite had, yet he didn't win merely because he practiced a lot. He won because he finally just played golf and stopped relying on his practicing.

Practicing is over-rated golfers, that is the point. I don't have a lot of money to practice golf, and I don't need a lot of money to practice. 

Only when there's something major I'm doing with my grip or swing, which there rarely is, then I don't need to do anything on the range. The best practice is playing golf, and the best way to practice tournaments is to play in them. 

No mulligans, no excuses, no cheating, and no practice ball- just play it where it lies and deal with the consequences.

If we can't learn from the acute pain of the blasted slice on the last hole blowing our chances to shoot par- then we'll never learn from some range and hours of practicing.

We're as good at golf as our score card says at the end of an honest day of golf, whether alone or with other golfers. And for sure putt every single one of those little ones out! No gimmes golfers!

Here is the magnificent round of Tom Kite at Pebble Beach in 1992, where the choke artist finally reached down into his guts and pulled out a brave victory for the ages to win the U.S. Open- the hardest golf pro tournament there is in my opinion.

Mr. Top Ten or Mr. Second Place (Tom Kite) shows us how to overcome the mental madness and persevere into victory.

Watching this great golf from this fine golfer is how we practice golfers. No excuses, no mulligans, no gimmes, and no purposeless practice. Let's get golfing and threaten Par!

               1992 U.S.Open Golf at Pebble Beach

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Strong Grip Can Improve Your Golf Swing

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Last season I ventured out to the golf course to see what kind of shape my rusty old 16 handicap game was in. Well, after over a year since I golfed the swing was basically in the same shape - doing the same unpredictable things as usual.

There seemed to be some sort of wall holding my game back from the green pastures of Par on the other side. Although, many just give up and say, “I'm just not that good of a golfer,” as I was tempted to do after over a decade of not improving- well, I kept believing and broke through finally!

Usually, I play alone at sunrise or sometime when it's too cold for the fair weathered golfers to be out, but this last season I made a golfing friend and it was through him I learned about my grip. To clarify, it wasn't directly through his teaching me as he was only a beginner (albeit a good one), but rather it was through me trying to understand what he was doing with his swing. I remember during the 24 years of playing golf I've tried many different crazy swings, and the one he was trying naturally was interesting to me.

This thought bore fruition when I stumbled upon some Ben Hogan videos on YouTube and heard about Ben's strong grip. Sometimes, we just have to be open to something before we can hear it, because for years I had his book: Five Lessons (and even perused it a few times), but it never sunk in.

Well, I realized this golfing friend had a strong grip, and I started to learn from videos like the ones in this post what this meant and how to try it out. The swing my friend had wasn't sound to copy, but with the years of perfecting my weak grip swing it was very fluid for me to simply turn my wrist and see what happened. Only a couple months later I played the best round of my life, and now can have realistic dreams of threatening Par on difficult 18 hole courses this next season.

How to Have a Strong Grip

   When you turn your left wrist (right-hand players) to the right so you can see 3 or even 4 knuckles instead of two, then sort of cup your right hand underneath – this is the strong grip.

There's more to it you can learn from the videos I will present in this post and from Ben Hogan's book Five Lessons, but this is the basic concept.

The swing that'll follow takes some understanding and practice of course, but in the end (for the right person) you'll be able to hit the ball farther and straighter more consistently!


This is the grip Ben Hogan used, especially, in his early career, but after he got into a near-fatal car crash in 1949 (because of his hurting legs and a desire to stop hooking the ball), he weakened his grip some.

Still, his swing plane and grip are on the strong side and if you study them you'll be able to see the difference between his swing and someone like Nicklaus or Miller.

At first, this strong grip doesn't feel comfortable with the stiffer left arm and strain on the left wrist it brings, but for the right person, this is a small price to pay for the results.

The results are basically a ball flight that draws rather than fades. My whole golf life if I missed a shot it was a sweeping slice or push, but after I tightened my grip I cut out the slice almost all-together. And the best part for me I'm hitting the ball so much more squarely, which results in hitting it the distance I should.

All these golfing systems out there trying to do this and that to make you swing faster or whatever are mostly junk. Just learn from the great players like Ben Hogan, Paul Azinger, Hubert Green, Zach Johnson, Gary Player, Bernhard Langer and more who all had strong grips.

Check out the videos below and buy Ben Hogan's books to learn more about the strong grip. Never give up on shooting par, although it seems impossible at times, because when striking the ball better - it (Par) can happen.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ben Hogan Can Help You Play Better Golf

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   Golfers, are you still trying to break 100? 90? 80? 70? Well, consider taking a lesson or two from the great golfer Ben Hogan. Many consider Ben to be the best golfer of all-time although his record (9 Major wins) is surpassed in major Championships by others (Nicklaus- 18, Woods -14, Hagen -11). Nevertheless, Ben is one of the great golfers of all-time and there's much we can learn from him.

   Personally, Ben has helped me finally break 80 on a Par 72 course of considerable difficulty - a feat I've been trying to achieve for 24 years. How did I do it? I can simply tell you it was my grip! Ben's strong grip and swing helped me gain consistent power and accuracy enough to shoot a 7 over and barely break 80 with a wonderful 79 (at least to me). 

   I'm starting this Better Golfing Days website out with a page dedicated to Ben Hogan. I'll continue to add to it in the future, but if you want to learn about golfing history from one of the game's greats, watch the video.

  Let's continue to grow our game and threaten Par friends. Subscribe to Better Golf Days for great product reviews, insights, and inspiring posts to come.