Dear Friends,

 

Spring is finally arriving in nearly all parts of the country after a long and hard winter. We see hopes for renewal in the hordes of people selecting plants at garden centers and in hordes of rusty golfers banging balls at driving ranges.

 

The other day, as Dr. Putt was working on his own game, he noted a young man who was flailing away in a desperate attempt to fix a slice. The harder he tried to swing from the inside and rotate his wrists through the ball, the more frequent the slices became. The regime was interrupted only occasionally by a snap hook or an even less frequent acceptably straight shot. His problem was obvious to Dr. Putt. The solution was far more simple than all the stretched strings and headless shafts stuck in the ground that the young man was employing in his quest for a consistently straight shot.

 

The simple solution to the problem is point two in this newsletter. The first point is for those of you who wear corrective glasses when you play, and the last point was stimulated by all the hoopla over Annika’s brief but brave stay at Colonial.

 

1) Vision – hitting a target that appears to be moving 

2) Effort in practice and play – the paradox of less is more

3) Annika – where your game is likely to fail first under pressure

 

 

1)     Vision – hitting a target that appears to be moving

 

When Dr. Putt plays basketball with his students at the university, he wears contact lenses. Over the years he has noted that his shooting percentage is much higher with the contacts than with glasses. Why? Even wearing a glasses strap, the jumping involved in shooting the ball and contact with other players causes the glasses to move ever so slightly. Any glasses movement causes the object of focus to appear to move.

 

If you wear glasses, prove this to yourself by standing and focusing on some small object near your feet, say a golf ball. Jiggle your glasses. Slide them up and down your nose. Note that the movement causes the object to appear to move and that different positions cause the object to appear to be different distances away.

 

It is hard enough to hit a golf ball that you can clearly see at a fixed distance away from you. It is impossible to hit it consistently if it appears to be moving. You would almost better off to hit it with your eyes closed. (This is actually an excellent drill, but that is the subject of a different newsletter sometime in the future.)

 

So what to do? Dr. Putt, unfortunately, cannot play golf with contacts because of a tear deficiency that allows him to wear his contacts for only an hour or so, not enough for a round of golf. But he can wear a glasses strap. The strap keeps the glasses in the same position for different swings and throughout each individual swing. Your glasses do not slide down your nose as you perspire and the ball is always in the same place.

 

If you do not want to use the old drug store elastic strap, there are some really nice designer straps you can purchase at most vision stores for under $10.

 

2)     Effort in practice and play – the paradox of less is more

 

Ok, back to our struggling young man. What Dr. Putt could not help but noticing was his white knuckles. He was strangling the grip on his club. Sometimes he would succeed in rolling his wrists through the hitting area, but rarely would he roll them at the correct instant to hit the desired shot.

 

The solution? Much less pressure and no effort to roll the wrists. Let the roll  happen as a consequence of swinging the club, not as a deliberate thought. If you try to roll them deliberately, you will never be able to do it consistently, especially when you are under pressure.

 

You can prove this to yourself as you sit and read this newsletter. Keep your wrists limp and shake them around by moving your forearms. Note how they rotate freely. Now try the same thing with the fingers tensed. They cannot move freely.

 

So it is with the swing. If you have anything more than slight grip pressure, your wrists cannot rotate freely through the ball. It is often said that on a scale of 1 to 10, grip pressure should be a 2 -- just enough to hang on to the club. This is why good players change grips every year. One cannot lightly hang on to a slick grip. You would have to grip it tightly and then cannot naturally release the wrists through the swing.

 

So for a consistent release, 1) get new grips on your clubs this year, 2) focus on keeping light grip pressure throughout the swing, from address to your posed finish, and 3) swing with a consistent tempo.

 

This will cause your wrists to roll through the ball at the same time on each swing with no conscious thought or effort. The golf swing just happens too fast for you to make the wrists roll at just the right instant on every swing. If you change tempo, they will break at a different point and the result will be different.

 

You may have noted that Tiger gets into the most trouble when he speeds up his tempo on his drives. The really notable thing about Mike Weir’s play at the 2003 Masters was that he maintained his tempo on almost every shot over four days regardless of pressure.

 

 

3)     Annika – where your game is likely to fail first under pressure

 

Annika did not make the cut, but she played with dignity and considerable skill from tee to green, especially considering all the pressure she was under. She did not snipe back at her detractors. Her 71/74 was far better than VJ’s withdrawal. Her performance was far better than that of the aging superstars who grace Augusta National's fairways each year. If she played for a whole year, she would certainly do as well as others who hit the ball her distance, and perhaps even better than many who hit it longer. Some day a woman will come along who not only has her skill and courage, but also has the distance of most men. Barriers were made to be broken, and any socially imposed arbitrary barrier in a society that values individualism above all else must eventually fall. 

 

But what can we learn, beyond any admiration we feel for a brave pioneer? Her greatest shortcoming on those two days was what was thought to be her strength, her putting. Putting is what is most likely to fail under great pressure, not full swings. Witness the short putts that many competitors miss at the ends of majors. Witness our own fears and failures on three footers to win a bet. Thus, putting is where an automatic swing that requires no conscious thought is most important.

 

This year, develop a putting routine, if you do not already have one, and stick to it on ALL putts. Focus on the process, and let the result take care of itself. If you think about the outcome, you will lose your process and not produce the stroke that gives you the greatest chance of success.

 

 

 Remember to check the “Dear Dr. Putt web site” for all your putting questions – a search feature allows you to look up almost any subject you like. Go to

http://www.drputt.com/deardrputt/deardrputt.php

 

In the weeks to come, Dr. Putt will be indexing past newsletters at the site so that you can look back at them search them as well.

 

Thanks for all your questions and thank-you letters and of course for your orders. Word is slowly spreading that Dr. Putt’s system of aiming and alignment takes a lot of the guesswork out of putting and greatly increases consistency.

 

Dr. Putt wishes you all clear vision and a consistent effortless swing this year. 

 

Warmest regards,

Dr. Putt

 

PS: This newsletter is dedicated to the memory of Bobby Mauney, who, after a long bout with cancer, passed away after on the morning of May 25, 2003, as I was writing the first draft of this newsletter. 

 

Bobby was an unsung public hero who served his nation for many years as the chief legislative aid to Senator William Proxmire, who was one of the most prominent members of the U.S. Senate. Bobby spoke with the deep twang of his native Charlotte, North Carolina, but those who took him as a country bumpkin soon learned that he had one of the sharpest minds on the hill. I was privileged to know him through his brother Mike Mauney, who was my college roommate and who used his legal skills to draft the patent application for the EOB aiming and alignment device.

 

Bobby was the most unassuming person I have ever known. He did not have an ounce of pretense in his body. He made my family welcome on his retirement home on Bald Head Island, North Carolina, where he, Mike, and I played some wonderful rounds of golf.

 

Bobby had a wicked snap hook, which he battled for over a decade. His seeming inability to hit through the ball was probably related to early effects of the tumor on his brain. The worse it got, the worse his snap hook. But he learned to play with it and for a good while shot scores on the good side of 80.

 

I am happy to have known Bobby Mauney. I am happy that he spent the last years of his life playing the game he loved so much but was able to play so little the many years he served us all in Washington. He will be missed.

 

Bob Botsch

 

PPS--If you want to be removed from Dr. Putt’s newsletter list, please just reply to this email and ask. He will remove you – really!