Dear Friends,

As the last winter storms of the year hit many parts of the nation, the time is right to take stock of our golf games and begin thinking about how we might improve our games as spring approaches.

Dr. Putt has been thinking about several things in recent months to help us all improve. So here are the topics for this winter's newsletter.

1) Taking Note of Your Swing
2) Getting a Grip -- product review
3) Best Full Swing Article of the Past Year

1) Taking Note of Your Swing

Does your golf swing seem to have almost a life of its own? Does it seem to change from day to day, evolving in ways that mystify and often frustrate you? Do you sometimes rediscover keys to your swing that worked once but somehow became lost?

This phenomenon happens to professionals who hit the ball every day, so it even more likely to happen to those of us who consider ourselves lucky to hit balls three times a week if we are lucky. Subtle things change and those changes set into motion a chain of events that lead to all manner of different results. Even things like a golf glove that becomes a bit worn and less tacky on the grip can alter grip pressure and that will change the timing of your release, which then causes you to start to make adjustments, and the evolution begins.

To try and keep better track of what is working and what is not on a certain day, keep a little spiral binder and pencil in your bag and take notes on your swing on a particular day after each session on the practice range. Before you start the next practice session, read your notes from the previous couple of sessions to remind yourself of the keys that were working. That should help minimize unconscious changes that start a new and often negative chain of events.

Discipline yourself to do this for the entire year and see if this reduces the variation in your swing!

2) Getting a Grip -- product review

Dr. Putt does not do paid endorsements, nor does he even accept equipment that might lead him to do a positive endorsement. But when he does try something and it works, he passes along the positive experience he had. This is one of those times.

All of us know that keeping a light grip throughout the swing is a key to timing and distance. Your hands simply cannot roll through the hitting area of the swing if you are strangling the grip in order to hang on.

Ideally, a light grip requires two things, though sometimes you can get by with one. First, you should have a good surface on the shaft of the club. Second, you should have a non-slip surface on your hands. Usually we use a golf glove to do this, and happily, there are many fine gloves from which to choose.

Let us briefly talk about the grip on the shaft first. To improve your game the very first time you get out this spring, why not regrip your clubs over the winter? Whether you do it yourself of get a club repair shop or your local pro to do it, everyone has more time to do it during the cold months. Also, clean your grips, at least wiping them down with a clean towel after each round or practice session.

Dr. Putt will do no endorsement here, because today we have many fine grips from which to choose. If you take your clubs to a repair shop, feel some of the grips that are in stock. Choose one that feels good and looks pleasing to the eye. Size is important here. Choose one so that the next to the last finger of the left hand (for right handed players) barely touches the opposing pad of flesh on the hand when you take your normal grip the club.

Back to gloves. This past fall Dr. Putt ordered gloves from Bionic at bionicgloves.com. The glove is padded in places to help those of us who have a litle tenderness in the hands that comes with age. But the glove also helps in joint movement because of the small elastic sections over the knuckles and between fingers. It seems to encourage a really light grip, and that also helps maintain a natural release of the wrists through the hitting area. The glove is not cheap, at $24.95 (+S&H), but it holds up well. They are washable, and washed out well a couple of times. Dr. Putt just wore the second one out, getting a couple of months out of each of them. When he went back to a top of the line pro-shop glove, he realized how much more comfortable the Bionic glove really was. One caveat -- if you really want the full feel of the ball striking the club you will lose a little of that because of the padding. But if you want to pound balls for an hour or two as Dr. Putt does, your hands will feel much better at the end of the session.

3) Best Full Swing Article of the Past Year

The last newsletter featured the best putting drill of the year. This time Dr. Putt will give you the best full swing instruction article he has tried in the last year. This is an especially good article for those of you fighting slices and looking for more distance with less effort -- something most of us want. In the October 2006 issue of Golf Magazine the feature article was titled "The Instant Power Move" on pages 63-76. It features the swing mechanics taught by A. J. Bonar.

The basic idea is that power comes through rotating the clubface from open to closed through the hitting area. The best way to do that through the hitting area is to start with rotating the clubface open and then close it by feeling like you are turning a screwdriver counterclockwise as you swing through the ball. You can do this with a very short backswing and little weight shift. He even has a drill that has you hitting off one leg with little distance loss.

This helps solve the mystery of what the hands and forearms do through the hitting area. Slow motion analysis of the best professionals shows that they also have this movement through the hitting area. Bonar gives the average player a way to make this happen rather easily.

Dr. Putt tried the swing this past fall and modified it a bit to fit into his regular swing. Dr. Putt suspects you can do this as well, but give his full method a try first if you are not satisfied with the swing you had last year.

You can see a short video of his swing at www.golf.com/ajvideo or visit his own website at www.ajgolfschool.com. If you just look at the video, be careful about his concept of driving a nail into the ground, as this only applies to iron shots, not woods. The article in Golf Magazine clarifies this -- on woods you are driving a pretend nail through the ball parallel to the ground.

Best regards,
Dr. Putt

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