Dear Friends,

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 Annika Sorenstam's recent 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 and 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.

Hitting a golf ball that you can clearly see at a fixed distance away from you is hard enough. Hitting it consistently when it is moving is nearly impossible. 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? Until recently when a new generation of soft lenses came out that increased moisture in the the eyes, Dr. Putt, could not play golf with contacts because of a tear deficiency that allowed him to wear his contacts for only an hour or so--not enough for a round of golf. But he could wear a glasses strap. The strap kept 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. And if you have soft lenses that work, use them when you play!

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

Ok, back to our struggling young man with the slice. 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 releasing or rolling his wrists through the hitting area, but rarely would he release/roll them at the correct instant to hit the desired shot.

The solution? Much less pressure and no effort to release/roll the wrists. Let the release/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. As noted in other newsetters, the basic problem in swings that advocate a deliberate rrelease of the wrists and forearms is timing the release consistently.

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 release 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 and change gloves during a round. One cannot lightly hang on to a slick grip. You would have to grip it tightly, and then you 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, 3) use a dry glove that feels tacky, and 4) swing with a consistent tempo.

This will cause your wrists to release 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 release at just the right instant on every swing. If you change tempo, they will release 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 and where your game is likely to fail first under pressure

Annika Sorenstam did not make the cut at the recent PGA tournament at Colonial where she played with the men. 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 in the media and among players. And her 71/74 was far better than VJ--who was among her critics, who withdrew. 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 on the PGA, she would certainly do as well as others who hit the ball her distance, and perhaps even better than some 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 that which 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--especially those with few wins--miss at the ends of majors. Witness our own fears and failures on three footers to win a bet. Put simply, putting is where an automatic swing requiring no conscious thought is most important.

So 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.

Best regards,
Dr. Putt