Method or Feel?
I had an interesting question and conversation last week about the best way to approach your short range scoring shots, particularly those that require something less than a full swing. The golfer I was visiting with was conflicted by things he had read by various instructors regarding approaching these shots with a concise and repeatable "method", versus other instructors who he felt advised that you just have to develop feel for this part of the game.
My take is that you have to have both in order to score better.
There's no question that the more "method-ized" you can make your approach to the in-between and less-than-full shots, the more consistent you will be come. But there are varying degrees of "method-ization" that you can build in, and each degree requires a commitment to learning and practice time. The question you have to ask yourself – and be honest with the answer -- is how much time will you really give it?
For recreational golfers, I think the best approach, at least to begin with, is to work on learning a basic "half swing". To me, that is where the left arm (for RH players) goes back only so far as to where it is parallel to the ground. You want good extension back, and an almost full shoulder turn at this end-of-backswing position. From there, make a rhythmic and smooth turn and pull through the impact zone, and into a full finish. This is not about power, but rather repeatable swing speed, so that you get consistent results.
Once you learn this half swing, experiment hitting shots with all your wedges (or scoring clubs if you have made the SCOR4161 conversion) and even your short irons, to see what distances you get with each, and what kind of ball flight and release each club delivers. What you'll find is that you now have 4-5 new dialed-in distances to take to the course.
Now let's apply feel to the formula. I like to think of feel as it relates to overall swing speed, not just the impact power. Going back to that half swing, I think you can apply three speeds that we'll relate to driving our cars. I call them "Country Road", "City" and "School Zone". Country Road is what you just learned as "full speed", not too powerful, very controlled. Less than a full-swing 7-iron shot for sure.
"City" is throttled back from that to a much more relaxed speed – more precise, more cautious. It will produce a distance result with each club that is measurably less than your Country Road speed, giving you another batch of distances you can dial in.
Finally, I like to think of "School Zone" on my pitch shots around the greens. If you will learn to swing your club at this speed with various clubs, you'll have a whole new arsenal of scoring shots to call on. A great practice routine is to actually see how slow you can swing. You'll find that you can move the club in virtual slow motion, and still hit a quality shot.
It's fun to learn new ways of striking the ball, and I hope this exercise gives all of you new shots to learn and perfect to improve your scoring.
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Sean Foley teaches a numbering method where each number (1 to 4) is a one quarter swing or follow through. So a 1-2 is 1/4 backswing and 1/2 follow through.
So if you have the time to figure out the distance you get from each swing combination for each scoring club, you'll pretty much cover the waterfront from 100 yards in.
Problem is, unfortunately, golf is not my day job and I just don't have the time to figure this all out, so I pretty much rely on feel which generally serves me reasonably well.
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