Care for our Range

Here at the Running Y, we have access to multiple practice areas. We have two practice greens with plenty of room for chipping and pitching, and two practice bunkers where one can work on their green-side or fairway bunker play. We also have two ranges--a lower and an upper range. The lower range gets the most use, and the maintenance crew takes care of regulating the hitting areas and filling the divots with sand. On the upper range, however, players are able to hit from any location and the filling of divots is left up to the user. Over the past several seasons, the upper range has increased in popularity and use. As a result, the area is now subject to more players who are not aware of the proper etiquette and care for our range.

Does the image on the lower left look familiar? There are a couple of lessons to be learned from this image. First, notice the large area and random pattern of the divots. When one practices in this manner, they may not understand the affect this has on the future quality of our hitting surface, and on the use of the range by others. This player has damaged a large area and then walked away without filling their divots. When divots are left to heal without fill or care, the image on the lower right shows what can occur--a rough, pockmarked surface, requiring a lot of time and maintenance to heal.

 Random divot practice on left, and healing results on right.

Random divot practice on left, and healing results on right.

The image on the lower left represents a more mindful way to create and care for your divots on the range. This player probably hit just as many balls as the player in the images above, but used up 1/4 of the space. This player took the time to fill their divots with the sand provided. They filled the divots to the level of the surrounding earth, to ensure a level growing surface for the turf. When we properly take care of our divots, the grass has a chance to grow back in a clean, level manner, as shown here in the image on the lower right.

 Mindful divot practice and sand repair on left, and healing results on right.

Mindful divot practice and sand repair on left, and healing results on right.

We are very fortunate to have such great practice facilities, and access to the upper range. Please be considerate of how you create and care for your divots. We are supplied with sand in a large grey container on the upper range. Please minimize the area used, and take the time to repair your divots. This etiquette will ensure plenty of quality turf for us all.

Attitude and Performance

We can affect our performance based on how we feel about ourselves and what our expectations are for our game. Are you a golfer who has experienced a "blow-up" hole, only to have it ruin the rest of your round? Have you started a round of golf with high expectations, and then felt terrible when you did not play your best and meet those expectations? Don't let your attitude impact your performance and enjoyment.

Many players base their self-worth on how well they play the game of golf. Their attitude is dictated by their game, and a bad round equates to a bad attitude. Some have a hard time separating the player from the person, and they let their scores define who they are as a person. These individuals put additional pressure on themselves by attaching self-worth to the way they play. They think people will view them as a better person, because they have a better golf game. This player gains confidence from seeing the ball going in the hole a lot in practice, which they believe will in turn, determine future results or outcomes on the course. These players are often driven by their own personal insecurities, such as the fear of failure. This can be a very unfulfilling approach to this great sport.

Great performers in the arts and in athletics alike, have some common traits. They believe in themselves and their ability. They never get too high or too low, and they are able to bounce back after a difficult situation. This player gains confidence from growth; often reflecting on past successes, realizing that future success has more to do with the right attitude or being the right state of mind. The process for these players, can be just as rewarding as a good outcome.

We are in control of our attitude. It is a choice we all make, every day, and through every round. While we all may struggle from time to time with a negative outlook, or low self esteem after a bad performance - the choice to change and improve is up to you. 

"Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots - but you have to play the ball where it lies."  - Bobby Jones

Practice Facilities

The golf industry has been required to change and adapt as the golf business and market has shifted. All golf professionals and facilities should continually evolve, learn, and grow in this changing environment. One aspect of the game that is important to me, is the course practice area. Like the industry, practice facilities need to evolve and improve.

The practice facility, or "driving range,” has typically been the last thought in the development process of a course. As a result, many ranges are forced into a less than adequate space. I have been to countless "high end" golf courses that had terrible practice facilities. Many are too small, with not enough room to hit your driver; poor layout with bad targets; and often void of a dedicated short game area. Those of us lucky enough to be associated with the Running Y, have access to a great practice facility. The creators dedicated plenty of land to develop a large range, and had the insight to build multiple short game areas.

Similar to the evolution of golf and instruction, there is now heightened awareness around how and where players practice. Countless instructors, including myself, speak on how golfers need to practice like they play, and in a similar environment to the golf course. However, most practice areas have not changed and evolved to meet this need. Thanks to our Running Y facilities management, a request for updates to our range has been acknowledged. Our back range has evolved to include a larger undulating area, similar to our fairways. This enables players to practice those uneven lies which are more a part of golf than the flat and even lie. Potentially, this evolution could continue into the development of a practice facility which rivals some of the best, and is designed for the player. 

Take advantage of our facilities and practice more from the uneven and awkward lie. You will find that with more variable practice, your time on the range will relate more to your time on the course. Finally, please use the sand made available on the back range to fill in your divots after your session is complete. This etiquette allows the turf to heal smoothly and provide a quality surface for future use.

Student of the Game

It is a good time to be a student of the game. Today's modern world gives us access to a great deal of information. Teachings from the past and modern methods of analysis are both available in an instant. Many players and instructors today are polarized between the old and the new. As an instructor and student of the game, I believe that it is vital to appreciate and learn from the past, while also embracing and understanding modern insights. I personally try to never promote one method or philosophy over another. There is an infinite number of ways to teach and play this game. I recommend that players and coaches keep an open mind to all lessons, both old and new, and then find what works best for them and their belief system.

There is a common thread in the history of instruction if one looks deep enough. The lessons of H.B. Farnie in 1857, relate to Seymour Dunn's lessons from 1922, which relate to Ben Hogan's teachings in 1957, which also relate to modern day understanding of kinematics, lessons from TrackMan, and pressure mapping with BodiTrak. If you are a student of the game, I encourage you to embrace both old and new. Let's all be educated, and not intimidated by a new process or new device. I admit that the modern numbers-based analysis of the golf swing can seem too technical, however, these methods of analysis should only make your teacher/coach better, and actually simplify his or her approach toward your improvement. Good coaching is still all about communication.

My personal teaching philosophy is grounded in history and supported by modern science and technology. I know that there are many ways to swing a golf club. I do, however, think that there is one, most efficient way for each individual to sequence motion, based on how we are built and what we can do physically. Finding this potential and understanding cause and effect, is why I embrace technology.

Come listen to a discussion on Saturday, June 4th, about technology in golf and how the instruction industry has evolved. The talk will be held from 4:00 to 5:00 in the simulator room of the Running Y clubhouse. There is no charge to attend but please R.S.V.P. as wine and beer will be available for purchase.

The Body-Swing Connection

There is a direct correlation between our physical abilities and how we are able to move throughout our golf swing. I have been interested in what makes instruction "stick" with some players, and is fleeting with others. My interest in this paradigm led me to learn more about the body and its connection to our personal swing.

Think back to past lessons and how the instructor may have asked you to try to position yourself and the club in a certain manner, or swing in a certain style. Were you able to do it during the lesson, and did it "stick," allowing you to play better golf - or did the instruction seem to fade, putting you right back where you were prior to the lesson? Are you capable of making the motion being asked of you? Did the style of the instruction take away your dynamic ability to play good golf? If these questions resonate with you, I understand.

The quest for improving my knowledge and ability to help my students improve their game and efficiency, led me to the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI). The educational platform provided by TPI provides valuable information on the human body and what is involved physically in producing an efficient motion in golf. We all have different limitations and abilities. Understanding how these factors may affect our swing is paramount to building, and improving, our own personal motion. There are numerous patterns which produce quality golf shots, but only one that may work most efficiently for the individual. This is based on what he or she can do physically. If our mobility or stability is dysfunctional, the TPI educational platform helps the instructor guide students towards corrective exercises and/or drills to improve the quality of motion.

Understanding the body-swing connection can be valuable for the player, but it needs to be a requirement for the teacher/coach. Please come to my presentation on this topic on Saturday, May 14th. The event will be from 5:00 to 6:00 and will be held in the simulator room of the Running Y clubhouse. There will be no charge to attend, but please R.S.V.P. as wine and beer will be available for purchase. Come early or stay late and enjoy a conversation about the body-swing connection and the evolution of golf instruction.

Deliberate Practice

Not every player likes to practice the game of golf, but most people understand that it is difficult to implement any significant change or improvement in any sport, if little time is given to learning something different and new. Many golfers who enjoy practice, hit balls on the range without much thought, and with a lot of repetition. I call this recreation, not practice. What has been proven to work for motor skill acquisition is what we call, deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is about improving your performance, and reaching for objectives and goals that may be just beyond your current level of competence; and being mindful and gaining feedback on your results. Deliberate practice is not simply hitting golf balls, it is learning.

Here are some suggestions to make better use of your time on the range and how to make your practice more deliberate:

Have a plan for what you want to work on or accomplish for every practice session and try to stick to your plan. Try hitting to different targets with different clubs, and even from different lies. Practice with fewer balls in front of you, giving more focus and purpose to each shot. Take time to visualize your desired ball flight between shots. Develop and implement your pre-shot routine for every shot, and choose small targets. Try keeping a journal - write down what is working and lessons you have learned. Reminders will facilitate improvement and keep you on track. Finally, always allow for more deliberate practice on and around the green, not just on the range.

"While I am practicing I am also trying to develop my powers of concentration. I never just walk up and hit the ball. I am practicing and adopting habits of concentration which pay off when I play. Adopt a habit of concentration to the exclusion of everything else around you on the practice tee and you will find that you are automatically following the same routine while playing a round in competition. Play each shot as if it were part of an actual round." - Ben Hogan.

Ask yourself why you are practicing. If it is for recreation - that's great; enjoy it! There is nothing wrong with spending time outdoors hitting golf balls. However, if you want to improve, learn, or have goals you want to achieve, then consider refining how you spend your time on the range. Make your practice more deliberate.

The Level Lie

Think about how many times during your round that you have a flat level lie. I would venture to guess that it might be only 18 times, from the tee box. It is from these level lies that we practice on the range and then we go out and play most of our shots from a variety of positions. The golf swing that we work so hard to achieve on the range, must change and adapt to new and different situations. If you are not letting the course and the nature of your lie, dictate your set-up and pattern, then you may be struggling. 

When we are faced with an uneven surface or awkward ball position, our set-up and pattern must change in order to make a quality strike with predictable ball flight. We cannot expect to make the same motion we practice from a level area when the ball is well below or above our feet. The same is true when we find our ball in deep grass, sand, or some other lie that is nothing like our practice conditions. I am sure we have all experienced these situations and have been confused when our contact is off or our ball flight goes in the opposite direction than planned. We practice in a controlled environment, yet play in an environment which varies from shot to shot.

I often question why more golf facilities do not design their range to more closely represent the true nature of their fairways. Uneven lies are a larger part of the game than perfect level lies, yet most players do not practice these shots. If you are looking to improve your overall ball-striking then consider giving more time to working on these situations. If you play multiple balls out on the course (when pace of play allows) put yourself in these types of troubled lies. Play from uncomfortable positions to better understand the changes you must make. When you are practicing, find locations that are not always perfect, and spend time getting comfortable with the situation. If you do not understand what to do from these uneven and awkward lies, then visit your local PGA professional to help increase your knowledge and skill.

The level lie does not often occur once we leave the range and tee box. Give more thought to how you might improve your game by working on the awkward and uneven.

Indoor Improvement

At the Running Y Ranch Resort, there is finally a winter with snow. In colder climates, golfers tend to get a little "rusty" with their game and feel as though it takes months to get back in shape. Do not let this happen to you this year. There are some great resources available to you and different ways that you can maintain, and even improve your game during a cold season or long Spring thaw.

I believe the most important part of our golf game is our body and it's connection to our swing. This is the machine that runs every golf shot and moves us through life. 

I emphasize flexibility and strength with all of my students as part of my lessons, and I recommend regular exercise and stretching year 'round. Take advantage of the resources available to you such as the exercise facility at the Sandhill Spa or a certified trainer to help develop a routine which allows you to improve or maintain strength and flexibility. Stay active, keep your machine in good order, and focus on improving a weakness or injury. Stay fit so you can hit the course in better shape this Spring.

The membership of the Running Y and the golfing public of Klamath Falls are very fortunate to now have access to TrackMan and the indoor hitting facility at our course. I highly recommend that you take advantage of this resource. Golfers can chose to work on their swing or play a round of golf on one of the several famous courses uploaded on the simulator. Stop by or call the pro shop to ask about all of the options and capabilities of the new system.

Putting is definitely part of the game which can be improved or maintained through the winter. We tend to spend more time indoors or in front of a television during the colder months, so incorporate some putting practice or games to help spend this time more productively. Make a small investment in a putting mat if you do not already have a carpet that works well for this purpose. To make sure you are working on improving your stroke pattern, I recommend some sort of device for feedback, or drills. Whether it is a training aid or simply a straight line to your target, use something which helps your set-up, your stroke, and improves the quality of impact.

As Spring approaches, get your golf game warmed up by using resources available to you at the Running Y Ranch Resort or by adding new practices to your daily routine.

Balance in the Golf Swing

When golfers swing in balance, they generally hit the ball more solidly and less crooked. Balance can play a large role in the shape of your swing, which will affect the shape of your shots. Golfers who struggle with balance throughout the swing are frequently making recovery motions to maintain balance, which then negatively effects their ability to deliver the golf club to the ball consistently on the downswing.

A common ball flight pattern for those struggling with balance can often be a slice. For a right handed player, this is a negative swing path (to the left) with a club face open (to the right) of the path. The resulting spin axis is one which bends the ball to right. Many of my students who struggle with this slice pattern have a swing characteristic where their balance moves their center of pressure (CoP) toward their toes during their backswing. This can result in one of two swing flaws. First, to counter-balance their heavy toe pressure, they swing their arms and club very deep behind their bodies on their backswing to try to stay in balance. Secondly, their lack of balance limits their ability to make a big enough turn to get the golf club on a more ideal downswing plane. Both toe-heavy backswing balance characteristics frequently evolve into a steeper downswing plane. One that moves more to the left through impact.

If you struggle with this pattern, try to keep your CoP more centered by exaggerating the feeling of keeping your weight a little more toward your heels. This change in balance and foot pressure can produce a more efficient take away motion where the arms and club can stay in front of your chest, and also help facilitate a bigger back swing turn. This change of pattern can then lead into a different downswing delivery that produces solid ball contact and a preferred ball flight.

Work on your balance throughout your golf swing sequence and you will start to make better and more consistent contact as well as start to improve patterns which lead to unwanted ball flight characteristics.

Spin Axis

Ball flight curvature is directly related to the orientation of what TrackMan has labeled the "spin axis." A positive spin axis will curve the ball to the right, while a negative spin axis will curve the ball to the left.

There are three components that have to be considered when trying to explain ball curvature or what we refer to as spin axis: club face to club path relationship, off-center impact, and club face rotation rate through impact.

The primary source of generating spin axis is explained by any difference between the club path and the angle of the club face to the path. For right-handed golfers, an open face (to the right) relationship to the path or direction of the club, will produce positive spin to the right or what we call a fade. Negative spin axis to the left or a draw, will be produced by a closed club face relationship to the path.

Off-center impact occurs if the ball is impacted anywhere but in front of the center of gravity of the club. If off-center impact occurs, the club head will tend to rotate during impact. The counter action of the ball is to rotate the other way, like a gear. This added component of spin will add or subtract from any spin axis.

A rotating club face through impact can also create the counter action of the ball to rotate the other way, (like a gear), exactly as explained above for off-center impact. It is primarily the speed at which this action occurs, that has an effect on spin axis. 

Understanding spin axis, or what creates ball curvature, is an important part of becoming a more educated player. This knowledge can help us better assess our ball-flight and personal patterns, which then leads to improvement.

The Stockton Method

One the the most popular putting instructors today is Dave Stockton. His method has attracted some of the top players in the world and has been taught and adopted by many. Here are some of the key points of the Stockton putting method. 

Have a consistent pre-putt routine that is short and exactly alike each and every time. Read from the low side of the putt and behind the putt from a low angle only. Know where the "front door" of the cup is based on the break of the green. Don’t take too much time behind the putt, when you think too much the mind will introduce negative thoughts unnecessarily. Visualize the putt rolling and dropping into the cup. Get your eyes directly over the ball. A putt should be rolled and not struck, simply allow the ball to be in the way of your smooth stroke. Keep the back stroke and the follow through as low as possible. Aim the back of the left wrist at the target at all times. Have confidence in your brain’s ability to perform, let the subconscious mind do its work. Believe it and visualize success.

Maybe one or several of these points can help you in your own putting and be sure to stop by the Running Y pro-shop to try out one of our top new putters.

The Plumb-Bob Method

The putting stroke accounts for approximately 42% of all strokes made during the average round of golf, therefore, a golfer’s putting performance plays a large role in the overall score. Putting is based on set-up, path, impact, speed, and a golfer’s ability to judge slope. 

We make assumptions based on visual cues from the landscape or our sense of balance to judge slope. A popular system that has been used for decades is the plumb-bob method. In the plumb-bob method, a golfer stands behind the ball, perpendicular to the slope, straddling an imaginary line that bisects the ball and hole. The golfer then suspends the putter at arm’s length, allowing gravity to pull the shaft into a true vertical alignment. While sighting only out of the dominant eye, the golfer aligns the bottom of the shaft with the ball.  According to the theory, if there is any slope in the green, then the top of the shaft will be observed to be on the high side of the hole. 

Problems with this method can occur when the slope of the green beneath the golfer is different than the slope between the ball and the hole or if their stance is not perpendicular to the slope. Both can actually suggest that the ball will break incorrectly, so if you use the plumb-bob method, make sure there is a constant slope between you, the ball, and the hole. Also, make sure you stand perpendicular to the slope of the green, otherwise, the method can let you down.

Friction and Spin

Spin on a ball is created by five main factors: friction, dynamic loft of the club at impact, contact point (on the club face), speed of the swing and a premium golf ball. One of the keys to generating a spinning wedge shot is high friction between club and ball. High friction between club and ball will produce more spin. Friction is the force between two surfaces when rubbing together. Two smooth surfaces create little friction, while two rough surfaces create a lot of friction. That is one of the reasons why golf clubs have grooves and golf balls have dimples - the grooves provide the necessary friction that is created as the golf ball slides up the club face. Any matter (dirt, water, grass) that comes between the golf ball and club face, reduces friction and therefore spin. Backspin comes first and foremost from clean, crisp, well-struck shots, hit under optimum conditions. A dirty old golf ball hit from old worn out grooves that have not been cleaned for a week, has no chance of spinning. With education and practice, you can improve dynamic loft, contact point, and speed - but by simply upgrading your wedges, keeping your club face clean, and using a premium golf ball, you can produce more spin. The Running Y has a great selection of wedges and premium balls in our pro-shop and I encourage everyone to try them out.

Shorten the Course

Course length and driver optimization are two major components to improving the performance of the average male amateur (AMA). The AMA has a driver club speed of around 93 mph and an average total distance of 220 yards. Most golfers are playing courses that are too long relative to their club speed and skill level. It is not to suggest that a golfer should simply play a shorter course to shoot better scores, but a golfer should play a course length that is appropriate to their level. One suggestion is to setup course length based on your club speed and driver efficiency. With average club speed at 93 mph, the AMA should be able to hit his driver around 250 yards. If a 50% greens in regulation stat was desired, then the approach shot would need to be approximately 140 yards. This means your par 4s would average 390 yards. Playing from a shorter tee box is one obvious answer. Another way to effectively shortening a golf course would be to become more efficient with your current club speed and Driver. With the AMA averaging 30 yards fewer than his potential, there is a lot of room for improvement. Schedule a session with TrackMan to help optimize your driver. As you become more efficient, you will have shorter approach shots which lead to closer proximity to the hole. 

Alignment

Golf is an athletic game. It takes some physical skill to move throughout our golf swing. However, it takes no athletic ability to get in proper alignment with our chosen path/direction. If you find yourself struggling to get aligned to your target, try this simple process.

For this example, we are trying to get aligned parallel to our target line or swing direction. First, start behind the ball. Face your ball, which is now between you and your chosen target or intended path. Visually trace an imagined line on the ground that runs from your target, back to your ball. Now identify a spot on this "line" that is no more than 3 feet in front of your ball. Approach the ball while focusing on this spot in front of the ball and not your target in the distance. Place your club behind the ball, perpendicular or "square" to your "line," pointing at your spot. Next, step into your stance and align your feet perpendicular to your club face, which is now pointing at your spot, which is on your intended target line. Once you are set, look down your "line" all the way back to your target. Now make your swing with the confidence that you are aligned properly. Practice this process to make it part of your routine for every shot.   

Small Target, Small Miss

Golf is a target-based sport. We are given a starting point (the tee box) and are challenged to navigate our ball to a given finish (the hole). From start to finish, there are several shots, and every swing of every club should have a target. Many of us fall victim to the wide open setting of the fairway or become careless over what seems to be an easy putt, and our target becomes too general. The next time you play, try choosing a smaller target for a smaller miss. For example, from the tee box, find an exact spot or area in the fairway for your target. Try to visualize the ball-flight and how you want the shot to look all the way to your target. Go through your routine and approach the ball with confidence now that you have "seen" how your ball will be getting to your target. Try the same approach for every shot you make, even the short putts. Pick out an exact target, a blade of grass or a mark on the hole; be mindful of rolling your ball over / to your spot.

Try this method in your play and practice. You might find that your misses start to become smaller and your scores will soon follow.  

Why TrackMan?

At the Running Y, we are very fortunate to have access to such a well-designed course and excellent practice and golf facilities. The existing golf experience will soon be further enhanced with the addition of TrackMan to the Running Y.

TrackMan is the industry leader in measuring two major influences on ball-flight; club-head and ball data. Using radar, TrackMan measures angles, speeds, and distances. With 26 different data points, TrackMan has influenced how golf professionals not only understand what makes a ball do what it does in flight, but also how we teach and continue to learn about impact. 

But "why" TrackMan for the average golfer? Simply put, TrackMan answers questions with facts. Facts give us all knowledge and trust. You don't need to be a tour professional to understand and appreciate how and why our golf ball moves after impact. When we learn the "why" associated with ball-flight, we can begin to focus on how we can either change our swing or equipment to affect our personal results. 

The Running Y has become a leader in golf swing and ball-flight analysis with the addition of TrackMan. I encourage everyone to experience how TrackMan can work for them and their own personal game.