Why Are You STILL a Hacker?
by Lawrence Martin
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Table of Contents/ Go to Preface/ Go to Step 1/ Go to Step 2/ Go to Step 3/ Go to Step 4/ Go to Step 5/ Go to Step 6/ Go to Step 7/ Go to Step 8/ Go to Step 9/ Front Nine Quiz/ Back Nine Quiz/ Golf Bibliography/ Internet Sites Listed in Book

Step 5. Setup all your shots.

"I think [setup] is the single most important maneuver in golf. It is the only aspect of the swing over which you have 100% conscious control." Jack Nicklaus, Golf My Way

I am proud to be an ex-hacker, and believe you can become one also. This book is a guide, but it is not (obviously) an instruction book. I am not a pro and don't give lessons (except to unwitting family members). But as a student of the game I know what the problems are, and where you should focus your efforts. And I am here to tell you that the bane of all hackers is that they don't set up their shots! Not just top tour players like Jack Nicklaus, but top teachers like David Leadbetter will tell you: Setup is the one aspect of golf over which we have total control.

Setting up means:

Setup is one thing that you can practice anywhere, any time. It is the one aspect of golf for which -- to put it bluntly -- there is no excuse for not taking time to perform. But as an ex-hacker, I am also here to tell you that proper set up isn't that easy for weak golfers, no matter what the pros preach. Two reasons are lack of a uniform mantra about setup (particularly ball position) and self-intimidation on the golf course ("won't I look stupid placing a club down beside the ball"; or, "I play too slowly to take all that time with setup").

Achieve a proper -- and comfortable -- grip

Here, you need hands on instruction. I don't think the zillion photos in books equal one good lesson where someone can place your hands on the club and work with you to achieve a good grip. There are three basic grips -- the overlapping, the interlocking, and the 10-finger or baseball grip - and you should experiement until you find one that's comfortable.

I started out with the most popular of the three, the overlapping grip. After a few years of playing with this grip I realized my control of the club was too loose for comfort, particularly on the back swing. Having read about the interlocking grip (essentially a minor change in one finger) I tried it - and liked it! That grip now works for me. In my opinion comfort is important, and there is no one best grip for everyone (an obvious point, so don't play with a grip you can't stand). And remember Natural Golf? The hand position is totally different from any of the three conventional grips, but it works for natural golf players. You can find more information on the proper conventional grip The Golf Channel's Instruction & Play section. .

Choose a specific point for the ball to go and picture its flight

This means choosing a target line and an ending point for your ball. The target line is basically the initial flight path of the ball. Even though the ball may well curve right or left -- and you expect it to -- you still have to start it on a certain flight path before it curves. That initial flight path is the target line. The ending point of the ball is where you hope it will end up. Pretty simple. Thus if you plan for a fade, you envision the ball going straight for, say, 150 yards, then curving right to end up right of your target line.

Basically, therefore, you want to picture the shot you are planning to accomplish. To hit a ball with no clear idea where you want it to go, or how, is a hopeless exercise. Yet all too often the only desire of hackers is just to hit the ball - no matter where it goes, as long as it goes somewhere forward! Instead, you must picture the shot you're trying to make, and decide on the target line.

Line up your shot

This means to aim the shot and then align the clubface and your body to effect the shot. It means swinging the club in a manner so that if you make solid contact, the ball will go in the direction of your intended target. To do this you have to line up square, or parallel with, the target line. So simple in theory, yet so often ignored by hackers.

An imaginary line drawn across the tips of your feet is supposed to run parallel to the target line. The target line is a line through the ball to the target.

Line through
tips of feet: --------------------------------->
Target line : ---------0----------------------> to target

Thus the two imaginary lines are like rails on a train track; they run parallel and never meet.

Note that the target is not necessarily where you want the ball to end up; it is simply the point you are aiming the ball at. You may be aiming to the left side of the fairway, expecting the ball to curve to the right; your target line would be from the ball to a point on the left side of the fairway. Or, you may be aiming the ball to the fringe of the green way left of the cup, expecting the ball to then roll rightward toward the cup; in this case your target line is from the ball to the fringe of the green. And so on.

In most cases you want your body - shoulders, hips, a line connecting the tips of your toes - to be parallel to the intended target line; this is called standing square to the target line. (On occasion you will want to stand open or closed to the target line; however, you certainly can't do this if you don't know how to stand square first.)

In a nutshell, your body should be parallel to the target line. And for hackers, it almost never is! The problem is what I call 'the illusion of parallel.' You think you're lined up, but you're not! How do I know? How would you know? Simple.

Line up your usual way, then place your club down so that the shaft rests on the ground against your toes. Then stand back at least 15 feet. Now see if you're lined up to where you think you were. It will amaze you time and again that you are not lined up at all. You may be as much as 10-30 degrees away from where you thought you were. You suffer from an illusion of parallel.

I see this all the time. The hackers believes he's aiming for the target, he actually hits a good shot, and the ball goes way right or way left. He was not lined up! The ball went to where he was aiming! But he was aiming away from his intended target! Amazing!

So line up all your shots. On every shot, except perhaps short putts, it would not be a bad idea to lay the club down against the tips of your toes after you have lined up, then stand back and then make adjustments accordingly. Remember, the club laid down in this manner should be pointing parallel to the target line, not directly at the target. Only a line through your ball should point to the target.

Placing the ball in the proper position relative to your feet

You need to place the ball so that it is at the bottom of the swing arc. This is true for all clubs except the driver, where most pros recommend you play it off the left instep, so that the club hits the ball on the upswing. For all other clubs, in theory, you should be hitting the ball at the bottom of the downswing.

Unfortunately, this maxim of ball placement has led to a plethora of placement advice. Inevitably, the novice will become confused unless he is receiving instruction from one person only, and ignores all other advice. It is common to recommend a slightly different ball position for each iron, but some pros recommend that high handicappers place the ball in the middle of the stance for all iron shots. This latter is actually good advice for a conventional shot in the middle of the fairway, but you will soon learn of many exceptions. For example, a shot that starts low and stays low (useful when going under a tree branch, for example) is best executed with the ball back in your stance; a high 'flop' shot is best done with the ball in the forward position; etc.

As you get better, you should experiment, so that on the course you have a general idea where the ball is best placed for the intended shot. The hacker's mistake is to have no idea, just to place the ball somewhere. If you decide to play the ball in the middle, make sure it is in the middle of your ankles, not your toes, since a slight lateral motion of either foot will heavily distort the middle of the stance.

Assume correct posture

This is difficult to write about without pictures. Check out The Golf Channel's Instruction & Play section.

Table of Contents/ Go to Preface/ Go to Step 1/ Go to Step 2/ Go to Step 3/ Go to Step 4/ Go to Step 5/ Go to Step 6/ Go to Step 7/ Go to Step 8/ Go to Step 9/ Front Nine Quiz/ Back Nine Quiz/ Golf Bibliography/ Internet Sites Listed in Book
Lawrence Martin
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