The Long Game Improvement Plan – Part 1
Welcome to The Long Game Improvement Plan!
There are a lot of golfers that suffer from ball striking inconsistency and for the majority they will never fix their problems. And here’s the reason why….
Most golfers who try to improve their swing don’t have a clue what they should be practicing to improve. So this forces them into a guessing game, trying one thing after another in a desperate attempt to find something that will improve their results.
Now every now and then a golfer using this improvement approach does find something that seems to help but often it’s just a short term fix that doesn’t last.
This shot gun approach to improving is clearly NOT the way to become a great ball striker like you want to become. So if you want to hit the ball…
- straighter, and
- more consistently
…then you must do something different, and that’s going to start today….right now!
Because if you’re serious about improving your ball striking you first need to know what you need to focus on to improve.
And that’s what this 5 part report is all about.
It’s going to tell you in no uncertain terms what you need to focus on to become a consistent ball striker.
I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that trying one thing after another without any real plan will NOT lead you to improvement. You’ll be wasting your valuable time doing that. And I’ll say it again (just slightly differently this time)….to improve your ball striking you need a proven step-by-step practice plan that outlines exactly what you need to do to improve. Then it’s simply up to you to put into action the steps in the plan.
So reading this report for long game success is the start of you becoming the great ball striker you’ve always wanted to become. Because you’re going to discover exactly what you need to focus on to improve and in the correct order too. That’s very important.
OK, let’s make a start by looking at…
Part 1 – The Setup
The way you setup to a golf ball has a huge affect on the way you hit the golf ball. But don’t believe me listen to what a couple of great golfers say about this…
“All the finest players learned early in their careers that the quality of the swing is dependent about 80 percent on preparation and 20 percent on execution. Reverse those proportions and you’ll always be a hacker.”
“If you don’t set up correctly, it is impossible to improve. Impossible.”
So if you want to become a consistent ball striker you must setup to the ball the best you can and you must do this consistently. And seen as how you’ve got to grip the club first to play a game of golf I think it would be wise to look at that.
The Golf Grip
I know the golf grip is not the most exciting place to start but it is the BEST place to start. And I want to make sure you never, ever underestimate the importance of having a good grip. The great players don’t.
“The basic factor in all good golf is the grip. Get it right, and all other progress follows.”
For example, at the start of every golf season Jack Nicklaus would go to his golf coach Jack Grout for a lesson on the grip. Now there’s a man that knew the importance of great fundamentals and his career didn’t turn out too bad.
With the grip it is very easy to slip into bad habits and this can cause huge problems in the golf swing. And the grip is the most important element to building a consistent, repeatable swing.
Want to know why?
Because if you have a good grip your hands and wrists will naturally move where they should in the golf swing. But if you have a poor grip you’ll have to make compensation after compensation in your golf swing and you’ll probably never groove a swing that produces a consistent ball flight.
Also, by having a good grip you’re far more likely to return the clubface to the ball in a square position and you’re way more likely to do this consistently.
Plus, if your grip is correct then you can rule out your hands as a possible reason for inconsistencies.
Another great advantage of a good grip is that it will allow you to produce a fade or draw when you want without changing your basic grip. And a good grip will allow you to control the club without having to hold it too tightly. This also means you’ll get very high levels of sensitivity from your hands as you’re swinging and when you strike the golf ball.
So are you now convinced of the importance of a great grip?
I hope so. And the great thing about the golf grip is that anyone can learn how to hold the club correctly as it takes very little athletic ability.
Now when talking about grips you’ll hear people talking about a strong, weak or neutral grip. And some golf teachers have hard and fast rules about which grip you should use but I don’t and here’s why.
Some golfers naturally fade/slice the ball and some golfers naturally draw/hook the ball.
That’s just the way it is.
Now a weak grip encourages a fade/slice. And golfers that have a tendency to hook the ball should try a weaker than standard grip. An example of a golfer that did this very successfully was Ben Hogan. Ben in his younger days had a lot of trouble with a hook. So one of his remedies was to position his hands in a weak position. It seemed to work pretty well.
Of course, the reverse of this principle applies. So if your bad shot is a slice then you should experiment with a stronger than standard grip. And in the practice plan I give my students I teach a standard, neutral grip but I give people the freedom to experiment with a stronger or weaker grip depending on their natural bad shots.
OK, let’s now look at how you join your right hand to your left hand.
There are basically three different ways in which you can grip with the right hand, and I’m talking about the underneath part of the grip at the moment. The three differences are called the Interlocking grip, the Ten Finger grip and the Vardon/Overlapping grip.
The Interlocking grip is used by Jack Nicklaus and John Daly (just to name two). But for most golfers and especially for golfers that slice the ball, this should not be used, because the Interlocking grip tends to restrict the hands from releasing in the swing, which can cause slices.
The Ten Finger grip is great for young children and some ladies, and it’s especially good for golfers who slice the ball to practice with as it encourages a more free and relaxed use of the hands, which can only encourage a draw.
Finally, the Vardon/Overlapping grip is used by the majority of the top golfers in the world today and this is the one that I recommend and teach my students to use.
Now at this point I must mention something that is very important when it comes to gripping the golf club, and that’s relaxation. Most golfers have way too much tension in their arms, wrists and hands, which stops the club from working as it should, so you need to relax those parts of your body before you swing.
OK, finally on the topic of grips I want to mention about the actual physical grip that is on your golf club because it’s very important.
Grips come in different sizes, shapes and styles and the size of your grips can have a big affect on the types of shots you can hit. For example, a thicker grip will reduce your hand action and will make a fade or slice more likely. Whereas a thinner grip encourages hand action and will help to produce a draw/hook.
OK, that’s a summary of the important elements you need to get right when it comes to gripping the club let’s now look at….
“Poor ball position is a silent killer. If you don’t place the ball precisely in relation to your stance, the ball will be playing you instead of you playing the ball. You’ll have to conjure up some type of weird swing movement just to get the club on the ball, and because of that you’ll never be consistent.”
When you swing a golf club to the best of your ability you do so without any conscious thoughts. Or in other words you swing the club automatically using your subconscious mind. And the better and more consistent your setup the more you’ll be able to swing automatically.
But one huge determining factor as to whether or not you become a consistent ball striker will be where you position the ball in your stance and how consistently you get the ball positioned where it needs to be for each club. Because if your ball is positioned poorly then you’ll need to make a lot of compensations as you swing and this will mean you’ll greatly lack consistency.
So now you know this, here’s where you need to position the ball in your stance to become a consistent ball striker.
- For your Driver and 3 Wood your ball should be positioned directly off your left foot instep.
- For your 2-iron through to 6-iron your ball should be positioned a ball width inside your left instep.
- Finally for your 7-iron through to 9-iron your ball should be positioned two ball widths inside your left instep.
So there you go. That’s where you should position the ball for all the clubs in your bag.
But after reading this you may be wondering why I teach three ball positions when it would be so much easier to have just one ball position. Well, here’s the reason.
When you swing a driver you need a more sweeping motion than you do with say a 5-iron. And if you had just one ball position for both of these clubs then you would have to adjust your swing consciously to produce the correct swing motion (i.e. a sweeping one for a driver and a more downward blow with a 5-iron) and that’s not good.
Even though this may look a bit complicated at the moment, just trust me that these three ball positions are just a habit that you need to create. And in The Long Game Improvement Program I teach you how to turn these ball positions into habits by showing you how to create a ball position template. Once you’ve done that you’ll then be able to practice the correct ball position over and over again. By doing this it will help to give you amazing ball-striking consistency.
All right, let’s now look at your….
The posture you assume when you setup to a golf ball has a huge affect on your golf swing. For example, your posture determines whether or not you can shift your weight and turn fully and without restriction away from the golf ball. Also, your posture position at setup will largely determine how well you maintain your balance as you’re swinging and how forcefully you can swing down and through the ball, thus determining how far you can hit the ball.
Yes, the posture you set at address really is that important!
“You need to be in an athletically ready position so you can respond to movement quickly, smoothly and without losing your balance.”
Luckily, having a good athletic posture position is really, really easy to achieve. But unfortunately most golfers either don’t place enough importance on posture or they think their posture is OK. And sadly, most amateur golfers have terrible posture and they don’t realize what a huge detriment their posture is having on their swing itself.
However like I said a second ago, it’s really easy to have good posture and in the practice plan I give my students I tell them step-by-step exactly what they should do to improve theirs. But here are the main points of posture that you need to get correct…
- Your knees must have the right amount of flex in them.
- You must be bent over the correct amount for the club you’re using so that you’re standing neither too far from or the ball or too close.
- You need to know how to position your feet and how far apart they should be for each club.
- And you also need to position your hands in the correct position.
Now the final thing I want to talk about in regards to posture is balance. And to have great balance during your swing you must have it at the setup position.
So to do this, make sure your weight is evenly distributed between each foot so you can move easily in both directions. And your weight should be slightly more towards the balls of your feet to give yourself a very athletic stance.
OK, let’s now look at…
“It goes without saying that it is no good having a perfect setup, perfect grip and perfect golf swing if the whole thing is misaligned. It sounds obvious but many players simply do not spend enough time getting themselves on target.”
How you align your body is critical for your long game golfing consistency and success. And unlike what others have probably taught you, I believe your alignment should be a fraction left with all parts of your body instead of aligning everything parallel to your target line.
How much left?
Well for starters, your feet should be aligned to the left by about an inch with all clubs in your bag.
Because this feet positioning helps to restrict the turn of your hips and body rotation on the backswing. And this builds up torque and power so you can then explode down and through the ball.
But some people see that advice and get worried that they’re going to start slicing everything if they align slightly left. So I want to put your mind to rest if you’re thinking that. The alignment I suggest is only an inch open. That’s not a lot open and most people will not even notice it. Aligning an inch open will not help to produce a slice.
Now with alignment it’s very easy to get into bad habits because often what we feel we’re doing is a lot different than what is actually happening. So you need to check yourself regularly or get someone else to do it. But here’s a simple way of checking your feet alignment.
Simply setup to a shot as normal and then once setup place a golf ball behind the heel of each foot like this…
Then move away from your setup position and walk behind your ball and you’ll be able to see quickly and easily the alignment of your feet.
Now as I said earlier, every part of your body should be slightly open. But remember this is by no more than an inch. So again, this will in no way cause a slice.
Finally, the way you align your shoulders and arms is critical for your golfing success. So your shoulders should be slightly aligned to the left (open). And your left arm should hang down from the club and be relaxed but virtually straight. Whereas your right arm on the other hand (no pun intended) should be flexed slightly at the elbow.
From the down the line view you should be able to see some of your left arm. If you can’t that means you haven’t flexed your right arm enough at the elbow and this will cause swing problems.
So if you want to become a great ball striker you need to make sure you get your alignment correct and you need to make good alignment a habit so you can do it consistently without thinking about it.
OK, that’s all of the major elements of the setup that you need to focus on getting right. And before we look at physical and mental pre-shot routines I want you to take a little pop quiz to see how well you’re taking in everything I’ve talked about so far.
So look at these two golfers setups and see if you can predict which is the better golfer just by looking at their setups.
Now I hope you chose Player B because that’s a picture of Al Geiberger. And Al is the first ever person to post a 59 in a PGA Tour event. Player A on the other hand does well to break 100.
You see, it’s very easy to tell a good golfer just by the way they setup. So if you want to become a great ball striker you need to perfect your setup. Trust me, it’s well worth the time and effort to setup as well as you can. And you can do exactly that, you just need to know exactly what is involved and practice and perfect it.
Everyone can have as good a setup as any pro. It just takes the right knowledge and then some time and effort to make it into a habit. The rewards for doing so are great, i.e. consistent ball striking. Alright, let’s now look at a….
Physical Pre-Shot Routine
“In terms of its influence on the golf swing, the pre-shot routine is underestimated – hugely so in my opinion.”
For your golf game to be more consistent and more like a top golf pro you must create and habitualize a consistent physical pre-shot routine. And the first thing I want to discuss about creating a physical pre-shot routine is practice swings.
Personally, I don’t believe a practice swing should be part of your physical pre-shot routine for the long game. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think you shouldn’t have a practice swing before your long game shots.
All right, let’s clear this up by defining what a physical pre-shot routine is:
A physical pre-shot routine is a set of physical movements that should be exactly the same before every golf shot.
Now, if you have say two practice swings as part of your physical pre-shot routine then you must have two practice swings before every long game shot whether you feel like you need them or not. And this is one of the main reasons why I teach all of my students to have practice swings before they start their physical pre-shot routine for long game shots. Because that way they are free to have as many practice swings as they wish, or none if that’s how they feel.
Another reason for NOT having practice swings as part of your physical pre-shot routine is because directional accuracy with your long game shots is very, very important. So to have greater accuracy with your long game shots you should focus on setting up as well and as accurately as you can on every shot. And practice swings as part of your physical pre-shot routine will detract you from this and hurt your accuracy.
But again, before you start your physical pre-shot routine you’re more than welcome to have as many practice swings as you feel is necessary.
Although, I would say that you should never get into a habit of doing more than 2-3 practice swings before each shot because you’ll slow play down too much.
Generally one practice swing should be enough to get a feel for the swing again unless you’ve got a very unusual lie then you may want a few more practice swings next to your ball to get a feel for the shot you’re about to play. Then simply go back and start your physical pre-shot routine. Just don’t do a specific number of practice swings before each shot, vary it by going with your gut instinct.
Alright, practice swings is cleared up….let’s now get into the physical pre-shot routine itself. When you create a physical pre-shot routine here are some key things I believe you should do…
- Always start your physical pre-shot routine directly behind your ball.
- Have your grip set to go before you address the ball
- Pick out an intermediate target to align your clubface to.
- Have a waggle in your physical routine to keep movement up and to help keep you relaxed and ready to go.
- Always make sure you look at your final target before swinging the club.
- Have a physical swing trigger to signal the start of your swing.
Once you create a physical pre-shot routine it’s a good idea to write the steps down so that you can always refer back to it if you forget. Having said that, you should practice your physical pre-shot routine over and over to make sure you don’t forget.
And the goal when practicing your physical pre-shot routine is so that on the course you don’t have to worry about where you’re positioning the ball, aligning or how your grip is. Because they will just happen naturally from you following your physical pre-shot routine that you’ve created.
What I teach my students in the long game improvement program is a setup procedure to get into almost the same good setup position shot after shot….and obviously this creates amazing golfing consistency.
Finally, for this part of the long game report we need to discuss a….
Mental Pre-Shot Routine
Not only do you need a physical pre-shot routine to become a great ball striker BUT you also need a mental one, and the mental routine you create must help you target each golf shot.
Once you’ve done that you then need to go through a thought process that will help you to select the best type of shot for the situation that you’re facing. And the best way of doing this is by asking questions. But not any old questions.
Because if you want good answers you need to ask intelligent questions. And that’s why I tell my students the 5 questions you must ask before each golf shot to ensure the best possible chance of success.
OK, that concludes Part 1 of this Long Game Improvement Plan.
If you only get one thing out of reading this I hope it’s this: The setup has a huge affect on the way you swing the club and your ball striking success. So perfect it and learn how to setup perfectly every time and your ball striking results will improve!
In Part 2 of this 5 part plan we’re going to look at the backswing so stay tuned to when I release that….