5 Common golf injuries and how to avoid them   Leave a comment

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A lot of golfers are playing hurt. Not broken-bones hurt, but with things like tendinitis, sore muscles and arthritis. These aren’t flashy injuries, but they still can keep you off the course.

THE LEAD WRIST

fitness-avoid-injuriesWHAT HAPPENS: Hold your lead hand (left hand for righties) in front of you, thumb up, and make a fist. Notice there’s a little cup or angle in the back of the wrist; this is the natural power position. Most amateurs don’t have the strength to lead the club into impact with the back of the left wrist, as they’ve been told to, and that creates overload. Sometimes hitting the ground flattens the wrist angle, stressing the extensor tendons on the top of the wrist and causing tendinitis.

HOW TO AVOID INJURY: If you grip the club with your left hand in a weak position, the thumb down the top of the handle (above, 1), you risk having a flat or even bowed left wrist at impact. Instead, rotate your left hand away from the target about 30 degrees from that weak position. This will put the thumb at about 1:30 on an imaginary clock face, more down the right side of the grip, and create the slight cup you want in the wrist (2).

THE LEAD ELBOW

lead elbowWHAT HAPPENS: The problem here is similar to that in the wrist: The extensor tendons on the outside of the elbow are overloaded by the jarring of impact and begin to tear away from the bone. It’s called lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow. Golfer’s elbow affects the inside of the trail arm and is caused by the repeated straining and rotation of that arm through impact, but it’s less common.

HOW TO AVOID INJURY: Many golfers confuse keeping the left arm straight with locking it (below, 1). Consider this: If you let your arm hang at your side, it’s straight but relaxed. That’s the straight you want. Think of the arm as staying "soft" from start to finish (2). The momentum of the downswing will pull your left arm straight without you thinking about it.

THE LEAD SHOULDER

lead shoulderWHAT HAPPENS: There are several parts of the shoulder at risk, and the rotator cuff is the granddaddy of them all. But labral tears (torn cartilage) are becoming common and often can be traced to the backswing. When golfers keep the left arm tight to the chest as they swing back, they can tear the labrum that stabilizes the shoulder joint. This is called a posterior labral tear, and the golfer feels pain in the back of the shoulder.

HOW TO AVOID INJURY: Players who don’t turn well in the backswing tend to pin the left arm across the chest (1). Turning the upper body can be physically challenging for some golfers; others find it just plain scary, because they feel as if they won’t get back to hit the ball. A good swing thought is, Turn more, swing less (2). When your body stops turning back, your arms should stop swinging. Think of swinging your arms with your turn, not with the muscles in your shoulders.

THE LEAD KNEE

lead kneeWHAT HAPPENS: We’re really picking on the lead side, and rightfully so—it takes a real beating when you shift forward to swing through. This results in the inner side of the left knee absorbing a tremendous amount of torque and compression. Many golfers square the left foot and lock the knee in an internally rotated position (1), which leads to an increased shearing force on the knee joint. The typical injury is to the medial meniscus and can lead to degeneration of the articular cartilage and arthritis.

HOW TO AVOID INJURY: For the left leg to function properly, the knee has to shift in front of the hip very early in the downswing. Excessive shifting of the hips toward the target prevents this. The line of the left thigh should be vertical or leaning away from the target on the downswing, not leaning toward the target. To promote more turning and less sliding of the hips, rotate your left foot 20 or 30 degrees toward the target at address (2).

THE LOWER BACK

lower backWHAT HAPPENS: A strained lower back is the most common golf injury, and the one most likely to shorten a career. The modern power swing is all about the rotation of the pelvis through the shot. The torque this creates between the pelvis and the lumbar spine pulls the ligaments, tendons and muscles in that area. Also, the shearing effect can wear away the discs between the vertebrae in the lumbar spine, leading to disc disease; that’s the real career-ender.

HOW TO AVOID INJURY: Teaching today says to create separation between the rotation of the pelvis and the rotation of the trunk, especially on the downswing, where more separation means more speed (1). The problem is, many golfers can’t do that without a lower-back injury. Instead, try to turn everything in unison; the hips and shoulders should rotate back together and through together (2). You might sacrifice some power, but you’ll save your back and stay in the game.

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Posted 17 July, 2018 by E. Marino in GolfDigest, Notes

Escape any bunker: How to get over a high lip   Leave a comment

hitting-out-of-bunkerThis might go against your instinct when you’re in a bunker with a high lip, but the last thing you want to do is try to help the ball over the lip. When you try to force it up and over, it almost always comes out lower and slams into the face. Instead, do what I do.

First, try this drill. The biggest difference between hitting out of a normal bunker and one with a high lip is the amount of sand you need to take. To get the ball up quickly, your club should strike a lot more sand, and this drill will help teach you how much.

Draw a circle in the bunker about four inches in diameter around your ball. Now get in your address position, playing the ball off your front foot. Before swinging, pick the ball up so all that’s left is the circle. You’ll get back to that, but first, two more things about address: Dig your feet in so you have a solid base, and open the face of your wedge before gripping the club. You know opening the face can freak out some amateurs, but don’t be scared. In a bunker, your wedge is designed to work when it’s open like this. In fact, you should keep the face open throughout the shot.

“DON’T BE SHY: TAKE PLENTY OF SAND TO GET OVER A HIGH LIP.”

Now here’s a key thought: When you swing, think about putting your hands into your left pocket as you come through. You can see swinging toward left pocket here. This forces the club to exit low, left and open, and cutting across the ball like this helps get it up quickly.

Posted 16 July, 2018 by E. Marino in GolfDigest

Every good short game starts here   Leave a comment

Solid-impact-chip-shotsThe best short-game players always find a way to figure out the right play and get the ball close. You walk away thinking they have some magical gift. But the ability to pull off those little shots is rooted in one simple skill: making solid contact.

That’s the first fundamental of the short game, and whether those players know it or not, learning to strike the ball consistently set them on the fast track to success.

Most golfers get caught up in all the details of the shot—the carry, the roll, trouble over the green—and they forget that hitting the ball solid is the first requirement.

For a basic chip, which works for most greenside situations, good contact comes mostly from getting into a proper setup. Take a narrow stance, with the ball in the middle and your spine vertical—not tilted away from the hole. Set more weight on your front foot, and then lean the handle just ahead of your pants zipper. Also, open the clubface a touch. These positions will pre-set a swing where you catch the ball first, then brush the grass.

The swing flows naturally from the setup. It’s an arc back and through with a slight descent into the ball. With the face open, the club will slide through impact. Remember, it’s about ball-first contact.

Posted 12 July, 2018 by E. Marino in Chip, GolfDigest

Learn putting distance control to eliminate three-putts   Leave a comment

DF_1171If you can get your putting in a position where you don’t have to grind over four- or five-footers for par, you’ll start to score better. That means leaving yourself shorter second putts, and that means learning better distance control.

This drill requires three tees. Put one in the ground at the ball, one about 8 inches behind and one about 8 inches ahead. Try to swing your putter with an even rhythm, not going back past the back tee and not going through beyond the front tee. If you’re steady with your tempo and the length of your takeaway and follow-through, you’ll immediately start to see a lot of consistency in the length of your putts.

The amount of space from tee to tee will depend on the length of the putt—it’ll take a little bit of trial and error to figure out the correct tee spacing for different length putts.

Set up a few different stations on the green: a medium-distance putt, a long putt, a really long putt. This will require you to use varying lengths of strokes. Move around and practice at these areas, drilling in the feeling of how long your stroke should be for each type of putt. Next time you play, you’ll be able to confidently get your longer putts close to the hole. Maybe a few will even fall in.

Posted 9 July, 2018 by E. Marino in GolfDigest

Improve your chipping around the green   Leave a comment

chippingIf you find yourself making a short chip onto the green, it usually means your approach shot did not find the target.  Therefore, you are playing the chip shot as an extra shot you were not planning on having to make.

This does not mean you should not practice the chip shot, as it is a very important one in terms of keeping your scorecard together.  In many cases, you will be chipping to save par or even worse and therefore many beginner golfers choose to ignore the shot.

However, by practicing the chip shot, you will save yourself crucial shots on the golf course.

Hinging your wrists is very important when playing a chip shot.  This allows the club to get above the grass and make a descending strike on the golf ball.  For right handed golfers it will feel like the right wrist is being used to hinge the club on the backswing and then released as contact is made with the ball.  For left handed players it will be the left wrist.

Do not attempt to play the shot like you would a putt.  There is no hand movement when putting.

When practicing your chipping, try to stick to one club.  Chances are, as a beginner, you do not have enough time to practice this aspect of your game with several clubs, so stick to one and become good with it.  Try starting with the sand wedge.

When analysing your chip shot, the key thing to remember above anything else, is you want to the ball to stop on the green.  If your next shot is not a putt you have made a big mistake.  Think about where the hole is located, if it is in the middle of the green you can have a good attempt at getting it close.  However, if it is near the front edge or back edge of the green, do you want to risk trying to get the ball close?

If you misjudge the chip slightly, you will see your ball finish off the green and that’s the last thing you want to happen.

The chances of you hitting the ball directly into the hole from a chip shot are slim.  With that in mind, you want to try and leave yourself the easiest putt possible.  This does not always mean you must try and get the ball as close to the hole as possible.

Walk onto the green and look for any slopes you want to avoid.  If the hole is positioned in a flat area, you can try and get the ball as close to it as possible without worrying about the difficulty of the resulting putt.

However, if the hole is positioned on a slope, an uphill putt is generally a lot easier than a downhill putt so try and keep the ball on the downward side of the hole.  This will leave you an uphill putt you can attack, rather than a tricky downhill putt.

Posted 8 July, 2018 by E. Marino in Online Academy of Golf

Pitching over a bunker   Leave a comment

Pitching-bunkerHazards, such as bunkers are on the golf course to cause us problems.  Whether the bunkers are on the fairway or near the green, they must always be avoided to achieve a low score.  However, for amateur players, it’s the bunkers closest to the green which cause the most problems.

You do not need to be in a greenside bunker for it to become troublesome.  In fact, sometimes it can be more difficult to find your ball just the other side of the bunker, leaving you with a shot over the sand to reach the green.

The tendency here is to become afraid of hitting the ball into the bunker and putting too much power into the shot, sending it across the green and over the other side.  However, today we have some great tips which will help you when pitching over a bunker and we recommend using a lob wedge for each shot.

When playing a pitch over a bunker to the green, you must firstly asses the lie of your ball.  The lie of the ball has a huge impact on the shot you can play.  If there is no space under the ball this is a bad lie, as there is no room for the club to slide underneath.

In this situation, it is very difficult to play a high shot and if you attempt to, you will probably see your ball travel over the other side of the green.  Instead, try and play this shot more like a chip shot and attempt to land the ball just the other side of the bunker, on the front edge of the green.

You must play this shot with more weight on the front foot and this will help to take the bounce off the club.  Therefore, you will not need to hit as far under the ball and the flight will be lower, meaning the ball will run on further having landed the other side of the bunker.

So, you must land the ball closer to the bunker and allow it to roll on to the green and as close to the flag as reasonably possible.  Assess how hard you need to swing and keep a solid rhythm throughout the shot.

If you reach your ball to find you have a nice lie and there is enough room to slide the club under it, you have a wider choice of shots to play.

If the flag is close to the edge of the bunker, you will need to play a higher shot to stop the ball quickly when it lands on the green.  To play the high shot, your body and especially shoulders, must to be more open to the target, aiming left, with the club face open towards the sky.

The allows the club to slide under the ball and produce the loft required to completely take the bunker out of play.  You must use a longer backswing and the wrists, with the legs bent slightly to get fully under the ball.  Do not be afraid to complete a longer follow through on this shot.

The second option with a good lie is to play a lower shot, which is useful when the flag is further away from the bunker.  This shot is easier to play than the high shot.

For this shot, your shoulders are squarer to the target, with weight slightly on the front foot.  Both the wrist swing and the follow through is shorter than the higher shot and this will promote a lower ball flight, which will pitch and roll further on the ground.

Practice these shots and familiarise yourself with the different elements of each, so you are ready for when the situation arises on the golf course.

Posted 8 July, 2018 by E. Marino in Online Academy of Golf

How to hit 2 basic pitches and chips   Leave a comment

LOW PITCH
SWING SHORT

instruction-2009-12-inar01-phil-mickelson-chip-pitchPlaying a 40-yard pitch shot to a flagstick located just onto a top tier. To hit a low shot that lands short of the slope and runs to the hole, align your sand wedge squarely at the target, and position the ball in the middle of your stance.

Take a short, crisp backswing, hinging your wrists but limiting your arm swing.

Then make the downswing firm and aggressive, keeping your hands well ahead of the ball through impact so you trap the ball with the clubface. Keep your follow-through short, your hands staying low.

HIGH PITCk
ADD SPEED!

instruction-2009-12-inar02-phil-mickelson-chip-pitchThe flagstick for this shot is farther back on that top tier, and you should consider flying the ball almost all the way to the hole.

Start by opening the face of your 60-degree wedge, with the ball off the instep of your front foot.

Because you need additional clubhead speed to hit this shot, swing your arms back farther, and hinge your wrists more.

Then swing down aggressively, making sure you accelerate through the ball. The longer swing combined with the forward ball position means a higher, fuller follow-through. Expect extra loft and more backspin.

LOW RUNNER
USE LESS CLUB

instruction-2009-12-inar03-phil-mickelson-chip-pitchIf you’re chipping uphill or have plenty of green to work with, you want a low, running chip that rolls farther than it flies. Using your 9-iron, position the ball forward in your stance.

On the takeaway, keep your arm swing to a minimum, and hinge your wrists only slightly.

On the forward swing, simply move your hands deliberately toward the target, delivering the clubhead into the ball on a level, shallow angle and keeping the clubhead low into the follow-through. The ball will come off low without much backspin and will roll like a putt.

BITING CHIP
PLAY IT BACK

instruction-2009-12-inar04-phil-mickelson-chip-pitchIf the green is firm or you’re chipping downhill, you need the ball to check up quickly.

Choose your 60-degree wedge, and position the ball opposite the big toe of your back foot.

Make a steep backswing, the clubhead rising abruptly as you hinge your wrists. The downswing will be just as steep, your hands leading the way as the clubhead comes down sharply into the back of the ball.

Feel free to take a small divot. Because you delofted the clubface at impact, the ball will come out low–but should bite quickly.

Posted 8 July, 2018 by E. Marino in GolfDigest, Phil Mickelson