Monday, July 25, 2011

More on Slopes

Tonight I turned on the Golf Channel and saw Martin Hall's School of Golf.  As luck would have it, he was talking about sloped lies.  His show is probably the best forum out there for learning about the mechanics needed to play good golf.  His material is suited to both new players and good players.  He doesn't talk down to a newbie or offer material too simplistic for good players.

One of the things Martin spoke about was the way John Jacobs used slopes to teach various moves in the swing and how much he learned from that tactic.  I, too, had the opportunity to teach at John Jacobs Golf Schools and although I never got to teach with Mr. Jacobs as Martin Hall got to do, I learned much from his philosophy and methodology.  As coincidence would have it, just two days ago, I gave a lesson and took the player to a lie with the ball above her feet to get her chest turning through the shot.  All of us who teach the game can learn from each other and hopefully, all of us continue to share.

Now, back to slopes.  If you read the last post and have a grasp of what to expect from your shots from different slopes, then today's blog will help you successfully hit the shots you face.  In the past, I have had great success by having players picture the shot using very vivid images.  For the shot above your feet, you will swing the club on a more level plane instead of up and down.  Your swing will have a very stable and quiet center and the club will move around you, much like a merry-go-round.  You don't need to go "down" to hit the ball.

If you know that you need the club to work around you in a more level plane, then you can picture standing tall, much as a baseball player stands at the plate.  Many people grip down on the club to hit this shot, but that isn't a helpful adjustment, because it immediately changes your posture and your spine angle and tilts it more.  Instead, allow yourself to feel as though you are standing tall and swinging around your chest.  If you are a player who has a hard time hitting shots when the ball is above your feet, you may either have poor chest rotation or you might be too upright with your swing.  As John Jacobs taught, if either of these things describe your swing flaw, take a bucket of balls and hit them from above your feet.  By the way, as I described in the last blog, this shot will fly lower, draw or hook and have overspin causing it to roll out.

The opposite shot is the ball below your feet.  Many players find this shot tough to hit.  Once again, lets picture a vivid image to help you understand the plane of your swing.  Tip the merry go round on its side and it becomes a ferris wheel.  You need to keep your head very still and create some bend from the waist to allow the club to swing up and down.

The set up for this shot is much like the ball above your feet in that it is counter intuitive.  You will want to make your club as long as possible, but gripping down a bit will help you get over the ball with your posture, which will help you get down and stay down on the ball through the shot.  You might want to get down to the shot with increased knee bend, but adding some bend at the waist will help you to match your posture with the shot needed, an upright swing.  This ball will fly higher, cut or slice and it will land softly and stop quickly.  The rule of thumb that is easiest to remember is, the ball will fly the same way the slope goes.  If your swing is too flat, this would be a natural way to work on becoming more upright.

Now for shots that work up and down slopes.  Once again, your posture is a key to hitting this shot well.  Match your hips, shoulders and eyes to the slope you are on and allow your weight to naturally fall where it will with this setup.  On an uphill lie, this will put more weight on your back foot.  The key to your swing is to always allow yourself to make a turn the same direction the hill runs, but not into the hill.  On the uphill lie, get setup, make a good turn away from the ball and then allow your arms to swing the club through the shot.  If you did attempt to make a good turn through and finish the swing on your left side, you will no longer have a match with your hips and shoulders to the hill.

On a downhill shot, the opposite is true.  Set up to the hill with your shoulders and hips, allow your arms to take the club back and make a full turn through the shot.  You don't want to turn away from the shot, because as soon as you do, your hips and shoulders will level out and cause you to hit behind the ball.  If you are a player who fails to stay down on the ball on your through swing, you might want to hit a bucket of balls from a down hill slope for some natural teaching.

When you watch tour players hit these shots, you will often see them fall the same direction as the slope.  They are making sure that they match their bodies and setups to the slopes and keep them there as long as possible.  As a recap, the keys to hitting great shots from slopes are to use the posture and set up that fits the situation, keep your head still and allow your chest turn to match the slope.

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