Photos from The McGladrey Classic

GolfWRX is live from The McGladrey Classic in Sea Island Ga., hosted by Davis Love III.

Last year, Georgia resident Chris Kirk won the event at the Seaside Course by shooting 14-under, 1 shot clear of Tim Clark and Briny Baird. He’s back this year in field that’s highlighted by Charles Howell III, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney and last week’s Shriners Open winner Ben Martin.

Check out the photos we shot from Sea Island.

Monday

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Tiger back to hitting full shots

Tiger Woods is on the mend and has resumed hitting full shots, according a story from USA Today.

“The doctors said he could hit golf balls again, and he’s listening to his doctors and to his body,” Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, told USA Today Sports on Monday. “He will keep listening to his doctors and body.”

According to reports, Woods has been chipping and putting for at least the last several weeks. He last hit a golf shot in competition at the PGA Championship in August, where he played through pain on the way to a missed cut. It was the end of a disappointing 2014 for Woods, which saw him undergo back surgery on March 31. That caused him to missm the first two major championships of the year, The Masters and the U.S. Open.

Woods returned from back surgery in late June, but continued to struggle through poor play and pain before removing himself from consideration for the Ryder Cup and deciding to skip the rest of the 2013 PGA Tour season. According to Steinberg, the former No. 1 golfer hopes to play in the Hero World Golf Championship at Isleworth in Orlando on Dec. 4-7, which benefits his foundation.

Learn to hit bunker shots like the pros

One of the most difficult shots for amateur golfers to understand is the greenside bunker shot, yet when you watch professionals, they take dead aim and are looking to hole the shot from any reasonable lie.

I have used some pictures of one of my professional students whose bunker game is a strength. Here are a few keys to being able to play this shot successful.

Setup

One of the biggest keys to playing this shot successfully is a fundamentally sound setup. As you will see, the lower body will stay fairly quiet throughout a greenside bunker shot, so getting a stable setup is key.

Kurt Watkins Setup

As we can see here, our player is setup with his a wide stance and his knees flexed. He has his weight set into his front knee (red circle). Even though he has a lot of pressure on his front side, he has maintained a fairly neutral spine angle (green line). A lot of amateurs I see will usually have a narrow stance with their weight distributed evenly throughout their feet or even on their back foot. This causes our angle of attack to be to shallow, which leads to heavy and bladed shots.

The Swing

One of the critical aspects of this shot now is that as we make our swing, the club will go back by hinging our wrists up and turning our shoulders. The lower body stays very quiet and maintains the knee flex that was established in the setup.

Kurt Watkins Top of Swing

Impact

The moment of truth for the greenside bunker shot (and any shot) and the moment where most amateurs lose control of the shot. The key to the shot again is a lower body that is stable and an upper body that rotates past the lower body. In this picture, the player’s upper body has already passed the lower body. He achieved this by turning his torso towards the target while making his best effort to maintain his lower body setup position.

Kurt Watkins Impact

Finish

The finish shows that the golfer has rotated his upper body to a full finish. His chest is pointing well left of the target while his lower body is pointing at the target or just slightly right of the target. He also still has flex in his lead knee, which shows once again how stable his lower body is throughout the shot. By achieving this finish, he was able to deliver the club to the ball with plenty of speed to get the ball elevated and out of the bunker with plenty of spin.

Kurt Watkins Finish

The greenside bunker shot is a very difficult shot to perform, but if you can take these keys to help add speed to your swing then you will see that this shot is manageable and from the right situation, makeable.

Is Lag Slowing Your Swing Down?

In my last article, “Who is the Greatest Driver of the Ball, Ever?” we introduced the techniques that separate the longest drivers of the golf ball from most amateur and tour players. We established that the turning and thrusting system of the legs, pelvis and torso is the motor and primary energy generator in the golf swing. The supple arms wind tightly up and around this system on the backswing, and then simply react to it and unwind on the through swing creating a slinging effect. The energy from the turning and thrusting system is transferred through the arms and club shaft, creating tremendous escape force out to the club head. Being that the wrists are the key joints that connect the arms to the club, they understandably play a key role in the golf swing.

All too often I see players at the range, and even as part of a pre-shot routine, setting an angle with the wrists between the forearms and club shaft and preserving that angle in a pumping action as they rehearse their swing. Very often I’ll inquire with these players what they are doing and why, and it is always the same response:

“I want to hold the angle and delay my release for as long as possible, to create lag…you know, avoid the cast.”

This becomes the perfect place to begin our examination of the role of the wrists in the golf swing.

So let’s talk a little more about “lag” and “release,” as these are hot topics and much disputed in the world of golf instruction. How to generate lag and its importance is frequently debated in golf circles as it is widely accepted to be a key facilitator of club head speed. Modern swing viewpoints are that lag is created by “holding the angle” between the club shaft and forearms for as long as possible, or “delaying the release” of the wrists into impact.

The term “lag” is defined as “a failure to respond in a timely fashion to inputs.” “Holding” and “delaying” are terms describing restrictive forces requiring some type of tension, and indicate an interruption in movement. We would never ask someone cracking a whip or casting a fishing rod to “hold” or “delay” anything, in fact, we would encourage them to do just the opposite. Just as it would be absurd to suggest to the greatest sprinter in the world, Usain Bolt, to hold off on his top speed for the first half of the race, but then really turn it on towards the end of the race.

We only have so much time and circular path distance in the golf swing to maximize the speed of the club head, and we need to take full advantage of these time and distance parameters.

I prefer to describe “developing lag” as simply the full “loading” of the wrists, forearms and elbows. Maximum loading is the result of tension free wrists, forearms and elbows hinging and rotating their complete, natural range of motion. The more tension we have, the less likely these joints will move through their complete range of motion, and as a result loading will be decreased.

The facts are that in the downswing, the earlier and faster we begin “unloading” the wrists, forearms and elbows, the more time and distance there is to turbo charge the slinging arms that are reacting to the bigger circular forces being generated by the turning and thrusting system. Therefore, the trick is to completely load the wrists, forearms and elbows on the back swing — we don’t have to wait for the lag to be created on the downswing — so that we can unload and compliment the slinging action of the arms from the very top. This gives us more time and circular distance to advance the shaft and increase club head speed.

The importance of the turning and thrusting system serving as the primary energy generator (with the wrists, forearms and elbows serving as the turbocharger) can not be overstated. This is evidenced by comparing the top long drivers with the top PGA players. According to Dr. Greg Rose from the Titleist Performance Institute, PGA players have a rotational force of about 900 degrees per second and world class long drivers are at about 1300 degrees per second. At the same time, long drivers have considerably more thrust, which creates the hip vault that results in de-weighting them at impact as compared to most tour players, who are considerably “heavier” at impact. Combine these rotational and thrust force advantages with a more complete loading and an earlier unloading of the wrists, forearms and elbows results in the dramatic distance differences between the two groups.

A good visual to help understand how to release the fully loaded wrists, forearms and elbows earlier and faster is the chore of beating the dust out of a carpet hanging from a clothes line. For our purposes, we are going to use a golf club. Would you finish the chore faster by holding the angle of the wrists as the arms pull across the body, making contact with the carpet with the butt of the club and hand unit or left elbow? Or, would you be more effective using your turning and thrusting system to sling the arms into the carpet at tremendous speed, while the wrists, forearms and elbows unload considerably earlier serving to further advance the shaft so that the club head slams into the carpet? Just as the second scenario will get you finished with your chore faster, it will also help you increase your club head speed and distance.

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Release is when the lag or load created begins to reverse itself, or “releases” into the mirror image. It is the moment these wrist, forearm and elbow positions reverse themselves that is considered the full “release” of the club.

Players who try to hold angles or practice “pump” drills to improve their release are fighting a losing battle. Every repetition they practice this technique is actually reducing the time and circular distance they have to build up speed. They are actually slowing their club head speed down by delaying the release. Instructors use this same “pump” drill on beginners to get them to eliminate “casting” the club. Casting the club being a bad thing is another age old instructional misnomer. Why do we cast a fishing rod? To get the lure (or in golf’s case, the club head) moving as fast as possible so it can fly further. The casting actions of the elbows and shoulders are very similar to the proper arm movements in the golf swing; they just occur in a different plane.

Note: Notice that I didn’t include the wrists, because casting uses a wrist pivot which needs to be avoided. More on this in a subsequent article.

Jack Nicklaus said, “There is no such thing as a cast, just a slow lower half.” So, as golfers wrongly try to eliminate the “cast,” what they should really be doing is focusing on activating and accelerating their turning and thrusting system.

In short, our turning and thrusting system is slinging the unwinding arms out to the ball, as the straightening of the right elbow, supination of the right forearm and unhinging of the wrists are turbocharging the club head and advancing it further along the circular path. We are slinging the arms and throwing the club head with the wrists at the same time — a key to the tremendous distance generated through the Wind and Sling golf swing.

In Memoriam

Last month I posted “Who is the Greatest Driver of the Ball, Ever?” In it, I highlighted the accomplishments of the Legend of Long Drive, Mike Dunaway. Thank you for your overwhelming response. Sadly, my friend and mentor passed away on September 29th, 2014 at the age of 59. Please click here and check out the video tribute of his life and his love for golf.

Hit’em long and straight forever, Mike. Thank you for all you’ve done for me. Swing in peace.

Do TaylorMade’s RSi Face Slots actually work?

Yes, I’m a teaching professional, but I don’t hesitate to use all the technology that equipment manufacturers are building into their new clubs. Like you, my job keeps me from playing and practicing as much as I’d like, so I want all the help I can get from my equipment. That’s why I was excited when I heard about TaylorMade’s RSi irons, which have new technology that promises to improve performance on off-center hits.

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The RSi irons have slots cut through their faces that are said to help mishits — especially those on the heel and toe — fly more like shots hit on the sweet spot. They work together with the slot on the bottom of the sole (TaylorMade calls it a “Speed Pocket”) to help iron shots launch higher, faster and more consistently.

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It wasn’t until Doppler Radar Launch Monitors like FlightScope and Trackman came out that I became clear on how big of a difference equipment plays in changing ball flight. By changing club heads and shafts, golfers can totally shift the launch, spin, height and landing angle of their shots, which affects their carry distance, roll and dispersion.

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I used to order the same set makeup every year, which wasn’t too different than what I used during my formative golf years, but now I’ve switched to multiple fairway woods and different types of modern iron constructions (hotter, more forgiving long irons and blade-like short irons) that help me play my best. I found this to be my ideal set makeup through testing on my Trackman, and when I got TaylorMade’s new RSi 2 irons in the mail I could wait to see if they worked better for me.

The RSi 2 has a size that between the TaylorMade’s RSi 1 irons (a larger, game-improvement model) and its RSi TP (a smaller moder for better players).

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Full disclosure: I am a TaylorMade staff professional, but I approached this testing in the same non-biased way that I approach my instruction articles with GolfWRX. Don’t take my word that these irons are good are bad — look at my numbers, or better yet go get fit for the and see the results for yourself.

The testing below took place the week after a (non-golf) vacation, so I really got to see how good they RSi’s were at helping me on mishits.

7 iron, RSi 2: Solid shots with centered impact

Photo 1
Click the images to enlarge it.

I separated my best stock shots with my 7 iron.

  • Clubhead Speed: 85.1 mph
  • Ball Speed: 115.2 mph
  • Smash Factor: 1.35
  • Carry: 157.7 yards
  • Height: 75 feet
  • Spin Rate: 6458 rpm

RSi2, 7 iron: Random unsolid impacts

Photo 2
Click the images to enlarge it.

I separated my mishits with my 7 iron, throwing out the grossly mis-hit shots that are not typical of my on-course play. My averages are below. You can see they they’re different than my best hits, but they’re much closer than what I expected.

  • Clubhead Speed: 85.3 mph (from 83.3 to 89.2 mph)
  • Ball Speed: 111.4 mph (from 108.5 mph to 115 mph)
  • Smash Factor: 1.31 (from 1.28 to 1.36)
  • Carry: 152.9 yards (from 148.9 yards to 154.8 yards)
  • Height: 78.9 feet (from 67.2 feet to 90.5 feet)
  • Spin Rate: 5107 rpm (from 3687 rpm to 5947 rpm)

Let’s compare the 7 iron data together

Photo 3
Click the image to enlarge it.

Both impact conditions have the same clubhead speed that averages around 85 mph. The ball speed of the solid shots averaged 115 mph vs. 111.4 mph on the unsolid ones. That’s a Smash Factor difference of only 0.04, which is miniscule.

What is interesting to see is that the carry distances are under control on the solid shots — no hot spots from the slots, which was a concern with TaylorMade’s original RocketBladez and RocketBladez Tour irons. Even better was the consistency on off-center hits in terms of carry distance. I missed the ball all over the face and got an average carry distances that was only 4.8 yards shorter than my best strikes.

——————–

Now, what about a longer iron? That’s where there’s a much greater potential for mishits and those mishits are often amplified. With the RSi 2, TaylorMade added tungsten weights to the soles of the 2, 3, 4 and 5 irons to add more MOI to the clubs for even better ball speed retention on mishits.

Here’s how the same test went with a 5 iron. I followed the same protocol as above.

5 iron, RSi2: Solid shots with centered impact

Photo 4
Click the image to enlarge it.

  • Clubhead Speed: 88 mph
  • Ball Speed: 126.9 mph
  • Smash Factor: 1.44
  • Carry: 179 yards
  • Spin Rate: 5402 rpm
  • Height of 65.6 feet
  • Landing Angle: 37.6 degrees

5 iron, RSi2: Random unsolid shots

Photo 5
Click the image to enlarge it.

  • Clubhead Speed: 88.5 mph (from 87.8 mph to 89.6 mph)
  • Ball Speed: 125.6 mph (from 123 mph to 128.8 mph)
  • Smash Factor: 1.42 (from 1.4 to 1.44)
  • Carry: 174.3 yards (from 167.9 yards to 180.2 yards)
  • Spin Rate: 5571 rpm (from 4892 rpm to 5971 rpm)
  • Landing Angle: 41.7 degrees (from 38.9 degrees to 44 degrees)

Let’s compare the 5 iron data together

Photo 6
Click the image to enlarge it.

The clubhead speeds on both series of shots was constant at about 88 mph. Amazingly, average ball speed was only separated by 1.3 mph from the “solid” to “unsolid” group. Smash factors between the two showed a very consistent energy transfer on the unsolid shots as well — just a 0.02 of a difference

The carry average on the solid shots was 179 yards, and the average of the mishit group was less than 5 yards shorter — 174.3 yards. Only one mishit that fell outside of a 10-yard gap. It flew 167.9 yards, which was a nice surprise based on the contact (awful).

The Takeaway

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To me, this test showed that TaylorMade’s new RSi 2 irons are the company’s most consistent irons in their category to date. The improved Speed Pocket and Face Slots do make a different. Just how much of a difference will depend on your swing speed, average contact point and mechanics, but they will be more consistent.

Are they worth the upgrade? I’ll be making the switch because I know they’re better for me. The numbers proved it. If you’re interested in a new set of irons, get to a qualified custom fitter and see which model works for you — the RSi 1, RSi 2 or RSi TP — and if they’re better than what you’re playing.

Kevin Streelman WITB

Equipment is accurate as of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (10/19/14).

Driver: Ping G20 (9.5 Degrees)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Purple 65X

3 Wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Tour (14.5 Degrees)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Purple 85X

Hybrid: Adams Idea Super 9031 (20 Degrees)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Purple 100X

Irons: Wilson FG V2 Tour Irons (3-9)
Shaft: True Temper Project X 6.5

Wedges: Wilson FG Tour (48 and 54), Titleist Vokey TVD-K (58-06)
Shaft: True temper Dynamic Gold S400 Tour Issue

Putter: Odyssey White Hot Pro 2-Ball Blade
Grip: SuperStroke Flatso Ultra

Ball: Titleist ProV1X

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Click here to see what GolfWRX Members are saying about Streelman’s bag in our forum.

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Click here to see what GolfWRX Members are saying about Streelman’s bag in our forum.

Ben Martin WITB

Equipment is accurate as of Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (10/19/14).

Driver: Titleist 910 D3 (8.5 Degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 7X

3 Wood: Ping i25 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Tour Blue 85TX

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (17 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Irons: Titleist 714 CB Forged (3-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5 (50-08F, 54-11M and 58-11K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Select

Ball: Titleist Pro V1X

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Click here to see what members are saying about Martin’s’ clubs in the forum.

22 23 24 25 26 27 1 2 3 4 5 6 8 9 10 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Ben Martin equipment clubs

 Click here to see what members are saying about Martin’s’ clubs in the forum.

2014 Tennessee Junior Cup Photos

GolfWRX is live this weekend from the 2014 Tennessee Junior Cup hosted by Scott Stallings and friends at The Grove Club in College Grove, Tenn.

The Ryder Cup style format includes 10 boys and 4 girls from East Tennessee, and 10 boys and 4 girls from West Tennessee. On Saturday, the two teams play foursomes matches in the morning and four-ball matches in the afternoon. The Cup concludes on Sunday with singles matches.

Team East won the 2013 event by a score of 15.5 to 12.5 points, so Team West must win at least 14.5 points to win back the “Scott Stallings Trophy.”

Check out our photos from the 2014 Tennessee Junior Cup hosted by Scott Stallings.

Saturday

2014 Tennessee Junior Cup: Sat. Pt. 1
2014 Tennessee Junior Cup: Sat. Pt. 2
2014 Tennessee Junior Cup: Sat. Pt. 3
2014 Tennessee Junior Cup: Sat. Pt. 4
2014 Tennessee Junior Cup: Sat. Pt. 5
2014 Tennessee Junior Cup: Sat. Pt. 6

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Go lower with subconscious golf

A philosophy that I believe in is one in which the swing is powered by the subconscious mind and reacts to the image that the conscious mind creates. I am not stating that a golfer’s physical technique is not important, because it is. I am simply stating that we should strive to attain a level where the physical technique becomes subconscious. 

The target is and always will be the single most important piece of information that a golfer can think of prior to playing a shot. The target can be the hole, a spot on the green, a slope on the fairway, a tree, or any other distinguishable marking of the golf course. The important thing is to select a precise target and remain fully committed to it throughout the duration of the swing. Playing to one’s true potential requires the physical golf swing to be a subconscious reaction to a mental image of the target.

When people learn to type, they begin by visually scanning the keyboard and finger pecking each key. As they begin to remember the placement of the keys, their keystrokes become faster. Eventually, they will develop a mental map of the keyboard so that the physical keystrokes are no longer a function of the conscious mind, but that of the subconscious mind. As their mental map of the keyboard becomes more and more clear, their physical keystrokes become fast and effortless.

Similarly, people learning to play the guitar begin by learning the location of the strings and then the physical placement of the fingers. Eventually they will have memorized the strings, the placement of the fingers and enough notes to play an entire song. At this point, the physical movements are a function of the subconscious mind and do not require additional thought. People learning to play golf rarely take their golf swing to the point where it becomes a function of the subconscious mind. Instead, they consciously work on swing mechanics and remain forever frustrated with the game.

In most sports, athletes look at their target while performing their specific skill. For instance, baseball players look at their teammate while throwing the ball. Basketball players look at the hoop while shooting. Quarterbacks hypothesize and look at a spot where the receiver should be at the time that the football arrives at its destination. Field-goal kickers and soccer players are similar to golfers in that they look at the ball while maintaining a mental image of the target. In all of these scenarios, the physical motion is a subconscious action to the intention of sending the ball to the target.

Driving and full shots

Select a target in the fairway or on the green at which you plan to land your ball. If you are not able to identify with a spot on the ground, select a tree, edge of a bunker or any other identifiable target.

During my pre-shot routine, I determine a landing spot at which I intend to play my shot. Below, I am looking at my landing spot, creating an image that I will use during the swing. Simply looking at the target is enough for our mind and body to calibrate the desired motion of sending the ball there.

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During the swing, I maintain the image of the target and in my mind’s eye. This allows my physical swing to be a subconscious reaction to the target.

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Pitching

Either select the hole as your target or spot on the green where you intend to land your ball. If a landing spot has been selected, visualize the desired trajectory of the ball as it lands on the spot for sufficient roll-out to reach the hole. The ability to control trajectory is critical in controlling distance.

Below, I am selecting my desired landing spot by visualizing my intended shot trajectory and roll out so that the ball finished in or around the hole.

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Next, I maintain an image of the landing spot and trajectory so that I play the shot with accuracy and confidence.

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Putting

Putting should be the easiest shot to allow the swing to become a subconscious reaction to the target. Select a precise target inside the hole. On breaking putts, select a target outside of the hole, but equal distance to it. A blade of grass, an old pitch mark, or simply a discoloration are all great targets for putting. Create an image of your target and see if you can stay committed to it for the duration of the stroke. If you can do this successfully, take the same mindset to pitching.

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It is one thing to select a target, but to remain fully committed to it for the duration of a golf swing is paramount. Challenge yourself by seeing how committed to the target you can remain during a given swing. Assess you commitment on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is not committed at all and 10 is fully committed. During the golf swing, losing the image of the target represents a mental gap where fear, anxiety and tension can enter and break down even the best golf swings.

Understanding and learning how to keep your conscious mind focused and occupied with where you wish to send your ball, enables your subconscious mind to perform the physical movement, effortlessly and free of distraction. If you are not asking yourself, “What is my target?” before each and every shot, you are not giving yourself the opportunity to play the caliber of golf that you are capable of playing.