You 3-Putted How Many Times?!

How many times has poor putting cost you from shooting your desired score? How often do you say, “I was striking the ball great, but I 3-putted X-amount of times?” Missing make-able putts is often the reason for inflated scores in what would otherwise feel like a great ball striking round of golf.  Putting is not a simple science. Golf pros have written books and spent careers focused on teaching the technicalities of putting. From a Golf Fitness prospective, when comparing putting to the full swing, it appears obvious that the physical demands of putting are much less than the full swing, which is true. However, there are some simple body fixes that you can use in your fitness routine to improve your consistency  of putting and scoring.

We’ve all been there

First: Test Yourself

Before I continue, I would like you to do a quick Golf Movement test. Put the phone down or get up from the desk and get into your putting posture. This test is best done in front of a full length mirror for visual information, but if you do not have a mirror readily available I want you to keep your eyes on your knees. Begin to swivel your shoulders about 10-20 degrees right and left continuously without allowing your lower body to move AT ALL! I will venture to say that a vast majority of you cannot rotate your upper body AND keep your lower body 100% stable.  All great putters keep their lower bodies rock solid through the putting stroke. The inability to keep the lower body stable as the upper body swings the putter will create poor accuracy on the greens and will cost you strokes.

Tiger demonstrates what it looks like to remain stable in the lower body through the putt.

The Fitness Routine for More Accurate Putting:

The key to effective movement in the putting stroke is lower body stability. Use these four exercises at home or in the gym to train the lower body to remain stable while putting.

1. Open Books

To kick off your new putting improvement routine we are going to start with the open book stretch. I consider this a 2-for-1 exercise because not only are you working on keeping the lower body stable as you rotate the upper body, but you are also working on your upper body mobility and flexibility. Start by lying on your left side and bring both knees up towards your stomach. Place a ball, a pillow, or towels between your knees and squeeze down into the object so your thighs are engaged.  Now, outstretch both arms in front on your chest and place your hands together. This is the “closed book” position.  To open the book, lift your right arm towards the ceiling and rotate your chest as far right as you can until your left arm and shoulder are flat on the floor or until you hit your end range. MAKE SURE YOUR LOWER BODY DOES NOT ROTATE WITH THE UPPER BODY. When you hit your end range, take 3-5 deep breaths. Try to keep your upper body relaxed and your lower body engaged by squeezing whatever object you place between your knees. After you perform 3-5 deep breaths, return to the closed book position. Repeat for 10-15 reps and switch sides.

Closed book and open book positions.

2. Clam Shells

Now that you have loosened up and began to think about lower body stability, let’s move to the clam shell exercise. The clam shell exercise is performed to strengthen the glutes. The glutes play a key role in stabilizing the lower body as you putt.  Clam shells are best done with a “mini-band” or rubber tubing for resistance, but can be effective without a band.  If you have a resistance band, place it around both legs and bring the band up the legs to the point at which it is above your knee caps. Lay on your left side with your legs together and bring your knees up towards your stomach. Keeping your heels together lift your right knee high enough so it is just above your right hip. Squeeze your right glute (butt cheek) hard and hold for 3-5 seconds.  Make sure that as you lift your knee your lower back remains stable and does not rotate. If you begin to feel a burn in the glute, don’t fret! This is your glute getting active. Perform 15-20 reps and repeat on the other side.

Clam Shells without a resistance band

3. Half-Kneeling Rotation

Next, we are moving to the Half-Kneeling Rotation exercise. This is a more advanced exercise than the open book, but the goal is the same: keep your lower body stable as you turn your shoulders.  Start off by getting into the half-kneeling position. Place your left knee down on the floor and your right foot forward. Proper set-up is very important. Make sure that your right knee is at 90 degrees, with the right heel directly under the right knee. Make sure that your left knee is directly under your left hip. Get as tall as possible so your left shoulder, hip, and knee form a straight line. Hold a golf club across the small of your back and place your hands on your rib cage. Now, squeeze your left glute and lower abs (this is very important) and begin to slowly rotate your upper body to the right. Make sure the lower body remains stable and stop the turn when you hit your end range. Hold for a full breath. I must stress that the goal of this exercise is not to rotate as far as possible, but rather to keep the lower body stable as you rotate the upper body. Perform 10-15 reps rotating right then switch the half-kneeling set-up so your right knee is down and then perform 10-15 reps rotating left. Tough, isn’t it?

Proper Half-Kneeling Positioning

4. Shoulder Swivels

For the final exercise in the putting improvement routine you are going to perform Shoulder Swivels. I like to do this exercise with a mini-band or rubbing tubing around my legs above the knees, but again, if you do not have a band you can still do this exercise effectively. Start by getting into putting posture. Dig your toes into the ground and stiffen up the legs. Keep the knees slightly flexed like they would be when you are putting. If you have a resistance band, slightly press your knees out against the band. This will assist you in keep the lower body stable by activating the glutes. Next, cross your arms and slowly turn your chest right and left without moving the lower body. I often find that my clients have a tough time perceiving whether or not their lower body is stable, so I suggest doing this exercise in front of a mirror so you can see if you are remaining stable. Spend 30-60 seconds rotating right and left and repeat 2-3 times. Be very deliberate in keeping the lower body stable. If you were doing this exercise in front of me, I would let you know every single time your knees or hips move even in the slightest bit!

Jordan Speith showing his ability to swivel his shoulders without moving the hips.

Most Importantly, Commit and Practice!

Don’t forget to practice on the putting green to incorporate your new physical ability. This routine should only take you 10-15 minutes to complete. Try to incorporate these exercises into your normal fitness routine to make your fitness more Golf Specific. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask by emailing me at [email protected] or by commenting in the comment section below.

Good luck and happy putting!

Jason Rivkin

Golf Fitness Coach, FitGolf Performance Centers

TPI Certified

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One of my favorite teaching aides to teach proper shaft lean at impact is the Tour Striker Educator. Watch this video to see how to use this teaching aide to learn proper shaft lean.

 

 

One of the charms of golf is that you are trying to swing the club in a circle and hit the ball on a straight line. This is a best case scenario. Many times players come to me with swings that are inefficient because the radius of their swing circle does not stay constant. This problem is easy to spot because it looks like the left arm is bent and the club shaft is too close to the body at the top of the backswing. The result is that the downswing must compensate for the lack of swing radius on the backswing. The compensations include casting from the top, the weight staying on the right foot and scooping through impact. I call this type of motion a “puller inner-thrower outer.” See the video below for a full explanation

 

Swoosh For Speed

Most players visit me on the lesson tee to improve their distance, hit the ball straighter or make better contact. Improving distance is by far the most popular reason I get to meet so many golfers.

Improving distance is a product of increasing club head speed along with making better contact. I am going to share a simple drill that will help you create more speed on a consistent basis.

It has been my experience that many golfers focus too much on hitting the ball rather than swinging the club. This normally induces tension in both the grip and the arms. This results in less rather than more speed through the ball.
It is much better to focus on the club rather than the ball in trying to improve distance. This month’s video shows you a simple drill so you can stay focused on the club as you develop more club speed. It will show you how to start the body first, lag the club behind the hands and release the club through the ball. Best of all, you will be able to hear how fast you are swinging.

How To Have A Strong Mental Game

One of the most important assets that a fine golfer can possess is having a strong mental game. Golfers come face to face with adversity in every round they play. Having a strong mental game is what separates players in their ability to deal with adversity and maximize their score.

Many books have been written on how to improve your mental game. In this newsletter, I will discuss what I consider to be the biggest enigma in golf.  I am also going to give you one of my favorite tools for developing good mental habits. These mental habits are just as important to practice as your swing habits on the range.

 

One of the most interesting things about golf to me is that most players are focused too often on both where their ball goes and their score during a round of golf. This normally results in their mental attitude being shaped by performance. The problem with this dynamic is that the player gives up control of his thoughts and emotions during a round of golf. This leads to widely varying results.

One paradigm that is important to realize is that golfers have control over one thing on the course – namely, what happens up until the ball is hit with the club. This includes the mental keys, the swing keys, the shot selection, swing selection and the rest of the preshot routine. After that, the golfer becomes a spectator along with everyone else.

The enigma to me is that many players focus on what they cannot control rather than what they can control. Players cannot control where the ball goes but they can control everything that happens up until the ball is struck.

Allowing performance to dictate thoughts and emotions is an easy trap to fall into. I believe it takes a certain mental toughness to stay focused on controlling your thoughts on the course in the face of differing results.

One of my favorite tools for making sure that I maintain discipline on the course for a strong mental game is a simple card. I have seven of my favorite thoughts written on the card. Here are two examples:

 

“I focus on process and detach emotionally from results.”

“I always have good self talk on the course.”

The most important thing I do with this card is to pick two of the seven thoughts BEFORE I hit a single shot on the range before the round.  This way I am controlling my thoughts from the start rather than allowing the ball flight to control my thoughts. I also make sure I focus on these two thoughts for the entire day.
As I mentioned before, it takes a certain mental toughness to use this approach. Most PGA Tour players give credit to focusing much more on the process rather than the outcome to help them shoot their lowest scores. I hope this benefits you also.

 

Proper Alignment for Better Shots

Professionals are meticulous about their alignment at address. It is quite common to see them working with their caddies and alignment aids both before and after rounds. One of the main reasons for this is that it is easy to line up incorrectly and this is often the cause of poor swing habits.

In this video I will show you the proper steps to insure that your alignment is correct. I will also show you how to set up to hit a straight shot as well as for a fade and draw. There needs to be a different set up for all three shots.

Remember that the only way to hit a good shot from a poor alignment is to make a bad swing. So, line up correctly so you have to make a good swing to hit a good shot and you will be promoting good swings on the course rather than poor ones. Professionals are meticulous about their alignment at address. It is quite common

Use Dry Swings for Swing Changes

It has been my experience with many players that their practice swing and their real swing often look different. Some students are completely surprised by how different their swings look on video. The reason for this difference is that when striking the ball there is a hit impulse. This occurs when the player is actually trying to put the club head on the ball. In contrast, a swing impulse occurs when making practice swings with no ball. This occurs because the player focuses on the swing and not the ball. Many players improve when they can replace their hit impulse with a swing impulse. The swing often becomes much smoother and more full.

 

One of the techniques that quite a few tour professionals use is to make dry swings. These are swings that are made without striking the ball. Five to ten minute blocks of time are part of a daily or weekly regimen that is followed. The primary benefit of making dry swings is that it requires you to focus on the swing rather than striking the ball.  It may seem somewhat monotonous at first but it will give you a much clearer feel of what you are trying to accomplish in the swing. You will get much more in touch with your swing impulse and get away from your hit impulse. Once this is accomplished, you strive to use that same swing impulse as you are striking the ball.   

 

This video shows an example of using dry swings to improve your backswing. You will see how following this regimen will help you create more body awareness during your swing. 

Conquering the Over the Top Move

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Athletic Development for the Youth Golfer

In today’s culture of youth sports, athletic specialization is becoming the norm and the days of the three sport youth athlete are almost extinct. Golf or whatever your child’s sport of choice is, it is so important that they stay “athletically well-rounded” to reach their full potential. Early specialization of one sport can stunt long term athletic development. Many parents think that early specialization of golf or another sport may be putting their child ahead of the competition, but the consequences of early specialization can have a profound negative effect on athletic development. These consequences could be physical imbalances, overuse injuries, poor fundamental movement, and most commonly, the burnout effect.golfer

The mind set of youth sport needs to shift from making your kid the next Tiger Woods or Annika Sorenstam, to allowing your child to develop into a solid, well-rounded athlete. The former cannot happen without the ladder. The science behind long term athletic development is complex from both a physiological and neurological stand point. Simply put, a young athlete must develop fundamental movement skills before they can begin to master their fundamental sport skills. Examples of fundamental movement skills are agility, speed, coordination, balance, object control skills, and awareness. If these crucial athletic features are bypassed, the potential of the developing athlete will become limited.

So please, allow your developing child to become a well rounded athlete. Encourage them to play a collection of sports that involve swinging, kicking, throwing, swimming, running, and catching. If they are meant to be a professional golfer, football, basketball, or baseball player, they will already have had the built-in intangibles necessary to rise to the cream of the crop. Those intangibles are there at birth and will develop along with your child’s love of their sport.

For any questions about long term athletic development strategies and programs, please contact me, Jason Rivkin, directly at [email protected].

Jason Rivkin, ATC

Swing Aids for a Strong Pivot

Many golfers tend to overuse their hands and arms in the golf swing. Overusing the hands and arms requires great timing to have a repetitively good impact. It is my opinion that it is a great asset to have your lower body pivot control and steady your downswing. It makes the swing much easier to time. A good lower body pivot also creates a much more efficient transfer of energy from the club to the golf ball during the swing.  

 

This video shows two swing aids that will help you develop a strong lower body pivot. These two swing aids are the swing fan and the impact bag. They have been used by golfers for a long time and with good reason.

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