Keep a Golf Journal – Swing Thoughts Simplified

Golf lessons, friends’ advice, magazine how-to’s, golf on TV, our own experiments, and practice, practice, practice, practice – these are the good, bad and sometimes successful ways we get better at golf.

And then it’s crunch time. When we stand over a ball, the incoming, ongoing tumble of thoughts can be, well … confusing. Shoulder, grip, ball position, that darn right foot, whoops, what was that about the wrist, hello, we’ve started our downswing and who said what about the clubface, here we go. Heck.

It helps to write the good things down.

Golfers keep notebooks for many reasons – to set goals, keep stats, list practice ideas, track progress, chronicle an amazing afternoon or one awesome shot.

There are many good and personal ideas for keeping a golf journal. Read Sandy Wagner’s suggestions.

But I’m here to say that keeping a golf journal is a way to keep swing thoughts simple,

Five years ago I took a lesson on the bane of my golf existence – the fairway wood. After a half hour, eureka, I’d learned my 3 keys to hitting it. I wrote them down. Every April after a long Michigan winter I reread them in my notebook.

And then it’s crunch time – I’m standing in the fairway over the ball. I mentally check those 3 points, that’s all that’s in my head. And then I hit with confidence, clarity and (some) success.

And when it’s good I send a mental fist bump to the guy who taught me and told me to write it down.

Golf Driving Range at Miles of Golf

The driving range is an everybody-in kind of place. Beginners, pros, early birds and night hawks, grandma’s and kids, high schoolers and ladies leaguers.  The Miles of Golf Range is one of the top 100 in the country.
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Get smart about the facility – hours, tees, heaters, ball machines, debit cards, discounts, and more.  Being at home on the range is a practice plus.  And it’s fun.

HOURS
All day & all night.  Range stays lit until about 1 hour after dusk.

mogrange 014ALL ABOUT THE BALLS
3 ball machines. Make transaction right at the machine; no need to go into Shop.

  • Buckets –  Small 55 balls for $8; Medium 75 balls for $10;  Large 100 balls for $10
      • Purchase
        Cash – Exact amount, no change is given
        Credit Card – Buys large bucket only
        Miles of Golf Range Debit Card – 20-40% discounts

MILES OF GOLF RANGE DEBIT CARD – Best Bang for the Buck
Purchase and reload in Pro Shop.  Ask to have it tagged for woman and/or senior if appropriate.

  • 20% bonus on purchase of range balls
  • Women discounted 40% from 11-1 every weekday
  • Senior women discounted 40% from 9-1 every weekday
  • Senior men discounted 40% from 9-11am
  • Kids get a free matching bucket when an adult buys one.  Through age 17.

mogrange 015TEEING IT UP

  • 40 Sheltered Tees
  • Heaters – Just spin the dial for 30 minutes of warm.
  • Mats – Hit off mat or use tees provided. There are many length tees, just lift mat & replace.
  • Grass Tees – Historically grass tees have opened as early as April 1 and as late as May 1. Location rotates daily.  Look for sign.
  • Practice Putting Green open to everyone.  Open in summer only. No chipping please.

mogrange 013UPSTAIRS AT MILES OF GOLF
There are sheltered tees upstairs at Miles of Golf, and they are open upon request.  Just ask the staff.  This aerie is a perfect party place.
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Contact Doug Davis to arrange a rental.

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Video Analysis in Golf Instruction

There we were, side-by-side – me, and my (way) better, younger, blonder, professional golf “sister.” It was an eye-opening, awesome, absolutely instructive moment, and one that I can view to my heart’s content because it’s stored on my computer.
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Few of us yearn to see ourselves on video, but according to the National Golf Foundation, golfers learn 3 times faster that way! Time to get before the camera?  Here are 5 reasons to give it a go.

  1. Power of the picture
    65% of us are visual learners.  We absorb and recall info best by seeing it, so for us video is a super-efficient teaching tool.
  2. Versatile video
    With slow motion, stop action, overlays of lines and angles, videos are extremely good at explaining elements of a swing.
  3. Teacher aid
    Video assists an instructor in diagnosing swing flaws and then working with a student to develop a plan to improve.
  4. Make the change, see the change, feel the change
    A new move our instructor suggests may feel awkward and strange. Video confirms the feeling of a proper move and helps a student correlate a feel with positive results. Practice is much more productive and change happens faster.
  5. Take it with you
    We can put our video on our smart phone and watch it before practice. It can live on our computers, an individualized teaching tool that lasts and lasts.

“Every picture tells a story don’t it” – and just maybe that story is all about golf game improvement!
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7 Tips to Start Practicing Golf Again

It’s official. February 2013 was the second snowiest in Ann Arbor since 1880. Yes, many dedicated players have been using the heated tees at Miles of Golf all winter, but some of us, well, we’re just thinking about restarting our golf game for the upcoming season.
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Jim Yuhas, Kendall Academy Director of Instruction and PGA Teaching Professional offers 7 solid tips for getting going again. Keep these in mind as you head out to practice at the range.

Leave big expectations at home
It’s been a while since we’ve focused on hitting a golf shot. Be kind to ourselves.

Leave the big clubs at home – bring only a 7 iron and shorter clubs
It’s easier to swing with correct rhythm, easier to create the correct sequence of events that delivers the club to the ball. Once we get the longer clubs out, the swing gets faster. It’s not how fast we swing, it’s how we swing fast.

Take extra time to loosen up
Start with half swings. It’s been months since we’ve executed a full turn at full speed, so all things in moderation.
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Focus on the proper grip, stance, and posture
It may sound trivial, but it’s an important aspect of good ball striking.

Believe in balance – practice holding the finish for at least 3 seconds
Balance is key to solid, consistent ball striking. As the season goes on and we get stronger and faster, good balance is more and more important.

Practice the short game – chipping and pitching
Early in the season, we aren’t as sharp and the weather conditions can be a little difficult. We miss more greens with our approach shots. A better short game will result in lower scores even though our full swing isn’t as dialed in as we’d like. Additionally, working on our short game will keep our swing speed under control.
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Take time to take it all in
Enjoy the scene, the feel of clubs in our hands, the athletic motion of a swing, the sights and sounds of golf. Let’s take a minute to remind ourselves why we the game.

We’re back, the season is beginning!

Golf Stats Tracking – Numbers Tell the Story

Most players have a feeling about their golf game – “Consistent off the tee,” “Lousy chipper,” “Good putter,” etc. – but what are the FACTS?If we track some basic numbers during every round, our true golf game with all its strengths and weaknesses will come to light.(Annika Sorenstam did this for over 20 years.) There’s no better way to identify soft spots in our game, make a practice plan to improve them … and lower our scores!

Start with the Scorecard
Besides your score (!) some helpful golf stats to track are:

  • Fairways hit
  • Greens hit (in your regulation)
  • Number of putts

On the scorecard simply use the lines provided for other players’ names to write in the above categories.On each hole: X if your drive hits the fairway, X if you hit the green, and record the number of putts.

Other stats worth recording include driving distance (easy with GPS) and number of bunker shots, pitches and chips

Record all your games
A notebook or spreadsheet will do the job.

How do you stack up?
Watch the progress of your numbers over time.It’s also fun to see how we stack up against others.Peter Sanders of Golf Research Associates has tracked thousands of rounds and offers these averages for a golfer with a 20 handicap playing 18 holes:

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  • 6 out of 14 fairways hit
  • 4 out of 18 greens hit in regulation
  • 34 putts

GPS Devices and Rangefinders – Know Your Golf Game

My home course is familiar and friendly. On the 9th hole (if golf goddesses are smiling) I’ll lie two at the base of a steep little hill to the green – and my pitching wedge will get me there.I don’t know the exact distance, but experience has taught me what club to use – again and again.

This summer I’ve been using a rangefinder on this super-familiar course.Why bother?What’s the upside?

My 8 iron is my 100 yard club – I think.
Using a distance measuring device regularly helps determine the yardage of different clubs in your bag.It’s all about precision.Verify your thinking, dispel your misconceptions – pick the right club.

Practice using your distance measuring device.
Make it part of your routine.  Then, when you play an unfamiliar course you can use it easily and quickly.

Make a game of it
Before you take a reading, make a guess at the yardage.Get your partner involved, making a friendly game of yardage estimates.A nickel anyone?

Learn the differences:  Read “GPS Devices vs. Rangefinders
They are very different pieces of equipment and selecting one or the other can be complex and personal.Ease of use, accuracy, innovation, travel use, cost, annual fees, buzz factor – each device offers a mixed bag of pros and cons.

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Kendall Academy at Miles of Golf

A Golf Instruction Gem Right Around the Corner

Did you know that Kendall Academy is home to 5 of Golf Digest’s top 15 golf instructors in Michigan? True!  Paul Haase (5), Dave Kendall (8), Jeff Goble (13), Jack Seltzer (14) and Tom Harding (15) are the fab five.  Kendall’s a golf instruction gem right in our own backyard.
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With that in mind, 4 of us are planning a 3-day golf “get-away” – all the way to Kendall Academy on Carpenter Road!  Why go any farther?  Jim Yuhaz, Director of Instruction, will be our intrepid teacher. We’re headed to Kendall because it’s:

  • Custom-designed just for us – and our schedules
  • Flexible – instruction can adapt to our “unique” games
  • Inclusive – we four have different levels of golf experience
  • An awesome social outing for us!
  • Local. When it’s over, we know where to find Jim for a follow-up!

The founder and president of Kendall Academy, is the ever-affable, approachable Dave Kendall.  “Golf’s a social thing,” he says. “Being with friends and having fun is a large part of it.”  Right you are, Dave.  We’ll see you over there next week!
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Practice Like You Play on the Golf Course

Time to start the transition from practice to play!
Many of us have used the winter to improve and groove our golf mechanics. Love those heated tees! Now it’s time to start thinking about the golf course again. Let’s start to make our practices more like real play. And attention, you folks who put clubs in mothballs for the cold months, and you lucky souls who go south and play all year – making the range more like the course is a good move for everyone!

  • Visit your favorite course – in your head!
    On the range paint a picture of a specific hole. Bring the trees, bunkers, slope, etc. into focus – and don’t forget to add a dab of sunshine! Now plan your first shot. Determine the club, visualize the ball path, take your swing. Did you slice it right? Then go from there, visualizing the next shot from that position. You can have lots of fun with this drill. Picture your not-so-favorite hole and see what you can do with it!
  • Introduce some course-like stress into your practice.
    For example, select a target and try to hit it 3 times in a row. Keep at it until you do.
  • Use your pre-shot routine
    On the course a consistent routine is a player’s friend. It’s a comfort and confidence builder in times of pressure. So incorporate it into your practice! Step off the mat. Visualize your shot. Pre-season is the ideal time to develop the routine that works for you.
  • Master the mats and your alignment
    It’s easy to get on auto-pilot at the range, using the alignment of the mats to dictate our set up. Forget the mats! Put special emphasis on lining up on targets that are left and right. Alternate it.
  • Change it up
    Select different targets frequently. Move from club to club often. That’s more like course play. Hit some hybrids into a “fairway”. Try your using your wedge for 3 different distances. Hit long, hit short. Pull out your driver and give it a go. Get your brain – and your swing – working in a more course-like mode.

With some creativity we can make our practices more like real golf play. It’s time to make that transition – spring will be here before we know it.

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Reading Greens & Lining Up Putts – Direction in Putting

A well-struck putt heading confidently to the cup begs just one question – “Why can’t I do that every time!?” Improve your odds for a great putt by starting the ball on line to the cup, getting it going in the right direction. Establish a process of reading a green and lining up a putt, use the process every time, and improvement will follow. Trust the process!

READING A GREEN

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  • It starts before you get there.
    You’ve made your chip, which is really a putt for position.  Now survey the situation as you walk to the green. Notice the overall contour of the land, predominant slope, drains, nearby water, etc. Is it breezy? Now is a good time to quickly walk around the green and collect info.
  • See the big picture
    Greens typically go with the tilt of the terrain. Are you on a hill?

  • Know your territory
    Old greens are typically low in front, high in the back.  In Florida, greens tend to tilt to the water. Newer greens are more complicated. Look for the drain.
  • Get your eyes low.
    Greens are constructed to drain off in two or three places. Stand in the low point of the green and get even lower by kneeling. This vantage point is not always located behind your ball.
  • Pay attention to others
    Watch the way the ball behaves when your partners chip and putt. Pay special attention to the area right around the cup.
  • Read with your feet.
    Is the green soft or firm, wet or dry?  Your feet can even tell you about the tilt you’re standing on.
  • Make a note.
    If you keep a golf journal, record information about specific greens.  Draw a green diagram with little arrows for little breaks and big arrows for big breaks.

ALIGNING THE BALL
You’ve determined where you want to putt the ball. Now get it going exactly there.

  • Mark it … before you start playing.
    Draw a semi-circle with a Sharpie pen on your ball, nice and tidy with an inexpensive aid designed for the task. Many pro golfers mark their balls for putting alignment (and tee shots).
  • Mark it … on the green.
    Use a ball marker so you can move and reset your ball.
  • Aim for alignment
    Get low again, placing the ball with one hand out in front of you. Aim the mark you’ve made on the ball exactly down the path you’ve determined to start your putt.  Getting low behind the ball gives a truer read than what you get when you are in your putting stance.
  • An intermediate target is a fine idea.
    Pick out a small distinguishing feature on your target path – a blade of grass, a brown spot.  Try aiming for it instead of for the hole if there is break.
  • Match it up.
    Take your stance, matching the little guide on the top of your putter with the line on your ball. Trust it. Hit it.
  • Side note.
    Take your practice strokes while you look at the hole or target.  This will help you find the right speed. Green reading is also essential for speed.  We must know if we are up hill or down hill.
  • Persevere!
    Establish a process for your putting and stick to it.  You’ll see results over time.

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Golf Journal Is A Golf Gem

There’s a fabulous golf improvement device, sure to improve your game, and it only costs a couple of dollars.  Run, don’t walk, to your nearest office supply store and pick up a notebook and pencil.  It’s one of the greatest golf aids around — your own golf journal.
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Golf is an endless LEARNING experience, so take notes!  Capture a lesson, log a practice, note a particular success on the course.

LESSONS LEARNED – AND RETAINED
Ever take a lesson, return to practice the following week and realize you’ve forgotten a lot?  Take time at the end of every lesson to review important points with your instructor.  Write them down – and write down your “homework” too.  You’re paying good money for this info – so keep it!
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To start with, make two sections in your notebook:

  • “Before I Hit the Ball” –  Use this area to collect notes on grip, stance, posture, aim, ball position.
  • “When I Hit the Ball” –  Collect info on the swing itself, things like club path, club face, weight transfer, etc.

With your instructor’s help, note your tendencies in both areas and specific drills to improve these tendencies.  Use drawings, squiggles, stick people.  Get creative.  With this basic framework you will have a working system to capture – and remember – golf information that is personal to you.  This will be very helpful when you go out to practice.

SPEAKING OF PRACTICE
Log your practice sessions: what you’re working on, what’s successful, what’s not, ball trajectory, questions that arise.  All this info will be very useful, giving continuity to your practices and info you can share with your instructor next time you meet.
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MORE IDEAS FOR YOUR GOLF JOURNAL
Expand your notebook and make it yours.  Use it to keep all kinds of info, memories and reminders.  Some thought-starters:

  • Current Calendar of Practice Club sessions!
  • Specific topics, like  “Chipping – What To Remember” or “Putting – Ideas that Work”
  • Equipment Wish List – clubs, balls, etc
  • People & Places – List of fun folks and great courses to play this summer!
  • Golf books to read, Golf blogs to look at
  • On-course journal – logging games played, where, with whom, highlights, etc.

The sky’s the limit with the information you put in your journal – and with the benefit you get out of it.  People who keep notebooks refer to them when they feel their swing getting off.  They can start to solve their own flaws – and be their own instructor!