Scott’s first lifetime golf lesson was Saturday, September 10. We tossed him into the deep end of the pool. There’s no other way to describe the Golf Lab Makeover analysis of his swing.
For those who think that a golf swing should be introduced bit by bit, over time, this is the opposite. Have a sip from the fire hose.
The first test was the K-Vest. The vest positions sensors at a player’s hips, shoulders and hands. The sensors record the rotation of each part of a player’s body. Good players create power by “firing” their lower body before their hands reach transition at the top of the backswing. That move increases increases tension in a player’s core muscles. That is the ultimate source of power. It is sometimes measured and described as the “X-Factor”. The phrase that made sense to Scott was “drawing back the bow”.
Any novice golfer needs a clear idea of what he should be trying to do with his swing. Despite Scott’s accomplishments in baseball and skiing, he had no idea of an “efficient swing” for golf. He simply applied his baseball skills and ended up developing a home-made golf swing that killed his power.
Scott’s mental picture of his swing did not include any concept of using his core muscles to create power. His mental picture was to keep his hands, shoulders and hips all moving together at the same speed. The Golf Lab Gang was excited to be working with a player who could conceptualize what he was thinking and describe what he felt. The key breakthrough came from a detailed discussion of the “sequence of motion” graph generated by the K-Vest.
In two hours, Scott’s understanding of his swing changed completely. I thought that was huge. How many months should he have continued practicing on his own, with his primitive mental picture?
John Taylor performed the K-Vest testing. John is the “Most Certified” Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) instructor in the Bay Area.
After two hours of “analysis” I was wondering how Scott would respond on the golf course.
Scott has one “training aid”. He’s using the “Orange Whip”. It’s very good if you’re trying to understand what tempo and “load” is supposed to feel like.
Take it to the Course?
We met on Wednesday, September 14 at 30 minutes after sunup for the back nine at the Palo Alto Muni.
Scott had a bag full of new golf clubs. From time to time, a player comes in to ask if he should get new clubs before, or after he “rebuilds his swing”.
We have a mantra in all clubmaking organizations that is “there are no dumb questions”. Thank Jerry Hoefling, Sr. for that sentiment going all the way back to Professional Clubmaker Society days.
But that is a dumb question.
If you are planning to “rebuild your swing” how could you not want to use clubs that help the rebuilding? Rebuilding a swing is hard. Don’t make it harder.
If you’re going to rebuild your swing, do it with the right tools.
You are wasting your time practicing with clubs that don’t fit. “Fit” means clubs that produce the ball flight you need, with the swing you have to reach your scoring goals. Since Scott had no knowledge of golf clubs, he was comfortable for me to choose his clubs.
(To make all of the “compensation deals” clear, Scott gets all of his golf advice and golf clubs for free in exchange for allowing his “case study” to be public. We view that as a very good arms-length bargain given that Scott is likely to suffer a little embarrassment from time to time.)
Scott’s bag was full of ten year old Callaways with uniflex shafts in regular flex and standard length. His driver was a 9.5* Taylor Made 580. I already knew that he was wild with his driver and irons. Scott was playing “hit it as far as you can”. He was not playing golf.
Scott’s new driver is a 14*, 360 c.c. driver that you can’t buy. A small group of custom clubfitters joined together for a custom order. High loft, square face drivers are hard to find. I shafted Scott’s with a plain vanilla Graphite Design because I didn’t want to think about the shaft – and I didn’t want him to think about the shaft.
The good reason for that decision is deferred – but will be clear in the future.
Scott’s irons are another plain vanilla option. I chose an oversize head style with offset. The manufacturer is Merit. They went out of business ten years ago. I was always a fan of the company founded by Larry Nelson. When a storage lot of “prototype” heads came on the market – the styles that Merit was “working on” before the fall – I bought them all. You’re never going to mistake a Merit for a Miura, but the key dimension – heel to toe measurement – there isn’t that much difference.
There is not a great deal of difference among iron head designs that affect “forgiveness”. Forgiveness is related to size and shape. A good rule of thumb is “the bigger the easier”.
The reason cast iron designs have been dominant in the “game improvement” category is that casting permits larger, more extreme shapes, with thinner cross-sections. Another key to forgiveness is low weight distribution.
If two heads share the same dimensions, they will perform alike. If you make one bigger, put the weight lower, and add a little offset in the long irons, you will have a design that is “easier to hit”.
The question of “feel” is interesting for players who have tested enough different models to develop a preference.
Although we specialize in “Japanese Boutique Foundry” forged iron heads – they are simply too expensive for some players to contemplate. It’s just like the “$100 hamburger”. Some prices are just too high. There is no alternative for a product where the raw cost of the head itself has passed $100. That’s something to think about with Japanese iron heads. New, they cost $100 each at wholesale.
The shaft that I chose for the irons was a True Temper “XP” medium weight steel shaft. I wanted Scott to swing a heavier and longer golf club.
One of the main problems that I thought I saw and that the K-Vest confirmed is that Scott was a little too much “forward” at address. That is frequently a symptom of a golf club that is too short, causing a player to get closer to the ball any way he can. I thought an extra half inch of length would help.
Then, there’s the grip. The Flightscope does a good job of bouncing signals off of the ball, the player, and the club at 100,000 cycles a second. Your ever twitch gets examined under a microscope. If a player is gripping the club too tight, it is likely to show up in the Flightscope graph. Scott needed a larger grip.
That’s enough for one day.
Disclaimer: I do not recommend walking to the tenth tee at seven thirty in the morning, pulling a club from your bag, twisting around a few times and teeing off. But that’s what we all do.
Scott’s first two drives were low hooks. (That’s a good sign with a 14* driver.) Our Wednesday morning method is “play the best when you hit two”. Scott’s second drive was surprisingly close to the green and he hit a soft wedge to ten feet. He was starting to look like a scratch player.
The dream of perfection ended when he dunked his first tee ball on the 11th. It’s a cute little par 3 over water that wants a 7 iron shot. Scott’s second was a perfect draw to ten feet below the hole. He two putted for double. If you’re going to make a double, that’s an honorable way to do it.
I won’t bore you with the “rest of the story” – and we’re not recording scores because Scott is still “wild”. I’m confident that he will shoot an honest 85 within a while. I’m remembering a chapter in a book by Gene Sarazen that chronicled a match where Sarazen became the caddy and provided advice. I’m polishing up m technique for that role with Scott. If you would like a close look at our progress, join us for a Wednesday “Morning at the Muni”.
Scott will be attending a “Stag Weekend” where he will log a couple of practice rounds and inevitably pull out his trusty old Taylor Made and swing for the fences. We’ll see him again next Wednesday.
Best Regards, Leith Anderson, Golf Lab, San Carlos, CA