The Stance Power

Watching Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson in The Skins Game on television, I noticed one thing they all have in common: an almost perfectly square stance. When they set up to the ball, their eyes, shoulders, hips and feet are aligned parallel with the target line. What they do is preset the body in a position to make a full swing and return the club squarely to the ball.

When you’re trying to hit the ball straight, this square setup is ideal. When looking for extra distance, I recommend what I call “The Power Stance”. Set up with your eyes, shoulders and hips parallel with the target line-and pull back your right foot three or four inches inside that line. This slight modification will allow your right hip to move more freely away from the ball so that you can make a bigger turn and fuller arm swing, which gives you more club head speed through impact and more distance.

I continually tell my students that they don’t swing the left arm far enough around the body. And they continually tell me that they are afraid that if they do that, they’ll miss the ball. They’re just following the path of least resistance. To hit the ball farther, try trusting your swing and using my power stance.

Cheap Putting Lesson

I’ve found a way to improve your putting for only $3.79. Actually, Gardner Dickinson showed me his, and I was so impressed that I went out and bought one for myself. What I’m talking about is a chalk line reel, the tool used by carpenters to draw a straight line with chalked string. What you do is use it to put a line on the putting green running down the middle of a straight-in putt. Then you practice stroking the ball along that line. What you’ll notice immediately is that the reason you miss putts most of the time is that you’re starting the ball off line.

The chalk line gives you a visual aid; it helps you concentrate on direction when you to practice. The idea is to try to square your feet and shoulders up to that line, then set the blade square and stroke the ball. I was a amazed at how many putts Gardner made when he started the ball rolling the first 10-15 inches down that line – it was phenomenal.

On breaking putts, decide how much break you need to play – six inches, for instance – and then chalk a line from your ball to a point that far to the side of the hole. Make sure you set up along this line. Don’t align your body to the hole and then manipulate the blade to push or pull the ball on the target line.

I think you’ll be amazed, as I was, at how quickly you learn to control the swinging of your putterhead and the direction of your putts. Let’s not forget the other important ingredient of good putting – speed – but direction becomes more and more important the closer you get to the hole. On long putts, speed and line are equally important. On short putts, you often can get away with the wrong speed if your aim is good.

I suggest you use blue chalk so the greenskeeper doesn’t get upset, but the chalk won’t harm the grass. With an investment of $3.79 and a little practice time, it may be the best putting lesson you ever had. It worked for Gardner.

Club-Selection dilemmas

What do you do when you’re in-between clubs? Do you take more club and hit it easy, or do you take less stick and put a little heat on it?

This is a serious problem for most of us golfers, because it happens so often in a round. If you hit your 7-iron 140 yards and your 6-iron 150 yards, how do you play a 145- yard shot? A tour player under those circumstances would probably opt for the shorter club and hit it harder. If you’re like most amateurs, you probably do the same thin, with less success. The pro has the physical ability to put some strain on his swing without it falling apart. The weekend golfer may think he can, but he can’t.

Because of my size and weight (5-8 and 125 pounds), I have the same problem as the average golfer. But I know my physical limitations. If I have a shorter shot to the green – say, a 7-, 8-, or 9- iron – I’ll drop down a club on an in-between shot and pop the ball. But I know I’m not strong enough to do that on longer shots. If I’m between a 2- and 3-iron, for example, I’ll take the 2 iron and put a smooth swing on it.

The average golfer, especially as the shot gets longer, should opt for taking the longer club. More is usually better for most of us.