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Making Small Swing Changes to Suit Playing Conditions

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If you’re like me, you may go weeks on end, playing frequently throughout the entire period, and feel like you have a different golf swing every round.  Many times, I’d prefer that not be the case, but I’d like to address several circumstances where I believe it’s good to make slight changes to your golf swing, such that it has a slightly different feel, to suit playing conditions (and your state of mind) that day.

Situation #1:  Chamber of Commerce Weather, Rested, and Feeling Great

These are the days when, hopefully, your golf swing feels best.  You’re able to use your legs effectively in your golf swing.  Your timing is in perfect synchronization, and you feel strong, limber, and able to hit any shot you can dream up.  Ok, it doesn’t always result in that, but my point is, there are those days when you have no excuse for why your golf swing shouldn’t feel great.  Unless there’s a need to address some major mechanical flaws (see: Tin Cup, US Open practice round range session), then you shouldn’t be too worried about manipulating your golf swing on these types of days.  Stay focused, relax, and enjoy the tremendous opportunity you’ve been provided.

Situation #2:  Cold Weather

Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a few southern states, this is a reality that most golf addicts must face.  A man can only go so long, caged up, watching meaningless college basketball games and Netflix with his wife until he can no longer fight the urge to brave the blustery winter and tee it up with his buddies.  And, when we do, it’s usually not pretty.  But, worth it. 

To give yourself a fighting chance at coming within even a dozen shots of your handicap, I recommend that you swallow your pride, and recognize that your golf game is not what it normally is during peak season, and the cold conditions warrant a few changes to help add some consistency to those thin, stinging strikes. 

First, understand that your body can’t turn the way it normally does.  Your cold muscles and long undies will restrict your ability to turn, and you’ll be left with a bit less power to work with.  I recommend feeling like you’re making more of an “arms” swing takeaway when this is the case.  This could mean a little more elbow bend at the top, or perhaps an extra few degrees of wrist cock to get the club all the way back.

Secondly, your hands are cold.  If you’re the type of guy who relies on his hands a lot through impact to make the ball do what you intend it to do, then cold weather conditions are surely difficult for you to hit consistent shots.  Once you’ve made your “arms” takeaway, I recommend making every effort possible to start with a slow transition from the top, and pass through impact keeping your hands as quiet as possible.  For me, this usually means I’m intentionally trying to hit cuts and fades, holding the face square through impact for a longer period.  I may lose a little distance in the process, but the quieter hands through impact allow me to find the center of the clubface more consistently in the colder conditions, and eliminate the need for my hands to work with perfect timing in order for me to hit a halfway respectable shot. 

I can usually practice these two changes by going to the range and trying to hit big fades at 75% effort.  Grab a 7-iron and give it a try.  If you normally hit it 160 yards, then make your arms swing with quiet hands through impact, and TRY to only hit it 120 yards with a nice fade.  After a few swings, you’ll probably realize you can do this with some consistency, and I can assure you, it will come in handy when your game is rusty, and the mercury has fallen.  (Side note: these changes are also effective for very rainy conditions when you, and your clubs, are soaked)

Situation #3:  It’s Windy AF

Having grown up playing golf in the Midwest, I’ve played my fair share of rounds in some breezy conditions.  There are plenty of days throughout the year when the near tornadic winds blowing at Mach speeds require special techniques for putting, mounting your ball on the tee, taking a drink, and even taking relief (not the one-club kind) on the golf course.  Your golf swing is no different.

When playing in windy conditions, although it sounds cliché and is advisable in…well, all conditions, finding the center of the clubface will help add consistency to all shots played in the wind.  When you mishit a shot, your spin rates are far different from when you hit it solidly, and this change in spin is amplified by the stronger winds.  

First, try widening your stance just a touch.  Widening your stance will add stability to your golf swing, and makes it harder for you to make lateral weight shifts, which can become difficult to execute in the high winds.

Secondly, focus on making a consistently smooth transition from the top of your swing.  When you’re hitting a shot into the wind, the wind will force the club back faster on your takeaway, then make it difficult to maintain that faster tempo through the transition into your downswing.  The opposite will occur when you’re hitting shots down wind.  It’s more difficult to take the club away, then the help of the wind will speed up your transition and downswing.  These inconsistencies in tempo make it more difficult to strike your shots solidly.  Be aware of what the wind will do to your club at takeaway, try to counter that, and this will allow your tempo to be more consistent throughout any shot in the wind.  For example, if you’re over a shot that’s into a stiff wind and know the club will be whipped back quickly, try to slow your takeaway such that it will match the slower transition you’ll likely incur as a result of moving the club back into the wind on the downswing.

Playing in the wind can be very difficult and frustrating, but making these small changes can help you consistently hit the ball solidly, and take the spin of your shot, and the effects of the wind, out of the equation as much as possible.

Situation #4:  You’re Hungover

For some, this is a reality faced all too often.  And, for many of you in that category, playing golf in this condition may come as second nature, so, go order a pre-round bloody mary and be on your way (caution: this can lead to a shampoo effect and an immediate false sense of heightened ability).  For others, you may only experience the liver-wrenching effects of a three-day member guest marathon a few times a year.  And, with some big money on the line, you need to be prepared.

If you’re like me, the two biggest differences that I feel in my golf swing after a hard day/night of drinking are in my legs, and in my hands on delicate shots.

Much like the cold-weather golf swing, I need to focus on utilizing less of my lower body to generate power.  When your legs feel like jello, you can’t fire and drive your golf swing with your legs the way you can when you’re sober and rested.  So, I try and feel like I’m maintaining a quieter, more stable lower half throughout my swing, relying more on my shoulders and arms to generate speed.  This isn’t ideal, but you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt.  Eliminating some of the drive from your legs can help keep your golf swing more synchronized and avoid hitting it 80 yards OB right with your partner is in his pocket when your water-deprived calf muscle spasms at the top of your golf swing.

Dealing with your shaky hands on delicate shots can also be very tricky.  When it comes to short chips and pitch shots – avoid them at all costs.  Putt from the rough, belly the wedge, play a blast shot…do whatever you need to do to avoid requiring great touch around the greens.  Once on the green, I try and feel like my putting stroke is firmer and faster than usual, eliminating the shakiness that can come about during a long, slow stroke over a slippery four-footer, with one of last night’s Vegas bombs churning at the bottom of your stomach.  Think: Brandt Snedeker on crack.  Give your stroke a firm pop, with some conviction.  You may even find that you putt better than normal.

Situation #5:  It’s Cold AND You’re Hungover

STAY AT HOME.  Order some Papa John’s, turn on the Golf Channel, and nurse yourself back to health.

 

Cheers,

Nate

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