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Stickney: Practice time

Tom Stickney
Vail CO, Colorado

We know that there are basically four parts to your golf game: 1) The Fundamental Swing, 2) The Short Game, 3) The Mental/Scoring Aspect, and 4) The Physiological Body.

If you practice each section 1/4th of the time you will be the complete player but most people want to work on the long game so let’s examine everyone’s favorite- the long game, and see how you can improve easier than ever before.

1) The Fundamental Swing- under this heading you will have several things that you need to pay attention too- the set-up, the backswing, the transition, and the pivot. These things make up your total swinging motion and by practicing each in sections you can cover the swing much quicker than ever before.



During the “Set-Up” you must pay attention to the alignment of your body in relation to your target, use a practice station by laying down clubs if necessary to aid this process.

Check to see that the “V’s” in your grip are working together and pointing somewhere between your right ear and right shoulder, you spine has the proper forward and lateral bending, and finally check to see if your arms are hanging out away from your thighs from a down the line view.



These are just some of the things you need to look for before you actually hit any balls. I would audit my set-up in the golf car’s window etc. before I hit balls and notice any flaws…this five minute “mirror work” will give you any necessary things to pay attention to before you get to the practice tee.

As you hit balls you should pay attention to your “backswing” and its two basic parts: the plane of the clubshaft and the actions of the torso- these factors set you up to make the proper transition into the downswing.

Imagine a pane of glass running up the clubshaft through your beltline at address, the base line of this plane (where it rests on the ground- parallel and just inside your target line) identifies where the clubshaft should be during the swing. You are “on plane” when the clubshaft is parallel to this base line or the end of the club closest to the ground points at it- period, anything else is off plane!



As the clubshaft moves about the body, the torso must not flap around haphazardly, if you control the actions of your foundation through the right knee you will find out that this will tighten up the bodily actions to the top.

The right knee should remain in its address flex and position in route to the top- if it does move then you will have lose bodily actions to the top. The tighter the body actions- the more efficiently the clubshaft can move.

Now that you have placed yourself in a decent address position and made the very best backswing you can it is now time to focus on your transition by watching two things: the divot direction and the starting direction of your golf ball relative to your target line.

You can audit your transition by checking to see if these things match- for a draw you should always see the divot down the target line and the ball starting to the right of your target line meaning the club is moving from the inside slightly. Divots in to out or out to in are off plane and mean that you must go back and check your set-up and backswing.

If you have a good transition then your pivot (how you twist and turn and move weight through the swing) must be effective through the ball allowing your body to control the actions of the arms, hands, and clubshaft. If you are off balance or feel a slapping motion through the ball then your pivot needs work.

I would suggest working on each of these factors individually with several balls until the unit is cohesive- DO NOT try to do everything at once. Usually the breakdown would be 60% of work on the set-up, backswing, and transition and then use 40% of the time to practice your pivot.

Remember that hitting balls is only part of the issue, use mirror work, static and dynamic practice swings, slow motion stop action drills, as well as, full swings to make your practice time more effective.

The propriocepters in your muscles do not know if it is a real swing or not so the more correct and efficient motions you make the better the chance you have to make a good swing when it matters! Experiment and have fun.

Now that you have discovered the best way in which to work on your long game you must focus your attention to the MOST important part of the game- the Short Game! Your short game covers anything inside a full shot to your control and accuracy around the green…the better your short game the easier it is to score because you will take pressure off of your long game.

If the best ball strikers in the world only average thirteen to fourteen greens per round then the rest of us who average between six to ten greens per round must have a good short game to make up for the missed opportunities from the fairway.

The short game really has four parts- Pitching, Chipping, Bunker Play, and Putting. Each of these motions must be perfected to some degree so that you may be as good around the greens as you can be.


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