Skills Development: Putting Drills

One of the things I like most about being at the Golf Academy is that I can see how each class I’ve taken so far will be helpful to me in my golf career. My first two years at Arizona State, I took a lot of classes that didn’t seem applicable to a career in Broadcast Journalism. I just wanted to get on with it! Here, there’s very little wasted time – probably because the program is only 16 months long – and because there’s a lot to learn. Because the Academy has been around since 1986, the program has been refined to the point that it’s really down to a science.

The gate drill was and still is a favorite of Tiger Woods because it encourages solid contact.
The gate drill is a favorite of Tiger Woods because it encourages solid contact.

It’s also nice on days like today, when we can get out of the classroom and onto the course for a little practical application. It makes sense that at least some of our classes would meet outside considering golf is played outdoors. Simulators are great, but at some point, you’ve got to start flying the plane, you know? So at 7:30 this morning, my Advanced Elements of the Short Game class met at the Bear Creek Golf Complex in Chandler for a review of what we learned last semester and to discuss putting. Bear Creek has one of the best practice facilities in all of Southern Arizona, and it’s easy to host a class of 15-20 students on the practice green without disturbing the golfing public on a weekday morning.

Our main focus this semester is distance control – with our wedges and with our putting. Ultimately, it’s about getting the ball to finish inside a three-foot circle where statistics prove it’s easiest to make putts. This is accomplished through a combination of aim, speed, and a comfortable set-up. We re-checked our alignment using a laser putting guide, and then PGA Professional Jay Friedman went through a few putting drills we can do on our own – the gate drill (a favorite of Tiger Woods) to encourage solid contact, the pathway drill using two alignment sticks, and the yardstick aiming/pathway drill. Look for a metal one at either Lowe’s or Home Depot ($2.68 at Lowe’s) because it’s more durable and because there’s a hole on one end to put the golf ball. It’s hard to keep the ball on the yardstick for all three feet, but if you can, it means that you’re aimed properly and that your path is square to the target line. Jay demonstrates the yardstick aiming/pathway drill:


Understanding Golf Operations
In Understanding Golf Operations, PGA Professional Fred Barr hit us with the following quote:

“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.” -King Whitney Jr.

Aqua Golf outside Denver, Colorado found a way to use the xx to make money.
Aqua Golf outside Denver found a way to use Overland Pond to generate revenue.

We are really going in-depth on the organizational structure of both equity and non-equity clubs right now. Dues may be the lifeblood of the private club, but it’s also about finding new and creative revenue streams. Fred is fond of saying, “If you’ve got more demand than supply, figure it out!”

Golf Club Assembly and Repair
My favorite class so far is Golf Club Assembly and Repair because it’s the most hands-on. Last week, we went around the workshop to familiarize ourselves with all of the equipment we’ll be using. This week, we started the process of going through our own equipment to, as PGA Professional Gary Balliet says, “see if there are any rats in your bag.”

Ideally, your clubs should have similar swing weights to one another. Swing weight (SW) is what you get when you add each component part together and balance those parts at a fulcrum point 14 inches from the butt end of the grip. If your clubs don’t have the same swing weights, you’ve got a rat in your bag (and maybe several)! The weight of the component parts are the most important calculation in club building and repair. You want your set to be consistent. Golf is hard enough. The last thing you want to have to do is make compensations for differing swing weights.

The Mitchell Tour GAUGE measures swing weights on a D Scale.

Swing weights are read on a D Scale, a combination of letters and numbers ranging from B-0 through G-0. A golfer who’s looking to increase his clubhead speed would prefer a lighter swing weight. To calculate the swing weight, you have to weigh each component part separately – clubhead, shaft, and grip – as well as account for the length of the club. Every two grams of head weight equals one swing weight, every nine grams of shaft weight equals one swing weight, every five grams of grip weight equals one swing weight, and every half inch of club length equals three swing weights. Here’s the trick – weight added toward the grip end of the club subtracts swing weights because of how the weight of the club is distributed throughout. Weight subtracted from the end adds swing weights for the same reason. The formulas haven’t really changed over the last 25 years. Here’s how it’s calculated:

Standard Driver
Head weight = 200g
Raw shaft = 125g (for steel shafts; graphite driver shafts weigh 60-65g on avg.)
Grip weight = 50g
Club length = 44″
Swing weight = D-2

Now You Do the Math
Head weight = 206g (206g-200g = 6g/2g [2g = 1 SW] or +3 SWs)
Raw shaft = 116g (125g-116g = 9g/9g [9g = 1 SW] or -1 SW)
Grip weight = 55g (55g-50g = 5g/5g [5g = 1 SW] or -1 SW); weight added to the end takes swing weight away
Club length = 43.5″ (44″-43.5″ = .5″/.5″ [.5″ = 3 SW] or -3 SWs)
Swing weight = D-0 (3 – 1 – 1 – 3 = -2 from D-2)

Look confusing? It’s a real mind bender the first time you learn it! I don’t think I have any rats in my golf bag right now, but stay tuned. I’m still compiling the numbers.

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