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ASK DAVE & JOHN

Dave Christensen and John Fridley are two of Guaranteed Golf's senior instructors. They have given lessons to amateurs and professionals for over twenty years. They think they have seen it all, but apparently some things still surprise them. If you have any questions, write to ASK DAVE & JOHN P.O. BOX 20540 Columbus OH 43220 or email them at dave_john@guaranteedgolf.com

Dear Dave and John:

I'm a young (24) touring professional, just finishing my first season on the mini-tour. It's been a real struggle of late and something has happened to my game. I'm playing worse now than I did in high school. I must have lost 40 yards on my tee shots in the last few months. I can't seem to hit the ball out of my shadow anymore. My scores are high and my bank account is low. What's happening to me? BUBBA JOE G.

DAVE: The pressure of playing golf for a living is tremendous. And once you start to play poorly, the pressure increases even more. After a while you can develop "lock wrist," a golf disease caused by too much pressure. If your wrists don't relax, they don't release properly and you can lose distance rapidly. The cure is to lighten up on your thumb pressure. Try hitting balls for a couple of days with virtually no thumb pressure. Take your thumbs off the club completely if need be.

JOHN: Another culprit could be your practice goals. Paralysis by analysis can happen to pros, too. It's becoming more and more common. Unfortunately, many instructors of tour players make the problem even worse. If all your practice energy is devoted to the search for the perfect swing, you are doing yourself a disservice.

DAVE: If you are single and travel by yourself, there may be an additional cause to your woes. You may have what is known in medical circles as a hormonal imbalance. This can cause serious havoc to your golf game. It that's the case, just remember, you don't have to spend every evening practicing your putting on your motel room rug. Loosen up a little bit. Get out more. Meet some women.

Dear Dave and John:

A golf instructor once told me that my wrist should be supinate. I read the same thing in a golf magazine one day. How does one go about this? HOWARD K.

JOHN: What? I don't even know what supinate means.

DAVE: I think it has something to do with having a built-in pouch, like a kangaroo.

JOHN: Why would anybody want a pouch on their wrist?

DAVE: I don't know.

JOHN: Howard, if you don't have enough pockets in your golf bag, buy a new bag. Forget getting one on your wrist. It sounds gross.

Dear Dave and John:

How can I get a sand shot to stop or even back up like I see you pros do? JIM W.

JOHN: Unfortunately, backing a ball up out of a sand trap can be done only under unusual circumstances. The sand, the lie, and the green all have to be just right. And you must have a reasonably long sand shot. A short sand shot won't back up no matter what you do, unless you hit the lip and the ball trickles back into the trap -- not what you had in mind, I assume.

DAVE: There are ways to increase the amount of backspin on a sand shot -- longer backswing, longer follow-thru, more open clubface, less weight shift. However, John's point is that there is more future in being able to predict the amount of roll rather than trying to control the amount of roll.

Dear Dave and John:

I've been playing golf for seven years and have worked my handicap down to 11. I've taken lessons from several instructors and have a pretty good idea of what my problems are. I'm trying to keep from fanning it open on my takeaway, keep my right knee braced, make a full shoulder turn on a slightly flatter plane, and not lay it off at the top. I also try to concentrate on starting the downswing with my left knee instead of with my hands. I try to keep my head still and behind the ball at impact and have my left hip move toward the target for a while before it clears to the left. Am I on the right track? DAN M.

JOHN: The right track to what? The loony farm? I have to write this response myself because Dave just passed out. Apparently, the idea that someone is actually trying to think about all that stuff in one golf swing was just too much for him. The truth is, I used to be like that myself. I spent my better years researching the golf swing and tried to focus on every single anatomical motion during every swing. Consequently, I played like a dingle for many years. Only after Dave scooped all that stuff out of my head and got my brain and body working together did I start playing the best golf of my life. So my advice to you, Dan, is to find a teacher who does not overload your brain with gobbledygook but puts you on a program that allows your talent to increase as you continue to play and practice.

DAVE: What happened? Where am I?

JOHN: Everything's OK, pro. It's over.

Dear Dave & John: I took a lesson from a pro last year and he told me to point my body "parallel left" of the target. What did he mean? CHRIS B.

Dave: I assume he meant that the extended line across your toes should be parallel to the line that goes from the ball to the target. In other words, if you stand 2 feet away from the ball, the line across your toes should point 2 feet left of the target. Now, if the target is 200 yards away, I can't see how 2 feet left or right can make much difference or even be measured with the naked eye.

John: I saw an article in a golf magazine about "parallel left." I think it was written by someone who hadn't heard that railroad tracks are the same distance apart no matter how far away they are.

Dave: And Chris, for future reference, most pros use the term "aim" to describe where the clubface is pointing and "alignment" to describe the golfer's body.

Dear Dave and John:

I saw the two of you guys give an exhibition one day. At one point you were hitting 5-irons onto a target green. The balls landed, took one bounce, then stopped dead and spun in their tracks. It was beautiful. I'd give anything to have my ball do that when it landed. I hit my 5-iron about 150 yards. CHARLES S.

JOHN: If I hit a 5-iron 150 yards, I'd take all the roll I could get!

Dear Dave and John:

What is the secret to the mental game briefly. JON A.

JOHN: Gee, John, that's a pretty broad question.   I don't know if we can be brief.

DAVE: Let me give it a try. You play your best golf when your main mental vision during a golf swing is the sight of the ball descending toward the target. You play your next best golf when you think about starting the ball off in the right direction. You play your third best golf when your thoughts are on your forward swing. And you generally play your worst if you find yourself thinking about your backswing. In other words, the farther forward your thoughts, the better you generally play. You, of course, should always concentrate on the task at hand. As to how far forward your thoughts are, well, some days it's easier than others.

John: I don't think that was brief enough.

Dear Dave and John:

I have some golf balls from last year that I haven't used yet. Do they lose anything over the winter? Leo M.

DAVE: Your golf balls should be just fine. Back many years ago, when golf balls were made of stretched rubber bands on the inside, you had to be careful about storing them. Nowadays, the solid center golf balls have a shelf life of just about forever.

JOHN: Beware, Leo, that not only have your golf balls not changed physically since last year, they are probably just as obstinate, temperamental, and hard to control as ever.

Dear Dave and John:

On many of my shots (too many), my club hits the ground behind the ball.  Sometimes I hit a shot just fine, but other times I hit the ground first.  What am I doing wrong?
- Russ H.

JOHN:  If the club hits the ground before it hits the ball (often called hitting the shot "fat"), the ground slows down the club considerably and the ball goes only a short way.

DAVE:  I've had that experience.

JOHN: Yep, even pros do it once in a while.

DAVE:  And there are a number of causes.  In fact, that is why the shots are so common, because there ARE so many ways to do it.  One cause is the tightening up of the legs and therefore restricting the forward momentum of the swing, which moves the bottom of your swing backwards.

JOHN:  Another common cause is the lowering, either in the backswing or the forward swing, of the head or shoulders (same thing, they are connected).  This is sometimes referred to as dipping, or getting out of your posture, or changing your spine angle.  Regardless of what it's called, the body goes down but the ground doesn't.

DAVE:  Another cause of fat shots can be stiffening of the wrists.  To get technical, the club stops going down and starts coming up right when it passes the hands.  So inconsistent wrists action can change where the bottom of your swing is.

JOHN:  Also, swaying on the backswing can make it hard to get back to the ball, and there's another fat shot.

DAVE:  And the problem could just be ball position; that is, where the ball is relative to your feet.

JOHN:  Sorry we couldn't be more specific, but you picked a problem with many possible causes.  And when we give a lesson, we have to check out all those things.  The truth is, in order NOT to hit behind the ball, you have to do a lot of things right.

Dear Dave and John:

How do square grooves impart more backspin? ALAN C.

DAVE: Grooves on golf clubs are like tread on tires. On dry roads, racing slicks provide the maximum traction; but when it rains, you better have some tread. Tire tread gives the water a place to channel so that the tire can make contact with the road and prevent hydroplaning. Grooves on golf clubs serve the same function. Rain, dew, and grass act as lubricants if caught between the ball and the clubface. Square grooves, being essentially bigger grooves, allow slightly better channeling of foreign materials.

JOHN: Let me add that most average golfers take a practice swing in grass that is wet from dew or rain and then swing at the ball with a sopping wet clubface. Pros, on the other hand, usually wipe their clubface on their pantleg (or something equally gross) right before they hit.

DAVE: Decorum takes a back seat to the search for nirvana. I've always said that.

Dear Dave (Pro) and John (Pro):

Why do you guys always call each other "Pro"? I took your class a couple years ago and all the instructors called every other instructor "Pro." There were 3 instructors all using the same name. When one pro wanted the attention of another pro, he'd yell, "Hey, Pro." How do you know who was supposed to respond? Anyway, I thought it was kinda neat and thought I'd like to be called "Pro," too. So I started calling myself "Pro." It has made me feel a lot better and I'm waiting to see if it helps my golf game, too. ROGER (PRO) W.

JOHN: Actually, Pro is our real name. Our moms both named us Pro, obviously in anticipation of good things to come. This "Dave and John" stuff is only something our PR firm forced upon us in order to write this column. They said, "From now on you are 'Dave' and 'John', respectfully. I told them it didn't sound very respectful to me, but it was like trying to get a free drop from a USGA official.

Dear Dave and John:

What's the story on these new, funny shaped shafts? Taylor Made has the Bubble. Cobra has the Hump. Top-Flite has a Muscle shaft. Wilson has the Fat shaft. And they keep coming. Is there anything to these things? MATT W.

DAVE: The underlying premise is that the shaft can affect the flight of the ball. A stiffer shaft, especially stiffness near the clubhead, causes the ball to fly lower. More flex near the head causes a higher trajectory. The problem is, some golfers want to hit the ball higher, some hit it too high already. So different shafts are necessary for different golfers.

JOHN: The shafts that you mentioned are more than just marketing gimmicks. They are attempts to design a shaft that fits a larger percentage of golfers. In addition, they are attempts to reduce the torque and twisting caused by unsolid hits without increasing the weight of the shaft.

DAVE: And if you think the cure for off-center hits is to buy new shafts, you haven't been paying attention.

Dear Dave and John:

My husband and I have been playing a lot of golf since we moved here in Columbus and we really love it.  The other day he asked me what I thought about the possibility of joining a country club.  I said I didn't know anything about it.  He said he didn't know much either.  Can you give us any advice?  JOAN W.

DAVE: Well, there are a lot of advantages for avid golfers to join a private club:  better golf courses, easier tee times, organized activities, etc.  And your timing is perfect.  Country club membership is cheaper today than it has ever been!  Clubs are offering deals like never before.  Must be a price war or something.  You might be able to find something even cheaper than public course golf.

JOHN:  To investigate any private club, just call them up and ask whoever answers the phone to send you some membership information.

Dear Dave and John:

My friend, Chuck Schwurmer (do you remember him?), took your school this spring.  I was playing with him today, and the first hole on our course is a 425-yard par 4.  Chuck hit a drive about 260 down the middle.  He pulled out a 6 iron for his second shot and hit it one bounce into the hole for a 2.  I immediately came home to email you guys.  Chuck should be making the turn about now.  My question is, do you have any classes starting any sooner than the schedule on your website?  ED R.

DAVE:  Sorry, Ed.  For many reasons our schedule must be made out well in advance.  We teach at several locations and there are only so many days in a week.

JOHN:  And Ed, I have to tell you, holing out for an eagle 2 on a long par 4 is NOT common at all for our students.  Most of our students will NEVER do that.  What IS common for our students is to hit their second shot about 3 feet from the hole and then get so excited that they gag the 3 footer and tap in for a 4.  In fact, when I think of all the times I've played golf with Dave, even he's done that a number of times.

DAVE:  Very funny.

Dear Dave and John:

I seem to have mastered the two most common shots from the sand: leaving the ball in the trap or skulling it 2 miles over the green.  How do I hit that third kind where the ball actually lands on the green?  RHONDA G.

JOHN:  You probably have been playing golf long enough to have learned the concept of the greenside bunker shot:  hitting the sand a couple of inches behind the ball with a sandwedge and propelling sand, ball, and all out of the trap and onto the green.  What you likely haven't learned (and we didn't either until we started testing) is that most golfers hit much farther behind the ball than they think they do.

DAVE:  Our research has shown that most golfers think they are hitting 2 or 3 inches behind the ball (as they should) when actually they enter the sand 12-15 inches behind the ball.  If you hit that far behind the ball, the ball will definitely stay in the bunker, unless you decide to take just a little less sand--then you will catch the ball on the upswing and send it way over the green.  Sound familiar?

JOHN:  When we teach sand shots, we put a second ball about a foot behind the first one and have the student's club enter the sand between the two balls.  Try it.


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