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How To Practise Less More Often.

About the author:

John Cockayne is the author of ‘How to Practise Less More Often’.

He is a founder member of the PGA of South Africa and he has spent over 30 years coaching this frustrating game!

A key focus for John, who is currently based in Souith Africa, is as the Programme Director at Corporate Golf Academy and The Green Pages Golf School.

The Golf Academy provides innovative tailor made clinics and golf academies for companies and The Green Pages provides coaching for individuals.

The majority of amateur golfers spend a significant part of their golfing lives struggling to understand and then trying to implement the ‘golf specific’ movements and thought processes, which they believe to be essential to the development of a reliable golf swing.
One of the key objectives of the coaching series will be to remove some of the golf ‘myths’ that block the average player’s understanding of what is required, to be able to hit a golf ball solidly and in a predictable direction!
Hitting the ball is not playing golf – it is certainly an essential element (the most difficult one some would argue), within an infuriating and subtle ‘mix’ of pieces which includes feel, tactics and experience and the need to hit the ball with some consistency.
It is the element of consistency that most golfers struggle to master.
This struggle becomes no easier when players become mired in a web of often contradictory swing thoughts, none of which they could possibly hope to apply consciously, during the 3 seconds or so that it takes to make a full swing.
It is hoped that over the ensuing months the common sense approach and simple analogies used in this series, will encourage any non playing readers to try out the game.
For those readers who already play we hope that the tips will enable them to approach their game with a new and fresh perspective. The primary aim in this will be to release them from aimless practice tee ‘slavery’ and that so ‘armed’ with a new an uncluttered mental approach and fresh images of the required swing fundamentals, they will be able to go out and play golf rather than practise it.
This will not be a series of ‘quick fixes’, although we hope that the combination of analogies and instruction will combine to feel like a new golfing dawn for at least a few of you!
The series will also offer suggestions on how to practise more effectively, in order that the precious time you spend on the practice tee helps you to develop the type of shots and skills that your course demands of you in your weekly games.
The equipment section will highlight the importance of having the ‘right tools for the job’ and open up an understanding of the basic requirements in what makes a club work, how to choose the right new set, or tailor your existing clubs, in order to get the maximum performance from them.
While there are no real shortcuts to mastering the game, it would also be well to remember that the written word (in virtually any field), no matter how concise, cannot really compare with the personal advice and experience that is available from the professional coaching staff at any golf Club or driving range.
The series has been specially edited for The Business of Golf website by John Cockayne and he co-host the series in conjunction with various coaching professionals.
We feel sure that over the following months that How to Practise Less More Often will encourage those of you who have never played to try out the game and provide those who already do with practical advice to help improve your swing – whatever its shape!



The Grip:

English is varied and colourful language, and is one of the best ‘vehicles’ through which to convey clear and unambiguous meanings; so to “grasp tightly” or “take a firm hold” are two definitions of the word grip in English and are not what a player wants to be doing, or feeling when holding a golf club.
Ignore the position of the fingers on the club for a moment and imagine the correct type of pressure required. A good example would be as if you were squeezing a family sized tube of toothpaste.
Squeeze the tube with a uniform pressure through both hands until the paste appears at the end of the tube (not on the bathroom ceiling!), but when you release your hands, the vacuum will take the paste back into the tube.
This is one of many similar analogies to describe grip ‘strength’. None of them will create any image or sense of real pressure, that ‘tightly’ or ‘firmly’ seem to mean to many players, nor the idea of some players, for whom the primary intent seems to be to strangle the club to death.
Whichever ‘grip’ you choose, ensure that the pressure is light to firm as a maximum throughout the fingers of both hands.
Most athletic activities require loosened muscles before you start.
Taking the club in a death like grip is contrary to this basic principle, inducing in this case a contraction of the muscles up the forearms and on into the shoulders, which is not a good platform off which to try to stretch the muscles, as you make a back swing.
Something is going to ‘give’ and it will almost invariably be the ‘grip’, which will come loose at the top of the swing.
Wear marks on a glove are often a sign that the club is moving in the hand!
The ‘classic’ grip places the club’s ‘handle’ across the roots of the fingers, with the thumb of the top hand pointing down the ‘handle’ towards the club head and with it aligned slightly off centre and away from the target.
The lower hand’s position ‘mirrors’ that of the top hand, except that the tip of thumb and forefinger on this hand can almost be joined together. The ‘ball’ (the fleshy part at the base of the thumb) of the top hand’s thumb ‘sits’ on top of the lower hand thumb, obscuring it from view.

Conventional wisdom will also require that an observer will see the ‘V’s’ formed by the thumb and forefinger of each hand pointing towards the player’s back shoulder.
What about the need to have the hands working as a unit?

If we could redesign our anatomy just for golf, then we would probably want to join the arms together with one hand. There are some ‘grip’ options which will help to make two hands function and feel as if they were one.
  • The ‘hammer’ or baseball ‘grip’ places all 8 fingers and both thumbs on the grip; feels powerful and is often a good option for children, but it does keep the hands slightly more separated than the next two choices.
  • The interlocking grip; the small finger of the lower hand grips or ‘interlocks’ with the index finger of the upper hand.Promotes a great feeling of unity between the hands, but two fingers are ‘lost’ off the club, reducing actual contact with the club. This is the preferred ‘grip’ for Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, who having won 32 Major Championships between them, would provide a fair argument that this should be all players’ ‘grip’ of choice.
  • The overlapping or Vardon grip; named after Harry Vardon, a multiple winner of the Open Championship, who popularised the use of this grip during the early part of the 20th century.Gives a good sense of unity; the small finger of the lower hand ‘sits’ in the ‘groove’ between the index and the next finger on the upper hand and only one finger is off the grip. This is the Pro’s grip of choice, as over 80% of the World’s Tour players use variations of it.
Don’t be afraid to experiment until have found the ‘right’ grip; the key ‘must do’ with any grip is that it should enable the player to return the clubface square through the ball at impact consistently.



Alignment To Target: “Where to from here?”

Aligning the clubface to the target:

This month’s host Pro is Philip Joubert who is a fully qualified member of the PGA of South Africa.

Philip has worked at several of the Gauteng region’s top Clubs starting at Centurion where he provided coaching services to the juniors and higher handicap members, then on to Pebble Rock where as he coached all levels of player from juniors, beginners, scratch golfers and provincial players.

Philip currently has his own golf academy at Pecanwood Country Club, which provides coaching programmes for all levels of players from beginners and juniors through to elite provincial players.
The average amateur golfer often seems to have more need for a qualified optician than help from a coaching Professional!
The reason for this is that some of the better amateur swings, on a technical level, are unable to get the ball to the target, due to the owner’s inability to align the clubface to the target correctly.
To be fair alignment is one of the more difficult aspects in which to achieve any real consistency, largely because it is impossible for any
player to ‘see’ where they are aiming from the perspective of their own clubface and body’s alignment. Because of this, Tournament players are especially vigilant in pursuit of the correct target line.
The three key elements that make up the correct address are to:
  1. Find the target line.
  2. Set the clubface square to it.
  3. ‘Build’ the stance and set up parallel to the selected target line. 
A favourite Tournament player should provide a model routine, which is an essential foundation to all the set up elements, as it will help ensure that an obvious requirement is not missed.
You may not have the prettiest swing at your Club, but with this routine you will be able to set up like a Pro every time.
Routines vary from player to player, but the following will help you to cover all of the key points.
  • Always approach every shot from the behind the ball, keeping the ball between you and the target. It is only from behind the ball that you can get a clear view of all the factors which will affect the shot you want to play.
  • Create a clear mental image of the target line i.e. by visualising a line that links the ball to the selected target. Imagine that the line is a large ‘stripe’, painted by an oversize whitewash brush, which runs from the front of the ball along the ground to the target. In this same context look around to see if there are other existing ‘lines’ parallel to your chosen target line i.e. the edge of the tee box or the mower lines on the turf. 
  • Select a mark that is on or adjacent to your target line and which is not more than 2 or 3 feet in front of the ball. Selecting a mark 100 metres away will destroy the essential purpose of the exercise, which is to provide your eyes with a target or reference point that is close to you. 
  • Place the golf club face behind the ball and keep the leading edge pointing to the selected mark and the clubface at right angles to the target line. 

You will now have the clubface ‘squared’ to the target and can ‘build’ your stance and position the rest of your body parallel to the direction (the target line) in which the clubface is pointing. 
Correct alignment plays a vital role in virtually every sporting activity.

The example given here would be that the golfers’ target line mark is representative of the sight on the end of a rifle barrel, as is helps bring the target towards the marksman (the golfer in this case) and therefore makes a distant target easier to line up to.



Body Alignment:

Chapter will be available in June 2014.

The Takeaway:

Chapter will be available in August 2014.

John Cockayne Copyright © 2014