A few weeks ago, I decided that I would publicly undergo a great experiment (you can read about it here), the likes of which had never been done before in the history of man. Yes, that is a massive overstatement and complete exaggeration, and as it turns out, not even true.
We have since learned that in 1280AD, Kublai Kahn, the grandson of Genghis Khan, did a similar experiment in ancient China. Back then, Kahn the Younger went through a complete weaponry fitting, from helmet to boot, and sword instruction lessons. Hey, The Zoo Crew spares no expense with research.
So I am far from first. But that still doesn’t mean I wasn’t beyond excited to get the first of my six lessons underway with Callaway’s Director of Instruction and Fitting, Randy Peterson. How excited? If we had the technology, I’d put one of those shucking and jiving dancing smilies in here.
So last Thursday rolled around, I left a very long and productive Global Business Review meeting (3 hours of every aspect of the Callaway business discussed in detail by the senior team. Coffee is your best friend in these), and headed over to the Ely Callaway Performance Center (ECPC) to meet up with Randy, who I may or may not refer to going forward as simply, “THE MAN.”
Based on a bunch of good advice from my internet golfer friends, I have made one slight change to the original scheme. Rather than get fit before hand, I am only going to get fit after the 6 lesson series. It makes total sense to simply compare what I will be fitted into versus what I was playing before the series began. So here’s what’s currently in my bag. I haven’t been fit for these, just got them based on previous specs I have played in the past:
Driver: X Hot 9.5 set to open. Oban Kiyoshi Black, stiff, 45.5 inches and 65g. Lamkin Crossline grip.
3-wood: X Hot Pro 15 degree. Fujikura Motore Speeder 6.1, stiff. 68g. 43 inches. Lamkin Crossline.
Hybrid: X Hot Pro 18 degree. Fujikura Motore F1 80HB, stiff. 80g. Lamkin Crossline.
Irons: X Hot 4-A. ProjectX PXI . Standard length. 1deg flat. Lamkin Crossline
Wedges: 56 and 60 Jaws Wedges. Lamkin Crossline
Putter: Versa #7, B/W/B, 34 inches. WH Pro grip.
Bag: Hyperlite 3.5.
Glove: Callaway Tour Authentic
Beer: I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.
Okay, so that’s my current set up. I love the lighter PXI shafts in my X Hot Irons, by the way (though I suppose these are actually heavier than the stock 85g shafts that normally would come with it. I like a heavier shaft just because I need to feel the clubhead so I can set the club at the top. More on that later…).
And so it begins…
When I arrived at the ECPC, THE MAN was there ready for the biggest challenge of his professional life. Could he really turn me into a reasonable golfer? Could this man, this singular teaching and fitting guru, take a beaten down, discouraged, pessimistic, neurotic, mental midget of a golfer and turn him into a force in just six lessons?
I am committed, at least. And he should BE committed for taking me on as a student. But I asked him if he was up to the challenge:
“Yes, I’ve had success with players much more hopeless than you are, Harry.”
Okay then! That’s as close to a locker room speech as I’m going to get here, and I accept and appreciate it!
But first, THE MAN wanted us to get some baseline figures so he’d know exactly what he was working with over the next 6 lessons. And as we walked inside to get on the CPAS (Callaway Proprietary Analysis System), I described my swing to him:
“I get set up a little hunched over and a little open. Kind of looks like Carl Fredrickson from “UP” right before he clobbers the construction guy in the melon with his cane at the beginning of the movie.
“And my grip gets weak because I’m lazy and weak minded.
“ And since I’m set up a little open, a little hunched, and with a weak grip, my swing gets very flat and laid off. It kind of resembles what it would look like if I were hitting a piñata in a room with 5-foot ceilings. And there’s very little setting of the club at the top, so I know I create no leverage and very little speed. So don’t make fun of me, just help me fix it!
“And as I come in so shallow, I kind of hang back and flip at it in a futile attempt to get some piece of the clubface somewhere near the ball.
“Oh, and I got the shanks about ten years ago and think I’m going to shank it over every shot. Is that a good swing thought?”
THE MAN seemed unfased. He assured me that we would fix all of those things quickly. But he wanted to take a look and see for himself. So we grabbed a club and set up into the hitting bay to get some video and get some measurements.
After about 8-10 shots, we were ready to look at the data. As one of my idols, Alan Mulally would say, “The data will set you free!” Or at least in this case, we could easily quantify the results of the bad mojo I had going on in my golf swing.
The Swing and Baseline Data
Has there ever been a 6-handicap who knew his horrible swing as well as I did? Well, I can describe it perfectly and what I describe is actually what is happening. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. But I have no, NO idea how to fix it.
But the video pretty much confirmed what I had reported: open shoulders, hunched over a bit, weak grip, bad turn, laid off club and flat with little wrist cock. A hanging back through impact, chicken wing a little, and throw the club head at it. Sweet! Tour quality.
And the important 6-iron stats:
-3 angle of descent.
-1 dynamic loft
-2 path into the ball
-2 face angle
80-81 mph clubhead speed.
And I can’t remember the ball speed numbers, but that won’t really matter yet.
Diagnosis? We have a very good zone of potential improvement! Translation: Nowhere to go but up!
The -3 angle of descent is pretty shallow and we want that number to be up more in the -7/-8 range. I’m coming in too far under the plane and not covering or trapping the ball, as evidence by the …
-1 dynamic loft. In other words, I’m not compressing the ball at all. THE MAN wants me to get this number into the -5 to -7 range as well. A good amateur will be in this range. Compression? Yes, please.
-2 path into the ball isn’t bad. A little inside but nothing too bad.
-2 face angle is open, obviously. Flat, laid off clubhead, coming in from the inside with an open clubface produces glancing blows and a nice consistent case of the high rights. Sweet! I love that shot.
And the 80-ish clubhead speed isn’t great, but not horrible….if I were 75 years old. Tour average is about 90 (per Jamie Slonis, who would definitely know, since his is probably 97) so I have some MPH with my name on it out there waiting for me.
With my benchmarks set, we went out to the outdoor range to hit us some balls and fix us some golf swing. Yup, yup. Let’s do work.
The Fix (One Thing Leads to Another)
The first thing THE MAN did was change my grip from the Lamar from the Revenge of the Nerds’ limp-wristed throwing technique, I mean, my very weak grip to a very, VERY strong grip. Actually, the all CAPS “VERY” is more of the feel of the exaggeration because in actuality, my new and improved grip is only slightly stronger than what would be considered neutral. But boy does it feel strong.
It’s feels so strong I think Tommy Gainey or Paul Azinger are going to walk by and laugh at how strong it is (for the undoctrinated, Gainey and Azinger have the strongest grips ever in the history of the world, Kublai Kahn included). My left hand now feels completely on top of the grip as if I’m playing three grip monte in Vegas and trying to conceal it.
And the right hand grip feels as if it’s totally under the grip as if I’m trying to catch any water dripping from underneath the grip. Totally strange feeling. This will take a little getting used to and the wife will just have to accept the fact that I’ll be carrying around a club with this grip everywhere we go. Or at least giving a strong golf grip to anything that even remotely resembles a golf club. “Uh, Mrs. Arnett, why is your husband holding your daughter’s Barbie like that and swinging it?”
Grip strengthened: Check.
Next, we wanted to get my shoulders more square and to stand a little taller. This one wasn’t that tough to fix. We just moved my right arm more “back” and my left shoulder blade more right, or squared up. This didn’t feel weird at all. It actually felt a lot more powerful.
Then, to stand taller, I just stuck my rear end (that’s a funny phrase) out a little more which had me standing taller and not so hunched over.
Taller, more athletic stance with more square shoulders: Check.
Well, changing my set up was the easy part and my swing changes were about to get a whole lot more difficult as we moved to the actual “moving parts.”
The Moving Parts
I’ll do my best to describe what was going on in my swing. Basically, I swung the club, as it turns out, like a five-year-old trying to use a golf club to whack a ball off a baseball tee. No legs, and no real shoulder turn. So what happened was that my shoulders would stop turning, my arms would crank the club up and around my body. In essence, I was just throwing my arms and hands around and behind me, rather than turning as a unit to the top. No leverage and definitely not pretty to look at. As I type this, I have tears running down my face just imagining it.
So THE MAN had me feel as if my arms and shoulders formed the triangle and then just turned the shoulders and that unit together. As I did that, THE MAN wanted me to feel as if my left hand went back and deep, not around. Feel a steeper shoulder turn as a unit. And keep turning! Don’t stop and allow the arms to get stuck behind me. Keep them in front and keep turning.
This was a strange feeling, but with the more proper grip and the proper turn, the club could get set properly and actually point to the target, much more up, and not so incredibly laid off.
After a few baby giraffe-like swings, I developed a little more feel for it, and began hitting these beautiful low, boring shots with a little tight draw. And I did it making a nice divot straight down the line. This can’t be a proper golf swing, can it? It feels so…effortless…
I dropped to me knees and began weeping.
But my joy was short lived, as the MAN made me stand up and take address again. This time, about 6 inches behind the ball, he placed a rather remarkable contraption I will call “The Wonder Wedge.” I believe this device has a real name, but I can’t recall it. So rather than thinking of whatever the equivalent of condescendingly calling the guy in your office “Buddy” when you can’t remember his name, I will pick another awesome name for this thing. “The Wonder Wedge” was truly incredible.
The Wonder Wedge is a big piece of foam cut into the shape of a…can you guess?…that’s right, a wedge. I guess the name tipped it off. But we do have some readers from The Hacker’s Paradise who might have been guessing all kinds of shapes. Anyway, when placed behind the ball, it forces a lot of magical things to happen (Or should I say, “wondrous” things to happen?).
It forces the take away to get a wrist cock earlier and for a good weight transfer and descending angle into the ball on the downswing. If you jerk the club back too far inside on the takeaway or come in too shallow on the downswing, you’ll bang into the wedge. I suppose you could do this with a headcover, or even a golf ball, as my buddy Karen Stupples pointed out when I told her about it.
But those things don’t have cool nicknames like “The Wonder Wedge.”