Bump and Run The Real Reason Why You Slice

By David AllenOctober 22, 2009, 7:07 pm
We know it's difficult to find time to practice during the week. When a Saturday or Sunday tee time rolls around, you're hoping to find some spark or productive swing thought that will help you break 100, 90, 80 or whatever your scoring goal may be.
 
With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed at improving your game. This week it's Kevin Walker, President & CEO of FuZion Golf and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.
Kevin Walker HeadshotKEVIN WALKER
President & CEO, FuZion Golf, Jupiter, FL

Accomplishments:

- Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers
- 2004 Horton Smith Award (contribution to education), New England PGA
- 1995 Colorado PGA Section Teacher of the Year

Notable Students (past and present): Brad Faxon, Tom Kite, Gary Hallberg, Mark Wiebe
 
Web Site:
fuziongolf.com

Contact:
561-743-4470

Walker, who has taught at such places as Nantucket Golf Club, Castle Pines Golf Club, Doral Golf Resort & Spa and Kapalua Resort, formed FuZion Golf along with partner Chris Dempsey after years of watching clients unknowingly use faulty equipment.

'Basically, I found out that the equipment being sold to me to sell to my clients wasn’t being built to the standards it should’ve been,' said Walker. 'I felt there was an opportunity to help players get to a higher level by combining precision instruction along with precision equipment.'
 
To submit a question to Walker or one of our teachers, please e-mail bumpandrun@thegolfchannel.com and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered. 

Why is it so important to get custom fit for golf clubs?

Buying something off the rack is not advisable for anybody because the chances of it being right for you are slim. At the very least, if the equipment is checked or tested for weight, length and firmness, you have a chance for a semi-matched set of clubs. Unfortunately, there are very few golf shops that are equipped with an analyzer to measure the actual firmness of shafts.

If you buy your clubs incrementally, which is what most people do – driver one year, new set of irons the next – you're going to have very different profiles and flexes just because of the random nature by which the manufacturers produce their stuff. So now, if you’ve got clubs that are not matched to each other, the only way to hit the same type of ball flight is for you to adjust your golf swing. That’s pretty hard to do, especially for the average golfer.

You often hear people say, 'I love my 5-iron but I can’t hit my 7-iron.' That's because the specs don’t match each other.

Drivers from PGA Merchandise Show
Buyer Beware: Most clubs off the rack do not come as advertised.
What should the average consumer be most aware of when buying clubs off the rack?

There's one big buyer beware. Equipment manufacturers will go to one of the shaft manufacturers and say, 'We want your shaft in our new line of drivers next year, and we’ll pay you $5 per shaft and buy 200,000 shafts.' What the shaft manufacturers do is produce a shaft that’s basically rolled graphite – what we call no profile – and put the paint scheme on it that the equipment manufacturer wants. It’s completely random. When you buy something off the shelf, you can’t have it tested, and your chances of it being the firmness it says is almost nothing. The inside joke here at FuZion is that the 'S' on the stiff shaft stands for Senior [flex], because that’s what they usually come out to. I’ve seen extra-stiff shafts flexed out at ladies’ flex, but it says 'S' or 'R' on the shaft so the consumer is trusting the manufacturer.

What can you do as a club-fitter to get me more distance, strictly from an equipment standpoint?

What happens a lot of times is that you can have a fairly efficient swinging motion, but if you’ve got the wrong profile of equipment in your hands it’s not going to efficiently transfer energy to the golf ball. We look at ball speed and smash factor. If someone has 100 miles per hour of clubhead speed then we ought to be able to get him up to 150 mph of ball speed. If you consistently see someone making solid contact with the ball, but their smash factor is only at 1.40, something is causing a loss of energy transfer. And a lot of times it’s the shaft. Usually what we're looking for is a shaft that will transfer energy and give you maximum ball speed.

When you put someone on a launch monitor (Trackman), what numbers are you paying strict attention to from a club-fitting standpoint?

We’re looking at ball speed, launch angle and spin rate. We’re tying to optimize those three things to get the maximum smash factor (1.50). If you have 100 mph of clubhead speed and a 1.50 smash factor, that means your ball speed is 150 mph.

If you're someone with a low swing speed, you’re probably going to need a little higher launch angle and spin rate to keep the ball in the air longer. If you have a really high ball speed, then you want to reduce the spin as much as possible so the ball gets up in the air and stays in the air longer, and when it lands it gets maximum roll on the ground.

Too many people are starting to look at equipment now and say that spin is the enemy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. As an example, my partner here at FuZion, Chris Dempsey, has a much higher ball speed than I do. If I reduced my spin rate to what Chris is trying to get his at, my ball would just fall out of the sky. I need spin to keep the ball in the air. Everything is lower spin, lower spin, lower spin, and that’s great for real high-speed players, but for the average consumer – the 15- to 20-handicap player – they need the extra spin.

Kenny Perry hitting driver off the tee
Learn to draw the ball consistently, like Kenny Perry, and you'll be able to manage your game much better.
What kind of feedback are you looking for from the Trackman as an instructor?

What I look for is the angle of attack (whether the club is ascending or descending into ball), path (from the inside, outside, or straight on), and clubface (open, square or closed).

The clubface determines where the ball starts, it’s not the path. The reality is the face determines where the ball starts and the path relative to the face determines which direction the ball curves. If your face is closed, the ball is going to start to the left of your target line. Therefore, if you want to hit a fade, the face needs to be closed at impact so the ball starts to the left of the target and curves back toward the target.

Traditional instruction says that an open clubface is what causes a slice. Not true?

It's possible the face is open; it depends on where the ball is starting. You’ll definitely slice it if the face is open at impact and the path is from the outside, but the ball will start to the right [of your target line] and curve farther to the right. That’s why you really have to look at what the starting direction of the ball is. What I’ll get people to do as a drill is put a shaft on their target line, about five yards out in front of them, and pay attention to which side of that shaft the ball is starting on. That  will tell you where the face is at impact. Once you’ve gotten the ball to start from the correct side of the target line for the desired ball flight, then you can work on your path to soften or make the curve greater.

So if I wanted to hit a draw, I'd want the face open at impact?

The clubface is going to be slightly open to the target, and the path is going to be slightly more from the inside than the face is open to the target. In other words, if your face is two degrees open to the target at impact, and your path is four degrees from the inside, then that’s a ball that will start slightly to the right [of the target line] and turn slightly to the left. I call it the 50 percent rule, which is if your face is two degrees open, and your path is four degrees from the inside, which is 50 percent, the ball will start slightly to the right and turn back to the target and stay within the target line; it shouldn’t cross over the target line.

Any advice for the weekend warrior? Something that may help them drop a shot or two during their Saturday or Sunday round?

Establish a shot pattern and do everything you can to not deviate from it. The best example is Bruce Litzke. When I worked for Jim McLean at Doral, we’d use Litke as an example all of the time. The guy does nothing but slice the ball, but he slices it every time. Kenny Perry is another good example: Every shot he hits moves from right to left. If the average golfer could go out and establish a pattern of ball flight, then they could go out and manage their game. If you slice the ball, you set up on the right side of the tee box, aim down the left side [of the fairway] and let it curve back at the target line. And you don’t fight it.

The average golfer gets in trouble because they don't have a consistent pattern; they’re always trying to hit a different shot shape or correct the ball flight. If you find a pattern and don't deviate from it, you'll be far more consistent.

Related Videos from
Kevin Walker:
  • A Lesson from Ben Hogan
  • Fixing Your Slice on the Range
  • Fixing Your Slice with a Steady Club

  • Getty Images

    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

    Getty Images

    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

    McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

    “It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

    He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

    The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

    The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.

    Getty Images

    Woods (70) better in every way on Day 1 at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 8:40 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Consider it a sign of the times that Tiger Woods was ecstatic about an even-par score Thursday at the Honda Classic.

    It was by far his most impressive round in this nascent comeback.

    Playing in a steady 20-mph wind, Woods was better in all facets of the game Thursday at PGA National. Better off the tee. Better with his irons. And better on and around the “scratchy” greens.

    He hung tough to shoot 70 – four shots better than his playing partner, Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the current FedExCup leader – and afterward Woods said that it was a “very positive” day and that he was “very solid.”

    It’s a small sample size, of course – seven rounds – but Woods didn’t hesitate in declaring this “easily” his best ball-striking round of the year.

    And indeed it was, even if the stats don’t jump off the page.

    Officially, he hit only seven of 14 fairways and just 10 greens, but some of those misses off the tee were a few paces into the rough, and some of those iron shots finished just off the edge of the green.

    The more telling stat was this: His proximity to the hole (28 feet) was more than an 11-foot improvement over his first two starts this year. And also this: He was 11th among the early starters in strokes gained-tee to green, which measures a player’s all-around ball-striking. Last week, at Riviera, he ranked 121st.

    “I felt very comfortable,” he said. “I felt like I hit the ball really well, and it was tough out there. I had to hit a lot of knockdown shots. I had to work the golf ball both ways, and occasionally downwind, straight up in the air.

    “I was able to do all that today, so that was very pleasing.”

    The Champion Course here at PGA National is the kind of course that magnifies misses and exposes a player if he’s slightly off with his game. There is water on 15 of the 18 holes, and there are countless bunkers, and it’s almost always – as it was Thursday – played in a one- or two-club wind. Even though it’s played a half hour from Woods’ compound in Hobe Sound, the Honda wasn’t thought to be an ideal tune-up for Woods’ rebuilt game.

    But maybe this was just what he needed. He had to hit every conceivable shot Thursday, to shape it both ways, high and low, and he executed nearly every one of them.

    The only hole he butchered was the par-5 third. With 165 yards for his third shot, he tried to draw a 6-iron into a stiff wind. He turned it over a touch too much, and it dropped into the bunker. He hit what he thought was a perfect bunker shot, but it got caught in the overseeded rye grass around the green and stayed short. He chipped to 3 feet and then was blown off-balance by a wind gust. Double.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    But what pleased Woods most was what he did next. Steaming from those unforced errors, he was between a 2- and 3-iron off the tee. He wanted to leave himself a 60-degree wedge for his approach into the short fourth hole, but a full 2-iron would have put him too close to the green.

    So he took a little off and “threw it up in the air” – 292 yards.

    “That felt really good,” Woods said, smiling. And so did the 6-footer that dropped for a bounce-back birdie.

    "I feel like I'm really not that far away," he said. 

    To illustrate just how much Woods’ game has evolved in seven rounds, consider this perspective from Brandt Snedeker.

    They played together at Torrey Pines, where Woods somehow made the cut despite driving it all over the map. In the third round, Woods scraped together a 70 while Snedeker turned in a 74, and afterward Snedeker said that Woods’ short game was “probably as good or better than I ever remember it being.”

    A month later, Snedeker saw significant changes. Woods’ short game is still tidy, but he said that his iron play is vastly improved, and it needed to be, given the challenging conditions in the first round.

    “He controlled his ball flight really well and hit a bunch of really good shots that he wasn’t able to hit at Torrey, because he was rusty,” said Snedeker, who shot 74. “So it was cool to see him flight the ball and hit some little cut shots and some little three-quarter shots and do stuff I’m accustomed to see him doing.”

    Conditions are expected to only get more difficult, more wind-whipped and more burned out, which is why the winning score here has been single-digits under par four of the past five years.

    But Woods checked an important box Thursday, hitting the shots that were required in the most difficult conditions he has faced so far.

    Said Snedeker: “I expect to see this as his baseline, and it’ll only get better from here.”