Bump and Run Eric Alpenfels

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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 toward improving your game. This week it's Eric Alpenfels, director of instruction at Pinehurst Resort, site of the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open championships.

Over the past decade, Alpenfels and Dr. Bob Christina have conducted thousands of practice tests and drills on golfers (of all skill levels) at the Pinehurst Golf Academy, and their research has been the subject of several cover stories in Golf Magazine, not to mention a book, Instinct Putting.
Eric Alpenfels Golf Magazine Top 100 TeacherERIC ALPENFELS
Director of Golf Instruction, Pinehurst Golf Adademy, Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, N.C.

Accomplishments:
- Golf Digest's 50 Greatest Teachers
- Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers in America
- Author, Instinct Putting (2008), with Bob Christina, PH.D., and Cary Heath, PH.D.

Web Site:
www.pinehurst.com
 
Contact: 1-866-291-4427 or e-mail golfschool@pinehurst.com

While Alpenfels understands the time restraints placed on many golfers today by their jobs and families, he encourages them to spend at least 60 minutes per week practicing, whether it be at home or at a local practice facility.

'If you’re just looking for overall game improvement and scoring improvement, then I’d dedicate 30 of those minutes to the short game (putting, chipping and pitching shots around the green), and the next half hour to full shots, including full wedge shots,' said Alpenfels.  'Something of a three-quarter swing so it’s distance and directional focused.'

To submit a question to Alpenfels or one of our teachers, please e-mail bumpandrun@thegolfchannel.com and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered.
 
What's the best way to practice the short game if you have only 30 minutes per week?

I would break it into two categories: No. 1, work on technique, if need be. If you’re in a situation where you’re not chipping it very well or you’re not hitting the ball very solid, then maybe you need to look at the technique you’re using. No. 2, as much as you can, shift into that transfer mode of recreating what you’re going to face out on the golf course. Throw the ball up in the air, see where it lands [around the green] and play it from wherever it lies. Don’t improve the lie, because that’s not what you’re going to get on the golf course.

If you're trying to simulate shots you'll see on the course, should you putt each ball out?

If you have the time. The more you recreate the environment of the golf course, the more you’ll see your weaknesses. If you don’t have that much time, then play the ball from where it lies, see where it ends up, and pick another situation. But if you can play it out it’s certainly advantageous, because if you constantly struggle to convert from three or four feet out, your problem is with your short putting and not your chipping or bunker play.
 
What does the typical PGA Tour pro's warm-up routine consist of?

When they’re an hour away from their tee time, they’re not trying to revisit some golf lesson they took a month before, nor are they trying to hit 25 drivers in a row. They’re bouncing around hitting different clubs in preparation for the golf course. There are different modes of practice and a Tour player very effectively shifts into the appropriate approach, depending on what they’re doing. They shift into that transfer practice mode very quickly when they’re in the tournament mode.

So they save the mechanical stuff for when the round is over?

Or for the week before. Today, if you went out to our driving range there would be guys getting ready to tee off on [Pinehurst] No. 2 and they’d hit 25 drivers in a row. The trouble is, that’s not what they’re going to do on the golf course. All of a sudden, they get out on the course and now they’re looking at the love grass on the right, the real thick rough on the left, and the fairway looks a whole lot narrower than it did on the driving range. At that point, you’re not prepared. You haven’t rehearsed in a way that’s going to prepare you for the golf course.

Three keys to help you take your game from the range to the course?

No. 1, practice as much as you can in a way that’s going to mimic the golf course. No. 2, don’t hit a tremendous amount of golf balls if you’re getting ready to go play. And No. 3, practice your pre-shot and post-shot routines before you go play.

Hit as many balls as it takes to get loosened and warmed up. For many people, that’s 15 shots, for others it might be 20. For some kids I know, it’s five balls. Start out with a middle iron, like a 6-iron, then at some point hit a couple of drivers and wedges. If the first hole on the course is a par 5, I would play that hole on the range and maybe a couple more if I had time. The first hole on [Pinehurst] No. 2 would be a driver off the tee and maybe a 7-iron into the green, so I’d hit those two shots. The second hole is a driver for me, then 4-iron into the green, so I’d hit the 4-iron a couple of times to get the feel for that club.

Most of our readers know what a pre-shot routine consists of, but what about the post-shot routine?

The post-shot routine is where you evaluate the swing. When you do your pre-shot routine, you go execute the shot. In the post-shot routine, you’re just evaluating. If you’re hitting into a target where the wind is blowing right to left, did you interpret or anticipate what the wind was going to do to the ball? Did you hit the ball the right distance? Was it a pretty good swing?

Best drill for bunker play?

The Circle Drill. You have a ball in the sand, and you trace an oval around the ball. The idea is to try and move all that sand; not just the ball, but the sand that’s underneath it in that oval. If the oval is the size of your hand, you get less conscious about the golf ball and more about the overall shape of it.

Best drill for solid contact?

The most effective one I’ve seen is where you try and hit the tee in front of the golf ball. You put a tee about eight inches in front [of the ball] and you try and hit both tees. Start with a quite a bit of the tee showing and then after awhile, once you get tired of picking it up, put it lower in the ground. Eventually, you’ll hit the ball off the grass while still hitting the tee in front. It creates better path to your swing, better extension, and it helps to eliminate some of the toe shots people hit. A lot of golfers, because they swing out to in, they have to compensate with their body to adjust to this path, so the bottom of the swing changes quite dramatically from shot to shot. It helps fix the path and the centeredness of contract really improves, too.

Best drill for generating more power?

In my experience, I see a lot of golfers’ swings where everything stops at impact. They think the fastest part of the swing is at impact, which it is, but if you think post-impact, like two feet after the ball, you’re still going to have acceleration at that point after impact. Just where you put sense of speed is going to help you hit the ball farther.

Best drill for putting?

Make some strokes while looking at the hole. It’s a great way to practice because it gives you the opportunity to gauge how much stroke hits the ball a certain distance. It also allows you to see the first little bit of the break point. A lot of golfers, their head stays down so much on the golf ball that by the time they glance up they really don’t have a sense of the first six or eight feet of the putt. If they actually look at the hole that makes them a lot more aware of the ball rolling off the face and the influence of the break. If you make practice strokes out on the course where you’re looking at the hole trying to equate length of stroke and speed of stroke to the distance, if you putted that way it’s going to make it all that much more effective.
 
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