Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The King of Swing (or How to Improve Your Golf Swing)


The King of Swing*
by rick olivares

(* Thanks to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy for the title)

The greens are inviting and soothing. Don’t let nature’s serenity lull you into a false sense of security. It can be every bit deceiving until you suddenly fall below par. But the course isn’t alone what dictates performance. How many times have you heard that golf is a game where you compete against yourself? Unless you’re one of the uninitiated who thinks that golf is like that out-of-whack Adam Sandler flick Happy Gilmore that brought the thuggery of hockey onto the links, golf is a gentleman’s game where your preparation and discipline can spell the difference.

You don’t have to be muscle-bound or even BALCO-powered to be able to drive the ball deep into the fairway. Tiger Woods, despite his lean frame has almost single-handedly revolutionized the game like no other since the days of the Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Woods has plowed through the world’s toughest courses and the records books on the strength of a superior game and a grasp of the game’s fundamentals. Yes, fundamentals. There is a science unto the game and the golf swing. Says that noted rocket scientist of the fairway Nicklaus, “How well you swing the golf club depends almost entirely on how well you prepare beforehand. Your golf swing technique is crucial to your performance on the links.”

Our very own Gerald Rosales, many times champion on the Asian golf circuit concurs, “I think they key to a good swing is to have the good fundamentals-- starting from the grip, posture, alignment, timing. As much as technology has caught up with the game, it still boils down to the fundamentals of the perfect swing and the short game (putting)”

“While golf can be enjoyable; it can likewise be very frustrating game,” warns Rosales. “I have been playing for 16 years now and I still get frustrated. The game’s hurdles should never discourage you. It’s all part of the thrill and agony of the game that’s why you need to get a good coach to guide you with your fundamentals which you constantly have to revisit. Once you learn to put your frustrations aside, you'll discover that golf is a beautiful, relaxing game.”

The Fundamentals of the Perfect Swing

The Grip

With your left hand, the club should fit diagonally from the first knuckle of your forefinger across the palm and underneath the bottom pad.

The “V” formed between your left thumb and forefinger should point toward your right shoulder. Make sure that there’s no gap between the thumb and the forefinger.

Place the top pad of the right hand on the left thumb and close the right hand around the club. The right pinkie overlaps the forefinger of the left hand and the right hand should be extended down the shaft as far as possible.

NOTE: When swinging the club, try to relax as much as possible. This will allow you to swing freely.

Posture/Balance

A correct posture and balance is critical to playing good golf and getting a good swing at the ball.

Start with your feet about shoulder width apart with your weight distributed about 50-50 between your feet.

Bend you waist as your shoulder moves forward over the edge of your toes. Your hip should move back behind your heels.

Flex your knees slightly to gain the weight in the middle of your feet – not on your heels or toes.

NOTE: Correct posture and good balance allows you to hit the ball with good tempo and a low tension level. This leads to solid hits and more clubhead speed at impact.

Proper Aim
Like any other sport where there is a goal, a good shot requires a proper aim.

Aim your clubface where you want to drive or putt the ball.

Align your body parallel to your clubface. Poor aim and alignment will produce a bad golf swing because your body will react as you try to make the ball fly towards the target.

“It sounds like that’s a lot to be conscious of,” notes Gerard Cantada, former Junior World Golf Champion and currently Jennifer Rosales’ coach, “But mastering the fundamentals is the only way to have a solid game and to get a good swing on the ball.”

Guidelines to develop good posture:

  1. Place the club behind your back. Be sure you place the club against both the base of your spine and the back of your head. This will place your spine in a neutral position.
  2. Bend forward at the hips (not the waist) by moving your hips back. Do so in a way that places the tip of the shoulders over the toe line.
  3. Unlock the knees just enough to take pressure off the lower back and the hamstrings.
  4. Grip the club with the arms on top of the chest not on the sides.
  5. Drop the arms down so that a line dropped down from the inside of the shoulders touches the butt of the club and the tip of the knees and the ends at the balls of your feet. To get the club to the ground, increase the amount of flex in the hips and the knees but do not bend the spine!

Golf Stretching Exercises

Like any other sport, pre-game and post-game stretching is important to prevent injuries. Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes of stretching is highly recommended. “I do cardiovascular exercises to improve my stamina and work out with light weights to improve my strength,” adds Gerald Rosales. “I do a lot of stretching moves for my lower back and hamstrings.”

“Coaches and trainers will give you different ideas and techniques,” chimes in Cantada. “But the long and short of it is the importance of stretching. Stretch, stretch, stretch before you play. "

SIDE BAR: With Mary Grace Estuesta, SEA Games Gold Medalist 1989 & 1991

Currently the first and only Lady Golf Director in the country at the Sta. Elena Golf Club.

Rick: Is there a science to swinging a golf club? What are the fundamentals? Please describe as briefly as you can.
Mary Grace: There is a science to swinging a golf club but I have been known to be a "feel” player. I never got into details. I have never been analytical. I really don't teach, but of course as a player, 50% of a bad shot is even before you swing the club - that means you have to have the right set up, grip, alignment and mind set... and then the next 50% is swinging the club, and that takes a few seconds to do so everything has to fall in to place. I tell most of my golf friends that timing is very important. You have to find your own RHYTHM and believe me, when it works. --it works WELL.

Rick:. How do you get the power you need to drive that ball when teeing off?
Mary Grace: i believe in timing and rhythm, and if you have the right set up and basics, you will hit the ball well.

Rick: What exercises do you prescribe to make sure you're ready for the rigors of golf?
Mary Grace: I am a believer of stretching and yoga. Stretching will really help you be flexible, which you really need in golf but if you are very competitive, I would suggest walking when you play and not to use a golf cart. Walk. Walk. Walk. You will appreciate the golf course more!

Rick: Any advice for new women golfers?
Mary Grace: For any new golfer - not only women – you have to find a good teacher. The basics that you learn from your teacher will mold your game and mindset from the start. A good teacher will help you love or hate the game. There are a lot of good golf teachers around. A good teacher won't change your swing if they think you don't need to. And when you are ready, you have to find the right equipment. I believe in custom fitting because I believe that the player should not adjust to the clubs -- the clubs should be adjusted to the kind of swing that a player has. But of course do custom fitting when you are comfortable and stable with your swing.

Enjoy your game. Be patient. And practice!

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