The Importance of Aim and Alignment

Poor aim and alignment is easily one of the most common mistakes in the set up. Watch any elite player and notice how they pay attention to little details such as the direction they are aimed. Rarely do you see a PGA or LPGA player line their body to the right or left of their target, unless they are trying to shape the shot. If you watch them practice, they routinely place a club, umbrella or stick parallel to their target line. This reinforces little details such as the correct alignment. Over ninety percent of the golfing population routinely slices the golf ball. Yet many aim their body to the right of the target. This forces them to hit the shot to the right of their target or manipulate the swing path so they hit the ball toward the target. aim-1

Aim is known as the direction you are attempting to hit the golf ball. A golfer will aim at their target. Therefore, if a player is attempting to hit the ball straight the club face is square to the target line. Note the golfer pictured on the left has placed a stick on the ground to help reinforce proper alignment. A club will work just as well.

Alignment is the direction the body is lined up in relation to the target. If a player is attempting to hit the ball straight their feet, knees, hips and shoulders should all be lined up parallel to the target line. In addition, the club face should point toward the target. Think of the target line as an imaginary line that runs through the golf ball toward the target.
aim-2
Altering alignment is an easy way to promote a draw, hook, fade or slice. Produce a draw by aiming the clubface down the target line. Position the feet, knees, hips and shoulders to point slightly to the right of the target line. This is called a closed stance and can be seen at right. From this set up position, make a normal swing. The clubface will be slightly closed at impact causing the ball to curve from right to left. If the club face is significantly closed at impact the result will be a hook. A hook turns much more severe with a right to left ball flight.

A fade is produced by setting up opposite of a draw. Aim the club face down the target line. However, the feet, knees, hips and shoulders will be lined up slightly to the left of the target line. This is called an open stance and can be seen below. You will make your normal swing and impact should result with a slightly open clubface. The ball should start left and curve back to the right. A slice will have a much more severe left to right ball flight.
aim-3
Observe any elite player and notice their pre-shot routine. Typically they pick their target and proceed to line up from behind the ball. Your vision can also alter your set up and alignment. Everyone is either left eye or right eye dominant. If you line up from the side of the golf ball, it is easy to line up incorrectly right or left of the target. Therefore, in your pre-shot routine, it is extremely important to pick a target and line up from behind the golf ball. Approaching from behind improves your vision and success rate of lining up correctly.

Matt Keller is a PGA Golf Professional with over 15 years of experience. Matt is a graduate of the Penn State PGM Program. Throughout his career he has worked at courses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and Delaware. Matt has conducted thousands of golf lessons to players of all ages and ability levels. Currently, he is a PGA Professional at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club located near Bethany Beach, DE.

A Short Trip for A Great Round at Hoot’s

The Fourth of July back in 2002 probably arrived with its own celebrations and excitement, but for the folks at Country Creek and the golfers that frequent their golf complex, that day held intense interest for other reasons. Hoot’s Hollow, the newest eighteen hole creation of Jeff McKee’s opened and began hosting golfers willing to take on its many challenges. The Rock and The Quarry, the other courses at the Country Creek complex, have long been known as the “Best Value” in Kansas City Golf by many metro golfers. However, Hoot’s added new features and a different kind of layout to create a unique and challenging golf experience. The course features a unique Scottish links-style double green (shared by number 9 and 18, an unforgettable island green, a number of blind shots, and several doglegs that, unless properly negotiated, could lead a ball directly to water. club_house_sm

Designed by Jeff McKee, the course features rolling Zoysia fairways, fescue rough, and Dominant Plus bent grass greens. Set near Pleasant Hill, Missouri, the course sprawls across what was once cornfields and farmland. That meant the architect had plenty of natural terrain to work with, resulting in wide-open fairways, deep roughs, and most importantly, some wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. A short drive south on either 71 highway or 291 Highway (depending on your origin) will land you in the middle of the Country Creek golf complex and put you on the path to Hoot’s Hollow. Contrary to what some metro-area golfers may believe, the trip to Pleasant Hill is a quick one and nowhere near the images of a long trek halfway to Oklahoma.

Perhaps a favorite part of the course is the overall design and layout, with something unique in store for golfers on each hole. There are no overly long forced water carries or a lot of sand to worry about and most trouble can be negotiated safely. During the summer months, tall prairie grass will swallow up a wayward ball, but most holes provide a good shot at an open fairway. The open layout also brings the wind into play on many holes and, as typical in summer months, the prevailing southerly winds need to be heeded when selecting a club or start line.

Hoot’s Hollow’s signature hole is the par 4 sixteenth. From the tips, the hole is 409 yards, but a strong south wind can add a good 50 yards to an already difficult hole. Two fingers of a lake come into play on both the drive and second shot. Three mounds along the left side of the fairway can make for some uneven lies and difficulty reaching the green. A drive that goes right leaves a long second shot into a green that is perched above a rock wall with a lake in front and a peninsula landing area. An over-sized green punishes those golfers who bring a shaky putting game and find themselves with a lengthy lag to get close. The hole is certainly challenging, but also picturesque. Enjoy the view as you make your way past the sixteenth’s trouble.

To provide a little more detail as to what you can expect at Hoot’s Hollow, here is a bit of a hole-by-hole summary:

#1 – The first hole is a 393-yard Par 4 downhill that allows the golfer to get some confidence early in the round. The hole plays completely downhill and the golfer is not punished for an errant drive. A bunker in the front right provides some protection, but it didn’t come into play on our trip as the hole was cut back left. Chances of making par or better are very good regardless of position of the tee.

#2 – The 420-yard Par 4 second comes back uphill towards the clubhouse, which makes it play a bit longer than the yardage indicates. Mounds on both the left and right come into play on a drive off the fairway. As the golfers approach the hole, they are greeted by a deep undulating green with a pot bunker on the right. Chances of making par or better are increased with a drive on the left side of the fairway.hhmap

#3 – The 415-yard Par 4 third plays back down the hill and is fairly similar to hole #1. However, a lake surrounded by tall prairie grass on the left will punish a drive that strays too far off the left fairway. A bowl on the right side of the green will punish an approach shot that drifts too far off course leaving a tough chip. Two bunkers in front of the green protect the putting surface. Best chance for par or better is a drive right down the middle of the fairway.

#4 – The first par 5 of the course comes in the form of the 559-yard Par 5 fourth and this is the hole where the character of Hoot’s Hollow comes out. Water is in play off the tee, but with the south wind it is rarely an issue. Three mounds on the right take going for the green in two out of the question for a drive that is off the right side of the fairway. A pot bunker on the left is the least of a golfer’s problem as the most difficult green of the course awaits with a menacing gathering area punishing an approach shot that is far from the hole. Best chance for par or better is a drive on the left side of the fairway. The south wind helps those golfers daring enough to go for the green in two.

#5 – The 355-yard Par 4 fifth is a tricky dogleg featuring water all along the right side, mounds on the left and a peninsula green. A drive that is errant on the right will find the water as the fairway slopes towards the lake. Best chance for par or better is a drive in the right middle of the fairway.

#6- The sixth hole is a 207-yard Par 3, and is the first Par 3 of Hoot’s Hollow. The South wind makes the hole longer by a few yards and a bunker on the right protects the green that slopes to the left.

#7 – The 446-yard Par 4 seventh features a blind tee shot that lands in a fairway that slopes towards the water on the right side. Golfers are greeted with a two-tiered green after doglegging around the lake. Best chance for par or better is a drive that is on the left side of the fairway.

#8 – The eighth hole is a 152-yard Par 3 seventh playing about 20 to 30 yards longer than the scorecard indicates depending on the ever-present South wind. Nestled along a lake and hitting into a huge green with several undulations, a golfer could get into trouble if the proper club is not selected.

#9- The 485-yard Par 5 ninth is reachable in two with a good drive off the tee. OB is in play if a golfer is trying to cut the corner and three mounds attempt to pursued a golfer to take the safe route. A rocky ditch on the right can cost strokes if the approach sails right. Also, a golfer could find their ball on the wrong side of this huge double green that serves as the green for both 9 and 18. Par or better is attainable on this hole, but the drive must be on the left side of the fairway. A drive that sails right will increase the distance of the hole.

#10 – The backside starts off with a 588-yard Par 5 that forces heavy hitters to leave the driver in the bag off the tee because of a small pond waiting 300 yards off the tee. The second shot goes back up the hill towards a green that is sloped front to back. The whole is wide open, so the only trouble would be to put a tee shot into the water. Best chance for par or better is the middle of the fairway.

#11 – The 440-yard Par 4 eleventh features mounds on the left and 2 traps on the front left of the green. The elevated tee box allows the hole to play shorter than the yardage dictates, but the south wind can push tee shot into a bit of trouble. Trees hinder an approach shot that follows an errant tee shot that sailed right. Best chance for Par or better is a drive on the left side of the fairway.

#12 – The 369-yard Par 4 twelfth is a dogleg left that features mounds on the left side and two traps that surround the green. A slightly elevated tee shot is counteracted by an uphill approach leaving a partially blind shot into the green. Best chance for par or better is middle of the fairway off the tee.

#13 –The 397-yard Par 4 thirteenth forces the golfer to hit a straight tee shot. Mounds on both sides and two trees in front of the green reward precision and punish inaccurate tee and approach shots. The undulating green sits in a valley. Best chance for par or better is in the middle of the fairway off the tee.

#14 – The 510-yard Par 5 fourteenth is a gentle dogleg right with trees pinching both sides of the fairway. The green is narrow and deep and surrounded by OB in back and a pot bunker on the right. With the help of the South wind, the putting surface is reachable in two. Best chance for par or better is a tee shot to the left side of the fairway.

#15 – The 192-yard Par 3 fifteenth features a lake behind a green that slopes back to front. The southerly wind pushes the tee shot to the left of the hole.

#16 – The 409-yard Par 4 sixteenth is the signature hole of Hoot’s Hollow. It is a difficult hole when the south wind is blowing. The second finger of the lake fronts the large green. Best chance for par is a drive to the right side of the fairway and avoiding both fingers of the lake on either the drive or the approach.golf_water_sm

#17 – The 172-yard Par 3 seventeenth is an island green ringed with huge rocks. A long approach to the huge two-tiered green can make for a big score unless a golfer confidently sends a ball to the proper tier.

#18 – The 379-yard Par 4 eighteenth features a rocky ditch along the left side and mounds on the right. The green is a familiar site as it shares the surface with the ninth hole, but has more undulations for the golfer finishing up their round.

The nineteenth hole features a deck to sit out and watch other golfers finish up their front nine or their round while enjoying a beverage of their choice and a delicious sandwich from the snack bar located inside the Beautiful Clubhouse of Hoot’s Hollow.

Start Lines and Curves

In the world of playing golf with any consistency you have to consider two points:

1. The start line of the ball at impact…and
2. the amount of curve that occurs during the ball’s flight

If you are starting the ball in a different direction with every swing then how can you aim? Two way misses don’t give us very much consistency. But once you have a consistent start line then you can work on the amount of curve.

The start line, where the golf ball is starting its flight, is controlled by where the clubface is pointing at impact. So if you want the ball to start right then you had better have the clubface pointed right at impact.

But a clubface pointed right, or left, won’t get the ball back to target…it needs a little help from the clubhead path. If the face/path relationship are square to each other than the shot would be straight. Or, the clubhead face and path could be sending the ball straight to the left of target or straight to the right of target depending on the start line.

A point to remember is that if the ball is curving it is always away from the path. So, for right-handers, this means that if the ball is drawing right to left then the path the ball started on is to the right of where the ball finishes. Alternatively, the same is true if the ball is fading left to right then the path is to the left and the ball is curving away from that path and finishing at a spot right of where the path started.

A lot of players get confused however when talking about clubhead path. Their “vision” of it is that the clubhead needs to be moving in whatever direction coming into the ball. However, the reality is the path of clubhead is where it is moving from after impact as it moves forward.

The past couple of days I have had players focus on start lines by placing an alignment stick, vertically, in the ground directly between their golf ball and their target. From a square stance, I then ask them to start the ball either right or left of the alignment stick.Educating the Hands drill

We don’t talk about swing mechanics when using this exercise, but simply focus on what the hands need to do to effect the clubface for the shot I call out. Once they are controlling the ball start line I will then tell them to make the same swing, but I won’t tell them where to start the ball until they have started their downswing!

Now this gets their attention!

I am constantly amazed, and so are they, that within a couple of shots they are making the adjustment in swing to control the clubface.

I call this exercise, “Educating the Hands.”

Very recently, I had a player that kept telling me he didn’t know where his hands were or what they needed to do. After doing the above exercise, and successfully hitting his start lines, a big smile came across both of our faces.

“So, I asked, if you don’t know what your hands are doing how are you controlling them and the clubface?” He replied, “Now I know what they’re doing because you made me focus on them.”

Hmmmm…

If you don’t know what YOUR hands are doing then try this exercise and I guarantee you will soon!

If you would like to improve your golf game and spend time with Chuck call 816.880.9600 ext. 226 or email him atchuck@chuckevansgolf.com
Chuck Evans is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top Teachers in America,
Instructor for PGA, LPGA, Champions Tour, Nationwide Tour & Top Amateurs
Author of several national golf articles for Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, Golf Tips, etc.
Author of the book “How To Build Your Golf Swing“
Honorary Doctorate Degree in 1992 for contributions to Golf Research & Development

Tiffany Greens – An Opening Challenge

Missouri has been kind to golf enthusiasts by sprinkling charming courses throughout the state. One of the more scenic golf clubs in the Kansas City area is Tiffany Greens, which has been voted as the No. 1 course in the Northland. Located on NW Tiffany Springs Parkway, this course is a gem right near the airport.

Tiffany Greens earned its stripes as the former home to the Champions Tour and the TD Waterhouse Championship, which the club hosted until 2003. This par 72 course features lush zoysia fairways and tees, as well as manicured bent grass greens.

Natural Landscape
The soothing landscape offers quiet moments of reflection and gratitude. Indeed, Tiffany Greens contrasts the busy and palpably urgent office chatter which animate the business hours of many of the course’s players.


Golfers, like many outdoor enthusiasts, often seek wide open spaces to escape the suffocation of their urban realities. Workplace competition and stresses in America foster adrenaline, anger, and cut-throat actions. But it is often on the first tee that solace, or camaraderie, can be found

In the Northland area, the surrounding greens serve as a reminder of the beauty of the old Midwest. “Architects cannot teach nature anything,” Mark Twain reminded us. Twain, who was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835, added: “Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.”

Tiffany Greens was designed by Robert Trent Jones II and has hosted the PGA section championships, college regional finals, high school championships, celebrity tournaments, hall of fame tournaments, and dozens of fundraisers featuring some of the top companies in the Midwest.

Recently, the Northland club added one of Golf Magazine’s top 100 instructors: Chuck Evans relocated his Medicus Golf School onsite.

“[Tiffany Greens] has a great mix of tough holes, easy holes, and everything in between,” says Mike Zadalis, who serves as general manager. “With 4 to 5 tee complexes per hole, there is a proper tee box and yardage for every caliber of player to enjoy our fun filled layour.”

Hole Number 1
Golfers visiting Tiffany Greens have the opportunity to experience the signature challenge right from the outset.

Hole number 1 is regarded as among the top starting holes in the Kansas City area, according to Zadalis. “It is a reachable par 5 if you choose to challenge the water-lined fairway and green. It is the ultimate risk versus reward hole.”

The waterway separates the fairway from the green, presenting an idyllic scene. Ironically, this beauty is contrasted with danger. A player must artfully navigate through this difficult stumbling block from the very first hole. With a well-placed tee shot, players can bail out to a stretch of fairway on the opposite side of the water or go for the green. If reached in two, a routine two putt will deliver an opening birdie. Of course, a wet ball will likely deliver a bogey or something even worse.

Hole Number 10
If you can make it through that first hole, there are other challenges that await, but perhaps the most memorable will come as you start the back nine. The Tenth hole is a longish par 3, measuring 188 from the tips, but the green is surrounded on three sides with water. More than one shot has landed on the firm green and rolled off into the water. Try to play it safe away from the water and bunkers await. Land in there and then you face a scary sand shot with water lying inches off the putting surface behind the flag.

Reservations
Players at Tiffany Greens can book their tee times online which, as of 2013, typically ranges from between $40 to $55

per player depending on date and time. Try booking online where Tiffany Greens offers up to a 24 percent discount for players. While online you can review weather and climate forecasts, an important feature for those traveling into the city from out of town or for planners coordinating special events such as golfing lessons, weddings, or corporate outings.

“Our clubhouse features a fully stocked golf shop, full service restaurant & pub, banquet facilities to host weddings & parties of any size, corporate golf outings any day of the week, locker rooms, and club storage,” says Zadalis.
The clubhouse is a 26,000 square foot building. Additionally, Tiffany Greens offers state-of-the-art golf carts that feature GPS Prolink computerized yardage/scoring systems.

Master the Takeaway for Better Shots

The Takeaway

Watch any elite player and notice how effortlessly they swing the club. This results from an efficient swing and smooth tempo. The takeaway is considered the beginning of the backswing. Therefore, the swing starts with the correct set up and every movement that follows.

Start the club head back “low and slow.” Low and slow is a very common phrase used to describe the takeaway. Jack Nicklaus is famous for stating the takeaway is the most important 18 inches of the golf swing while Bobby Jones said, “It is not possible to take the club back too slow.” Begin the takeaway by keeping the club head as low as possible for as long as possible. Many amateurs severely complicate their swing through excessive movements before the club reaches waist high. A common mistake occurs by picking the club up too quickly.

Allow the swing to begin with the left shoulder and arm pushing the club back while avoiding any movements with the hands and wrists to start the backswing. Also, keep the lower body, specifically the left leg and foot, stationary until the hands and club reach waist high. There should be very little movement at the beginning of the swing. The body will create rotational movements once the club extends past waist high.


Start the swing “low and slow” by keeping the club head as low as possible for as long as possible.

Tempo is also a major concern for a repeatable swing. A slow and smooth start helps keep the correct sequence of movements. A quick takeaway can potentially pull the club and entire body out of position. Since you never hit the ball going back maintain a slow start and promote setting the club in a good position at the top of the backswing. This increases the likelihood of the club head returning to impact in a good position.

Several drills allow you to practice the correct takeaway either at the golf course or in the comfort of your own home. Without a club, begin by taking a normal set up position and allow your arms to hang down. Extend your left arm and hand back as if you are about to shake hands. The left thumb should point up toward the sky while the outside of the left hand points in front of you. The lower body should remain stable and not move throughout the drill. The drill positions the left arm and hand in the correct position approximately waist high and parallel to the ground.

Practice the “low and slow” takeaway by a tee approximately 20 inches behind a ball. Set up in a normal position to the golf ball and swing the club back, focusing on striking the tee by extending the club head back low and slow. The goal is to swing the club back as low as possible for as long as possible. The club head should hit the tee to assure you are starting the backswing correctly. In addition, if the club head misses the tee to the right or left then the swing path is incorrect. If the club head swings over the tee then you picked the club head up too quickly. Focus on swinging the club head straight back the target line low enough to hit the tee.

Matt Keller is a PGA Golf Professional with over 15 years of experience. Matt is a graduate of the Penn State PGM Program. Throughout his career he has worked at courses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and Delaware. Matt has conducted thousands of golf lessons to players of all ages and ability levels. Currently, he is a PGA Professional at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club located near Bethany Beach, DE.

Shoal Creek Golf Course – Play One of the Finest

Shoal Creek Golf Course

In the twelve years it has been on the Kansas City metro golf scene, Shoal Creek Golf Course has established a reputation as one of the finest public courses not only in the area but in the state. The 6,950-yard, par-71 layout was designed by Steve Wolford and rolls over and around a picturesque landscape just west of Liberty.

In July, Shoal Creek will play host to the Kansas City Amateur for a fourth-straight year (sixth overall), and it also has hosted the PGA Midwest Section championships. The course has won numerous accolades, among them is recognition as the top public course in Missouri by Golf Card Traveler and the No. 2 public course in the state by Golf Week’s America’s Best.

General Manager Brett Plymell first became a club professional when Shoal Creek opened in 2001, then came back as general manager in 2008 after three years at Adams Pointe – not that he didn’t enjoy his stint at the latter course, he said. “I’m partial to this facility,” Plymell said of Shoal Creek. “I really like it here, like the clubhouse, like the people.

The chance to start at a new course is what drew Plymell to Shoal Creek initially. “The layout was very good, and the company I worked for, it was my first head pro job.” Obviously such a highly rated course has its share of challenges, but Shoal Creek won’t frustrate the average player into taking a links hiatus. The fairways often provide plenty of landing area, but several holes have tall trees on either side that can make testy follow-ups from wayward tee shots.

“The back is a little more treed than the front, and Shoal Creek runs throughout the course,” Plymell said.

While the front nine is devoid of notable water hazards, four holes require golfers to navigate doglegs with bunkers at the bend. Two of the final three holes are par 5s. No. 7 is the longest on the course, with a wide but shallow green. No. 9 can produce some long-rolling drives with its downhill slope on the fairway, but has a sharp dogleg to be dealt with on the second shot, as well as a large tree in the right side of the fairway as you near the green.

The back nine begins much like the front, with a straightaway par 4. After a downhill par 3, water must be carried with your tee shots on No. 12 and the par 3 17th, while a pond hugs the fairway on the par 4 15th and can make the tee shot on 16 seem more intimidating than it should feel. The finishing hole is the longest par 4 on the course and can dogleg right into the wind.

“When we first opened, instead of having a signature hole, we liked to say we have a signature par 3, par 4 and par 5,” Plymell said.

“The signature 3 is 17 – it is downhill and carries over Shoal Creek with a rock wall in front. No. 18 is a par 4 with a dogleg right, usually into the prevailing wind. The Par 5 is No. 9, with the tree in front. Lots of people will try to go for it in two, but the tree can block your shot.”

Shoal Creek is managed by Chicago-based KemperSports and owned by Kansas City Parks and Recreation. The two-tier practice tee has 25 stations, while the putting clock is 6,000-square feet – plenty of room to tune up for your round. The pro shop, with two PGA professionals on site, is part of an 11,000-square foot clubhouse that’s available for casual dining, corporate and charity events and receptions.

Throughout the summer, the club hosts a series of junior golf clinics and camps. With options for kids ranging from age 6 to 18, there is an opportunity to learn the game and have fun. The clinics run about 90 minutes each day of the session while camps are either half day or full day. Full day camps provide the added benefit of a 9-hole round after a morning of instruction.

Plymell added the club recently installed new touch screen GPS screens on the carts and tries to keep the pace of play moving by limiting groups to four players and staggering tee times. “The layout and the conditions and service we provide – we try to make it feel like a private club,” Plymell said.

–Michael Genet, KC Golfer Magazine freelance writer

The Path to More Made Putts – 2013 Putters

Find the Right Putter for Your Game

The putter is the most used club in any golfer’s bag and the art and practice of putting is a critical part of the golf game. It stands to reason, then, that a golfer’s putter is such a critical tool and one that most either love or hate (and sometimes both). Like all golf equipment, putters continue to use new technology and new materials. While a putter can only be as good as the golfer wielding it, some of the new offerings from the major manufacturers are worth a look if you have to be falling out of love with your flat stick.

Odyssey is certainly a top manufacturer of putters if not THE top manufacturer. Their new Odyssey Metal-X series come in about a dozen different head designs and all feature a new special insert on the face that provides a crisp metallic contact with the soft feel of a urethane insert seen on a lot of their popular putters. That’s because the Metal-X insert features two layers: a urethane inner layer to provide the soft feel with a 6061 aluminum outer layer that contacts the ball. But that might be understating it a bit. That aluminum layer is riddled with oval depressions that supposedly grip the ball (they say it’s a “mechanical lock”) and its dimples to promote a smoother, more pure roll with less skidding. Less skidding means a more consistent roll, which of course, is something all golfers desire.

Odyssey’s other new line of putters is their Odyssey Versa. The Versa’s main attribute is its color scheme. Each of the head styles in this series feature their Visionary High Contrast Alignment, which is an impressive way to say they have bold white and black contrasting finishes. Those color schemes are designed with the head shape in mind to help golfers perceive the face angle at address and throughout the stroke to improve alignment and get the ball rolling on line. All Versa putters include their newly improved, and always popular White Hot insert.

A final option from this manufacturer is their Odyssey Tank putter. If that sounds like a heavy name for a putter, you’re right. The Tank is aptly named due to a 30 to 40 gram counterbalance weight in the shaft (weight is determined by the overall putter length) and a heavier 400 gram putter head. This additional weight throughout the club is designed to quiet the hands and engage the bigger muscles to promote a smoother stroke. Another benefit is that a putter with additional weight has a much higher Moment of Inertia (MOI), meaning it resists twisting on strikes with the toe or heel. The putter literally is like a tank, powering through the ball and providing consistent distance regardless of where the ball is struck on the putter’s face.

The Nike Method Midnight includes the Polymetal Groove technology on the face that has made the original Method putters so effective and popular. This technology uses urethane and a grooved face to also provide crisp contact with a soft and responsive feel. The grooves improve roll too, by imparting overspin that reduces the amount of skidding – and skidding, as noted earlier is not what a golfer wants on any putt. Tungsten heel and toe weights improve the putter’s overall forgiveness and it comes in a variety of head shapes in varying lengths. The most notable and visible feature is the dark nickel/chrome finish that just looks cool and distinctive.

Another great putter series is the Ping Scottsdale TR. They come in twelve different head designs and the “TR” stands for “true roll.” According to Ping, true roll is what happens when a ball is struck due to the variable depth grooves found on the face of these putters. Deeper in the center and gradually shallower as they move outward, they are designed to provide better and more consistent distance on miss-hit putts. They even went so far as to test it – hitting putts on nine points across all parts of the putter face. That testing revealed a 50% increase in the consistency of the speed that balls left the putter. The insert on the face of the putter is made of lightweight aerospace grade aluminum that feels like a solid milled steel putter but distributes more weight to the heel and toe to improve MOI.

The Ping Anser series of putters have been around for at least a couple of years but are still great performing, beautiful clubs. They are completely machine milled from 303 stainless steel with a traditional and stylish satin nickel finish. The putter has some slight milling markings on the heel and toe to eliminate glare. The Anser, like other Ping putters comes in a variety of heads and styles each designed specifically for different putting strokes. Whether you putt along a strong arc, a slight arc, or putt straight back and through, there is a putter style to match. Just figure out which you are (or get a professional fitter to help) and then look for the color code that matches.

Titleist and their Scotty Cameron series of putters are popular and recognized as fantastically crafted, great performing putters.

The Titleist Scotty Cameron Select series comes in five different head styles that are precision milled with a beautiful “Black Mist” finish. Scotty Cameron putters typically have come in a bright steel finish, so this new look is a welcome variation some will find appealing. The face is deep milled, meaning it has milling grooves and marks that soften the feel of the all steel face. The putter head features heel and toe weights that vary based on the head design and shaft length to provide the right amount of stability, or they can be swapped out with heavier or lighter weights to match a player’s preference.

The new Yes! i4-TECH series of putters look a lot like the Yes! putters most golfers are familiar with, but with one noticeable difference, the finish. The new antique finish is copper-colored and lends a certain elegance and richness to its appearance.

Another new feature that is less noticeable is the “through slot” that has been seen in other clubs, including drivers, fairway woods and hybrids, and now irons. In a putter, that slot and its thermoplastic polyurethane insert are designed to improve feel by dampening vibration. Of course, being a Yes! putter, it features the C-Grooves that has been found in all Yes! putters since their introduction. Those grooves are designed to impart overspin on the ball and reduce the skidding we noted throughout this article as a bad thing for putting. Run your finger along those grooves and you’ll feel that they are angled upward and a bit sharper than you would think. That design is all part of their signature style and why those putters are so effective.

Next time you are on the golf shop’s practice green, grab a few of these putters and check out their features described above. All of them have certain designs to help make you a better putter and make more putts. Whatever appeals to you, find a professional to help get the right fit and start pouring more into the center of the cup.

–Tim Carrigan, KC Golfer Magazine and Golf Writers Association of America

Sunflower Hills Offers Memorable Golf

When it comes to standout sports venues in Wyandotte County, Sunflower Hills Golf Course is the golfing equal of the NASCAR track and the new soccer stadium.

Opened in 1977, Sunflower Hills is among the most scenic and challenging golf courses in the Kansas City area. It is a rolling, wooded layout where no two holes are alike. The course will test a player’s accuracy and distance, but it has five sets of tees to suit everyone’s game.

The course is set up virtually the same as it was 35 years ago, but got a makeover in 2003 with zoysia fairways, new cart paths and a new watering system, said Jeff Johnson, manager and PGA pro at Sunflower since 1981. The course is in top condition, with true putting surfaces and manicured fairways.

Sunflower Hills is just north of Interstate 70 east of Highway 7 in Bonner Springs. It is only a few minutes from the freeway exit yet offers golfers the feeling of being in a more remote location, especially on the secluded front nine. Public land, mostly woods, surrounds the course. “That’s one of the things we hear a lot from people about why they come out here – no houses on the golf course,” Johnson said.

A Roger Packard design, the course has large greens, but many are elevated and require smart approach shots, according to Johnson. “The biggest thing is to keep the ball below the hole,” Johnson said. “If you get above the hole, it gets tricky.”

Sunflower is also about course management off the tees and fairways due to the number of doglegs (six) and the abundance of trees. A ball put in the wrong place can require punch-out shots rather than open shots to the green. Johnson said trouble is especially prevalent along the left side.

Sunflower is long off the back tees at 7,032 yards and no cinch from the next set at 6,659 yards. The other two mens’ tee sets are 6,030 and 5,838 yards and the women’s tee is 5,107. Slope and course ratings are relatively high.

The first two holes are flat, unlike the rest of the course. No. 1 is a straightaway but long par 4 followed by a slight dogleg par 5 second hole that Johnson says is the easiest par 5 on the course. A long par 4 and relatively short par 3 and par 4 follow. These first five holes are the place to score at Sunflower.

“From the 6th hole on is where the course really starts,” Johnson said. Fairways get tighter, longer and hillier. But each tee box gives players a good view of the best landing areas. For the most part, drivers can be used off the tees even though there are plenty of doglegs.

On the back, Johnson calls holes 12 through 17 “our amen corner” because they are difficult. The holes are generally long and undulating. “Our most difficult hole is 15,” Johnson said of a hole the plays either as a par 4 or par 5. It is 480 yards from the back tee and 432 to 464 yards from the other four mens’ tees. The green has a lot of breaks in it and is a challenge to read, he said.

There is water on holes 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18. The 18th hole, though, gives players a chance to finish strong after the six tough previous holes. The hole is a par 4 that measures just 260 or 270 yards from the forward tees and 350 or 361 from the two rear tees.

In general, Johnson said golfers who have played Sunflower before have an advantage over newcomers – more so than on some courses. “Its about knowing where to miss it and reading the greens,” he said.

Sunflower offers a rustic clubhouse to kick back and review the round over beverages and food. A large deck overlooks the ninth hole. Sunflower has a large practice range just a few steps from the first tee. Lessons are available.

A wide range of affordable green fees are offered at Sunflower, listed on the website of the course at wycokck.org. Seniors, juniors and patron card holders get discounts. Sunflower has the largest senior golf league in the area, with about 160 participants, Johnson said. Seniors not only enjoy the course but the pace of play, Johnson said. The course also hosts group outings, tournaments and special events.

Since 2001, Sunflower has had a six-hole par 3 course for youths and beginners. Players check in at the Sunflower clubhouse. The small course is a very short drive away. Green fees are just $5 for adults, $1 for kids. Johnson said the course has proven to be a very popular alternative to the main course for kids and players just starting out.

Sunflower’s pro shop has a full line of golf clothes, equipment and supplies. It also offers club repairs, new grips shafts and other services.

Sunflower Hills is owned by Wyandotte County. Its phone number is 913-573-8570. The address of the course is 12200 Riverview Avenue, Bonner Springs, KS 66012.

Where It Starts: Setup and Ball Position

The golf swing is dependent on completing the previous move correctly. Therefore, the swing starts with the correct set up. Everything you do before you swing the club will have a positive or negative consequence on the golf ball. Setting up correctly to the golf ball addresses many problems and corrections to the golf swing.

Similar to many other sports, the golf swing starts with an athletic set up. Begin by standing with your feet approximately shoulder width. Bend your knees slightly and bend at your waist to create the proper spine angle. The goal is to produce a swing that will move around your spine. The arms and club swing around the spine, which should remain fixed throughout the swing. The correct posture creates less knee flex and more bend in your waist (stick your butt out). A common fault occurs by bending too much in the knees and not enough at the waist. This creates an upright posture. Allow your feet to get wider when setting up with a longer club. For example, you will set up slightly wider with a driver than a pitching wedge. A wider base will provide more stability throughout the rotational movements of the swing.

Setup - Head On and Down LineThe arms and shoulders will form a triangle when you set up to the golf ball. This positions your elbows close to each other. This part of your set up is important because you try to keep this triangle intact as you swing the club.

The right hand is lower than the left hand when you place your hands on the grip. Therefore, your right shoulder should be slightly lower than your left shoulder in your set up. This is known as “shoulder tilt.” Shoulder tilt promotes a downward angle of approach to hit the ball in the air.

Ball position is a variable that changes depending on club selection. The correct set up and ball position will have a direct effect on the outcome of the shot. Better players are well aware of ball position and how can potentially affect the distance, direction and trajectory of the golf ball. If the ball is positioned to far forward players might create thin or topped golf shots. If the ball is positioned too close the hosel will strike the ball producing shots that go sideways to the right. The ball should be positioned so it gets in the way of the club head traveling down through the hitting zone.

Ball position starts in the middle of your stance with a short iron. The swing is slightly steeper with a short iron. Steeper swings will create a bigger divot. Ball position moves slightly forward as each club gets longer. Each club should be a half inch longer than the previous club. Essentially you start with the ball in the middle of your stance with the shortest club, and move ball position to the inside of the left foot as each club gets longer. This is an incremental movement to adjust for the half inch in length.

The driver is the longest club in the bag and should be positioned of the inside of the left foot. Longer clubs produce a slightly flatter swing. That is why long irons, hybrids and fairway woods produce a very small divot, if any. It is basically a flatter, sweeping motion through the ball. However, it is still important to swing down and clip the grass to produce a shot that travels in the air.Ball Position-short iron and driver

Matt Keller is a PGA Golf Professional with over 15 years of experience. Matt is a graduate of the Penn State PGM Program. Throughout his career he has worked at courses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and Delaware. Matt has conducted thousands of golf lessons to players of all ages and ability levels. Currently, he is a PGA Professional at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club located near Bethany Beach, DE.

New Innovations Among 2013 Irons

Innovations in the world of golf equipment is perhaps not as easy to detect in the irons as they are in drivers, putters, and other equipment. But they are still there. Drivers have such cool features as adjustability, multiple materials, and ever-lengthening shafts. Putters have face inserts, grooves, yes, ever-lengthening shafts (although with the recent USGA and R&A proposed rule, long shafts might quit being so common in putters). But don’t sell the 2013 lineup of new irons short when it comes to innovation. Throughout this review of some of the major manufacturers’ top offerings, you can find a lot of new technologies – all designed to help you play better golf.

The Callaway X-Hot and X-Hot Pro irons follow the rest of the X-Hot line of woods and hybrids by delivering on the promise of more distance. The face has gotten even thinner on these irons – a thinner face flexes more, meaning a ball rockets off with more speed and thus, more distance. x-hot-iron-1They also lowered the sweet spot to help amateurs get better performance from where they tend to hit the ball while launching the ball higher. Add in a lightweight True Temper Speed Step shaft and the irons are truly built from the ground up to provide more distance. Why do you want more distance in your irons? Well, would you rather hit an 8-iron into a tucked pin with bunkers all around, or a 7-iron? The “Pro” version packs in a few forgiveness features over the earlier RAZR X Tour model with stronger lofts (less loft) and more offset throughout the set. Better players might not necessarily want that kind of help, but Callaway has plenty of other models that can appeal as well. The Pro really delivers mid-handicappers another option with a sleeker head and not much compromise on forgiveness.

The AMP Cell and AMP Cell Pro irons from Cobra pack in a lot of technology in a good-looking package, although the Pro version is significantly different than the AMP Cell. The AMP Cell comes in the typical four Cobra colors: blue, orange, red, or silver. We really liked the understated, but tech-y look of the silver while others might appreciate the color features in a blue, orange, or red set. The face of these irons is made of a lighter stainless steel that is plasma welded to a heavier stainless body. That lighter steel improves the COR (coefficient of restitution) or spring-like effect to produce more distance. The face also has their E9 face technology – improving performance and helping the ball fly more consistently when contact is made from one of nine different spots on the face. Finally, that weight saved in the face is re-distributed around the body of the clubhead to create more forgiveness. Few irons pack as much into them while maintaining a solid look and feel. The Pro version, on the other hand, is a forged blade making it significantly different from the AMP Cell, as we mentioned. It was designed with the help of Rickie Fowler as a true Pro-style iron. Unless you hit it like Rickie, you might want to consider a club with more forgiveness.cobraamp-colors

Mizuno’s JPX 825, including the JPX 825 HD and JPX 825 Pro, represent an acknowledgement from Mizuno that often golfers look for different things in the long to mid irons as they do their short irons. Mizuno has long been known for selling mixed sets of models, and now their sets are taking on bit of that flavor as well. jpx825and825proIn the JPX 825, for example, the 4 through 7-iron utilize their MAX COR technology that essentially means a thin, hot face is incorporated to help the long irons hit the ball, well, long. The 8-iron through pitching wedge incorporate less distance-providing features in favor of more precision – something they call Mid COR technology. Mizuno worked on various portions of the clubhead to perfect the sound and feel of the clubs while enlargening the sweet spot through their pocket cavity and heel/toe weighting. Whereas the JPX 825 is a cast club, the Pro version is grain-flow forged. And like its sibling, it too has more distance and forgiveness features in the 4 to 7-iron while the short irons are engineered more for precision and scoring. It has the same “triple-cut” sole, though, which makes both models perform well from a variety of lies. Finally, the HD version is the other end of the spectrum, with features to provide maximum forgiveness with a 4 and 5 hybrid making up the longer end of the set and deep pocket cavity irons filling out the rest.

rbladez_6_heel_bend_hero_wideThe TaylorMade RocketBladez and RocketBlades Tour and Max models provide one of the newest iron technologies for 2013. Borrowing from their other clubs and using technology previously seen in drivers and fairways woods, the RocketBladez feature the SpeedPocket, a two millimeter wide slot in the sole of the club just behind the face. That slot allows the face to flex and rebound at impact to provide more distance. The slot is filled with a polyurethane that quiets vibration, improves feel, and keeps debris out of the SpeedPocket. Like other irons, the sweet spot has been lowered to help out where most amateurs need it, on thin shots. The SpeedPocket is only in the 3 to 7-irons to maximize distance. In the shorter clubs where distance is less important than precision, there is no SpeedPocket. The Tour version of this club carries the same features in a slightly smaller clubhead that cuts through heavy lies and delivers a trajectory preferred by better players.

If new irons are in your future, you owe it to yourself to check these out. These aren’t all the irons available, and not even all the irons from these manufacturers. Whatever clubs you decide on, make sure you get properly fit – some folks will fit you for free, but even if they don’t, a little extra expense is truly worth it.

–Tim Carrigan, KC Golfer Magazine and Golf Writers Association of America