Golf in Afghanistan

Golf in Afghanistan

Afghanistan and Golf: Two worlds apart

I recently read an amazing article about one of the most famous and least used golf courses in the entire world- Kabul Golf Club in Qargha, Afghanistan.

Kabul Golf CourseThis place is chalked full of history and mystery. The mystery being why anyone would every want to go play there, and the history is rich with battle and drama. The club originally opened in 1967. It flaunted a 6-hole course when it first opened and claimed 11 straight years of sport and sun until politics interrupted play in 1978.

In 1978 it was closed by a communist coup d’etat. After re-opening in 1993 the club enjoyed three whole years before more political interference. In 1996 the Taliban regime made a country-wide ban on sports.

In 2001, after the invasion of Afghanistan, the course was used as a military training area to teach soldiers how to remove land mines. In 2004 the Kabul Golf club reopened after removing three Soviet tanks and a handful of missile launchers from the site. Since then the golf course has been open, though only used sporadically due to the variable nature of the regions political climate.

In recent years there has been a large push for funding of the golf club. Media sources from around the world, such as the BBC, Time, CNN, and The New York Times have all given attention to the Afghani golf club. Only time will tell whether or not the club will overcome the war-times and be able to sustain regular play.

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Golf Youth Groups

Golf and Youth Sports

A recent study was done at the University of Arizona about the positive effects that sports can have on youth groups. The study found that incorporating various sports into youth programs has an extremely positive impact on the overall wellbeing of the youth involved.

The main sport that was covered in the study was golf. Apparently, golf is a fantastic sport for youth groups because it facilitates both large and small group settings. Also, it is a co-ed sport and doesn’t require high levels of physical fitness to be successful. Rather, good hand-eye coordination and strategy are what makes a player good.

Here at Learn to Golf, we love the idea of incorporating golf into youth groups ranging from schools to churches, to daycares and YMCAs- golf is an excellent way to build camaraderie, a love of the outdoors, and general physical fitness for young people.

If you want to teach a young person to play golf, why not start with putting? Putt-putt golf can be a great way to introduce kids to the sport. Check out our putting article.

Putting Tips and Techniques

Golf Position When Putting

Your position when putting is a crucial part of elevating your play. Let’s start by recognizing some of the basics about putting positions.

How Far From the Ball Should You Stand When Putting?

It is often recommended that the golf ball position should be located directly under your eyes. You should be able to drop a golf ball from your eye socket and when released the ball should land directly on top of your golf ball you are addressed to.  The eyeline can also be just barely inside the ball during setup. As a natural rule of thumb, your eyes (aka eyeline) should never be beyond or above the ball.

  • Standing too close to the ball during a putt will cause your putter to follow an out-to-in path that will send your ball to the left for a right-hander. (It is a possibility to cut a golf putt.)
  • Standing too far from the ball will cause your putter to follow an in-to-out path that will send your ball to the right for a right-hander. (It is possible to draw a golf putt.)

learn to putt in golf

For putter set-up positioning, the >optimum ball position is typically around 8 to 9 inches from your toe-line, the same distance from the bottom of your neck to your eyeball. As the head of most putters are about 4 to 4½ inches long, the distance is about two putter heads.

The common test, as mentioned above, is to take up your setup position and then drop a ball from your eye socket and note where it lands. This drop test will determine your eye line at setup.

Putter Length

When it comes to putter length, most golfers, have their eyes too far inside the ball during a putt because their putter is too long. When your visual perspective is skewed aiming a putt becomes much more challenging. It is much easier during a putt to see a ball at a vertical angle than a diagonal angle.

Stance Related to Ball Position

The face of the putter should contact the ball at the exact bottom of the arc of the putting stroke. If the ball is contacted on the upstroke it will go a little to the left as the putter face is headed inside.

Positioning the ball forward of the center line of your body is favored as it similar to hitting a drive where the golf ball is position further up in the stance connecting with the ball slightly on the upstroke.

There are many positions that work, but it is not advisable to place the ball during is back of your center line as this will result in your putter reaching the ball in a descending arc before your putting stroke has bottomed out.

Ball Forward of the Center Line

Putting techniques

The recommended distance for positioning your ball forward of your center line is one to two inches.

This allows your dominant eye (mostly the right eye in the case of the right-handed golfer) to be positioned behind the back of the ball.

For golfers who are left-eye dominant, but who putt right-handed, the ball can be positioned even more towards the left toe.

Placing your putter up against the ball runs the risk that you will catch the grass with your putter as you start your backstroke.

This is because your putter is now forward of the center line where your putting stroke bottoms out. There are three solutions:

  • Hover your putter so that is not pressed down in the turf.
  • Lift your putter on the start of your backstroke.
  • Leave a small gap between your putter face and the ball.

All of these solutions are effective because they allow the putter head to swing freely and independent from the ground.

Caution

There is a note of caution when positioning the golf ball too far up in the stance. If your ball position does end up being too far forward, the bottom edge of the putter face will catch the top quadrant of the ball (instead of the equator) resulting in an inconsistent roll.

Having the ball too far up also creates a longer backstroke causing your forward stroke to abruptly finish.

The Perfect Putting Stroke Technique

I’m going to talk to you today about the golf putting stroke and a couple of principles that I think will really make the whole thing a little bit easier for you./ I have had the good fortune of being around some of golf’s best putting gurus and I hope this information is going to help you that I’ve learned from them.

Controlling Your Motion

There’s a lot that can be said about the perfect putting stroke and reading greens. I want to give to you in this blog one of the absolute basics that if you can understand this basic, pretty much everything in the stroke becomes simpler and you have an idea of what you’re trying to do. “What is that basic” you might ask? Well, there’s two elements to it:

  • Number one you’re motion should be coming from your interior, not your shoulders and not your arms. Think about using your core. Your core can be felt in the middle of the back, the abdominal region, or somewhere in the interior of the middle section of your body. That’s where your motion should be generated from. That gives you consistency with your swing, believe me.
  • The second thing is, once your motion is coming from your core (this is a big key so pay attention): The distance between your putter head and your upper body should always say exactly the same throughout your swing. If your putter elongates away from your body and moves away, changes angles from your elbows/hands, or scoops and gets closer to you then you are going to have inconsistencies in your stroke.

So remember this, this isn’t that complicated, originate your motions from the middle of your body, your core, and the distance between the putter head and your body should stay the same throughout the stroke.

golf putt tips

Practice Makes Perfect

I encourage you to try holding your putter out in front of your body parallel to the ground, with your upper arms slightly connected to your torso, and simply make a few little pivots with your core from the left to the right and back again. You will notice that when practicing from this angle there isn’t any great desire to lengthen your arms, bend your elbows or wrists, or gap your arms away from yourself. You want to feel like a pendulum while remembering to keep your center still (don’t let your upper body move side to side while practicing). Be sure to practice this properly, and maintain good habits.

The reason I’m having you practice this is to show how you can easily keep the putter head the same distance from your body while also maintaining a strong motion from your core. When you have consistency with these two simple elements, then you will also have a consist repeatable stroke. On top of this, you won’t have to try to guide the putter to get it to go straight, or accidentally scoop/arch inside. It will be a natural thing for you, and the putter will do the same thing every time.

One little detail about that: your posture (as I will describe below) will dictate the amount of arch you have. If you get a little bit of a bend in your arms, and you get relatively bent over the ball (position your body with more forward bend than a full shot) then your stroke will stay in a straight line, which is much simpler for putting. If you extend your arms too long, or if your putter is too long, and if you stand up, what’s going to happen is your body is going to turn. This creates a lot more arch than you’re going to want. If wouldn’t be surprised if subconsciously you sense your upper body turning too much you will automatically react by slightly extending your reach with the putter, trying to guide the putter to straighten back out.

Remember, the key takeaways we have touched on for a putting stroke:

  • Connect your upper arms to your torso slightly.
  • The origins of motion should come from the core/trunk of your body.
  • The distance between your club and your upper body should stay exactly the same throughout the stroke.
  • Maintain good posture.

With these simple tips, you will have not only a repeating stroke but a stroke where you’re not having to manage the club too much with the small muscles of your body and overcontrol the putter, which is very difficult to do.

How to Putt the Golf Ball Straight

There are a few different aspects on how to putt straight. I’m going to show you a little bit about a technique that I think will help you accomplish that. I’ll also show you what I think is one of the leading problems people have in putting and what really affects your game.

Firstly let’s just clear up any misconception and say that in reality, all putts are straight putts- at least from the perspective of the person hitting it. Even if a putt breaks a foot to the right of the hole, the player is trying to putt straight, and gravity is what causes the ball to break. It’s important to keep in mind that every putt is a straight putt.

Keep this in mind as we touch on technique: your posture, probably more than anything, will affect how easily you can get the putt on line. Or, at least, I will say it’s an extremely major factor.

What I mean by that is the taller you stand, the more rounded your pivot becomes, and unless you’re manipulating the club with your hands your stroke starts to get a lot rounder. You can certainly hit a straight putt if you time it right for the precise part of that stroke, but it is much more difficult. Great players bend over a lot more when they putt which gives them a better posture and it really helps the putter get on a more true line, or at least closer to one relative to the target line.

Let me show you a great player and let me show you the difference between regular posture and putting posture:

see the difference between a putting stance and a driving stance

I couldn’t resist using Jack Nicklaus, one of my favorite all-time players. Above are two famous shots. On the left is the putt he beat Doug Sanders with, in the 1970 British Open Playoff. On the right is the famed 1986’s Masters, showing his tee shot. Look at the difference in the overall bend in his back. In the photo on the left, his posture is much farther bent over than the photo on the right. There is, in fact, a dramatic difference. You want to see some of that when you relate your putting posture to what might be normal posture during other shots.

As you look at the putting posture, what’s going to enable you to bend over the ball a little bit more is you have got to let your arms fold a little bit. Try extending your arms straight out in front of you while holding your putter, or pretending to hold one, and then let your arms crimp and fold while relaxing your shoulders until your triceps are barely touching the inside of your rib cage. That’s how much your arms should be folded. Be sure to keep your club in a nice straight line with your forearms. Once you’ve created that bend/crimp in your arms, it allows you to bend over a lot more.

Another factor that’s critical is the length of the putter. I see a lot of lady golfers, junior golfers, or golfers that are shorter in stature that are putting with putters that are made for a men’s standard length. A men’s standard length putter fits a 6’2” tall person on average. Be sure to adjust your length of the putter to match your body size, and you will see a great improvement in your posture and overall putting scores.

If you can connect your arms to your torso, bend your arms, relax your shoulders, and if your putter is appropriately fit then you should have the sort of bend/posture that you can see the best players have while they are putting. This will greatly help the path of your stroke.

Now let’s have a look at the most common fault that I see with players putting: keeping your head down. I know some of you may think this is blasphemy, but I am not a believer in keeping your head down through the putt. I don’t like to see people putt and keep their eyes on the grass in front of them through the whole stroke. The reasons for that are when you watch the ball roll you learn a lot about pace and distance control. You have to watch a lot of balls roll over time to get good at that. You learn about your own stroke a little bit and your brain can make minute subconscious adjustments when you get feedback.

Certainly, let’s say, if you’re three feet away and the ball’s just gotten started I think then you should listen to it go in and you shouldn’t have looked up by then. But again, if you watch the ball roll not only can you learn a lot but if the ball rolls by the hole four or five feet you’ll have watched the break. You’ll have previewed the break a little bit for your comeback. I don’t think it’s looking up that’s the problem, it’s the way people do it. What people generally do is they move their entire body and look at the hole, which dramatically and very negatively affects the direction of the stroke.

What one of my old teaching buddies used to tell students was “hit, hold, look.” What he meant by that is to strike the ball (‘hit’), and as soon as the putter has stopped that’s ‘hold’, then ‘look’. The way your head moves and swivels is key. When most people look at the hole they look at it as they would in everyday life with level shoulders and level eyes. When you go through and you look at a putt like that what’s going to happen is the club is going to wheel around you and completely change the arch of the stroke, but we just get used to doing it. If you look at the ball as I suggested you do on slightly longer than three, four, or five-foot putts, once you’ve hit and you hold and you look, you should just swivel your head without moving your shoulders.

The key is you’ll be looking at the hole with a tilted eye angle- something that matches your body’s posture/tilt. If you can do that then you’re going to stay in a good steady position with your spine and you’re not going to add an arch in. Try hitting some putts without a hole initially and train yourself that when you swivel your head you’ll be looking at the ball at a slight angle. You’ll get used to it in no time flat, I promise you. It may be slightly awkward at the beginning, but eventually, it will seem natural to you and your game will elevate because of it.

Are you a good short putter?

can you putt short?

We all know that putting counts for a lot in golf, short putting for sure. Here is a great drill based on information from a fantastic book that I read that I suggest strongly to you. It’s called ‘Every Shot Counts’ by a guy named Mark Broadie. He was the head of the Columbia Business School, and crunched down the Shotlink data from the PGA tour and also amateur statistics and came up with value judgments on how shots can be measured and how strokes can be gained. Here’s a putting drill that will help you determine how you stack up with the best putters.

Start by putting three balls about 10 feet away from the hole, all at different angles. The game is you have to putt ten putts, from ten feet, from different angles, into the hole and measure up your score. Here’s how you measure your score: If you hole a putt that’s two points; if you miss the putt, but your first putt at least gets to the hole that’s zero points; if you miss the putt, and your first putt fails to get to the hole (there is no likelihood of making it) you minus a point; if you take three putts or more that’s minus three points. Don’t put ten balls out because you want to create a feeling of reality that you might have during a game, using ten balls takes away from that because by the time you move have to set up 2-3 more balls you have taken a break from shooting so it makes it more challenging.

How many points do you think would be the average score? Well, here’s what it is: a tour pro would average about seven points. That’s the median tour pro’s score. A typical 80’s shooter would be about four points, and someone who struggles to break 100 (or shoots right around 100) would likely be in the negatives, around minus one point.

Do this drill and see how you stack up to the pros. Try it again on different days and see how you average. Be sure to make it as realistic as possible when you do this drill by placing the balls at different angles each time while taking slight breaks between groups of balls.

I hope these techniques and tips have helped you elevate your putting game. Be sure to stay tuned for more posts from me, or you can also check out these great golf tips from George for loads of more awesome golf tips and techniques. Below you can also find a video with some more helpful tips about putting