I don’t know about you but, watching the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open this past weekend was riveting. So many storylines and a star-studded leaderboard sure made for some great entertainment.
One thing that stuck out to me was how much better the guys that performed well down the stretch struck the ball, compared to those who didn’t. Brooks Koepka was nearly flawless from tee to green on the back nine and consequently, hoisted the trophy.
In this week’s installment of our series about helping you become a better ball striker, we have the opportunity to sit down with Mike Malaska. For those of you that don’t know, Mike played on the PGA Tour and has since become one of the game’s most respected instructors. He’
What Makes a Great Ball Striker?
When I asked Mike what good ball striking meant to him, his answer was pretty simple. “You have to be able to hit the ball in the center of the clubface… before you can really play golf… The more you have control of it (the ball), the more you can plan what you want to do, the better chance to play better golf.”
Ball Flight Control
Mike says that understanding ball flight control is something most people don’t quite fully understand. “People don’t understand the importance of trajectory… That’s why I use launch monitors… In order to achieve a consistent distance, you have to be aware of launch angle.” Mike employs the Rapsodo MLM for both his students, and his own practice.
The other important element of ball flight control is curve. However, Mike doesn’t see curve as important as controlling trajectory and therefore, distance. “When you look at Tour Players, if they miss, they miss right and left, they don’t miss long or short.”
** If you’re interested in purchasing the Rapsodo MLM for your game, Use code GSL to get it way cheaper than Amazon or anywhere else
Speaking of Launch Angle
Mike and I both agree that launch angle is something most golfers don’t pay much attention too. But it’s vitally important. Again, achieving the desired launch angle starts with hitting the ball solid. Once you can do that, “then it’s understanding what loft do you present to the club when it hits the ball? Then you see a trajectory and connect it to the feeling of what am going to do to create that trajectory?”
In order to dial in your launch angle, it’s easy to make the mistake of making full swings with a seven iron. Instead, you should start with “little chips and pitch shots, or little 100-yard wedges that you’re trying to control and see what those different flights are.” The key to practicing this effectively is using a launch monitor, like the Rapsodo MLM, to give you accurate feedback.
By using a launch monitor in your practice, “your brain is just a computer. So, you’re programming your computer to see something and then feel something relative to what you see.”
“The more good information you get in practice, when you get on the golf course and have a shot, your memory will make adjustments and you think back and you feel what you had to do.”
For Mike, improving ball striking is all about having feedback. “The more feedback you have… the better.”
He has a word of caution though. “Don’t let too much information from technology run you into the abyss.”
When launch monitors are used correctly, however, “I know exactly what’s going on. It’s invaluable to have immediate feedback. If you know how to read the feedback, it’s going to do nothing but help you improve because you know what went wrong, and what went right.”
Tour Players and Optimum Launch Angles
A major difference between amateurs and Tour Players is that “they’ve got their longer irons going too low and their higher irons are going too high.” The best players in the world refer to this as the “optimum window.”
Once you understand “what is optimum, then you can sit and practice and… get a feel for when you make a swing and hit a wedge. If you’re launching it at the right angle… you have a chance of being able to max out the distance it’s supposed to go.”
More About Optimum Launch Angles
Mike says there’s only a bit of variation of what optimal launch angles look like for most golfers. “There’s a tight enough window that if I’m launching my seven iron at this height… I’m probably getting the most out of it within a degree or two.”
Practicing to Achieve Optimum Launch Angles
When you’re warming up, start hitting a few shots to get loose.
Then hit one low.
Next, hit one high.
Then curve one to the right.
Last, curve one left.
“Tour Players sit there, and they get control of the face and they get control of launch angles in a window… It’s amazing how few amateurs do (this), but almost every Tour Player does it almost every single day.”
Focus on Your Hands for Face Control
Mike insists that “whoever has the best face control, wins at every level… you play the game with your hands.” Bottom line, if you want to learn to control the face, learn how to do it with your hands. They’re what’s holding the club.
Don’t Be Afraid to Explore Different Shot Shapes
There’s no question that most people are afraid to (or don’t think they can) curve the ball right or left. In reality, this type of practice helps you gain awareness of cause and effect. “Golf is about motion and adjustments. It’s learning to read yourself and being able to make those adjustments as you’re playing.”
Awareness is the Common Denominator
One thing that all great ball strikers have in common is awareness. As we’ve seen over decades from Tiger, to Furyk, to Trevino, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
What all great ball strikers are masters at, is awareness of where the face is at and the trajectory that they want to hit shots. With the right practice and some understanding of the information, you too can develop this awareness and become a better ball striker.
I want to thank Mike for taking the time to shed some light on how average players like you can improve.
Spending time with him is always illuminating.
This is Part Two of our podcast series about becoming a better ball striker. I’m confident that if you digest some of what Mike has to say, and put it into practice, you’ll see results sooner rather than later.
Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you next time on the GSL Podcast.
If you’re interested in using a launch monitor to improve your practice, Use our code ‘GSL’for a special offer with Rapsodo!