Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tips for golfers for making better ball contact

TARPON SPRINGS — Everything seems perfect. Feet spread apart. Backswing slow and steady. Head still. Weight shift from back to front.

But when clubhead makes contact with golf ball, the ball skids off the tee and dribbles down the fairway.

Topped it.

That's two words no golfer wants to hear. They can ruin your day.

We're here to help.

We have solicited the expertise of pro Lew Smither III, who spent 25 years as a teaching pro at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor before becoming director of golf at Cypress Run Golf Club in Tarpon Springs in September. Smither has been named one of Florida's top 20 instructors by Golf Digest. His lessons usually cost $125 per hour.

Smither likes to say that golf isn't complicated. He has a few tips that likely will help you make better contact and have more fun.

"The one inevitable in golf is that you have to make contact,'' Smither said.

"You have to get the ball down the fairway if you're going to have any fun at this game. That's where it all starts.''

Hammer the ball

Smither got the idea to use a hammer in his lessons after a chipping clinic. He said he spent nearly 20 minutes going over clubhead speed, club angles and swing planes. When it came time to put the lessons into action, most of the golfers were topping the balls down the fairway. That caused Smither to think about why. "I asked them 'Where do you look at the ball?' '' Smither said. "They either said they looked at the top of the ball or they didn't know. Well, if you're looking at the top of the ball, your eyes are going to tell you to hit the top of the ball. That's where I got the idea for the hammer. Make it simple. If you're going to drive a nail into the wall, you look at it and hit it. Do the same with the golf ball.'' For effect, Smither has a hammer duct taped to the end of a club shaft. Imagine the ball is a nail you're trying to hit into a wall. Keep your eyes glued to the target (which is the back of the ball), and your head will stay still. Your alignment will also stay steady as you focus on the target. "Your body responds to what the eyes tell it,'' Smither said. "The eyes are what gives you all of the information. Stay focused on what the point of contact is, and everything else will follow.''

The eyes have it

Smither is a firm believer in the visual part of golf. If the eyes are in the right place, the body will follow. One misconception of topping the ball is that the head moved up before the swing. Not true. "I've been doing this for about 35 years, and I've never seen anybody just look up,'' said Smither, exaggerating a golfer who looks skyward when trying to hit the ball. "(A ball isn't topped) because you're looking up. It's because your eyes are in the wrong place.'' Keep the eyes steady and the body will stay steady. Golf is a hand/eye coordination sport. So if the eyes are looking at the proper target, the brain will tell the hands where to go. It takes practice, but after a while, it should become second nature. "The eyes take in the information,'' Smither said. "The body responds to what the eyes look at.'' This theory should also help if you tend to hit it fat.

From tee to ground

If topping the ball off the tee shot is a problem, a drill can help you fix it. While on the driving range or in your back yard, line up four tees about 2 feet apart, as in the photo above left. Place a ball only on the fourth tee in the row. On the tees with no ball, take a swing and try to knock the tee into the air. This will help you concentrate on the tee instead of the ball. When it comes time to hit the ball, use the same swing at the tee and you will hit the ball squarely on the side. "Practice sweeping the tee off the ground,'' Smither said. "Once you do that, then hit some balls off the tee. It should be no different than hitting the tee without a ball on it. Sweep through the ball and make solid contact.'' If you want to try this drill at home but don't have a lot of room, try putting a tee on top of the tee that's in the ground, as in the photo above right. Use the same theory of hammering a nail and try to make solid contact with the top tee. This will also help you sweep through a shot without hitting balls into your neighbor's house.

A swing is a swing

Now that you have your eyes in the right place, here's one more swing thought for hitting the ball solidly. No matter what sport, the key to hitting an object with a stick is making sure the stick is in the right position. In golf, as you begin to follow through, the end of the club should be pointing at the ball. That will put your hands in the proper place to make a good follow through. Then hammer the nail and watch the ball take off. "The bottom of the club is always pointing to the object it is going to strike,'' Smither said. "Doesn't matter if it's a baseball swing or a golf swing. The only difference is the angle of the swing. But as the club, or bat, comes forward, the end should always be pointing at the target."

Tips for golfers for making better ball contact 03/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 10:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'

    Blogs

    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

    Former Tampa Bay Lightning player center Brian Boyle (24), on the ice during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 16, 2017.
  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.