Flamingos and Balance Drills

Two Commentaries on Distance Off the Tee and Putting

In my long golfing life, better known as the Tale of Two Brothers, I got a first-hand account of the right mix of mechanics and experiential play, and in what order. My brother was more of a mechanics guy, and his low scores demonstrated it. By the time he was leaving the land of handicaps, his mechanical game was ready for some individual stylistic habits that were good for his swing and personality. We were approximately the same size, but he was considerably farther off the tee. He had a great recovery game, and man could he putt – incredible balance.

In those years, I was the “feel it” guy, the artiste type who would rather look good than take strokes off the score. If I would have perfected balance and function first, there might have been a few more yards for me off the tee, and my putting would have been more reliable. Then, maybe I could have added some individualistic ‘quirks.’ But no, for me experience was everything. Now, I love scouring the teachers’ pages for those principles I should have sought out all those decades ago.

Luke Kerr-Dineen put up two such articles for Golf.com this year that were right up my alley. I was already ecstatic with success at getting my hips through earlier and quicker, thereby recouping a few yards lost to age. One article, however, reminded me that such a concept lies within the paradigm of attaining perfect balance, and decreasing one’s adoration of strength in an effort to attain it.

The 10-minute podcast is led by Kolby Tullier. Strength, it says, is easy, a simple case of “placing a load, and your body adapting to a load.” If stability and balance are dysfunctional, however, it’s no good, regardless of strength. Out of whack balance has muscles that should be firing failing to fire, and falling out of formation, literally, at the end of a swing. From my experimental days with narrow, wide and bizarre stances, I can attest to falling a few times. Now, when it comes to distance off the tee, the component of the hips will come under the  chapter heading of balance. I recommend the podcast – look it up.

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The one that really caught my eye, however, was Top 100 Teacher Michael Hunt’s Flamingo Drill for putting, and the problem of weight transferred back and forth in the body while trying to line this fool putt up and offer a reliable stroke. Don’t let visions of the Red Queen and her croquet flamingos get into your head. Rather, envision the stately and still bird in its natural setting. They balance on one leg because they are more stable than they would be on two. They “passively support themselves on a single leg with almost zero muscle activity.”

Here’s the recipe. Drop a few balls on the green, stand there for a moment and exhale. Then, lift one of your heels in the air. Either one will do. It might be shaky for a bit, but stabilizing will take place. Putt a few. Any shift of weight, and you’ll fall – talk about not looking good. But knowing that, you won’t. You’ll stay still. It’s about “core-balance,” not strength. In my perception, the ball, green and read will at times swim in my vision. Perhaps that is a result of apprehension of what might happen. This should help to eliminate at least one of the putting demons – good balance.

I have watched professionals practice driving from a position where they rest on their knees before returning to their feet. Where exotic birds are concerned, I’m going to give this a try, but if I suddenly see the flamingo balance style appear on the PGA or LPGA, it will be too much. The teacher does recommend that you eventually return to both feet – just putt as if you are on one.

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It’s a little late in the game for me to pursue all of the instructional offerings from the past half century or so, but once we’re in the mood, and ready to give up the experiential ,  “I am what I am” style, it’s a lot of fun. It might make us a little annoying to playing partners for a while, but it’s fun to see how everything out there works.

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