Monday, 22 August 2016

Gary Smith Linear Method - An Update

It has been about six weeks since I had a lesson with Gary Smith, a Golf Monthly top 25 coach and the inventor of the "Linear Method" for the short game. It's a rather unique (certainly in terms of set up) method, which is intended to utilise the bounce of the club in pitching, chipping and bunker shots and therefore give the player a bigger margin of error (Gary Smith - Linear Method lesson)

I have to say it's been a bumpy journey in the preceding few weeks and must confess that with pitching in particular I have dabbled with a more orthodox approach, despite nailing my colours firmly to the "Linear" mast. There has also been a problem with taking what I've worked on, both linear and conventional, onto the course, although that will undoubtedly be as a result of filling my head with too may thoughts and techniques, falling between two stools and not committing to the shot.

I've been playing some good golf recently although the handicap continues to steadily rise. This year has been far from a classic. I've struggled with a number of health issues, fortunately which are now getting better, and I'm still having issues with the killer holes and racking up big numbers. However, the one area I have enjoyed and feel I've made forward steps is in the short game. Despite, falling between two stools at times as per the previous paragraph, it has started to feel more natural using the linear method. The time has come to put aside other methods and embrace the linear method. Yes, I know I've said this before but sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward again. I have gotten back to working hard on the technique and have been filming my progress.

Forty yard pitch - down the line  (left hand flag)

Forty yard pitch - face on

I have a feeling the head position is a little low but other than that the strike was as I'd want it. Of course this was pitching to a flag on a hard practice ground and not a green and so the ball didn't always react or behave on landing but this was more a session to get the method working properly again, especially the feeling of the right hand feeding under and adding the loft.

I then moved back a further fifteen yards and so this pitch (still to the left hand flag) was from approximately fifty five yards and therefore requires a bigger body rotation although otherwise everything remains constant.

Fifty five yard pitch - face on

Fifty five yard pitch - down the line (left hand flag)

As mentioned, I've been using the linear method from bunkers and this has been a considerable success. My sand saves (getting up and down from a green side bunker) is 33% in the last month. I find it is far easier to feed the club under the ball and pop it out. By using the bounce I have a bigger margin of error and have been able to hit as far as 4-5 inches behind the ball and still get it out and on the green although ideally I'd be looking for an area more 2-3 inches from the ball and have worked hard on putting a line in the sand and simple trying to hit that every time.

I've filmed a simple ten yard bunker shot. As you can see, the ball flies out nicely and the divots I am taking are long and shallow. Ideal for this type of shot

Ten yard bunker shot - down the line (yellow flag)

Ten yard bunker shot - face on

I am planning to work hard on the chipping again with this method and will add some footage when I have it.

The linear method definitely works and it sits properly in my head and it's something I can buy into totally. I need to stop flipping and keep working on it. The issue I have is taking it on the course and there have been trust issues, especially on those short fiddly ones, either over an obstacle or when there's only a few yards to go. It will come.

I hope this gives you a flavour for what the linear method is all about and how it's starting to come together and finally beginning to bleed into my game. I will be following up with Gary Smith at some point, probably over the winter as part of an ongoing programme on my short game. It's still my weakest area in general, although if I can get my chipping working as well as my bunker play I'll be in short game heaven. It's a work in progress still and once I get this tough nut cracked, it's going to have a huge impact on my scoring, especially as I am still missing too many greens in regulation (another area of concern) and on days that I'm not striking it as nicely as I'd liked.

It does look unconventional. I have had all the comments you can think of regarding the posture in particular, but when it works, and it's doing so more often, I simply smile politely and point to the ball nestling close to the hole.

It isn't a method for everyone but Gary Smith is convinced it can help many golfers (he claims up to 98% of students have improved). Here is a link for him to show you how to do it properly (Gary Smith pitching). If you are struggling, it may be worth a look. The bounce can definitely be your friend

I hope you've enjoyed seeing my progress to date and I'll keep you posted with how I'm getting on, especially with how it's developing on the course and into my game. If, in the meantime you'd like to make a comment on what you've seen, or even ask a question about the linear method, please feel free to post a comment. It is working. It will get better. I can pitch, chip and play bunker shots. I will be a short game guru.

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