Monthly Archives: October 2017

The Selling of BS

I was reading a blurb for yet another golf video lesson and I ran across the words “Speaking of draws, not many amateurs can hit one … especially with the driver…. What’s the big deal about a draw, anyway? Well, did you know a draw travels 31 yards farther than a fade hit with the same swing speed? It’s a fact, proven by a Golf Labs robot.

Ah, the Holy Grail of amateur golf, hitting a draw. A draw is a shot that curves slightly from right to left (for a right-handed golfer). The factoid they supplied is indeed probably right (assuming the club was a driver, the longest distance club), but it is also irrelevant. A draw will go father than a shot curving the opposite way, a fade, using the same club. The reason is that the technique used to hit the draw involves turning the club in your hands so that the club’s face is more upright. A more upright club face means the ball will travel more forward and less upward, so farther. To hit a fade, you must do the exact opposite, tilt the club face slightly back away from vertical, which means more up and less out, resulting in a shorter shot.

What they don’t tell you is that if a fade is the result of your natural swing, you can compensate by using clubs with the faces a half degree or so more vertical. Voila. Now you get the same distance you would have gotten from those other clubs, hitting a draw.

Hello? Jack Nicklaus, arguably the most successful professional golfer of all time and one of the longest hitters of his generation, hit a fade. A draw is not necessary to hit it long. Sheesh.

But then, they had clubs to sell, clubs that make it easier to hit a draw.

This is the case in any sport in which there is gear to sell, like, say, archery. For a long time, bow manufacturers have been finding ways to make arrows fly faster and bragging about the arrow speeds their bows provide. And, the benefit(s)? Well, in most cases, the extra speed means that the angle the arrow makes with the ground is a fraction of a degree flatter. And we all know how that affects an archer’s accuracy or success at hunting. It … it … means … uh, hmmm, well … it means…. Yeah, diddly squat.

Addendum Professional golfers, some of them anyway, use this draw-fade difference to help them control their shot’s distances. Not only does being able to hit both kinds of shots with the same club allow them to “shape” shots to fit golf holes that curve to the left or right, but they can also use those different distances to make their clubs more versatile. If their driver goes 300 yards with a draw but they need the shot to go 285-290 yards, they can hit a fade with the same club and voila. (It is hard to hit draws and fades with higher lofted clubs, wedges, etc. so this is limited to the “longer clubs.” Although a common technique in hitting the “short irons” is to turn the club in one’s hands to change the angle of the club face to match it to the distance needed, which is the same idea. So this aspect of “a fade” going less far than “a draw” is not a bug, it is a feature. But when it comes to selling, any old factoid can prove useful.


1 Comment

Filed under For All Coaches

Mental Program Foundations: Attention

I am currently writing an article about how to create a mental program for shooting arrows. Everyone tells you that you need one but nobody tells you how to do it. One of the aspects needed is:
2. The archer’s mind must attend to things that result in consistent, accurate shots and not attend to things that have no or negative affects. Including unnecessary items on the list of things to attend to or leaving off important things increases error.

You will note that this is #2 on my list of the things needed, but don’t expect the full list here.

I was reading a blog post in which the following appeared “What we pay attention to is largely determined by our expectations of what should be present,” said Christopher Chabris, a cognitive psychologist and co-author of The Invisible Gorilla.

Relative size is just one of many pieces of information that contribute to our expectations. Without expecting something, we’re unlikely to pay attention to it, he says, and ‘when we are not paying attention to something, we are surprisingly likely to not see it.

Sometimes called ‘inattentional blindness,’ this phenomenon helps explain how dozens of people could walk by a tree festooned with cash—even looking directly at it—without seeing the money. This was the unexpected result when a woman set out to make a video of people’s responses to finding free money, a scenario that a psychologist later successfully recreated.

Inattentional blindness is something archers want to cultivate. Noticing the perfume or bad breath of an archer next to you can in no way help you shoot good shots. Wondering what that delightful aroma from a food cart portends for lunch possibilities is the same.

There is a story I heard, which is probably apocryphal as my attempts to confirm it went unanswered, but the story goes that at the Olympic Games (Barcelona), the archery field had a freeway nearby. During one session there was a horrific crash on the freeway, with emergency vehicles, etc. After the session one of the Spanish team members asked a fellow teammate what he thought of the crash. The teammate asked “What crash?” Guess who won the gold medal? (Yep.)

True or not, the story emphasizes the need to block out superfluous calls on our attention system, a system designed for interruptions!



Filed under For All Coaches

Barebow, Barebow, Barebow

I just got an email from a viewer who had a boatload of questions about Barebow. (Hooray!) I love it when you send in your questions as it gives me ideas about what I should write about, so if you have them, please feel free to email them to me (

Here’s Dieter’s questions:
So, the questions are:
• Does one have to close one eye when aiming off the point?
• My kind of split vision string- and face walking does work. However, did you come across someone who managed to combine the more “instinctive” split vision technique with aiming off the point brought right below the target without having to drastically alter button spring tension?
• Of course, I could decide for either technique. The benefit of split vision from 5 – 25 meters is, I do not need to crawl down the string and thus do not imbalance the bow. The other thing is losing accuracy on longer distances. I might also improve the closer distances aiming off the point.
• Maybe, my little problem is confusing. However, I’d be glad if you could share your experienced thoughts with me.
Best wishes, Dieter

* * *

And here are my attempts at answers! (Note I assume Dieter is referring to Barebow Recurve.)

  • Does one have to close one eye when aiming off the point?
    My opinion is that this is only necessary if there is a problem with keeping the off eye open. I, for example, shoot right-handed but am left-eye dominant. If I don’t half shut my off eye, I can end up with some bad misses. There are problems with shutting the eye completely (as with an “eye patch”) as this lowers the total amount of light coming into the eyes and therefore affects iris responses, etc. Eyelids allow some light it and people with glasses often resort to putting a strip of transparent tape over the off eye lens. This allows light in to an open eye but no clear image, so if the off eye “takes over” it will be easily noticed.
    This is the same whether you are aiming off the point and or using a sight.
  • … did you come across someone who managed to combine the more “instinctive” split vision technique with aiming off the point brought right below the target without having to drastically alter button spring tension? This is a very complex question. The “split vision” technique, as recommended by the likes of Howard Hill, is not really split vision as much as it is split attention. I am not a fan because while you are aiming that is the only time you are splitting your attention on what you are doing during an archery shot: you are attending to aiming and attending to completing the shot via swinging the draw elbow around, squeezing back muscles, or whatever. Splitting your aiming attention in two results in a three-way split in attention, something I am not a fan of. But then, I am a fan of whatever works, as long as we know what actually works, so if the “split vision technique really works for you, then go for it. (That you asked the question indicates it is not working well enough or under the circumstances you encounter.)
    Two topics are being addressed here in addition. One can aim off of the point several ways. The two primary ways are gap shooting (basically aiming off, with “gaps” being the amount of high or low aiming) and stringwalking. Since the grip of bow and sting do not vary when gap shooting, no adjustment of plunger tension is needed. However, when string walking, whenever the “crawl” (the distance down from the arrow the string is “gripped”) is changed, you are essentially de-tuning the bow. The draw length changes, the draw weight changes, the tiller changes, everything. These changes are small and successful Barebow Recurve stringwalkers focus heavily in finding a bow tune that represents a “happy medium compromise.” Usually, since the shorter distances are shorter and therefore easier (in field archery) they allow for a poorer tune there and set up for a better tune for the longer, and therefore harder, shots.

    Taking a crawl on a longbow.

    So, elite Barebow Recurve Archers who stringwalk have this unavoidable dilemma. Some use plunger adjustments at the extremes of their distances to help with this problem, so you are not wrong in doing that. The ultimate tune, though, for such an archer is one that doesn’t involve such adjustments, so these archers work on their arrows obsessively and their plungers to find a “no fiddling tune” if they can. If such plunger adjustments are required, you need to adjust your shot sequence to make sure that you add or subtract known numbers of turns on your plunger button and then take them off when no longer needed. Forgetting to do these things are mental mistakes that always lower scores, so eliminating the need to make such adjustments reduces the number of possible mental mistakes, which is a good thing … if you can pull it off.
    Sorry, for being so long winded on this one, but that’s the best I can do. Possibly more expert Barebow archers will chime in in the Comments.

  • Of course, I could decide for either technique. Yes, you can. There are some who insist that this technique is better than that technique. I have never seen a case in which this has been proven, unless you put up some form of standard technique against, say, standing with your back to the target. The entire reason we all shoot much the same way, with only minor differences, is that in the 60,000–70,000 year history of archery, the bow has taught us what works and what doesn’t. So, most of what you can find being currently recommended by archers and coaches works! That’s the good news. The bad news is “so does all of the other stuff.”And the only way you can tell “what works for you” is to try things out. Unfortunately, the things being tested against one another are so similar (they may feel really different, but they are not … to the point that onlookers may not notice that you have changed anything) that it takes many weeks of trying out the new thing to see if there is a real effect or not. There are very many things to try, and not enough time and effort to try them all, so you just have to pick.

    What I do know is this: the key factors are whether an archer has committed to a new/different technique and practiced it in and … in my not so humble opinion … simpler is better. If you try an aiming technique and it only works for shorter distances and you need another for longer distances, I would keep looking. What you want is a technique that is the same for all shots you take on a certain course, e.g. WA Field Unmarked shots are never longer than 50 m, WA target shots used to be longer (30-90 m for men) but now seem to have been shrunk down to just 50 m for target events. I would have separate bows set up for the two kinds of events. If I couldn’t afford two bows, I would have two bowstrings and two sets of bow settings for the two events. I might also, depending on budget, have two sets of arrows tuned for two different events. (Consider archer’s arrow choices for indoor and outdoor events as a model.) The gold standard for FITA Field Barebow archers shooting unmarked targets is a single anchor with a single set of crawls from 50 m on down to the shortest shot (don’t remember this … 5 m?).

    I prefer having a single technique for a single event. When I teach stringwalking, we start at close up, determining the archers point on target distance (POT) and then determining their set of crawls for distances inside that distance. Then we change from a high anchor to a low anchor and determine the new POT for that anchor (much farther out) and a set of crawls there, too. (Often the crawls are amazingly consistent, e.g. the same crawl for five meters closer than POT distance for both anchors, which makes memory mistakes less likely). What we hope is these two ranges overlap, covering all of the distances being shot. If they do not, instead of adding a third technique, we look to changing things like draw weight or slight changes in anchor hand position to get what is desired.

My rule of simplicity would rule out string walking as a tool for tackling a FITA Round, for example. There were/are only four distances. It is far easier to determine four points of aim for the four distances (if they are on target) than employ stringwalking with its detuning characteristics. But for a Field Round in which targets are placed at many different distances, having a different point of aim for each target is too cumbersome, there stringwalking shines. So, there are legitimate reasons for having a “bag of tricks” to employ for aiming at various kinds of events as “one size never fits all!”

I hope this helps more than it hinders!


Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

Two Compound Codgers Talk About Aiming

I got an email from an old friend (emphasis on the old, for both of us) in which we were talking about shooting under the infirmities our advanced ages have provided us with. At one point the conversation turned to vision and peep sights and Tom said this:

Up until recently, I had to shoot with one eye closed, either the left, when shooting right handed or the right when shooting right handed.  Something has changed, because now… I cannot shoot left-handed any other way than with both eyes open. IF I close my right eye, I cannot see anything, period. Can’t find the target, can’t find the peep. I also cannot shoot at all with my glasses on. I must shoot without my glasses … which at first gives me a terrible double image until I get to anchor and look through the peep and scope. Then there are two target images, but I’ve learned to ignore the “dummy” target and focus on the correct one. The tough part is looking down range and seeing double of everything and the double is “moving” from low left to upper right.
I cannot see for beans up close to set my sight, however.
It is nice to be able to shoot with both eyes open. … after nearly 50 years of having to shoot with one eye closed!

Of course, the internet is the modern equivalent of the general store cracker or pickle barrel, so I had to chip in with my two cents on the topic:
As we age a number of things change with our eyes. One I noticed is that our irises slow down. I discover this the hard way; I was out driving at night, and my eye’s irises opened up to let in more light and then I turned a corner and a asshole driver coming the other way had his high beams on and I was blinded. I couldn’t see for a couple of seconds and was driving from memory of the road (I realized this later when I did a mental replay—thank you, archery!). Having a flood of light pouring into my eyes, my irises immediately but slowly started cinching in smaller and smaller … just in time for the return back to low illumination driving and my irises, now too small, slowly opened up again, extending the time period in which I was driving blind. This is a common source of why older people no longer like driving at night—scares the bejebus out of us.

When you swing a peep over your aiming eye, you are blocking part of the light (the reason for the danged peep in the first place), but because our irises change slowly (1-3 seconds?) compared to those in young eyes, this doesn’t happen comfortably in the time you want your shot to go off. By keeping your off eye open, the fraction of total light being blocked by the peep coming through both eyes is smaller, resulting in a smaller iris correction and better vision.

Using a peep with a smaller hole actually improves your vision by reducing the number of aiming eye lens defects the light travels through. but outdoors, in low light … well, there is a reason hunters use peeps with larger holes than do target archers. The smaller hole allows in less light and….

By the way, you can get “shooting glasses” made in which the optical centers are off to the left (for right-handed archers). We think we turn our heads 90° to look over our shoulders, but in reality, we turn our heads just far enough to see past the bridge of our noses. (Turning our heads farther results in an aching neck and headaches!). Ordinary glasses are built assuming you are looking straight outward and do not work anywhere near as well as your eyes move off of that axis.

Note Normal head rotation, according to one study is “Head-neck rotation was symmetric, and associated with concomitant movements in both the sagittal and frontal planes. It was larger in women (162°) than in men (155°), and performed with limited adjunctive thoracic motions.” This is about 77° (for men) in each direction and I think that gets less with age. (It sure feels like it to me.) Being able to turn our heads on our necks less means there is a smaller window to look through, one closer to the bridge of our noses and therefore more “off axis” for our glasses. I think I have benefited quite a bit from getting shooting glasses, which fit closer to the bridge of my nose and have optical centers in that direction.



Filed under For All Coaches

NFAA Trims Back Styles

When I got up this morn I found an email from the NFAA (US) in my Inbox indicating that they have trimmed back the list of recognized styles. And as one might guess, the numbers of “fingers” (versus “release”) styles are the ones being trimmed.

Here’s the list from that email, in case you are interested but didn’t get the memo:

So, since I first jointed the NFAA (1990), the list of styles no longer available is:
Bowhunter (Adult and Youth)
Bowhunter Freestyle Limited (Adult and Youth)
Longbow (Adult Only)
Freestyle Limited (Youth Only)

I do not know the data or politics behind these changes, so please do not ask.

A number of styles have been added since that time (Freestyle Limited Recurve is basically Olympic Recurve, plus some of the Pro styles).


1 Comment

Filed under For All Coaches

More on Coaching Males and Females: Same or Differently

A reader sent the following link ( for an interesting article on this topic. I don’t know if it is behind a pay wall or not as I am a “member” so to speak of the organization. So, let me know if you can’t get to it.


Filed under For All Coaches