Players like Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini, Jonathan Byrd, even the budding superstar Anthony Kim, all have something in common. Besides obviously being PGA Tour players, they’re all relatively small guys in both size and stature who manage to hit the ball with tremendous power. How do they do it? Each of these players, as well as a handful of other professionals, understands that true power and control come from swinging the golf club with a powerful core.
It stands to reason that if you want to learn how to do something the right way, you should learn from the best. For this reason, we’ve gathered some shotmaking tips from current PGA Tour players. Pay close attention to the techniques they describe, and practice them regularly, just like they do. Soon enough, you’ll find that these Tour-proven tips will pay dividends in terms of better shots and lower scores. In addition, we offer a swing sequence of Padraig Harrington, arguably the best player in the world at the moment. Check out Padraig’s swing and strive to copy both its simplicity and consistency. You’ll be glad you did.
The greenside bunker shot is one of the most intimidating shots for the amateur player, while at the same time being one of the easier shots for touring pros. Why? The reason is simply because professionals understand how to manage sand properly and actually use the sand to their advantage. As for amateurs? For some reason, most amateurs make matters more confusing than they ought to be.
Most players who slice only have a vague idea of why they do so. Some think it’s due to their swing path or their release, and some even blame their equipment. The angle of the clubface is an element they often overlook. However, the simple fact is that if a shot moves left to right, you can be sure the clubface is open at impact.
Simply put, when you address the golf ball—and because the ball is both on the ground and in front of you—you’ll have to lean forward to reach it. To do this effectively, adjust the upper-body lean by hinging at the hip socket, not in the back or by excessively squatting.
Golfers use two kinds of putting strokes: a square-to-square stroke that swings (and stays) square to the target line and an arcing stroke that travels inside the target line on the backstroke and follow through.
To execute a wedge shot that hits, takes a hop and stops (or spins back), the first thing you need is the right kind of ball (see the sidebar) and a high-lofted wedge with sharp grooves. Next, you need a good lie from the fairway so the ball compresses against the clubface and the grooves “bite” into it and get it spinning fast.
Understanding how different irons affect your golf swing.
In a perfect world, every shot in golf would be the same distance, and we’d only have to use one club the whole round. Instead, we have 14 clubs to choose from, mostly made up of irons of different lengths and lofts. Some instructors say that you should make the same swing with every iron, play the ball in the same spot and, lastly, expect the same results with each club. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not necessarily the case.
I was hitting balls one day with my friend and fellow teaching professional, Ron Gring, when he described a way of looking at all the key shots in golf as “the nine panes of glass.” This obviously refers to the image you see above, with a fade, straight shot and draw at low, medium and high trajectories fitting into the nine slots.
Sergio’s left shoulder points down toward the ground and behind the ball late into the downswing. This serves two purposes: First, the steeper shoulder angle keeps the left arm close to the body and enables him to create his famous “lag.” Second, the closed position of the shoulders prevents the club from coming over the top.
The words “weight shift” can cause a lot of confusion. For starters, a weight shift isn’t something that you should forcibly do; rather, during the swing, your body weight should shift naturally as you make a proper turn. Any manipulation of weight from side to side is a mistake.
Casting the club from the top of the swing (arms straightening prematurely) is one of the most common power leaks for the amateur player. This move results from a downswing that’s initiated by the muscles in the arms and upper body, and makes it almost impossible to store energy during the downswing.
The best players in the world are as proficient as they are for very good reasons. Not only do they possess an incredibly high level of talent and athletic ability, but they also have sound fundamentals and outstanding overall technique. If you’re going to learn from anyone, these are the guys you want to study.
One of the absolute basics of good scoring is solid putting from short to medium range. If you’re confident from these distances, it will take pressure off all your other short-game shots and make you a better lag putter as well.
By now, you’ve probably seen footage of Tiger Woods snapping his 4-iron against a tree in the 2007 Masters. If you haven’t, it happened on the 11th hole when he found his ball at the base of a tree. Tiger had three choices: hit it backward or backhanded (two choices that would have probably led to a bogey) or advance it down the fairway. Of course, Tiger chose the latter, but to pull it off, he had to sacrifice his 4-iron.
If you want to control your shots more effectively around the greens, the best thing you can do is set up with a narrow stance and always remember to keep the shaft leaning toward the target. Since it’s a chip shot, you don’t have to worry about releasing the club; instead, you want to hold the face square to ensure optimal directional control. This setup position also helps to avoid flubbed chipped shots—one of the most embarrassing and avoidable shots in golf.
If you’ve been told the key to better ballstriking is to keep your head down, odds are you’re a golfer who puts a slice on the ball. Also, you’re a victim of bad advice, since keeping your head down can cause a variety of swing (and back) problems. Keeping your head down on your backswing actually will cause your head to get in the way and restrict your body turn. This means your arms and upper body will lift upward instead of around, and you’ll swing with an upright, outside-in swing path.
One of the best indicators of a good golf swing is the finish. If there’s balance when the swing is over, it means there was probably balance during the swing. Often, players who slice do so because they don’t finish correctly. See the photo of the finish below?
Get your irons in check by observing one of the best ballstrikers in golf
Since his early days playing for England on two Walker Cup teams and making noise as an NCAA star at Northwestern, Luke Donald has had PGA Tour success in his sights. Having already cracked the top-60 in career earnings with more than $12 million to his credit, you’d have to say he’s right on track.