If only we could tee up every golf shot. We’d always have perfect lies, where no grass or trees or sand could get in the way of making clean contact with the ball. Of course, that isn’t the case. Between the tee and green, we have to surrender to the course and “play the ball as it lies.” That means adjusting to a number of challenging circumstances, such as plugged bunker shots and awkward stances. For this story, I’ve concentrated my efforts on just those types of lies—the ones you get where you look to your playing partners, throw your arms in the air and say “anybody have any suggestions?” Take time to practice these shots, and you won’t wonder what to do the next time you’re faced with an awkward lie.
So you think you’re a big hitter? Well, consider this. Today’s top long drivers don’t bunt the ball a measly 250 yards off the tee. Heck, a mediocre wallop drops somewhere around the 320-yard range. Frankly, these guys aren’t satisfied with anything under 400 yards when it comes time to winning a paycheck. Now that’s long!
I often long for the days when Slammin’ Sammy Snead and Gene Sarazan played the game, a couple of great sticks with personalities just as bright as their games. Well, fortunately for golf fans, there’s a new kid on the block and he’s brought a unique backstory and stellar game (albeit with a modern flair). His name is Will MacKenzie, or “Willie Mac,” as the 2006 Reno-Tahoe victor is sometimes called.
No matter where you are, where you go, or more appropriately, whom you end up playing golf with, it seems there’s always someone nearby who I like to call “the resident E.O.E. (Expert on Everything).” You know the type. It’s the fellow who knows how to help you increase your net worth and can explain how to install new copper pipes in your house without having to cut drywall. This same guy also watches a lot of golf on TV, and because he hears one or two commentators analyzing someone’s swing, he assumes their advice is well suited for you, too.
There’s nothing in golf quite like making pure contact. If you’ve never felt an absolutely pure golf shot, then you must keep reading, because I’ve got a method that will allow you to achieve this magical feeling! If you have experienced this sensation, then chances are it’s the main reason that you’re hooked on this great game. And if you love golf, I’m sure you’d like to learn to make that pure contact more consistently.
Considering the fact that Jim Furyk is the second best-ranked player in the world and he’s in the top five on the PGA Tour in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation, there’s really no need to take apart and analyze the unorthodox movements in Furyk’s unique but effective golf swing. Instead, let’s look at the good stuff we all can learn from perhaps the most underrated major championship and 12-time winner on the PGA Tour. (By the way, he’s definitely going to win a lot more.) Here you’ll see Furyk near impact as he warms up during a crisp Los Angeles morning at the Nissan Open.
Unlike the full swing, putting requires the utmost in limited and controlled movements. Any swaying, lifting or sliding can cause you to miss putts. The same holds true for your eyes. Any deviation from the golf ball through impact can lead to a variety of mis-hits that affect not only your aim but your distance control as well.
I can’t tell you how many people come to my lesson tee and say, “If I could just get rid of my baseball swing, then all my problems would be solved!” My initial thought is always: I wish you had a baseball swing, because it would help you play better golf.
No matter how hard you work at achieving a technically sound golf swing, once in a while you’ll encounter a small flaw that causes your shots to run amuck. One of the most overlooked and easy-to-fix mistakes golfers make involves the position of the hands at the top of the backswing. For all intents and purposes, you can have a perfect weight shift, a great arm extension, a powerful coil, and the perfect head and spine position, but if you don’t have your hands holding the clubshaft properly at the top of the swing—well, the downswing may as well be doomed from the start.
A plethora of training aids are available today to help improve various elements of the golf swing. From building golf muscles to learning the proper swing plane to adding flexibility, it’s all covered, even putting.
If you're serious about improving your golf game, visiting a top-notch golf school is a great idea. Single-day, weekend and week-long options are available, as well as a full array of facilities including on-site practice ranges, computer analysis systems, clubfitting, and more. Consult our golf school directory and find the program that's right for you.
Too often, I’ve watched golfers set up to the ball correctly with a consistent routine, good alignment and solid posture. But in the last few seconds of the setup, during the moment when the golfer takes a last look at the hole, the setup falls apart, gets cockeyed and the golfer can’t help but hit the ball any which way but straight. Sound familiar?
Part of being a skillful player is “reading” the situation, choosing the right shot and then being able to execute that particular play. Taking into account all your options is important, but most golfers never consider the versatility the game allows. For example, when faced with a bunker shot, most golfers think “blast.” But in some situations, thinking “chip” may produce the better result.
Bad lies are one thing, but there’s nothing worse than a situation where your backswing is completely restricted. The feeling of helplessness can be pretty disheartening. For most golfers, the only play is to chip back into the fairway—a momentum-breaker that’s not going to help you if your goal is to shoot low numbers. But take a closer look—you may be able to knock it near or even on the green if you know this savvy technique.
When you desire a softer type of explosion shot out of the bunker from this normally “hot” lie, you need to employ an open clubface and relaxed hands. Make your angle of attack steeper by leaning your weight toward your front foot. This weight shift also accentuates the digging action of the clubhead, making soft hands and an open clubface that much more critical. Otherwise, the golf ball will come out with more velocity than desired.
Unlike the golf swing, there are almost no centrifugal forces at work in the putting stroke. Therefore, whatever you do at address pretty much determines what you’ll do with the putter during the stroke. In studying the best players on Tour, it’s easy to find common denominators in both their setup positions and strokes. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, common traits run rampant in the setup positions of great putters. Specifically, they establish four key setup lines.
A square putterface and a straight-back, straight-through path are crucial fundamentals for a solid stroke. These two elements control direction, which is undeniably one of the two most important aspects of good putting. However, perhaps the most important fundamental, rhythm, is often overlooked. Rhythm establishes the steadiness of the putting stroke and is the main factor in controlling distance and speed. Rhythm is the heartbeat of a good stroke, and is at least as important, if not more so, than any other aspect of successful putting.
They don’t keep stats for it on the PGA Tour, but all pros excel at hitting the mid-range lob. It’s played with your highest-lofted club (usually a lob wedge) from around 30 yards, and it’s one of those shots that, if you pull it off to save par or make birdie, can energize the rest of your round.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous Sam Snead tip, “Hear your putts.” To ensure that he didn’t come out of his putts too early, the “Slammer” held fast in his putting posture until he hopefully heard the ball rattle the bottom of the cup.
The chipping and putting motions are linear in nature. By that, I mean the face remains square to the target line throughout, never opening or closing like it does with full swings from the fairway and the tee. Moreover, the path of the stroke shouldn’t deviate from the target line. Realizing these facts can save a lot of amateur golfers a lot of headaches around the green, where the majority of less-than-skilled players chip the ball with a full-swing technique and leave themselves with a lengthy putt.
If you want to increase your ballstriking ability, you need to understand how to rotate your hips properly in the golf swing. Most amateur golfers rotate their hips too far during the backswing, which makes it difficult for them to get their hips to open up to the target at impact, a key component of a successful swing.
Even good golfers with sound, grooved swings come untracked now and then, especially if they lose the flex in the back leg trying for distance. If you stiffen your back leg during the backswing, your body will likely tilt out of balance, making it tough to re-flex the knee just the right amount in time for impact. If you can play some great golf, but consistency is your problem, it might be that you need a dose of Special K. Here’s how it works.