Chipping and putting are two areas of the game where everyone can improve. Improve your chipping and putting, and you’ll significantly reduce your handicap. The touring pros spend more time practicing their short games than all of their other shots combined. How many weekend golfers can say the same?
The proper putting setup is an important ingredient in a golfer’s success. Setting the eyes in the correct position is one of the critical factors that’s often overlooked. On that subject, there are two schools of thought.
Over the years, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the proper position of the right elbow at the top of the backswing. Some players like John Daly swing with their elbow flying out, while others like Sergio Garcia keep it in, proving that it’s possible to hit great shots with either method. However, my biomechanical studies with PGA Tour pros using the K-Vest, developed by Bentley Kinetics, indicate that the flying right-elbow position favors a fade ballflight while a tucked right elbow promotes a draw.
Elementary tips and do-it-yourself teaching aids for keeping your swing in shape during the off-season
When it comes to posture, the key is to establish your natural spine angle, which will allow the body to rotate freely throughout the golf swing. A good training aid to help improve your posture can be fashioned with a broomstick, sponge, six-inch ruler, scissors, pen and a belt.
If you’re one of the millions of golfers who battles a slice, odds are you compensate for the left-to-right ballflight by aiming to the left. However, no matter how far to the left you aim, the ball still slices to the right—sometimes worse than it did before. On the occasion you do hit it straight, well, it doesn’t do you much good because you were aimed toward the trees or deep rough on the left. Hmm—you’re doing what you think will fix the problem, but it’s only making the problem worse.
Undoubtedly, the most embarrassing tee shot in golf is the drive that pops straight up, barely clearing the tee box. The pop-up is an agonizing mis-hit most often caused by an excessive forward weight shift on the downswing and a club that approaches the ball on a very steep angle of attack. The steep descent de-lofts the clubface to such a degree that the topline of the club effectively becomes the leading edge. The result? Not only a humiliating pop-up, but one of the most hated marks in golf: a scuff on the crown of the clubhead. Yuck.
If you tend to skull your fairway woods, it’s because you’re catching the ball on the upswing, often caused by trying to scoop or lift the ball up. To fix this problem, you have to understand that solid ballstriking is sometimes a game of opposites. To hit the ball higher with a fairway wood, you actually have to hit down—as opposed to up—on the ball.
You’re enjoying a great day on the links, and you have an easy pitch to the last green where a par or even a bogey will give you your best score in a month. Easy pitch, easy swing, stick it close. But instead, some evil dragon maliciously guides your hosel toward your ball, and you shank it right of the greenside bunker. The shot so unnerves you that you proceed to shank a succession of shots around the perimeter of the green counterclockwise.
When I watch a golfer hit a 7-iron, then a driver, he or she invariably amps up the swing speed with the longer club. Surely, the clubhead of the driver moves faster because it’s longer, but it’s because of the principles of physics, not because the golfer is swinging the club with a faster tempo.
The word “release” sometimes causes confusion among high-handicappers. They know they have to release the club, but they’re not sure how or when to do it. Here’s the skinny: A proper release happens naturally when the golfer allows the clubface to square through impact as a result of the proper path and clubhead speed. It’s not a position that you can just put yourself into at impact—you have to arrive at it via the proper sequence.
In any sport, the feet and legs must work together in order for the rest of the body to function properly, and golf is no exception. In a fundamentally sound swing, the feet need to roll from side-to-side to provide power and control. On the backswing, the left foot should roll to the inside, and the heel should stay on or near the ground. During the downswing, the right foot should roll to the inside before the heel gets pulled up for the finish. By maintaining contact with the ground, you’ll create leverage and be better able to swing in control.
Recreational golfers who constantly struggle to fix their swing problems would do well to fix their posture first. Rounding the back, flexing the knees too much and tucking the head down to see the ball are common setup faults that can lead to a poor swing. If your posture isn’t right, you’ll be forced to swing with mostly your arms and hands, creating very little shoulder turn.
In instant prior to completing his backswing, Ben Hogan initiated his downswing with his body and arms, creating a lagging action or “snap.” This move resulted in a type of torque similar to that of casting a fishing pole.
Many amateurs allow their right elbow to move too far away from their body at the top of the backswing, so that their elbow is pointing behind them, almost in the position of a baseball player in a batting stance. This “flying” right elbow at the top of the swing is a frequent cause of a nasty pull or slice.
Let’s assume you get the club to the top of the backswing, positioned somewhere above the right shoulder. You feel on balance, the swing is on-plane, but you still manage to either slice the ball or push it to the right to some degree. Frustrating as all hell, isn’t it?
At my power clinics and exhibitions, I often recommend to audiences that they try to develop the feeling of holding a golf club long enough at the top of their backswing for someone to hang a shirt on it—the Clothesline Effect, if you will.
Like anyone else, I have days when I’m not hitting the ball as crisply as I’d like. If I’m blocking my golf shots or hitting weak pushes, I always go back to basics and make sure I’m releasing the clubhead. Once I start releasing the clubhead properly again, I’ll regain my distance—and my accuracy.
Golfers often talk about the importance of keeping a straight left arm during the backswing. Equally important, but seldom discussed, is the value of keeping the right arm straight during the first two feet of the takeaway. I see many amateurs bend their right elbow too much at address—which causes incorrect posture—and fold their right elbow too quickly as they take the club back. These right elbow flaws create a lifting action and produce a too-narrow swing arc, robbing players of their power potential.
There’s more than one way to hit the ball long. Just look at the swings of long hitters like Tiger Woods, John Daly and Fred Couples. Each is different and each serves its purpose well. However, to hit your longest, most powerful drives, three elements must be present: You must fully release the club, swing with an even tempo and remain in balance.
One key to hitting more powerful golf shots is keeping your body behind the ball before impact. A premature lifting of the right foot during the downswing causes golfers to shift too much of their weight to the left side, resulting in a loss of power and distance.
As an instructor, one of the most common swing flaws I see is the dreaded reverse pivot. This move wreaks havoc on any golfer’s ability to hit consistently good golf shots. One of the best ways to overcome the reverse pivot is to try a drill designed to make it impossible to hold your weight back on your downswing. I call it the baseball drill, or the “Happy Gilmore,” named after the title character in the film who steps into the golf ball the way a field goal kicker lunges toward the ball.
You’ll discover the need to hit over an obstacle—tree, fence, even a scoreboard—during the course of an everyday round. And while amateurs fear the shot, pros know that only a few setup adjustments can fuel success.
Acceleration is the increasing speed at which the clubhead moves through the ball and is important not only for hitting shots of substantial distance, but also for short putts. In fact, if you find that you’re missing too many short putts, the cause may be failure to accelerate the putterhead. Here’s a drill that will help.