A quiet body, a ball at rest, a short back-and-forth motion—how could
something so simple cause so many headaches? Its a question that
occupies the minds of touring professionals and weekend warriors alike.
Wouldnt it be great if putting was as simple as it sounds, where every
round was as automatic as the clinic Aaron Baddeley put on at Harbour
Town this year (97 putts over 72 holes)? Jeff Ritter, director of
instruction at the ASU Karsten Golf Academy in Tempe, Ariz., believes
putting isnt complicated. And to help solve your putting woes, he has
put together his No-Frills Putting Drills—nine straightforward,
no-nonsense exercises intended to be practiced on your own, without the
aid of an instructor. Practice these drills and, before you know it,
youll actually look forward to working with the flatstick.
Amateurs have problems hitting crisp iron shots due to two fatal flaws.
First, the takeaway tends to be too low to the ground, which delays the
proper hinging of the wrists until too late in the backswing. Second,
in a misguided effort to create power, the arms tend to swing too far
in the backswing. This causes a breakdown in posture and usually leads
to a reverse pivot. These flaws cause mis-hits and a lack of distance
To get the clubhead traveling a little faster (a necessary requirement
for hitting longer shots), you need to create a longer backswing with
an increase in the amount of arm swing and body turn. Not only must the
swing be a little longer, but you need to pick up the pace of your
swing to increase clubhead speed as well. The pace of the forwardswing
should be slightly faster than normal.
Most of my students struggle with the slice. Many of these golfers have
serious swing issues, but the majority certainly possess enough talent
and an understanding of the golf swing to keep slices at bay. The
problem is theyre trapped into hitting slices because their setup
facilitates swinging on the out-in path to which all slices owe their
Uphill and downhill lies are a challenge as they demand balance and control of the clubface throughout the swing
Set up with your spine perpendicular to the slope and shoulders
parallel to the ground so you can swing up the slope on the backswing
and down the slope on the forwardswing. The arrangement of your body
will favor the creation of an upright swing and make it more difficult
to square the face through the hitting area—thats why a shot from a
downhill lie tends to curve a little to the right. To help shallow the
plane and encourage a swing thats a little more around your body, drop
your right foot back to close your stance slightly and match up the
ball position to your stance by putting it about two inches back of
The majority of recreational golfers fail to achieve the balance needed
to excel at golf or any athletic activity. One of the reasons why most
golfers dont swing in balance is that they swing too hard. A rule I
like to impose on my students is Swing as hard as you want to as long
as you finish the swing in balance.
One of the keys to a solid golf swing is a level turn of the shoulders
and hips during the backswing. A solid rotation not only promotes
consistent ballstriking, but lays the foundation for achieving maximum
distance as well.
Im frequently approached at my power clinics and exhibitions by senior
golfers who claim theyve lost strength and suppleness, which
translates into shorter tee shots. My advice to them for regaining lost
distance is simple and direct: pre-load your power. By that I mean
seniors should make a few swing adjustments to compensate for advancing
age and a diminished ability to turn their shoulders and torque their
You cant hit big drives if your body gets stuck. Thats why I make a
point of rotating my hips completely open on the downswing. This allows
my arms to fully extend through the hitting area. Not only do my hips
clear, but they remain level, which is key. By rotating through on a
level plane, my right shoulder, arm and hip are able to continue adding
power through impact. This prevents my body from getting stuck, which
would limit the potential for clubhead speed by forcing me to hit only
with my hands.
One of the first lessons most golfers learn is to keep your eye on the
ball. Im here to offer a better suggestion: Move your eyes behind the
ball. Heresy, you say? I dont think so. Thats because when a golfer makes
his or her backswing with a full turn of the shoulders and a proper
shift of weight, the center of his or her chest, or sternum, will be
well behind the ball. (Exactly how far behind the ball depends on an
individuals suppleness and flexibility.)
There are many keys to a powerful swing, and my number-one focus is to
establish a powerful backswing coil. Notice how my left arm is parallel
to the ground while the shaft is perpendicular to it. This position
indicates a massive turn away from the ball and not a simple lifting of
the club to the top (you can see my entire body stretching and
straining to get turned). The coil is further enhanced by my left foot,
which is firmly on the ground. This limits the amount I can turn my
hips while still allowing me to rotate my shoulders as much as
Many amateurs are so consumed with anxiety about the incremental parts
of the golf swing (grip, alignment, posture, setup, etc.) that they
lose sight of the overall objective, which is to strike the ball
squarely and forcefully. Let me suggest a method to alleviate this
anxiety: Focus on the finish.
Sometimes golf just isn’t fair. Professional baseball has Spring Training. The NFL and NBA have training camps and a handful of preseason scrimmages. But golf? Well, it’s up to each and every professional to get their game on track on their own and show up ready to compete at the highest level. There’s no organized stretching sessions (Can you see Tim Herron or Phil Mickelson showing up?), no group mental conditioning, no preseason practice tournaments. Professionals are left to prepare by themselves.
Golf isn’t a game of who hits it the best, it’s a game of who misses it the least. Even the best players in the world routinely mis-hit shots. In fact, the average Tour player hits only about 12 greens per round! How do they miss one out of every three greens and still manage to routinely shoot under par? Two reasons: steely determination and a red-hot short game.
It's a how-to world these days. Everywhere you look, you'll find someone, somewhere or something dedicated to what I like to call, HTH (How-To Hysteria). How to bake a cake, how to wire a motorcycle, how to build an arboretum, how to fix a car—we as a culture have become so fascinated by the how-to genre that dozens of magazines, Websites and even television channels have been developed to help you help yourself. Luckily, Golf Tips is no exception, as the authors in every instructional story provide you with the scoop on how to become a better player.
As a golf instructor and PGA Tour caddy, I’ve seen my fair share of
golf swings, ranging from the sweet rhythms of the best players in the
world to the herky-jerky moves of the frustrated first-timer. Yet
despite the huge gap in natural ability between the novice and the
professional, I’ve learned it’s not uncommon for the world’s elite
players to struggle with a few of the same mechanics and
course-management issues that a casual 18-handicapper might face during
a round. The swings of touring professionals may be more advanced, but
nobody is ever really immune to the occasional swing flaw or mental
mistake. We’re all human after all.
Beating the slice once and for all is a goal that can be accomplished by almost any golfer, provided the right approach is taken. In my four-step system, there are no quick fixes—just sound instruction that focuses on key slice-causing elements and methods for eliminating them from the golf swing. In step one, you'll learn to analyze your divots and figure out if your slice is the result of a bad path or a faulty clubface angle, or both. Step two will tell you how to determine what type of downswing you have and what powers it. In step three, the question of proper grip and how to match it to your downswing type is addressed, and in step four, you'll learn to match your position at the top with the right transitional move toward the ball and impact.
The first fundamental I teach every new student is how to properly hold the club because good golf swings start with good grips. Your hands are your only connection to the club, thus making them the primary mover of the shaft and controller of the clubface. If you hold the club incorrectly, youre immediately at a disadvantage and more likely to make compensations in your swing.
Match your swing to your body type for maximum performance
Not all athletes or golfers have an extreme body type. Instead, a great
number of players fall into the in-between category, meaning they
have a relatively average build with a solid combination of
flexibility and strength. If you have this type of body, you need to
develop a swing that takes advantage of both attributes, not just one
or the other. This body type is best suited to a Leverage swing.
It goes without saying that the players who compete on the PGA Tour are
the best in the world. Not only do they have impressive natural talent,
but every guy out there spends a tremendous amount of time and effort
working on his technique, strategy and fitness. For those of us not
fortunate enough to be able to spend all day, every day improving our
all-around game, this opportunity seems like a dream come true. For the
players on Tour, however, it's a job that they take seriously, and one
that's both extremely competitive and tough.
Never make the same mistake twice and start shooting lower scores by fixing your swing faults
The game of golf is full of excuses. Whether it's an excuse for a bad shot, a bad pair of slacks or the dreaded excuse for a late or missed tee time, golf is littered with blame. Rarely, however, does a golfer blame himself or herself for a poorly hit shot. It could have been a distraction, a bad lie, a miscalculated yardage or my favorite—an unexpected 40 mph gust of wind. In any case, and despite the plethora of excuses for what seems like everything in golf, if you want to get better at actually playing golf, you must check your ego at the door.
An excerpt from Marshall Smith's latest instruction book focuses on the 50-year teaching veteran's favorite tips.
The most important thing you can do to improve your chipping game is to
know your distances precisely. Heres a drill that can help. Find an
area where you can pace off 30, 60 and 90 yards. Then place a small
builders brick at each distance. Hit pitch shots at the 30-yard brick
until you land one on it. Youll get a great thrill from seeing the
ball bounce way up in the air, and you should start to develop
confidence and an aggressive attitude when you begin to hit such a
small target with regularity. After you hit the brick from 30 yards, go
for 60 then 90 yards.
For more clubhead MPH and more yards, turn to your hips
If theres an absolute truth in golf, its that the faster you can move
the clubhead, the greater the potential for extra distance. Granted,
you still need to make solid contact in the center of the face and with
the club moving on the proper plane, but all other things being equal,
more speed definitely means more yards. The big question is: Where does
speed come from? Your hands can move fairly quickly, and theres no
faster part of your body than your fingers. But where the golf swing is
concerned, a fast clubhead almost always results from fast hips moving
correctly and in the proper direction.
Every round requires at least one money-shot situation to win a few skins or to stay competitive when the chips are down
It doesnt matter how great or poor youre playing, any given round
requires at least one spectacular shot to win a skin, save a
much-needed stroke or, in some cases, avert a disaster. We like to call
these money shots, as opposed to miracle shots, because we believe
that with practice, these types of shots will be your go-to plays when
the game is on the line. Better yet, learning a few money shots will
not only help you lower scores, but your overall game is likely to
improve, thanks to a newfound confidence in knowing you can face
anything that comes your way.