When your driving goes south -- or when situations call for something other than the big dog -- ?don't forget your options
The well-worn cliché drive for show, putt for dough is familiar to
most golfers, but heeded by few. Hitting big drives is, in fact, often
the most desirable accomplishment in the game for many recreational
players, most of whom are less concerned with score than the bragging
rights that accompany a long drive. Players who are interested in
shooting good scores, however, know that accurate driving, or
strategically positioning the ball off the tee, is a critical part of
playing solid golf, and sometimes mandates the use of different clubs.
Many popular swing tips and equipment theories are just plain wrong
If you practice your backswing at a gas pump while talking on your cell
phone, the station will explode. Its myths like this—though hardly as
ludicrous—that can send golfers who need the right answers into a
tailspin. The trouble with myths is that most sound reasonable, and
usually are passed from one golfer to the next with only good
intentions. Nevertheless, the common tip shared across grill room
tables and on tee boxes nationwide tends to do more harm than good if
only because the true reasoning behind the suggestion is misunderstood.
Lets clear the air, shall we?
Quick Fixes To Save You From Suffering A Bad Day On The Course
The situation: You’re on the range hitting balls, extremely off line
and not very solid, with only 10 minutes remaining before your assigned
tee time. The remedy: W.O.O.D.—quick adjustments that Work Only One
Day, otherwise known as the “quick fix.” These “Band-Aids” are a
necessary part of the game and come in handy when you don’t have time
to seek out a long-term correction from your teaching pro. The key is
knowing what needs adjusting. If you choose the wrong adjustment,
things could get worse.
In with the new. The swings of today?s top young golfers are vastly more efficient than those used by yesterday's heroes, which begs the question
The trophy cases of the likes of Nicklaus, Irwin, Miller, Stewart and
Trevino are full of championship hardware, but all had swings that
would now be considered old-fashioned. Yesterdays players used a
significant amount of lateral lower-body movement, which placed a lot
of undue stress on the neck, hips and back. The great young players of
today strive for a more stacked position at impact, which is both more
efficient and much healthier for the body.
Currently ranked fifth in the world, Retief Goosen is an elite-level player who has two U.S. Open titles on his resume and the potential to win several more. Known for long, accurate driving and clutch putting, Goosen’s swing is somewhat idiosyncratic, filled with compensating moves that make it less than ideal by modern standards.
Body alignment is one of two key setup elements most frequently changed by amateur golfers (the other is ball position). Because players often associate the alignment of their upper body with the starting direction of the ball off the clubface, they tend to incorrectly alter their alignment for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is to compensate for a chronic pull slice. While the logic of aiming the torso further left to prevent hitting the ball to the right may appear sound at first, this faulty compensation actually causes more harm than good in the long term.
To be a great putter, you have to have sound fundamentals. This requires a steady putting stroke that regularly sends the ball rolling in the desired direction. You also ought to have a clear idea of what direction you should roll the ball—not only in the first few feet, but also during the entire distance of the putt. To do this effectively, you need to know how the green breaks by looking at two components of the putt: speed and direction. Some instructors argue that speed is the most important factor in putting because it dictates direction—that is, more speed equals less break, less speed equals more break.
Take the high route over what?s between you and your target
Many golfers have difficulty in hitting a high-trajectory shot when they have to. A reason for this inability is a ball position that’s too far back in the stance. This makes varying the trajectory of your shots nearly impossible.
The secret to consistently putting well is to match your posture to
your stroke type. However, the conventional wisdom applied by most
recreational golfers is that while putting, anything goes (witness the
claw grip, the left-hand low technique and the belly-anchored stroke).
And while many a Tour victory has been fueled by an unorthodox method,
one fundamental shouldnt be ignored: How you stand to the ball
conditions how you stroke it.
Regardless of where you play, youll eventually face a tough pitch off
hardpan. This is a dicey situation, as ultra-tight lies such as hardpan
make it easy for the clubhead to bounce off the turf and into the top
half of the golf ball, skulling it over the green. The key for pitches
off hardpan is to make sure the clubhead does anything but bounce off
the turf. Knowing how to accomplish this will save you strokes
not only in this situation, but in dozens of others that involve tight lies.
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.