Four stellar shots to save par from tough greenside situations
The ability to salvage par from a difficult situation around the green often is the difference between contending for a tournament title and missing the cut. Common scenarios require a high-lofted shot over an obstacle, such as a bunker, heavy rough or a greenside mound. There are four approaches for successfully executing a lofted wedge shot. I refer to them as the Butterfly Lob, the Explosion Pitch, the Bird’s Nest Lob and the Standard Pitch.
Maximize your distance by learning the methods of some of the Tour?s longest hitters
"How do those guys hit it so far?” has got to be the most common question asked by recreational golfers in regard to the pros. Strength training, stretching, finely tuned equipment and lots of practice are certainly part of the reason, not to mention outrageous amounts of talent. But while it’s relatively easy to understand why tall, strongly built guys like Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh can crush their tee shots, it’s not clear to most golf fans why a lot of the average-sized guys on Tour can do it, too.
To say that Ernie Els is one of the greatest golfers of our generation is about as gutsy as laying up from 150 yards. Already a three-time major winner (’94 and ’97 U.S. Opens, ’02 British Open), Els has notched 42 professional victories worldwide (12 on the PGA Tour) in just over a decade. More impressive, Els has 11 second-place finishes to his credit, including four runner-up calls in the majors. Often dubbed “The Big Easy,” Els is certainly big (6’3”, 220 pounds) and his swing is ridiculously effortless. It’s a study of contrasts, as he generates power not by his obvious size, but by employing the proper sequence of downswing moves. Here’s how he does it.
It sounds crazy, but one-armed putting can improve even the worst putting strokes. Putting with your rear arm (the right arm for a right-handed golfer) helps instill a feeling of acceleration through the putt, which is absolutely critical for creating a smooth, end-over-end roll. Rear-arm putting accomplishes this largely due to the weight of the putter—with two hands, it’s easy to manipulate the club and make jabbing or decelerating strokes. But with one hand on the club, you don’t have the coordination or strength to manipulate the putter. You’ll need to rock your shoulders and control the stroke with your body, not your arm, two hallmarks of a fundamentally solid stroke.
Most golfers have felt the agony of wasting a great drive by shanking a wedge shot into the trees or the water. That one shank probably has even made a few of you so paranoid that you shanked the next four shots around the green.
I’d like to let readers in on a little secret that professional long drivers share among themselves: Maximum distance results from somewhat less than maximum effort. Trust me, I’ve been competing in the long drive arena for 20 years, and during that time, I’ve watched competitive long drivers post their best distances when they throttle back from an all-out assault on the ball. So will you.
Get behind the ball for better, more powerful swings
Most golfers know that a full, 90-degree shoulder turn is a crucial element of a solid golf swing. Without it, a proper weight shift and a correct swing plane are almost impossible to achieve. A good shoulder turn not only ensures that your shoulders and chest are behind the ball at the top of the backswing, but helps maintain consistent balance throughout your motion. Before you can master a proper shoulder turn, however, it’s important to understand what it entails and exactly what it is.
Distance control starts with selecting the right club
You’re in the middle of the fairway, 150 yards from the flagstick. “Perfect 7-iron,” you say to yourself, after which you promptly sail the ball over the pin—and over the green. What happened? Likely, you only gave yourself a fraction of the data you needed to select the right club for the shot at hand.
Contrary to popular opinion, loose swings produce loose shots
How many times have you been told to relax your grip, your arms or your entire body to better your golf shots?Everyone has, most often by a well-meaning playing partner hoping to pull you from the depths of a horrible round. However, such misguided advice can wreak havoc on your swing. Most golfers would be better served by tightening up their swings rather than making them looser or, to coin a phrase, “more fluid.” The next time a tournament airs on TV, check out Ernie Els or my old college teammate David Toms.
Most teachers will instruct you to fold your left arm into your left side during your followthrough so your hands and arms can release the clubhead down the target line. That’s certainly good advice, but at times, especially in pressure-packed situations where you absolutely have to hit the ball onto the green with an iron or drive it into the center of the fairway off the tee, not folding your left arm into your side can pay huge dividends.
Do you have a problem striking the ball solidly on a consistent basis? Do you tend to hit behind the ball? Do you struggle getting the ball to go into the air? Do you lack power? If so, it could be that you have too much lateral body movement through impact.
Tour players are hitting the ball dramatically farther these days. Improvements in clubs and balls are contributing factors, but so is the fact that professionals have learned to reduce the amount of spin on their drives. Today’s players put in long hours finding ways to reduce backsin and create the optimal launch angle. Work on the tips below to take spin off your tee shots and hit longer, more penetrating drives.
A step-by-step guide to improving your swing, one frame at a time
Using Video to analyze and improve your golf swing is the essence of being a “serious” student of the game. Attempting to tackle the golf swing without taking advantage of video technology is a tremendous handicap. In fact, there’s no question in my mind that one of the main reasons we’re seeing so many young superstars in golf today is the use of video analysis.
Many amateur golfers sacrifice power and distance because they become infatuated with swinging at the ball—not through it. They’re so intently focused on making solid contact that they become fixated with the point of impact.
Whether you're snowbound or course-bound, here?s all you need to keep your game burning hot
Although there are many different swings, there are only two kinds of golfers: those who live in climes that allow year-round golf and those who don’t. For those who must suffer through months of frost-covered greens, watching wedges and irons collect dust, we feel your pain. However, there’s no reason why you can’t use the between-season time to prep your game for when the gates of your home course reopen to the rites of spring.
Driving the golf ball consistently can lower your scores and increase your enjoyment faster than any other area of the game. Likewise, nothing is more frustrating than having your driver go sour in the middle of a round. When it comes to driving, one of the most common problems for amateurs and pros alike is too much tension. Overly tense muscles not only rob you of distance, but also make accurate driving, and long driving for that matter, extremely difficult. Plus, tension saps your body of energy, making it that much more difficult to play your best. To help get your driver back on track when you need it most, try this quick tip for greater relaxation and better swings.
Discover which slice is yours, then leave it forever
Golf Fact #1: There are millions of golfers who have never hit a hook, but there isn’t a single player alive who hasn’t at one time or another sliced the ball. Why? Think of it this way: In terms of golf survival, the mother of all musts is getting the ball into the air—it’s the first and by far the most important problem you must solve. And to get the ball airborne, many golfers feel the need to chop down on the ball with an open clubface and with a very steep approach. While this technique works well as in “Houston, we have liftoff,” the joy in the control room is short-lived because while steepness is your friend during liftoff, it’s your enemy during the rest of the flight, imparting too much sidespin on the golf ball.
How do you really lower your scores? A change of approach can lead to a favorable change in score
Many of you scour the pages of this magazine looking for the magic answer to this question. If that’s your motivation, then this article is for you. On the following pages, I’ll show you how to drop strokes from your game by simply changing your approach on the tee box and on the putting green. After all, if you can get down the fairway regularly and hole the putts you’re supposed to make—and some of the ones you shouldn’t—you’ll be well on your way to playing your best rounds ever.
In the boxing world, the fighter who can connect his rights has a good shot of knocking out his opponent. In golf, the same holds true, but instead of crosses and uppercuts, you need to connect your right hip and shoulder, a move that augments your balance, puts greater power into your swing and otherwise facilitates a pure, on-plane motion.
What to do and where to be throughout the swing for guaranteed success
When you watch Tour pros on television, you probably notice certain similarities in their respective swings. Good tempo is common, as well as good balance. Do you remember the last time you saw a professional golfer fall down after a swing or take a hack that looked awkward or rushed? Amateur golfers also tend to notice the look and feel of effortlessness Tour pros project during the swing. Of course, the prodigious distance their shots travel and the crispness of their ballstriking are impressive as well. The problem is, most amateurs simply don’t do the things the pros do before, during and after the swing and, as a result, are unable to get the same results. To hit the ball like a pro, you have to understand the moves they make and learn to do them yourself. Then, you’ll be solid.
To fix golf's most common flaw, find out what's causing it
It's a phrase heard on driving ranges, tee boxes and fairways nationwide. “I’m coming over the top.” It’s a lament as common as “I’m lifting my head” or “I’m swinging too fast.” And as hard as golfers try to correct this fault, most endure little success.
Here’s a drill that transforms golfers into more consistent ballstrikers and longer hitters. The most remarkable aspect of this drill is that it doesn’t involve swinging a golf club at all, but I feel strongly it best teaches the athletic movements involved with swinging a club.
For most golfers a left-hand-low grip cures all setup flaws
Every golfer is built differently, but in constructing a putting posture that will yield the most successful results, you have to take into account subtle, less obvious differences in build. The most important of these “anatomical fingerprints” is shoulder lines. When standing naturally, every golfer has shoulders that are either open (left shoulder behind right), closed (right shoulder behind left) or square. Most golfers have open shoulders, and the putting setup that best accommodates this anatomical structure is one that features a cross-handed (left-hand-low) putting grip.
There’s no quicker way to establish yourself as totally clueless on the greens—and to inspire confidence in your opponent—than to set up for a right-to-left putt, make a little pull stroke that sends the ball dead left, and watch the ball meander aimlessly on a path five or six inches below the cup, totally oblivious to the hole. Ditto the left-to-right breaker that you push well right of the hole. There’s a reason they call this “missing on the amateur side”—these are the putts that haven’t got a chance.