Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Caddy Knows Best
Five key tips learned from a PGA Tour caddy
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.
What mistakes do top players make, and how do they fix them? Let’s take a quick peek at five of the more common physical and mental mistakes I’ve seen the best and the worst golfers make, as well as a few tricks that may help you become a better player.
#1 Play To Your Strengths
Even though PGA Tour players can easily work the ball in any direction, in most cases, it’s usually best to stick with whatever shot comes naturally—no matter where the pin is on the green. In this case, the pin is at the back left part of the green. If I were caddying for a player who naturally hits a draw, I’d advise him to go right at the pin. If my player hits a fade, I’d most likely advise this player to hit the middle of the green and not try and force a draw. Secondly, I’d do my best to assess the slope of the green from the tee, and since this pin doesn’t favor a fade, I’d let my player know where the best spot on the green is for him to roll in a mid-range putt for birdie.
Lesson Learned: Playing great golf isn’t about shaping shots around the golf course. It’s about shaping shots to your strength.
#2 Don’t Neglect Your Routine
Guys like Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard have notorious pre-shot routines that are often scoffed at by the casual observer who doesn’t realize the pressure these players face during competition. Truth is, every great player has a systematic approach to each shot. A pre-shot routine is critical to ensure a proper setup, which, in turn, dictates how the body is positioned during the swing. Better players know that the setup begins with the clubface and works its way up through the body—not the other way around! Therefore, before you address your body to the ball, set the club square to the target, the shoulders parallel, then the feet either square with the shoulders or slightly open. Many amateurs make the mistake of setting the feet first, which leads to manipulating the clubface angle and shoulder positions.
Lesson Learned: Pre-shot routines are key if you want to be consistent. Develop a routine you’re comfortable with, and remember to set the club first before the body.
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