How To Be A Complete Player
There are only three ways the club can release, and it’s measured just postimpact when both arms are straight. Vertical hinging is a reverse-roll feel that keeps the clubface relatively open through impact. This is the proper release for any player who wants to consistently fade the ball with a high trajectory.
Angled hinging has more of a no- roll feel and is appropriate for the player who wants to produce a neutral ballflight. You’ll notice that the clubface has rotated more fully than in the vertical-hinge release, but while it may look more closed it’s simply a normal, free release. For the majority of players who struggle with hooks, slices or just plain inconsistent driving, this is the release I’d recommend. Properly educating your hands is absolutely critical for shot control and a sense of confidence.
Horizontal hinging has a full-roll feeling and is appropriate for the player who wants to produce a right-to-left shot shape. It also is good for those who want to keep the ball on a lower trajectory. In the photo, the clubhead may appear to be totally closed, but in truth, it’s simply what an aggressive, full release looks like. If you want to experiment with different types of release, take your wedge and hit a few shots to a practice green. You’ll quickly see and feel the differences.
The position of the hands and arms are an excellent indicator or what type of shot a player is trying to hit. Here you see an example of an abbreviated, or “cut off,” finish. This position is typically the result of a lower-trajectory shot that travels from right to left. You’ll see Tiger Woods in this position when he’s using his stinger shot to get the ball in play.
This is a textbook-finish position with the hands above the clubhead and the arms resting comfortably without a lot of strain on the back. Notice how my left elbow is at a height that’s exactly between where it is in the photo on the left and the one on the right. This is a good way to measure your finish. Always try to achieve a finish position that doesn’t strain your body.
A more vertical finish, as seen here, is the result of a high shot that typically travels from left to right. The swing path that led to this position is generally more upright and sometimes travels slightly from outside to in. A player like Colin Montgomerie finishes in this position because his main shot is a high, soft fade. If you struggle with slicing, avoid this finish at all costs.
When deciding what shot to play from the tee, the first thing you have to do is assess the situation and determine what shot you feel best fits the shape of the landing area. Here it’s pretty clear that the best shot is one that moves from right to left. Of course, if you can hit a straight shot that lands where the arrow is pointing, that’s fine too, but any shot other than a draw in this situation effectively makes the fairway smaller. When possible, try to make the fairway bigger.
Tee shots are definitely not the only instances where curving the ball on command can help produce lower scores. In fact, shotmaking is probably more valuable when approaching the green. Here you can see that the shot I’m faced with features a flag that’s positioned with trouble on the right and the fat part of the green on the left. The highest-percentage shot for this situation is one that travels from left to right, curving from the fat part of the green toward the pin. If I happen to hit it straight, I’m safe, and if I fade it more than I want, I’m still on the green. This is the main benefit of learning to be a shotmaker—making your targets effectively bigger by shaping your shots to fit the layout of the golf course.
Tom Stickney is the director of instruction at Bighorn GC in Palm Desert, Calif., and The Club at Cordillera in Edwards, Colo.
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