Tips From The Tour
Improve your game by learning from the pros
The best players in the world are as proficient as they are for very good reasons. Not only do they possess an incredibly high level of talent and athletic ability, but they also have sound fundamentals and outstanding overall technique. If you’re going to learn from anyone, these are the guys you want to study. In every aspect of the game, PGA Tour players excel because they have spent untold hours on the practice range and the course honing their skills. Though most amateurs don’t have the time to dedicate to this type of approach, I always have my students look closely at pro swings so they can get a clear picture of what proper technique looks like. I suggest you do the same with this story, keeping in mind what parts of your game are lacking and what you need to improve.
Shape Your Finish
Competing on the highest level of tournament golf requires players to make a lot of birdies. To get the ball close to the hole, Tour players are forced to curve the ball both ways (left to right, right to left) from tee to green and to do so on command. Though this may seem like a daunting task for most amateur players, understanding how your followthrough affects ballflight will go a long way toward becoming a shotmaker. Here, Stuart Appleby works toward the finish, with his right shoulder down and his left elbow higher than the right elbow (below, right). This position keeps the clubface square longer after impact, ensuring the ball will fade from left to right. In the inset photo (below, left), notice that his right shoulder comes out higher and his elbows are level. This combination of elements frees up the release of both his arms and the club, which increases clubhead speed and distance. Try mimicking these two finishes with both your woods and irons.
Power And Trajectory
Tour golf requires power and control. The key to both is in the release of the club through impact. K.J. Choi is known for piercing iron shots and a strong, left-to-right ballflight. Note how his arms and club go left immediately after impact (below, left). This keeps the trajectory of the shot lower and encourages a ball that falls softly to the right. In contrast, Luke Donald’s release is built for power (below, right). His arms and club go out and away from his body after impact. This allows the club to pass his body, transferring the stored energy into the ball and maximizing power. Also, the shot’s trajectory will tend to be higher while the outward direction of the club path helps to create a shot shape that moves right to left. Luke Donald maximizes his power by allowing his arms and clubhead to shoot out, away from his body.
|Luke Donald (right) maximizes his power by allowing his arms and clubhead to shoot out, away from his body.|
To practice both releases, lay a stick down parallel to the target line and try to hit both fades and draws. For a lower shot that moves left to right, try to move your hands immediately left after impact, with the shaft staying angled to the stick on the ground. This will prevent your forearms from rotating during impact and will keep the clubface slightly open. For a higher, right-to-left ballflight, let the clubhead pass your hands just after impact. This promotes a more inside attack while also allowing the clubface to rotate more actively during impact. As a result, more energy will be transferred into the ball, resulting in a higher, right-to-left shot.
Learning the proper release is a great way to develop your shotshaping ability. Don’t be afraid to exaggerate at first.