Keep Your Hands Low Limiting the height of the followthrough will effectively reduce the height of your shots. The lower the hands, the lower the ballflight. Moving the ball back in your stance or choosing a stronger club and trying to swing easy are other ways to accomplish the same thing, but they're less reliable and more difficult to execute. Instead, keep your hands low in the finish (compare the two photos at right), and the trajectory of your shots will be lower.
2. Give Your Spine The Forearm Make sure you're on-plane at the top of the swing to guarantee solid ballstriking and increased accuracy. Notice in the photo at left how my right forearm is parallel to my spine, my left wrist is flat and my elbows and arms form a tight triangle. These are indications that I've rotated my shoulders into the backswing perfectly.
3. Use Your Body For Power Every good golfer knows that power comes from the body, not the arms. To learn to power the club with your body instead of your arms and hands, put the club behind the ball at address, with your body in a dead-stop position. Without taking a backswing, try to drag the ball into the air. If you're a player who uses his or her hands to control the club, you'll probably struggle at first. However, you'll quickly find that once you start moving the club with your body, you'll begin to get the ball in the air more consistently. This helps you turn fully through the ball on the downswing.
Brady Riggs, PGA, is a Golf Tips Senior Instruction Editor and one of the most sought-after instructors in Southern California. Photography by Warren Keating.
4. Hinge For Power 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 and control.
Several simple steps can be taken to gain control over the length of the swing in order to create more solid contact. At setup, a 45-degree angle should be present between the left arm and the clubshaft. This starts the swing with the wrists already hinged halfway to the necessary 90 degrees. During the takeaway, the hands should stay close to the ground while the clubhead moves up quickly. The goal is to get the left thumb pointing at the right shoulder as soon as possible. You'll know you've achieved the proper wrist hinge when your left arm is parallel to the ground and the clubshaft is perpendicular to it. This sets the wrists much earlier in the backswing, eliminating the need to swing the arms too far at the top. The tendency to lose posture and reverse pivot will be removed with this more compact golf swing.
Creating the proper wrist hinge in the backswing will lead to noticeably better ballstriking and, as a result, more consistent distance and direction on all iron shots.
PGA professional Brady Riggs teaches at Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Van Nuys, Calif. For more information, visit www.bradyriggs.com.
5. Give Your Slice The Elbow Some players like John Daly swing with their elbow flying out, while others like Sergio Garcia keep it in, proving that it's possible to hit great shots with either method. However, my biomechanical studies indicate that the flying right elbow position favors a fade ballflight while a tucked right elbow promotes a draw. If you struggle with slicing or have always wanted to develop a power-rich draw, then the right elbow may hold the answer. Plus, when you let the right elbow fly, it has the tendency to raise the right shoulder skyward, which almost always causes an over-the-top move during the downswing and an array of bad results.
The key for long-term success is to eliminate the faulty shoulder tilt and right elbow position at the top. The most efficient right elbow position for keeping slices at bay and promoting a draw is on or just inside the seam running down the right side of your shirt. When you place your right elbow in this general area, it allows the shoulders to turn level to the spine, making it much easier to drop the club inside on the downswing for maximum power and improved control.
Tom Stickney is the director of instruction at the Club at Cordillera in Vail, Colo. (www.tomstickneygolf.com).
6. Solid Plane = No Slice An open face at the point of contact can cause a slice. So, too, can a faulty swing path, even if your clubface is square to the target at impact. Slicers' swing paths tend to come too much outside in (hookers, vice versa). All golfers need a path that comes just slightly from the inside. Try the Box Drill. Take the top half of a golf ball box and stand it on its side. Align the box parallel to your target line as shown. Strive to groove a path that allows the shaft to pass just over the box. For slicers, set up the box on the same line, but just forward of the golf ball. Don't hit the box!
7. Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Hookers need to stop the clubface from closing too soon. To do this, adopt a thumbs-down approach to impact. In the photos at right, you clearly can see the red side of the paddle with both my thumbs pointing down toward the ground. This type of movement slows the closing of your clubface, thus eliminating shots that curve to the left. In the second photo, the blue side of the paddle shows. This thumbs-up position is what slicers need to attain (a closing of the clubface).
PGA professional and GT Senior Instruction Editor Chuck Winstead is the director of instruction at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La., and also is the coach of the LSU golf team.
8. No Flips "Flippiness" (the dreaded early release) occurs if your body gets too far in front of the golf ball. When this happens, your club will drastically lag, usually with an open face. Instinctually, your hands will work to close the face at impact. This level of timing is difficult even for the pros to execute on a consistent basis. What usually happens is the clubhead races in front of the shaft and strikes the ball with an open or a closed face, and typically on an ascending arc. In baseball, if you get too far in front, you'll hit the ball to right field, unless you flip the wrists. The same is true in golf. You need to establish a firm left side to keep your head behind the ball and stop the flip. Photography by Warren Keating
Glenn Deck is the Director of Instruction at Pelican Hill G.C. in Newport Beach, California
Usual suspects Enemy number one: Your body is out of position or out of balance. Your body senses this, so your hands take over to try to get the clubface squared at impact. However, this adjustment usually takes the form of a flick or flip of the wrists.
Fixing The Flip Set up to an impact bag (or an old duffel bag stuffed with towels), push the clubhead into the bag and set your body into a good impact position. The lead arm and shaft should form one straight, vertical line with the head back. Make sure your lead leg is braced and that your hips are turned slightly open. Hold this position to create the proper feel.
9. Chipping Although it's tempting to hit chips indoors, all it takes is one broken lamp to realize that golf is an outdoor activity. Nevertheless, you can improve your chipping technique within the friendly confines of your own living room with the help of a wooden dowel or broken golf shaft.Take the dowel and place it through the hole on the top of the grip on a pitching wedge. Push the dowel roughly eight to 12 inches down the butt end of the shaft (a little Vaseline may help the dowel slide easier through the clubshaft). Two to three feet of the dowel should extend outward from the top of the grip.
Now, practice your chipping motion, making sure that your left wrist remains rigid as the clubface passes through the impact zone. If your left wrist breaks down (a flaw that can cause a lot of short-game misery), you'll feel the protruding portion of the dowel hit against your left side. In addition to guarding against wrist breakdown, the dowel will also help you to establish the proper hands-forward position at address—a crucial factor for clean contact.
The dowel also will force you to keep your hands moving forward and swing the club down the target line in the followthrough. Once you master this drill, you'll be able to get up and down with the best of them.
As you perform these drills, you'll begin to see the value of other everyday items in helping you improve your game. Don't be afraid to experiment—you may just develop the next must-have training aid.
Special thanks to instruction model, PGA professional Rick Avina. Avina instructs at Punta Mita Golf Club in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Photography by Warren Keating
10. Stay In Your K Even good golfers with sound, grooved swings come untracked now and then, especially if they lose the flex in the back leg trying for distance. If you stiffen your back leg during the backswing, your body will likely tilt out of balance, making it tough to re-flex the knee just the right amount in time for impact. If you can play some great golf, but consistency is your problem, it might be that you need a dose of Special K. Here's how it works.
K Pasa? At address, the Special K is the angle formed in your back leg by the upper and lower leg. The manner in which you stand to the ball determines in large part how well you maintain your Special K during your swing.
The best advice is to establish an athletic, ready-to-move setup. Create this posture by bending forward from the hip sockets and back from the knees. When your back leg is flexed correctly, it creates room for your arms to swing and aligns the joints, one on top of the other. You should be able to draw a line from the top of the spine through the tip of the elbow and then from the tip of your knee down through the ball joint of your foot.
Keeping The K To keep your swing level, this angle should be maintained from address to just after impact. A good way to experience what it feels like to keep the Special K while you swing is to look in a mirror while you take practice swings. Start with the setup position shown in the photo, below left. Hold it steady, then look in the mirror to connect the sight and feel of the correct back leg flex for that position. Next, swing to the top. Again, hold that position and use the mirror to see if you maintained the angle in your back leg.
Setup In the Special-K setup, the body has that athletic look common to many sports—a posture ready for action. At address, flex your back knee to discourage any up-and-down body motion while you swing. If you prepare yourself correctly, you won't have to make any adjustments once your swing begins—all you have to do is rotate. Check your lower leg to make sure that it's straight up and down (note that the crease in my pant leg is vertical). When the crease points toward the shaft, you know your lower leg is slanted at a bad angle. The reason the Special-K position is so important is that it unlocks the hips so they're free to rotate. When the back leg locks and straightens at the knee, the back hip freezes, causing the body to tilt rather than turn. Impact Through impact, the trailing arm snaps straight, releasing power into the ball as the back knee kicks toward the target, still in its Special-K flex. Just after impact, both arms are straight, with the clubhead below the hands and the butt of the club pointing toward the middle of the body. Backswing When you keep the Special-K position during your backswing, it allows your elbows to stay level near the top of your swing. This, in turn, keeps the clubface from twisting out of position. Staying in your K makes your backswing more rounded and, instead of elevating the clubhead suddenly and tearing it off of its swing arc, the clubshaft travels on the correct swing path with a gradual, power-gathering ascent of the club.
Another good learning method is to practice swinging with a shaft placed in the ground and angled to match the slant of your upper leg. You won't be able to see the shaft while you swing, but you'll sense that it's there, and that will help you maintain your Special K.
Once you establish the Special K at address, your goal is to maintain it all the way through your swing until after the ball has been launched. In order to do so, you'll have to start your swing by shifting your weight into your trailing hip so you can make a level lower body turn. If you fail to make this crucial weight transfer, your trailing hip will likely float upward and destroy your Special K.
A second key occurs as you start back down to the ball. Here, establish your front hip as the rotational center of your swing. By focusing on the right hip, you'll better prepare it to receive your forward weight shift, and it also allows you to maintain your back leg flex through the impact area and beyond.
PGA teaching professional Dr. T.J. Tomasi is regarded as one of the top 100 instructors in America. He's a Golf Tips Senior Instruction Editor and teaches at Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts.
Bonus! Tempo Training When I watch a golfer hit a 7-iron, then a driver, he or she invariably amps up the swing speed with the longer club. Surely, the clubhead of the driver moves faster because it's longer, but it's because of the principles of physics, not because the golfer is swinging the club with a faster tempo.
Tempo is the total amount of time it takes to create your golf swing from beginning to end. Some players have a relatively fast tempo, like Nick Price, while others have a slower tempo, like Fred Couples. Either way is fine, as long as you keep the same tempo for each club in the bag. Golfers get into trouble when they either slow down or speed up their natural tempo.
When your tempo starts varying from club to club, the timing required to hit consistent golf shots is destroyed. That's one reason why you feel you can hit your irons well one day, but not the woods, and vice versa. For every club in the bag, the tempo should be the same. It should take the same amount of time to make a swing with your pitching wedge as it does for the 7-iron and the driver, for example. What's different is the speed of the clubhead. Because the driver is longer than a wedge, the clubhead moves faster throughout the swing, but if it takes two seconds to swing a wedge, it should take the same two seconds to swing the driver.
Discover your ideal tempo by making three continuous practice swings, without a ball, using a 5-iron. Make the swings in a pendulum fashion, back and through, while maintaining good balance. Then hit a teed golf ball, focusing on repeating the same tempo with a balanced finish. Perform this drill with short irons, long irons and woods as well to see if your tempo—and timing—remain constant.
Lana Ortega is a Class A LPGA member and director of instruction at the McGetrick Golf Academy in Denver, Colo. (www.mcgetrickgolf.com).
This story was originally published in 2007. Its content is occasionally updated.