Learn Like A Pro

So you can play like one

This Article Features Photo Zoom

As an instructor, I have had the privilege to work with Paige Mackenzie since the winter of 2008. Paige is a tremendous athlete who owns a stellar amateur and college record. The first time I watched Paige hit golf balls, I was impressed by the amount of clubhead speed she possessed and admired her wonderful overall golf swing. But I could tell she wanted to be more consistent, so I went to work with her right away.

Once I filmed her golf swing and broke it down, there were a few areas in which I felt she could improve. The pictures ahead will break down three key positions we changed during the winter of 2008 and the spring of 2009. Paige went from 102nd in greens in regulation in 2008 to 19th in 2009, allowing her to enjoy her best year to date on the LPGA Tour. Paige also is enjoying a great 2011 so far, going three for three in cuts made and a T12 finish (as of April).

subtle changes...

Paige, not unlike many golfers, had the tendency to swing her clubhead too low and inside. This mistake leads the clubhead and the shaft off its original shaft plane, making it more difficult to hit straight, consistent shots. Generally speaking, a low and inside takeaway will make the shaft swing on too steep of a plane at the top of the backswing, making it essential to reroute the club during the downswing. Paige could do it because she's a world-class athlete and could time herself back into position. But for most amateurs, if they take the club back too far inside, they're likely to come over the top of the ball on the downswing. There might have been players who have had success making this move (to the inside), but no one will ever convince me that this is the best or most efficient way to swing a golf club. It's just too hard to get back on the right plane.

To fix Paige's tendency to pull the club low and to the inside, I've paid special attention to the clubhead position midway on the backswing. If the grip end of the shaft is pointing parallel left of the target, I know she's on the right track and en route to swinging the club back on the proper plane. This is a great place for just about anyone to check his or her swing. If you're out of position this early in your swing, no doubt the rest of your swing will be out of position, as well. Also, check out the difference in face angle in these two photos. At left, the face is more open, evident by the toe pointing up. In the right photo, the face is angled more downward. But, that doesn't mean it's a closed clubface. If anything, the clubface is more square to the swing plane (even though it appears closed relative to the ground). So give this a try the next time you work on your mechanics. Just remember, a slightly closed clubface (relative to the ground) might help you swing more on plane.

Paige MacKenzie Says:
On practicing vs. playing

"The range is where you work on your golf swing; the course is where you go to play. If you're struggling on the course, don't try to change your swing. Instead, work on tempo and balance. That usually will help more than thinking technical thoughts. Also, I like to make the most of my practice rounds on tournament weeks by getting creative. On every hole, I have my caddy pick three chips to get up and down, one at a time. Then on the last three holes, when I'm getting bored or hungry, I play a three-hole game where I finish out the hole and must score under par. This really helps me keep both my mental and short game sharp."

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