In the late 1970s, the greatest player in the world came to the realization that he had to change his swing in order to better control his golf ball in the wind. That golfer, Jack Nicklaus, spent the better part of a year relearning the golf swing in heavy Florida winds. A few years later, Nick Faldo retooled his leggy, high-ball hitting motion by inserting mechanisms that helped him lower his trajectory in order to produce a more penetrating ballflight. The move led him to six majors.
A good golf teacher can spot a great swing a mile away. Such recognition is based on years of experience.
As an instructor with over 50 years of teaching experience, I’ve seen my fair share of golf swings—both good and bad. Most of the “bad” swings I see are marred by basically the same series of mistakes. Similarly, good motions are defined by several, rock-solid commonalities that, if you know what to look for, stand out like a sore thumb on a tiny hand.
From tee to green, all the plays every golfer needs
The one constant in the game of golf is that each round is different. Weather conditions, course conditions, course layout and even a golfer’s physical and mental state on a given day create a unique set of challenges. That means that to play well you have to learn to adapt. Golfers who maximize their scoring potential know how to do things like shape the ball around the corner of a dogleg, handle uneven lies on a hilly course, and hit the ball back in play from under low-hanging branches.
Fix common errors in three key areas and watch your scores plummet
Mistakes—we’re all going to make them, especially on the golf course. Luckily, this isn’t a game that demands perfection. Even on Tour, low scores can be had without being perfect on every swing. The key is to limit the mistakes that can cause the most damage and jump on scoring opportunities whenever they arise.
To say that Ernie Els is one of the greatest golfers of our generation is about as gutsy as laying up from 150 yards. Already a three-time major winner (’94 and ’97 U.S. Opens, ’02 British Open), Els has notched 42 professional victories worldwide (12 on the PGA Tour) in just over a decade. More impressive, Els has 11 second-place finishes to his credit, including four runner-up calls in the majors. Often dubbed “The Big Easy,” Els is certainly big (6’3”, 220 pounds) and his swing is ridiculously effortless. It’s a study of contrasts, as he generates power not by his obvious size, but by employing the proper sequence of downswing moves. Here’s how he does it.
Distance control starts with selecting the right club
You’re in the middle of the fairway, 150 yards from the flagstick. “Perfect 7-iron,” you say to yourself, after which you promptly sail the ball over the pin—and over the green. What happened? Likely, you only gave yourself a fraction of the data you needed to select the right club for the shot at hand.
Most teachers will instruct you to fold your left arm into your left side during your followthrough so your hands and arms can release the clubhead down the target line. That’s certainly good advice, but at times, especially in pressure-packed situations where you absolutely have to hit the ball onto the green with an iron or drive it into the center of the fairway off the tee, not folding your left arm into your side can pay huge dividends.
Add to your arsenal of short-game shots and hit to tap-in range every time
Instead of taking advantage of clear scoring opportunities from less than full-wedge distances, most recreational golfers unnecessarily struggle, often needing additional strokes to get the ball into the hole following a poor approach. Not only does this situation work to balloon your scores, it robs you of the momentum you might have gained had you made par or birdie. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Shotmaking tips from the seaside links of Scotland to help you save strokes wherever you play
Regardless of how good your golf swing is or how crisply you strike the ball, you won’t post good scores if you don’t know how to think your way around a golf course. Obviously, solid technique helps, as does driving the ball long and straight. But throughout the course of a round, there are a variety of situations in which fundamentally solid golf skills simply won’t get the job done. Instead, you must be able to rely on good decision-making to put yourself in position to shoot the lowest score possible without risking double and triple bogeys.