Saturday, July 1, 2006
Tips From The Tour
Study the best in the world and improve your game
It goes without saying that the players who compete on the PGA Tour are the best in the world. Not only do they have impressive natural talent, but every guy out there spends a tremendous amount of time and effort working on his technique, strategy and fitness. For those of us not fortunate enough to be able to spend all day, every day improving our all-around game, this opportunity seems like a dream come true. For the players on Tour, however, its a job that they take seriously, and one thats both extremely competitive and tough.
Recreation golfers who play the game for fun might not have the same level of talent or time to invest in the game of golf as Tour players do, but they can still learn a lot from the guys on Tour. When I teach my students, for example, I constantly use Tour swings to illustrate the proper techniques, regardless of whether the student in question has Tour-like ability. The point is, if youre serious about learning to do it the right way, theres no better place to learn than from the best, because the techniques they use have proven to work.
Get Down On It
Tour pros are extremely good at maintaining their posture during the swing. The obvious benefit of this is consistent contact with the center of the face, as well as outstanding arm extension and compressed iron shots. In contrast, amateurs tend to lose their spine angle both in the backswing and the downswing, which leads to a number of poor shots: becoming excessively bent over creates fat shots and chicken wings, while becoming too upright leads to shanks and thin shots. Ernie Els shows how its done correctly. His hips are rotating left to make room through impact while his chest stays out on top of the ball. This ensures the club will bottom out past the ball and create the space necessary to extend the arms after impact. Work on maintaining your spine angle throughout your swing, and your ballstriking should improve dramatically.
Tour players make a lot of birdies by reaching par-5s in two, largely because of their prodigious driving distance, but also because of their proficiency with fairway woods. To improve your fairway wood play, forget about drawing the ball and learn to hit a controlled fade. Not only is this shot easier to get airborne, but a fade lands more softly and has a better chance of staying on the green. Also, a cut shot is easier to control, and adding it to your arsenal will promote aggressive play. To execute a cut shot with a fairway wood, set up with a slightly open stance and place the ball a bit more forward than normal. Concentrate on making contact with the back of the ball, or even a bit on the outside of it, and try to swing slightly across the target line. Focus on making solid contact instead of swinging as hard as you can and youll be surprised how far this type of shot will travel. Even if you dont reach the green, plenty of easy birdies will result.
Form Two Lines
In the moment just after impact, there are two key checkpoints that can determine if your swing is on-plane. In this picture of Justin Leonard, notice both the alignment of the clubshaft and the clubface. An extension of the clubshaft is still pointing at an extension of the target line, indicating a swing that has remained on-plane. In addition, the leading edge of the clubface is parallel to both the outside of his right arm and the target line. Getting these two alignments perfect doesnt happen by accident, but the work it requires is well worth the effort.
Make Every Putt Straight
There are few shots more daunting for professionals and amateurs alike than a short left-to-right-breaking putt. Professionals deal with these putts much more successfully by turning them into straight putts instead of fighting the break. How do they do it? Simply by picking a target other than the hole that represents the apex of the break. In this putt, Tiger is aiming several cups to the left of the actual cup. He starts the ball directly at this target and allows the slope to work the ball into the hole. When you try this technique, keep in mind that the spot you pick is largely dependent on the speed at which you choose to roll the putt.
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