The Tour pros I teach have altered their swings over the past few years to better match the latest equipment, advances in physical conditioning and varying course conditions.
As a result, not only have their swings become more efficient, but they've added a lot of new shots to their game, as well. These trends aren't just for Tour pros, however. They're for you, too.
1. SQUARE UP IN THE BUNKER Players used to hit this shot by opening their stance and swinging with an open clubface, on an outside-in swing path . But it often caused them to come down steeply, take a deep divot and lose control.
Now, players set up more square, squat down a bit and stand farther away from the ball so their swing is more rounded.
As a result, the divot is thinner and the club slides through the sand.
2. DON'T FLIP, JUST TURN AND RIP Here I'm using a bucket of balls to help illustrate how to (and how not to) release the club. On the left, I'm releasing the club with my hands. Note how the balls spilled? This is an old-school arms-and-hand swing that relied on timing, hitting lots of balls and grooving your release.
These days, players use their body to release and control the clubface. Instead of rotating their hands, they turn their body aggressively through the ball and keep their hands quiet through impact (note how the balls don't spill in the photo at left).
Why are they doing this? Good technology and better physical conditioning (in particular, core strength) mean that players can utilize their larger muscles more efficiently.
TOUR TIP Check out Zach Johnson's followthrough at Justin Timberlake's tournament last year. He hasn't released his hands at all, but he turned his body completely through the shot. That ball nearly landed in the hole.
EQUIP TIP I use a Titleist Vokey 56_¡ sand wedge to help me get up and down from 100 yards and in. Here's a photo of Bob Vokey's latest design, the Spin MilledTour Chrome. Its lofts range from 48_¡ to 64_¡. Depending on the type of course you play (and what other clubs you need), I suggest carrying anywhere from two to four wedges.
3. DRAW YOUR PITCH SHOTS Used to be that when you hit a pitch shot, you cut across the ball with an open face. While that still works, if the pin is in the middle or back of the green, or if you're hitting into the wind, you have to hit your shot on a lower trajectory.
To do this, make a more rounded swing. This promotes more release so your shot draws and doesn't spin as much, and it releases when it hits the green. An easy way to practice this is to tee up your pitch shots to get the feel of letting the club work more around your body.
4. DON'T GET STUCK If Tour players have one fault, it's that they get stuck with their hands and club behind their body on the downswing. To prevent this, they make sure their upper and lower bodies are in sequence.
Practice this by placing a shaft in the ground behind you at a 45-degree angle. Swing down with the club on top of the shaft in a position where you can just turn through and swing left. Don't let your club swing to the inside of the shaft!
5. SWING EFFICIENTLY Tour players used to move off the ball, but today most players are working on staying more centered during their swings. By staying centered over the ball, players don't have to time their swings to compensate when they sway or slide.
Although I don't suggest you swing with a reverse pivot, I do like to see less movement than swings of the past had.
To stay centered on your backswing, place your golf bag against your right side and make a swing. If you run into it on the backswing, you slid too much. If not, you stayed centered and are in a position to turn back and load your body for efficient power!
Equipment Trends On Tour By Charlie Schroeder
You might be surprised to learn that some Tour pros don't know how their equipment works. But Mike Helfrich, COO of Hot Stix Golf, says that may be changing. The next generation of Tour players are more in tune with technology. They'll try things to minimize bad shots.
One way Tour pros improve their ballflight is to use premium shafts. The clubhead gives them the look and feel they want, but it's the shaft that gives them the desired ballflight. Helfrich says players use lower-torque shafts to keep the clubhead from snapping closed, and higher-torque shafts to keep the clubhead from opening.
Another piece of equipment Tour players constantly fine-tune is their wedges. Tour pros change wedges more often to keep their grooves sharp, Helfrich says, noting that Vijay Singh has been known to switch out his wedge every week.
Helfrich notes that recent improvements in ball composition don't benefit just Tiger, et al. Balls like the Bridgestone B330-RX are geared for swing speeds under 105 mph, and using the right one can really help slower swingers.
Of course, it helps everyone to be properly fitted, and as Helfrich says, once you find your perfect setup, there's probably not a lot of need for adjustment.