I was hitting balls one day with my friend and fellow teaching professional, Ron Gring, when he described a way of looking at all the key shots in golf as the nine panes of glass. This obviously refers to the image you see above, with a fade, straight shot and draw at low, medium and high trajectories fitting into the nine slots. I've personally used this idea to describe what it takes to become a complete player on many occasions and believe it's the best way to visualize the nine key shots. The best players on Tour, most notably Tiger, have mastered the method for breaking all nine panes of glass, both in practice and on the course. Study the fundamentals described in the following pages and you, too, can be a true shotmaker.
StanceSquare When the stance is square to the ball's target line, it influences the club to swing down the line slightly longer than when the stance is either open or closed. Most players play from a position that would be close to square if you were to measure where they're truly aiming. Whenever the stance line is open or closed, it often influences the shoulders to follow accordingly. Open If moving the ball from left to right is your goal, then you should use a stance line that's slightly open to your target line. Whenever you align your stance slightly open, the shoulders will tend to swing the club across the ball. The more open your stance, the more open your shoulders will tend to be as well. If you tend to overswing, then an open stance line could be an effective way to limit your amount of hip turn to the top. Closed If moving the ball from right to left is your goal, then you should use a stance line that's slightly closed to your target line. Whenever you align your stance slightly closed, the shoulders will tend to swing the club more from the inside. If you want more distance, try this. Golf Course Credit: Special thanks to Bighorn GC, located in Palm Desert, Calif. Pictured is the 18th hole of the Canyons Course.
Clubface Square For a neutral shot, the clubface angle at address should be square to the target line. For the vast majority of shots, you'll find that it's best to utilize the same clubface alignment and stance configuration, (open stance with open clubface, etc.). Whenever you move the clubface angle into a position that's contradictory to the stance line, you're asking for trouble. Remember that the more natural curvature your shots have in one direction, the better chance you have of eliminating one side of the golf course, which can be critical to high-percentage driving and solid overall play.
Open The amount you rotate the clubface at address will affect the curvature and trajectory of your shot. Opening the clubface obviously promotes a left-to-right shot and a higher trajectory, but also tends to promote slightly shorter shots. An open clubface is great for producing shots that land softly with little release.
Closed A closed clubface promotes a shot that travels right to left and tends to fly on a lower trajectory. This is effective for producing shots that have plenty of roll.Ball Position
Ball Back To properly position the ball back in your stance, play it off the middle of your right peck. I recommend this position any time you want to produce a low-trajectory shot or one that moves from left to right. Don't play it too far back, however. Ball Centered A ball that's properly positioned in the middle of the stance should be placed off the middle of the sternum. If you want to produce a medium trajectory, this is the proper position. A fade or draw can be played from here. Ball Forward To properly position the ball forward in your stance, place it opposite your left armpit, or just inside your left heel. This position lends itself to high-trajectory shots and facilitates a draw. But don't play the ball forward of your left instep.
Spine TiltSpine Back In a normal address position, you should have just slightly more weight on your back leg than your front, but with the spine tilted away from the target, you'll have significantly more weight on your back foot than normal. This position at address will tend to promote a more ascending strike, and a high shot will almost always result. Be careful not to tilt back too much, or you'll risk hitting some bad hooks and could develop a serious back injury as well. Spine Neutral Due to the rear hand being lower on the grip than the forward hand, your spine will tilt away from the target at address even when you feel you're in a neutral position. This slight bend away from the target places approximately 55 percent of your body weight on your rear foot, which is necessary with a driver to promote favorable launch conditions and adequate carry. This should be your standard address position because it allows you execute all types of shots. Spine Forward Hitting the ball on a lower trajectory than normal requires a spine angle that can range from centered to slightly forward leaning (toward the target). This alteration in spine tilt causes your body weight to shift toward your forward foot at address, which hinders_Ê your ability to make a long, flowing backswing. Instead you'll feel yourself making a shorter backswing with less wrist hinge. Don't lean too far forward, or you won't be able to rotate at all. Release Hinge Open There are only three ways the club can release, and it's measured just postimpact when both arms are straight. Vertical hinging is a reverse-roll feel that keeps the clubface relatively open through impact. This is the proper release for any player who wants to consistently fade the ball with a high trajectory. Hinge Square Angled hinging has more of a no- roll feel and is appropriate for the player who wants to produce a neutral ballflight. You'll notice that the clubface has rotated more fully than in the vertical-hinge release, but while it may look more closed it's simply a normal, free release. For the majority of players who struggle with hooks, slices or just plain inconsistent driving, this is the release I'd recommend. Properly educating your hands is absolutely critical for shot control and a sense of confidence. Hinge Closed Horizontal hinging has a full-roll feeling and is appropriate for the player who wants to produce a right-to-left shot shape. It also is good for those who want to keep the ball on a lower trajectory. In the photo, the clubhead may appear to be totally closed, but in truth, it's simply what an aggressive, full release looks like. If you want to experiment with different types of release, take your wedge and hit a few shots to a practice green. You'll quickly see and feel the differences.
FinishCut off The position of the hands and arms are an excellent indicator or what type of shot a player is trying to hit. Here you see an example of an abbreviated, or cut off, finish. This position is typically the result of a lower-trajectory shot that travels from right to left. You'll see Tiger Woods in this position when he's using his stinger shot to get the ball in play. Neutral This is a textbook-finish position with the hands above the clubhead and the arms resting comfortably without a lot of strain on the back. Notice how my left elbow is at a height that's exactly between where it is in the photo on the left and the one on the right. This is a good way to measure your finish. Always try to achieve a finish position that doesn't strain your body. Vertical A more vertical finish, as seen here, is the result of a high shot that typically travels from left to right. The swing path that led to this position is generally more upright and sometimes travels slightly from outside to in. A player like Colin Montgomerie finishes in this position because his main shot is a high, soft fade. If you struggle with slicing, avoid this finish at all costs.
Tee Shots When deciding what shot to play from the tee, the first thing you have to do is assess the situation and determine what shot you feel best fits the shape of the landing area. Here it's pretty clear that the best shot is one that moves from right to left. Of course, if you can hit a straight shot that lands where the arrow is pointing, that's fine too, but any shot other than a draw in this situation effectively makes the fairway smaller. When possible, try to make the fairway bigger.
Approach Shots Tee shots are definitely not the only instances where curving the ball on command can help produce lower scores. In fact, shotmaking is probably more valuable when approaching the green. Here you can see that the shot I'm faced with features a flag that's positioned with trouble on the right and the fat part of the green on the left. The highest-percentage shot for this situation is one that travels from left to right, curving from the fat part of the green toward the pin. If I happen to hit it straight, I'm safe, and if I fade it more than I want, I'm still on the green. This is the main benefit of learning to be a shotmaker—making your targets effectively bigger by shaping your shots to fit the layout of the golf course.
Tom Stickney is the director of instruction at Bighorn GC in Palm Desert, Calif., and The Club at Cordillera in Edwards, Colo.