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 re-learning the golf swing in heavy Florida winds. A few years later, Nick Faldo re-tooled 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.
Now, you may not be gearing up for a run at this year's British Open, but if you want to take your scores as low as they can go on a consistent basis, you have to be able to play your best no matter how hard the wind blows. And that means knowing how to keep the ball low when you need to.
Where The Pros Can't Help You
When you're playing a shot into the wind, the last thing you want is a rising ball with a lot of spin—you'll lose distance and the ball won't hold its line. Professional golfers suggest that to better control trajectory, modify your setup and your swing. They'll tell you: Play the ball in the center of your stance in order to reduce the effective loft on the club and keep your weight on your left side while you punch down on the ball with a three-quarter swing that features a hands-under-the-shoulder followthrough. This tip offers the correct advice, but it's applicable to a pro's game. Not yours. For most golfers, the best adjustments are the least adjustments. Judging the effect of wind on your regular ballflight is tough; figuring out how it will influence a shot struck with a newly concocted swing is next to impossible.
The Simple Way To Keep It Low
Here's how to keep the ball low without changing your swing or your ball position. Group your irons in pairs: 5-iron/7-iron, 6-iron/8-iron, 7-iron/9-iron, 8-iron/PW, and 9-iron/SW. Now you're set to control trajectory like a pro. To produce the distance of a 9-iron with the height of a 7-iron, grip down on the handle of the 7 until your right index finger (for right-handers) touches the shaft itself. All you have to do is make exactly the same swing with the 7-iron as you would if you were hitting a full 9.
Once you have your pairs down, all you need to do is resist the temptation to hit the ball too aggressively. The harder you hit a shot, the more backspin you'll put on the ball, which will drive it up into the air—just the opposite of what you want in the wind. Stay committed to your plan: choke down to shorten the distance and drop down two lofts to lower the flight. The swing itself is soft and simple. You don't want to punch the ball (it's more of a love tap), so focus on delivering a soft hit by making a syrupy swing back and through the ball.
Practice your pairs on the driving range to imprint how well a smooth swing works in producing the same trajectory and distance every time. At first it will feel strange to grip down so far on the club handle because you'll stand a little closer to the ball than normal, but it won't take long for you to settle in comfortably every time. I encourage you to dedicate entire practice sessions and actual rounds to the Drop Down/Choke Down technique and, remember, you don't have to wait for the wind to blow to take advantage of a lower trajectory.
• Playing in the wind or having to keep it low out of trouble is tough enough without having to invent a swing.
• Having to change ball position and changing your swing to punch the ball leads even the best players astray.
• To get the distance of a 9-iron with the height of a 7, grip down on the handle of the 7 until your right index finger (for right-handers) touches the shaft itself and make your regular swing.
• Use pairs for distance control: choking down as described above lessens distance by two full clubs.
• Practice your pairs on the range before you try it on the course.
• This technique isn't just for amateurs—Jim Furyk, Briny Baird and Sergio Garcia use the Drop Down/Choke Down technique.
PGA pro Dr. T.J. Tomasi is regarded as one of the top 100 teachers in America.