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By Michael Breed
Hitting a shank is bad enough, but they tend to come in bunches. That can really mess with your mind—and your score. Anyone who tells you to forget you just rocketed one into the trees on the right has never lived with the shanks. Consider the cause. Typically, the clubface is wide open at impact, and the swing is out to in, with the clubhead coming from the far side of the strike line and cutting to the inside. Those two conditions expose the hosel, which hits the ball, shooting it right.
First, fix the face. Square the clubface, then place both your hands on the grip in what’s called a strong position—turned dramatically away from the target. Don’t just grip the club and turn your hands back; that only rotates the face open. The combination of a square face and strong grip is what helps you close the face through impact.
“Stay turned, and let the club drop to the inside.”
Next, fix the path. Swing back, making a full shoulder turn, and as you start down, keep your back to the target a beat longer. The club will drop to the inside of the target line. From there, you can swing out to the ball without worrying about the hosel being exposed from an out-to-in path.
These changes should do the trick, but if you need a maximum dose of shank-proofing, here’s one more: Try to hit the inside-back portion of the ball with the toe of the club. That will keep your path coming from the inside and prevent the hosel from moving closer to the ball. Shanks solved!
ADVANCED CONCEPT : MAKE THE SHAFT MISS THE BALL
THINK OF BASEBALL: You’re trying to swing the bat into the ball—simple. In golf, if you envision the shaft hitting the ball, you’ll probably make contact off the hosel because that’s the end of the shaft. Instead, you have to learn to miss the ball with the shaft. The clubhead extends out farther than the hosel so you want to swing the shaft to the inside of the ball. The image of the shaft missing to the inside will help you produce center-face contact. This mind-set might be just what you need to shake those shanks.
— with Peter Morrice
By Jim McLean
People say the golf swing is all about impact. But it’s what you do before impact that determines if the strike will be any good. Getting into a solid position at the top lets you swing freely on the way down. You don’t have to fight your way back into position.
Let’s look at three things in my backswing here. First, I’ve stayed in my forward tilt toward the ball. My left shoulder is lower than my right. I’ve simply rotated around my spine, so my height hasn’t changed from address. Maintaining this tilt gives me a great chance to return the club precisely to the ball.
Second, my left wrist is flat. The left wrist controls the clubface. If my wrist was cupped (bent back), the face would be open. That turns the downswing into a recovery mission, where you have to try to shut the face or else swing way left to make room for a slice.
Finally, my back leg is braced and supporting most of my weight. This is a big one because from here, I have the leverage to drive toward the target and push off the ground. If the back leg is in a weak position, chances are the upper body will take over coming down—and that’s a killer.
Nail these positions, and the downswing is a lot simpler.
MCLEAN is based at The Biltmore in Coral Gables, Fla.
By Peter Sanders
The game is a puzzle and all the pieces fit together. Each round is a mix of good shots, average shots and bad shots or errors. The challenge is to find the piece of your game’s unique puzzle that is your greatest weakness so you can target your improvement time and money on the highest impact area. If you track the simple good and bad outcomes listed below for a few rounds, your strengths and weaknesses will become apparent.
Goals: Hit 7 fairways, and limit your driving errors to 2 – preferably of the No Shot variety (see Errors below).
Distance: I will ignore this and assume that you are playing from the appropriate tees for your game.
Fairways: Hitting fairways is important as we are all more accurate from the short grass.
Errors: Far more important than Fairways hit is your FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of misses. ShotByShot.com users record THREE types of Driving Errors:
Goals: 5 GIRs and 1 Penalty/2nd (see below)
Penalty/2nd: This means either a penalty or a shot hit so poorly that you are left with yet another full approach shot greater than 50 yards from the hole.
(Shots from within 50 yards of the hole)
Chip/Pitch: If you miss 13 greens, you will have at least 10 greenside save opportunities. Your goals should be:
You should have 2 greenside save opportunities. Your goals:
You need 36 putts. Aim for:
By Michael Breed
The thing about hitting fairway woods off the turf is, most golfers feel like they have to help them into the air. They look down and don’t see much loft on the clubface, and they know they want to launch the ball high, so what do they do? The classic mistakes are playing the ball off the toe of the front foot and hanging back on the downswing to try to lift the ball. Both are killers. — with Peter Morrice
Let’s get you a clear plan for using these clubs. It starts with ball position. Yes, you’ve got a long club in your hands, so you want to play the ball forward—but not too far forward. Make sure it’s at least a couple of inches inside your front foot.
Next, to make a good strike, we have to look at your backswing. Resist the urge to just lift your arms straight up. You need some width to your swing arc, so focus on extending your hands away from the target. And not just your lead arm; feel your trail arm stretching back. This width will help you later.
Finally, you have to trust that you have enough loft to produce the trajectory you want—and you do! Keep your chest pointing down toward the ball through impact (above). Don’t pull your chest up or tilt it away from the target, or you won’t hit the ball solidly. With your chest down and the club coming in nice and shallow, you’ll catch the ball and brush the ground after impact. That’s how you flush a fairway wood.
OUR BEST LESSONS, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE
Last spring, we launched Golf Digest Schools, a video subscription service designed to help you play better golf. We’ve worked to make it everything you love about Golf Digest instruction—in curriculum-style video programs. These are not tip videos; these are developmental lessons from golf’s top teachers. We’ve added multiple programs from Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, Hank Haney and dozens more. The best advice on driving, iron play, short game, playing strategy, even golf-specific fitness. Join us, and you’ll have all the tools at your fingertips—right on your phone—to have your best year ever. Learn more about Golf Digest Schools at golfdigest.com/allaccess.
MICHAEL BREED is Golf Digest’s Chief Digital Instructor.
By Justin James
As a former world long-drive champion, I often hear from regular golfers that they’ll never come close to being able to swing like me. Not true. You can. If you copy even a little of my technique, the ball is going to come off the face of your driver hotter than ever. Try these things the next time you’re on the range. By Justin James —with Ron Kaspriske
CHEAT THE SCALE
If you just stood on a scale, it would give you your body weight. But if you push down, that number will go up. When I make a backswing, I’m loading more than 100 percent of my body weight into my trail leg (right leg for righties). So really push into the ground with your trail leg as you take the club back. It will help you create and store a lot of energy.
GET OFF THE HEEL
As you swing back, it’s OK if your lead heel comes off the ground. That’s going to help you make a bigger backswing—especially if you’re not that flexible. You’ll really load up on your right side.
AVOID THE SWAY
Feel like someone standing behind your back is grabbing a belt loop near your right hip pocket and pulling it toward him. In other words, sink into that right hip as you swing back, which will keep you from swaying away from the target.
PLANT AND BUMP
To start your downswing, replant your left heel if you let it come off the ground. I mean really plant it. Try to leave an indentation in the turf. You’re using the ground to create energy for more swing speed. Also, let your left hip shift toward the target. This bump allows you to stay behind the ball with your upper body so you can apply all your weight to the strike.
GO WITH THE FASTBALL
I don’t think about pulling the handle of the driver down toward the ball, and I don’t think about releasing the club, either. Instead, I get the sensation I’m throwing a fastball with my right hand. It probably comes from my time as a minor-league pitcher. This feel will really boost your speed down into the ball.
SHOULDER THE LOAD
You want your club moving its fastest as it meets the ball. To make that happen, get the right shoulder facing the target as you finish the swing. It’s got to keep moving. As long as my lower body leads in the downswing, this turn helps blast the ball way down the fairway.
JUSTIN JAMES, 29, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, won the 2017 World Long Drive Championship. He plays a Krank Formula X Snapper driver (48 inches, 3.5 degrees of loft). He hit a 435-yard drive to win the championship.
By Matthew Rudy
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Yes, you’ve already heard about Augusta member Jeff Knox, the decorated amateur who holds the course record of 61 from the member tees and gets the call to play as a marker when the field goes to an odd number after the cut.
But what exactly makes the 56-year-old charitable foundation executive such a good player? It goes without saying that anybody who can shoot 61 from any tees at Augusta National has a wonderful short game—and every tour player who has gone around with Knox has confirmed he’s the best at navigating the greens here they’ve ever seen. But it’s his simple, repeatable swing that makes him such a valuable marker. He almost always hits it where he’s looking—so he can do his thing at the speed his playing partner prefers.
“When you bake out the differences between tour players because of their different body types and flexibility levels, virtually all of them still do some common things that explain why they hit the ball so well and so consistently,” says Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Michael Jacobs. “Jeff Knox does a lot of the same things. He has what I would call a great ‘vanilla’ tour swing. It’s a terrific model for anybody to use as a starting point for their swing.”
The reason tour players look so fluid is because they aren’t doing a lot of re-routing of the club. “Knox’s left arm comes up during his backswing and goes directly across his right shoulder, and when he makes his downswing, the club never gets pushed or forced too much behind him or in front of him,” says Jacobs, who is based at Rock Hill Country Club in Manorville, New York. “When you see better players come down with the clubhead way behind them, they have to contort their body in strange ways to get to the ball. And weekend players usually have the opposite problem—they push the club way out and over the top so that it comes down steep and cuts across the ball.”
Knox’s clean and efficient move is why he’s been able to keep up on a 7,500-yard course well into his 50s—and shoot an unofficial 74 that would have beat or tied ten official competitors who teed it up Saturday.
“Like I said, players have different bodies and levels of flexibility, so you don’t want to try to copy exactly what somebody else’s move is,” says Jacobs. “But you can definitely train a better hand path like the one Jeff has by simply paying more attention to how much it goes behind you or in front of you on the downswing. Get that part more ‘neutral’ and your pattern of misses will get much more narrow.”
By John Rahm
There might be some par 4s where it makes sense to tee off with a 3-wood or an iron, but it’s rare to see me using anything but driver. I’m more comfortable with it. When it comes to scoring, I’d rather hit it as far down the fairway as I can and have a wedge in my hands for the next shot—even from the rough—versus a middle iron from the fairway. My strategy seems to work. I’m second on the PGA Tour in birdie average (4.5 per round) and third in strokes gained/off the tee. My goal with the driver is pretty simple.
I want to load up in the backswing and then use the ground in the downswing to generate as much power as possible. It’s a short-and-fast swing, with my legs and torso doing most of the work, so there’s not a lot that can go wrong. If you’re like me and would rather hit driver every chance you get—I bet you do!—here are some tips to help simplify your swing and make it your most effective scoring club. —With Ron Kaspriske
GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE SWING
This backswing position you see (below) is a checkpoint for me. I want to make sure I haven’t whipped the clubhead inside the target line with my hands. Taking the club back like that is a real power-and-accuracy killer, and if I think about what my hands are doing, I assure you my driving won’t be good. Instead, I want my torso, arms and club moving back together. You’ll know you made a good backswing if you feel it in your right hip. That’s the main thing for me. I want to load into that hip. If I don’t, it feels more like a stack-and-tilt swing where your weight stays on the left foot. You can’t hit it far from that position. Instead, I want to feel my weight on the inside of my right foot and thigh. When it gets there, I’m ready to swing down.
PUSH DOWN AND TURN HARD
To start the downswing, I want to push into the ground with my legs, which lets me turn hard and left with my hips and then the upper body. When I do this, it feels like the club is just being pulled into a great impact position. Again, I’m not trying to hit the ball with my hands. One thing to remember: You’ve got to keep turning—even after impact (below). I feel like I’m powering the club through the ball with my body rotation. In other words, don’t stop until you can’t turn anymore. For me, this produces a fade that feels really solid coming off the clubface. I guess you could say I just think aim left and swing hard left. Do that, and the ball gets out there a good way. Then just grab your wedge and go make birdie.
By David Leadbetter
Usually the area around a green is level with or lower than the putting surface. But sometimes you’ll find your ball on a mound near the green, leaving you with a downhill chip. Sure, it was a lucky break that the hill kept your ball within chipping distance. But now what? This atypical lie presents a challenge for a lot of golfers, because it drastically reduces the chance of popping the ball up and landing it softly on the green—especially if you have a tendency to try to help the ball in the air with a scooping, wristy action. You need to make some adjustments to pull off this shot.
First, you can’t afford to make contact with the ground behind the ball, or you’ll blade it across the green. So play the ball slightly back of center in your stance. Another thing that will help you make ball-first contact is to lean the handle a little toward the green, so your hands are closer to the flag than the clubhead. I also recommend gripping down on the club—your most lofted wedge—for more control.
Next, the way you swing is important, too. Maintain flex in your knees throughout the swing (above). Remember to keep the shaft leaning forward through impact and abbreviate the follow-through. A time-honored swing thought for this shot is to swing down the slope with the clubhead.
All of this might seem like a lot to remember, so boil it down like this: Ball back, hands ahead, and swing down the slope. Do that, and you’ll get just enough loft on the ball to stop it near the hole. — with Ron Kaspriske
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