The Local Knowlege

Instruction

#HelpMeGolfDigest: Solve your backswing issues with Brian Manzella

By Matthew Rudy

Golf Digest 50 Best Instructor Brian Manzella is known for his devotion to advancing the science of golf instruction -- and for his devoted internet fan base. The spirited instruction discussions on the forums at brianmanzella.com have received hundreds of thousands of page views in the last five years, and Manzella interacts daily with hundreds of teachers on his golf science Facebook page. 

This week, the popular pro from New Orleans mixes science with experience to break down several hashtagged swings submitted by GolfDigest.com readers for the regular #HelpMeGolfDigest project.

The first swing comes from @tom.carroll, who can get more power and control by trimming some extraneous moves from his swing. 

"Good swing, Tom, but we can make it better by eliminating some of the slack," says Manzella, who is based at English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans. "Try to have your arms and club swing away from the ball while you make a little shift to your right foot. Your torso or hips should only be turning from that arm swing away from the ball. When the club is around parallel to the ground, push up from the ground from the inside of your right foot, which will help you get your left shoulder down more as the right shoulder goes up from that push. Then, push off that right foot as the club nears the top, so you can shift over to your left leg by the time your left arm is parallel to the ground coming down, which is earlier than you're doing now. Through impact, you want your left shoulder as far away from the ball as you can get it, with your hips forward and around and your body back like you're trying to hit a high shot. Do some mirror work and use the Angel Cabrera swing sequence as a model."

Reader @mike_haugen's backswing needs some adjusting to launch the ball with his driver.     
"Move your hands slightly more away from you as the take the club back, and rotate your left arm more when the club is about halfway," says Manzella, who has worked with David Toms and a host of other professional and top amateur players. "Those moves are going to temper your across-the-line position at the top. As you come down, rotate that left arm a little more while you start to twist the shaft closed. This will keep the club from getting too steep too soon. As you come down to the ball, you can go through with more of a covering moving with your right shoulder and arm, like you're trying to bounce a ball down the target line. Work on this with a middle iron and work your way up to your driver."

Manzella says a few upgrades are all that stand between @taylorcart1993 and a low single-digit handicap.     
"Swing toward the top feeling like your right arm is turning so that you could look into your hand," says Manzella. "This will have the effect of getting the club into a steeper position instead of being overly laid off. You can let that left elbow fly a little, like Jack Nicklaus did, which will help the club be less open at the top. You won't have to chase after it so much with your upper body on the downswing trying to square the face. Practice hitting shots behind some trees and using your new moves to launch it high, keeping your head back until you're near the finish."

With any change, Manzella says he likes to see players make a succession about a dozen of back-and-forth swings in succession to develop a feel for the new movements. "It helps smooth out all the rough edges," he says. "With an iron, you should be making a little divot both going and coming." 

Be sure to submit your swing videos via Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HelpMeGolfDigest. Another top teacher will be reviewing swings here next week. 

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Courses & Travel

Higher handicap golfers can enjoy Bandon Dunes, too

By Ashley Mayo

In 2013, I went to Bandon Dunes with three other guys. Our ages ranged from 26 to 32, and our handicaps ranged from 2 to 5. This year, I went to Bandon with seven other guys. Our ages ranged from 28 to 70, and our handicaps from 1 to 25. Same destination, two very different groups, one very similar outcome: we all had a blast.

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Our crew played The Preserve as an eightsome on the day we arrived. 

Whether you're an avid, accomplished golfer who thrives on a good challenge, or a weekend warrior who attempts to avoid any and all trouble, the five courses at Bandon Dunes manage to offer enough of a test for single-digit-handicap golfers without being too overwhelming for double-digit-handicap golfers.
 
Our higher-handicappers had this tremendous fear of losing a lot of golf balls. As it turns out, they lost very few. Don Scheck, a 23-handicapper, lost just one ball in five rounds (he lost it at Pacific Dunes), and says the courses are playable because there aren't a lot of forced carries, especially off the tees. "My drives mostly landed short of trouble as long as I hit them straight," says Scheck. "Approach shots and putting are what did me in."

Brian Bakst, a 22-handicapper, says he returned home with more balls than he brought. "And better ones," says Bakst. "When I went into the junk, I often came out with two or three beauties."
 
Scott Davies, who started playing golf when he was 65 years old (he’s now 69), says that the courses are not as intimidating as they might seem. "Having a caddie was a big assist," says the 25-handicapper. "And playing Preserve (the 13-hole par 3 course) first really increased my sense that I could play these courses and have fun. I lost a couple balls at Pacific Dunes but not otherwise."
 
The best decision we made all week was taking a "Links Lesson" led by Master PGA Professional Grant Rogers and PGA Professional Jake Sestero. They taught us, in just one hour, how to play golf in the wind, how to hit bump-and-run shots with putters, irons and hybrids, and how to lag putt.
 
"Some of the lessons I learned there carried with me the whole week," says Eric Hyland, an 11 handicapper. Among them: 

--Light hands on fast putts. 
--If you can run the ball up to the green, run the ball up to the green. Keep it low.
--Remember, the golf holes like to win, too.
--You might as well be the person having the most fun in your foursome.

That lesson was equally important to our higher-handicappers as it was to Tom Freeman, our 1-handicapper. "There aren't many courses in the United States where you'll learn how to hit a bump-and-run hybrid 123 yards, and then use it to give yourself a 4-foot birdie putt," says Freeman. "It's something I'll laugh and smile about for years."
 
I asked everyone in our group to answer the classic question that all golfers should answer after they’ve played each of the four regulation-length courses at Bandon Dunes: If you had 10 rounds to play at Bandon, how would you divvy them up? Collectively, our double-digit handicap golfers slightly prefer Old Macdonald—wild bounces on that course generally feed toward the green and can turn so-so shots into stellar ones, and it’s actually quite difficult to lose a ball there—and our single-digit handicap golfers would rather face Pacific Dunes—Tom Doak’s extreme design requires shot-making skills.

Other than that, our higher-handicappers and lower-handicappers appreciated Bandon Dunes just the same. "You better laugh when you think at the start of your shot that you're putting for birdie and then leave the hole with a double," says Tom Scheck, a 9-handicapper. "Good shots are going to roll under the lip of a bunker. It's a lot like life. You better roll with the good and bad bounces or you'll spend most of your time in misery."

But isn't it that kind of misery that keeps us nutty golfers coming back for more?

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News & Tours

Golf Digest contributor Dave Anderson on PEN/ESPN Award: 'I put that on same level as Pulitzer'

By John Strege

Dave Anderson, a Golf Digest Contributing Editor and long-time New York Times columnist, has been named the recipient of the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing.

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“I put that right on the same level as the Pulitzer Prize,” Anderson said via telephone from his New Jersey home. Anderson, whose career has spanned more than 50 years, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1981.

The PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award is “given to one living American or U.S.-based writer each year to celebrate their body of work and long-time contributions to the field of literary sports writing.”

Anderson is the fourth winner of the award, joining Roger Angell, Golf Digest’s Dan Jenkins, and Frank Deford, “three of my great heroes in life,” Anderson said.

The judges — Kostya Kennedy, David Rosenthal and John Schulian — noted that “for more than half a century, Dave Anderson has waded into the hurly-burly of sportswriting with quiet dignity and a true craftsman’s regard for the language. You didn’t read him for bombast or half-cocked opinion. You read him because, quite simply, he knew whereof he wrote…His integrity never wavered, his grace never disappeared on deadline, and his readers never got cheated. That’s the way pros operate, and Dave Anderson was the ultimate pro.”

Anderson has been a frequent contributor to Golf World, as well. His most recent column was on Babe Ruth’s golf obsession and can be read here.

(Getty Images photo)

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News & Tours

His season nearing a possible end, Tiger Woods still able to maintain sense of humor



AKRON, Ohio -- There was a discernible wryness to Tiger Woods’s demeanor Wednesday afternoon at Firestone CC, where he met the media on the eve of his eighth title defense in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

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Perhaps it’s the comfort that Woods feels returning to Firestone’s South Course, one of a collection of venues where he has been nearly unbeatable. Or perhaps his attitude betrayed an attempt to deflect the pressure he is under this week and next as he tries to qualify for the FedExCup playoffs to extend his injury-marred season and impress U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson.
 
Whatever the case, Woods, known for his often droll responses, offered a few snappy comebacks. To wit:
 
On his backswing getting shorter: “We've been trying to shorten it up over the years. I think a perfect way to do it is just have back surgery. All those geniuses out there, there you go.”
 
On whether Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors seems as obtainable as it did in 1997 (the year he won his first Masters): “I'll tell you what, it's a hell of a lot closer now than I was in '97. These 14 weren't easy. “
 
On Firestone as a proper, straightforward test for his game: “It goes to show you that you don't need elephant burial grounds out there to make a golf course fair, difficult, and enjoyable.”
 
Of course, his most important comeback -- the one from back surgery -- continues this week.
 
Paired in the first round with U.S. Open winner Martin Kaymer at 2:20 p.m. EDT Thursday, Woods will make his third start since undergoing a microdiscectomy on March 31 and kick off a critical two-week stretch that will determine the remainder of his year.
 
Ranked 215th on the FedExCup points list, Woods, 38, is hoping to repeat something close to the performance of just a year ago, when he flirted with a 59 in the second round, carded 61, and went on to win by five strokes for the most recent of his 79 career PGA Tour titles. And then he needs an equally strong performance in next week’s PGA Championship at Valhalla GC in Louisville, Ky. -- where he won the 2000 title -- or he will miss the FedExCup playoffs for the second time in four years.
 
“Unfortunately, I've been in this situation before,” said Woods, who missed the bulk of the 2011 season with an Achilles injury. “Maybe three years ago, I believe, when the PGA was at Atlanta Athletic Club. I had my Achilles injury, and I didn't play all summer, and I was in a similar position coming into these last few weeks, having to play well to get myself into the playoffs. At that time, I didn't. So hopefully, this go around I'll be a little bit better.”
 
That year, however, there was not the secondary pressure on Woods to qualify for the U.S. Presidents Cup team. U.S. captain Fred Couples declared long before the final points standings that he intended to use one of his two wild-card picks on Woods. Conversely, Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson said that Woods, 70th on the U.S. points list, needed to be healthy and playing well before he would add him to a roster that also currently does not include Phil Mickelson.
 
At the Open Championship two weeks ago at Royal Liverpool, Woods shot three rounds over par after opening with a 3-under 69, and finished 69th. Two weeks prior to that he missed the cut at Congressional CC in the Quicken Loans National, his first “rehab” start. He called his is return to tournament golf at Congressional a “high point” in a year that is void of a top-10 finish, though he has competed just five times.
 
“Even though I missed the cut miserably, just the fact I was back playing again after what I'd just been through was big for me,” he said.
 
He can’t afford such modest gains these next two weeks. Woods averred at Hoylake that a reasonable goal for him was to win the British Open. Victory is virtually a must now.
 
“I would like to win these two events and not have to worry about anything.  That's the plan. That's the mindset. That's the focus,” he said. “We'll see how it falls after these few weeks. Other than that, I really ‑‑ I'm so far out of it right now that I need to play well to get myself there where I can get myself into the playoffs and ultimately, hopefully, play all four weeks.”
 
That would be quite a comeback. Even for Tiger Woods.

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Fantasy Golf

Fantasy Fix: Why Jason Dufner is excited about being at Firestone even if he doesn't look like it

By Alex Myers

We've arrived at the PGA Tour's annual stop at Firestone CC, meaning we've officially reached crunch time for golf's biggest stars. This week sets off a busy stretch that includes this WGC, the PGA Championship and four FedEx Cup Playoff events -- well, if you qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Tiger Woods, an eight-time winner of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, needs to get his game in gear quick if he's to even play in the tour's postseason. While we'd love to see him do it, we're not banking on it happening in Akron. Here's who we're looking to instead in our weekly Yahoo! fantasy lineup:

The Grind: Tiger and DJ give their significant others golf lessons

Starters -- (A-List): Adam Scott. The World No. 1 has played better than his one-win campaign indicates. In 11 events, Scott has finished outside the top 25 once and has seven top 10s. He also won at Firestone in 2011, although you might remember it as the WGC that caddie Steve Williams won.

(B-List): Jason Dufner. Dufner's disappointing season has gotten worse with two missed cuts and a T-51 since the start of June. But we like him to bounce back at the Bridgestone where he's finished seventh (2012) and T-4 (2013) in his only two starts.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

(B-List): Jim Furyk. Another week, another runner-up for Furyk as this time Tim Clark caught him in Canada with a Sunday back-nine 30. But despite not having a win in nearly four years, the 44-year-old Furyk continues to rack up big paychecks. He's never won in Akron either, but he has nine top 10s in 14 starts.

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(C-List): Jimmy Walker. Still leading the FedEx Cup thanks in large part to three early wins, Walker will make his first start in this WGC event. He quietly has played very well in the season's biggest tournaments, and we think his length will serve him well at this 7,400-yard, par-70 layout.

Bench/Backups: Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia.

Related: Jim Furyk is really, REALLY good at finishing runner-up

Knockout/One-and-done pick: Jason Dufner. It was at Firestone last year when Dufner turned around what also had been a lackluster season to that point. Dufner finished T-4 and then won the PGA Championship at Oak Hills the following week. Smile, Jason, you're back in Akron!

Previously used: Keegan Bradley (Doral), Tim Clark (Sony), Jason Day (Congressional), Graham DeLaet (Phoenix), Luke Donald (Valspar), Rickie Fowler (Honda Classic), Jim Furyk (Heritage), Sergio Garcia (British Open), Bill Haas (Farmers), Charley Hoffman (Travelers), Billy Horschel (Zurich), Charles Howell III (Humana), Freddie Jacobson (Valero), Dustin Johnson (Northern Trust), Zach Johnson (Colonial), Matt Kuchar (U.S. Open), Martin Laird (Kapalua), Hunter Mahan (Canadian), Graeme McDowell (Bay Hill), Ryan Palmer (Memphis), Justin Rose (Memorial), Adam Scott (Masters), Jordan Spieth (Houston), Henrik Stenson (Players), Jimmy Walker (Pebble -- winner!), Gary Woodland (Nelson).

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News & Tours

Faldo: Watson can't pick Tiger 'unless he shows real form these next two weeks'

By Dave Shedloski

AKRON, Ohio -- CBS golf analyst Sir Nick Faldo, a former Ryder Cup captain and the match's all-time leader in appearances and points, said he could not see how Tom Watson could pick Tiger Woods for the U.S. team if the former No. 1 player doesn't qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

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"I don't envy Tom Watson's position at all," said Faldo, who will be in the broadcast booth for CBS this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and next week's PGA Championship at Valhalla GC in Louisville, Ky. "You could honestly say there might be more controversy if Watson picks Tiger if he isn't in the playoffs. What will he have, a maximum of 14 rounds [if he makes the cut at the PGA]? He could go play in Europe, but would that be enough?

"I just think you can't pick him unless he shows real form these next two weeks. It wouldn't be fair to anyone on that team, and it's probably not fair to Tiger, either."

Related: Thanks a lot, Jack! Nicklaus paints Watson into corner

Faldo agreed that WGC-Bridgestone is pivotal for Woods, who has won eight times on Firestone's South Course, including a five-stroke victory a year ago. But Woods, who has fallen to No. 10 in the world after missing three-plus months following back surgery, also has had his struggles in the event; he shot 18-over 298 in 2010 after splitting with instructor Hank Haney.

"If this is a poor week, then he is under real pressure at Valhalla," Faldo said. "He needs to shoot four good rounds this week, get a fat check, get some points. He's got to show some consistency and build some confidence. This is the place for him to do that.”

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News & Tours

Tiger Woods says he's in "a no-win fight", braces for inevitable baldness

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Don't worry, Tiger. We know how it feels.

In his one-on-one interview with Fox Sports, a portion of which was published online on Wednesday, Tiger Woods gave the world an extraordinary admission about something that has been weighing on people's minds for quite a while: his hair loss.

It's not something that Tiger hasn't noticed, but he seems in good spirits about it.

"I'm comfortable with it, but my hairline isn't," Tiger said, after being asked by host Colleen Dominiguez if he was comfortable aging. "I have a nice skylight [at home] and I'm at the point where if I don't wear a hat, I can feel the heat."

Then Dominiguez asked the big question: if Tiger would ever consider shaving off the rest of his hair.

"I think I will, but I'm fighting the cause, and I'm fighting it hard," Woods said. "It's a no-win fight, but I'm hanging in there."

To get a better idea of what he's talking about, here's Tiger's hairline at the 1997 Masters, compared to his hairline at the 2014 British Open.

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Hang in there, Tiger. 


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My Usual Game

The USGA and R&A should adopt this playoff format (among other things)

Hacker (real name) came up $15 short on Sunday -- something that hardly ever happens. He doesn’t count the money when he collects it before the Sunday Morning Group tees off, and he doesn’t keep track of who has paid and who hasn't, yet the total is almost always exactly right. I know that I wasn’t the one who forgot to pay, because I’ve been on Martha’s Vineyard with my family. I’ve played golf just once, at Farm Neck Golf Club, the course I shared last summer with my close personal friend, the President of the United States. There’s a new sign near the first green:

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They used to ask people to play in four hours and fifteen minutes; four hours is better, although three and a half would be better still. I went as a single, and was grouped with a retired guy and two of his grandsons, who were in high school. They hadn’t played much golf before, but both of them were baseball players, and every so often they really clobbered the ball.

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I had missed the previous Sunday at home, too, because I was playing in a two-day amateur tournament at Richter Park Golf Course, a terrific muny about 40 minutes from where I live. Three S.M.G. guys -- Rick, Tony, and I -- played in the senior division, and we did pretty well:

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After 25 holes, I was tied, for about five seconds, with the guy who eventually won, but then I had some problems, including a quadruple bogey (from the middle of the fairway) on the eleventh hole. Still, the tournament was fun. And the guys who didn’t play at Richter had fun, too, because on Sunday S.M.G. had its first playoff of the year, after three teams tied at 16 under par. I’m kind of sorry I wasn’t there, because our playoff formats are the best in golf. On Sunday, the guys came up with a new one, in which the tied players had to sit in a chair on the patio and throw a ball onto the practice green by bouncing it off a picnic-table bench, closest to the hole. 

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Hacker (who took the photo above) sent me a report:

Barney chose the bench to bounce the ball off of, and we made the guys sit on the far side of the round table, about nine feet from the bench. The stymie rule was in effect, as always, and we decided that any ball would count, even if it was off the green. We were worried at first that no one would be able to hit the bench, but that turned out not to be an issue, because Stan was the only one who missed it.

I'll be back home soon -- too late for that playoff, but just in time for the Men's Member-Guest.

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News & Tours

Missing Links: Players 'Moneyball' approach to improvement, Langer's improbable Ryder Cup bid

By John Strege

Stories of interest you might have missed…

“[Jason] Day said before every tournament, [caddie and coach Col] Swatton hands him a piece of paper that tells him what he has to do to win the event. It summarizes what the winner has done over the years — how many eagles, birdies, bogeys and double bogeys he had, along with averages on the par-3s, par-4s and par-5s,” writes Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal in this column on how golfers increasingly are using a “Moneyball” approach to improve.

JasonDay.jpg
Caddie and coach Col Swatton and Jason Day (Getty Images photo)

Bernhard Langer, 57 next month, no longer plays PGA Tour events save for the Masters, yet Tom Watson, Colin Montgomerie and Tony Jacklin all have said he warrants consideration for a place on the European Ryder Cup team, based on his extraordinary play on the Champions Tour of late. Tom Hayward of Reuters has the story.

“Nobody had ever said that word [choke] before,” NBC’s Johnny Miller said in this Q and A with Bud Shaw of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’ve always felt how players handle the pressure was the most interesting part of golf…The way Tiger would perform under pressure and how other guys would let tournaments go.”

“It is not unusual to see a photograph of a professional golfer hitting balls on the range in front of a group of interested spectators. But it is unusual when the golfer is a pudgy man in his mid-sixties, and the onlookers include Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Price, and Nick Faldo.” This is the lead to Jeff Neuman’s Wall Street Journal story on the legendary Canadian Moe Norman.

Two weeks before he tees it up in the PGA Championship, club pro Johan Kok played his first round of golf in a week. So it generally goes for club pros, even those good enough to play in a major championship. Columnist Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal looks at the PGA Championship from the perspective of the 20 club pros who qualified.

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Gear & Equipment

Callaway offers physics lesson on the clubhead of its new V Series driver

By Mike Stachura

loop-callaway-vseries-driver-518.jpgCallaway isn't saying much about the Big Bertha V Series club that showed up on last week's USGA list of conforming drivers. But given the timing and some of the clues on the clubhead itself, you can make a good guess as to what this driver is all about.

Making the rounds on tour this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (Thomas Bjorn is said to be one interested candidate), the club definitely emphasizes less weight. You can see slight indentations in the sole that are reminiscent of the old Big Bertha Warbird sole.

Most telling, however, are the words and formulas emblazoned on the clubhead. Included is the phrase Speed Optimized Technology and the formula for kinetic energy. The latter is a clear reference to the importance of increasing velocity (swing speed) to generate more energy at impact.

The adjustable driver is available in three lofts, according to its listing on the USGA website (9.5, 10.5 and 13.5HT). The company plans to introduce the driver formally next week.


Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digestix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things equipment.

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July 28, 2014

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