Keely Levins (above)
Golf Digest Handicap: 4.1 (down from 6.0)
My Goal: To get rid of some extraneous moving parts in my swing, placing the focus on efficiency. Start making up shots around the green (instead of losing them). And finally, qualify for the U.S. Women's Amateur.
What’s working: My swing feels shorter. I’ve stepped away from the ball, which makes it harder for me to start the takeaway with my hips. That move opened me up too much, and created too much room for my arms to turn, allowing them to get past parallel at the top (OK, sometimes WAY past parallel). I like where my short game is going. I have three drills for chipping and putting that I rotate through. The result: I’m feeling more confident around the greens. (I actually have a decent idea of where the ball is going when I have a wedge in my hands!)
What still needs work: I played in that U.S. Am qualifier. Unfortunately my front nine was not good. Quick swings, missed greens, unforced errors. If I took what I shot on the back nine and doubled it, I would have qualified. But alas, that isn’t how it works. So now the goal becomes figuring how to put a full round together. And that’s going to come from more time at the range, getting a better handle on my distances, and keeping my swing speed in check -- no matter how excited I get.
Sam Weinman (below, video)
Golf Digest Handicap: 14.2 (down from 16.7)
My goal: The plan was to either get down to a single-digit handicap by the end of the summer -- or at least get close enough where saying my goal out loud would not be met with laughter.
What's working: I used to think of my right elbow chicken wing as an aesthetic flaw that was otherwise inconsequential. What I've learned is that by tucking my elbow into my side, I'm able to turn and swing without fear of a hook. The result has been much more consistent ball-striking, and regular scores in the 80s.
What still needs work: I still feel like I'm working too hard for pars and bogeys, which is a function of me not hitting enough greens. Though my ball-striking has certainly been crisper, I'm still a little loose with my irons, which I suspect is an alignment issue. It certainly would help if I was a little longer off the tee. Right now I'm decidedly average.
Steve Hennessey (above)
Golf Digest Handicap: 18.5 (down from 25.3)
My goal: I entered this summer a 25-handicapper, with a goal of shooting in the low 90s consistently. I’ve never made “goals” to improve my game, so this was a new concept to me. I made an effort to eliminate double and triple bogeys from my scores, which I’ve accomplished so far this summer. This challenge finally forced me to focus on fixing my inconsistencies.
What’s working: My golf swing has resembled more of a baseball swing since I picked up golf my senior year of high school. My backswing was infamously short the last seven years. I would make a practice swing with great extension back and through the ball, but once I made a real swing, it looked completely different. In my head I was making a full swing, but I barely was bringing the club above my shoulders.
Great advice from Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Mike Adams and Golf Digest’s own Jeff Patterson gave me great swing thoughts: Feel like my right hand was bringing the club up to the top. (Before, my left hand was controlling the club.) Also, I’m finally making a full turn behind the ball, focusing on turning my right pocket away from the target. It’s worked so far. I’ve really come on strong -- I’ve gone from a 25.6 to a 18.5 in less than two months. And I shot my career-low score -- an 86 at beautiful Seaview Resort’s Bay course, where the LPGA ShopRite Classic is held (photo, above) -- two weeks ago. Let’s just say I’m not as disappointed with my game as I was on May 30th.
What still needs work: Put a 5- or 7-iron in my hands, and it’s a guessing game. Adding a 6-hybrid, however, has been a money decision. If every approach shot was 170 yards, I’d be making pars left and right. So long irons and not having a fairway wood are still leaving gaps in my game, which I could fill to shave some more strokes off my game.