The Local Knowlege

How He Hit That

How He Hit That: Jimmy Walker's prime bunker touch

Early in the final round of the Valero Texas Open, it looked like Jimmy Walker would walk to his second tour title of the season

But bogeys on holes No. 4 and 7--and four consecutive late birdies by Jordan Spieth--made the birdie Walker saved with a great bunker shot in the par-5 8th extremely important. 

Walker played his second shot from scrubland 265 yards into the greenside bunker, but was left with an awkward sidehill lie to a pin 25 yards away. He carved the bunker shot perfectly, leaving himself four feet--and partially rebuilding his lead over Spieth. He ended up winning by four, and entering the top 10 in the world rankings. 

"When the ball is below your feet like that, it can be a challenge to get the club down through the sand," says top Maryland teacher Trillium Rose, who is based at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville. "He really dug his feet in and lowered his center of mass. If he didn't squat like that, he would have run the risk of topping the ball."

The distance of the bunker shot also required plenty of clubhead speed, which Walker produced by turning his torso. "It wasn't just an arms swing," says Rose. "He turned his torso and kept accelerating through the ball, just like he was striking a match."

To try it yourself, first make some practice swings outside the bunker, making sure to take an aggressive cut of grass down near the roots, says Rose. "When you get in and hit it, turn through so your belt buckle faces the target at the finish. You need body turn along with soft, fast arms."

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3 videos from Jordan Spieth that explains how to hit 30-, 40- and 50-yard pitch shots

With prime golf season fast approaching, it's time to start thinking about the parts of your game that weren't so hot last season. Chipping and pitching is an obvious area of concern for many, but don't worry, Jordan Spieth has you covered. American golf's golden child shot some videos with Titleist explaining some of the basics to three of the game's most essential shots.

30 yards

Takeaway tip: Keeping your hands level with the ball at impact, rather than in front of the ball, will help launch the ball into the air because you'll be utilizing the full loft of the club.

40 yards

Takeaway tip: When you try to hit a low, spinning shot onto the green, make sure to set up with the face slightly open. It'll help you get some nice check on the golf ball.

50 yards

Takeaway tip: Generate the power you need by hinging aggressively on the backswing, and releasing calmly as the club slides under the ball.

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How to learn a thing or two from Moe Norman's unique swing regularly highlights golf books we find of interest to readers. This week is:

The Single Plane Golf Swing: Play Better Golf the Moe Norman Way

By Todd Graves, with Tim O'Connor, Brown Books, $29.95, hardback, 196 pages


The limitless potential each golfer possesses, no matter the unique nature of his or her swing, was never more evident than in the distinctively individual style of Canadian legend Moe Norman. Before he died at age 75 in 2004, he had for decades been the greatest player the public didn't know. He won 55 times on the Canadian Tour, but his infrequent forays outside his native land made him virtually unknown. His record shows he played just two majors -- the 1956 and 1957 Masters, listed in its media guide by his given name Murray Norman -- and in those two he missed the cut. He made a minor attempt to play the PGA Tour in the late 1950s. He was shy and believed to be afflicted with a social disorder, displaying odd mannerisms on the course that, coupled with his unusual swing method, made him an eccentric curiosity, tended to be appreciated mostly by fellow players who often considered him one of the greatest strikers of the ball ever.

Among those who label Norman a genius are devoted authors Graves and O'Connor. This is their second joint effort on Norman, having flipped the author order from 1995's The Feeling of Greatness -- The Moe Norman Story. While that book was more biographical, this one is mainly instructional. Norman was a one-planer; his club swung on the same plane from start to finish. Graves and his brother, Tim, began the Graves Golf Academy in 2000, and there "Norman swing style" is taught exclusively, making Todd Graves one of the world's major experts on the one-plane swing.

Related: Catch up on other Golf Digest book reviews

For all the mystery around Norman, when his swing is broken down, there is brilliance and even beauty to the method. As Golf Digest first revealed in a revelatory Norman cover story in December 1995, the swing produces great accuracy in spite of the funny appearance. Norman stood with his legs spread wide and his arms and legs stiff, the clubhead soled about a foot behind the ball. He gripped the club in the palms of his hands rather than fingers, and he appeared to take half of a backswing and follow-through, somewhat like a punch shot. All in all, quite unconventional, and amusing to the gallery. But Norman's style allowed him to swing the same with every club in his bag and each shot was struck solidly and flew with deadly accuracy.

This is a great-looking book, part homage to Moe and the rest a well-illustrated explanation of his swing method under the "single-plane swing" moniker. Some swing experts would say that Norman was a quirk of nature, with as a unique swing as Jim Furyk has and you can't teach their method. In Norman's case you see great reason to swing the way he does as opposed to conventionally, and this book does a marvelous job of explaining both and helping you decide if you want to make the single-plane leap.

If you get hooked on the Moe Norman story, I'd also recommend you try Lorne Rubenstein's 2012 book Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius, and Natural Golf: A Lifetime of Better Golf, the latter written by Peter Fox and Golf Digest in 1998.

I particularly liked: The many biographical segments on Norman, along with the use of him from time to time in the instructional imagery demonstrating positions along with Graves. The color images are engaging and graphic elements pinpoint key instruction points quite well.

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Throwback Thursday

One of golf's wisest minds turns 90 this weekend

The world of golf has always seemed blessed by wise minds who bring sense and keen perception to the game's daily events as well as its overall development. Instructors have been a constant supplier of enlightened individuals through the years. Texan teacher Harvey Penick, mentor to Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, oozed wisdom as well as anyone ever did. But joining the Little Red Book author in a shrine to the all-time sagest minds in golf would be his English counterpart, John Jacobs. It could be argued that they would be the two prominent faces on a monument to teaching brilliance.

loop-john-jacobs-teaching-300.jpgWith Jacobs turning 90 on Saturday, it's a good time to celebrate the man from Yorkshire County and son of a golf professional.

Jacobs was modestly successful as a playing professional, with two victories in 1957 and a 2-0 record in his lone Ryder Cup appearance in 1955 for Great Britain. That was the year he had his best finish in a major, a T-12 at the British Open, which he played in 14 times (while never playing the other three).

Related: John Jacobs' Life Full Of Lessons

But it was Jacobs' astute mind and ability to study and analyze the swing that made teaching and leading, rather than playing, his more suitable roles. He was European Ryder Cup captain in 1979 and 1981, back when the U.S. was the team that couldn't lose. By then Jacobs had been a huge force behind the European Tour's growth, as founder and first tournament director, thus earning the moniker "the father of European golf." And in 1971, he and Shelby Futch had opened the John Jacobs Golf Schools and Academies, which still operates today. Jacobs delighted in teaching both pro and amateur. 

Related: Jaime Diaz profiles John Jacobs

Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2000, Jacobs at one time was a Professional Teaching Panel member of Golf Digest, and authored 12 articles. He has written nine instruction books, but two stand out as his most astute and useful and worth trying to track down as a used book (go to Practical Golf, with Ken Bowden, came out in 1972 and can still be found in paperback. And 2006's 50 Years of Golfing Wisdom, is Jacobs' Little Red Book-type tome on all things golf.


An illustration of how Jacobs could communicate so logically is this passage from a February 1972 piece in Golf Digest called, "What Causes What in Your Swing and Why":

"Do one thing right in the golf swing and it will lead to another right. Do one thing wrong and it will produce another wrong. In this sense, golf is a reaction game. Never forget that fact. The world is full of golfers who say, 'I know what to do but I can't do it.' They can't do it because, whatever their conscious desires, their actual swing actions are reactions to basic major faults…If you can turn your shoulders and swing a straight—but not stiff—left arm in the backswing, then unwind your hips while swinging your arms freely in the downswing, you won't be far from a very good golf game. If you can then add the feeling of hitting through the ball on an extended right arm, you'll be very close to exceptional golf."

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The evolution of Rickie Fowler's golf swing, in 16 seconds

Since joining forces with swing coach Butch Harmon last year, Rickie Fowler's golf swing has undergone some pretty drastic changes. 

Rickie used to get the club really outside and shut on his backswing, which would leave his arms in a very flat position at the top of his swing. As Butch's son, Claude, explains below, it made it hard for Rickie to do anything other than draw the ball, which is why he made the change.

But it didn't happen overnight: It's been an incremental process that's taken the better part of a year. Twitter user @Jat54Golf does a good job charting that progression in this video:

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Public Service Announcement: This is how you should make your divots on the driving range

This is important information, so listen up:

If you like grass on driving range, then please -- we implore you -- don't just scatter your range balls all over the place and start hitting them. Keep them in a pile, and hit them one-by-one. Once you've hit one, place your next ball about an inch or so behind your previous divot and hit away. Trust us: It makes the range better for everyone.

Thanks to @college_golfers for bringing the important and ongoing issue to light:

This marks the end of your public service announcement.

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What you probably thought would help improve your short game might not really be the case regularly highlights golf books we find of interest to readers. This week is:

loop-short-game-solutions-book-300.jpgYour Short Game Solution: Mastering the Finesse Game from 120 Yards and In
By James Sieckmann (foreword by Dr. Greg Rose of the Titleist Performance Institute), Gotham Books, $27.95, hardback, 171 pages

Not only are golfers bombing it longer off the tee than decades ago, the distances at which they can be proficient with the short game seem to be increasing as well. That's if you use the 30-year evolution of short-game books as a measuring stick.

First was Tom Watson's 1983 classic, Getting Up and Down: How to Save Strokes from 40 Yards and In. Within the decade in 1989 came Raymond Floyd's From 60 Yards In: How to Master Golf's Short Game, and in the years after Floyd there were a few books that said you could be a short-game expert from 100 yards in. With James Sieckmann's new book, you can be good with the short game from 120 yards in; but he was beaten to 120 by Ted Hunt in his 2010 book, Ben Hogan's Short Game Simplified: The Secret to Hogan's Game from 120 Yards and In.

Related: Catch up on other Golf Digest book reviews

Watson and Floyd wrote from their careers as World Golf Hall of Fame players with a pair of the best short games in history. Sieckmann played professionally, and also soaked in playing knowledge from older brother Tom, a 17-year tour player with one victory. But James Sieckmann, who lists several dozen tour players as students of his, gathered his knowledge from studying great players -- including Seve Ballesteros and Floyd -- and devising a methodology he says takes the best features of great short-game players while going against some of the long-standing beliefs about short-game technique. He disagrees with such common thoughts as "don't let the club head pass the hands" and "lean toward the target at address." The operator of an academy at Shadow Ridge Country Club in Omaha, Neb., and prior to that a Dave Pelz School staff member, Sieckmann is insistent that hard work and diligence be a part of the learning process or improvement can't be achieved. 

The focus of Sieckmann's method, which he professes to have been teaching since 1994, is the "finesse wedge system," which can be used for any wedge and for any shot situation. The system is a way to practice and learn based on what he observed from short-game artists. Some shots are named after a player, such as "The Raymond Floyd" for shots on an upslope. With its many charts, journal assignments and training plans, Short Game Solution reads more like a textbook or manual than a step-by-step, large-photo instruction book.

Being proficient at short shots is not a quick fix, it's a serious all-out effort, and Sieckmann's book gives you the blueprint to short-game proficiency if you're as serious as he is to learn. (Interestingly, Sieckmann presents the short-game swing as a different swing than the full swing, something that contrasts with what Tiger Woods has referred to with the recent work he has done with swing consultant Chris Como, where Woods says he is having trouble trying to match his short-game release patterns and impact points to those of his full swing.)

I particularly liked: The healthy number of drills spotted throughout. A good drill is often an amateur's best chance to understanding a technique and then master it. Also, many of the black-and-white sequence photos are run thumbnail size, making it tough to see details at times. An eight-page section of color sequences is a nice break from the smaller images and makes you wish every image was in color.

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How one of Padraig Harrington's crazy training aids actually kind of helped him

At the 2013 PGA Show, I walked past a tent full of people trying to swing in what looked like a straight jacket and found myself intrigued. I was quickly introduced to a guy -- the inventor -- Raymond Rapcavage, who described how he came up with the idea.

"I was so angry...I put my arms in my sweater and ripped one of the sleeves off," Rapcavage said. "I jammed both by arms in one of the sleeves and almost immediately I started thinking: 'hey, this actually feels kind of good.'"

The product that came out of that semi-destructive process is called the Golf Swing Shirt, which is essentially just a spandex golf shirt with one sleeve. Rapcavage managed to get it into the hands of a few different tour pros, and one of them -- Padraig Harrington -- liked it so much that he agreed to become the face of the product.

The change is subtle, as you can see below, but Padraig gravitated towards the product because he liked how it kept his hands and arms more compact at the top of his backswing. When your hands get too high at the top of your backswing, it's easy to loose control and can even lead to an injury, which is part of the reason Padraig made the change.

"I changed my shoulder turn. I used to try and clear my shoulders under my chin," Harrington said in 2011. "I'm trying to swing my shoulder into my chin now so I'm trying to tuck my chin in more at the top of my backswing."

padraigharringtonswing-560.jpgIn any case, it seemed to work for Padraig. It's been a hard slog for him these past few years, but hopefully we'll see more shots like this in the future.

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Lee Westwood shows off his cross-handed swing, explains why it's a good practice technique

Vijay Singh reminded us all last week of an interesting idea: cross-handed chipping. He's not the first to do it; Josh Broadaway has made a decent living on the Tour playing cross-handed, and Chris Couch won on the PGA Tour in 2006 chipping cross-handed.

Nevertheless, the three-time major champ and former World No. 1's move is probably the most high-profile to date, so it's always worth considering why he made the switch. Vijay said he found himself in a chipping slump and the left-hand low technique felt natural because that's how he started playing golf.

And he's not the only pro to tinker around with the left-hand-low grip on their full shots. On Monday, Lee Westwood shared this video of him hitting a few balls cross-handed. The first one wasn't so good...

But the second was much better.

On Twitter afterwards, Westwood explained that amateurs could benefit from hitting more shots left-hand low because it doesn't allow your right arm to get in a funky position during setup.

Another potential benefit of hitting some shots cross-handed, as we've written about before, has to do with the left wrist. Lots of golfer flip their wrists at the ball, especially on chip shots, but chipping cross-handed makes it easier to keep that left wrist firm and towards the target through the ball.

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How He Hit That

How He Hit That: James Hahn's cold-blooded putting

Being best known for a great attitude and a willingness to do the Gangnam Style dance isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's far better to be known as a PGA Tour winner. 

James Hahn did that with his 23-foot birdie putt on the third hole of a playoff at Riviera to win for the first time. He beat two more seasoned competitors in Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson, and earned his first trip to the Masters in the process.

Hahn survived the first playoff hole after hitting a flop shot over a greenside bunker on the first one to save par. On the second, he made it from 13 feet after Johnson put his approach for birdie to three feet. Then came the dagger that ended up winning the tournament when Johnson missed his own 12-footer for birdie. 

The two keys to staying under control when you're standing over a putt you have to make are oxygen and routine, says tour short game guru Stan Utley. "Routines are both physical and mental, and they're equally important," says Utley, who is based at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale. "Those routines are something you can lean on when you get under pressure. But without oxygen, the body doesn't respond too well."

Don't change your routine and slow it down to breathe when you get in a tight spot. Instead, prepare ahead of time by building a routine for every shot that has breathing as an intentional component. "Then it becomes automatic," says Utley. "It doesn't mean you'll never miss a putt. But you'll miss them for golf reasons, not because the moment got too big."  

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