The Local Knowlege


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.

... Read

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.

... Read
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."  

... Read

How He Hit That: Brandt Snedeker's stiff short irons

After a few years in the putting wilderness, Brandt Snedeker returned to the front rank on the PGA Tour, setting the tournament scoring record on his way to winning his second AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. 

Snedeker shot rounds of 64-67-67-67 to beat Nick Watney by three, making only one bogey for the week on the way. It was his first win since Pebble two years ago, and validation for the work he had been doing to retool his swing with Butch Harmon since last summer. 

Snedeker's short and middle irons were especially precise on Pebble Beach's shortish 6,800 yards and tiny greens. On Sunday, he birdied both par-3s on the front side, including the tricky 100-yard 7th, which always plays in swirling winds. 

"With irons, especially ones under 150 yards, a good shoulder motion is very important," says top New York teacher Michael Jacobs, who is based at the X Golf School in Manorville, Long Island. "As he takes the club away, Snedeker's left shoulder works down, and his left hip works down. At the start of the downswing, his hips have pretty much leveled out but his left shoulder is still lower than his right. Many players move that right shoulder down too much and too early. The right shoulder should move down, but very late in the downswing."

Snedeker's shoulder motion lets him swing the club on a very square path to the target line without any manipulation of the arms or club. That's a recipe for very accurate short iron play--especially with some great local knowledge about the wind. 

... Read

Ryan Moore's at-home training aid proves PGA Tour pros are just as crazy as the rest of us

One of the reasons Ryan Moore is able to be such a good player with a quirky swing is because he does a number of key things well, among them: keeping his head really still. And, apparently, that hasn't gone unnoticed by Moore.

A picture doing a rounds on Twitter shows how Ryan Moore installed a training aid on his indoor practice putting green that is designed specifically to keep his head down and still. Check it out:

And it seems to be working. Moore has won three times on tour in the last four years, and has ranked in the top 25 of Strokes Gained/putting twice over that period.

And just look at that head! So steady.


... Read

So what happens now, Tiger?


Everybody has an opinion about what Tiger Woods should be doing during his self-described timeout from golf. Five minutes on Twitter with the #tigerwoods hashtag will show you everything from the obvious (feel better) to the loony (quit golf and take up skiing). 

But informed opinons are in short supply--both because Woods is notoriously private and unpredictable, and because what we've seen of him on the golf course over the last two months is literally unprecedented from a top-level player.

We asked a handful of instructors with some special expertise and insight to weigh in on what would be the most productive use of Tiger's time in the next few weeks. 

Wayne DeFrancesco's credentials on this subject are almost unique. He's a well-respected instructor who has helped Kevin Streelman win on the PGA Tour, and he has had a presence on both Golf Digest's national and state best teacher lists since 2000. DeFrancesco is also one of the top players among teaching pros over the last 30 years, qualifying to play in five PGA Championships, earning U.S. Open local qualifying medalist honors five times and winning the 2001 National Club Professional Championship. 

DeFrancesco hasn't taught Tiger, but he's also very familiar with what Woods is going through physically. He had a more elaborate version of the same back surgery Woods had last spring, getting microdiscectomy on two sides of two different discs in December. It was DeFrancesco's fourth major back surgery since 1983. 

For DeFrancesco, the answer is simple. 


"The length of his career and the amount of physical work he's put in are unprecedented in golf history. At age 39, he's done the work of a 55 year old. Is it surprising that he's experiencing a muscle and joint breakdown? Tiger needs time to get his body back under him as close to 100 percent as he can, and that might take longer than he wanted to believe at first," says DeFrancesco, who is based at Lakewood Country Club in Rockville, MD. "His leave of absence should be for most of this year. My neurosurgeon told me that the nerves affected by compression will regenerate over time once freed of obstructions, but that you have to give it time without putting too much stress on it too early. The word for Tiger is patience. " 

Once he's healthy, then the process of repairing his swing can start. "I would try to get him off TrackMan and back to just looking at his swing on video, trying to make it look the way he wants it to look instead of trying to manufacture numbers that somebody has decided are 'optimum," says DeFrancesco. "I don't see his short game as a long term problem, no matter what Brandel Chamblee says about it being the yips and the end of the world. I think that's ridiculous. Once he takes serious time away gets back to feeling whole, his game will come back to him." 

That concept of "wholeness" was a common theme from both instructors and mental game experts. Fixing the mechanical issues with both his short and long games is just one part of the puzzle. 

Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott are both Golf Digest 50 Best teachers, and their Vision54 coaching and performance program has helped players win six major championships and more than 100 tournaments on every major tour. "In every player, there's a physical piece, a technical piece, a mental piece, a social piece and an emotional piece," says Marriott. "When any of the others are off, it manifests itself as a problem with technique." 

"It's all integrated," adds Nilsson. "Of course there can be some truth to what he's saying about being in between movement patterns, but it's not that simple. You have to have both the technical skill and be able to create the performance when you need it. Watch him and there's so much tension, he's obviously not in his performance state." 

Instead of grinding away on short game practice during his time off, Woods needs to try to create situations that are closer to competition and rebuild his ability to respond. "If he's just practicing chipping, he's not practicing getting to the state he wants to be in," says Marriott. "It creates a disconnect in the brain. He needs to identify what's happening when his mental state changes in competition--change in grip pressure, change in shoulder tension--and get coaching on how to get back to his performance state. When players have been virtuosos from such a young age and lose it, sometimes it's hard to get back. He has to get at it, and want to get at it--but there's no question it's in there."

Even if he is able to put in the work, how much Tiger will be able to resemble his old self physically and mentally is the big open question. "I think Tiger always played golf for the pure joy of winning--to mercilessly destroy a competitor," says top Georgia teacher Brandon Stooksbury, who is based at the Idle Hour G. & C.C. in Macon. "There were guys out there with better technique, but Tiger won because he wanted to win, and because he actually got better under pressure. He couldn't wait to get there. It seems like he's lost that joy, and that pure desire. His body is broken, and he can't do what he used to be able to do. That doesn't mean he can't learn something different, but that mountain is so high now, at age 39. I'm not sure he can get there."

Woods isn't sharing what approach he will use, but top Maryland teacher Bernie Najar says it should be simple and start at home. "He's overloaded. He has too many choices in his head right now," says Najar, who is based at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. "He should take his kids out to the practice green and just fool around with them. Teach them how to chip it around to little targets. Feed off that positive energy and get some positive feedback. That needs to be his little playground for awhile." 

... Read

Want to train to swing harder? Don't say we didn't warn you

If you visited the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando last month, it was difficult to ignore the abundance of fitness equipment and swing trainers present that were designed with one goal in mind: getting golfers to swing the club faster. Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear) took note and wonders if that's a good thing.
"Take the typical amateur -- that middle-aged, 15-to-20 handicapper," Shear says. "Let's say he hits the ball 230 yards and about 10 percent off line. Now, without improving his impact alignments, he hits it 270 yards because he's swinging faster. That guy or girl is going to be significantly more off line because the impact alignments haven't changed. It's triangulation."
Even worse, Shear says, is that with more speed comes more force on the body. A great many golfers can't handle the extra force that comes with swinging harder (see photo of 2008-'09 Re/Max World Long Drive Champ Jamie Sadlowski), and the result will likely be pain and injury to the joints such as the shoulders and elbows.


"If you've got a trainer, a physical therapist and a chiropractor, and you're fit, strong and doing all the right things, then absolutely go for it. Get as fast as you possibly can," Shear says. "Unfortunately, most of us don't have access to that kind of help, and don't keep ourselves conditioned enough to work on increasing speed."

So what's the alternative? Shear suggests working on improving your impact alignments. If your driver swing speed is south of 100 mph, you're better off learning how to hit the ball on the upswing and making center-face contact. It's a safer training goal, certainly more accurate, and will lengthen your shots.

(Photo by J.D. Cuban) ... Read

8 ways golfers can snap their slump, according to a hypnotherapist

We're not sure if Tiger Woods' current funk is technically a "slump," but regardless, it's clear he's not in the same groove he's used to -- especially around the greens.

Whatever the case with Tiger's game, playing poorly for extended periods of time isn't a concept lost on golfers everywhere. So, with Tiger in the forefront of our minds and some lurking fears about our own game stationed in the back, we enlisted the help of Dr. Jay P. Granat, a Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist and founder of the website, who specializes in helping athletes snap their slumps.

Remember The Early Days

"Athletes get very self-critical when they start playing badly," Granat says. "I try to encourage players to think back to a time when the game was fun. When they didn't carry all the worries that they do now."

Take Some Time Off

"Sometimes," Granat says, "golfers get burnt out and they don't even know it. Taking time off and refreshing can be hugely beneficial."

Reduce Things To One Thought

"Professional golfers are like swiss watches, or a nice car," Granat says. "They don't need to ear everything down when things go bad. Usually they just need the subtlest of tweaks."

Create A Mantra

"Muhammad Ali's quote 'float like a butterfly and sting like a bee' is the example I always use," Granat says. "Simplify everything you want from your game into one decisive philosophy."

Refresh Your Routine

"When golfers come to me because they've lost their tempo, I always ask them what kind of music they like," Granat says. "One person I worked with liked the Beatles, so I told him to incorporate a Beatles song into his pre-shot routine."

Acknowledge Your Surroundings

Golfers can get very self-critical very quickly, as Dr. Granat mentioned earlier. "Looking at your surroundings can take the edge off."

Embrace Your Demons

"Missing a crucial putt is a little like PTSD, it can take some time to recover," Granat says. "Confront it, learn from it, and re-write it in your mind. Don't carry that weight around with you." 

Identify Your Habits

Some players operate best when they look at leader boards, or their scorecard, as they play, some prefer not to. "Experiment. Find out what makes you tick," Granat says.

... Read

Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #47: The Shooter's Mentality

One of the key mental toughness tools we teach in our golf schools and junior camps is the "Shooter's Mentality." The lesson comes from basketball and is designed to help players understand the mindset associated with maximizing success. In our session we tell the story of how a top player like Michael Jordan might get off to an amazing start in a game, making every shot. He's in a zone. The crowd feels it. His teammates feel it. The building is about to burst as shot after shot hits nothing but net. In this instance, the player's emotional state is so positively charged the prospect of failure seems ludicrous. As he runs down the court his confidence is off the charts as he telegraphs to his teammates "Give me the ball!"

As we know, life is often not one continual hot streak. A player who has a career game, the next day against the same opponent might have just the opposite result. Even a player as talented as Michael Jordan is not immune to such a swing in performance. He understands, however, the secret to getting his mojo back, is all in the mindset associated with playing a game of opportunity.

As we tell the "shooter's story," we explain this time, things just aren't going the player's way. Nothing is going right, as each shots smacks the backboard or bounces off the rim. The crowd is silent as their star misses again and again. In this moment we ask the question, "What is he thinking now?" Nearly 100% of the class answers, "Don't give me the ball!" This is the answer we expect, setting up the key point of the conversation.

The mentally tough athlete fully understands the correlation between thinking and success. They understand the more they elevate their mood, the more access they'll have to their athletic brilliance. In this instance, where not a single shot has been made, the thought process is no different than it was the night before." As he runs down the court his mind is saying, "This is perfect. This couldn't be better. Give me the ball!" It's a powerful mindset to operate from and a likely reason the entire world knows about players like Michael Jordan.

To have the "Shooter's Mentality" means you always want the ball. You see everything you do as a game of opportunity with no reason to shrink or hesitate just because one swing, one shot or one attempt at anything didn't go your way. It's the understanding that people are at their best when they feel their best and an elevated mood is always only a thought away!

Spend some time thinking like a champion and you can count this week's challenge as complete!

Elevate Mood
Develop Mental Toughness
Increase Performance

Jeff Ritter is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow him on Twitter at @mttgolf ... Read

Make The Turn Weekly Challenge Blog #45: Manifest The Future

You're never too young or too old to start learning the power your thoughts have in creating every experience in life. Each summer during my Nike Junior Golf Camps in Pebble Beach, I make sure the kids leave the program with a nudge in the right direction related to this important realization.

About midweek we sit the kids down in a classroom at the Robert Louis Stevenson School, which hosts our program. We begin our mindset training by showing a short motivational film that features a real-life story of achievement. As a staff, we love digging for the perfect new movie each year. Our criteria is always that the story must feature someone who demonstrates a high level of courage, works through adversity and, most of all, never falls into the "victim's mentality."

Following the film, we have an open discussion about what made the person's journey so incredible. The ultimate conclusion is always that the "achievement" was a product of the person's ability to "think" in a manner that continually served him or her in the face of what most others would perceive to be impossible circumstances.

After our discussion, we present each camper with an unusual item: a fishing weight hanging from a six-inch string. We use this to conduct an exercise that's all about "imagery." The kids are directed to hold the end of the string as the weight hangs quietly downward. As the campers focus intently on the weight, they're asked to, "in their mind's eye," create a clear mental picture of the weight swinging in a pendulum fashion towards and away from them. Within seconds, the room fills with surprise as the weights begin swinging according to the mind's command. Next, the kids are asked to change their mental picture, this time imagining the weight swinging in a circular fashion around the numbers of massive clock. With each pass they're asked to picture the weight picking up speed, eventually spinning out of control. Again, the weights begin to zip in an arc just as pictured. By now the room is buzzing as the kids are blown away with amazement.

As the exercise comes to completion, we ask if anyone was "consciously" trying to move their weight? With the answer being "no," we then ask, "if you weren't trying to move the weight, then how did it move?" Once we eliminate superpowers and Jedi mind tricks, everyone understands the weight was swinging because their hands were physically creating the motion, even though they were totally unaware of the action.

Through this simple experience, the kids learn perhaps the most basic and powerful of all mental-toughness mantras, "What I think IS what I do!"

Spend some time upgrading the quality of your thoughts by creating your clearest mental picture of success and you can count this week's challenge as complete.

Develop Clarity
Create Positive Action
Get What You Want

Jeff Ritter is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow him on Twitter at @mttgolf
... Read
Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today