The Local Knowlege


Think teaching 30,000 lessons is a lot? Well, think again.

As of today, I feel like such a slacker.

The newest member of the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy, Matt Fields, has traveled the world -- Bolivia, India, Taiwan, you name it -- and taught "over 30,000" golf lessons (that's an average of one a day for 82+ years, if you're keeping track).

To give that many lessons, your daily schedule would have to include five students, over the course of two decades, even on the holidays. Either this man is the best multi-tasker or he never takes a break.

"He has experience," said Gilchrist, with whom Fields has reunited after years teaching together at the International Junior Golf Academy, "that is much unparalleled in the game."

You would think.

But as it happens passing that 30,000-lessons barrier is more like hitting .300 than .400 over a 162-game major-league schedule. 

Scores and scores of teachers have already reached that plateau. And with another 30,000 lessons, Matt's hobby would match this Hobby's hobby. But he'd still trail a bunch who've surpassed 70,000 lessons.

Ernie Boshers, who's been teaching since 1986, boasts 80,000. The late Jerry Belt's bio cites he stood on the practice tee for all 100K. Just to count that tally, alone, takes 77 hours—sacrificing another 77 possible lessons. But who's counting?

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Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #24: Healthier Happy Hour

For most adults, a round of golf is commonly associated with enjoying social time in the clubhouse or 19th hole.

If you belong to a club or play often, golf is part of your lifestyle. A "lifestyle" is a pattern of behaviors which make you not only who you are, but who you're going to be. Make bad choices related to your health, and over time you might find yourself in a hole you can't get out of.

I love everything associated with a great day at the course, including a post-round celebration with my group. But, just because it's time to cut loose doesn't mean you can't still make mindful decisions that allow you to unwind while protecting your health.

Being healthier, doesn't mean you have to take on some "all or nothing" effort that leaves you feeling deprived. In fact, getting started is as simple deciding to choose one thing to upgrade and one thing to drop. What if you did something as easy as dropping the bread from your normal post-round burger, while upgrading your fluid intake by drinking a couple tall glasses of water between cocktails? You'd rehydrate, help prevent a hangover AND take a step towards reducing your waistline.

make-the-turn-healthy-happy-hour-518.jpgBack in the day, there was no one who could kill a club sandwich or crush a mountain of nachos better than me. Through committing to making more mindful choices, I've made progress towards creating a healthier lifestyle that's simple, delicious and sustainable without feeling left out on all the fun!

See if you can make some better choices during your next happy hour or post-round meal and you can count this nutrition challenge as complete.

Healthier Indulgence
Support Weight Management
Healthier Lifestyle

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

GIF: Tiger Woods' golf swing with Butch vs. Haney vs. Foley

On Monday Tiger Woods split with his instructor Sean Foley, marking the end of what was essentially the fourth era for his ever-evolving swing.

It started with Butch Harmon, Phil Mickelson's current instructor who Tiger began working with in college, and who oversaw Woods' first major swing overhaul in the latest 1990s. Before ending their relationship in 2003, the pair won eight majors together. Woods' swing in the first GIF is during the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

The second GIF is Tiger's swing under Hank Haney, who he won six majors with between 2005 and 2008. It's a little more precautionary than his swing with Butch, guarding against that failing left knee he was worried about at the time.

The final GIF is of Tiger's swing at this year's Honda Classic, under the tutelage of Sean Foley. You'll notice his body staying a little more central over the ball, which is one of Foley's keys for hitting good iron shots.
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How He Hit That: Hunter Mahan's precise iron shots

Watch Hunter Mahan stripe ball after ball in a majestic, dead-straight parabola and it's difficult to imagine that before Sunday he hadn't won in more than two years. 


The struggles with a cranky putter and a so-so short game were a distant memory at the Barclays, where Mahan shot a final-round 65 to win the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs by two shots over Stuart Appleby, Cameron Tringale and Jason Day. Mahan was aesthetically and statistically superb with his irons, leading the field in greens hit at just over 80 percent. He made five birdies in seven holes on the back nine, and two of them were from less than five feet.

"It's amazing to watch Hunter hit balls," says Top 50 Teacher Kevin Weeks, who is based at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, Ill. "His swing is so simple, and he hits it so straight, with just a hint of a draw at the end. He draws it the right way, too, with an open club face and path that's slightly out to the right. He never flips the clubhead over, and he's never in any danger of overhooking it."

Mahan's precision starts from a balanced setup, and he never manipulates the club in a way that would force him to make a compensation on the downswing. "The club goes back perfectly, and he doesn't really use his hands," says Weeks. "The club gets very deep behind him, and from there he moves to his left side, and once he gets his left shoulder on top of his left hip, he rotates his hips to bring the club through. Most average players don't turn and just wave at the ball with their arms, or they just turn the upper body and cut across it from over the top." 

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#HelpMeGolfDigest: Shaun Webb fixes your weight shift and head movement

When PGA Tour player David Toms decided to open a golf academy in his hometown of Shreveport, La., he entrusted the chief teaching job to Shaun Webb -- a Maine native with extensive experience using cutting-edge training tools, such as the K-Vest and TrackMan, and who had certification with the Titleist Performance Institute. Webb has also worked with tour players such as Yani Tseng, Peter Hanson and Morgan Hoffman through his affiliation with the academy run by Top 50 teacher Gary Gilchrist in Florida.

This week, Webb reviewed a handful of swings submitted by readers through Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #HelpMeGolfDigest. The first comes from @jmsurma, who has a strong swing but needs to clean up some extraneous motion. 

"Nice overall motion, and it would improve with some work on your head movement in the downswing," Webb says. "In the transition and moving into the downswing, make sure your head and the buttons on your shirt move to a point more on top of the ball at impact, and at impact let your head continue to release and move toward the target -- staying even with your belt buckle instead of behind it. You'll really improve your rotation through the shot."

Reader @drizzyhoon could improve his weight shift to produce more power and eliminate an out-to-in swing path.

"As the club reaches the top of the swing and before you change direction into the downswing, feel your weight shifting into your left side," Webb says. "By the time the left arm reaches parallel in the downswing, you should feel at least 70 percent of your weight on your left foot, and continue to move it more left as you finish the swing."

The third swing comes from @ryan_cast, who produces plenty of speed but has to make some in-swing compensations. 

"The swing is a very dynamic motion with a lot of great elements," Webb says. "At address, you have your right forearm higher than your left, which puts you in an open position and hurts the consistency of your takeaway. Even them out, and and at the top of your backswing, make sure you let your hips and right thigh rotate to the right more, which will put you in better position to push off and generate power. It will also prevent your lower body from out-racing your upper body as you move toward impact."

Keep hashtagging those videos #HelpMeGolfDigest and watch for the next round of swing analysis next week.

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How He Hit That: Bernhard Langer's ageless swing

The testament to Bernhard Langer's dominance on the Champions Tour isn't that he has five victories this year and an almost $800,000 lead on the money list over No. 2 Colin Montgomerie. It's that his name is being inserted into the conversation as a candidate to be one of Paul McGinley's captain's picks for the European Ryder Cup that will play next month. 

The 56-year-old Langer probably won't make the team, but he still looks -- and plays -- like the guy who was a stalwart of the 1990s European squads.

At the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, Langer shot rounds of 67-67-66 to brush away Woody Austin and Mark O'Meara by a shot. It was his 24th win as a senior, and the fifth win of his 2014 season, tying his personal best for victories in a year set in 2010. Langer is on his way to winning his sixth money title in seven full years on the Champions Tour, and he's doing it by leading the tour in greens hit and converting on an average of 5.18 birdies per round -- also tops on tour. 

"The signature of Bernhard's swing is balance and coordination," says ESPN swing coach Jerome Andrews, who is based at Spring Creek Golf Club in Charlottesville, Va. "He has the club, arms and body all turning through impact together. There's not a lot to go wrong, and he's never going to hit the ball very crooked."

Add in the fact that Langer has once again solved the yips with an unconventional stroke and he's taking advantage of all the extra birdie looks he gets. 

"To be that precise, he doesn't use a lot of leg action," Andrews says. "The clubhead, shaft, hands and left arm swing together and track up an imaginary line in front of his toes to a controlled, three-quarter arm swing. The club comes back on an inside path to the target line, which gives him an ideal mix of distance, accuracy and balance."

Langer was never one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour, but his fanatical fitness routine and efficient swing have proven to age well. He's 10th on the Champions Tour in driving distance at just under 280 yards -- almost 20 yards longer than he hit it during his regular-tour career. 

"A good start to getting some of what Langer has in your swing is to be in position from the start," Andrews says. "Get your upper body balanced on top of your lower body at address, and position your weight on the balls of your feet. If your shoulders are tilted or your weight is back on your heels, you're going to have to compensate with big body movements and lose that precision."

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Rory McIlroy's swing coach is the un-guru

Rory McIlroy's rise has a lot of the same elements as the Tiger Woods story from 1997 to 2000 --  precocious talent, huge power, plenty of charisma, and a giant endorsement deal from Nike. 


What McIlroy's story doesn't have is swing drama. Woods has torn down his swing three different times and is in the middle of a very public struggle with his back and his game. McIlroy has had the same coach, Northern Irishman Michael Bannon, since he was seven, and his 2014 swing looks like a more polished version of the one he used when he was 15.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," said McIlroy from the podium after winning last week's PGA. "That's my motto. I've always been that way. I feel like the work I've put into my golf swing from the age of 15 to 20 is going to see me sort of throughout my career."

Below are three McIlroy swings, from age 9, 22 and last year at 24, all which show the same DNA as the swing on display at Valhalla last week.  

The 58-year-old Bannon was the head professional at Holywood Golf Club outside Belfast when McIlroy came to the club with his father, Gerry -- a strong player himself. Bannon described giving the talented 7-year-old a mixture of technical and playing lessons to keep him enjoying the game and developing his ability to manufacture different shots. Through the years, Bannon recorded hundreds of McIlroy's best swings, catalogued with descriptions of the feels that went with them. He's said his goal wasn't to build a "perfect" swing, but to give him a grounding in the fundamentals and the tools to diagnose his own swing problems. 

Now, when McIlroy hits a wild shot, like he did in his first round at the PGA, he has a better chance at making a mid-course correction and resuming his round. After snap-hooking a 5-wood out of bounds on the 10th hole to make a double-bogey, and following it with a three-putt bogey, he responded with four straight birdies to shoot 66. 

"I have a golf swing that can go off from time to time, but I know the parameters of it and I know how to get it back on track," McIlroy said. "Driving played a big role in 2012 when I won this tournament and few others, but I feel I'm a better driver now. I'm not as one-dimensional. I can hit the ball both ways. I can flight it down. I can flight it up. I'm a little more confident with it. My lines are tighter, and it doesn't have the ability to have these big misses, which is very important." 

Starting in 2013, Bannon began traveling full-time with McIlroy, and offers much more than an additional set of diagnostic eyes. "He was a fairly accomplished player himself, and he knows how to play the game and what it's about," McIlroy said of Bannon. "I have good chats with him about course management and picking certain shots for certain situations, and that's how our relationship has evolved."

The low-key Bannon doesn't do much to publicize his work with the World No. 1. He's not in any commercials, and he doesn't have a stable of other tour players he teaches. But before McIlroy sank the final putt at Valhalla, he said he took some time to compose himself and look around the green for two people he wanted to hug after the win to celebrate -- his father and his coach.

It ain't broke.     

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What should Tiger Woods do to fix his swing? We ask top teachers to weigh in

By Matthew Rudy

Tiger Woods -- and by extension, Sean Foley -- has a complicated problem.

How does Woods recover from a major back injury and build a swing that will not only keep him competitive at the elite level but also stay upright long enough to make a realistic run at Jack Nicklaus' major record? And then do it under the most intense microscope in the game? 


Woods doesn't say much -- about anything -- and Foley is intentionally vague about their work. 

That leaves everybody on the outside to fill the information vacuum with speculation about Woods and Foley are doing, or should be doing.

And fill it, they do. We asked a collection of top teachers to analyze Woods' post-surgery swing this week and offer their take on his technique. The challenges in front of the player were evident during a first round 74 in which he sprayed tee shots wildly both left and right. And judging by the range of teachers' responses, Woods isn't close.

Michael Jacobs uses roomful of sensors, force plates and 3D motion-capture cameras to help him teach at the X Golf School in Manorville, Long Island. He ran video of Woods' swings from 2000 and today through his collection of simulators and produced this series of overlays showing the differences in his position near, at, and after impact.

"The most obvious thing to see is that he has a tremendous forward lean with the shaft down through impact now," says Jacobs, who was the 2012 Metropolitan New York PGA Teacher of the Year. "The more that angle between the lead arm and club is increased, the more you're going to hit down on the arc, and the more you're going to skew the path to the right. With the driver, it's even more pronounced. That's why you're seeing him have to aim so far to the left and make a violent contortion with his body to try to shove the ball out to the right." 

The blue figures represent Tiger Woods' swing in 2000, the yellow show his current swing. Woods' hands are noticeably more forward at impact, leaning the shaft toward the target. Swing image by Michael Jacobs

The forward shaft lean reduces the effective loft of the club and helps Woods produce more ball speed, but as the clubs get longer, it makes it more difficult for him to both launch the ball high and control his direction. With the driver or 3-wood, it manifests as a two-way miss -- a high block to the right or a pull hook. Woods hit some of each during his first round 74 at Valhalla -- back-to-back hooks with a driver and 3-wood on his 10th and 11th holes, and a block that missed 40 yards right of his target on his 16th. He hit eight fairways and 10 greens, and averaged 286 yards in driving distance. 

"On iron shots, he still returns the club to impact pretty close to where he sets up," says top  teacher Bernie Najar, who is based at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. "But with the driver, he comes in with his hands much higher, and a lot of forward lean on the shaft. I haven't seen too many good drivers of the ball with that relationship.

"If you go back to 2000 -- whether it was what he was working on with Butch Harmon or a difference of opinion about what he should be working on now -- there wasn't that shaft lean," Najar says. "He used to move off the ball and load up on it. Some of what he does now is probably because of what he used to do. He could drive the handle some then because he was more behind the ball."

TrackMan plays a interesting role in this saga. Many of Foley's students use their measurements from the radar swing monitor as a kind of shorthand in conversations with Foley when he's offsite to get a problem straightened out. Woods has spent hundreds of hours hitting balls in front of Foley and the little gray box over the last four years. 

"I'm sure he sees his numbers on TrackMan, and he's trying to zero out his swing path," says Top 50 teacher Brian Manzella, referring to the TrackMan measurement that indicates the club is coming through impact exactly square to the path. "If you're trying to zero out your path and you're hitting down on it like he does, you have to aim left to compensate. That's something that TrackMan doesn't show."

Najar agrees, saying that old-fashioned video would show how dramatically Woods' driver swing has diverged from his iron swing. "If you look at him from down the line, he looks like two different players," Najar says. "Some people argue that it doesn't matter, but Sergio brings it back the same way all the time, and he drives it pretty well. Tiger looks like he's trying to drive the ball into the ground." 

What no teacher disputes is that it's impossible to make an iron-clad diagnosis without knowing the complete story about Woods' physical limitations or the specific things he's working on, and that Woods' demand for radio silence doesn't give Foley much of a chance to defend himself. One popular theory is that Foley's work has been limited by the requirement to preserve Woods' delicate back and knee. "That could be true, but my 84-year-old momma has never played golf in her life," Manzella says. "If you asked her to look at a video of Tiger's 2000 swing and his swing now and pick which one would be more likely to hurt him, I'll bet you a body part against $10,000 she'd pick the new one."  

Golf Digest Top Young Teacher Chris Como knows first-hand how fragile the tour-player swing machinery is. He spends two weeks a month on the road with a half dozen pros. "It's easy to play armchair quarterback, but there are so many factors with Tiger's body and the history of his game we don't know," Como says. "Everybody has their idea of what they would want him to do, but it's a different story when you get in there and see what's going on. Without being inside, it's all just speculation."

Manzella says he's rooting for Woods and Foley to find consistent form. "Between playing bad and an injury to playing bad and being hurt now, he won five tournaments," Manzella says. "You don't ever count him out, and him playing good is good for all of us in the game. 

"And it's not like Sean doesn't read, or doesn't talk to other teachers. I'm sure he would try anything he thought would work," Manzella says. "But if it's this time next year and Tiger still hasn't won a major, what is he going to do? He's probably going to try a different thing. That different thing could come from Sean, but it could also come from somebody else."  

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Make The Turn Challenge #21: One-Club Tournament

By Jeff Ritter

Each year our coaching staff has the pleasure of working with nearly 400 kids at our summer camps hosted in conjunction with Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach. One of the highlights of the experience is the “One-Club Tournament”  used to instill the mindset and skills associated with creative shotmaking.

We always begin by sharing the story of Seve Ballesteros, who learned to play the game on the beaches of Spain using only a 3-iron. With only one club to work with, Seve became a master of creative problem-solving by learning how to alter the functionality of his equipment to produce literally any shot.

My first experience with this one-club event was as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania. Over the winter holiday a dozen or so members at my home club would brave the elements to play as many holes as possible wearing mittens and sucking down hot cocoa. With the golf season months away it was fun to just be at the club and get a few swings in. In addition to having a great time banging the ball around the icy fairways, I was always surprised by how I’d never have a single swing thought and yet always shoot a pretty good score. There was never any thinking about back swing positions or the “HOW” associated with making a golf swing. There was only the “WHAT” I wanted the ball to do, followed by an organic morphing of my movements to produce a free expression of desire and athleticism. 

As someone who spent a lot of time thinking about their swing, this technical release provided an unbelievable sense of freedom for me on the golf course!

This exercise is about imagination, having fun and stretching the boundaries of what you believe is possible. Try it in the evening after work. Create a holiday tradition with friends. Share it with your kids and remember that “real golf” is played with pure artistry.

Improved Shotmaking
Increased Creativity
More Fun

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 
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How He Hit That: Rory McIlroy's power-accuracy combination

By Matthew Rudy

If you're looking for the ideal statistical profile for the No. 1 player in the world, it's hard to beat Rory McIlroy's line. He led the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in driving distance (334.8 yards) and greens hit (79.2 percent), and he was 12th in driving accuracy. 

And there's the $3.2 million he has earned for back-to-back victories at the British Open and Firestone. 

When McIlroy is so dominant off the tee, he's the odds-on favorite every time he plays. The betting line is 5-to-1 for this week's PGA. 

"Driving the ball long and straight is a huge advantage, and nobody is doing that better than Rory McIlroy right now," says Garrett Chaussard, a Golf Digest top teacher in Illinois and instructor at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Ill. "He has the ability to create a ton of speed with a relatively small frame all while returning the center of the club to the ball consistently -- which is the key to hitting it straight and being able to swing the driver with confidence on even the tightest hole."

Here's a video from this year's Honda Classic that helps illustrate just how Rory does this.

McIlroy punctuated his driving clinic at Firestone with his tee shot on the final hole, a narrow 464-yard par 4 with trees protecting the left side of the green. McIlroy hit his driver 324 yards into the center of an eight-yard window where he had a clear approach to the green. He hit a 140-yard sand wedge into the center of the green and finished with a routine two-putt to close out his 66 and beat Sergio Garcia by two strokes.

"Rory's speed comes from the ability to torque his upper and lower body against each other -- or, in other words, to turn his body really fast," Chaussard says. "At Cog Hill, we use Swing Catalyst's balance and force-plate software to measure a player's ability to shift and turn during the swing. Players who can shift their weight to their right foot early in the takeaway can then shift their weight back to the lead foot sooner. If you can make this move before the club has finished the backswing and the hips start to unwind, you can use the club like a whip through the ball, like Rory does." 

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