The Local Knowlege


#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 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 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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Make The Turn Challenge #20: Learn Your Lesson

By Jeff Ritter

One of the more predictable behaviors you'll find woven into the fabric of the game is the general moaning and malaise associated with the completion of one's round. This action usually begins when the player walks off the 18th green into the golf shop or 19th hole and someone asks the question, "How'd it go?" Normally, the kind of answers you hear are things like, "If I could only putt," "Pour me a drink," or "At least I'm not dead!" Think about it. How often have you heard a positive response to this question?

Interestingly enough, kids and adults respond to this question quite differently. That is, until the adults poison the kids' developing minds and condition them to believe "When you don't get what you want, everything is miserable!"

A good friend of mine who's a performance psychologist actually conducted an experiment on this phenomenon. He simply divided a legal pad into two columns. One side said "kids" and the other said "adults." He waited on the 18th green of his home course one Saturday afternoon and asked each group a simple question: "How'd it go?" Based upon the response, he would insert a (+) or (-) into the column associated with each group. As discussed above, the responses from the adults were overwhelmingly negative, whereas the responses from the kids were nearly entirely positive.

Kids are wired to play, have fun and seek out things that are amazing, so much so, they seldom notice or even remember when things aren't going their way. Comments from the kids were things like, "I hit my ball so far on No. 10 it went in the water!" or "I finally saw that massive turtle everyone's been talking about ... it was HUGE!" The comments were more rooted in the joy associated with believing their game was developing or things not even associated with the act of playing golf at all.


The next time you tee it up, remember that golf is really challenging and you're not ALWAYS going to get what you want. Remember to "PLAY" and celebrate when you pull off amazing stuff. A great drive, perfect chip, hammering home a long, snaking putt. Anything, as long as you give yourself credit for doing at least one thing well. At the completion of your round, shock your buddies and tell them about something that was fun or cool about being out there. Trust me, it's OK to do this.

After acknowledging the good stuff, ask yourself the question, "What's today's lesson?" This is where you determine what area of your game needs some work before you head out and go after it again.

If you're not having much fun these days, this challenge is really important and a great reminder of why you're out there to begin with. Prove you have what it takes to find a little joy within the struggle and you can count this week's challenge as complete.

Become a more efficient practicer
Elevate your performance mindset
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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#HelpMeGolfDigest: Bob Kramer tackles fundamentals and the mental game

By Matthew Rudy

Pennsylvania instructor Bob Kramer has spent 25 years teaching a raft of top LPGA, amateur and AJGA players in metro Philadelphia. He's a two-time Philadelphia PGA section teacher of the year and has been on Golf Digest's list of top Pennsylvania instructors since 2000. This week he reviewed three hashtagged swings submitted by readers through our #HelpMeGolfDigest campaign.  

The first comes from @KinleyLee, who bills himself as a "normal hack" on Instagram. Kramer likes his action, which would improve with some adjustments to the first move back. 

"At address, your wrists are cocked upwards and arched out of line with your forearms, which causes your hands to hinge downward at the beginning of your swing," says Kramer, who is based at Bent Creek Country Club in Lancaster County, Pa. "That increases the width of your swing too much and will lead to heavy iron shots. You have to match that move with a late hinge at the top of your swing or at the beginning of the downswing, which is hard to time consistently. You obviously hit the ball well with that idiosyncrasy, but you'd be more consistent with a more easily repetitve move."

The second swing comes all the way from Finland, from 16-year-old Mikael Reijonen. A weightlifting fanatic, Mikael has a strong, technically sound swing and should focus his attention on his mental game.

"Mikael might not have sent in the right video, because he looks great in this one," Kramer says. "You have a rock-solid swing that should stand up in competition, if your mind will let it. I just love it. I do have a strong feeling that maybe I should be looking at your ability to go low when you play. Maybe we should be addressing your green reading, speed control or aim, or improving the control of the trajectory of your chip shots."

The last swing, from reader @kyrazzy77, shows influences from several different flavors of golf instruction.  

"I love watching swings developed with some of the more modern ideas of how a pivot or backswing should work," Kramer says. "Your swing looks like a hybrid between a centered turn and the Stack and Tilt idea. Either way, you have a good foundation, but you need to develop a setup that matches your swing style. A more forward ball position would let you be less in front of the ball at impact, and you wouldn't have to stop your body motion and release the club early. I bet you fight the occasional block or pull hook. Either move your ball forward or coil more over your rear hip so you can be more centered at impact."

Keep submitting your #HelpMeGolfDigest hashtagged videos and watch for your swing in this space in the coming weeks.

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Throwback Thursday: Rory McIlroy's golf swing, then and now

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Like Tiger Woods before him, it was apparent from a young age that Rory McIlroy was going to be very good at golf one day.

That notion has been backed-up repeatedly in the media's coverage of McIlroy, and YouTube is littered with old footage of Rory that seems to reinforce the point. So, in honor of this year's British Open champion, we thought it'd be fun to use some of that footage and compare Rory's swing from when he was nine to one taken earlier this year by the British magazine Golf Monthly.

rory-swings-2-518.gifRory is obviously a lot bigger now, which is why he's much more in control of the club than when he was young -- look at how stable his head stays, for example.

One thing that's especially interesting to see is how hard the 9-year-old Rory swings at the ball -- something that has obviously continued into his adulthood. And that process is driven by the way Rory's lower body works through the ball. Rory says the "rotational speed" in his hips is key reason he hits it so far, and is something that is present in his 9-year-old swing, too.

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How He Hit That: Rory McIlroy's British Open putting spot

By Matthew Rudy

Rory McIlroy relied on two code words as triggers during his wire-to-wire win at Hoylake, "process" for full shots and "spot" for putts. Both keys obviously did what they were supposed to do, but McIlroy's putting was particularly stellar. He made 20 birdies and two eagles, and one-putted 34 out of 72 greens on his way to the third leg of the career grand slam. 

The "spot" idea comes from his work with putting guru Dave Stockton, and it's an easy technique for any player to copy. "Rory -- and anybody else -- putts the best when he's seeing and feeling his line, getting up there and rolling the ball on that line in a nice rhythm," says Stockton, who has worked with McIlroy since the lead-up to his record-setting 2011 U.S. Open win. 

Stockton teaches players to begin to set their stance while looking out at the line -- not at the ball. "I get my eyes set on my line, and then only look down a split second before I start my stroke, but I'm not looking at the ball. I pick a spot an inch or two in front of the ball," says Stockton. "The stroke isn't a conscious thing. I'm just watching for the ball to roll over that spot."

McIlroy's best golf comes when he's crisp and decisive, but doesn't rush through his routine. "Most players take too long and get locked up in mechanics, but Rory's tendency was to get too rushed and step in before he saw really clearly in his mind what he wanted to do," says Stockton. "When he stays on rhythm, he sees his shot, walks in, sets his eyes and lets it go. It's fun to watch. He has all the talent in the world." 


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Tiger's new enemy in the quest for 19 majors? His mind

By Matthew Rudy


Tiger Woods' various body parts have always been under intense scrutiny, from pumped biceps to ruptured ACLs and impinged discs. 

One part that hasn't often been called into question is his mind, but that's changing. He's about to finish his 25th major without a win -- and will fall behind Jack Nicklaus' 18-major pace. 

Woods is now walking onto the first tee at every major with something he probably hasn't felt since he was a Stanford undergrad.


"Obviously he has a desperate need to win a major, and he's anxious to get into position right away to make that happen," says Dr. Mike Lardon, a San Diego psychiatrist and mental performance coach who has worked with dozens of Olympic medalists, NFL players and professional golfers. "He gets amped up, and coupled with his big weakness -- driving the ball straight -- he can run into trouble on holes that demand precision."

In his first two rounds, Woods played the narrow first and second holes in five over. On Saturday, when he was 14 shots behind leader Rory McIlroy, Woods started on the par-5 10th and birdied that and the short 11th. He ended up shooting 73. 

"This anxiety and pressure can be both real and self-imposed, and it can change your rhythm," says Lardon, who writes about his work with Phil Mickelson before last year's British Open victory in an excerpt of his new book, Mastering Golf's Mental Game, in the latest issue of Golf Digest. "The cycle of negative thoughts and emotions is self-perpetuating, and it becomes very hard to be confident when it happens to you again and again. It's really hard to break, especially at a major championship. And majors are not usually places that reward you when you get behind and start to press."

Mickelson went through a similar, smaller-scale crisis last year after his crushing U.S. Open loss at Merion. He wondered if, at age 43, he had missed his last, best chance. "Phil had to learn how to cleanse his mind and to avoid making any one shot more important than the next," Lardon says. "That's hard to do, especially at a major." 

Six years ago, 32-year-old Tiger likely felt like he had all the time in the world to win five more majors. Almost-40 Tiger probably feels differently. Lardon believes the mental piece will play a bigger part in whether or not Woods challenges Nicklaus' record than physical problems. "Human nature makes you get ahead of yourself and think about what's coming next. That adds pressure at the exact time when extra pressure is the last thing you need. He's going to have to slow down and fight through it, just like everybody else."       

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This is how you cheat the wind

By Matthew Rudy

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson put up the gaudiest scores, but Sergio Garcia's round had more flash. He holed his approach shot on No. 2 for eagle and hit this head-high stinger off the tee on No. 3, complete with vapor trail:

The trick? A downward blow from an adjusted ball position. "On TrackMan, the average tour player hits down on the ball three degrees with a 3-iron," says Lukas McNair, a senior instructor at the Hank Haney Golf Ranch outside Dallas. "Here, he's bringing the angle of attack to five degrees. He moves the ball back in his stance so his head is in front of the ball at address, hits down and makes an abbreviated followthrough with a low arm swing."

Garcia makes the shot look routine with a long iron, but it takes big-time clubhead speed to do it with those clubs. "You can go out and hit that shot yourself by making those adjustments, but you might want to try it with a shorter iron," McNair says. "Sergio's speed and control of the club with his irons is unbelievable."

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Is Tiger Woods' swing coming together for Hoylake? Yes and no.

By Matthew Rudy


When Tiger Woods came back to play his Quicken Loans event at Congressional two weeks ago, it was obvious he wasn't quite ready for primetime. 

Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Jason Birnbaum weighed in then on what he called Tiger's "short and wide" post-surgery swing, and said it was clearly a work in progress. 

Related: Dissecting Tiger Woods' Post-surgery Swing 

We asked Birnbaum to check out some of Tiger's swings this week at Hoylake to see what -- if anything -- has changed after two weeks of practice.  


"Mechanically, his technique still looks the same to me," says Birnbaum, who is based at Alpine Country Club in Demarest, NJ. "He seems to hit it off the heel a lot more than he used to. You could see it clearly in the slow-motion analysis Peter Kostis did during the telecast at Congressional, and it looks the same this week. It's hard to speculate because of the differences the camera angle can make, but his swing looks like it's flatter, and his hands are lower through the ball."

But even with the mechanical bits not meshing perfectly, Birnbaum does see reason for optimism this week. "What's different is that he seems to be going after the ball more," he says. "He's definitely taking a rip at it. He seems to feel pretty good about the condition of his back. Unless he's really hitting it poorly, I don't think he's going to be making any big changes this week."

Hoylake's strategic requirements -- and Woods' fond memories of his dominant performance there in 2006 -- should also act as powerful swing tonic. "He's playing a course where his biggest weakness, the driver, doesn't come into play as much," says Birnbaum. "It's a tricky place that requires a lot of different shot shapes, and that works in his favor. If there was ever a week he could just play golf and not think 'golf swing,' this would be it."

That just leaves Woods' putter, which hasn't been the same reliable weapon it was at his peak. "He won't be out of play, and the greens are huge," says Birnbaum. "He used to be a two-putt machine from any distance. That has to be there for him this week."   

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How He Hit That

How She Hit That: Mo Martin's winning 3-wood at Birkdale

By Matthew Rudy

Eagles to win major championships are unlikely by themselves. Mo Martin's was even more unlikely than that. 

The diminutive Californian hit her 3-wood approach on the 18th at Birkdale from 240 yards in swirling winds and watched as it rolled toward the hole like a putt. It bounced off the pin and ended up six feet away. She sank the next for her first eagle of the 2014 season, and a one-shot victory at the Women's British Open.   

Wielding a wood for an approach is nothing new for Martin, who is one of the LPGA's shortest hitters at 233 yards per drive. She's also first in driving accuracy at more than 85 percent fairways hit, and comfortable hitting woods from tight fairway lies. Birkdale set up perfectly for her, with firm, fast fairways and room to roll shots onto greens.

Martin said the wind was full into her face and she had a left-to-right lie. She aimed left and let it fly. "When it was rolling on the ground I said 'Sit," and then I said "Go," and it looked perfect, so I didn't have anything more to say. It hit the pin and I could hear it from the fairway." Her eagle putt went right in the center, and she waited an hour as Shanshan Feng, Suzann Pettersen and Inbee Park tried unsuccessfully to catch her at one under. It was Martin's first victory of any kind since the 2011 Eagle Classic on the Symetra Tour.  

"She's so great at these shots because she treats them just like she's hitting a wedge," says ESPN swing coach Jerome Andrews. "Her neck, arms and shoulders are relaxed. It's not like she's trying to gear up and produce more speed or trying to lift the ball into the air." 

Amateurs often struggle with fairway woods -- especially from tight lies -- because they try to add speed and loft. "You're going for your regular rhythm and pace, which is going to promote solid contact," says Andrews, who teaches at Spring Creek Golf Club in Charlottesville, VA., and Altadena Golf Course in Altadena, CA -- Martin's hometown. "Keep your lower body quiet at the start and start the swing with the club head, hands and arms. This sequence will let the club and arms swing together with the shoulders and hips. Hit it solid and let the club do the work." 

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#HelpMeGolfDigest: Trillium Sellers fixes your transition and solves your posture problems

By Matthew Rudy

When Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Trillium Sellers gives a piece of swing advice, there are extra reasons to pay attention. The Maryland instructor earned her master's degree in motor learning and control from Columbia in February, and she put that rare (in the golf business) credential to use this week selecting a few swings to analyze for our regular #HelpMeGolfDigest series. 

Reader Tim Egan (@thetimmer_ on Instagram) submitted his video shot from an unconventional quartering angle. It made judging his setup position harder but revealed some room for improvement in his backswing-to-downswing transition.     

"Tim doesn't have a bad swing, but he's putting too much weight into his back foot on the backswing," says Sellers, who is based at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. "He needs to keep that weight on the inside part of his back foot and not let it flow over to the outside edge. An easy way to think about it is to imagine a golf tee sticking straight out of your right kneecap. During the backswing, you always want that tee pointing straight out in front of you, not back away from the target."

The second swing belongs to @emma2908, who submitted a dark, moody driver swing with some transition problems of its own. 

"Emma definitely has something to work with, but at the top of the backswing her lead arm just collapses," Sellers says. "The club goes way past parallel, and makes John Daly's backswing look short. She needs to feel that lead arm extend so that her hands are away from her neck, which will also straighten out her downswing." 

The last swing comes from @Garrett_njd30, whose posture looks a lot like Paula Creamer's. Sellers is worried he's headed for back pain.  

"Garrett makes a strong move at it, but he drops his head so much that his shoulders are almost vertical at impact," Sellers says. "He has to set up with the ball off the toe because that head move will make the club go out much more than it was at address. To get that spine more vertical, hold a club against your chest and make some swings keeping it -- and the shoulders -- as horizontal as possible. That's also going to change the setup position a lot, with the ball farther away and the arms extended more."

Submit your swings via Instagram or Twitter with the #HelpMeGolfDigest hashtag and you could see yourself analyzed in this space this summer.

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July 28, 2014

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