The Local Knowlege

Instruction

What you can learn from watching Ryder Cuppers on the greens

By Kevin Hinton

Editor's Note: Kevin Hinton is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers. Here, he tells you how you can learn from what you'll see at this week's Ryder Cup.

Routine, Routine, Routine
Tour players spend a lot of time practicing their pre-shot routines for exact situations like the Ryder Cup. Some even time their routines with a stopwatch and practice maintaining that timing. While the time they spend analyzing a putt may vary, when they actually "walk" into the ball, it takes about the same amount of time for them to hit the putt. Average golfers tend to (1) not have a routine at all, or (2) change the timing of it depending on the importance of the situation. People often speed up or slow down (most slow down) considerably as their nerves kick in. Having said this, sometimes you do everything right and just miss. However, at least you'll know you fully committed to your routine, which is at least half the battle.

blog_tiger_putting_0926.jpg

Photo by Getty Images

The "Anti-Routine" Method
While sticking with your routine is certainly the first course of action, on short putts in crucial situations, some people just get too nervous and can't execute. If you're one of those golfers, try the "Anti-Routine" method. Next time you have a tap-in or short putt that matters, try stepping right up to the putt and casually knocking it in before you have time to think. Think of all the times you've made putts that didn't matter by quickly using one hand, scraping it back to the hole, or taking an odd stance trying to avoid someone's line. It often seems like we never miss this way. Maybe even try something extreme like using a different grip or talking out loud as you tap it in. These are all mental fixes to trick your brain. If you are taking a lackadaisical approach, maybe you'll relax and forget about the putt's importance. The more you struggle with these short putts, the more extreme your solution will likely have to be. For example, Johnny Miller often said he looked at the hole while he putted; others claim to shut their eyes just before taking the putter back; others advocate looking at the grip of the putter as you make your stroke. Experiment to see what works for you.

Related: How the teams stack up in the areas that really matter

"Aim Small Miss Small"
In golf we love small misses. Next time you have a short putt, pick out a specific blade of grass or small discoloration in the back of the cup, then really focus on it. The chances of actually hitting it are quite low, but I guarantee you won't miss the hole.

"Even Back, Even Through"
Try to have the image of your stroke swinging as a perfect pendulum. Keep your stroke even on both sides of the ball. No doubt, tour players' strokes are not exactly like this, but the image can certainly help the average golfer. I often see people miss short putts when their backstrokes and through strokes vary in size greatly. Some make excessively long backstrokes, and are then forced to decelerate into impact. Others make hardly any backstroke, then violently accelerate the putter through impact. By trying to have a consistent ratio and rhythm, you'll likely make a lot more than you miss.

Related: John Huggan and Ron Sirak's Ryder Cup predictions

"Putt Like A Kid"
The U.S. captain, Davis Love III, says his mental goal in pressure situations is to putt like a ten year-old, not caring about missing or making. He does his best to separate himself from the result. Kids don't attach dramatic implications to every made or missed putt, nor should we. Davis also recommends beginning your stroke immediately as your eyes return to the golf ball after your last look at the hole, no hesitation. This will prevent tension from building. There is no greater killer in putting than tension.

"Keep breathing"
This is a good life lesson in general, but is equally important to your putting. Tour players practice everything, even their breathing. Taking a deep breathe prior to stroking a putt will definitely help calm your nerves. Don't underestimate it.

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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: How to practice productively

Years ago, I was fortunate to help one of the game's best teachers write an instruction book. The book never got a lot of recognition, but those who read it have told me it really helped their games. It's called How to Win the Three Games of Golf and was the brainchild of Golf Digest Teaching Professional Hank Johnson, who for many years was the No. 1 Teacher in Alabama. Hank was also a noted player, who had a stellar run at Auburn University and qualified for the 1969 U.S. Open at Champions Golf Club, won by Orville Moody.

Hank came up with the brilliant idea of breaking the game down into three distinct parts: The Golf Swing, the Golf Shot and the Golf Score. If you keep these separate when you work on your game, I promise you'll practice better, play better and score better.

Hank based his ideas on tested motor-learning and educational research. He found that when you're working on your swing, it's best to do it by not hitting golf balls. You'll make much faster progress and the changes will stick if you work on your mechanics and positions away from the range (certainly away from the course) and even without a golf club. Swing a broom or other similar object in front of a mirror, and repeat the correct positions you want to get into. If you try to hit balls and work on your mechanics at the same time, everything often suffers and you often regress and lose confidence.

When you get on the range and start hitting balls, forget about the mechanics you rehearsed without balls. On the range you should be concentrating on hitting golf shots. Pick out specific targets and hit shots to them. Visualize the ball flight and trajectory. If you start thinking of your mechanics, get away from your pile of balls, work out your mechanical thoughts with practice swings, then return to hitting shots thinking non-mechanically.

When you're on the course, all you're doing is putting the shots you practiced on the range into play. Here you should only be concerned with the conditions, your strategy, club selection, and where you want the ball to go. You're simply trying to make a golf score. If you need to think of something in your swing, make sure it's a non-mechanical thought, like visualizing the target, swinging in a smooth tempo or holding your finish.

This approach might be difficult to do at first, and it definitely takes time to start trusting it and staying with it. But if you do, you'll start to play some of the best golf of your life. And you'll also notice that you're not so mentally tired at the end of your rounds. Because you're finally playing golf--really playing golf. Not stressing over your mechanics shot after shot.

Good luck with your game this week, and look for Fitness Friday in two days.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: Try Beau's two types of pitches

Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim Flick got some credit last week at the U.S. Open for the work he's been doing for the past six years with one of his pupils, Beau Hossler. Only 17, the kid who'll be a high school senior this fall actually led the Open for about 15 minutes on Saturday. He was still in contention going into Sunday's final round. He shot rounds of 70-73-70-76 to finish T29.

Flick says one of the keys to Hossler's good play at Olympic was his short pitches. Early in the week they worked on two specific shots with a sand wedge. You can use these in your game as well.

1. Pitch from tight lie. This year at the Open, the USGA created several chipping areas around the greens. If your ball ended up there, you were faced with either putting onto the green, or hitting a soft pitch from a very tight lie. Jim showed Beau how to hit the soft pitch. "You play the ball slightly forward of center in your stance, and lay the clubshaft back to use more of the wedge's bounce, but don't open the clubface," Flick says. "Then during the swing, you use very little wrist hinge. It's really an arm swing. That's how you make good contact and hit the shot softly."

2. Pitch from deep rough. The other shot they worked on is more typical in U.S. Open conditions: the ball sitting down in heavy grass but fairly close to the green. What to do? Flick says he worked with Hossler to get the club more vertical going back. "Open the face to increase the loft on the wedge and play the ball back of center in your stance," Flick says. "When you swing down, be aggressive, but limit your follow-through, holding the face open past impact. Use a tighter grip pressure so you can keep the face from closing in the taller grass." Flick says to think of it as a bunker shot. It's OK for the club to hit the grass behind the ball. The ball should pop up fairly softly, but will have some roll-out, so you need to allow for that. He also says that if you're really close to the green, say a foot or two from the fringe, play the ball off your right foot, lean left, and close the clubface. "Just chop down on the ball and allow for a lot of run-out," he says. "The ground will limit your follow-through."

Both of these shots require a lot of practice, Flick says. He told the young Hossler to make every setup and swing fit the lie of the ball and the shot he's trying to hit. That's great advice for all of us.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: Jack's universal principle

As the Memorial Tournament gets underway tomorrow, let's turn our attention to the man who conceived of the event, the winner of 20 major championships (I also count his two U.S. Amateurs). One of Jack Nicklaus' major full-swing keys--swinging around a steady head--has gained more prominence recently as Stack & Tilt became popular and more teachers and top players talk of "staying on top of the ball" throughout the swing.

Make no mistake, Nicklaus' original tenet, as taught to him by Jack Grout, who used to hold his hair while he swung, was often criticized by such teachers as Jimmy Ballard for being too restrictive and even causing a reverse pivot.

But swinging around a steady head can really help a golfer who has trouble making solid contact or is lacking consistency. Here's what Jack (through Ken Bowden) wrote in Golf Digest some 30 years ago, and it might help you today:

"To me, a very steady, if not rigidly immobile, head is the supreme golfing fundamental, mandatory on every shot from a drive to a tap-in. I even have gone so far as to call this the game's 'one unarguable, universal fundamental.' Here's why I believe it is so critical:

"--The head is the hub of the swing, the axis of the club's rotation around the body. Move the axis and you move the arc along with it. This may not make consistent clubhead delivery impossible, but it sure adds to the challenge.

"-- To me, power in the golf swing comes principally from leverage, which is largely the product of torque--to oversimplify a little, winding yourself up like a coil spring. Try winding a coil spring that has play at its anchored end--the head in the golf swing--and see how much torque is lost. In other words, the more you sway or bob your head, the less leverage you can develop.

"-- Head movement changes the line of vision, and sometimes the sense both of target and swing path that promotes proper downswing form. Also, moving the
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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: It's all about feel

As you get ready for your upcoming weekend of golf, I thought you might consider a few thoughts from one of the game's foremost instructors, Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim Flick.

Flick, in his earlier teaching career, was very mechanically oriented. But I've noticed a distinct change in recent years. He now talks a lot more about creating feel--for the club, for the swing, for the shot. He's been having a lot of success recently with junior players, especially in California. Beau Hossler is a great example. Beau qualified for the U.S. Open last year at age 16 and has won a number of junior events this year. Flick takes great pride in Beau's accomplishments. Jim tells me much of Beau's success is due to learning how to feel the "instrument," as Flick describes the golf club.

Here are three tips from Flick for gaining--or regaining--your feel so you can play to your potential:

1. Learn to feel the club. Grip a middle iron. First cock your wrists so you hold the club straight up. You'll see that it feels too light. Next, hold it straight out, and it will feel too heavy. Finally, hold it at a 45-degree angle. That angle lets you feel the proper weight of the clubhead, and the correct gripping sensation in your hands and arms. Now maintain that grip pressure as you swing.

2. Learn to feel your swing. First, from your normal address position, hinge your wrists, fold your elbows and let the clubshaft rest on your right shoulder. Second, turn your upper torso until your left shoulder is over your right knee, your hips staying level. Third, push your arms up into a desired backswing position with the wrists under and supporting the shaft. That's the way the club should feel at the top of your swing. (Close your eyes and let that position register.) Finally, practice your downswing, holding your shoulders back. allowing your arms to swing down on an inside path. Then repeat and hit the ball.

3. Feel your greens. When golfers three-putt, the reason is usually poor distance control, not direction. You can hit a putt as much as two feet off line, but if you have feel for the proper distance, your next putt will be at most a two-footer. Golfers with poor feel, however, often hit the first putt more than two fee past the hole or leave it well short. No matter how accurate their directional control, they'll have to deal with a missable second putt. Practice the Ladder Drill: Place five clubs on the practice green, like the rungs on a ladder, a couple of feet apart, so you have a 10-footer, a 12-footer, a 14-footer, and so on. Then putt five balls, one to each club. Develop your feel by concentrating on how much effort each stroke takes to roll the ball the proper distance. When you go out to play, your feel for distance will be superb.

I'm sure these thoughts from Jim Flick will help your game.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: Toski-Flick explain what controls the swing

At the PGA Show's Demo Day yesterday, I was lucky enough to witness the reunion of two of the game's most influential teachers, Bob Toski (85 years young) and Jim Flick (82). What a treat to see them both in action, giving a clinic for a couple of hundred club professionals and media. They started the Golf Digest Schools back in the 1970s and wrote the definitive golf instruction book How to Become a Complete Golfer with the late Dick Aultman.

Toski-Flick.gifJim Flick (left) and Bob Toski at yesterday's PGA Show Demo Day, at Orange County National, outside Orlando.

It reminded me of one of the great principles they still teach by: The arms control the body in the swing, not the other way around. So much has been taught recently that the big muscles control the swing, but Toski says he doesn't even have any big muscles, yet, at his age he can still hit it out there 250. How does he do it? With speed. Light grip pressure. Soft arms. Great footwork.

As Flick pointed out to me for the umpteenth time, if you keep your shoulders relaxed and let the arms--not the shoulders--take the club back, the club goes on a proper path (not severely inside). Then, if you keep your shoulders quiet in the transition (most poor players start down with their shoulders in an over-the-top move), the club will swing into the ball on an inside path. You must always start the downswing with the left foot, knee, thigh and hip, in that order. But never start down with the shoulders.

It makes so much sense for the average golfer. Thank you, Mr. Toski and Mr. Flick. Look for more great thoughts from Toski and Flick to help your game this weekend on the Instruction Blog.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman 


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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: Leadbetter/Flick say 'pick it from fairway sand'

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


In the November 2011 issue of Golf Digest (Bubba Watson on the cover), which is hitting subscribers' mailboxes today and will be on newsstands soon, Golf Digest Teaching Professional David Leadbetter discusses the best way to hit fairway bunker shots. I found this tip really interesting because it is based on the same principle that Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim Flick discussed in a tip I did with him for the November 2005 issue and again in December 2009 (Sweep the Ball from Fairway Sand). Jim said he learned the technique from Jack Nicklaus. Both teachers advocate feeling as if you are hitting level to slightly up on the ball through impact.

First, let's hear from Leadbetter:
"Many amateurs struggle from fairway sand because they swing too hard and release the club too early on the downswing. This causes them to hit the sand first, costing them distance. Here's how to stop hitting fat.

"First, choose a club that will allow you to comfortably clear the lip of the bunker. If the lip is not an issue, then take an extra club to remove any temptation to overswing. Once you have the right club, set up with the ball forward of center in your stance, dig your feet into the sand to create a stable base, and then grip down on the club to compensate for your feet now being lower than the ball.

"When you swing, try to pick the ball off the sand cleanly while staying in balance, as if you're catching the ball on the upswing. In essence, this type of swing will accommodate your early wrist release and allow you to avoid hitting the sand before the ball."

Now let's see what Flick had to say:
"I was walking with Jack Nicklaus during a practice round at the 1996 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, and on one hole he drove into a fairway bunker some 170 yards from the green. There was a fairly steep lip, so I figured Jack might have to play short of the putting surface. But he took a 6-iron, kept his weight back, made perfectly clean contact, and put the ball on the green. 

instruction_blog_flick_bunker.jpgLeft: Jim Flick says to think of sweeping the ball out of fairway bunkers. The image of a broom is a good one if you're a visual learner.

(Photo by J.D. Cuban/Jim Luft)

"Later I asked Jack how he could hit the ball on such a high trajectory, and he said that with a middle iron to a fairway wood in a bunker, you do not want to hit down on the shot because the sand provides little resistance against which to trap the ball. Instead, you want the club swinging level at impact. Jack plays the ball slightly forward in his stance. He feels as if he keeps his weight on his right side longer through impact, similar to his driver swing. There should be little to no sand displaced.

Try it. You might be afraid of topping the shot, but I've yet to see any student top it with this technique."

OK, the message is pretty clear to me. In fairway sand, you do not want to hit down on the ball. Rather, try to sweep it or pick it off the sand, feeling as if you're swinging the club on a level or slightly upward approach.




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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: Beyond the splash, part 2

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

Contrary to popular belief, Bill Haas did not invent the splash shot from a water hazard. As we documented on Monday, Seve Ballesteros demonstrated how he used to do it, and now we'll show you how Jerry Pate wrote about it for Golf Digest back in 1982! Pate put on an exhibition in his backyard practice area right on a Gulf of Mexico bayou in Pensacola, Fla., for then Associate Editor Jerry Tarde (now Chairman and Editorial Director) and Staff Photographer Stephen Szurlej. Here's hoping you can benefit from Pate's advice, in case you find yourself in such a do-or-die predicament.

Here's what Jerry Pate said: I used to think I could play a shot out of water only if the ball were partially submerged or just below the surface, but after practicing this shot, I know I can play it successfully from as much as six inches under water. I figure it could mean the difference between winning and losing a tournament sometime. Unless I'm in a critical situation, I won't play this shot if the ball is more than two ball-widths submerged. I don't

instruction_blog_pate.jpg

recommend that you take off your shoes, but in this case I did because I could see the water's 
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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: Increase your X-Factor like Brittany Lincicome

In the August issue of Golf Digest, currently on newsstands and available on the ipad, Jim McLean analyzes the tremendously powerful swings of two players, Robert Garrigus and Brittany Lincicome. Garrigus led the PGA Tour in driving distance last year; Lincicome is leading the LPGA Tour in driving distance right now. Let's concentrate on Lincicome's power move. I think it might help you gain some extra yardage, especially if you have a chance to get to the range before the weekend. Here's Jim's quick analysis:

Brittany hovers the clubhead at address like two other great drivers you might have heard of: Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman. She has what I call a two-way move at the top--her hips start turning forward before her shoulders finish turning back. That's another way to increase your X-Factor, and she does it as well as any player on tour, many or woman. That's how she creates that powerful lag on the downswing.

Give Jim's thoughts a try. And remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest



 

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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: Tom Watson says to hit it hard downwind

Editor's note: Starting today, and every Wednesday, I'll be writing about something instructional to help your golf game. We might look at a simple tip, or we might delve into a longer discussion about a crucial topic in the world of golf instruction. Hope you find it useful, and remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest


Today on Golf Channel's Morning Drive, the discussion turned to who's the best wind player at the British Open this week. Rich Lerner mentioned that the all-time best wind player might be Tom Watson, who won the Open Championship five times (and almost a sixth at Turnberry two years ago). Here's a lesson from Watson that ran in the December 2005 issue of Golf Digest, the same year he won the Senior British Open at Royal Aberdeen in severe winds. What Tom says is counterintuitive, but it could really help your game.--Roger Schiffman

More spin, higher trajectory
are crucial downwind
BY TOM WATSON
Golf Digest Playing Editor,
with Nick Seitz

Downwind approach shots demand more adjustment than many players make. You almost always have to allow for more wind than you think. The ball will go farther and lower and will run more after it hits the ground. Sometimes you need to land the ball short of the green if it's open in front.

The 12th hole at Royal Aberdeen in this year's (2005) Senior British Open was an example of the ball running downwind. I had about 200 yards to the front edge of the green. The first day I
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July 28, 2014

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