The Local Knowlege

Instruction

How He Shot That: Branden Grace Fires a 60

Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin describes how Branden Grace won for the fourth time this year on the European Tour by shooting a 60 at Kingsbarns enroute to capturing the Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday. Kevin offers his tips for going low and shooting your best possible score.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter: @RogerSchiffman

By Kevin Hinton
Twitter: @KevinHintonGolf



There are several things about Branden's swing I like, but one aspect in particular is the loose, free-swinging action he creates. One reason he can create this look is that he allows his left arm to bend in his backswing. Amateurs often report to me that their struggles are being caused by their failure to "keep the left arm straight," which closely trails only "I pulled my head up" as the most common complaint I hear.

The reality is, neither of those things are fundamentals to playing great golf. In addition to Branden, there are numerous examples of world-class players who have bent left arms at the top of the swing, as well as a few notable examples of great players whose left arm is bent at impact--Lee Westwood and Retief Goosen are the first that come to mind. Here are a few benefits you might notice by softening your left arm in your swing.

Lack of tension                                                                                                                    There is no easier way to add tension to your swing than by trying to keep your left arm unrealistically straight. Most people are not flexible enough to do so, and as they try, the tension in their swing builds. I'm not suggesting you bend your arm to the degree that the shaft rests on your shoulder, but it's important to find a middle ground. If you're working on straightening your left arm throughout your backswing, be certain to monitor your grip pressure and overall tension level. You might also realize that some stretching might be in order.

Better wrist hinge
In this video, you'll see that as Branden's left arm has reached parallel to the ground in his backswing, he has at least 90 degrees of wrist hinge. His left arm is not straight at this point. It's much easier to properly set the golf club when your left arm is "soft," not rigid or over-extended. By allowing his left arm to bend slightly, his right arm can fold, making it much easier to hinge the club.  

More clubhead speed
The first two points are essential to producing the final product of a golf swing that creates ample clubhead speed. If you are overly tense and do not allow your wrists to hinge and unhinge properly, your potential for speed is significantly limited. I certainly get the argument that a straighter left arm can lead to a wider "arc" to your swing, but I feel for many golfers that the risks outweigh the potential reward. Most amateurs will benefit more by loosening up and allowing the club to swing freely. Branden is a great example of this. ... Read
Instruction

How He Hit That: Johnson Wagner's Par 5 Strategy

Editor's Note: Regular readers of the Instruction Blog have come to appreciate the weekly analysis provided by Kevin Hinton, the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers. In 2012, Hinton will be taking that analysis to an even deeper level by breaking down a crucial moment or sequence in the previous week's tournament. This week, Hinton looks at how Johnson Wagner's play on the par 5s at Waialae Country Club was instrumental in his two-stroke win in the Sony Open.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Kevin Hinton: Johnson Wagner's stellar play on the par 5s at Waialae Country Club was a significant key to his victory. Waialae is a par 70 and has eight par 5s. That's eight total par 5's for the week. Johnson played those eight holes in nine under, eagling the 18th hole in the second and third rounds.

johnson_wagner_300.jpgTo gain some insight into Wagner's par-5 strategy, I spoke with his coach Bobby Heins, who is the head professional at Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, N.Y. Bobby gives much of the credit to Johnson's working relationship with his caddie Matt Hauser, as well as improved wedge play. Bobby says that, "Johnson is still an aggressive player and goes for many par 5s in two. However, he has become more willing to lay up and make birdie with his wedge when the situation calls for it. Much of that comes from knowing that his wedge game has improved, as well as good communication and decision-making with his caddie."

(Wagner, above, has learned to weigh the risks when deciding to go for it on par 5s. Photo by Getty Images.)

In my view, a good coach, a good caddie, and a good wedge game sure seems to be a winning recipe for Johnson's par-5 success.

... Read
Instruction

Monday Shot Analysis: What you can learn from Stricker's near-perfect part-wedge

Editor's note: Every Monday, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines a key shot from one of the weekend's tour events and tells you what you can learn. A Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, Kevin is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is a Lead Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. This week, Kevin examines Steve Stricker's marvelous wedge to kick-in distance on the ninth hole at Kapalua, which helped turn the momentum and propel the nine-time tour winner to the victory circle in the year's first tournament.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Kevin Hinton: Stricker's up-and-down on the par-5 ninth for his second consecutive birdie was a pivotal moment of the final round. Steve pitched his third shot to gimme range, and regained his three shot lead over Jonathan Byrd. He then cruised to a final-round 69 and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions victory. Let's take a closer look at Steve's pitching action and see what you can learn. Watch video.

Stricker is an expert at the fundamentals of consistent pitching. The less-than-full wedge shot is one of the most difficult in the game because you are not making a complete swing. Solid contact is not easy for the average golfer. Let's see how Stricker does it:

At address, he has narrowed his stance, played the ball slightly back of middle, and set more weight on  his front foot . . . approximately 60 percent or so. In the backswing, he keeps his lower body relatively quiet as he swings his arms back and allows his wrists to hinge. This is a very important note. While the most significant difference between pitching and chipping is that in pitching we allow our wrists to hinge, I think the key to Steve's pitching--his consistently good contact and distance control--is that he doesn't overdo it.
... Read
Instruction

Monday Swing Analysis: Swing too slow? Learn from Ian Poulter, Mr. Consistency

Editor's note: Every Monday, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines the game of a recent tour winner and tells you what you can learn. A Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, Kevin is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is a Lead Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. This week, Kevin examines Ian Poulter's incredibly consistent--and fast--full swing. Poulter won the Australian Masters this weekend, sinking a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-4 first hole and going on to win by three strokes.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Kevin Hinton: Ian Poulter has been one of the most consistent players in the world over the past few seasons. Comparing these videos from late 2008 and from 2011, it is difficult to see major differences in Poulter's technique.



Poulter's swing in 2008...




Poulter's swing in 2011...


The consistency of his swing has led to consistent performance. Poulter will end 2011 as the 16th-ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings. In 2010 he finished 11th, and in 2009 he finished 12th. Much of this is due to his reliable ball-striking. He perennially ranks high in the statistical category of Greens in Regulation on the European Tour. In 2011 Poulter ranked 11th, in 2010 first, and in 2009 sixth.

Ian does many things technically sound in his swing, but one thing that stands out to me is the upbeat tempo of his swing. There have been many great ball-strikers with a quickish, fast-paced look to their swings. Nick Price is the first player that comes to mind. Tom Watson is another. It also reminds me of Hogan.

As a teacher, I often hear my students say that their swings get too "fast," but in reality, as a teacher I speed up more backswings than I slow down. Tour players typically do not have slow backswings. The average swing on tour takes about one second from the beginning of the swing until the point of impact (typically around .75 seconds in the backswing and .25 seconds  ... Read
Instruction

Monday Swing Analysis: Alvaro Quiros makes power look easy

Editor's note: Every Monday, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines the game of a recent tour winner and tells you what you can learn. A Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, Kevin is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is a Lead Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. This week, Kevin examines the incredible driving prowess of the long-hitting Spanish star Alvaro Quiros, who yesterday won the final event of the year on the European Tour, the Dubai World Championship by two strokes after sinking a 40-foot putt on the final hole for eagle.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Kevin Hinton: While Alvaro Quiros did lead the European Tour in driving distance in 2011, as he has done four out of the last five seasons, he is a lot more than a long-ball hitter. The six-time winner on the European Tour has a simple, repeatable swing that creates enormous power with seemingly little effort. Let's take a closer look at the swing of Spain's next superstar.




 

There are a few notable characteristics in Alvaro's swing that stand out to me. The first is the amount of clubhead speed he creates with a relatively short, compact swing. It certainly helps to be 6-foot-3 and super athletic, but in addition to his natural abilities, Quiros has a very sound golf swing. Alvaro makes a huge shoulder turn over a very braced lower body. This allows him to create power without having to make a long swing. Bubba Watson and John Daly are in the oposite camp, creating their power with much fuller swings. While being flexible definitely makes Quiros' move easier, keeping a stable lower body in the backswing is a good thing for most people to think of, and can also add to consistency in contact. Of course, all players still need to allow their hips to turn, just try to avoid excessive movement.
   
The second thing I really like about Alvaro's swing is how the shaft works as he transitions into his downswing. When viewed from down the target line, you can see a distinctive "shallowing" of the shaft as he starts down, a little similar to the downswing of his countryman Sergio Garcia. For most golfers, the benefit of this move is that it puts the club on an inside track to the ball. Many amateurs tend to make the opposite move, where the shaft steepens in the first part of the ... Read
Instruction

Monday Swing Analysis: How Tiger compresses the ball

Even though Tiger Woods had to beat only 17 other players, a win is a win, and Tiger got World Ranking points for capturing the Chevron World Challenge Sunday. And getting that W has to be huge for him psychologically, especially because of the way he did it--birdieing the last two holes to win by a single stroke over Zach Johnson.

But what has been most interesting over the last several weeks is the way Tiger has been talking about compressing the ball better. We finally saw what he's been talking about. His teacher, Sean Foley, explained it in a tip that ran in the December issue of Golf Digest. Many commentators--and some teachers--have been critical of Tiger's famous "dip" on the downswing, saying he needs to stay tall through impact and give his arms room to swing. But both have chosen to embrace this move, and contend that it's one way to add distance.

Related: How Tiger's swing has changed

"Now I've got the club in the right position, supplement that with my weight training, all of a sudden the ball is flying," Woods said last week.

Foley_Tiger.jpg
Here's Foley on the topic in the December issue:

"One of golf's oldest cliches is 'maintain your posture' throughout the swing. The intent of the message is good: To help amateurs avoid rising out of the address position--either from a lack of hip flexibility or because they're trying to help the ball into the air. But keeping your head level might be robbing you of some distance.

"What you want to do is squat as you swing into the ball. This move is similar to what any athlete would do before leaping. Many long-ball hitters drop several inches as they start the downswing. Tiger has been doing it throughout his career, and it has served him well. Essentially, you're creating an explosive action by lowering and then pushing off the ground. It helps you swing into the ball with considerable force. If you were to maintain your posture, it would be impossible to get to the ideal low point of your swing, four or five inches in front of the ball.

"So the next time you swing, pretend there's a banana lying lengthwise under your front foot. Your goal is to squash it as you swing down. Do this, and you'll really compress the ball."



Photographs by J.D. Cuban / Golf Digest
... Read
Instruction

Monday Swing Analysis: Kuchar and Woodland, the Odd Couple

Editor's note: Every Monday, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines the game of a recent tour winner and tells you what you can learn. A Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, Kevin is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is a Lead Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. This week, Kevin examines the amazing driving ability of Gary Woodland and discusses how his game contrasts with Matt Kuchar's. The American duo captured the World Cup in China over the weekend, coming from behind in the final round firing an alternate-shot 67 to win by two strokes over Germany and England.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Kevin Hinton: When you examine the stats of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, you quickly see the contrast in their games. Kuchar is a shorter but more accurate driver of the ball and a better putter, while Woodland can bomb it off the tee and then hit a lot of greens with wedges and short irons. But Woodland can use some work on the greens. They would have won by four or five strokes if Matt could have putted for Gary in the final round. Together, however, their individual talents blossomed, and they showed tremendous fire and confidence on the final day to pull off the win over a strong field that included Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell of Ireland, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose of England, Martin Kaymer and Alex Cjeka of Germany, and Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.

Let's take a closer look at their stats: Kuchar ranks only 128th in Driving Distance while Woodland is ranked fifth. Meanwhile, Kuchar is 52nd in Driving Accuracy while Woodland is an unimpressive 137th. But Kuchar ranks only 50th in GIR while Woodland ranks 12th. Clearly, Woodland is a bomb and gouger with immense talent for hitting the ball really long, and he often drives with his 2-iron just to keep the ball short of trouble. Let's see how he does it in the video here:



You can clearly see Woodland's two-way action, in which the club is still going back as his lower body begins to move forward. Ben Hogan talked a lot about this type of move. It adds to the lag and down-cocking of the club on the downswing, similar to the action of Sergio Garcia, which we analyzed a few weeks ago.
... Read
Instruction

Monday Swing Analysis: Sergio's putting fix

So much has been made of Sergio Garcia's battles with the putter over the last several years. His frustrations nearly drove him from the game. But he has had quite a resurgence of late, winning the last two events on the European Tour, including a one-stroke victory over fellow countryman Miguel Angel Jimenez in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama over the weekend.

instruction_blog_sergio.jpg
Note Sergio's putting-grip progression, from conventional to left-hand low to the claw. (Photos by Getty Images)

Sergio's comeback seems to have started with a tip he got from putting guru Dave Stockton, who recounted the story while visiting with a group of Golf Digest editors in our Wilton, Conn., office on Friday. Here's a short report from Assistant Managing Editor Jeff Patterson:

Stockton said that when he's asked to take a look at someone's putting stroke, he also likes to see their chipping motion. Naturally, Sergio Garcia was brought up. Senior Instruction Editor Peter Morrice asked Stockton why Sergio seems to have so much creativity around the greens, but little success on them. After saying Sergio looked all right in his 11-shot victory the weekend before at the Castello Masters, Stockton related an interesting anecdote:

Stockton was on the putting green at Firestone Country Club during a practice round for the 2010 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. While Dave worked with one of his tour pros, Sergio was within earshot. The message Stockton was trying to
... Read
Instruction

Monday Swing Analysis: What you can learn from Sergio's downswing

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor Golf Digest
Twitter: @RogerSchiffman

Editor's note: Every Monday, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines the game of a recent tour winner and tells you what you can learn. A Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, Kevin is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is a Lead Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. He has seen thousands of swings and has helped golfers of all abilities, from rank beginners to tour players. This week, Kevin takes a look at the unique swing of Sergio Garcia, who finally won after a three-year drought, dominating by 11 strokes in Spain.

Kevin Hinton: Sergio Garcia has long been one of the game's elite ball strikers. The combination of length and accuracy off the tee, as well as solid iron play, are consistent assets in his game. There is no doubt Sergio is one of the most talented players in the world, but historically he has been let down by average to poor putting, and at times what would seem to be a shaky mental game at best. Off course distractions and suspect putting is a tough combination to overcome. However, Sergio's trouncing of the field in Spain is certainly an excellent sign that he has righted the ship. Garcia's final three rounds of 63-64-63 carried him to an 11-shot victory, and his reentry into the discussion of the best players in the world. Let's take a look at Sergio's driver swing below. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of it during Sunday final rounds in 2012.

Sergio has a few very notable characteristics to his swing. The first is that the club is in a relatively laid off position at the top of his swing. This is no problem at all, and has been this way throughout his career. Having the shaft point down the line is far from a fundamental to great ball striking, however, it is a perfectly fine thing to practice. The relationship that typically exists is that the more laid off the club is at the top, the more likely a player is to fade the ball. If the shaft points across the line(the opposite to Sergio), the more likely the club will swing down on an inside path producing a draw. This is why most tour players, who hate to see the ball hook, would rather err on the side of the club being laid off. However, the amateur player often struggles with the opposite miss. In my experience, the average player does better if the club points down the line, or is slightly across the line. It helps to avoid slicing.

... Read
Instruction

Monday analysis: How you can go low like Ben Crane

When Ben Crane birdied 14 through 17 yesterday to get into a playoff with Webb Simpson, whom he beat on the second extra hole, he did something we all have the chance to do from time to time: Finish off a hot round.

Granted, you're not going to post a little 63 next weekend, like Crane did, but whatever your level, you have days when things are clicking, right? At some point you ask yourself that horrible question, Can I keep this going? That's usually when your round takes a turn the other way.

Butch Harmon gave us a memorable tip on finishing strong in a recent Golf Digest: "You've allowed yourself to get here, now allow yourself to finish."

Below are highlights of Crane's 63:

Peter Morrice
Senior Editor, Instruction
Golf Digest


How do you finish off YOUR round? Want to discuss instruction with avid golf fans? Join the conversation on our partner site, GolfWRX.com.

... Read

READ NOW

July 28, 2014

GolfWorld Monday

Get beyond the headlines and into the game.

Not a subscriber? Sign up Now for FREE
. Close

Thank you for signing up for the newsletter.

You will receive your first newsletter soon.
Subscribe to Golf Digest

Subscribe today
Golf Digest Perks