The Local Knowlege

Instruction

Drop the anchor: There's a better way

By Jeff Patterson

As golf's governing bodies propose a ban on anchoring, we propose you copy the pros who've putted just fine, thank you very much, without getting any dirty looks. Arnold Palmer, Mark O'Meara, Steve Stricker and Luke Donald have won 95 PGA Tour events between them, but each one has a distinct bit of personal putting advice that can help even the most dependent of anchorers get weaned off their likely-to-be outlawed approach. Some of these adjustments are so subtle you might not have even realized they were there. While these four have stacked the deck in their favor by tweaking conventional golf instruction and even their equipment, their
methods have and still conform to the rule book. maar01_arnie.jpg

Palmer's proprietary double-overlap grip, as he described in a 2008 interview with Guy Yocom, "always seemed to knit my hands together just right." As if that weren't enough to get his putterface consistently returning to impact, he would jury-rig the grip so he'd always have his hands on the same way, "including running the wire from a coat hanger under the grip to serve as a reminder." When a coat hanger wasn't enough, he used hacksaw blades because "they were nice and flat."

O'Meara cut his number of three-putts down with the help of a different kind of saw. A grip that puts his right hand on the club "like the way you use a handsaw. If that image doesn't work for you," he offered, "the way I explain it to most people is that my right hand is in a similar position to how it would be playing shuffleboard. It helps that the goal of both motions is pretty similar: Smoothly propelling an object the correct distance along a certain path." After winning the Masters and British Open in 1998, O'Meara had "started to develop a little yip in my stroke, with my right hand." He needed a way to regain the fluid motion that had made him one of the world's best players. The Saw was the answer and "saved [his] career."


inar01_mark_omeara_feel.jpg
inar01a_steve_stricker_putting.jpgStricker's reminder, unlike Palmer's, is a natural one, the lifeline on his left palm. As he told Ron Kaspriske, "This gives me a feeling of unity between the putter's shaft and my left arm." Because Stricker grips the putter at "a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10," there isn't much wiggle room for the grip or the face to twist. And with the club always held the same way, there's no additional variables to contend with. An important distinction because the same thing can't be said about reading greens, playing break and dealing with wind.

Donald would argue your grip and hand motion pales in comparison to the importance of how you swing the putterface. That is, after all, what hits the ball. He told Peter Morrice that by swinging his arms, it "allows me to swing the head of the club without moving the handle as much." Too often the anchoring-style of putting keyed so heavily on what went on above the waist, when really the true measure of skill on the greens is how well you roll the ball by getting the putterhead to do what it was designed to.



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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.

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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

A bunker tip worth its salt

By Jeff Patterson

Have you been told to monitor your salt intake? Even if you haven't (yet), you'd probably be glad to hear that Jim McLean says the more salt, the better . . . on the clubface of your sand wedge, that is.

mclean_300.jpgIn the October issue of Golf Digest, McLean, explains that any golfer struggling with his bunker play could really improve his consistency around the green by pouring a clump of table salt on the grooves of his wedge. Too many people, he says, fail to maintain the open face they had at the start of the shot and rely on fortunate timing to get the ball close to the pin. The most common fault weekend golfers make is subconsciously closing the face going back, and flipping the hands over coming through.

Putting salt on the clubface allows you to track your progress and know for sure if you've come into impact with the same open face you set at address. If there's no salt left on your wedge when you're done, it means you've shut the face down at some point during the swing.

The location of the displaced salt, whether it's behind or in front of your starting position, will give you a clue as to which part of your swing spilled the grains.

It's possible to get away with a technique that spills the salt chipping out of the rough, but from greenside bunkers everything gets magnified and a closing clubface is a recipe for disaster. Take McLean's advice about having more salt, and your blood pressure might actually begin to decrease.


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Instruction

British Open Tip: Hold the face open in deep rough

First, we saw Tiger, then Tim Clark (see photos below), then Tom Watson, then Phil Mickelson. They were each slashing the ball out of the deep rough on Thursday's first round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

01_tim_clark.jpg02_tim_clark.jpg03_tim_clark.jpg04_tim_clark.jpgTiger's first shot from the left rough on the 15th hole was so tough, he advanced the ball only a few yards into a slightly better lie. Watson, on the 18th hole, underestimated the severity of the taller grass grabbing the club's hosel. It severely closed the clubface, rocketing the ball only 50 yards ahead and straight left into the grandstand. Mickelson's lie on the third hole was so bad, he couldn't see the ball as he swung. He managed to punch it out into the fairway. On the seventh hole, the rough was so deep he was worried he might hurt himself and contemplated taking an unplayable lie. He played out sideways but flew the ball across the fairway into rough on the other side. Clearly unhappy, he took five shots to finally make the green. On the next hole, after a frantic search, he did take an unplayable lie from the rough and saved a bogey.

How do you handle lies in such deep rough? First you need to understand why the clubface closes so dramatically. It's because the tall blades of grass wrap around the club's hosel, stopping the heel of the club from moving, but the toe keeps turning over. The result: a closed clubface. Tiger was quoted after his round that the grass was so tall on his first shot that it wrapped around the actual shaft, not just the hosel. That's deep rough, for sure!

Lee Trevino always said the worse the lie, the tighter you should hold the club. He said to start with the clubface open, "then hold on real tight, as tight as you can."

So here are your basics in deep rough:
-- Start with an open clubface at address
-- Aim right (for right-handers) of where you want the ball to finish
-- Grip more tightly than normal
-- Hit down and through the ball, trying to hold the face square so it doesn't turn over

In Tiger's book How I Play Golf, he addresses a similar predicament--hitting a short pitch from rough around the green. Here's what he said:
-- I use my 60-degree wedge. The tall grass tends to close the clubface, and I need all the loft I can get.
-- I distribute 60 percent of my weight on my forward foot--the one closest to the green. That encourages a steep, knifelike angle of attack with the clubhead.
-- I hold the club more firmly than normal, especially with my left hand. Again, the rough will try to twist the clubface closed.
-- I make a very upright backswing, cocking my wrists abruptly.
-- On the downswing, the force of the clubhead should be expended downward, to penetrate the grass. I don't let the clubhead approach the ball on a level angle. I'd be at the mercy of the rough.
-- I restrict my follow-through. In fact, if I hit down sharply, there won't be any follow-through.

If you have a longer shot and the rough isn't too deep, sometimes a higher-lofted fairway wood is a better play than an iron because there is less hosel for the grass to wrap around. I actually carry my wife's old Callaway 9-wood (I put it in my bag when she got new clubs). It's like a magic club from the rough. The extra loft gets the ball up, and the direction is usually  pretty straight.

As for the British Open rough, at least Tim Clark handled it with a great attitude in his first round.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Photos by Darren Carroll/For Golf Digest




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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

Weekend Tip: 3 Ways to Regain Your Feel--Fast

So the weather across most of the country is finally starting to act like spring, golf course superintendents are beginning to mow their greens down to mid-season levels, and golfers are starting to turn up at the first tee, ready to put their games on display. At my own club, New Seabury on Cape Cod, this weekend's tee sheet is jammed full, and our Saturday morning group has more players than ever.

But what if you're one of those golfers coming out for the first time this year, and you feel like, as Dan Jenkins once said, the golf club feels like a parking meter in your hands? That's where this column will help you. Here are three tips, from some of the game's top feel players and teachers, to get your touch back fast. The last thing you want to do is three-putt all day, or take extra shots from just off the green, or snap-hook your tee shots.

1. Feeling your hands. When you haven't played in a while, your hands feel weak. So it's only natural to grip the club tighter to compensate. Resist that and do the opposite. As Davis Love Jr. and Bob Toski wrote in How to Feel A Real Golf Swing, with Bob Carney, "Your hands generate clubhead speed. They control the face. They shape the path of your swing. But nothing can sabotage a good grip or good swing quicker than excessive or inconsistent grip pressure. Tension is the enemy of the swing, and it emanates from the grip. Pick up a pencil and write your name. How tightly did you hold the pencil? Just tightly enough to accomplish the task at hand. Which is how you hold your steering wheel, how you hold a book, how you hold your sweetheart's hand. For most golfers, holding a golf club only as tightly as enables the club to swing will seem much lighter than normal." So remember to hold the club lightly, and you'll regain your feel in no time.

2. Feeling the putter. Gain control by giving up control. Sport psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella once told Paul Azinger that he could see tension and artificiality in his stroke. In his book, Putting Out of Your Mind, Rotella recounts how he told Azinger to putt like he hit bunker shots. "I just look at where I want it to go," Azinger said, "splash the sand, and it goes there." Rotella told Paul he had to become relaxed, even nonchalant, at the moment of truth in putting as well. Try it and your stroke will free up and become more natural. You'll regain your stroke very quickly.

3. Feeling your feet. When you've had a long layoff, usually your feet and legs are a little slow; you've lost some agility. Get that footwork back by trying this piece of advice, from Tommy Armour's book How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time. "In simplifying footwork, I'll give you one little tip that probably will greatly improve the hitting portion of your swing. Have the right knee come in fast at the right time. The knee action in a good golf swing is practically identical with knee action in throwing a baseball."

So give these thoughts a try and good luck with your game this weekend. I'll be pulling for you (unless I'm playing against you).

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman 


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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Mickelson solves the hated half wedge

A brand-new golf instruction book just hit my desk today, from the editors of Golf Digest. GOLF: PLAY THE GOLF DIGEST WAY was put together by my colleague, Ron Kaspriske, and it's an impressive, full-color compilation of everything you could possibly need to play better golf. Here's a sample from the book, based on an article by Phil Mickelson on the Hated Half Wedge. Use this tip this weekend when you get in those in-between situations with a wedge in your hand.

Good luck with your game, and please follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest


Here's Phil:
Many amateurs find the half-wedge shot to be awkward, and when sand or water are involved, downright scary. If you tend to hit the ball fat or thin, can't decide how big a swing you should make, or find yourself coming up long or short, try my system. It will erase your fear and give you the consistency and control you've been looking for.

Phil2.gif

When playing this shot, open your stance, play the ball forward of center, and aim the clubface at your target.

In the backswing, cock your wrists fully, but limit your arm swing. Then swing down and through, but end the swing when your arms are parallel to the ground.











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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Don't sole the club at address

Flick-hover.gifWhen I watch a PGA Tour event, Champions Tour event or LPGA Tour event, I'm often struck by how many players hover the club at address. They do not rest it on the ground before starting their takeaway. To name a few players: Bubba Watson (click on the link here), Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Davis Love III, Jay Haas, Greg Norman, Yani Tseng, Cristie Kerr. Get the picture? Yet, I rarely see average golfers do this. These tour players all hover the club when the ball is teed, but a number also use the same technique on pitches and even putts. You should try it, too, especially if you feel you have difficulty bringing the club back, or would like to smooth out your takeaway, or have trouble making solid contact on pitches from tight lies.

In the April issue of Golf Digest (on sale this weekend and currently available on the iPad and Kindle Fire), Jack Nicklaus talks in detail about why he rarely soled the club at address. "I often would sole it lightly, but there were times when I didn't ground it at all, mostly with an iron or fairway wood when I thought it might cause the ball to move," he says. "Or with my putter on windy days. You never want the ball to change position while addressing it--golf is hard enough without incurring penalty strokes."

Amen, Jack.

Nicklaus says with the driver, he would sole the club lightly and then "un-weight" it. Why? "When I felt the club resting on the ground, my grip and arms were too relaxed. By un-weighting the club--hovering it off the ground--I had to firm up my grip pressure just enough. Once I did that, everything seemed ready, and my hand and arm pressure felt uniform. I was then able to take the club back smoothly without fear of stubbing the club in the grass behind the ball."

Jim Flick also wrote about this several years ago. Click on the link here.

And David Leadbetter talked about the same concept two years ago. Click on the link here.

If these great players and teachers all advocate hovering the club at address, you should at least give it a try. Good luck with your game this weekend, and remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest



 


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Instruction

How He Hit That: How Mahan recovered from a s_ _ _ _

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's entry is not what you'd expect. Hinton looks at the shanked wedge shot Hunter Mahan hit in his semifinal match versus Mark Wilson in the Accenture World Match Play Championship, at Dove Mountain, near Tucson. Yes, like average golfers, even tour players hit the dreaded ho-zell when they least expect it. But unlike with average golfers, Mahan's shank (dare we say the word?) did not lead to more shanks. He recovered with a superb pitch to three feet on his next shot, went on to defeat Wilson, and then tamed Rory McIlroy, 2&1, in that afternoon's final. Kevin gives you some quick advice for the next time you get the shanks. And if these tips don't work, click on the second video. 

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Here's Kevin: Definition of a shank: A mentally debilitating shot in golf in which a player makes contact on the hosel of the club, causing the ball to shoot viciously sideways and potentially bring oneself to the brink of tears. Blame is typically cast upon a wide range of sources . . . normally including the caddie, swing coach, boss, or often a higher power.

Here's a case where you need to watch the video before reading my comments. Pay special attention to the slow-motion replay of Hunter's downswing on this approach shot:



Now, here are my five keys to stop the shanks:
I typically see only a handful of reasons a golfer is shanking. If you do tend to hit the occasional "hosel rocket," check these common causes and fixes.

1. Not enough distance from the ball. Many golfers simply stand too close to the ball at address. If you start shanking, the first thing you should do is try backing up and playing the ball more toward the toe of the club.

2. Severely inside-to-out swing path. An excessive inside-out path can definitely lead to shanks. This is typically how a better player would shank it (though in Hunter's case in the video, see No. 3 below). If your normal ball flight is a draw, and it often turns into a push-hook, then this applies to you. A simple fix is to go to the range and practice fading the ball. By doing this, you'll greatly reduce your chances of shanking. You'll also make your swing more neutral, allowing for straighter shots.

3. Severely outside-to-in swing path. This is how a "slicer" would shank the ball, and it's actually why Hunter shanked in the World Match Play--strangely, his path was too severely outside in. He clearly corrected his path on the very next pitch shot, and played brilliantly the rest of the day. He knew enough to trust his swing, and made sure he kept his arms and shoulders relaxed on his downswing, promoting a more inside path into the ball. While many slicers typically hit their shots off the toe, if your arms get disconnected enough in the downswing, it can definitely lead to heel contact. Your fix is to learn to draw the ball. If you learn to hook it, you'll likely shank far less often.

4. Too much weight on your toes. If you set up up with too much weight on your toes at address, or move in toward the ball in your backswing, you can definitely shank the ball. Try to feel your weight more in the center of your feet, and err with your weight toward your heels.

5. Excessively open clubface at impact. Finally, if you've tried all of the above and you are still shanking, the cause can be as simple as leaving the clubface severely open through impact. Think of a race to impact between the toe of the club and the heel. Try to get the toe to win. Worse case, you hit a few hooks, but that's far better than shanking. If all else fails . . . it's much harder to shank a tennis ball!

And if you don't like tennis, take a tip from Tin Cup's caddie, Romeo (Cheech Marin):

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Instruction

You Tried It: Think 1-2-3 for consistent chips

On Wednesdays at the Instruction Blog, we often turn to our readers for the best tips they ever received. Please submit your favorite tip to Editors@GolfDigest.com. This week we hear from Scott Morgan on better chipping:

"I'm fairly average around the greens, but a golf buddy of mine always struggled. He could never stay in rhythm from his practice swings to the real shot and frequently either skulled the shot across the green or flubbed it three feet with an abbreviated, jabby stroke.

"After a long summer watching these mis-hits, I finally offered some unsolicited advice: Slowly count to yourself on both the practice swing and the actual chip. Say 1-2-3 in your head, starting the swing on 1 and making contact on 3. He found better rhythm, better contact, and better results. And he was rather annoyed I hadn't said something sooner."

Thanks for the tip, Scott. So many times, good rhythm back and through will make up for poor technique, not only in the short game but also in the full swing. A wise pro once told me: "No matter how great your mechanics are, you'll still hit bad shots occassionally if you don't have good tempo. But smooth tempo can often take care of faults in your swing."

A number of great players had swing flaws, but managed to have incredible careers because they swung the club rhythmically. In fact, the smooth tempo masked their flaws, and they even had reputations for having great swings. Some prominent players who come to mind include Sam Snead (backswing was inside his downswing); Jerry Pate (closed clubface going back and at the top); Payne Stewart (club well past parallel at the top); Nancy Lopez (manipulative wrist cock and closed clubface on the takeaway); Julius Boros (significant re-routing of the club--outside going back, inside coming down); Larry Nelson (club pointing well across the line at the top). All of these players had wonderful tempo and won major championships.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman 

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