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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Hit it farther like this wounded veteran

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

If you've been wondering why I've been AWOL from the Instruction Blog the last two weeks, it's because I've been on the most awesome golf trip anyone could imagine. I just spent the last 12 days touring the greatest courses of Ireland with 11 wounded veterans who play golf as part of their rehabilitation. The experience has been the most rewarding of my life. To read my blogs about the trip and see a slideshow, click on the link here.

All of these veterans are inspiring beyond belief, playing golf with traumatic brain injuries, with only one arm or one leg--or even no legs. Take Marine Sergeant Tim Lang, for example. He lost his right leg in a bomb blast in Iraq. The explosion sent him 75 feet into the air and he landed on pavement, breaking his back in four places. During his recovery at Walter Reed he met Jim Estes, a PGA professional who founded the Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA). Estes convinced Tim to try golf. Less than four years later, Tim is an 8-handicapper and won a long-drive championship. I played with him at Dooks and Royal County Down. He averages close to 300 yards off the tee, and that's no exaggeration.

Tim1A.gifMarine Sergeant Tim Lang and his makeshift practice aid that promotes a free arm swing.

The photos here show how he developed his incredibly powerful golf swing, and it shows what Bob Toski and Jim Flick have long said: Distance comes from the free releasing of the clubhead through impact, not from a powerful lower body. The lower body provides stability, but a relaxed grip pressure and free arm rotation through impact, coupled with solid contact and a correct angle of approach, is what really creates optimum ball speed. I've seen very few people compress the ball as well as Tim does.

As part of Tim's rehab two years ago, he devised a prop for his right leg that he made from plastic paint containers mounted on each other, adjusted for the correct height. He glued foam he found at a furniture store on top of the cans to protect his knee. Tim-2A.gifThis allowed him to hit 500 balls a day. He was successful in a tournament using his prop (below), bringing it onto the course for all his shots, even putts.

 The next time you hit balls, you might think of Tim and his paint cans. Try to keep your lower body as stable as he does, making a complete backswing. After setting the club in a good position at the top, keep your shoulders turned and simply swing your hands and arms down, delivering the clubhead into the ball on an inside path.

You'll be amazed how much distance you can generate--and how straight your shots will go-- when you simply allow your arms and hands to swing the club freely. 

Tim3A.gif

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Instruction

Weekend Tip: How to Be a Painless Partner

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


partners.gifIf you're not watching the Ryder Cup this weekend, you must not like golf. It just doesn't get any more exciting than this. Also, you can learn a lot about fourball (better ball) strategy by watching the matches. This is the format that most golfers play in their weekend groups, and viewing the action reminded me of a column that Golf Digest Professional Advisor and noted sport psychologist Bob Rotella wrote way back in 1988. "Two things can happen when you play as a team," wrote Dr. Bob. "You take pressure off yourself because you've got a partner. Or you put pressure on yourself because you don't want to let your partner down." The principles he talked about then still apply today. Here are three key points you can use in your partners game this weekend:

1. Share a common objective. It might be simply to have a good time and enjoy each other's company. It might be to win. Whatever the objective, it needs to be the same for both. Discuss it and agree on it.

2. Set ground rules for communication on the course. Some teams talk a lot. Some don't. Some give advice. Some don't. But good teams know the limits before they start. What they avoid at all costs is the kind of "advice" that really isn't advice at all, but rather a sign that you've lost confidence in your partner. For example, during a recent better-ball match, my partner and I were 2 down with two holes to go. One of the players had a flip wedge to the 17th green, fronted by a small creek, to par or possibly birdie the hole and close us out. As he addressed the ball, his partner said, "Make sure to get it there." Not surprisingly, he dumped it in the creek; we went on to win in sudden death. That's the kind of advice that's better not given. It says to your partner, "I've lost confidence in you." 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

Monday Swing Analysis: Like Rory, re-route the club

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Have you noticed an interesting thing about Rory McIlroy's swing as he's been on his tear this summer? Yes, he seems to be playing effortlessly--driving the ball beautifully, sticking his wedges and making a boatload of putts. But I'm talking about something that seems a little different in his swing. As I discuss what I've seen with some of my colleagues in the golf business, it's pretty clear that Rory is doing two things he didn't use to do:

(1) He's starting the downswing with a more pronounced hip bump and then active lower-body turn.
(2) His downswing plane is noticeably inside his backswing plane.

I think they are related. The hip bump in No. 1 leads to No. 2. And No. 2 is a really good thing if you want to swing the club into the ball from inside the target line, thereby creating a shallower and more powerful angle of attack. And No. 2 is also one way to gain feel and sensitivity for the clubhead.

As my good friend and teacher, Jim Flick, once told me, re-routing the club to the inside on the downswing is usually preferable than re-routing the other way (though some great players did that, namely Sam Snead and Bobby Jones). For the average golfer, Jim would much rather see a Jim Furyk move (dropping the club to the inside) than a Bruce Lietzke move (looping it  to the outside).

Why is that? When you swing into the ball from the inside, you can create extra clubhead speed with less effort, and it's easier to draw the ball, which not only rolls more but has a more penetrating flight. This is especially good if you are a weaker player and need distance rather than control.

But why re-route the club to get it to the inside? Why not simply take the club back to the inside initially? Because if you swing the club straighter back (the modern term is wider), you can create a bigger swing arc before you re-route the club to the inside. Generally, the bigger the arc, the more clubhead speed you can generate (see Davis Love III, John Daly, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson). 

Here's what Jim says to do: Swing the club straight back with your hands and arms (not your shoulders--that would cause the club to go back on an inside path). Then, as your first move down, shift your weight to the outside of your left foot while keeping your shoulders turned. While still keeping your shoulders turned, feel as if you simply drop your arms and the club down to the ball. You need to feel this move with your arms, not your hands, which only would flatten the clubshaft. Jim says to think of Jack Nicklaus' key of keeping his shirt buttons facing to the right of the ball as you swing through impact.

All of this combined will allow you to swing the club into the ball more from the inside, resulting in more delay of the wrists, and longer, more powerful shots that curve from right to left (for a right-hander). Prominent tour players (present and past) who make this inside move on the downswing include:

--Rickie Fowler
--Sergio Garcia
--Nick Price
--Hubert Green
--Fred Couples
--Lee Trevino
--Gary Koch
--Miller Barber
--Lorena Ochoa

There are many more, but I think you get the idea. Check out Rory's downswing move in the video here, with Johnny Miller's analysis, as well as on TV this weekend. It's a great one to emulate:
 
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Instruction

Saturday Morning Tip: Taming Golf's Fatal Flaw

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


One of the worst things you can do in the golf swing is to let go of the club with the fingers of the left hand at the top of the swing. However, you see golfers doing this all the time. Letting go at the top causes you to regrip the club starting down and increase your grip pressure. The result is a premature uncocking of the club, which then bottoms out before the ball. Usually a fat shot results, but sometimes you hit the ball thin. A tell-tale sign is your glove gets worn out in the heel.

Jack Nicklaus told me last week that he sometimes has this flaw today, but it's because he can't physically make as big a turn as he used to, and it's the only way to get the club to parallel on the backswing. He doesn't like the move. He said that during his prime, he never let go of the club with his left hand at the top of the swing. He noted that sometimes his right hand was a little loose at the top, which is confirmed by photos, but never his left.

One of my favorite teachers, DeLayne Pascal, at Holly Ridge Golf Club, in Sandwich, Mass., recently told me what she often does for her students who have this problem. Rather than try to get them to hold on tighter with the left hand at the top (often difficult for players whose hands are not so strong and it restricts clubhead speed), she tells them to make a bigger shoulder turn. When you make a bigger turn, you don't subconsciously feel you need to let go, she told me. DeLayne, a former NASA scientist, always looks at cause and effect. Really smart teachers, like DeLayne, treat the cause, not the effect.

So if you're hitting the ball fat or thin, or if you feel loose at the top of your swing, try making a fuller shoulder turn. It might make your grip more solid at the top--and your shots more crisp through impact.
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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Jack's Advice in Wet Weather

gifBy Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Rhythm and tempo

On Friday I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player in the history of the game, for an upcoming instruction series for Golf Digest. In his office in North Palm Beach, Fla., we talked about a number of subjects, but one that might be important this weekend with the impending rain in the Southeast, is how to play in bad weather.

We talked about a lesson Jack first produced with Ken Bowden in the classic series "Jack Nicklaus' Lesson Tee," which ran in the magazine in the '70s and became a book. Here is the lesson, with Jack's current comment:

"Rhythm and tempo take on extra importance when you're being bullied by the elements. With rain running down your neck, you subconsciously risk hurrying both your setup and your swing. In those circumstances I try to make a conscious effort to get properly settled over the ball, then to swing as smoothly and fully as possible. Two of my key thoughts at such times are: 'Make a deliberate takeaway' and 'Complete the backswing.' "

"That's a great tip," Jack told me on Friday. "I never considered myself a mudder, like Tom Watson, who relished wind and rain, but there are three categories of golfers in bad weather:

"One simply stays home until the rain stops. If you're playing in a tournament, you can't do that. Another group goes out and plays but with a negative attitude and usually a lot of griping and poor scores. The third group accepts the elements as just another variation of the game. They assume the scores will be higher and don't get upset when they make a poor shot or a bad score. When I was playing tournament golf, I made sure I was in that third group."

So if you want to play your best golf in inclement conditions, adopt Jack's attitude and think of your rhythm and tempo.


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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Don't look at the ball when you putt

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest


Dave Stockton's newest Book, Unsconscious Scoring, was just released, and you can find an excerpt in the upcoming October issue of Golf Digest. Written with Matthew Rudy, this book is a clear, succinct approach to simplifying your short game.

I will write a more lengthy review next week. But right now I want to give you a tip from Stockton that might really help your putting. I know it helped mine.

Dave says not to look at the ball when you putt, but rather to pick a spot a couple of inches in front of the ball, right on the putting line you have chosen. Then when you make your stroke, simply focus on rolling the ball right over that spot.

It's amazing how that simple tip helps you to not only roll the ball on your chosen line, but it gets you to accelerate the putter, hit the putt more solid and put a truer roll on it.

I was speaking to the Director of Golf at New Seabury on Cape Cod, Brendan Reilly, about this yesterday (Brendan is one of the best putters I've ever seen), and he said, "I do that on all my shots." That was a revelation for me. Suddenly, my iron shots were crisper (no more fat 7-irons), my chips started checking up next to the pin, my fairway bunker shots were nipped cleanly and my drives had some extra pop. Note: this is not a good thought in greenside bunkers, unless you've been taking too much sand.

Give this thought a try, and good luck this weekend with your game.

Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Instruction

Weekend Tip: How to Play Tiger's Two Bunker Shots

Tiger Woods had two distinctly different bunker shots in the PGA Championship at Kiawah's Ocean Course Thursday that illustrate improvement in his overall bunker play. My colleague Pete McDaniel, a Golf Digest Contributing Editor, was there watching both shots and explains how Tiger pulled each one off. The next time you're in similar situations, you might try Tiger's techniques. Here's Pete:

On the 13th hole, Tiger's drive finished on a slight upslope of a waste bunker. He had to clear a pretty significant lip and hit a 6- or 7-iron for the 178-yard shot. To play the shot, he gripped down on the club about an inch, then lowered his right shoulder or angled his shoulders so the right one was much lower than the left. From there he made normal, ball-first contact, easily clearing the lip. In other words, he didn't swing down into the sand, but rather clipped the ball cleanly with more of a sweeping angle of approach. Unfortunately, he pulled the shot into a sandy lie on the hill above the green and chunked his pitch into the greenside bunker.

From that position, on the short side, he opened his 60-degree wedge fairly flat. With only about 10 feet of green to work with, he had to create a lot of spin to keep the ball from rolling well past the hole. He produced the perfect amount of spin by using a steep, full backswing, really increasing the speed of the club through impact. He also swung to a full finish. The ball settled 18 inches from the hole, and he managed to save bogey and salvage a well-earned 69.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Only 5 minutes till tee time!

In the latest issue of Golf Digest (September, with Alvaro Quiros on the cover), Hank Haney offers some quick advice for players who don't leave themselves much time to warm up (sound familiar?). Here's what you should do if you have only five or 10 minutes before you have to tee off.

"You can still be productive," says Haney, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional. "Start by engaging your golf muscles and stretching. Hold a couple of irons together and swing, letting the extra weight help you turn. Then hit a few balls with a wedge, a few with your 7-iron and finish with your driver. You're looking for smooth swings and solid contact, not mechanical fixes.

"Your last stop should be the practice green. Take two balls and roll some 15- to 20-footers, focusing mainly on speed. When you get to the tee, remember to slow yourself down. A quick tempo on the first tee can produce a wild drive--and set a bad tone for the day."

Hank, of course, teaches Mark O'Meara and was Tiger Woods' coach for seven years. He runs the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy, in Hilton Head.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Winning at match play

sumo.gifHead to head. Mano a mano. You against me. However you put it, July and August are traditionally the months for match-play tournaments. Many club championships are contested at match play, as are most member-guests. In the September issue of Golf Digest, on newsstands next week (Alvaro Quiros on the cover), there's a timely Basics section full of match-play advice, either for team competition or individual.

Here are five of my favorites:

By Ian Poulter:
Get out fast: "In match play you have to attack every pin, and when you get a lead, keep your foot on the accelerator," says Poulter, who is undefeated in Ryder Cup singles play. At the 2010 Ryder Cup, he defeated Stewart Cink in 14 holes. "After every shot, the clock is ticking, and it's a lot easier to win holes early than late. Don't give anything away from the start. That's how you become a player who's tough to beat."

By Jack Nicklaus;
Forget your partner: "Tom Weiskopf used to tell stories when we were partners that I would say, 'Go rack your cue, Tom.' Meaning pick up your ball because I'm going to make my putt,' " Nicklaus says. "Of course, I didn't say that, but the mind-set is a healthy one for match play. If I had an eight-footer and my partner had a 12-footer on a different line, I might want to just hit mine in. Point is, don't rely on your partner, rely on yourself. You're playing your own ball, so think about what you can do."

By Michael Breed:
Have a safety drive: On a crucial hole, driving the ball in the fairway can be the difference between free drinks and picking up the check. "What I tell my students is, make a practice swing and feel what's happening to your body. Feel what it's like to stay in balance," Breed says. "If you can maintain your balance, the club will tend to meet the ball in the center of the face." Staying in balance also will improve your rhythm, he says, which always helps prevent wild tee shots.

By Padraig Harrington:
One hole at a time: "If you're down, your goal is to win that hole. Get one hole, then the next."

By Tim Mahoney:
Up big? Don't coast: "It's natural to be more cautious with the lead and force your opponent to take risks," Mahoney says. "But being conservative should apply only to the target and club selection. Once it's time to hit, make an aggressive swing. When players get a lead, they tend to guide shots or focus on just avoiding disasters. They start thinking about the next thing, like the next match. You have to keep playing."

Good luck with your game this weekend. I hope you win your matches, unless you're playing against me!

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Photo by Phillip Toledano/Golf Digest
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