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.
--Remember, it's the green, not you. When you miss a putt or two that you normally would make, don't start questioning your stroke or your alignment or your green-reading skills. That only putts doubt in your mind. Tell yourself it's the condition of the greens and that everyone has the same problem. And then follow the advice below:
-- Play less break, and hit the putt firmer. Slower, bumpy greens simply don't break as much because the ball is rolling faster through most of the putt. Putts that roll slower (like on faster greens) will break more because gravity can have more effect.
-- Concentrate on hitting the putt solid. Tom Watson has often described an image that really works for him. He says to think of a tack in the back of the ball, and he uses the putter to "tap the tack into the ball" at impact. That image ensures you'll hit the ball solidly with the sweet spot of the putter to get the ball rolling smoothly and on line. A putt hit off-center will not hold it's line as well on a fast, smooth green, and it certainly has no chance on a slower, bumpy green.
-- Leave yourself uphill putts. When the greens are bumpy or grainy, uphill putts are better than downhillers because you can hit the putt firmly, thereby reducing the effect of the green's blemishes or grain. So try to get your chips or first putts to finish below the hole. Those short putts will be a lot easier to handle.
--Hit short putts to the back of the cup. Paul Runyan used to practice three- and four-footers for hours, trying to get the ball to hit the back of the cup. One the practice green he would put a tee in the back of the cup and make the ball hit the tee. On the course, pretend there's a tee in the back of the cup. It's an effective strategy on bumpy or grainy greens.
Hope these tips help your game this weekend. We'll see you on Monday.
Here's Ron: Carbohydrates have somehow become a bad word in nutrition. People often associate them with weight gain, Type II diabetes and, generally speaking, poor eating habits. But what many people don't understand is that not all carbohydrates are alike. Think of it this way. Is a piece of lean, wild salmon the same quality of protein as a hot dog? Of course not. So then understand that there are good carbs and there are bad carbs, and if you're playing golf, knowing the difference can not only improve your health, but it can also lower your scores.
Here's an example of how carbohydrates can impact your game: Player A is playing a morning match against Player B. Both ate in the clubhouse dining room before the match and had a sensible breakfast that included protein, carbohydrates, some fat and fiber. But as they make the turn, both are feeling a little hungry. Player A pulls an apple out of his bag and munches on that. Player B gets a granola bar from the snack shop. Now, both food items are high in carbohydrates so the snack choices should have little impact on the match, right? Answer: Maybe. Player B will likely suffer from a "sugar crash" somewhere on the back nine and his energy level and concentration might deteriorate. Perhaps it's on the last hole when he needs to make a crucial five-footer to win the match. Player A will likely feel full much longer and demonstrate the same energy and concentration levels he had on the front nine.
If you want to know why, click on the link here and read about carbs in Golf Digest's December issue (with Webb Simpson on the cover). Considering the fact that you're probably reading this while suffering from a Thanksgiving hangover, the information should be useful as you start your new eating plan.
Teaching professional Kevin Hinton analyzed the putting strokes of various tour winners from 2011 this week. Click on this link to access his article. I think there is sure to be some good putting advice for you if you're struggling on the greens.
Good luck with your game this weekend, and we'll see you Monday on the Instruction Blog.
So this week's Fitness Friday is devoted to answering some of your tougher questions. Special thanks goes to trainers Chris Noss (@coachnoss), Randy Myers (@randymyersglc), Ben Shear (@ben_shear), Ralph Simpson (@mostpt) and Dave Herman (@athletestrainin) for answering the questions. All of these gentlemen work with professional golfers including players such as Luke Donald, Camillo Villegas, Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Fred Funk, Gary Woodland and Trevor Immelman. So you're getting the advice from the best of the best. Enjoy.
-- Ron Kaspriske, Fitness Editor, Golf Digest
From @nigelblenk: I'm slowly recovering from a ruptured disc in my lower back. I'm ready to advance from stretching. What would you recommend next?
Answer from Chris Noss: It would be best to know the details of the injury, but in general, the first things that usually go are balance, hip and ankle mobility and the ability to disassociate the upper body from the lower body. I'd recommend an eight-pointed, star-pattern toe touch exercise to get you going. Start with your hands on your hips, and then slowly progress to reaching across your body with the opposite arm. Begin with your back in a neutral position, head tall to keep the correct pelvic tilt and limit your range of toe touch to about a foot in each direction. Once you can double your distance in the touch without any pain, you can add opposite-side, overhead arm drivers to help get the upper and lower body working together again. Only go to the point of being successful in the movement pattern. You might experience stiffness, but the movements should be pain free or you need to stop.
From @chemicalfred: What kind of cardio is best for optimal golf performance?
Answer from Dave Herman and former Masters champion Trevor Immelman: We feel like the best cardio is low impact. We focus on joint-friendly exercises for career longevity and injury prevention. We prefer stationary bikes because there is a leg-strengthening component along with the cardio conditioning. We also like walking on a slight incline, elliptical machines and swimming--all great for their low-impact, cross-training and synchronizing effects on the body. Trevor feels that light interval training is very important, especially in preparation for hilly courses, so that he's not winded when he's about to hit a shot.
From @scratchplaya: What muscles should I specifically train to hit longer tee shots?
Answer from Ben Shear: Distance is a byproduct of many variables such as swing mechanics, centeredness of contact and spin rate. But from a physical perspective, working on being able to stabilize the upper body while initiating the transition with the lower-body would be one key area. Use anti-rotation/rotary stability exercises for the core to do this. I would also work on your glutes. EMG studies have shown that the glutes are the only muscle in the body firing 100 percent during the downswing.
From @silverstargolf: I've got 30 minutes before I tee off. What should I do? Hit balls? Stretch? Something else? I'm 52-years-old.
Answer from Randy Myers: Do what the tour players do and stretch for 10 minutes, then chip and putt. Here's what I suggest:
Find a quiet place in the locker room and lay down on the floor on your back.
How your feet move dictates your contact
Understanding good footwork will help you control where your swing bottoms out--the key to making good contact.
It's hard to feel exactly what your feet are doing at impact, because it happens in a fraction of a second. But you can work to get into a good position at the finish, with your rear foot completely up on its toes and the bottom of your shoe facing away from the target (below).
Concentrate on getting into this position, and you'll make a full turn through the ball with your hips so all of your weight is on your front foot. Think of it this way: The tip of the rear foot should serve only as a balancing point. If you can do this--and it's hard to fake good footwork--you'll move the bottom of your swing arc forward and to a more consistent spot.
Once you start compressing the ball better at impact, you'll hit longer, more accurate shots and do it more consistently.
Great advice from a great teacher.
Photo by Dom Furore
McLean's findings, in part, showed that most of the biggest hitters on the pro tours also had the biggest X-factors--meaning they had minimal hip turn but loads and loads of shoulder turn. This was true especially at the start of the downswing when the "X-factor stretch" was identified as the hips unwinding well before the shoulders moved. Kudos should still be given to McLean for coming up with something original in golf instruction. It's hard to argue that the torque created by restricting your hip turn while allowing your shoulders to turn as far as they can will help generate a lot of speed and power in your swing.
However, a question has been raised by many fitness trainers and some teaching pros. Is it wise to torque the body like this--especially for anyone with thoracic spine (mid-back), shoulder, and hip mobility issues? What's good for elite golfers with great flexibility might not be right for an average Joe with limited flexibility, says Ben Shear, one of the top fitness trainers on the PGA Tour (count Luke Donald and Jason Day as his clients).
"The X-factor does put stress on the body," he said. "How much depends on a lot of physical factors. Golf even done efficiently is tough on the body. However, if hip and thoracic spine mobility is an issue, you'd be better off swinging like Rocco Mediate and let the hips and shoulders turn back together."
Adds Craig Davies, a PGA Tour trainer who works with Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose and Sean O'Hair, "The ability to create separation is a good thing for power. But the idea of maximizing one's "X-factor" can lead to injury. It can be detrimental to performance for many players who have limited, or even average mobility in their shoulders, thoracic spine and hips."
Whether you are a disciple of Jim's X-factor or believe the hips and shoulders should turn together, there's no argument that strong, pliable hip muscles are what all golfers need. For two exercises that will help improve the range of motion in your hips, and make them more functional in the golf swing, click on the video below.
Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor
Follow him on Twitter: @RonKaspriske
Has the X-Factor worked for you? Discuss instruction and fitness topics on our partner site, GolfWRX.com.
This week we hear from reader Charles Piette, who shares a tip for longer, straighter drives:
"At address, suck in your belly in a way that you feel your abdomen getting more tense, but you're still able to breathe. That will stimulate the core muscles and create a solid base of support for your body to swing around.
"To this muscle contraction, add a smooth and relaxed takeaway, concentrating only on feeling tension in the mid-abdominal section, leaving the rest of your body tension-free. Make sure you complete a full backswing. By still keeping the same tension level, now pull the trigger and let it rip.
"This will allow you to hit more consistent shots with added distance and accuracy. This also serves as a great way to accelerate through the ball."
Thank you, Charles. When you look at many of the modern tour players today, you'll notice that their abdomens are firm and solid at address, usually with a straight lower back--neither curved nor inverted. (See photo of Jason Day, from the swing sequence analysis that appears in the November issue of Golf Digest, with Bubba Watson on the cover.)
Also, it is easier to suck in your belly and keep it tense throughout your swing if you core muscles are strong. See Ron Kaspriske's Fitness Friday video here for easy ways to strengthen your core. Good luck with your game.
Photo by J.D. Cuban
Do you think this tip could work for you? Discuss instruction topics on our partner site, GolfWRX.com.
Kevin Hinton: Martin Kaymer has a classically beautiful swing with excellent footwork and rhythm. There are many things that the average player should copy. One part of his swing that is slightly unusual and I think noteworthy is the top-of-his backswing position. Martin allows his left arm to bend and he hinges his wrists fully. Most of his driver swings go past parallel.
A lot of the younger players on tour at this position have created a much "wider" arc. What I mean by this is, the golf swing is essentially a circle that swings around your body. Some circles are bigger than others. Many tour players have the left arm quite straight, with the hands and arms high above the shoulders. These players are described as having great "width" to their swings, essentially a big circle. Players like Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Nick Watney, Davis Love III and Bill Haas quickly come to mind.
The players on tour who look this way are often the young, slender, super-flexible types, or all of the above. I can't speak for my fellow PGA professionals, but this doesn't exactly describe my typical student, or myself. I've tried to get my left arm straight, create a huge arc, limit my wrist hinge at the top. It looks great on film, but guess what? It feels terrible and I hit it even worse. I pretty much can't do it without feeling way too much tension in my swing.
Tension in your arms and hands can be lethal to your swing. It certainly limits your power potential. That's why I love to show Kaymer's top-of-backswing position swing to my students. It looks "soft," relaxed, void of tension. Most importantly, it looks achievable. I'm not suggesting to collapse your left arm and allow the shaft to rest on your shoulder, but if you don't fit the description of the typical young tour star...quit fighting it. So loosen up, reduce your grip pressure, and allow the club to swing. The result will be a far better-feeling swing with more clubhead speed.
Will you try to imitate Kaymer's smooth rhythm and tempo? Click this link to discuss your favorite instruction keys on our partner site, GolfWRX.com.
But he didn't want to talk about himself. He wanted to tell me how he's learned that the players who have re-routed the club from the backswing to the downswing have traditionally been the most accurate.
"Why is that?" I asked. He said it's because re-routing the club gives you more feel for where the clubhead is throughout your swing. It feels heavier and lighter when the clubhead is on a different plane than the shaft. Players who swing the club back and through on an identical path might have swings that look pretty, but they tend to miss shots in both directions because they might not be able to feel the weight of the clubhead. Players who re-route the club usually have just one miss. They eliminate one side of the golf course.