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:
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:
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.
"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.
Tiger'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.
Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske,
Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction
Blog. This week he talks about a problem common to many golfers, including me: a sore lower back. Look for Weekend Tip
tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman.
Physical therapist and fitness expert Gray Cook (@graycookpt) first introduced me to a concept several years ago that the body is made up of alternating mobility and stability joints. In the case of your spine, your lumbar discs have some flexibility, but not a considerable amount when it comes to twisting. They need to be relatively stable when you swing a club. The thoracic vertebrae, however, are very flexible. They need to be mobile.
So what often happens to golfers who suffer back pain is that they aren't particularly mobile in their mid-back region, so they rely more on the lumbar spine to rotate the body. Since the lumbar discs are twisting more than they should, it causes pain and injury. Under Cook's theory, if you can handle much of the upper body's rotational needs with your flexible thoracic spine, you'll probably avoid a trip to an orthopedist.
One such exercise that can really improve your t-spine mobility is the modified Russian twist on a physio ball. It not only trains you to rotate through your mid-back, but it also strengthens the glutes and hips, which provide a stable platform allowing the upper body to rotate back and forth. PGA Tour pro Camilo Villegas is among many golfers who train with the Russian twist. And if you're a fan of my 20-in-20 workouts, you can add it to your routine. To watch me demonstrate the Russian twist, click on the video below.
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
Finally, in frustration, Ken asked me why when you're hitting the driver well, the irons aren't so good, and vice versa. It reminded me of an article I once did with Golf Digest Teaching Professional Chuck Cook. Chuck came up with the theme: "Why You Need Two Swings."
Chuck coached Payne Stewart, Tom Kite and Corey Pavin in the 1990s and now teaches Jason Dufner. He told me that the ideal driver swing catches the ball slightly on the upswing, because the ball is teed. Also, the club ideally approaches the ball from slightly inside the target line. But short irons and wedges need a level to slightly descending blow. Why? Because the ball is now on the turf, and you want the club to strike the ball, then the ground. It's easier to do this if your path is straighter through and the club bottoms out just after contacting the ball.
Chuck said that when the top tour players go really low, their swings are balanced. They are hitting both the driver and the irons well. So if this sounds like something you'd like to achieve, try these two key thoughts for starters:
When setting up to your driver, tilt your shoulders a bit so the back one is lower than the front one. Also, look at the back of the ball throughout your swing. This will cause you to stay behind the ball better, creating that great ascending blow, which is ideal for the driver.
When setting up to your middle to short irons and wedges, keep your shoulders more level and look at the front of the ball throughout your shot. That will keep your weight more forward, resulting in a descending blow that's perfect for hitting crisp iron shots and pitches.
I hope these thoughts help your game this weekend, and let's hope Ken reads this blog. He's playing in a member-member tournament Saturday and Sunday. If he balances out his swings, he and his partner will be the odds-on favorites!
Tiger works on his setup under the watchful eye of swing coach Sean Foley at this year's Masters. They both say the key to his swing is posture. Photo by Dom Furore
There has been a lot of chatter the last few months about Tiger Woods' swing changes under Sean Foley. But last week the specific subject of Tiger's posture at address came up--first in a self-made video from Tiger, then in some remarks by Foley. They said that Tiger's problems at Augusta mostly revolved around his posture at address. The week before, at Bay Hill, Tiger must have had his posture in good shape--he struck the ball beautifully off the tee and won by five.
Tiger's trademark has always been a ramrod-straight back at address, a slight bend from the hips, and legs flexed. But Foley alluded to the fact that Tiger had gotten too crouched at address, which he says can happen when you practice and play in the wind.
Certainly, it is difficult to stand to the ball nice and tall, bending from the hips so your arms hang straight down. But that position at address allows the arms to swing back and through freely, so the club can release fully.
Here's what Foley had to say to Rex Hoggard on GolfChannel.com:
"Alignment and posture was really the main thing. Once that changes, you can have the best swing in the world, but it doesn't matter. When you get too far away from the ball and [your] pelvis is losing its tilt, the shoulders get turning too level in the backswing and the hips go into early extension on the downswing so the club [gets] stuck under.
"If someone is playing in the wind for three days the ball starts moving back (in a player's stance), they start leaning on their left leg. Now all these angles change. It's the same swing but now at impact it's totally different."
What can you learn from this?
If you're having trouble with your shots and are not sure why, Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim Flick says to check your alignment at address by placing clubs along your stance line and the target line on the range. Check to be sure you're aligned where you think you are. Then, look at your address posture in a mirror or reflection in a window.
The main thing is to make sure you're not standing too far from the ball. Reaching for it at address is the most common problem, according to Flick. That causes you to take the club back on too flat a plane, which usually results in either a push-hook or an over-the-top downswing. Flick says it's better to be too close to the ball than too far from it. That allows you to stand tall and bend from the hips so your arms swing the club going back, resulting in a full shoulder turn to the top. If you stay in that good posture at the top, your arms and club can swing freely down and through the ball to a full finish. As Tiger and Foley would contend, it all starts with posture.
I hope this helps you to hit some great shots this weekend. Good luck with your game!
Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske,
Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction
Blog. This week he shows you how to keep your golf muscles in proper balance so you can stay injury-free. Look for Weekend Tip
tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman.
Katayama knows that golf is a one-sided sport and if he doesn't train muscles on the right side of his body the same way he uses the muscles on the left side of his body, it could lead to pain and injury. While I don't think it's necessary for you to make right-handed and left-handed swings to achieve body balance, your workout routine should always include exercises that move the body in one direction and then the opposite direction. In other words, train as if you could play golf either left-handed or right-handed. For obvious reasons, exercises that focus on the transverse (rotational) plane of motion are great, but you should also consider ones that isolate specific muscle groups on one side of the body. Just remember to train the opposite group of muscles, too.
Dr. Craig Davies, a PGA Tour trainer and author of Golf Anatomy, says in our June issue that the pain you feel after a round is often a result of asymmetrical strength. To check if you have asymmetries, do any one-sided exercise to the point of exhaustion with the left side of your body and then do it with the right. You should be able to get within 90 percent of the reps on one side that you can do on the other.
For more information on achieving body balance, see Davies' article in our June issue here: