Matteo Manassero is still a teenager, yet his golf résumé is already filled with some impressive accomplishments: Youngest player ever to win the British Amateur (age 16); a T-13 finish as an amateur at the 2009 British Open; youngest player ever to win a European Tour event (age 17). These are the kind of achievements that might lead you to believe the Italian phenom is on track to be golf's next superstar. But for that to happen, says his coach, Alberto Binaghi, Manassero has to get longer off the tee.
"When he was 16 and 17, he was probably one of the straightest players I've ever seen in my life, and I played for 17 years on [the European] Tour," Binaghi says. "He'd hit the fairway and the middle of the green every time. But his old swing didn't give him enough distance."
Adds Manassero, "I needed to hit it higher to give myself better chances to win on all kinds of golf courses."
Manassero's accuracy stemmed from swinging the club a little inside going back and a fraction outside coming down, producing a solid, consistent hit. He maintained a flat left wrist through impact, which kept the clubface square to his target longer.
"Matteo's swing in the past had a faster tempo compared to now," Binaghi says. "He was trying to generate speed and power by turning the lower body very quickly through impact. But he was spinning out with the hips, which forced him to have passive hands through impact. It was a safe swing because it was very accurate, but it's hard to put the ball up in the air that way."
Without even looking at the driving stats, Binaghi knew his pupil needed more distance (his European Tour average was 279 yards in 2011). They are now developing a swing that allows the still-growing teen to tap into his increased size and strength. Manassero says he has added seven pounds of muscle since putting more time into working out. "The idea is to deliver that weight into the ball," he says.
To do that, he coils his body by restricting his hips while his shoulders fully turn back. He then shifts his weight onto his left side and lets the lower body lead an aggressive rotation toward the target. This causes the club to lag behind, so he has to quickly rotate his hands, wrists and forearms counterclockwise to square the club at impact. It's a classic power move.
"In the last few months, he's gained one club and perhaps 15 yards on the driver," Binaghi says. "This will help him compete in the majors.