Golf Digest editors picks

10 Rules For Hitting All The Shots

April 2009

01 The easiest shot is the best shot.
Chi Chi Rodriguez had as good a pair of hands as anybody I ever saw, and more shots than you can imagine. But Chi Chi had a habit of turning simple shots into difficult ones. If he had 140 yards from the middle of the fairway, he would deliberately hit a low hook or a high fade, just for his own amusement or to please the fans. He needed the stimulation, I guess, but it worked against him. Remember, the goal is to get the ball from Point A to Point B in as straightforward a manner as you can. Don't try circus shots unless you absolutely have to.

02 Simplify draws and fades.
Jack Nicklaus liked to curve the ball by opening or closing the clubface at address. I never felt I was good enough to do it his way. I didn't like changing my swing path, either, which some guys do. There's only one really reliable way to curve the ball: Change your hand position at address. If you want to hit a draw, move your hands forward, toward the target, so they hide your left shoe when you look down. Make sure the clubface is square to the target, and then make your normal swing. When you get to impact, your hands will naturally be farther back than that exaggerated position they started in. When the hands move backward, the clubface closes. You don't have to do anything. To hit a fade, do the opposite: Set up with your hands back, behind the ball. At impact they'll be more forward, and the face slightly open.

03 Let the club do your shotmaking.
Before the 1987 Skins Game at PGA West, I visited the TaylorMade plant and saw an odd-looking little metal wood in a barrel. It had the number 7 stamped on it, which got my attention because 7-woods were unheard of. "It's a prototype," their man said. "Not for sale." He offered to let me take it home, though. That little club turned out to be the best stick I ever had. I could hit it high or low, draw or fade it, hit it 165 yards or 210, all with barely changing my swing. After I hit a 190-yard fairway-bunker shot over water to five feet on the ninth hole at that Skins Game—a shot I couldn't possibly have played with an iron—my phone wouldn't stop ringing. Everybody wanted to know where to get a club like mine. The equipment choices today are even better, with all kinds of hybrid and fairway-wood designs. My point is, there's no sense trying to squeeze something out of your swing if you can let your clubs do the shotmaking for you.

04 To hit it low, crowd the ball.
I always loved hitting a low fade to a back-right pin with the wind howling from the right. Not many guys could get it close in that situation, because they kept it low by just putting the ball back in their stance. You see, playing the ball back turns you into a one-trick pony—you can only hit hooks. The best way to hit it low—and I've never talked about this before—is to stand closer to the ball. Flex your knees and crowd the ball so your hands are only a couple inches from your body. You'll get the feeling that you're going to hit a shank, so you'll instinctively straighten your legs and raise your upper body through impact. When you stand up like that, your hands tend to get ahead of the clubhead, delofting the face and setting up a low cut. If this sounds complicated, read it again—it's worth it. As for hitting it high, the thing that worked best for me was to play the ball forward and make sure I kept my head as far behind the ball as possible through impact. But keep in mind, this is coming from a low-ball hitter.

05 Don't choke down.
I love watching Anthony Kim play, but I'm not a fan of the way he grips down a good two inches on his full-swing shots. Choking down lightens the club's swingweight and effectively makes the shaft stiffer. It also makes it difficult to hit the ball high enough for all situations. But the worst thing is, it gets you into the habit of hitting every shot with 100-percent effort: Instead of hitting a smooth 7-iron with a normal grip, the player who chokes down tends to shorten the 7-iron and hammer the hell out of it. I like the idea of gripping down on chips and pitches, because it can give you more control, but avoid doing it with anything longer than a 9-iron.

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