Golf InstructionMay 18, 2014

Leaps & Bounds

My advice just might raise your game to a whole new level

I'm only 27, but when it comes to golf, I'm an old 27. I've been playing this game a long time, and I've learned a lot of things that have helped me improve. Things about the swing, hitting shots, and how to play golf. And I'm still learning. A few months back, I rolled in a 75-foot eagle putt

to win the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. What did I take from that? You can make the seemingly impossible, possible (not to mention there's no such thing as a putt that can't be made). Golf Digest has asked me to share some "wisdom" on how to play better. Please don't think that I'm being preachy here. I just want to see you enjoy the game—and life—as much as I do. And hey, you might just be my pro-am partner someday. I could use your help.

MY GAME | THE PLAN

I'VE GOTTEN STRONGER in my core, hips and butt because I wanted to get a little longer. But I'm not going to change my entire game to try to be a power player. I've played from the fairway most of my life, so maintaining my accuracy is important to me.

THERE'S NOTHING WRONG with being 10 yards back and in the middle of the fairway. I'll take that.

I'M A FRONT WALKER, TOO. I get to the ball before anyone, even my caddie, Colin Cann. I like a fast pace. It means there's more time to prepare.

I'M ALWAYS READY when it's my turn to play. That means I'm thinking about my next shot while you're hitting yours.

DON'T EVER BE SURPRISED BY where the pin is when you reach your ball. Most courses have pin sheets. No sheet? Fine. Find out where it is before you tee off on the hole. It should be a huge factor in the shots you play.

MAKE YOUR PRACTICE SWINGS COUNT. I'm either matching up what I'm trying to do with my real swing or rehearsing a drill to help me make a better swing.

MY GAME | THE SWING

THE YEAR I WON FOUR TIMES on the LPGA Tour [2008], my distance control with my irons was really good. Even when you're off line, if you hit the ball the right distance, you've still got a good chance to score. Practice that.

MY IRON GAME IS A STRENGTH because I'm steep on the ball. I compress it and flight it the same every time. Don't do that with a driver, but when the ball is on the ground, feel the club moving down and through the hitting area. It's like striking a match.

I PRACTICE PITCH SHOTS from 55 to 90 yards every single day. Why? It's the secret to solid ball-striking because you're grooving a mini golf swing.

A GOOD SWING THOUGHT is to keep your height. Feel tall. Like your chest stays nice and high when you hit shots. This will help you maintain the width of your arms and prevent you from getting scoopy.

WATCH YOUR BALL POSITION, TOO. Mine creeps too far forward from time to time. I bet you rarely think about it, but it's a big reason a lot of people don't hit the ball solid or straight. Play it in the middle of your stance for irons.

ONE MORE THING TO THINK ABOUT: Where is your weight when you swing? The worst place is in the heels. You can't play good golf from there.

MY GAME | THE MIND

you get bit."

I'VE ALWAYS PLAYED PRETTY AGGRESSIVELY. I go at pins that most players won't touch. Why? You have to play with confidence. If you hesitate, you get bit.

THAT BEING SAID, I know when to reel it in. You have to realize where you've been bit before.

EVERY TIME I'M IN CONTENTION, I club down. You're so pumped, you'd be surprised how far you hit the ball. And when you're playing bad, club up and swing easier. You'll get back on track.

FIRST INSTINCTS MATTER. Even if your first impulse isn't the right one, at least you're not raising doubt and playing the shot a little undecided.

IF YOU HIT A BAD SHOT, give yourself a little time to let out the frustration. But the minute you leave that spot, it's in the past.

WHEN I SHOT 60 at the Jamie Farr tournament in 2008, I didn't realize it until the round was over. And when I made 10 birdies at the Bahamas tournament this year, I had no idea. But I did remember I made double on the first. What does that say? Get out of your own head if you want to play well.

I'VE HIT ALL 18 GREENS in a round. I've done it a couple of times in my life. What's the secret? I have no idea. Ha.

MY LIFE | Q + A

WHEN MY FIANCE, Derek [Heath], proposed to me in December, we were supposed to be going to a winery. That didn't happen. We ended up pulling into a sky-diving place. We knew we were going to get married at some point, but I never imagined we were going to [get engaged] sky diving. I guess you gotta be ready for anything.

WHO KNOWS WHEN I became intolerant of gluten, but I was living that way for so long, I thought how I was feeling was normal. It's been a little over a year since I've been gluten-free, and 100 percent it has changed my life. I feel good. I sleep better. I think better. Give your body the fuel it needs.

ONCE IN A WHILE I'll sneak Heath bar crumbles onto something. I'm not going to die from that. You have to have some fun with food, right?

CHALLENGE YOURSELF. In addition to golf, I love cooking. I love baking. It's good to be competitive at something.

STUDLEY MAN is my Coton de Tulear, my "cotton dog." Little Studley doesn't care if I shoot 75 or 62; he's just so excited to see me. It goes without saying I think dogs are great for people.

MY DAD IS RETIRED NAVY, my fiance's dad is Navy, my grandpa was in the Merchant Marines, my cousin is a lieutenant colonel in the Marines, and now with Derek I have an Air Force guy in the family. It's funny the talks they have together. I've never seen people get so much grief about the branch of the military they're in. But at the end of the day, they're all brothers. I really respect that camaraderie.

SPEAKING OF BROTHERS, my caddie, Colin, is like a brother to me. He really is my best friend. We've spent 10 years together. He's spent more time with me than he has his family if you break down the hours and the amount we travel. It's so important to have someone you can really trust helping guide you in what you do.

ONE OF THE WORST THINGS about golf is a sock tan. No advice here. Just sayin'.

I DON'T THINK I'll ever get tired of the color pink. I even have a pink pool table with pink chalk. Stick with what you love.