2014-15 Best Young TeachersOctober 5, 2014

Tee to Green

These top 40 under 40 will help you get your game in shape—fast

If you've taken a golf lesson lately, you know that gone are the days of a teacher watching you hit balls and then dishing out a few swing tips.

Today you might find yourself on high-speed, high-def video, or strapped into a 3-D motion-analysis harness, or taking a live lesson from the other side of the world. All very cool, but the teacher's job has never been more complicated. He or she has to master all this new technology, analyze more and more information and—here's the part that hasn't changed—satisfy a simple request: "Help me play better."

The new list of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers in America

recognizes the instructors under 40 who are doing this better than anyone. To identify this group, we surveyed our nationally ranked teachers, all 41 sections of the PGA, and just about anyone we thought might know a good candidate. After a comprehensive evaluation, we welcome 11 new teachers to the list. These talented instructors, along with 29 who are returning, represent the future of golf instruction. Want a lesson? Here's a taste of how they can help you, from tee to green.

DRIVING

Turn Your Shoulders

To get the most out of your driver, you need to rotate back and through correctly. A lot of players straighten up and get taller as they swing back. That creates a flat shoulder turn and weak shots.

To feel a consistent spine angle, practice making your full turn to the top in slow motion and be sure you can see both of your feet all the way back (pictured above). This means your front shoulder is working more downward than up and around. That sets up a powerful move into the ball. —Jorge Parada

FAIRWAY WOODS

Don't Go For Extra Yards

There's a reason you top your 3-wood too many times to count and rarely do it with an iron. And it has nothing to do with loft. If your 7-iron goes 150, you'd be foolish to try to squeeze another 20 yards out of it. You just switch to a 5-iron. But there's no option longer than 3-wood, so many golfers try to get more distance out of it. You'd be better off going at a reasonable speed, like you do an iron, and keep it at that. —Chris Mayson

HYBRIDS

Let The Club Bottom Out

Hybrids are long-iron replacements, not mini fairway woods. Playing the ball too far up in your stance and sweeping it like a wood results in thin shots or hooks. Treat it like an iron: Play the ball just forward of center, and hit down on it. Let the clubhead bottom out, even take a small divot.

To get the feel, make a few practice swings listening for the thump of the club's sole on the turf. Try to leave a mark on the grass just ahead of where you'd play the ball. —Erika Larkin

IRONS

Raise Your Left Side

If you aren't careful, a common mistake can creep into your iron setup. Setting up level with your hips and shoulders—or even with the right side slightly higher—might make you feel like you're going to hit down on the ball, but it only encourages weak contact.

Here's a tip for getting into a good setup: Bump your left hip slightly toward the target so it's a bit higher than your right (right). You might feel a little pressure in your right foot—that's normal and will give you something to key on as you shift to your right foot during the backswing. Follow that hip move by setting your left shoulder slightly higher than your right. Now you're set to hit it flush. —Chris Como

TEMPO

Smooth At The Start

Whether you're feeling pressure or maybe you just raced to the course from work, sometimes your swing gets quick. Typically that means too much speed right off the ball, which affects sequence and timing for the entire motion.

Use the time between shots to slow your tempo. Step off to the side, turn your club upside down and grip the clubhead end, and make some practice swings. The club will feel much lighter, so you'll be able to tell if you're snatching it back. Try to build speed gradually, so you hear the swoosh of the grip swinging through the air at the bottom of the swing, not before. When you get back to hitting shots, your swing should feel smoother. —Jason Birnbaum

FAIRWAY BUNKERS

Hold Up Your Chin

It's a daunting spot to be in, but don't get flustered. Think of fairway bunker shots like any other iron shot. Most amateurs dip down at impact to try to help the ball out. You need to maintain your posture to make a clean strike on the ball.

Next time you're in fairway sand, try hitting with your chin raised up a few inches so you're standing tall. This will ensure you don't fall back and help you keep a steady position through the ball. If you stay in your posture, you'll learn not to fear these shots. —Matt Killen

OUT OF ROUGH

Steepen Your Downswing

The goal for any golfer hitting an iron shot out of the rough is to minimize the amount of grass between the clubface and the ball at impact. To do that, visualize there's another ball six to eight inches directly behind the one you're hitting. Set more weight on your front side at address, then make a swing that avoids the imaginary ball on the backswing and downswing. By doing this, you'll steepen the angle of your swing into impact and not catch a lot of grass before the ball. —Shaun Webb

Trillium Sellers Rose

WEDGES

Unlock Your Lower Body

Wedge shots don't require much power, so a lot of golfers freeze the lower body and swing only with their arms. That might feel like it gives you extra control over the shot, but the opposite is true. An arms-only swing is too up and down and makes it tougher to catch the ball flush. Here's a drill to activate your lower body: Prop up a club with your left hand and practice throwing balls with your right arm swinging under your left (right). This throwing motion will get your hips and legs turning forward. Translate that to the golf swing, and you'll start making that shallow strike you see in all good wedge players. —Trillium Sellers Rose

CHIPPING

Don't Flip The Shaft

Try this simple drill to stop skulling or flubbing your chips: Grab a pitching wedge, and hold it with your right hand only. Make a short backswing, with a slight hinge of your right wrist. As you swing through, focus on keeping the shaft pointing to the ground, your wrist staying hinged. You want your right elbow to come through in front of your body, not stay back by your right side. You might've been told that consistent chipping comes from keeping the left wrist flat, but it's more intuitive to focus on your dominant hand. Give it a try. —Grayson Zacker

GREENSIDE SAND

Set Up To Hit It Fat

The goal on a greenside bunker shot is to make contact with the sand, not the ball. Take your wedge that has the most bounce—the widest sole—and address the sand about two inches behind the ball. Because your club naturally bottoms out at the same level as your feet, dig your shoes into the sand at least two inches. This ensures that your clubhead will enter the sand behind the ball. Don't grip down on the club, as that negates the effect of digging in your stance. From there, just make an aggressive swing through the sand. —Gia Bocra Liwski

PITCHING

Lead With Your Arms

Good pitching is half setup, half technique. The proper setup—ball centered in a narrow stance, weight favoring your front foot, which should be flared out 45 degrees—facilitates the right swinging motion. A poor setup, especially with the upper body leaning away from the target, makes pitching harder than it has to be.

Once you get set, your clubface should rotate open on the backswing to add loft and utilize the bounce on the bottom of the club. Unlike a driver swing, the pitching motion is mostly hands and arms, both going back and going through. Feel the club swinging down slightly from in to out, your arms pulling your body through the shot, like you're hitting a baby draw. —Mark Blackburn

PUTTING

Make Enough Backswing

The first step to better putting: Improve your speed control. Players often take the putter back too short and then accelerate at the ball, making a long follow-through. Acceleration should happen at the beginning of your forward stroke. Practice a stroke that has a ratio of three parts backswing and two parts follow-through.

Place two tees 15 inches apart, roughly one in front of each foot, and put the ball six inches behind the front tee. This setup leaves nine inches for the backswing and six inches for the follow-through—a 3:2 ratio. Swing the putter to the back tee, and finish at the front tee. You should start to feel that you're striking the ball, instead of rolling or pushing it. —Steve Atherton