Manhattan Swinger: Morgan Hoffmann
February 20, 2014
If a fairway is really tight, I still want to hit driver. Even if the guys in my group are pulling 3-woods or hybrids out of their bags, it makes me happier to know I'm playing aggressively.That's my nature, so psychologically, it doesn't make sense to fight it. But that doesn't mean I play stupid. When a fairway looks as narrow as this street alley, I choke down on my driver about an inch and set my feet slightly closer together.This shortens the swing and can help improve accuracy. But because I'm staring down at my driver, my emotion before the shot is definitely not defensive. I'm going for it.
This past winter, I worked really hard on improving my "off-speed" shots. That means not trying to fly an iron its maximum distance every time, which is one of the worst habits I see in amateur golfers. By making a shorter swing at a slower speed, you allow yourself to focus on creating an ideal impact position: hands slightly ahead of the ball, left arm straight, right heel rising and body weight fully on the left leg. My key to off-speed shots is to never let my hands get higher than my shoulders on the backswing or follow-through (left). You'll flight the ball nice and low, so it's a perfect shot to master for those par 3s from elevated tees. A low ball has less time to drift off line.
Like a lot of golfers, I can be really hard on myself after making a mistake on the course. There's little value to beating yourself up. I've learned I perform much better when I manage to stay carefree between shots. So my new rule is to forget about the shot I just hit the moment I take off my glove. Even if I've blown a tee shot deep into the trees and I'm not sure it's even findable, as soon as the glove comes off, it's time to soak up the gallery, gaze at the clouds or just make jokes with my caddie and playing partners. Keeping it light between shots establishes a good rhythm for my swing and the day, so I can just keep rolling through every round.
When a golfer sees water or other trouble, the tendency is to tense up. Tension usually makes the transition—that critical moment when the backswing becomes the downswing—get too quick. This change in speed is practically indiscernible on video; it's something players must learn to feel for themselves. To avoid it, before a pressure shot I make a practice swing at 50-percent speed all the way through (left). I think about being smooth and sensing the path of my club throughout the motion. And __I pause at the end of my backswing.__It's counterintuitive, but pausing helps me swing more powerfully.
STAY THE SAME
There's no such thing as a perfect putting routine, but develop one that doesn't waver. At the U.S. Open last June, my coach, Gary Gilchrist, noticed my inconsistency. Sometimes I took three practice strokes, sometimes one. I'd glance at the cup five times on one hole, then not at all. Tricky breaks and stressful situations can make you erratic. Now I've got my routine down, and my results are better. How you read break and line up your ball are personal decisions, but the process that works for me is: Look at the cup once, look at my ball once, tell myself a positive affirmation—This one's in—then stroke it like I just don't care.