Hit It Solid Now + Forever
June 01, 2019
Wherever you play golf, some people are stronger, more athletic and more flexible than others. That’s the way it goes. You can be discouraged by that if you’re the shortest one in the fairway, or you can decide to become as good as you can be with the tools you have. I’ve never been the longest hitter on any tour, and I’m not as strong and flexible as I was in 2007 when I started on the PGA Tour Champions. But I’ve committed to staying fit, being efficient with my swing and improving all the parts of my game where strength—and age—aren’t as important. The results speak for themselves. I’ve won 38 times on the senior tour, and I’ve stayed competitive into my 60s—winning my fifth Charles Schwab Cup this past season at age 61. I’ve also led the tour in scoring average five straight years. I play my best by focusing on hitting solid shots and making fewer and smaller mistakes—not by trying to keep up with longer players. That strategy will work for you, too, whether you’re 20 or 70. Read on for my advice. —with Matthew Rudy
ONE GOLFER, ONE SWING ▶ Because drivers, hybrids and short irons look very different, you might try to swing differently depending on which club you’re holding. This is unnecessary. I don’t swing my 5-iron any differently than I do my driver. And I don’t swing my hybrids any differently than my wedges. I set my posture the same for every shot, with a consistent distance between my arms and body (left). The only things that change are how far I stand from the ball—the length of the club determines that—and where I play the ball (above). My ball position changes based on where each club will naturally bottom out when I make a swing. With a short club, the ball is centered between my feet. When I’m swinging driver, it’s played much more forward because the club makes contact when it’s moving upward. The message here is that if you stick to one swing and pay attention to fundamentals like stance and ball position, the quality of your average shots will improve and your misses will become much more predictable.
“ On full shots, I don’t change my swing from club to club. This helps my consistency.”
MAINTAIN THE ANGLE ▶ Any mistake you make with your swing path or club is much worse when you don’t hit the ball in the center of the face. So focus on improving impact. The most common reason for mis-hitting a shot is, at the moment the club meets the ball, the angle between the shaft and the ground changed from what it was at address. The fault is usually failing to maintain your posture. Notice that when I keep the spine angle I created at setup, my hands stay close to the body (right) and the shaft comes through in roughly the same angle as when I first stood over the ball. Now look at the affect to my hands when I straighten the body during the swing (above). When that happens, the tendency is to hit the ball off the toe of the club, unless you get lucky and can save the shot with a last-second flip of the hands. Remember that if you improve contact by keeping your posture, your misses won’t be as severe. And that will lead to lower scores, which is a lot better than finding 15 extra yards off the tee.