Stare It Down From 100 Yards

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Stare It Down From 100 Yards

September 10, 2007

When Charles Howell and I sat down and outlined his goals before the start of the year, we agreed he needed to improve his distance control, especially with his wedges. Charles had too much forward lean on the shaft at impact (the clubhead lagging too far behind the hands), causing him to de-loft the club too much and take deep divots. This made him inconsistent on those important scoring shots from around 100 yards.Since addressing this tendency and making his wedge swing more symmetrical, the results have been impressive. Not only did Charles win for the first time in nearly five years (the Nissan Open in February), but his scoring average has dropped by two shots per tournament from '06 to '07. In addition, his improved wedge mechanics have helped his full-swing technique. By following what Charles and I have worked on, you'll see improvement in your game as well.ABOUT THE AUTHORBased at ChampionsGate near Orlando, David Leadbetter operates 28 golf academies worldwide.

WHAT NEEDED IMPROVEMENT

My preference for Charles, and everyone I teach, is to have some forward lean of the shaft at impact to hit crisp shots (many amateurs have the shaft leaning backward). But too much forward lean (left) will prevent you from releasing the club–and your divots will be too deep. You'll struggle with trajectory and distance control, because shots will tend to fly lower and longer.Here, Charles shows where his hands and the shaft should be at impact (right). It's similar to where he starts at address. Rehearse this position, and then try to match it when you hit shots.

WHAT NEEDED IMPROVEMENT

My preference for Charles, and everyone I teach, is to have some forward lean of the shaft at impact to hit crisp shots (many amateurs have the shaft leaning backward). But too much forward lean (left) will prevent you from releasing the club–and your divots will be too deep. You'll struggle with trajectory and distance control, because shots will tend to fly lower and longer.Here, Charles shows where his hands and the shaft should be at impact (right). It's similar to where he starts at address. Rehearse this position, and then try to match it when you hit shots.

FEEL TURNS INTO REAL

To encourage more release of the clubhead, Charles had to use his right hand more -- as if he were tossing a ball underhanded. I like for players to feel the concept before hitting shots with it.

FEEL TURNS INTO REAL

To encourage more release of the clubhead, Charles had to use his right hand more -- as if he were tossing a ball underhanded. I like for players to feel the concept before hitting shots with it.

SWING SYMMETRY

Just like for the full swing, whatever happens in the backswing on a wedge shot should also happen in the through-swing. The club should stay on plane, and the clubface should stay square to the swing arc. Now Charles' wedge action has a better release, and the shaft is on the same angle at the finish (above right) as it is at the top of the backswing (above left). This brings consistency to the height and distance the ball flies.

SWING SYMMETRY

Just like for the full swing, whatever happens in the backswing on a wedge shot should also happen in the through-swing. The club should stay on plane, and the clubface should stay square to the swing arc. Now Charles' wedge action has a better release, and the shaft is on the same angle at the finish (above right) as it is at the top of the backswing (above left). This brings consistency to the height and distance the ball flies.

DRILL: A LEFTY'S BACKSWING IS A RIGHTY'S FOLLOW-THROUGH

To feel the correct release and follow-through positions, it's helpful for a right-handed player to practice making a left-hander's backswing. Doing this, it's easy to see how the club should release, with the shaft staying on plane. Suddenly the impulse to hold on through impact or to swing excessively down the target line goes away.

DRILL: A LEFTY'S BACKSWING IS A RIGHTY'S FOLLOW-THROUGH

To feel the correct release and follow-through positions, it's helpful for a right-handed player to practice making a left-hander's backswing. Doing this, it's easy to see how the club should release, with the shaft staying on plane. Suddenly the impulse to hold on through impact or to swing excessively down the target line goes away.

DRILL: SWING WITH THE RIGHT ARM ONLY

Ben Hogan said he wished he had three right hands, because he believed that hand played such a major role in releasing the club. This drill gives you a taste of what Hogan meant, and what I've been working on with Charles.Grip a wedge with your right hand, then grasp the inside of your right arm at the elbow with your left hand and make easy half swings. Without the left hand on the grip, the club releases naturally through the hitting area. Get a feel for this action, then hit practice shots like this and work this feeling into your swing.

DRILL: SWING WITH THE RIGHT ARM ONLY

Ben Hogan said he wished he had three right hands, because he believed that hand played such a major role in releasing the club. This drill gives you a taste of what Hogan meant, and what I've been working on with Charles.Grip a wedge with your right hand, then grasp the inside of your right arm at the elbow with your left hand and make easy half swings. Without the left hand on the grip, the club releases naturally through the hitting area. Get a feel for this action, then hit practice shots like this and work this feeling into your swing.

HOWELL

'Releasing my right hand allows me to match my follow-through to my backswing. The feeling of control is so good I can use it for my full swing as well. Now I'm a lot more confident with my distance control through the bag.'-- Charles Howell III*

HOWELL

'Releasing my right hand allows me to match my follow-through to my backswing. The feeling of control is so good I can use it for my full swing as well. Now I'm a lot more confident with my distance control through the bag.'-- Charles Howell III*

CONTROLLING DISTANCE

There are several ways to make the ball fly shorter or longer with the same club. But for consistency, we thought Charles should regulate his distance control through the position of his left arm in the backswing. It's a great formula for you, too.Hit full shots (with your left arm at 10 o'clock) and half shots (9 o'clock) with each of your wedges using your normal swing tempo. Take note of how far the ball goes. Presto! You have two base yardages for every wedge in your bag. That's how you build a solid game from around 100 yards -- the scoring zone.

CONTROLLING DISTANCE

There are several ways to make the ball fly shorter or longer with the same club. But for consistency, we thought Charles should regulate his distance control through the position of his left arm in the backswing. It's a great formula for you, too.Hit full shots (with your left arm at 10 o'clock) and half shots (9 o'clock) with each of your wedges using your normal swing tempo. Take note of how far the ball goes. Presto! You have two base yardages for every wedge in your bag. That's how you build a solid game from around 100 yards -- the scoring zone.

HOWELL

'It's great to have two stock yardages with each wedge. You don't have to regulate club speed. you can swing through at the same pace and hit the ball different distances.'-- Charles Howell III

HOWELL

'It's great to have two stock yardages with each wedge. You don't have to regulate club speed. you can swing through at the same pace and hit the ball different distances.'-- Charles Howell III

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