Work The Ball: Here's How The Pros Get It Close
October 12, 2009
On the PGA Tour we call our go-to shot a "stock shot." Whether it's a draw or a fade, a high, soft shot or a low, boring spinner, it's the one we try to hit most of the time. But what separates us from amateurs is that we can change our shot shape when we have to. Golf is not a straight-line game, and it's important that you learn how to work the ball high and low, left and right. I'll show you how I do it.BIO: A winner of three PGA Tour events, Byrd, 31, is known by his peers as one of the best ball-strikers in the game. Through August, he led that statistical category on tour and was in the top 10 in total driving, greens in regulation and birdie average. He lives in St. Simons Island, Ga., and his teacher, Mike Bender, is ranked in the top 10 on Golf Digest's 50 Greatest Teachers.
Play your go-to shot
To take some of the pressure off, I recommend playing your stock shot whenever you can. For me, it's a draw. I'll curve it right to left into a green (left) even if danger is on the left because I'm more confident doing that than trying to fade it away from the trouble. But to learn how to curve the ball either way, use this drill. Place a stake in the ground 10 yards in front of you, and try to hit draws or fades around it. The goal is to start your ball on one side of the stake and have it curve to the opposite side. You'll be surprised how this helps you naturally change your swing shape to make the ball curve where you want it to go. You can also use this as a visual image when you play.
No matter what type of shot you're attempting, you need to hit the ball solidly. Your hands should always be ahead of the ball at impact. To ingrain this move, pose in the proper impact position, remembering how it feels, and then try to repeat it when you swing.
To hit a draw
My teacher, Mike Bender, has worked hard with me on drawing the ball with the shape of my swing. There are other ways to do it (close the clubface, strengthen your grip, etc.), but my method produces the most consistent results. The feeling you want is of the club coming into the ball on a shallow angle. As you swing down, the shaft should feel as if it's almost parallel to the ground, instead of pointing toward the sky. This allows the clubface to close slightly through impact, producing the draw without any hand manipulation.
To hit a fade
When I need to hit a fade, I don't want to dramatically change my swing. I simply open my stance, which alters the swing path enough that the face won't close through impact as it would for a draw. It's a simple adjustment that reduces the amount I can swing down from the inside. When you open up like this, feel as if you're holding the face open a bit longer through the hitting zone.
To hit it high, low
The farther back you address the ball in your stance, the lower it will fly. But you shouldn't move the ball too far forward or back, because that will affect the shot shape. Too far back, for instance, makes the ball go right of your target. I wouldn't let the ball position change by more than three or four ball widths.