I'm a lot like you. When I'm driving it well, everything is good in my world. I've got shorter shots into the greens and better looks at birdie. I'm in attack mode. That's how I love to play golf, and that's my plan for this year.Driving is definitely the foundation of my game. I've always been able to hit it pretty long, but after some ups and downs off the tee last year, I realized I need to rein in my misses. So I've made some tweaks to my swing, in the takeaway and starting down, and now I'm feeling great about the driver again. I've got to be able to get up and rip it without thinking too much.For video instruction lessons, check out Golf Digest All Access. Lesson plans curated to improve every aspect of your game await.When my driving is sharp, I'm hitting a lot of short-iron and wedge second shots. My coach, Michael Bannon, and I have come up with a system for controlling distances with the short clubs. Here I'll show you what I'm working on to get my driving and short approaches clicking at the same time.If I can do that, I'll make a ton of birdies—and it'll be a killer year.
Keep it simple and stay aggressiveHitting driver as much as I do is never going to give me a huge percentage of fairways. I'm fine with that. It's a trade-off for playing aggressively. But I need to watch my misses.A big key for me is the first two feet of the swing. I want everything—hands, arms, shoulders, club—moving back together. I sometimes roll the club inside with my hands, then I have to re-route it coming down. That's hard to do consistently. I need to start back straighter, with the clubface looking at the ball longer, and let my body turn move the club to the inside. When I get those first two feet right, the rest feels easy.
Keep it simple and stay aggressiveI've also worked hard on keeping my swing wide to the top. At the end of last season I started focusing on really stretching out my left arm going back. I'm pretty flexible, so my turn takes care of itself. Now my backswing is wider—and a little shorter—so it's easier to return the club to the ball.
Keep it simple and stay aggressiveOnce my left shoulder gets under my chin, I'm ready to start down.One change I've made in the downswing is not shifting so hard toward the target.I have to move left, yes, but I quickly turn my left knee out of the way (left). That sets the club on a good path to the ball.
Keep it simple and stay aggressiveI want to be able to swing through aggressively and extend my right arm. As long as I clear my left side, I can go as fast as I want—and still hit fairways.
How to be automaticThe best advice I can give you on short irons and wedges is, control the swing with your body. Don't get flippy with your hands. I start from a slightly open stance so I can turn through the shot easier. Then I stay pretty centered as I go back. I think about maintaining the triangle formed by my arms and shoulders. In fact, that triangle should stay intact all the way through to the finish.
How to be automaticLet me tell you about my three-swing system for controlling distance. The first is a standard swing, where my left arm goes back to about 10:30 on an imaginary clockface (left) and through to a three-quarter finish. Second, I have what I call my "10-off" swing, where my left arm goes back to about 9 o'clock. That shorter backswing, with everything else staying the same, takes 10 yards off the shot. The third swing is the 10-off shot, except I grip down an inch on the club. That takes off another 10.
So for a 9-iron, my full shot is 160 yards, the shorter backswing makes it 150, and the gripped-down shorter backswing goes 140. Here are my numbers with the wedges:PITCHING WEDGEStandard: 135 yards10-off swing: 125 yards __10-off gripped down:__ 115 yards
SAND WEDGEStandard: 115 yards10-off swing: 105 yards __10-off gripped down:__ 95 yards
LOB WEDGEStandard: 95 yards10-off swing: 85 yards10-off gripped down: 75 yardsTry my three-shot system, and see where your distances fall. Soon you'll be able to plug in a club and a swing for every short approach you face. Let's go make some birdies.