November 4, 2007

Teaching feel to tour players

I helped four top pros improve their touch. The short-game lessons I gave them apply to you, too

Photo: J.D. Cuban

Photo: J.D. Cuban

All of us are trying to get better. Tour players aren't any different from you, the average player, in that way. But working with a tour player is a little different than giving a two-hour short-game clinic, because the stakes are pretty high. These guys are trying to make a living with their games. And I don't want to make anything worse.

The players who come to see me usually fall into two groups. Some of them are in a crisis--they feel like they can't make a putt, or their short game is in shambles. Other players have great technique and are looking for a second set of eyes for confirmation--a tuneup, so to speak. My job is to figure out what they're really asking me. Do they want a lesson, or are they just curious to see what I teach? Do they need to make big changes to get better, or is it a matter of making a small adjustment? What do they think they're doing with their stroke? I'm watching and coming up with some of my own ideas, but what I'm really trying to figure out is if they have a realistic view of their situation and are open to finding some answers.

In this article I'll show you how I've helped tour players improve their feel on and around the greens. I'm sure you'll recognize your own short-game problems in these stories. The stakes might be higher for tour players, but the fundamentals are the same for everyone. Good mechanics let you forget about your stroke and concentrate on feel--the key to scoring.



Jay Haas

Body rotation and pivot add precision to short pitches

The short-game shot Jay struggled with the most was the pitch from a tight lie. He was set up with his weight too much to the right, and he started his swing with a sway and with the grip end of the club moving first.

We first got his weight on his left side at address, and then worked on getting the clubhead to start back first with forearm rotation and the folding of his right arm immediately. He coordinated this with a slight lower-body pivot.

Jay began to shallow out his swing and use the bounce on his wedge more effectively--so the club skipped through the grass instead of bouncing or digging--and his confidence on these shots improved immediately and dramatically.