Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club

10 Secrets To Better Golf By Europe's Top Coach, Pete Cowen

*Interviewed by Guy Yocom*

Photo by Sebastian Nevols

July 14, 2017

1.) Is a textbook-perfect grip the cornerstone of a great swing? Not necessarily. I've seen players with perfect grips who can't find the planet. It's all about matching the grip to your imperfect swing. The purpose of the grip is to hold onto the club, not manipulate it.

2.) I'm not a fan of perfectly square alignment for the average player because it takes a perfect shot to hit it where you're aiming. I'd advise most amateurs to align their feet a little left with their irons, as it favors hitting down on the ball. With the driver, they should align their feet a bit to the right, with the clubface aimed at the target. This will promote swinging from the inside, and hitting the ball "on the up."

3.) I liken the golf swing to a car. Your body is the engine. The arms, hands and the club are the steering wheel. Your brain is the driver and provides the fuel. When we start hitting poor shots, more often than not the problem is the car's transmission, which is the shoulders. Poor shoulder movement is a huge cause of inconsistency. Any command from your brain to your arms and hands can't be obeyed if it's not transferring correctly through the shoulders.

4.) The most common cause of slicing: overturning the shoulders. If they turn beyond what you're reasonably capable of doing, the muscles don't accommodate the swinging of your arms. Everything gets out of sync and the arms swing down on a poor path, usually one that's excessively out-to-in. So what's the correct shoulder turn? One where you keep the right shoulder low; the upper part of the right arm pointing down at all times. Turn until you feel resistance, and then simply unturn the other way.

5.) The best drill in golf is hitting balls with your feet together. It helps your balance enormously, and balance is the key to power, consistency and practically everything else. As you swing, think of maintaining a vertical line through three parts of your body: (1) The knobby bone at the top of your spine. (2) A point just behind and below your belly button. (3) The center point between your feet.

6.) If a chap in a pub were to ask how to add 10 yards to his drives, my first suggestion would be to start from 10 yards behind the ball, then run up and hit it. Seriously, though, I think there are two things any golfer can do: (1) Get your hands higher on the backswing to widen your arc. (2) Make your swing longer so you have more distance to accumulate speed.

7.) There's no such thing as muscle memory. Muscles don't remember anything. Still, it all starts by structuring your muscles properly and repeating the correct motions. That way, the memory of the motion is transferred much more readily.

8.) Struggling with pitching off tight lies? Stop trying to drive the ball forward. Don't try to force the clubhead into the ball with your hands, and never lean the shaft forward through impact. Simply turn your shoulders a little going back, then allow the club to fall into the ball and into a small follow-through. Also be sure to turn the clubface down and into the ball through impact. Feel like you're "collecting" the ball naturally, rather than forcing the issue.

‘Anger is the most unnecessary cause of bad shots, And the easiest to address.’

9.) In the years Padraig Harrington was winning majors—which he might win more of yet—I never saw him get angry over a bad shot. Even to this day, instead of getting mad, he gets curious. Within a millisecond of a bad shot, he turns his attention to the next shot. As he's walking, you might see him puzzling over the swing that got him in trouble. But it's in a curious, constructive way, not an angry one. Anger is the most unnecessary cause of bad shots, and the easiest to address.

10.) Want to hook a child or novice adult on golf forever? Get a putter grip, one that is flat on top. Slip it onto a 9-iron. Tee a ball low, then tell them to keep the flat part of that grip facing them throughout the swing. They'll be astonished—and so will you—by how well this works. It ingrains a fantastic motion and practically guarantees solid contact. After I tried this with a struggling student some years ago, she had putter grips installed on all her clubs. Someone sniffed to me, "But the grips aren't legal." I replied, "It's either this, or she quits. Which do you prefer?"

Based in Rotherham, England, Pete Cowen has worked with several of the game's top players including Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Louis Oosthuizen.