Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands


The 50 Greatest Teachers Tee Off

October 29, 2008

The 50 Greatest Teachers Tee Off Diverse opinions on popular instruction debates

Should you chip with one club or change clubs?

Rank: 17. Mike Mcgetrick

Most golfers should chip with different clubs. It's much easier to land the ball on the front of the green and let it roll to the hole. If you use one club, you'll have a different landing area for every chip shot. Having a different landing area every time makes it difficult to be consistent. But when I'm teaching beginner golfers, I'll start them out chipping with one club, a pitching or sand wedge, just to learn the proper chipping technique.

9. Stan Utley

My preference is to learn a skill set that allows me to have a favorite club and predominantly use that one club. It's about learning to control trajectory. Good players could hit 14 different shots. They're that good. But hitting one shot, it focuses your attention. It also gives you one shot to practice, which helps you get really good at it, as opposed to practicing a little bit with three or four clubs. I played 36 holes this week and haven't chipped with anything other than a 58-degree wedge.

T45. Dana Rader

I like to see golfers use a variety of clubs to chip with. Everything from hybrids to wedges is what I like to see my students use. I think this gives them more dimension in their games and makes shots around the green less challenging.

16. Randy Smith

I like switching clubs depending on the shot required and the amount of green. The running shots get the ball on the green sooner. It's a closer stroke to a putting stroke, if the player lets it be. I'm not a big advocate of a bunch of wedges in the bag. Learn how to open the 56, close it, use the bounce properly. I like being able to use that club for a variety of shots. But if you've got 40 feet of green to work with, hit it with that 8-iron and let it run like a putt. It's a much easier shot for the average guy to learn.

Why do golfers miss short putts?

T45. Todd Sones

First, they take the club back too far and then decelerate at impact. Second, the hole is within their peripheral vision, making it that much more tempting to peek, which causes them to move and mis-hit the putt. Third, sometimes they rush short putts because they feel silly going through a routine, or they're aware of the group behind them.

22. Rob Akins

The first reason is a lack of proper technique, and the second reason is a fear of missing. Many times both reasons are connected, but I've also seen players fall short because of one or the other. A great example of this is Phil Mickelson, who has won all three of his majors because of his ability to hole short putts. By practicing making hundreds of short putts, it probably has helped his technique, but more important it has raised his confidence level so he no longer has the same amount of fear.

21. Pia Nilsson

Most of the misses are caused by distractions of the mind. Shorter putts are technically pretty simple. The mind gets many players distracted because they're posting a score. They struggle with expectations and indecision, and they think about consequences. Basically, they're trying too hard.

12. Martin Hall

Many average golfers have what I call "darting eyes," meaning they don't keep their eyes still when they putt. They need to focus on the back of the ball, even a single dimple. They also have too much lower-body movement and too much follow-through in their stroke. They should try to make more of a pop stroke with their arms, keeping their knees and butt still. Bottom line is, you have to risk three-putting if you want to make short putts. You have to hit the ball firm enough so it would roll 18 inches past the hole.

Do the hands and arms or body drive the swing?

26. Mike Malaska

If you get your hands and arms moving in the right arc, your body will respond. It doesn't work the other way around. People who learn to move their bodies can look good, but they can't control the clubface. Look at it this way, we're wired to be tactile learners: We learn from out to in, moving our fingers and toes first as babies, then learning to move our bodies. So if you start with the body, you're doing it backward.

6. Chuck Cook

I'm more of a body teacher. It's a sequential thing: hips, shoulders and arms, in both directions. The hips reach maximum turn at the top of the backswing, then the shoulders do, then the arms, and so on.

3. Hank Haney

Great teachers will take both sides of that argument. That tells me that both things are important in the golf swing. What's more important depends on the player, and it depends on the swing. Just like some people hook and some people slice—what you'd give each player is different.

4. Jim McLean

The hands and arms dominate the swing, and the body follows. The hands and arms are, by far, the best way to teach beginners how to swing the club. As you improve, the body motion is better to focus on because the hands and arms will move without you having to think about them.

What's the most common fault?

47. Don Hurter

Grip is the biggest: a bad grip that's too weak, too much in the palm. Then it's alignment, which is a result of ball flight. Somebody watches the ball go high, weak and right, so they turn to the left with their shoulders and hips to compensate, which just makes the ball go more right.

10. Mike Bender

Alignment would be No. 1. They aim too far to the right. Their eyes trick them. They use their eyes to look at the target, but their body is actually set up 30 to 40 yards right of the target. So they need to adjust their aim by 30 to 40 yards to the left.

44. Paul Marchand

Trying to hit at the ball rather than learning a swinging motion. It's great job security for golf pros because for most players, trying to make impact happen is natural, but learning is counterintuitive. The conscious hit brings with it all kinds of issues like poor contact, inconsistency and inaccuracy.

T48. Tom Ness

The shaft passing the left arm before impact is the most common fault with amateurs. That's the defining difference between the different levels of players. The better the player, the more the shaft is in line with the left arm at impact.

What's your opinion of stack tilt?*

18. Dr. Jim Suttie

First of all, I don't think there's any one system for all golfers. This one has good merits; it can keep people who are very flexible centered over the ball. If you're a bad iron player, it certainly gets you to your left side. But for inflexible players, it won't work—and it could hurt the lower back. It's not an average guy's swing.

7. Jim Hardy

The stack and tilt is very much a one-plane swing method, which I describe in my books. For one-planers I insist on a minimal weight shift to the right on the backswing. In fact, I'll accept a slight reverse weight shift for all one-planers in the backswing as preferable to movement to the right.

T31. Rick Martino

It's excellent for improving swing path on iron shots, producing a lower flight, but it might lead to a loss of distance with the woods. The vertical driving of the legs can be difficult for less-skilled players because they have to coordinate a rotary torso with vertical leg drive. The swing is popular with young tour pros, but they have flexibility and core strength.

33. Jimmy Ballard

I don't think you can keep your body still and hit anything hard. Anyone who does what those guys are saying has to reverse pivot. The club gets out of center that way, and I think the guys who are doing that are going down a road to disaster.

**The Stack Tilt Swing made its publishing debut in our June issue. Developed by teachers Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, the swing is a single-axis rotary motion with no shift to the right in the backswing. The downswing is driven by an upward thrusting of the lower body through impact. More than 20 PGA Tour players have switched to Stack Tilt since 2005. *