Monday Swing Analysis: Slicers should copy Tom Lehman
*Editor's note: This week the Instruction Blog starts a new Monday series: the Golf Digest Swing Analysis. Every week PGA professional Kevin Hinton will examine the swing of a recent tour winner and tell you what you can learn. Kevin, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is Lead Master Teacher for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. He has seen thousands of swings, and has helped players of all abilities, from rank beginners to tour players. This week, he looks at the swing of Tom Lehman, who won on Sunday for the third time this year, at the Regions Tradition, his second Champions Tour major. *
Kevin Hinton: At first glance, many golfers might shy away from copying Tom Lehman's golf swing. His bowed left wrist at the top and unique knee action in the downswing likely have most people looking elsewhere for their model. In reality, however, Lehman has consistently been a world-class ball striker throughout most of his career and does several things that are great for the average player to emulate. The typical amateur struggles with slicing the ball; Tom Lehman definitely does not. He draws it almost exclusively. Let's take a closer look at the above video clip to see why that's the case and what you can learn from it.
As Tom starts his swing, his hands and arms begin to swing across his chest as he is turning his hips and shoulders. This first move is typically a good start to drawing the ball. While there are an unlimited number of ways to take the club back and produce quality golf shots, I've found that my students are less likely to slice the ball if their arms swing "inward" as they begin their backswing.
The next thing to look at is the top of the swing. The bowing of Tom's left wrist puts the clubface in a stronger or slightly closed position. Most players I teach would benefit from copying this. Weak clubfaces at the top usually lead to shots going short and right, two things that would be nice to avoid.
As Lehman starts down, he makes a huge lateral move with his lower body. His hips and knees drive forward while his shoulders stay relatively closed. This allows the club to shallow out and approach the ball from inside the target line. This is essential to drawing it. In my experience, initial lateral movement leads to draws, while players who open up too fast or "spin" from the top typically slice it. By trying to stay "closed longer," you'll feel a swinging sensation as your arms pass your body and the clubface closes.
We often hear commentators talk about how fast tour players rotate their bodies . . . and it's true. However, it works for them because they are already good at moving laterally and hitting the ball from the inside. Unfortunately, this only makes the average player slice more. My advice would be that if you struggle with slicing the ball, try to mimic as much of Tom Lehman's swing as possible. I can't think of a more perfect model for the average player to emulate.
Note from Managing Editor, Roger Schiffman: I spoke with Jim Flick today. Jim has been coaching Lehman for the past two decades and knows his game better than anyone. Flick says that Tom is so adamant about hitting the ball from right to left that he won't shoot at a pin that is on the right side of the green. When the hole is cut on the right, Tom plays for the center of the green and knows he'll probably have a 20- or 30-foot putt for birdie. He fires at the flag only if the pin is in the center or the left of the green. Flick notes that Tom has been following that philosophy better than ever this year, which is one reason he has won three times on the Champions Tour. He's also putting very consistently, paying special attention to the speed of his putts. As Tom says, he's been making a lot of "easy" pars--hitting greens in regulation and two-putting. There's a lesson there for all of us.