We've all seen players who have an amazing knack for hitting a certain kind of shot. For us, it might be Dustin Johnson ripping a drive 320 looking like he's in second gear. Or Freddie Couples hitting one of his full-swing bunker shots that floats out and stops dead. You sit there thinking, Man, that's sweet. I need to get that shot. For you, it might be one of your regular golf pals who hits that cool (fill in the blank) shot whenever he needs it. What's great about golf is, a lot of these shots are within your reach. With a little know-how and some practice, they can be your shots, too. Here are five we're pretty sure you'd love to stick in your bag.
Brandt & Butch: Shift Forward, Swing Out Right
Hitting a big, high draw off the tee is the ultimate playah shot that says you know what you're doing. The physics of it are pretty simple: Swing out to the right of your target with the clubface rotating closed through impact. To set that up, drop your back foot away from the target a few inches and pull it to the inside, closing your stance. That'll set your path to the right.
For the swing, imagine you're hitting a topspin forehand in tennis, where you swing low to high with your arms rotating the club over--that closes the clubface. The ball's on a tee, so you don't have to worry about getting it in the air. Make a full windup (above), then start down with your front knee shifting toward the target. If you let your lower body lead the downswing, the club will drop to the inside. Then you can extend your arms out to the ball and smash it.
Brandt: Shut The Door At Impact
Catching a driver solid off a tee is one thing, but when the ball is on the turf, it's a different story. You have to trust that hitting down is what creates those pure strikes. Let's back up a bit, and look at the setup. Your eyes can do incredible things to help you make solid contact. If you're hitting it fat, focusing on the front of the ball can shift everything toward the target--including the low point of the swing. Likewise, looking at the back of the ball can keep you from sliding forward and hitting it thin.
When it comes to my irons, Butch and I have been drilling hard on getting my right knee, hip and shoulder in line with the ball at impact. If you have any hang-back, you'll struggle with contact. At impact, I feel like I'm shutting a door with my entire right side.
Butch: Practice From Above The Ball
This concept of hitting down to make the ball go up is a tough one for a lot of golfers. But it's the absolute key to good iron play. Here's a drill I use with my students all the time: Hit some iron shots with the clubhead starting a few inches off the ground. If you set up with the club hovering like this, you'll instinctively know you have to go down and through the shot, or else you'll miss it completely. That's pretty strong medicine and will have you squeezing your irons off the turf in no time.
Brandt: Keep Turning Through It
Here's the problem when you have a firm lie for a little pitch shot: Your instincts stink. You feel like you need to get the leading edge of the club down and under the ball. But the big mistake on these shots is using the leading edge too much, digging, and chunking the shot.
I tell amateurs I play with to focus on the back of the clubhead, not the front edge. Take some practice swings where you feel the back edge of the club's sole sliding through the shot. To promote this action, open the clubface at address and grip down a little. With the back edge touching down first, you improve your chances of scooting the face under the ball.
You also want to keep everything moving together. People tend to let their hands take over on these shots, but to make a consistent strike, you have to turn your body through. A good key for me is making sure I finish with the club in front of my chest. Then I know I kept everything together.
Butch: Learn To Use The Bounce
I couldn't agree with Brandt more on this one. It's all about learning to make the clubhead skid on its back edge--what's called the club's bounce. Think of it as bruising the ground through impact, not digging or taking any kind of divot. It's more of a sweep.
Here's a good visual: Return the loft. Set up with the ball slightly forward and your hands just ahead of it. Then focus on swinging back and returning the clubface loft you set at address (below).
A fun way to practice is to stick a tee halfway in the ground on a low angle, almost lying down. Address the head of the tee, and try to swing so you flip it out of the turf. If you hit down, you'll hammer the tee into the ground. If you use the bounce, you'll slide the club under it and flip it up. Get good at that, and you'll be a hell of a pitcher.
Brandt: Accelerate Under The Ball
To hit a greenside bunker shot, the big thing is to get your swing speed in the right place. Amateurs tend to swing back fast, probably because they hate these shots, then decel coming down and bury the club in the sand. I try to make a longer, slower swing that builds speed through the sand. I think of Fred Couples: His bunker swing has no speed going back and tons of it under the ball.
The other thing you need is clubface loft to push the ball up and out. Open the face at address, and play the ball up by your front foot. From there, make that long, relaxed swing that's speedy at the bottom. I tell guys in pro-ams who can't play a bunker shot to hit it fat with a really big swing. It works.
Butch: Practice With One Hand
A lot of what I teach in the bunkers comes from my dad, who developed a great system for sand play. It's based on the bottom hand--the right hand for righties--"throwing" the club into the sand behind the ball. This throwing motion maximizes loft and exposes the club's bounce for a skimming action.
Hit some sand shots right-hand only. Feel like you're really unloading the club with that hand so the shaft leans away from the target at impact. Let your arm straighten and wrist unhinge.
After a while, add your left hand but keep that right-hand release.
Brandt: Always Make It In Your Mind
Everybody talks about how fast I putt. It's true, once I have the read down and know what I want to do--boom--I'm into my stroke. And I'd bet a quicker routine on pressure putts would help you, too. More time just means thinking up more ways to psych yourself out.
I feel like I have an advantage on the greens, even over the best players in the world, because I think I'm going to make putts. You can choose to think positive or negative, so keep it upbeat.
I tell myself things like, You've done this 10,000 times or That read looks perfect or Keep the face looking down the line. Simple, positive thoughts that put me in a great frame of mind.
I want to downplay the importance of the putt, take the do-or-die out of it, and keep it to the simple act of starting the ball on a good line. Nobody makes them all, but I make more than I would grinding or trying to be perfect. Less is more on pressure putts.
Butch: Learn To Commit And Hit
There's no good way on the practice green to simulate pressure putts. The trick to handling them is being prepared for the pressure. Your best defense is having a pre-putt routine and an awareness of how stress affects you.
Brandt might be the fastest putter in the game today, and there's a lesson there. But he takes enough time to do three things I see in great putters: (1) He picks a line from behind the ball; (2) he tracks his eyes down the line as he makes practice strokes; and (3) he puts a firm rap on the ball--no long, wimpy strokes. I see him putt and think, Commit and hit.
The last thought I'll share is that stress finds its way into the hands, so check your grip pressure. If you can keep cool, you'll own the most important shot there is: the one that puts the ball in the hole.