Mexico Open at Vidanta

Vidanta Vallarta

How They Hit That

Five shots you need at Pebble Beach, but will play anywhere


Harry How

Pebble Beach has the scenery, but the challenge this week will come from tricky green complexes, grainy turf conditions and swirling winds. To contend, players will need full control of an array of subtle and off-speed shots. Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Michael Jacobs describes five of the most interesting ones you'll see this week—and how you can use them at your own course.

Daniel Berger's Precision Driver: Get the Shaft Outside

"It's somewhat exaggerated the way Berger does it, but what you see with this swing is how the center of mass of the club moves outside his hands near the top of the backswing," says Jacobs, who runs his Jacobs3D Studio at Rock Hill Golf & Country Club in Manorville, NY. "From this angle, the shaft of the club is going left, outside the hands, while most amateurs get it twisted toward their head in an effort to make a bigger backswing for more power. But when the center of mass gets closer to your head, it will move on too steep of an angle when you rotate down." But before you just wrench the club flatter with your hands, keep in mind that this adjustment is something that has to happen as a result of the entire backswing—not just a late hand move. "Start to pay more attention to your backswing so that this 'outside' position is the end result of the whole thing."

Nate Lashley's Elevation Change Iron: Slow Your Twist

"The best players hit short irons with what is called 'negative gamma torque'—they're slightly slowing the shaft from rotating closed through impact," says Jacobs, who works with Padraig Harrington. "What does this mean for you? If you're a player who has to really turn the shaft to keep the ball from going right, it means your club is too open during the previous part of the swing. Is it possible to play with a lot of twisting? Sure, but there are reasons why Tour players are so precise with these shots, and can account for elevation change and wind."

Brian Stuard's Flighted Iron: Keep Some Knee Flex

"This is such an interesting green with the lobes and forced carries to get to certain pins, and Stuard hit the right shot for this back left flag," says Jacobs. "But even before you talk about this draw, look at what his trail leg is doing on this shot. He can hit it with controlled power and trajectory because he's able to retain the ability to use his trail leg to push on the downswing. If you hyperextend your hip or knee going back, you lose a stable platform for that push. Think about doing a lunge. If you lunge and your knee goes off to one side or the other, it's hard to even stand back up again."

Jason Day's Distance Wedge: No Shortcutting Feel

"Half of my new students show up for a want to pull the driver out of the bag first," says Jacobs. "I get that, but when was the last time you spent even one whole practice session on learning the size and speed of your distance wedge swings to produce certain distances?" It's even more important for you than it is for Day: "If you're shooting 90 to 100, you have one of these shots every single hole," says Jacobs. "This is about learning the touch and art of the game. Day is making a big divot here, but that divot is after the ball is gone. His swing is calibrated to glide through clean ball contact first before the turf. Go hit 500 of these at your course for a start."

Jordan Spieth's Curveball: Let the Swing and Face Diverge

"Most decent amateurs have the right beginning idea for how to make the ball curve dramatically left. They start by swinging way out to the right," says Jacobs. "But if you keep the face in line with the swing direction—like most players do—you'll just hit a push. To make the ball curve, you need divergence between your swing direction and where the face is pointed. Spieth is aimed 20 yards right of the flag, while the face stays aimed at the flag." An extra bonus for you slicers? The same lesson applies in reverse. "If you come over the top and swing hard left, you're slicing it because the face is diverging way to the right. Less divergence means less right curve, until you get to no divergence and you're hitting massive pulls. It's all where you fall on that spectrum."