One of the great things about the PGA Show is that it's not just a place where cool and interesting new products. It's a place where the wider golf world can come together and exchange ideas about how to play better golf.
During a busy week looking around at the latest and greatest golf products soon to hit the marketplace, Golf Digest's Maddi MacClurg and Luke Kerr-Dineen used the opportunity to compile a few tips from some of the best coaches in the country—and a few hall of famers—we saw along the way.
1. Bad green reading may be the root cause
If you’re someone that struggles on the green, it’s likely your green reading abilities that are holding you back, not your stroke.
Golf Digest No. 3-ranked teacher Sean Foley explains that most of us have a cognitive skill, called angular acuity which is our ability to see shapes in space. Golfers with a high angular acuity can read greens no problem, but players with low angular acuity will struggle and are left to make a rough guess. But Foley says, when we’re guessing we’re leaving ourselves open to error. Instead of guessing, Foley suggests using a tool like Aimpoint to help you be more calculated and precise with your reads.
2. Think about the current shot—not the next one
When you’re coming down the stretch and in the ballpark of breaking 80, it’s hard not to think ‘don’t mess this up.’
But Golf Digest Top 50 teacher Rick Sessinghaus says that mindset is actually creating a stress response in your body, which will change your rhythm, grip pressure and even your clubface. Instead, he says to turn that threat into a challenge and a great way to do that is to stick to your pre-shot routine and stay in the present moment. Don’t get ahead of yourself and think about the holes or shots you have ahead of you. Instead, take a little more time to visualize the shot at hand or assess your lie and the conditions around you.
It might sound cliché but it’s so important to bring yourself back into the present moment, Sessinghaus says.
3. Stop skipping bunker practice
If you want to shave two to four strokes off your round, Golf Digest Best in State Jonathan Yarwood says to practice more from greenside bunkers.
There are two types of sand shots you should master, Yarwood says, a ‘guaranteed out’ shot and finesse shot. The ‘guaranteed out’ shot should be a simple low-launching bunker shot. To hit this, open the face, lean into your lead leg and swing wide to wide without hinging your wrists. This will also be the base for the higher launching, finesse shot. To hit this soft-landing sand shot, add wrist hinge to your backswing and release.
Not only will you get the ball out and land your shots closer, but your confidence from the bunker will also allow you to seek more pins because you won’t be afraid of going in the bunkers.
4. Know your distances
After years of playing in pro-ams Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam says two of the biggest faults she sees from amateurs are not knowing their distances and having an inconsistent tempo from club to club. Sorenstam says dialing in your distances comes down to practice and trusting yourself. To boost your consistency and tempo from club to club, she says to try a count drill. During the height of her career, Sorenstam says she used to count to three in her backswing and her downswing. She says this helped her develop the smooth tempo she was famous for and made her swing super reliable, even in tough conditions.
5. Feel your swing continuously speed up
Another Hall-of-Famer, Tom Watson, was making the rounds at the PGA Show as part of his longtime collaboration with Ralph Lauren. Watson was amazed at all the technology on display at the 2024 edition.
"It's a lot different now than it was for us," Watson says. "We had to go all by feel, and trust what others were saying."
So much of the tech at the show was focused on generating more speed. There's a science to it, but Watson says that golfers wanting to hit it longer should also follow a key feel: That their golf swings constantly build speed all the way to impact. Like a plane speeding up down a runway.
"You can only be fast once in your swing, at the moment you hit the ball" he says. "I had a fast backswing, but I felt like I was always gaining speed until the moment I hit the ball."
Bonnie Schiffman Photography
6. Make your ball position "dynamic"
In a demonstration to an assembled group of teachers, Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher Martin Chuck explained that one common issue he sees is that golfers don't transfer their weight forward enough in their downswing. That causes them to come over-the-top, and often hit slices because of it.
To undo this cause-and-effect, Chuck encourages players to think about their ball position "dynamically." With a driver, start with it off the inside of your left heel, then shift your hips forward so much that the ball actually moves slightly back in your stance.
"The ball won't move, but golfers should feel that dynamic motion, so they can get the ball in a place where they can actually hit it," he says. "If they don't the only way they'll be able to is by swinging over the top, and reaching for it."
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7. Understand the three "Ts" of the downswing
Golf Digest Best in State teacher Joe Plecker spoke as part of the PGA Show's education summit. One helpful phrase he keyed-in on was what he titled the "three Ts" of the golf swing, which each occur on the downswing.
- The TURN of your body on the downswing
- The TUCK of your trail arm on the downswing
- The TILT of your upper body back on the downswing
Each of these things tend to open the clubface, Plecker said. If you are struggling with hitting the ball too far to the right, then it may be that you have too much of one (or all) of these things, he says.