Stress-Free Short Game
Imagine asking an Olympic weightlifter to hoist a 10-pound dumbbell. He'd just bend down and scoop it up, right? No physical exertion at all. Think about that the next time you're hitting a pitch or chip shot. You're not trying to send the ball out there 300 yards; you're going 30 yards or less. Lots of chips and pitches go bad because golfers put too much physical energy into the shot. Whether it's an overactive lower body or too big a swing, when you add in extra effort, you have to find a way to take it away before impact. When you do that, you'll struggle to make solid contact. Here are my keys to ratcheting it down and hitting short shots with the right amount of effort.
TAKE OUT THE TENSION
Set up with your lower body aimed well left of your target. Make sure you have about 60 percent of your weight on your front leg (above, left) so you can rotate your upper body around it like a post. This helps the club bottom out after you hit the ball. The real key to these greenside shots is reducing tension. I don't mind if you grip the club firmly, but your forearms can't be tense. Try this: Extend your arms and lock your elbows. Now relax them. Notice how your elbows hang close to your rib cage. Keep them soft and in by your stomach throughout the swing.
TURN TO THE TARGET
Swing back so the buttons of your shirt point away from the target, then rotate them toward the target as you swing through (above, right). Feel as if your arms and the club are propelled by the turning of your trunk. On a chip or pitch shot, your torso should turn more than your pelvis on the downswing. It's more of an upper-body motion, so don't worry about lower-body rotation. Your legs should be stable, but your focus is your sternum. This helps you put the right amount of oomph into the shot. No more overswinging.
Golf Digest Teaching Professional Sean Foley, who works with Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan and Lee Westwood, is based at the Core Golf Junior Academy outside Orlando.