PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club


Start Hitting It Great Tee to Green

August 19, 2016

Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

The last couple seasons I've hit the ball more solid than ever. Instead of constantly trying different swing thoughts, I've worked with Butch Harmon to really focus my approach. With my posture at address, I always confirm that my chin is high. If your chin is stuck on your chest, there's no room for the front shoulder to turn under it, so you'll tend to tilt toward the target instead of loading onto your back leg. My thought on the backswing is to stay wide.

A lot of average golfers get hung up on keeping the right elbow tucked to the body. At the top of the swing, all that matters with the right elbow, Butch says, is that it points down. Swing your hands as far from your body as feels comfortable, and then just let 'er rip.


Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

Being meticulous with your setup is important, but my top priority over the ball is to stay loose. If I sense tension in my forearms, neck or anywhere, I get rid of it with a gentle waggle of the club back and forth. See how my thumb is off the grip? Lightly re-gripping the club a bit as I rehearse the first part of my takeaway is my go-to trick. While waggling, I stare down my target, then glance at the ball to start my swing. Struggling golfers tend to do the opposite: They'll stare at the ball, growing tense, and glance at the target with no real commitment to the shot.


Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

Through the ball, I think about maintaining the spine angle I started with at address. This helps my feet stay heavy and quiet. With a stable base, I can just fire my right side through the shot. To me, it kind of feels like I'm throwing the club and my right arm in a straight line at the target (above). In pro-ams, probably the most common fault I see is guys standing up at impact. They straighten both legs and get up on their toes. Without great timing, this kills your consistency. You want to extend your arms, not your legs.


Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

I already emphasized the importance of being tension-free at the start, and the same goes for the finish. I know I've gone too hard if I'm straining—even slightly—to keep my balance as I watch the shot. Butch says the arms are the real indicators. It's true, if I've made a good swing, my arms feel soft. If I'm out of balance, I'll notice my arms flexing or straightening to save me from stumbling. Here, see how my right shoulder is closer to the target than my left, and the shaft is in a steady position behind my head? That's a pure finish. I hit this one stiff.