The Loop

Talking Back to Zach

__"When I'm addressing the ball, particularly on a tee, I don't focus on a specific dimple or marking. Taht would just make me want to hit that spot instead of making a nice smooth swing through the ball." Zach Johnson __

Masters champion Zach Johnson's Breaking 100, 90, 80 in the July issue, written with his teacher Mike Bender and editor Ron Kaspriske, is drawing lots of comment, most of it positive, like this letter from South Dakotan Wade Douglas:

I wanted to write in to thank Zach Johnson for his tip on page 184 of the July Issue of Golf Digest "Hit it under the bench to compress the ball." The visualization of hitting the ball underneath a park bench right in front of you has improved my ball striking incredibly. I'm hitting my iron shots more solidly than ever and am now flying my irons 10-15 yards further and considerably straighter. At first it was tough adjusting, especially in golf league where I hit my 6 iron 180 yards over the green on a par three that I usually hit 165 yards. It was a beautifully struck shot staight at the green though! After relearning my distances I recently shot a 9 hole round of 37. Much better than my 12 handicap. Once again, thanks Zach from a fellow flatlander!

You're hitting your 6-iron 180 yards? I may review that story myself. John Landsberg of Santa Barbara took issue with one aspect of the piece, Mike Bender's advice to "present" a ball to simulate impact. It didn't ring true with John.

In your July issue, Mike Bender ("Breaking 100/90/80") advises placing a ball in your left hand, and "presenting" it in front of your body at belt height, so that the ball rests in your upturned palm. He says this is the position your left hand should be in as it moves through the impact zone. Clearly, however, if your left hand were in this position as it moved through the impact zone, your club would be pointing horizontally, straight down the target line -- not a position likely to lead to good contact, or indeed, ANY contact at all. If you don't believe me, try it. Or just look at the photo on the previous page of Bender's famous student, Zach Johnson, which clearly shows his left palm facing down and back toward his left thigh.

Senior Editor Instruction Peter Morrice replies:

John, thank you for your email about the Breaking 100/90/80 section in theJuly issue. I think there's just a little confusion about what Mike Bendermeans by "through the impact area." He does not mean at impact, but ratherthrough the bottom of the swing. The left hand should rotate from a position that faces the ground, as you say, to a palm-up position on the front side of that area, as the photo indicates.

Another one of Zach's tips, "Blur Your Vision" raised reader Jim Marshall's eyebrows.

Who am I to argue with a Masters Champion but I have to question Zak Johnson's advice to "blur your vision" when addressing the ball in the Breaking 100 section of the July 2007 issue. The human body is capable of quite accurate hand-eye coordination and the smaller and more clear the target the better the accuracy. It would seem that not focussing on the target, the ball, would lead to inconsistent contact as the target is not clear to the eyes guiding the swing. I find my ball contact improves significantly when I maintain focus on a particular dimple or mark on the ball all the way from the beginning of the back swing through impact.

As an old instruction editor myself, let me offer this reply. What works one day, may not the next. Zach's advice is to players who, in trying to keep their heads down or to stay focused on the ball, become "ball bound", lose their swings and begin hitting at the ball. Jim, that's clearly not a problem for you, but it could be. And at that point Zach's advice may come in handy. Hit 'em straight, fellas.

-- Bob Carney