Tips From the Best Young Teachers In America
Illustrations by James Yang
Swing Like Your Life Depends On It
The pace you swing matters for hitting the ball in the center of the clubface, and it impacts your ability to synchronize the movement of your body, arms and club. To improve your balance and avoid swinging too hard, envision hitting a golf ball while standing on the steel beam of a high-rise building under construction in Manhattan (illustration, above). You don't want to fall off the girder, so how hard would you swing? I'm guessing you might take your time swinging down into the ball. And what you'll probably find is that these slower swings produce shots that go as far, if not farther, than your quicker, off-balance efforts.
Compitello teaches at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J.
Read The Entire Line
When putting from distances outside of 15 feet, visualize the entire path of the putt—even beyond the hole. What I mean is, you have to note where the ball would stop if there were no cup. Focusing your attention on that spot—let's call it the final resting place—requires you to marry a very specific read with a very specific speed. It's a great way to stop leaving your putts short, and if you marry the two just right, the hole gets in the way, and you make it!
Lundberg teaches at Altus Performance at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.
Turn Your Back On It
I'ts true that the position of the clubface at impact causes a slice—an open face in relation to your path will make the ball peel off. But your body might be the culprit for that slice. If your ball has significant curve to the right (leftward curve for left-handers), feel like you hold your back to the target longer in the downswing. This will keep your upper body behind the ball, create room for you to swing down from inside the target line, and leave more time to square the face. That slice will turn into a power fade—or maybe even a draw.
Zacker teaches at the Jim McLean Golf School at The Biltmore in Coral Gables, Fla.
• ASHLEY MOSS
Learn That Good Shots Are In The Palm Of Your Hand
If you're struggling to understand how to make the ball curve in one direction or the other, or why some shots are high and others are low, pretend your lead hand (left for righties) is holding a clubhead with the face against your palm. Make rehearsal swings trying to feel how that hand should be oriented to make the ball do what you want it to do. You'll quickly get a feel for how that hand controls the real clubface and, in turn, the shape of your shots.
Moss teaches at Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club in Gold Canyon, Ariz.
• NEW TO THE LIST
File Away Your Chip Shots
It's easy to get sloppy around the greens by taking chips for granted—especially later in the round. The typical issue is, you stop rotating with your body and move the club solely with your hands and arms. Poor contact is usually the result. To stay sharp, envision you're standing next to a desk facing the side, so the lead arm (left for right-handers) is closest to the drawers in front. The feel you want when you chip is that the lead arm has to open the nearest drawer. This instinctively gets you to pivot your body to help open the drawer and control the motion with your left arm. This thought should improve your contact.
Bonebrake teaches at the Southern California Golf Academy in Carlsbad, Calif.
Pitch In A Pond
A key to better scoring is better pitch shots. You want to have control of the carry and roll for these approaches. To get that, make a longer swing back and through, and feel like you're doing it underwater. This will help prevent you from making a motion too hard or too soft, which is often the issue when you can't get the ball close to the hole from just off the green. Excuse the puns, but making this fluid swing will help you float the ball onto the green and stop it with better accuracy.
‘What should your pace be when you pitch? Swing like you’re underwater.’— Michael Dickson
Dickson teaches at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
• JOHN KOSTIS
Take A Little Off The Top
Many amateurs swing down into the turf too steeply when they hit pitch shots, which makes it hard to get good contact and adequate loft on the ball. The wedge is designed to work best when it approaches the ball from a shallow, descending angle, so the club glides along the grass. For consistency, focus on giving the turf a nice buzz cut as your wedge moves through impact. If you know your clipper-comb sizes, I'm talking 0 or 1—that thin. You'll come through on a shallow angle if you keep your knees flexed and use the thigh muscles to rotate your body toward the target.
‘You don’t need to be a drill sergeant to appreciate what a high-and-tight cut can do for you.’ —John Kostis
Kostis teaches at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale.
Pure Irons: Left Is Right
You want your weight to shift away from the target in the backswing, but too much of a shift—a sway—can make it really hard to get back to the ball properly. How do you avoid letting your body weight drift outside your back leg? When you make a backswing, feel like there is still some pressure under your front foot while your back hip rotates behind you and closer to the target. You might feel like you didn't shift, but the hip rotation provides all the loading you need to hit a solid shot—and you didn't sway off the ball. Now you're ready to swing down with the proper sequencing.
Carafiello teaches at Innis Arden Golf Club in Greenwich, Conn.
Be A Bunker Powerlifter
If you're making poor contact in greenside bunkers—too fat or too much ball—you're probably changing your posture during the swing. Many golfers straighten their bodies, hoping they'll lift the ball out. Others drop down to make sure they strike the sand before the ball. Granted, the goal is to enter the sand behind the ball and let the clubface skim under it, but that's really hard to do consistently unless you stay at the height you were when you started. I want you to get into what feels like a powerlifter's squat stance, and stay that way when you swing. You should feel your hamstrings firing—that will signal you've maintained your address posture.
Birnbaum teaches at Manhattan Woods Golf Club in West Nyack, N.Y.
Avoid A Computer Crash To Hit Better Drives
To maximize distance with your driver, it's important to catch the ball on the upswing. To help motivate you to do that, imagine your laptop lying on the ground about a foot in front of the ball. Take your setup with your spine tilting away from the target (an uphill feeling), and make practice swings so your lead shoulder and the handle of the club are moving upward as the club passes through the impact zone. If you didn't swing like that, your club would crash into the laptop, and you'd be heading back to the nearest electronics store, credit card in hand. Tempting, I know, but don't hit the laptop.
‘We’ve all been tempted to smash a computer, but if you miss this one, you’ll launch your drives.’ —Jason Barry
Barry teaches at Mercer Oaks Golf Course in West Windsor, N.J.
Cure Your Slice On The Dot
Slicers sometimes need to get creative to square or close the face in relation to their swing path—especially off the tee. One way to help straighten your shots is to imagine there are two dots on the top of your driver. One is above the toe and the other is above the heel. If you tend to curve your shots to the right, make the dot near the toe get back to the ball before the heel dot does. In other words, the toe dot should win the race. You can visualize this with any club, but it's easiest with a wood. This works the other way, too: If you hit a lot of hooks, let the heel dot win the race.
Chisholm teaches at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa.
Hammer Your Fairway Woods
To hit your best fairway woods and hybrids off the deck, imagine a tee angled into the ground a few inches in front of your ball. Make a swing trying to hammer that tee farther into the ground. This really helps if you tend to top or hit low shots with these clubs.
Stooksbury teaches at Idle Hour Country Club in Macon, Ga.
Turn The Screw To Store More Power
Golf's big hitters really load up in the backswing. You can, too, if you use this visual: Imagine that your trail leg (right leg for right-handers) is a screwdriver, and twist it clockwise into the ground during your backswing. This will dramatically increase your hip turn, and give you the feeling of loading over your trail-side leg like the bombers do.
‘The feeling of screwing your back leg into the ground will let you know your backswing is fully loaded.’ —Mario Guerra
Guerra teaches at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y.
Swing Like The Bionic Man
When the elbows drift away from each other during the swing, it makes it challenging to hit the ball in the sweet spot. To hit better shots, particularly when the ball is on the ground, set your arms straight at address, pretending you have steel rods going through your elbows. When you swing, feel like the rods prevent your arms from bending. Check that they stayed straight by stopping at chest high in the follow-through.
Nuber teaches at GolfTEC's headquarters in Englewood, Colo.
Use Your Shirt To Sequence Your Swing
The impulse to start the downswing by pulling the arms and club toward the ball will knock your swing out of sync. Obviously, your arms and club have to swing down to strike the ball, but you want that to happen in coordination with your body rotation toward the target. To get a feel for the correct sequencing, keep your lead arm (left for right-handers) above the logo of your shirt for as long as you can as you swing down. This will help you feel how the body should start the action back to the ball with the arms and club following.
Yeaton teaches at The Hawthorns Golf and Country Club in Fishers, Ind.
Develop Lag Against The Wall
Many downswing flaws can be corrected with the simple imagery of swinging near a wall. What I mean is, imagine that after you reach the top of the swing, your clubhead makes contact with a wall behind your back. Start the downswing by dragging it along that wall for a couple of feet. This feeling helps get the club to swing down on a path from inside the target line while correctly lagging behind the rotation of the body. Often, golfers do the opposite and swing on a steep out-to-in path that causes them to slice. Stick to the wall, and you'll hit straighter shots.
‘If the clubhead moves away from the wall as you start down, you’re probably going to hit a slice or a pull.’ —Erika Larkin
Larkin teaches at The Club at Creighton Farms in Aldie, Va.
Putt Like A Painter
The putting motion is just like the stroke of a painter—both should be done by taking advantage of the nerve endings at the end of the thumb and index finger on the dominant hand. Those receptors transfer information strongly and quickly to the brain. When putting, try this: Set up to make a few practice strokes looking at the hole but focusing on the pressure of the thumb and index finger on your trail hand. Note how the stroke feels through those fingers. Now step into the putt and utilize those fingers to coordinate the stroke length, rhythm and face alignment. You'll discover that feeling like those fingers are in charge of your stroke will give you great control of your putts.
Parada teaches at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.
Treat Fairway Bunkers Like A Pane Of Glass
The key to a good shot out of a fairway bunker is keeping your balance, so you can hit the ball as cleanly as possible. To help make that happen, pretend like you're standing on a pane of glass instead of sand. If you really were on glass, you wouldn't want to swing very hard or with a lot of body movement, or you'd slip. That's the feeling you want to transfer into your actual fairway-bunker swing. This image works well for contact, too. Knowing that you'd shatter the pane if you hit behind the ball or swing down too steeply, your goal is to pick the ball off the glass. You'll find this image prompts you to really focus on ball-first contact.
‘Want your fairway-bunker shots to be a smashing success? Then pick it off the surface.’ —Chris Mayson
Mayson teaches at Maderas Golf Club in Poway, Calif.