It would be hard not to be impressed by the 3-wood Hideki Matsuyama hit on the first playoff hole at the Sony—smashing it some 270 yards to three feet for a clinching eagle. And you might also think a swing with that much precision and power would be hard for the average player to copy.
Yes and no. Yes, Tour players have amazing skills. But you can get some of what Matsuyama had on that shot in your game—provided you expand your definition of what swinging the club means. Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Brian Manzella explains how the best players twist the club in three dimensions during the swing—moves you can emulate to expand your collection of effective feels.
Matsuyama 3-wood: Move the club around the clock
"Even though the fairway wood Matsuyama used on this amazing shot had very little loft, when he hit it, the ball immediately went super high," says Manzella, who is based at English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans. "That means he had to get that club back to the way it was at address—not in a position where the handle is leaning forward and loft is being taken off the face." What does that mean for you? "Wind that club around as much as you can, but when you do that, you might have to feel like you're releasing the club sooner. You need to throw that clubhead earlier so it catches up with your hands sooner."
Matsuyama driver: Harder swings mean harder twisting
"Putting everything into a swing like Matsuyama is doing here is a little more complicated than just ramping up the speed," says Manzella. "The harder you swing, the harder you have to pull on the club, and the harder you pull on the club, the harder you have to twist it closed—or the ball will go hard right." That's why, Manzella says, you often see good players who are trying to swing easy miss shots left. They're pulling and twisting as hard as they do for a faster swing. "When you're trying to smash it, start thinking about applying closing action to the face—twisting the handle so the club shuts—by mid-downswing. If you're trying to do it down by the ball, not only is it too late, but the club's speed will make it effectively "heavier" and harder to maneuver."
Seamus Power bunker shot: It's more than just setup
"You've definitely read a thousand tips about how you have to open the clubface for a bunker shot, but watch what Power does here," says Manzella. "Not only does he have the face open at address, but he twists it even more open on the way back—and prevents it from twisting closed through the ball." Most weekend players not only don't get the club open enough at address, but also don't open it going back. The club then digs with the leading edge. "I want to see you aim left, open the face, open it more and then swing to the left with all the loft preserved," says Manzella. "That's how you get those high, soft shots."
Russell Henley iron: Get the body through first
"Want to get better right away? Make it so you only miss on one side of the golf course," says Manzella. "What Henley is doing here is twisting his left arm and club more open in the backswing—which lays the club off—and turning so his body goes through the shot ahead of the club. When you do that, you're going to avoid the left shot." If you think of your upper body, hips, hands and clubhead as being in a race to the ball, an anti-left shot would be upper body, hips, hands and then clubhead. "Players who struggle have those parts getting to the finish in all different order on every shot."
Haotong Li controlled wedge: Don't swing down the line
"Most amateur players believe that precision in the wedge game comes from making the club go right down the target line," says Manzella. "But good wedge players have the club coming out low and swinging left right after impact. In fact, of all the stock shots the average PGA Tour player hits, this flighted wedge shot would feel the most strange to a weekend player." Instead of swinging down the line, where the shaft goes vertical and the club exits up in line with your neck, feel this lower, more left move for more precision.