Archive: April 2009

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April 30, 2009

Ask the Top 100: How to stop hitting fairway woods fat

Posted at 3:08 PM by Keith Lyford

Dear Top 100 Teacher,
I'm having a horrible time hitting fairway woods. I'm getting these huge divots that are bigger than my sand-wedge divots.
Charles L., via email

Big divots with your fairway wood are usually caused by a steep downswing (think of a chopping motion).  You should also check that your ball placement isn't too far back in your stance. 

To cure a steep downswing try the following two drills:

1. Tee up some balls at driver height and try to sweep the ball away (using a 5-wood or 3-wood) without clipping the tee.

2. Practice hitting a 5-wood from a sidehill lie with the ball above your feet. Grip down on the handle and concentrate on making a flatter backswing. 

Making some exaggerated, inside-out practice swings will also help to "shallow" out your swing and develop a feeling of the correct motion.

Good luck,

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Keith Lyford is director of instruction at the Golf Academy at Old Greenwood in Truckee, Calif. You can read more about Keith at

April 22, 2009

Ask the Top 100: How can I go from a 3 to scratch?

Posted at 4:10 PM by Kellie Stenzel

Dear Top 100 Teacher,
I am an athletic, 6’4” male with a 3 handicap and good all-around game, but the distance of my drives hurts my scores on long courses. I hit an 8-iron about 150 yards, which I’m fine with, but my driving distances are very inconsistent even though my accuracy is pretty good. I hit my drives 230-290 without too much of a difference in the "feel" at impact, with more of the drives being in the shorter part of that range even when both are hit close to the "sweet spot" of the driver.
Keith, Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Keith,

It sounds to me as if you have a good understanding of your golf game and where you can improve your game and your handicap.

As you may know, the sweet spot in many of today's drivers is slightly above the center of the face and because of this you will need to tee your golf ball relatively high and be sure you are contacting the ball slightly on the upswing. In order to accomplish this flush, square contact, you must tilt your shoulders properly at address.

When you position your golf ball forward of center in your stance for a tee shot, you should increase the natural tilt of your shoulders to the right. This will help you to catch the ball on the upswing and also position you powerfully behind the ball at address, increasing your distance consistency. If your shoulders are not tilted properly, your clubhead can come in too steeply, which costs you distance because you can’t create optimal spin and launch with a descending hit.

Check your grip pressure, too. While you want your grip to be secure because your fingers are closed around the grip of your club, you do not want to hold so tightly that you lose leverage. If your hands and fingers are relaxed, your wrists can hinge in reaction to the clubhead and this can increase your leverage and distance.

As you mentioned, improving your short game is priceless when it comes to lowering your scores, so be sure to keep your focus on that area. At your low handicap, a one-stroke decrease in handicap is a 33 percent drop. Keep up the good work and let us know when you reach scratch.


Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Kellie Stenzel teaches at the Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, N.Y. Read more about Kellie here.

April 15, 2009

Ask the Top 100: Swinging poorly? It's gotta be the shoes

Posted at 3:15 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Dear T.J.,
My goal is to have a good repeatable full swing, so I spend lots of time working on my full swing.  Some people say, “Drive for show and putt for dough.” I always respond: “You can’t putt from the tee box.” I’m shooting somewhere between 97 and 102, and I have broken 90 on a par-70 course, but that hasn’t happened in a while. Can you take a look at my swing and let me know how I can improve?

Patrick A., San Juan, Puerto Rico

P.S. You might notice I’m wearing flip-flops — they are the FootJoys of tropical golf.

Golf is played on the inside rims of your feet — and you can’t do that wearing flip-fops! Stop your video just before impact and you'll see that you're "nailed to the right side.” Your right knee is straight up and down and your weight is still on your right side. That’s at the speed of a 7-iron so it’s going to be compounded with a driver. Just before impact, your weight should be left and your right thigh should be slanted toward the target so that you're on the inside rim of your right foot. This will allow you to release your core, which in turn releases the clubhead. But if you’re wearing flip-flops, you won’t ever get there.

The Takeaway: Lose the flops, gain a release.

Best, T.J.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You can learn more about T.J. at

How to get your swing back after a long layoff

Posted at 2:53 PM by Nancy Quarcelino

It’s that time of year – the weather is 80 degrees one day and 35 the next. It’s difficult to get on the course consistently, and we’re all rusty from lack of play over the winter. So what can you do to start the season fresh and knock that rust off? I recommend the following game plan to help get your season off to a good start.

Get your clubs ready for the season
If your clubs need to be re-gripped, do it at the beginning of the season.  If you are looking at a new set of clubs now is the time to buy them.  By all means if you are looking at getting a new set, get a club fitting.  The price is the same as if you buy them off the rack.  And remember, if your buddies are selling you their old set, try before you buy!  They may be a good deal, just not for you.

Get out and play a few rounds  After a long, cold winter your body is stiff and needs to move. The first time you swing after a long time away is the hardest, so make sure you get to the course early enough to warm up your full swing and short game to give yourself the best chance at making a good score. Play a few rounds, see what your swing and game are like, and then develop a plan for improving your game.

Goal Setting
What would you like to accomplish this season in your golf game? Maybe you would like to lower your score 10 strokes, or add distance to all your clubs. Perhaps you want to play more golf and learn to practice correctly. Whatever your goal may be, you need to sit with your instructor and plan out your year.

Taking golf lessons early on in the season is a great start to accomplishing your goals for the year. An instructor can help direct your game and help you understand how you are going to reach your goals.  They will also keep you on task. If your goal is to lower your score by 10 strokes, and your short game is the place you need the most help, your instructor will keep your focus on that part of the game.

If golf is your serious hobby you should plan time for it. You will want to plan your practice time, your playing time and your lesson time. If you know your schedule at the first of the season you will stick to that time. Planning is the key for improvement.

Just as you need balance in your life, your game needs balance also. If you play too much and never practice, your game will stay the same. If you practice your driving and never practice putting, then your game will be unbalanced. Your game needs a good balance of practice on all parts of the game. You need to play different golf courses to give your game a different look. Do something different for your golf game this year to keep improving.

Practice days need to be structured. I see golfers get a large bucket of golf balls and work only on the driver. If the driver is what you wanted to work on, then great. But if you wanted to practice a consistent swing, then a mid-iron would be best. Give some direction to your practice and watch your game improve.

By developing a plan for your golf game early in the season, you will see the pay off all year round. Good luck!

April 14, 2009

5 things you can learn from Angel Cabrera

Posted at 2:06 PM by Brian Mogg

When Angel Cabrera put on that green jacket Sunday, he joined a select group: multiple major winners.  We've had a lot of one-time major winners, but guys with more than one are rare talents. The best things you can take away from watching Angel have nothing to do with his swing, and everything to do with his mind. We all know golf is a mental game, and what won Angel his first Masters title was his perseverance and patience.

Angel-cabrera-top100_300 Angel showed a lot of fortitude the final nine as he clearly hit the ball much worse than either Chad Campbell or Kenny Perry. Loose iron shots into 15 and 18 as well as poor drives on 17 and the first playoff hole put him in a tough spot and he needed Kenny to back up at the end to give him a chance. This perseverance and patience is something I am sure he learned while growing up in Argentina without the opportunities to pursue the game and his dreams that most of us take for granted. When Cabrera was lying 2 about 130 yards from the green in the playoff, with Kenny and Chad waiting to play their approach shots, I couldn't envision how he was going to stay in the match. Yet, he prevailed with an amazing up and down and two solid shots on the final playoff hole.

But even with patience and perseverance, you still need to make shots. Did you notice how creative Cabrera was on the short chips to get close on 15, 17 and 18? Try to think about the different options you have in your short-game shots. Your creativity can be a powerful weapon on the course.

Also, Cabrera showed why you should develop all the shots: the hard slice he hit into 18 on Saturday from the edge of the trees and the draw approach shot into 17 showed an ability to work the ball both ways when the situation called for it. He also was able to cut his approach shot into the 10th hole during the playoff and leave himself under the hole for a very easy two putt and victory. His mental fortitude to be able to also roll in the short par putts on 17,18 and the two playoff holes are a testament to his character and passion.

Cabrera's mechanics are not your typical for the modern Tour player. However, there are many things to learn from him, most notably his ability to get tremendous rotation in each direction with his body turn. He really loads up his torso with a big turn and his "back at the target" for a full coil. On the downswing, he then retains a big wrist angle into impact for maximum leverage and power. Cabrera's large advantage among his peers is his strength and power. This guy can dominate a course with sheer power. Pay attention to your full coil and how keeping your downswing arc narrow with a full wrist angle and completely unleash all your loaded energy into impact and the ball.

(Photo: Simon Bruty/SI)

Brian Mogg is director of instruction at the Brian Mogg Performance Center at Golden Bear Golf Club at Keene's Point, Windermere, Fla.

Greg Norman's senior moment at the Masters

Posted at 1:57 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Greg-norman-masters Forget about Tiger versus Phil and that wild three-man playoff, the craziest thing I saw at the Masters was Greg Norman laying up into Rae's Creek on No. 13 on Friday and then missing the cut.

Let me set the scene for you: Norman's just made birdie on the par-3 12th. He's 1-under for the tournament and looks well on his way to playing the weekend. You even heard a couple what if... murmurs. Norman playing the weekend on the scene of so many heartbreaks becomes one of the main story lines of the 2009 Masters. On Saturday it would have been the story. Heck, he potentially could have played with Larry Mize, who made the cut at 1-under.

His drive on the famous par-5 13th ends up right in the pine needles. Well, that happens on this hole. It's a garden-variety layup. He can lay up 20 yards from the green or 50 yards from the green. He's even fine if he lays up 150 yards from the green. But one yard long is disaster, and Norman knows as well as anyone that a big number lurks on every hole at Augusta National.

With all that hard-earned knowledge, Norman still dunks his layup into Rae's Creek and ends up with a double-bogey 7. The wheels come off after that and he bogeys 14 and 17 on his way to 77 and a ticket home.

It had to be a lapse in concentration. About 90 percent of your energy goes to running your brain and Augusta National challenges you on every shot unlike any other course. A 54-year-old part-time player with a wide-ranging business empire, diverse hobbies like wine and tennis, and a new wife isn't going to be able to run his brain at the concentration level needed for major tournament play, even if his name's Greg Norman.

(Photo: Robert Beck/SI)

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You can learn more about T.J. at

April 06, 2009

Top 100 Teachers consider whether Phil Mickelson is overcoached

Posted at 5:25 PM by Anne Szeker

We asked our Top 100 Teachers if Phil Mickelson, who works with Butch Harmon (full swing) and Dave Pelz (short game), was overcoached -- 61% said yes and 39% said no. But the teachers were not content to simply cast their ballots. They had more to say on the issue, and we figured you might too. So, here's a list of their best remarks on the question; you can weigh in below in the comments section.

Not overcoached, but perhaps over-dependent. – Mitchell Spearman, Manhattan Woods Golf Club

Didn't Hogan say the "secret is in the dirt"? Sometimes you have to figure it out on your own. Yes, Phil is overcoached. – Don Hurter, Castle Pines Golf Club

No, he's just not extremely receptive. Both Bones and Butch need to grab Phil and get in his grill and not worry about their paychecks. Phil would be better off for the straightforwardness. – Tom Patri, Friar's Head Golf Club

Yes. Phil is a right-brain, creative, feel type of player. He should go with his instincts. – Jim Suttie, Cog HIll GC

No. In fact this is the best he has ever swung the club. – Michael Breed, Sunningdale Country Club

No. There is no such thing when the coaching is correct. – Bill Madonna, Bill Madonna Golf Academy

Are you kidding? Let him have whomever he wants on his team. He is the only competitor against Tiger. – Nancy Quarcelino, Kings Creek G.C.

Not overcoached, but incorrectly coached. – Keith Lyford, Golf Academy at Old Greenwood

He is a feel player with two coaches who teach positions. He needs Harvey Penick to come back to life. – Bruce Patterson, Butler National Golf Course

Yes. Who coached Hogan, Snead, Trevino, Palmer? – Steve Bosdosh, Members Club at Four Streams

No. He just doesn't listen. – Eden Foster, Maidstone GC

He uses Butch and Pelz for different reasons, and as long as he keeps them to their strengths, this should be good. – Brian Mogg, Golden Bear Golf Club at Keene's Point

If having a swing teacher, a short game specialist, a mental guru, and a physical trainer can lead to overcoaching, then I would say that he very well could be. – Gary Wiren

Phil Mickelson has always depended on a good bit of outside support. I think he needs more coaching than the average PGA Tour player. So, no, I don't think he's overcoached. – Hank Johnson, Greystone Golf Club

Yes and No. He has enough coaches. He sure hasn't made too many changes in the way he plays the game to have the coaching team he has. He has hired great teachers to help him.  In my mind, he needs to listen and pay more attention to Butch. – Shawn Humphries, Cowboys Golf Club

Yes. No question. All the stats that Pelz runs at him, plus what Butch tries to get him to do – and I am sure that there are a number of things that they don't agree on – puts Phil in the middle. He needs to go more on instinct and not so much on numbers. – Mike Malaska

Phil is so overcoached that he is becoming like the Irish centipede trying to figure out which leg to move first. – Gerald McCullagh, University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course

Yes, for sure. I have pictures at last year's Masters of Pelz and Harmon at the same time in a tag-team lesson. – Rick Barry, Sea Pines Resort

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