Archive: June 2009

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June 30, 2009

Live Ask the Top 100 Chat: Brady Riggs answers your swing questions

Posted at 10:57 AM by Brady Riggs

Had trouble on the greens this weekend? Still can't get rid of that slice? Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs answered readers' swing questions in a live forum on Tuesday at noon EST. If you still have a question, check next Tuesday for an all-new Ask the Top 100 Live.

Thanks for reading today. I am sorry I couldn't get to all your questions. Please ask again next week, but ask earlier so I can get to your problem. I want to encourage everyone to sign up for SI GOLFNation. I’m a member, along with some of my fellow Top 100 Teachers, and we’d love to hear from you there as well.

Chester Lebeau asks at 12:58:

My problem is with my driver everything is going left, I'm a righthanded golfer. I have tried putting the balls foward in the stance,problem continues.

Moving the ball more forward will only make the problem worse. This opens your shoulders in the address position making it more likely you will swing the club into the ball from the outside creating a shot that goes well left.

Instead, move the ball to a position slightly inside the left heel, and shape your downswing so the ball will start well to the right of the target. If you played baseball growing up, try to hit the driver so that it starts between the first baseman and the pitcher. This will bring the club into the ball on a more inside path; combined with your better ball position you should eliminate your pull.

Tim asks at 12:51:

Over the last year my distance with all clubs has been slowly disappearing and my ball flight has been getting higher and higher. The more I try and correct this the worse it gets. Any help would be appreciated.

Without more info I am guessing a bit but here it goes. If your ball flight is getting higher and you are hitting it shorter, chances are your weight is getting too far on your back foot as you are making contact. This will add loft on the club and have a very negative effect on your power. Think of the Quarterback going back to pass with a rush up the middle, if he throws from his back foot the ball floats, has no velocity, and usually is intercepted. Hitting a golf ball is very similar. Try to step into your throw, or your downswing in this case, to create more power and utilize the proper loft of your club. Make sure in your finish you can tap the point of your shoe into the ground a couple of times. This will ensure you have made the proper weight shift and are in balance.

Jesus asks at 12:47:

I have uniflex shafts and since I've been playiing them my distances have decreased by an avg. of 5 to 7 yards in some clubs more. I used in the past Dynamic Gold R-300 shaft and my distances were s bit longer.

Then switch back. You should never lose distance making a shaft change. If you have your old clubs with the R-300 shafts take them to the range and hit them next to your new clubs. If they are going farther, you should either change the shafts in your new clubs or just play your old ones. Lesson learned, don't ever buy something on the recommendation of a club fitter. Go out and hit the new club before purchasing them.

John Smail asks at 12:34:

1. What putting tips/drills do you suggest to work on rolling your putt on line, every time? 2. For a scratch golfer, what club choices do you suggest? A five-wood and/or a hybrid? Start with a 4 iron? 3 wedges? Thanks!

I have never been a huge fan of drills to be honest. I would rather you work on your mechanics and then putt under stress as much as possible. This is best done while gambling for most people on the putting green. I do like The Putting Arc if you are inclined to putt with that style. It seems to be an excellent way to feel the proper motion and get the sense of releasing the putter head through impact. This is the key to getting the ball to roll properly.

In terms of club choices, it really depends on your strengths and weaknesses and the golf course you are playing. If you are a long hitter playing a short course, more wedges is a good thing. If you are a short or average driver playing a long course, more hybrids and fairway woods are good. When it comes to hybrid vs 5-wood, it depends upon your preference. When the hybrids first came out they were terrible for a good player with a right to left ballflight as they made the slight draw a big hook. They have become much better, but the fear of the hook with that club lingers for many good players playing a draw.

Most if not all of the professionals I teach have multiple choices when they go to a tournament. How they set up their bag is determined by the practice round.

Chris T. asks at 12:25:

I know that you are suppose to open your stance and the club face and cut across the ball in the bunkers. However, if you simply used a club with more bounce, would you have to cut across and open the face? Couldn't you just hit a straightforward sand shot. Wouldn't this straightforward shot be easier to judge? 

Good question Chris. You have options in the sand regarding the lines you create with the clubface and feet. The more loft you have on your sand wedge, the less "opening" you need in your clubface and feet. I like to refer to the clubface position in the sand as layback rather than opening. This allows you to get the proper loft on the club without feeling like the face is pointing way right. As a result, the feet don't need to start as excessively open. Here is something to consider: one of the reasons you should open your stance slightly in to allow for the hips to rotate enough through impact. With the feet, specifically your back foot, unable to move as it normally would during a full swing it is difficult to get the hips rotating open into the finish without the headstart the open stance provides. This gives the body a chance to be more out of the way during impact so the arms can work naturally to the left, keeping the hands from becomming too involved.

This is a complicated answer but hopefully you can understand that the best way to become great around the greens is to experiment. Your question indicates you have a good imagination when it comes to short shots, this will serve you well.

Jim C. asks at 12:17:

I had a friend video me swinging and I am bending my left elbow—even with my sand wedge. I had no idea!
I must have been doing it for so long, I can’t tell when I’m doing it. How do I stop bending my left elbow!?

The dreaded chicken wing! This is a fairly common problem. When the club attacks the ball from a steep, outside-in angle then your arms, hands, and club are getting closer to your body during impact. To create some room and prevent you from hitting the ground too hard and/or shanking it your left arm will compensate and bend. To fix this, your club arms and hands must be moving away from your body during contact. In other words, a proper inside attack will create the opportunity for the arms to get the proper extension during and after impact. If you have ever been jammed by a fastball playing baseball you know the feeling of a lack of extension. Just like the power hitter in baseball, good golfers want to get their arms extending during impact. Don't jam yourself by swinging on an improper path.

Mike asks at 12:10:

Brady, I'm a beginning golfer. How come every 3 or 4 shots I hit one great, but then go back to hitting them poorly?

Mike, you have picked a very hard game! I give thousands of lessons every year and the one thing people want, from beginner to professional, is to be more consistent. The best advice I can give you is to find a good teacher, someone who is very busy with a good reputation, and work on your basics and fundamentals. This is critical in the beginning if you want to avoid problems that can linger for years. The basics include grip, posture, alignment, ball position, distance from the ball, and tilt. Remember this order of things you need to control: clubface, swingpath, and then pivot. The swing is very interrelated, but if you work on it in a specific order you will have better results.

Bill G. asks at 12:03:

Most of my miss hits are thin shots, especially irons off of the fairway. What should I do to correct this?

There are many causes of thin shots. Here's where you start: Watch your distance from the ball, if you get too far away it is difficult to make solid contact. Next, make sure you get your weight up on top of the balls of your feet in the address position. This will help you move your weight properly, into your back heel going back and your front heel going through. Finally, you need to stay bent over during the swing. If you stand up and lose your posture during the swing you will most likely hit it thin.

Anonie asks at 12:00:

My problem is getting too quick at the top and thus ending up too quick with my lower body as well. What drills should help me address this flaw?

You need to work on what starts the downswing first, not how fast you start. Getting quick happens when your arms and hands initiate the downswing. Instead, your weight should move into your front leg as if your stepping into a throw. This gets your body out in front of your arms and hands, and keeps the speed of your downswing in check. Make some practice swings taking with your feet close together and take a small step to begin your downswing, this will give you the feel of the proper sequence and make it easier to transition into a normal swing.

Read past Ask the Top 100 Chats  More tips from Brady Riggs

June 23, 2009

Live Ask the Top 100 Chat: Brady Riggs answers your swing questions

Posted at 11:02 AM by Brady Riggs

Had trouble on the greens this weekend? Still can't get rid of that slice? Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs answered readers' swing questions in a live forum on Tuesday afternoon.

Thanks for reading today. I want to encourage everyone to sign up for SI GOLFNation. I’m a member, along with some of my fellow Top 100 Teachers, and we’d love to hear from you there as well.

Mike asks at 12:59:

How can I fix my snap hook and get more elevation on my driver?

The snap hook and low ballflight with the driver is almost always caused by a closed or shut clubface position. You have to get your clubface in a more neutral position. There are two simple ways to achieve this. First, make sure your grip isn't too strong. This means that your hands come into the club from the sides. A stronger grip has the top hand more above the handle and the bottom hand more under it. Second, try to maintain the cup or slight bend backwards in the left wrist all the way to the top of the backswing. This will help the clubface from becoming closed, fixing the hook and getting the ball airborne.

Tony asks at 12:56:

I've been coming over the top and making an outside to inside swing producing either a pull or ugly slice. Is this because my shoulders are starting the downswing or my hips? Pinpointing this has been a big issue.

I answered a slice question earlier in the blog that should give you some good info. I will add that the downswing should never start with the shoulders. This is a great way to come over the top and hit the slice. The swing should always start with the feet and move up, both going back and coming down.

Hwang-jae Yoon asks at 12:47:

Sometimes around the green from far off as 50 yards approximately, I seem to require a shot, preferably a pitch shot, that flys low and stops quickly! I sometimes pull the shot off by accident, and every time it seems like I miss hit is by thinning it too much. You see the pros do it all the time and it seems like they bladed the shot but bounce once and stops or releases slightly. Is there a certain techinque to this shot? I understand it's a high risk gamble shot, but it seems very useful for that shot to be in my bag.

This is a very common question. Once you have hit this shot accidentally it can be very frustrating trying to hit it again. It actually isn't that risky, but it does take some specific technical know-how. The one bounce and grab shot needs clubhead speed to be successful. In order to create the speed and not hit the ball too far the clubface must be slightly open in the address position. The club should be taken back slightly to the inside with a limited amount of wrist hinge. The critical component is to get the clubface to rotate even more open going back. When combined with the direction of the takeaway, the clubhead can attack the ball from the inside with an aggressive release coming through impact. The feeling of impact is that of striking a match, it must be sharp and crisp to create the clubhead speed and backspin needed to stop the ball quickly.

Good luck with the shot. It takes quite a bit of practice and a good golf ball. If you try this shot with a range ball it wont work.

Anthony asks at 12:40:

I am a pretty average golfer handicap below 10. I have recently been taking two lessons a week to try to better my game and start playing in tourneys. Since taking lesson my miss has been either hitting the ball fat or hitting far behind the ball. The pro I have been taking lessons with says that I am trying to lift the ball rather than hitting down on it. I have been doing many different types of drills for weeks and can't figure it out. Do you have any insight on what my fix this miss?

If you are below 10 you are far better than an average golfer. I would never tell you your teacher doesn't know what he/she is doing because I don't have enough information. I will tell you that I wouldn't have you try to hit down on the ball. This should happen naturally if you move maintain your spine angle and move your weight properly on the downswing. In most cases, hitting the ball fat is the result of an overly steep downswing. This can be fixed by swinging the club more around the body, especially as you attack the ball. The club should come from behind you on the downswing and go out and away from you after impact. The steep attack is just the opposite. The club comes from in front of you on the downswing and moves across you to your left after impact.

Hopefully, you are using some video and getting an idea what your swing is supposed to look like so you can help yourself along the way.

Drew asks at 12:32:

Brady, I'm working on trying to maintain lag well into the downswing. Any suggestions, tips, drills, etc?

The question is why are you trying to maintain lag? Speaking from decades of experience, I can tell you it is a slippery slope trying to "maintain" or "store" lag on the downswing. In most cases, trying to maintain lag can make your ballstriking far worse. With that said, I will tell you to work on your sequence of motion to produce a more athletic swing that may have the side benefit of increasing your lag. If you get lag working on your athleticism, it can be a benefit.

Just remember that the swing is fluid and dynamic, with no starts, pauses, and stops along the way. I like to think of the swing as a full motion, not a backswing and then a downswing. This helps you move the body ahead of the club at each stage. The weight should move back before the arms and the club get going in the takeaway, and the weight should move forward towards the target on the downswing before the arms and club get going. This makes the golf swing like every other athletic motion you have made in your life.

Ross asks at 12:29:

With my drives, I can bomb it, but only when I hit it straight, which isn't often. My misses are either severe slices, or high, left, short pulls. Is there something I should work on for this?

It sounds like you are steep on the downswing. This will cause both the severe slice, the pull, and the pop-up. If you check my earlier post regarding how to fix the slice it should give you a good blueprint to move forward.

Garrett asks at 12:20:

I am a young (Early 20s) golfer, and I have played for about a year. I am a mid handicap and am looking to groove a more repetitive golf swing for more consistency. Most non-professionals that I talk to think that I swing too hard (about 110 mph), but every time I try to slow my swing down, I fall into my natural tendency to slice the ball. Any tips or advice?

Don't swing easier, it is overrated. Think of it this way, if  the alignment on your car is pulling to the right you will run into the parked cars on the side of the road if you are driving 5MPH or 50MPH. What needs to be fixed is the car's alignment not the speed. The same is true for your swing. If you are comfortable swinging harder that is fine, just make sure your fundamentals are sound. This means you must manage and monitor the clubface position (square, open, closed) and the swing path (neutral, outside, inside). If these critical factors are off, you won't hit the ball at the target regardless of your speed. Find a well respected professional in your area and take a couple of lessons so you can understand how to recognize faulty mechanics and how to fix them.

Tony asks at 12:15

I recently purchased a new NIKE STR8-FIT driver with a stiff shaft. I took it to the range and found that I was hitting on the heel. I tried to make adjustments (closed stance, slower swing, etc.) to no avail. I took it to the course and the same happened. People have been telling me that it's my shaft and that I should be using regular instead of stiff. Do you think that is what is causing my heel shots? What else can I do? Any help would be greatly, and I mean greatly, appreciated.

Hopefully you were fit for the driver before you purchased it. Without the fitting, it is difficult to get the proper combination of length, loft, shaft flex and head design. The most important part of the clubfitting is the shaft, it can make or break your purchase. Logically, if you weren't hitting your old driver off the heel and you are now, it sounds like the club is the problem.

Todd asks at 12:05

I am fairly new to the game, but have played probably 20 rounds. I have taken lessons but for the life of me cannot stop topping the ball. Is there any special technique/practice routine? It happens with both irons and woods. It is increasingly frustrating because when I make solid contact the ball is pretty much consistently straight [as it is when I top it]. I want to be able to work on other parts of the game, but if I can't hit the ball, it doesn't matter what I do on the green.

Welcome to the game. Topping the ball is a very common problem to beginning golfers. There are three things you can do that will help immediately, but you must also change your mindset. A common mistake beginning golfers make is they try to get under the ball to lift it into the air. This causes the club to work UP through impact, making the bottom or leading edge of the club hit the equator of the ball leading to the top. Instead, you must trust the loft of the club to get the ball airborne.

From a technical standpoint there are three fixes. First, you need to maintain the forward bend you create in the set-up throughout the swing. This will maintain your distance from the ball removing one of the causes of the top. Next, the weight must transfer into the front foot at impact to make the bottom of the swing land in front of the ball. If the weight stays on the back foot, the bottom of the swing will be behind the ball forcing the club UP through impact. Finally, allow your arms to relax and extend as you strike the ball. This will help the club find it's true bottom of the swing arc and help you make better contact.

Doug asks at 12:00

I used to push the ball pretty much exclusively straight right. Then, after some work, I was hitting it better, but hooking it. Then, I read Shawn Humphries' "Two Steps to a Perfect Golf Swing," and now I'm making GREAT contact with all my clubs, but I'm back to slicing. Are you familiar with this book, and even if you aren't, what are some basic things I can try to do to fix this slice? Thanks!

I haven't read Shawn's book but I am sure he did a good job, he is a very good teacher. The fact that you are still hitting a slice implies that you haven't fully grasped how the club is designed to work through the impact area. Most recreational players are under the impression that if they hit the back of the ball with the face square the ball will go straight. This misunderstanding is why we have an entire industry filled with products designed to fix the slice.

Instead, you need to attack the inside-back of the ball with the clubface closing gradually to hit the ball straight. This means you must try to start the ball to the right of the target with your swing path and allow the toe of the club to work over the heel. This is completely backwards to your instincts when you are slicing it which makes it difficult, but it will work.

For more tips from Riggs visit his archive

June 16, 2009

U.S. Open odds in Tiger Woods' favor at Bethpage Black

Posted at 12:35 PM by Brady Riggs

I've never bet on golf in my life, but if I was in Las Vegas this week I might place a wager on Tiger Woods. At even money, it's the best bet you'll find at a casino, with a better chance of coming through than betting on black in roulette. If Woods plays well, he wins. It's that simple. If he plays OK, he'll probably win. If he plays poorly, then a handful of other guys have a legitimate shot. Here's how I'd handicap the 2009 U.S. Open.

The Favorite and the Six Who Can Win

Tiger Woods (even money): Considering Woods won last year on a broken leg, he's the clear choice to win this year at Bethpage. He's rested, he's healthy and it's a course he plays well on. I actually can't imagine Tiger not winning this tournament.

Angel Cabrera (3 to 1): The forgotten man who happens to be the defending Masters champion and a former U.S. Open champion. Cabrera hasn't been consistent, but we know he has all the facets of the game. He's playing at the peak of his powers and he could be on a three-year run of excellence where he's going to contend in big events, like Ernie Els and Sandy Lyle did.

Geoff Ogilvy (3 to 1):
Ogilvy has the game and the mentality to win, and he can putt. He's impervious to all the other stuff that wears guys down at majors and he can handle a one-on-one situation on Sunday.

Phil Mickelson (4 to 1): Mickelson is not playing great, but it's a course he likes in a city that likes him. He'll be the sentimental favorite this week as he's dealing with his wife's illness. But he'll need something strange to happen to win, like Tiger losing his driver again. Phil can't win if Tiger plays well. Nobody can.

Retief Goosen (8 to 1): Case of horses for courses. Goosen has proved he has a U.S. Open game and the New York crowd won't bother him. Could anything bother the unflappable Goose? An Old West saloon brawl? An attacking bear?

Steve Stricker (8 to 1):
He's playing really well right now and this is a good spot for him.

Henrik Stenson (10 to 1): His game is now at the level where he must be included in the group of contenders. Plus he's not afraid of Tiger, which is not true for most guys in the field.

Guys Who Could Maybe Win if Everything, and I Mean Everything, Goes Their Way

Padraig Harrington (10 to 1): His form has been down this year and he hasn't challenged. Winning a major has more to do with how you're playing at the time than who you are.

Zach Johnson (12 to 1): His ball flight is a low draw which is not great for the U.S. Open. At Bethpage, you need a high, soft shot and Johnson doesn't have one. On the plus side, he's having a good year and we know he can win a big one.

Paul Casey (15 to 1): He is a popular dark-horse pick, but I don't see it. Casey is the one guy other than Sergio I can see being negatively affected by the New York crowd. (The fans haven't forgotten his controversial Ryder Cup comments about Americans.) They say you don't win the Open, the Open wins you. He doesn't feel ready yet.

Brian Gay (15 to 1):
He's not great on long courses, but he's great on tight courses. If you can win at Harbour Town, you can compete at a U.S. Open. Plus, he's playing well right now and that's so important.

Jim Furyk (18 to 1): You can't write off a former Open champ who can putt, but it's hard to see Furyk winning Bethpage.

Ernie Els (20 to 1):
I give Els an outside chance, although that might be wishful thinking. He is playing a little better and he's had U.S. Open success.

Tim Clark (20 to 1):
Wouldn't be the first time a guy won his first tournament at the U.S. Open.

The Thanks-for-Coming, It-Was-Great-to-See-You Guys

Vijay Singh (25 to 1):
His time has probably come and gone. He doesn't put well enough to win a U.S. Open.

Anthony Kim (30 to 1):
Doesn't have the intangibles yet to win majors. Plus, the U.S. Open requires patience, which is not how he likes to play. Throughout his career, this tournament will always give him trouble. Remember, he never played well at the Amateur either. The Masters, which rewards aggressiveness, is a much better fit for him.

Ian Poulter (30 to 1), Camilo Villegas (30 to 1), Sean O'Hair (30 to 1), Lee Westwood (35 to 1), Kenny Perry (35 to 1): These guys deserve a mention, and here it is.

Rory McIlroy (40 to 1): He's not ready for prime time. How on earth could he handle Tiger? Probably only Cabrera, Mickelson and Ogilvy have what it takes to do that.

Rocco Mediate (50 to 1): He should just try to enjoy the week. He earned it.

The No-Frigging-Way-He-Can-Win Guy

Sergio Garcia (100 to 1): There's no way in hell he wins this tournament. He lacks all of the intangibles it takes to win majors. He whines, he can't putt and he's got no fight in him. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong guy.

Jerry posts:

Wow, no love or line for Sean O'hair? He'll post a top 10 at least...

I know, I kinda agree. However, he has to win something for me to consider him a threat in what is the most demanding tournament out there. I know he has had some success, but not on any major level. I really like the guy and think he has a fantastic swing, but I want to see the results. I will say Jerry that I hope he makes me look bad and wins this thing.

Jeff posts:

So is Sergio never going to win a major? I am not a believer, but I think he has the game if he can get his head out of his arse to get it together mentally.

I used to think he would win several, but I am losing my confidence in him. His attitude is awful, I can't recal a bigger whiner in the last thirty years of following the game. He acts as if he is owed something from the game, just becasue he is "Sergio". If Tiger drove the ball as well as Sergio, he would win every major by double digits, Garcia is that good from the tee. The fact is the majority of girls playing under 10 soccer (I have 2 in my house) have better attitudes than Sergio. Look at Duval, the guy has no reason to stick his neck out and embarass himself like he has except for the fact that he loves to compete. I have more respect for his courage as a player than I will ever have for Garcia. Duval is a grinder, Sergio is just plain soft.

June 15, 2009

Live Ask the Top 100 Chat: Brady Riggs answers your swing questions

Posted at 4:21 PM by Brady Riggs

If you missed Brady today, check on Tuesday, June 23, at noon EST for the next Ask the Top 100 Live!

Thanks for all the questions and comments. I am late getting back to the lesson tee. I will answer all the questions posted before 1 p.m. EST when I get back to the computer later tonight.--Brady Riggs

Joe asks:

How would I go about setting up a lesson with you next time I am in the LA area?

I can be found at the beautiful, and very public, Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Van Nuys. I will be the one under a Taylormade Tent wearing three layers of clothing to protect myself from the sun.

Brady Riggs, June 17, 11:39 PST

DJ asks:

The cliche that hybrid clubs are "easier to hit" is a total myth.

For many players, the hybrid is a great alternative to the middle and long irons. It is easier to get airborne, more versatile out of poor lies, and generally produces better misses. Personally, I don't like them. I prefer the feel and look of a long iron over a hybrid.

Brady Riggs, June 17, 11:35 PST

James asks at 12:40 EST:

I'm a reasonable good player (0.5) handicap) thats just trying to tighten up my swing. My biggest issue is that I lose a lot of wrist hinge early coming down, much like a David Toms type player but more exagerated, im not casting but there just isn't the angle I'd like to see. My problem is that when I try to really come in with a lot of lag it feels like impact is going to be a murderous, steep chop on the ball. From looking at video my arms get a little high at the top with the club bordering on laid off; from there it seems like the club seems to come down a little too steep (just inside my shoulder with that shaft pointing at or slightly inside the ball) as I come down. Is this the reason why I don't feel like I can lag the club the way I want to, and what are some good drills to fix any of these problems?

I have to tell you that I think too many good players become obsessed with creating more lag in their swing. In their haste to create more they usually deteriorate as players. David Toms isn't a bad player to be sure, so having a swing similar is something I would consider a good thing. The thing to ask yourself is do you think the lack of angle is causing some problems or preventing you from becoming a better player, or do you just not like the look of it on video?

Steep sounds like the more serious issue to me. I would work on your sequence of motion to kill both problems at once. You need to get the sensation that your body in beginning its move to the target on the downswing before the arms and club finish going up. This will help the club stay behind you more as it comes down eliminating the steep issue, and create more of a dynamic motion that will increase your lag.

I don't think you should be trying to get more lag, just improve the sequence and it will happen naturally.

Brady RIggs, June 17, 12:47 EST

Aaron asks at 12:34 EST:

I'm normally about a 12 handicap but the last time i played i looked like i've never swung club before. I got a case of the shanks and they stuck with me the whole round. From what I've read i need to swing more out to in while turning my hips instead of sliding. What's the best drill for this.

If you look at the question I just answered it was about the shanks. I would tell you that you should really try to understand your problem and how to fix it before you start tinkering too much with your swing. If you were a good player before then the swing is most likely in there. Go back to your set-up and check your ball position, grip, alignment, posture and distance from the ball before you start messing too much with your motion.

If you work in the proper order, you can avoid making things worse.

Brady Riggs, June 17 12:37 EST

JD asks at 12:29 EST:

Lately I have gotten a case of the shanks. No matter what I do I hit the ball with hostel. I can't even tell if I'm coming from the inside or the outside but it feels like I am lifting my head before impact. Any ideas or drills to help?

I am very sorry to hear that! There are 4 great ways to shank it. You can start to close to the ball, get too close to the ball during the swing, come excessively from the inside or excessively from the outside. While this doesn't answer your question, it gives you an idea what you are dealing with.

The best place to start is with your address. A common mistake people who are shanking make is starting too far from the ball with the weight in the heels. This makes the player move towards the ball during the swing, cutting off the space you were trying to create in set-up and can often lead to the dreaded shank. Instead, start with the weight more in the balls of your feet and try to get the feeling the weight is moving into the right heel on the backswing and the left heel on the downswing.

This should help. If it doesn't, you need to figure out which path problem you have and work on that as well.

Brady Riggs, June 17 12:32 EST

Tom asks at 12:22 EST:

I've heard that getting fit with clubs that are upright and long can exacerbate an over-the-top move. I think this may be happening in my game. My misses start out slightly left of target and usually draw further left. Thank you.

Based upon your ball flight that sounds perfectly reasonable. I am not a big fan of most clubfitting. In many cases, the clubfitter tries to improve your ballflight by making unnecessary and drastic changes to the lie angle of the club. In the vast majority of those instances, the swing needs to be improved and the club should be left at a more standard set-up. The fact is you can't buy your game, it must be earned.

Get those clubs adjusted back to a more neutral set-up.

Brady Riggs, June 17 12:26 EST

Marc asks at 12:15 EST:

What is a great drill for hitting solid short irons? I hit a nice draw with my mid and long irons but I struggle to hit my short irons consistently well. I tried steepening my swing with my short irons but then I tend to hit a lot of balls fat. I really want to work hard at them because they are key to good scoring but I get confused as to what is the best way to swing them. Thanks.

There are a couple things you can do that will help. First, don't hit your short irons too hard. If you are swinging any where near full then you need to back off. The key to good  short irons is swinging under control so if you are between a 9 iron and a Wedge hit the 9 every time. If you are hitting you mid and long irons well then your mechanics must be very solid. Steepening your swing just for your short irons is a bad idea, and could have negative consequences for the rest of your game.

One last thing, check the width of your stance. If your feet get too far apart it is difficult to make solid contact.

Brady Riggs, June 17 12:21 EST

Jan asks at 12:04 EST:

Could you give us all a refresher in how to grip the club properly, is there a gripping routine to use? many thanks

There are many ways to get your hands on the club properly. Something that has been very helpful for students over the years is to use the seam on their glove to line up the top hand properly. It runs down the back of the hand between the thumb and index finger. If the top hand is on the club properly, that seam will continue down the middle of the handle of the club once the grip has been taken. The bottom hand has a trick as well. While the hand is off the club the inside of the thumb should be connected to the palm so the muscle on the back of the hand pops up, only then should the grip be taken. This is critical because it acts as a bridge of support for the club at the top of the swing.

BTW, interlock, overlap, and 10-finger can all work just fine. How the hands work under the handle isn't nearly as important as how they function on top.

Brady Riggs, June 17, 12:14 EST

Fred asks at 12:00am EST:

I am consistantly hitting the ball off the toe of the club(with driver), but the face is square. My divots point slightly to the left and are on the shallower side. I think i seem to have a push

If your divots are pointing to the left then coming over the top will only make your problem worse. You need to get the club more to the inside on the downswing. This will help the clubface rotate more naturally through impact making it easier for you to it your natural, right to left ballflight. If you think of hitting a baseball, you need to start your shot to the right of the pitcher. The swingpath you are currently creating would start the ball at the shortstop.


Dan asks:

My game has gone to pot. I hit everything short. the ball slices off of my driver. The club turns in my hand on almost every shot. I never hit two shots the same. Please help!

Don't worry Dan, we all hate this game occasionally. Here's the deal, it sounds like you are hitting the ball off the toe of the club with the face excessively open at impact. The poor contact leads to the club spinning in your hands, the open face produces the slice. Get your hands of the club properly, flatten your left wrist at the top of the swing and try to hit the ball as far RIGHT as possible. The combination of a grip change and better left wrist alignment will improve the clubface, the attempt to hit the ball right will make the swing path more inside and help you hit the middle of the clubhead.

If this doesn't work, take some time off and go fishing. Golf shouldn't be so miserable.

Scott asks:

Why do I hit it fat & also high, short & right?

I can think of a couple reasons but I am stabbing in the dark a bit with so little info. I can tell you chances are you are probably coming down very steep, creating the fat shots and a lack of clubface rotation during impact that will produce a shot going to the right. The lack of clubface rotation also leads to a serious lack of distance.

The fix begins with you feeling a swing that is more around, less up and down, and a clubface that is actively turning through impact. This should be fairly natural as your around motion improves, but a little manipulation in the beginning with your hands and arms turning the face isn't a bad idea. Make some swings off the ground about hip height to get the feeling of swinging more around and try to get the sense of the clubface closing at the hitting area. I would recommend hitting balls from a tee in the beginning, as this will make it easier to achieve both the around motion and better release.

Brady Riggs, June 17, 1:35 PST

Brian asks:

I’m in the Air Force but when I retire I want to teach golf of some sort I have the passion for the game and about a 5 handicap. What is the best way to achieve this goal of mine. I have looked at the San Diego university schools but not sure if that’s the best way to go about it. Any advice you could give me would be really appreciated thanks for your time.

On behalf of a grateful family thank you for serving our nation.

I am asked this question all the time and always cringe a little when I hear it. This is not a profession to join if you want to play golf. The hours spent on the range are long, the pay starts out pretty bad, and the duties often don't involve teaching. With that said, I love my job!

If you are one of those strange guys that loves looking and books, mags, and videos of the swing. Likes to tinker with different ideas, and gets a kick out of helping people than by all means join the ranks of the crazies. If you want to play golf and make some easy cash, run for the hills.

My best advice would be to pursue membership in the PGA.  I know the program is long, difficult, and expensive, but there is no doubt that the best teachers are almost always PGA Members. The relationships you make becoming a member are invaluable to your development as a teacher and critical to your future job prospects.

You will find differing opinions on this, but I truly believe that the best way to become qualified and respected is to become a PGA Member.

If you need any help along the way, please don't hesitate to ask....

Brady RIggs, June 17, 1:20 PST

Timothy asks:

I am a 29 year old golfer that plays pretty much every day. Recently, I have lost up to two clubs of distance on my irons. The shots still fly high and at my target. I am leaving a good divot beyond the ball. I have struggled with reverse pivots in the past, but think I have this problem solved. Any suggestions as to how I could lose this much power would be appreciated. Thanks.

The first place to look is in the clubface position. If the face has become excessively open you will hit the ball substantially shorter. This can have the effect of a loss of distance but not a loss of accuracy if your hands are becoming excessively active through impact. The cause of this can be either a grip that is too weak, or a left wrist that has become overly cupped or bent backwards at the top of the backswing.

Make sure your grip is at least neutral, and your left wrist is flat at the top. If both are fine, let me know and we will go down the list.

Brady Riggs, June 17, 1:15PST

Fred asks:

I am a 14-year-old golfer who's been playing the game for a long while. I constantly shoot in the low to mid 80's and i am having trouble with my driver. My driver was custom fit to 44.5" since I am only 5"6. However, my instructor says i keep the club too low at address. I am pushing most of my tee-shots but they are staying right instead of flying with my usual slight draw. I hit them out 220, and I was wondering why i am hitting them right, and any drill that could help me through this fault. My dad says I need to swing more over-the-top.

I could use a bit more info. How are your divots? Deep? Pointing left? Are you striking the ball in the center of the face or on the toe, heel? Get back to me....

Brady Riggs, June 17, 1:11PST

Ian asks:

I am a low single digit golfer who has a block/hooking problem from an inside out swing path. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix my swing so I can start hitting a cut again? The farther left I aim, the farther I tend to push it to the right (or hard left if I let the club release)You

You have the classic good players miss. Welcome to the club. Getting inside is the key to becoming a good player, and the albatross preventing you from becoming better. The number one cause of this problem is becoming steep in the transition from backswing to downswing. The place to check this on video is when your hands are just below your shoulder on the downswing from the target line side. If your club is pointing inside the ball in this frame, you are hosed! It should point at or outside the target line. If it isn't your only chance to hit a good shot is to drop the club back to the inside late in the downswing. As a result, the club attacks excessively from the inside and you receive the joyful hook/block combination.

The fix is a combination of a better takeaway and top position combined with the feeling of going low and left with your hands through impact. While this sounds complicated, a little work on video can getting you going in the right direction pretty fast. The first step is to try to get the club pointed slightly left of your hands at the top (right-handed player) in a more laid off position. This will encourage the club to point in the proper direction during the transition, making your life much easier. Next, you need to feel as if the hands are passing closer to the ground and across your left hip after impact. Again, this will help shape the swing in a more neutral direction eliminating your hook and block.

Brady Riggs, June 17 1:05PST

Omer asks:

On my downswing my arms are too active rather than allowing my hips to turn and my arms to drop and swing naturally. What kind of practice will help me get used to the feeling of my arms dropping and my speed being generated by my hips turning through without being to active with my arms and coming over the top?

You are dealing with a sequence problem. In every athletic motion from throwing a ball to striking an object with a stick (ie. tennis, baseball, or hockey), you must move your weight before your arms. Based on your description, you are starting the downswing backwards with your arms moving before the weight is engaged into your front leg. You need to get the sense that your first move down happens before the arms and club reach the top of the backswing. This is done by sensing the weight landing on your front foot before your arms start down.

Make some baseball swings with your golf club and you will feel the sequence of weight then arms. This will help you sense the motion that makes a great golf swing, and relieve you of the burden of making a backswing and then a downswing. Get rid of the pause at the top and get that weight moving.

Not only will this improve your contact and power, but it should eliminate your over the top headache.

Brady Riggs, June 17, 12:35PST

Noah asks:

How do I fix an "across the line" position at the top of my backswing? Depending on how my hands recover from overswinging, big push slices or nasty hooks result. "Shortening my swing" is easier said than done. Thanks for the help!

First you need to determine where things are getting strange. Momentum is an interesting thing on the backswing, it can either help you or hurt you. Think of your backswing as equal parts up and in. The in being the club working away from the target line and the up being over your shoulder. If you get too much of one early, you will end with all of the other as the club reaches the top. In other words, if your club is excessively inside during the takeaway (IN)  it will go very up as it finishes the backswing. The momentum that results gives you the bonus direction of ACROSS. 

The fix begins by getting more up in your takeaway. This will allow for more in as the club finishes the backswing, helping the club line up better at the top. A good sensation at the top is that your left elbow is higher than your hands. This combination should kill your across the line position at the top, making it much easier to keep the downswing on plane.

 Brady Riggs, June 17, 12:54PST

June 12, 2009

Black in the Day: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Tom Patri dedicated himself to the game after his first visit to Bethpage Black

Posted at 2:17 PM by Tom Patri

The year was 1972. I was 14 years old and infected beyond belief by the golf bug. One day I was reading the newspaper and saw a headline: "New York State Open to be Played at The Black Course at Bethpage State Park. Caddies Needed." Now, I had just won the Long Island Boys Championship and fancied myself quite the golfer. Surely one of the professionals in the event would welcome my depth of golf knowledge. Had I ever laid foot on the Black Course? No. Did I think this would matter? Of course not. I had years and years and years of competitive golf experience (three), had played in hundreds of tournaments (12), and had tons of Tour-proven caddie experience (none).

When the day finally came, hoards of caddie-hopefuls lined up around the first tee of the Black hoping to snag the next state PGA champion. Suddenly the caddie master's stern voice shouted out, "Patri!" I jumped to my feet. "Yeah, you, shorty—grab this trunk."

I had never seen a golf bag this big before. For those of you old enough to remember, it was a red-white-and-blue PGA Victor golf bag, and it belonged to Bill Collins. “Bill who?” I thought. I would learn much later that Bill had won four times on the PGA Tour, once defeating the great Arnold Palmer in a playoff to win the 1960 Houston Classic. He was also a member of the victorious 1961 Ryder Cup team. Bill later took a club job at the Brae Burn Club in Westchester County (which is why he was playing in the state PGA), and later he would win on the Senior Tour.

As I wrestled his bag onto my back and staggered toward the first tee only a few yards away, Bill said, "Son, do you need any help?"

"No, sir. My name is Tommy Patri, and I will be your caddie."

Bill and his group had to be howling inside. They also had to be taking bets on when I would collapse. Bill asked me how many times I had played the Black course.

I lied. "A few, sir."

We got started, and I didn’t see much through the third green. Head down, I was sweating buckets, trying my best to stay upright. Around the third hole I started to get my legs under me, balanced the bag a bit better, and at least felt that I could look up and watch some of the action. I remember walking down the path to the fourth tee and looking up and seeing that magnificent hole and its incredible bunker complex for the first time.

Bill must have seen my jaw drop. He chuckled and said, "Son, are you OK?" I mumbled something in response. Bill then proceeded to hit a bomb that split the fairway. I was watching golf being played at a level I had never been exposed to before on a magical course. Heady stuff to a golf-crazy 14-year-old.

As the day went on, I got stronger. I was excited to see every hole and watch Bill hit shot after shot that left me amazed. His drives flew long and straight. The thing I remember best was the thump the balata balls made coming off the wooden clubheads. I had never heard that sound before. That day turned out to be one of several days in my early teens that would cement my desire to live a life in this game.

Bill died in 2006. I never got to speak to him as an adult. I wish I had. Next week, when I walk the wonderful grounds of the Black Course with my wife and our 8-year-old son, I will tell him about Bill. I will patiently entertain my son's each and every question. Eight-year-olds have many. And I will remember how, 37 years ago, Bill Collins displayed enormous patience with me when we walked the Black together.

Thank you, Bill.

June 10, 2009

Ask the Top 100: Help! I have a tee time with a client and I can't play golf

Posted at 2:14 PM by Jon Tattersall

Dear Top 100 Teacher,
I have been invited to play in a foursome with a client of mine who is a great golfer (and one of my biggest accounts!) I am not a golfer — a fact that I disclosed — but my presence has been requested anyway. How can I prepare for this outing in two weeks?
Jim T., via email

Dear Jim,

Golf is a unique sport in that players of varying skills can play the same course while enjoying each other's company. So you should embrace this as an opportunity to spend a few hours with one of your best clients in a casual setting. He or she invited you, so feel good about your relationship with your client — and don’t sweat your mis-hits. All great players have played with beginners before, so it’s unlikely that you can do anything on the course that your client hasn't seen before.

If you’re looking for a quick fix, find an experienced teacher in your area who can provide a couple of hours of instruction. Explain to the instructor that you just need a few basic concepts that you can remember on the day — and that you’re not trying to learn the game in two weeks! If you have time, invest in a playing lesson. This will help you to understand basic etiquette, where to stand, order of play, etc. Most players really don't care if your technique is rough around the edges as long as you don't walk on their putting lines, stand in their sight lines on the tee or talk during their swings.

Also, be sure to keep up with the pace of play. "Miss it quick" is what you will hear from many good players, meaning don't over analyze your shot. And when you’re really struggling, cut your losses and pick up. You are going to hit bad shots, it's the nature of the game. 

Have fun, enjoy the good shots you hit during the round and forget the bad ones!

Good luck,

Top 100 Teacher Jon Tattersall teaches at Golf Performance Partners in Atlanta, Ga.

June 08, 2009

How to make swing improvements "stick"

Posted at 11:27 AM by Anne Cain

As a young player in high school, I remember asking one of my golf instructors, “How much do I need to practice to get better?” More specifically, I wanted to know how many repetitions or drills did I need to do to improve my technique and make it “stick.”

I never received an answer that satisfied me. However, I just read a book that might hold the secret. In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell provides evidence that success and achievement are not due primarily to intelligence or ambition. Instead, Gladwell argues that the true story of success is much more interesting and is dependent on variables such as timing of birth, culture and family. His book investigates the success of athletes, lawyers, airline pilots, and even the Beatles and Bill Gates, and finds a common denominator among all of them. Like the old joke goes, How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. In Outliers, Gladwell tells us exactly how much practice.

He recounts a psychological study of musicians at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music. After evaluating all the students, the scientists placed each in one of three categories: “stars” who were likely to be virtuosos and world class soloists; “good” musicians who might make a living or play in symphonies; and “others” who were unlikely to play professionally and would likely become music teachers. All of these students began playing roughly at age 5 and were tracked through age 20. The main difference? 10,000 hours of practice (taking approximately 10 years). That is what it takes to become an expert. The stars had logged 10,000 hours of practice; the “good” musicians had logged 8,000 hours; and the last group only 4,000 hours. The study has been expanded to other fields including basketball players, writers, ice skaters, chess players and even master criminals, and the number appears to be the same: 10,000 hours. Gladwell writes: “The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”

Moreover, these same scientists determined that the people that are best in their field practice more effectively. In a recent Fortune magazine article, these same researchers expanded the discussion. “The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call "deliberate practice”: activity that's explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition. For example: Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don't get better. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day -- that's deliberate practice.”

So, if you want to get better at golf you need to practice more often and practice deliberately  with some form of evaluation and feedback. Using video is one of the best forms of feedback so seek a qualified instructor who has a current system. If you’re on the driving range, work on a specific move and repeat it until you get a pattern. Then challenge yourself to change targets and hit three shots in a row as if you were on the first tee. For short-game practice, find a buddy and play a game of “horse” where you chip a ball and have to make the putt for the “up and down.” If you miss, you get a letter “H” and so on. Once you acquire a certain degree of skill, you have to make practice more like playing golf: hit one drive, one 6-iron, one wedge. Chip and then make the putt. If you don't have 10,000 hours to practice your golf game, then you really need to make sure you're getting the most out of the hours you have.

June 03, 2009

Ask the Top 100: Stop hitting balloon balls

Posted at 2:57 PM by Chuck Evans

Dear Top 100 Teacher,
I’m an experienced player with a 7 handicap, but when I initiate my downswing I lift my head and I come out of my spine angle. As a result I cast the club, releasing it before impact and hit a short, straight ball that balloons. How can I retain my spine angle and keep my head level or even have it move toward the ball so I can hit a nice low ball?
Walter H. New York, NY

Dear Walter,

NOT a single player EVER raises their head! They do however change their spine angle (that is, their posture), which moves their head.

Raising up in your downswing is caused by throwing your wrists from the top to the ball – we teachers call it casting, which is fine in trout fishing, bad news in golf. Casting also can be caused by weak lower back and lower abdominal muscles.

Here are a couple of drills to help you stop raising up out of your spine angle:

Drill No. 1: Grab your left wrist with your right hand while facing a wall. Now take your address position and place your forehead against the wall. Make a slow motion backswing and downswing, allowing your head to come off the wall at finish.  If you are moving around and changing your spine angle you will soon wear a sore spot in your forehead! This drill will eliminate any side-to-side or up-and-down movement of your head in your swing.

Drill No. 2:  Face away from the wall and take your address position like you did above. Now back up until your rear end touches the wall. Make swings while keeping your butt against the wall. If you’re outdoors, you can actually hit balls doing this drill. You will need a plastic chair or golf club that you can place against your rear — you should feel like you are sitting down on it slightly. As you come into finish you can allow your butt to come off the chair or golf club.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Chuck Evans is director of instruction at Emerald Bay Golf Club in Destin. Fla.

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