Archive: July 2009

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July 28, 2009

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

Posted at 11:54 AM by Brady Riggs

Can't stop three-putting? Chipping from one side of the green to the other? Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs will be online every Tuesday at noon EST to fix your golf swing. Read this week's installment below.

Thanks to all for the questions. If  I didn't get to yours please ask again next week and try to get them in early. Remember you can post a link to your swing on YouTube so I can check you out in action, it will really help us help you!

Marc asks at 1:00:

Brady, a quick one: do you think Tiger's swing is better now with Haney than it was under Butch?

Marc, are you trying to get me in trouble? The simple answer is no, I don't think it is better. The longer answer is that, in my opinion, the clubface has gotten way too closed with the driver making it difficult for him to release the club properly and his swing is too long for the speed of his lower body coming down. I think some of the shots he can hit now are better, in other words he is probably more versatile but for my money I would lke to see him hit more fairways. The swing in 2000 was awfully good. If I were teaching him I would get out the video of Pebble in 2000 and study the swing that won the Open by 15 shots.

Thanks for putting me on the hot seat.

Gene asks at 12:59:

I've been having trouble with a massive hook so I video taped my swing from down-the-line and was shocked to see how upright and vertical my swing is. I wonder if this has anything to do with my hook. (I also attack the ball inside-out.) I would love to hear your thoughts

I am assuming the upright and vertical portion of the swing you are seeing is going back. If this is the case and you are attacking the ball excessively from the inside your swing is like Jim Furyk on steroids. It sounds like you have a big, less than effective shift in your swing that is causing the excessively steep and upright backswing to be overcompensated for coming down. This is a swing that would keep an instructor busy with for a while so I would suggest starting with the address position and working from there. After you have checked and adjusted your address position keep in mind that vertical, upright backswings are caused from a lack of turn and a lack of connection. Try to keep your upper left arm and chest (assuming you are right handed) together as your hips rotate in the beginning of your backswing. This will encourage your swing to be more around going back and flatter at the top.

Now the fun begins. If you make your normal move coming down from this improved backswing position, you may miss the ball. The adjustment you were making before to get the club inside from an upright backsiwng will now completely hose you. Instead, you need to swing more left coming through impact. This will help the club get out to a more neutral path as you attack, helping the contact and producing straighter shots.

Wow, I'm tired just from typing that advice, just think how much work it will be for you. The good news is you know how to get the club inside, you just need to create a backswing that won't need to be compensated for so much coming down. Good luck with your swing, let me know how it's coming and remember you can post a link to your swing from You Tube and we can check out on the blog.

Omer asks at 12:55:

I feel like my set-up and take-away are solid but I get into trouble at the top of my swing as my arms are too active and rather than following my hips and dropping my arms down into the "slot" I tend to swing with my arms and come over the top. I find it so hard to relax my arms and just let my hip turn create the "speed". Is there anything I can repeat on the range to ingrain that feeling of just dropping the arms and trusting that the hips will create the necessary lag and swing speed and hence ensure solid ball first then ground contact?? Thanks.

This is a theme this morning. I have answered this issue a couple of times in the previous posts so rather than repeat myself (something I am gifted at to be sure) check out the previous questions to see some specifics. The one thing I will add is that you need to play golf like an athlete, not a golfer. This means that you should draw upon all of your past experiences from other sports and inject them into your golf swing. Make sure that you allow your body to move back and through, let your arms follow the lead of your pivot and try to end up balanced in the finish. These seem like simple thoughts but the golf swing need not be complicated! Good luck.

Duane asks at 12:51:

I really struggle with my weight shift on the downswing. I always feel like I am starting things with my arms and/or shoulders. I keep hearing from every source I see that the downswing should start "from the ground up," but I don't know how to do this. Any suggestions?

Two Duanes in a row, thats a record! You are hearing correctly that the downswing should start from the ground up, not the arms. This simply means your body should move to the target before your arms do. Think of stepping into a throw as a good illustration of how weight works before the arms during an athletic motion. It would be a fairly akward throw if your arm moved before your body when you throw. A good drill to feel the proper sequence is to take your address position, then move your front foot next to your back foot. Make a normal backswing and just before your arms are done going back step with your front foot to the target. Once you have stepped it will feel very natural for your arms and club to follow coming down. If you try this with a ball use a short tee and take a little speed off the swing. You may surprise yourself with how well you hit it.

Dwayne asks at 12:49:

What is the best drill to shallow out a downswing?

The single best drill to shallow out a downswing is to hit the driver off your knees. If you get steep from here you will know it very quickly as the club will bounce of the ground before impact. If your knees are bad and this isn't an option then fixing the issue starts with a good pivot on the backswing where your hips are turning and not sliding away from the target. If your hips slide, your chances of a shallower swing are zero. After the proper turn, swinging more out and around is a good thought for shallowing out the swing. The out portion keeps the club attacking on a more inside path with the club coming from behind you more and the around part helps the swing continue to a solid, balanced finish position.

Phil asks at 12:37:

Two of my worst problems are 1.) keeping the back of my left hand square with the clubface, and 2.) coming over the top. Do you know of any drills or thoughts to fix these issues? Thanks!

I'm not too sure what you mean about your left hand but I assume you are trying to keep your left wrist in a flat position. The fact is that most, not all, but most over the top moves are created from the fear of hitting it to the right. The right shot is generally from the clubface reaching impact in an open position caused either from a weak grip and/or a cupped left wrist on the downswing. SO, we have to fix the face first before the over the top. Get the grip in a neutral or even strong position and keep the left wrist fairly flat at the top of the swing. This will fix the clubface issue and create an interesting result if you come over the top, A HUGE PULL! This is what should happen if you come over the top with a square clubface. Once you have pulled a few it will dawn on you that to hit the target the swing must be more from the inside on the downswing. Remeber that the proper path isn't into the back of the ball but into the inside-back of the ball and you will be hitting it much stronger and straighter.

James asks at 12:31:

I have heard that once you reach the top of your backswing and shift your weight, you should then feel your arms "drop." I don't understand what that means, or what it should feel like. Do they literally just fall straight down or what? I keep hearing it and it doesn't make sense!

It doesn't make much sense to me either James. A better way to think of it is that the proper sequence of body first, arms second keeps the arms trailing the body for the majority of the downswing. At impact, the body begins to slow down it's rotation so the arms can fly by. Think of the other sports you have played growing up, specifically throwing a ball. Can you imagine thinking of stepping towards the target, letting your arm drop and then throwing? Of course not. Make your swing feel like the other athletic motions you have performed in your life and you will be way ahead. Remember the proper sequence is always body then arms, and forget about dropping them.

Marc asks at 12:24:

I've read that you must start the swing by "shifting" back into your left side from the top of the swing. But how much shift is too much before it becomes a hip slide?

The best way to monitor the amount of slide starting down is to check your left foot position and overall balance in the finish. If your left foot is being rolled to the outside excessively and you are having trouble holding the finish chances are your shift or bump has turned into a slide. A good thought is to move your right side around so it points to the target in the finish. This will help you shift the weight properly but will encourage the swing to keep it's movement around instead of sliding laterally too far coming down. When you are shifting properly, you should be able to finish in balance with the left foot fairly flat on the ground. If you are still having problems with the sway and are generally inflexible, don't be afraid to flare both feet out in the address position. This will make it much easier to rotate and take some strain of your lead foot in the finish.

Shane asks at 12:12:

I had knee surgery last year and I am just getting back into golf. I have found now I seem to dip my head alittle and sway to my right side on take away.. do you have have good drill to work this out? Thanks

I had one of those little procedures a couple years back so I feel your pain, literally. The best way to create the proper pivot on the backswing is to allow your right cheek (assuming you are right handed) to rotate towards the target. If you let your backside turn in this fashion, the chances of swaying or reverse pivoting are zero. When performed properly, your head should move slightly away from the target while your tush is moving to the target. Here is a good drill to feel this. Without a club, take your address position and place both palms above your knees with your arms straight. Next, allow your tush to rotate to the target keeping your arms straight. You will notice that your head moves away from the target while your tush moves to it. This is how simple the pivot should be for you during the backswing, don't make it more complicated.

Good luck with that knee and remember if you strengthen the muscles around it the knee will be under far less strain.

Doug asks at 12:00:

I'm having a terrible time with my swing path on the downswing. It seems to be too inside-out, and the result is that a "good" swing leads to a straight push, and a bad swing leads to a nasty push-slice. What can I do to fix my swing path on the downswing? I know I need to come SOMEWHAT inside-out, but I think I'm just overdoing it.

This is a common problem that many "good players" struggle with. The push-slice is perhaps the worst miss you can have from the tee as it feels awful and almost always goes out of bounds. There are several things you can do to get the path back on track and hit fairways again. First, check your address position and make sure your aren't aimed way right as this makes the problem much worse. The swing fix begins with eliminating the excessive right side tilt you have in your upper body on the downswing. While some tilt is a good thing, too much creates your issue. As you are attacking the ball, try to keep your right shoulder up or higher and moving AROUND to the target. This will make it easier for you to rotate the entire body on the downsing instead of tilting under with your right side. The result should be a stronger ball flight with some right to left shape on it.

July 21, 2009

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

Posted at 10:56 AM by Brady Riggs

Can't stop three-putting? Chipping from one side of the green to the other? Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs will be online every Tuesday at noon EST to fix your golf swing. Read this week's installment below and stayed tuned for your next opportunity to join the discussion Tuesday morning. 

Continue reading "Ask the Top 100 Live: Brady Riggs answers your swing questions" »

July 20, 2009

Even in defeat, Tom Watson won something for all of us

Posted at 5:28 PM by Carol Preisinger

The ball doesn't know how old you are, neither does the golf course or the wind. Thanks to Tom Watson, I will no longer say, "It's hell getting old." I have the pleasure of playing and working at Watson's first American design, Cassique, at the Kiawah Island Club, in South Carolina. The course is a links-style layout as timeless as Watson, and it is heavenly to play. 

The commentators keep saying that 59-year-old Watson has found the fountain of youth, but the young guns spraying the ball through the winds of Turnberry don't have the wealth of wisdom or the experience of winning that Tom Watson owns. You don't just suddenly find that stuff, it is earned over time.

For three days Tom speaks with the certainty of knowing he can win, his eyes gleam with a powerful yet calming sense of confidence, his walk is poised and his attitude is modest.  But there's a spirit in his soul. He has the the images of his 1977 win over Jack Nicklaus at the Ailsa course, and he has won this championship five times. He knows to play the ball on the ground, and keep it out of the hay. He plays one shot at a time and he can stay in the moment.

As the final round begins, Tom appears a bit tentative in the putting stroke that has kept him leading wire-to-wire.  He drops two shots in his first three holes.  "Come on Tom, You're the Comeback Kid, you never leave a putt short because you know you always make it coming back. With plenty of holes left, be patient, heaven can wait."

As Tom leaves a birdie putt just short on No. 4, Ross Fisher, up ahead on No. 5 and now leading the Open, is still trying to get out of the long grass. Once out, Fisher's third shot flies high left and the wind actually takes the ball behind him. After the fifth, Fisher is once again behind Watson, who flawlessly carries the ball onto the fifth green as if it's heaven-sent, just like Stewart Cink's shot into 18 green, and Lee Westwood's shot into 17. Cink ties Watson with a birdie at 18, and Westwood has a very makeable eagle putt on 17, but settles for birdie to go to 2-under again.

As Tom hits his second into 17, he knew immediately he hit it too far, rolling just past the hole, one foot into the thick rough. Wouldn't it be heaven if he could chip it in, like he did on 17 at Pebble Beach to win the US Open in 79? He chooses to putt, takes birdie and a one shot lead into 18.  My legs are feeling numb, my stomach churning like hell as I watch history in the making. 

Is Tom's gut churning too?  With a perfect drive into 18 fairway, seems he is on cloud nine as he strolls toward his second shot, 187 yards to the green. With the wind, an 8-iron puts him over the green, his ball sitting in the rough just off the fringe. Please God, send an angel to watch over old Tom as he putts it up the hill to the cup. He hits it too hard and it goes eight feet past. Then, out of nowhere, he is too tentative and leaves it short. What the hell?

After a four-hole playoff with Cink, the goddess of victory swooshed in and took the Claret Jug out of Watson's grasp. This will not only be the Open that Cink won, but the Open that Tom Watson almost won.  As Tom said it best, "It was a hell of a week and would have made a hell of a story." Well, it was a hell of a story, and it was heavenly.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Carol Preisinger is director of instruction at the Kiawah Island Golf Club. To learn more about Carol, visit carolpreisinger.com.

What went wrong for Tiger Woods at the British Open

Posted at 2:43 PM by Jon Tattersall

I can only imagine the letdown Tiger Woods and "Team Tiger" are feeling at the moment. Imagine his poor pilots — they probably intended a weekend golf trip of their own as they waited for Tiger to load the Claret Jug into the plane on Sunday night.

I especially feel sorry for Hank Haney, and yet envy him at the same time. He has coached Tiger during a five-year period which for most players would be a hall-of-fame career. Yet here we are wondering what went wrong because Tiger missed a cut at a major, really for the first time (missing the cut at the 2006 U.S. Open right after his father died doesn't count).

Like every other teacher and golfer in the world, I have my take on why Tiger missed the cut at Turnberry. First, here are the technical details of why I think Tiger displayed the lack of ball control during the middle of Friday's round.

Tiger's swing produces a low launch, relatively high-spin ball flight with his driver. He does this because he likes to shape the ball (probably more than any other elite player in the game). From data gathered at tournaments we know that Tiger has a downward attack angle into the ball with his driver. This downward angle of attack is 4 to 5 degrees, whereas the most efficient drivers have a positive attack angle of about 4 to 5 degrees. The physical properties that a downward angle of attack put on the ball not only lower the launch but they make the ball fly to the right of the target line. To offset this, the player must swing left of target, something Tiger doesn't do. Tiger also believes that a weak grip coupled with a lot of forearm rotation both in the backswing and the downswing is the correct way to square the clubface. When his timing is good, this method is great and we all know he can produce phenomenal results.

Enter Turnberry: An extremely difficult golf course with crosswinds and the pressure of playing in a major championship. Yes, Tiger feels pressure!

The instinct of most players playing in the wind is to move the ball back in their stance.  Moving the ball back moves the starting line of the ball to the right. This, coupled with Tiger's downward angle of attack, produces a ball flight starting a long way to the right! Tiger being Tiger, he can save the swing with his hand-and-eye coordination some of the time, but he can't save it all of the time and that's why Tiger was back in Florida this weekend. So rather than lauding Tiger and Hank's brilliant work after Tiger won another major, we are discussing what went wrong and why he is home two days early. Such is the life of a professional golfer and the teachers who dare to teach them. Don't feel sorry for us — we have the greatest job in the world!

If there is something else going on in Tiger's world only a few on the inside of his camp will ever know the true details. Tiger knows that he is not the story this week so he left quietly, telling us only that he was hungry and wanted to eat dinner.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jon Tattersall is co-founder of Golf Performance Partners in Atlanta.

July 15, 2009

Contenders and pretenders at the 2009 British Open

Posted at 3:09 PM by Brady Riggs

The British Open returns to Turnberry on Thursday, which means we'll likely see a deserving winner. This course has produced some of our greatest champions: Watson in 1977, Norman in 1986, and Price in 1994. That’s because Turnberry tests every part of a player's game. You won't see another Ben Curtis this year. And unless Tiger Woods wins, it's unlikely another American will.

The links golf you see at the British Open is a different game. American golf is mostly played in the air, while links golf is largely on the ground. You need to make adjustments to play this style golf, and for most American players one week is not enough time to prepare. The international players are familiar with British Open-style courses—many of them grew up on them—and they're more capable of hitting a variety shots. Even American Todd Hamilton, the 2004 winner, had played on the international tours, where he got his Ph.D. in links golf.

So who is lurking out there as the potential winner? Let's take a look.

The Favorite

Tiger Woods* is the overwhelming favorite to win. He's the smartest guy who's ever played and probably the best putter to play at a championship level. He's very versatile with his game so he has the flexibility that a lot of American players don't. For example, Phil Mickelson is great on a course that requires a high, soft shot, but he hasn't adapted to the British Open. Tiger's never been a one-trick pony. Plus, he knows how to play championship golf. He doesn't try to impose his will on a course; he takes what it gives him. That's a hard thing to do and it speaks to his patience and maturity.
Brady's Odds to Win: Even

*I made him a similar favorite at Bethpage, but the draw didn't work out for him. He didn't cry about it; he never will.

The Contenders

Martin Kaymer:
Golf is a game of streaks. Nothing beats playing well going into a major and last week's Scottish Open winner is hot. If you follow the European Tour at all, you always see his name up there. The British Open is the most important tournament internationally and this might be Kaymer's week.
Brady's Odds to Win: 8 to 1

Henrik Stenson: I love his game and he's proved that he's always someone to be dealt with. He won't be afraid, and I always like a guy who's good at match play.
Brady's Odds to Win: 8 to 1

Geoff Ogilvy: Until otherwise noted, Geoff is a top-5 contender in every major championship. He's proved it.
Brady's Odds to Win: 8 to 1

Angel Cabrera: At majors, he's like the guy who comes to dinner and just won't leave. He's probably as formidable as anyone out there. If he was American, he'd be a hugely popular player because he looks like he really enjoys life. I dig him, he's cool.
Brady's Odds to Win: 8 to 1

Sergio Garcia:
Regular readers know I'm not a fan, but he's obviously played well in this tournament. If Tiger ended up with a bad-weather draw, and Sergio was in the good half, then Sergio could win this tournament. But I can't envision a scenario where he beats Tiger if all things are equal.
Brady's Odds to Win: 8 to 1

Lee Westwood: I really like him. He's gotten a lot smarter and it feels like he deserves to win a major. Westwood was down and out and he resurrected his career. Golf is a difficult game in which to do that and it says a lot about his character.
Brady's Odds to Win: 10 to 1

Padraig Harrington: He just won the Irish PGA, but that's not a great barometer. He always wins that—it's like an annuity for him. If he is really getting it back, then he would be the guy after Tiger. I just think he still has some questions about his own game.
Brady's Odds to Win: 10 to 1

Anthony Kim: The British Open is a good tournament for him. He had three really good rounds at Birkdale last year, and Anthony is very smart on a golf course. He never does anything stupid, although he can get too aggressive. However, the British Open is not a bad event for an aggressive player. No one ever called Tom Watson conservative. If the course gets soft and Anthony can go birdie-hunting, look out. When he's firing on all cylinders, he can beat anyone, including Tiger.
Brady's Odds to Win: 10 to 1

Continue reading "Contenders and pretenders at the 2009 British Open" »

July 14, 2009

Don't write off Padraig Harrington at British Open

Posted at 5:15 PM by David Phillips

A lot of people are asking, "What's going on with Padraig Harrington?" Yes, the two-time defending British Open champion has not been playing up to his normal standards (which are unbelievably high). But as one of his team of coaches, I can tell you that Padraig is just fine. Last week, he won the Irish PGA Championship for the third time in a row, hopefully a good omen for this Open at Turnberry.

Truly elite players have a different way of thinking and that might be what makes them the best. Once they reach the pinnacle of winning a major, their focus changes. Instead of victory satisfying their hunger, it just increases the desire to win more. Major champions often change their games, so that they can win all of them.

This is what Padraig is doing. He clearly understands what has to be done to compete in all four majors, and he knows it may take some time.

However, the only reason for his recent poor form is his short game. Padraig won three majors because of his incredible short game, not his ball-striking. While working on swing changes, Padraig neglected his short game and as a result has not scored well. He has worked hard the past three weeks on bringing his short game back, and he is optimistic about this week's Open Championship.

Padraig says the rough at Turnberry is as tough as he has ever seen, and for a Irishman and links specialist to say that should be a warning to everyone. Padraig is a happy man right now and keep in mind that he's the youngest of the three competitive players with three major victories (Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh). Even though Padraig is not quite where he wants to be with his full swing, his short game is returning to form and nobody putts better on links courses. Don't write him off yet.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Dave Phillips is co-founder of the Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, Calif., and is one of Padraig Harrington's team of coaches.

Ask the Top 100 Teachers Live: T.J. Tomasi answers your questions

Posted at 12:02 PM by Golf.com

Can't stop three-putting? Hook won't go away? Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi will be online at noon EST to answer your questions. No matter your skill level, you'll have your swing straightened out in time for the weekend. Join the discussion by leaving a question in the comments section below.

Update: That's all, folks. If you didn't get a chance to ask T.J. a question, "Ask the Top 100 Teachers Live!" will return next Tuesday at noon EST with more swing tips and advice for you. Thanks for reading!

Chris asks at 12:56 p.m.

I'm a 6 handicap and in my backswing, I feel as though I come to 9 o'clock and then go straight up causing an upright swing. Is there a drill I could practice to get my swing flatter up top so that I stop pull hooking? Divots are going left.

During your backswing you should practice allowing your left hand and arm to rotate the clubshaft away from the target line. When you reach 9 o'clock in your backswing the butt end of your club should be pointing at the target line. This will tell you that you have rotated your front forearm correctly.

Nick asks at 12:37 p.m.

For the past years I have been hitting the ball straight. I was a 14 HC. Last December, I shattered the radius bone in my left elbow and had to have a partial replacement. This season I keep hitting the ball to the right (straight) with what I feel is the same swing path. At the moment, I am only able to rotate my left hand 45 deg (palm up). What I am doing wrong or what I should check?

I would do one of two things:

No. 1: I would switch to a fade. Have your local PGA golf professional help you with that.  It might be good for you since the fade shot shape requires an open face and you have trouble closing the face. 

No. 2: If you want to stick with the straight shot I would use clubs that are closed a degree or two to promote the draw.

Joe asks at 12:36 p.m.:

I am a 13 handicap. I have started to occassionally duck-hook drives and sometimes have a banana-ball flight (right to left) with my shorter irons. Can you help out? Thanks much.

You have the classic symptoms of arms-body imbalance. With the driver your arms are too fast and they wrap around your body causing a shut faced hook. With your irons your arms are too slow leaving the face open. You need to synch up your arms and body as you swing. Take some half swings in a mirror so that you can see where your arms are in relationship to your body.  Then lengthen out your swing until you are perfectly timed.

Bob at 12:29 p.m. asks:

TJ, I'm having trouble getting stuck in my downswing. It's frustrating because it's causing misses right and left and making it hard gain any kind of consistency. Is there a drill, or a swing-thought to help keep my arms in front of my upper body a little better?

Here is a drill that should help. Place a headcover under both arms, then make a bunch of swings in which your triceps, the muscle in the back of your arms stays connected to your chest. It will feel constricted at first, but you will get the hang of it.

Dave asks at 12:28 p.m.

Oftentimes, with my irons, I find myself clunking out ugly topped shots. At impact, I can actually SEE the ball hitting the hosel every time this happens. What am I doing wrong, and how can it be fixed so I get more consistent iron shots? Thank you.

There are a number of reasons for the topped shot, but it is most likely that you are changing your spine angle, i.e. your spine is getting too vertical and this makes the club effectively shorter causing the top. Your goal should be to take some grass with every swing and you can do this when you keep your spine angle set.

Matt asks at 12:24 p.m.:

Can you provide a drill or swing thought that will help me to start the swing with my lower body. When I do this I hit the ball great, but without a good idea of what is happening I can also start swaying through impact rather than turning.

I don't advocate starting the swing with the lower body. I think a soft rotation of your core to start the backswing is the way to go.

Dean asks at 12:23 p.m.

I have trouble with a pull-hook but when I look at the divot it's square and at the target.

Divots can fool you sometimes. You can have a perfectly square divot and hook it because you hit it on the toe of the club. Use some facetape or sunscreen on the clubface to see where you are making contact then make adjustments until you are back to the center of the face.

Tom asks at 12:22 p.m.

Hi, I have a question about the role of the right thumb and right forefinger in chipping and putting. Should pressure be applied to the thumb and right forefinger on these shots?

I don't believe so. The pressure should be uniform throughout the grip. The goal is to minimize any focus on the hands. I recommend that my students chip with their shoulders not their hands.

Emile asks at 12:22 p.m.:

I had cervical spine surgery 4 years ago that severely limits my neck rotation--only about 30 degrees in each direction so it is very hard to "keep my eye on the ball" during my backswing. My body rotation is fine. Any tips to get some yardage back?

The modern head-management protocol is to keep your head in the middle of your shoulders while you swing. If you are right-handed I would cock your head at address toward the target so it is easier to see the ball and keep your chin up to allow your front shoulder to turn under it.

Doug asks at 12:21 p.m.

I've gotten to the point where I can look down at impact and tell when I'm doing things right -- for me, that's making a slightly inside-to-out swing and hitting the inside back portion of the ball. However, no matter what I do, I can only get this to happen about 50% of the time, and the rest of the time, I am hitting some brutal slices with my driver. Are there any drills that will help me groove a good swing path? Thanks!

There are two concerns here: No. 1 is your path, which sounds good, and No. 2 is your clubface, which is only good about 50% of the time--the other 50% it is open. Here is a drill for you that will help. Take your normal address position, and drop your rear foot back about two feet so your stance is ultra closed, then flair your back foot about 45 degrees. Make sure to straighten your front leg and hit over it through impact. You will hook the hell out of it for awhile because your forearms will roll over, but it will teach you to release the face. Then go back to your normal address and fire away.

p.s. If you have back troubles, don't do this.  As a matter of fact please consult your doctor before you do this drill.

Brett asks at 12:20 p.m.

I'm a 20 handicapper who can't chip. If I could figure that out, it would cut 5 strokes from my game. For some reason I have a really hard time getting my proper distance on chips. It seems like I do a couple practice swings and they go well, then I step up to the ball and either hit it fat and leave my chip short or skull it and send it long. Is this mental or is there a drill or two that can

You should chip like you putt (assuming that you putt well) you want to swing the club through the same distance you take it back and don't use your hands. Your description sounds like the typical handsy chipper. You don't overuse your hands on the practice swing because there is nothing to hit. As soon as the hit object (the ball) is in play, you move the club with your hands. Try instead moving the club with a teeter-totter motion of your shoulders with no wrist break at all.

Henrique asks at 12:20 p.m.:

In the last couple of rounds I've had a bad case of a push, but when I try to solve it I'll end up with a pulled drive! How can I solve this bad case of pushed drives?

Your club is approaching the ball too much from the inside. To train yourself to swing down the target line, put a box (preferable an empty one) about an inch from your golf ball parallel to your target line and hit enough balls without hitting the box to train yourself to swing on the proper path.

Jake asks at 12:14 p.m.:

I'm a 5 handicap and want to know how do I adjust to my new hybrid club?

Practice. When a pattern emerges, query me again and we can talk about it.

Anthony W. asks at 12:12 p.m.:

I am having two problems that have become consistent in my swing. First I am hitting behind the ball by a few inches on every swing and pretty much with every club, when I don't hit behind the ball I usually hit the ball very high. The second problem is that I have developed a really bad hook also with every club. The ball starts down my target line but takes a hard turn to the left with the driver, hybrid and fairway woods, and with the irons it is usually a higher hook that finishes 15 to 20 yards left of my target. Any ideas or drills?

It sounds to me like you are hanging on your trailing side as you approach the golf ball. When you hit behind the ball that closes the face  causing that nasty hook. Since there are not a lot of great players that hit 2 inches behind the ball and hook it, so we better do something -- and fast!  My guess is that you have a weight-transfer problem and here is a drill that will help you get to your target side at the start of your downswing. Take your normal address position, then bring your front foot back to your rear foot, pause, and then as you start your backswing take a step and plant your foot so that your weight is on your front foot as the club comes to the ball.  You are stepping into it like the hitter does in baseball.  It will take you awhile to get the timing of when to step, but in my own swing I have found that if I start my step when my front arm is across the middle of my chest, it works out perfectly.

Jeff asks at 12:08 p.m.:

Hello T.J. I'm a 14 handicap. I have been having trouble hitting my 3-wood from the fairway. It's the only club in my bag that I don't feel comfortable hitting. I tend to hit it fat. On occasion, I will top it creating a low flying hook. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

The 3 wood is the hardest club in the bag to hit correctly. It has a big head, a long shaft and the ball sits on the ground. The tendency is to swing the 3 wood too much around you and try to hit it on the upswing in order to get the ball in the air. It's just the opposite of what you should do. Since you need a more descending blow to get the ball in the air, position the golf ball off the logo on your shirt and choke down on the grip like Anthony Kim does, at least 2 inches. If that doesn't work bag the 3-wood and get yourself a 16-degree rescue club -- this is definitely the best way to go.

Ian asks at 12:06 p.m.:

I am having a hard time releasing the club. Added into the problem, since I've been concentrating on it more, I've begun to flip my left wrist, causing more pop-ups and less distance. Any tips on getting a good release while maintaining a good left-wrist angle?
 
Forcing the release often puts so much pressure on your target wrist that it collapses. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most common is that while you are so focused on your hands trying to release the club that you forget to keep the target arm moving through impact. When the left arm stops all the forces are directed to the weakest link, i.e. your left wrist and it can no long maintain its position---and when it flips there is a dramatic increase in loft causing your pop-ups. So keep that left arm moving and let me know what the result is. If that doesn't work we have the wrong cause and I'll give you another remedy. 

Matt R. asks at 12:04 p.m.:

When I am in between clubs I use the L to L swing with great accuracy and consistency. In that, after I take my swing back to 9 o'clock I then throw my chest down to the ball and finish at 9 o'clock on my left side. Is it possible to use this swing with all my clubs?

Well first of all let's do a little work on your timeclock. Your backswing L is at 9 o'clock, your finish is at 3. And in between the two 90 degree angles, set at 9 and 3, is your core rotation. So your approach sounds pretty good to me. The only problem is that when you get to a long golf hole that requires a full powered swing with the driver, you aren't going to be able to make it happen with the 9 to 3 approach. When you need to "let the big dog hunt," just extend your time on the clock and swing your L from 11 to 1.

July 07, 2009

Ask the Top 100 Live: Brady Riggs answers your questions

Posted at 10:06 AM by Brady Riggs

Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs answered readers' swing questions in a live forum Tuesday.

Thanks to everyone for your questions and comments. I look forward to hearing from you in the coming weeks.

Thomas asks at 12:58:

I find I have two most frequent faults. Fist is a shot with 5 or 6 iron that is like a block (goes right) and second is with the driver that is starts straight but goes hard right after about 180 200 yards. Thanks for your comments

In both cases the clubface is having trouble getting square through impact. The least lofted club, the driver, will have the most negative result when this is your problem while the shortest clubs will be less affected. When you are dealing with an open clubface the fix begins with the grip. Make sure your grip is aligned properly and isn't in a weak position that will produce an open clubface. If the clubface is square, it comes down to your ability to get the club tracking on the proper path into the inside back of the golf ball with the face rotating through impact. This sounds simple enough but of course it is golf so it can be difficult and frustrating.

If you can understand that impact shouldn't be a straight line to the target with the face remaining square but should be on an arc with the face "closing" you can play great golf. If this is understood and practiced, the sky is the limit for your golf.

Sean asks at 12:54:

I was wondering how frequently you should be using your wrist action during a chip shot -- is it like darts where you snap your wrist?

You should avoid using your wrists when hitting chip shots. Good chipping is about distance control. When you involve your wrists in the stroke you add quite a bit of power, making it difficult to control how far the ball will fly and roll. Instead, your hands and wrists should be fairly passive making the stroke a more arms dominated motion. This will take out some of the poor contact you can suffer from if the wrists are too active and give you control over the distance.

Katherine asks at 12:45:

Is there a way to practice better distance control with my putting?

Yes. Here is what you should do. Start with three balls about 2 feet from the hole. The goal is to try to make the putt with the ball entering the hole at the proper speed. If you hit the putt properly, the ball shouldn't hit the dirt above the plastic on the other side of the hole, but should hit between the bottom of the cup and the back wall. This sounds specific and strange but it will really give you the feel of proper speed. Once you are consistent from 2 feet, back up a couple of feet at a time and work on the same drill of entering the hole with the proper speed. As you work further away you will really begin to feel the correct speed from greater distances. Remember that the hole is much bigger if the ball is going slower, so I would rather you die the ball into the hole than ram it into the back.

Gary asks at 12:35:

What is the correct position for the left wrist and righ hand at the top of the backswing? Thanks.

This may not be the answer you are looking for but there isn't one. There are great ballstrikers that have a bent left wrist and flatter right wrist at the top like Fred Couples, Nick Faldo and Sean O'Hair.and there are great ballstrikers that have a flat left and bent right wrist like Tiger, Parnevik, and Trevino. What does matter is the left wrist position is contributing to hitting quality shots. For example, if you are having trouble with a hook and your grip is neutral or strong, a flat left wrist at the top will make the hook more difficult to control. In this instance, a more cupped or bent left wrist at the top can make a huge difference. Conversely, if you are fighting a slice and your left wrist is bent at the top, flattening the wrist position can square the face and eliminate the weak shot to the right.

There is no perfect position for the wrists at the top. If someone tells you there is, the aren't giving you the whole picture.

Drew asks at 12:28:

I'm having lots of trouble making consistent contact with my irons. It doesn't even matter what the lie is -- I either blade the ball, or hit an ugly topper off the hosel. What am I doing wrong, and how can I fix it? Thanks!

With so little info I can't make a very educated guess. I would tell you to begin with your address position and go through your fundamentals. Start with your grip, make sure you are standing in an athletic position with your weight in the balls of your feet and your arms hanging down naturally. Then focus on staying bent over while you turn back and bent over while you turn through. Topping and hitting the hosel can come from many things but staying bent over is a good place to start.

Doug asks at 12:20:

As of my last driving range session, I'm crushing my drives, but also consistently doing one of two things: A bad hook, or a straight push to the right. Are these related, and what can I do to fix them? Thanks!

This is what I call the "good players" miss. You have discovered that if you attack on an inside path you can hit some great drives. You have also discovered that if you get too much of a good thing and the path is excessively from the inside you can hit some blocks and flip hooks. This is a very common problem to low, single digit players and professionals. The best way to work back from this issue is to hit some slight fades, trying to start the ball slightly left of the target and with a little fall to the right. This will help you get back to a more controlled draw and fix the path problem you have created.

Ian asks at 12:14:

No matter what I try, I can't seem to groove an inside/out swing path. I feel like I make a move outside when the club comes below shoulder level on the downswing. Do you have any tips, drills, or advice on trying to groove the proper swing path?

This is the single most common problem I see as an instructor. You need to attack the problem in several ways. First, in the address make sure your grip isn't weak. A weak grip will produce an open clubface position that must be compensated for with an outside-in path. It also has the effect of aligning your shoulders open, a major contributing factor to the poor path. Next, make sure your hips are turning during the backswing with NO sway. If the hips move laterally going back, it makes it more likely your path will be from the outside. Finally, you need to attack the INSIDE-BACK quadrant of the ball with the face closing during impact. This is the proper path and action the clubhead must take if you are to fix the problem.

Anton asks at 12:03:

Where should the arms/hands be at the top of the backswing? I have heard alot of conflicting advice from different coaches. Some say your arms should be level with your shoulder line, others say your arms should be higher than your shoulders parallel to your original shaft angle at address. I am totally confused????

This is one of my problems with many golf instructors. Check out the top 10 players in the world and you will see 10 different top of backswing positions. The critical location is on the downswing when the hands are just slightly lower than the shoulders. In that frame the clubshaft should be pointing at or slightly outside the ball. Regardless of the height of your arms at the top, this is where you should be coming down and what you should be working on.

One other thing to consider, if you are bigger in the chest it is almost impossible to keep your arms lower at the top of the swing. Forcing your swing into a specific "position" at the top just to look a certain way is a complete waste of your time if it doesn't get you in the proper place coming down.

Good morning! I will be answering your questions over the next hour. Keep them coming and I will try to get to all of them.

Marc asks at 12:00:

I am having trouble with maintaining my body angles in the downswing. My behind moves out towards the ball and I occasionally hit shots out the heel. I am trying to squat (increase my knee flex) a little at the start of the downswing to fix this. Is this the right approach? If not, how can I start the downswing to make sure I stay in posture and keep my behind back?

This is a very common problem, always misunderstood and fairly easy to fix if you understand the sequence. Unfortunately, squatting won't help. The fix here begins in the set-up. When the tush is coming in towards the ball during the swing, the weight is moving from the heels to the toes. The natural instinct is to try to move even more weight in the heels to keep your tush back but this only makes the problem worse. Start with the weight more in the toes in the set-up and try to turn your weight into your right heel going back and then your left heel going through.


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