Archive: March 2010

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March 30, 2010

Ask the Top 100 Live: Brady Riggs is here to fix your game

Posted at 10:55 AM by Brady Riggs

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs was online Tuesday to answer your questions and analyze your swing videos. If you have a question for Brady, he'll be back next Tuesday at noon EST for a new Ask The Top 100 Live!

Thanks to everyone for the questions and videos. Sorry I didn't get to everyone, please ask again next week and get them in early! I am off to the lesson tee. Have a great week.

Jeremy Tomsick asks at 1:00:

Please help me win my club championship and make it to the match play in my state am! Help!

Thanks for the videos! I wish I knew a bit more about what the ball-flight issues were, which clubs you were struggling with and some more specifics but I will give it a shot. The video is a bit rough, but it appears that there are a couple of address issues and a problem with the shape of your backswing. It looks like your grip is a bit weak in the left hand causing the clubface to be open at the top of the backswing. This could lead to a weak, right-leaning ball flight if the swing gets fast or tight or a hook if your hands try to make up for the open clubface at impact. If you strengthened your left hand you could sync up the release better and gain some consistency.

The second issue is a bit more technical and will take more time to adjust. Your hands work away from you in the takeaway, forcing the clubshaft to become overly flat during the backswing. This causes the shaft to steepen in the transition, making it difficult to attack the ball on the proper path. This can be caused by the desire to adjust for the open clubface position and get the ball starting more left, but in either case it should be adjusted. Here are some pictures of the proper shape of the backswing vs the downswing. If you could send me some more info I will try to be more specific. 




John Suess asks at 12:50:

I started using the Stack and Tilt this winter in our golf dome here in Milwaukee. I was very surprised at how much I must move laterally after using this technique. 

During my first round I hit a few fat shots. I also had a severe downhill lie. I was wondering what caused the fat shots and how does one employ the Stack and Tilt on odd lies?

I will get my normal flaming for this in the Stack and Tilt world, but I can't stand the method. If you choose to proceed with it I would have you ask someone else this question. Just look at Mike Weir as an example of why you wouldn't want to continue with that method. Now that he is back with Mike Wilson I expect big things from him. Mike is an excellent teacher and a quality guy, he will help him get back on track.

Matthew Dougherty asks at 12:30:

I have a question about stance.

How far apart should the feet be with short-irons, mid-irons, long-irons, and Woods.

Also, is ball position dependent on the person, or is there a good starting position for ball position?

Finally, what is a good method to make sure the body is lined up parallel to the target line. I usually pick out an intermediate target a couple feet in front of the ball to line my clubface up with, but i find it hard to get my body aligned with this.

Let's start with the ball position. The width of your stance will vary slightly with the irons, getting a bit wider as they get longer. This traditional widening of the stance isn't mandatory, with some younger players staying fairly narrow with all the shots played from the ground. However, I would recommend you let your feet spread out a bit with the increasing length.

Ball position is another issue. The ball should always be played just before the bottom of the arc. This may give you the impression that you can move the ball back if you are hitting it fat, that would be very incorrect. The bottom of the arc is where the left arm and clubshaft are perpendicular to the ground, this happens right under your left armpit, making the proper ball position for a right handed player under your left chest when the ball is on the ground. This is true from wedge to 3-wood. While it seems the ball moves farther forward as the clubs get longer, the right foot is just widening giving the illusion of a floating ball position. With that said, it is obvious that different ball flights require different ball positions so this isn't the spot 100 percent of the time. Finally, some players with wider upper bodies have more success playing the ball farther back in the stance, so use this information as a good reference but don't be afraid to experiment a bit.

There are countless ways to work on your alignment. The intermediate target you referenced works well, as does practicing with clubs or sticks down to constantly check the lines. I can tell you that I naturally aim to the right of the target and have had that tendency for 30 years. I have fixed this problem in my game by setting up comfortably which I know is slightly right of the target and the opening my stance slightly before I swing. This has been the easiest way for me to get square.

Brendan "Lefty" asks 12:30:

Love the blog and the redgoat site. I have been focusing a lot on my weight shift in the swing and maintaining the tush line.

I am having a difficult time feeling the weight transfer during the swing. On the backswing, I feel as if I can only shift all of my weight to the back heel by moving my head or angling my shoulders away from the target.

Then on the downswing, when I focus on maintaining my tush line I feel like the weight never gets off my back heel. I am having trouble making an aggressive weight shift without moving toward my toes or laterally shifting my hips.

You don't want to move all of your weight into your back heel during the backswing, just some of it. Allowing your head to move laterally and angling your shoulders away from the target are both positive steps to building a good golf swing. Laterally shifting your hips on the downswing is a must, and it must be done before the backswing has been completed. If the weight moves parallel to the target line and not into your toes, you should be able to get the bottom of the swing positioned properly in front of the ball. The best way to feel the shift is to make some throws with a ball stepping toward the target. You can do this from a golf set up position to help you transfer the feel back to your swing.

TJ asks at 12:15:

Isn't the tush line basically maintaining your posture (knee flex and spine angle)?

That is part of the puzzle, sure. However, I can show you countless Tour players who change their knee flex and spine angle during the swing but still maintain the tush line. I can also show you amateurs that maintain their knee flex and lose the line. The fact is that maintaining the line has to do with knee flex, spine angle, posture, distance from the ball, and most importantly the movement of weight during the swing. If the setup is good and the player understands how the weight should be working, they will maintain the line and hit the ball more consistently.

Jeff asked at 12:00:

Is the left wrist flat or bowed throughout impact and well into the follow-thru? I'm just trying to determine correct and incorrect positions of the hands.

This has been an ongoing debate for some time. The fact is there are many variables that determine the position of the left wrist at impact and into the follow through. These include the relative strength/weakness of the grip, the desired shape and height of the shot being hit, and the length of the swing being taken. For example, if the grip is strong like John Daly, a bowed left wrist at impact will produce a huge hook. If the grip is weaker, the left wrist should be flatter at impact, possibly even bowed, to get the clubface into a square position. I have included a 4 picture sequence of left wrist positions that are bent and a 4 picture sequence with the wrist flat or bowed.

BENT (Vijay, Sergio, Goosen, Daly):


FLAT (Villegas, Byrd, Annika, Allenby):


March 23, 2010

Suttie: Woods can't win Masters after 5-month layoff

Posted at 9:44 AM by Jim Suttie, Ph.D.

Tiger-Woods-Jim-Suttie-Masters Tiger Woods will finish in the top 10 at the Masters, but he won't contend for the title. It would be too much for even Woods to return after a five-month layoff and play at peak form on the world's fastest greens under the most intense pressure. Woods just won't be tuned into the competitive mindset that a Tour player needs to win. You can only get that  through playing in tournaments. He needed to play at least once before Augusta.

Here's where Woods's game stands going into the Masters...

Driving: This has always been the weakest part of his game. But because Augusta has such wide fairways, spraying the driver won't hurt Woods. He can hit it all over the place and still do well.

Irons: Woods has always been very precise with long and short irons. After weeks of practice, he'll be tuned up enough to shoot for the subsections of Augusta's greens. This will be a big strength.

Putting: It's the strongest part of his game. Woods is the best putter on Tour. But putting will be Woods's nemesis at Augusta. The only way to make putts under pressure is to be used to doing it. At the Masters, he will have doubts on the greens. He hasn't seen a putt that matters in a long time, and he won't be able to cultivate that confidence overnight.

Short Game: Woods should be about the same as always with his chipping and pitching, meaning he'll be superb. It's easier to retain and rejuvenate your short game than your putting. Chips and pitches involve a quicker, less stressful action than putts, so these shots aren't as prone to yips and mental gaffes.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie, Ph.D., coaches the men's golf team at Florida Gulf Coast University and teaches at the Club at TwinEagles in Naples, Fla.

Ask the Top 100 LIVE: Brady Riggs is here to fix your game

Posted at 9:08 AM by Brady Riggs

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs was online today from noon to 1 p.m. to answer your questions and analyze your swing videos. If you missed Brady, come back next Tuesday at noon EST for another edition of Ask the Top 100 Live!

Thanks to everyone for your questions and especially the videos. I hope everyone enjoyed the blog and learns from the pictures I put up. If I didn't get to your issue please ask again next week, I'm off to the lesson tee. Special thanks to Mark, Fred and everyone at JC Video for their great software and support. Have a great week!

Jack asks at 1:50:

I have been trying to achieve the positions you describe in the 'classic swing' on (very helpful explanations!) I still struggle with the tush line and also keeping my hip from sliding away from the target in the backswing. Any suggestions to what is the root cause?

Vatin asks at 1:37:

Is the lag a result of a correct body movement or is it more of an arm/wrist control kinda thing? I've been trying all kinds of moves for years to get the proper lag but it still eludes me.

That is a great question. The answer is both. The arms and hands have to be soft while the body changes direction to create the lag you are seeking. If the hands and arms "try" too much, especially if they attempt to "hold" the angle, you have no chance whatsoever. The body must always move before the hands and arms to create the whip-like action that lag is. If you think of snapping a towel or cracking a whip you can imagine the sequence that must take place. It is critical that you keep your arms, wrists, and hands soft to achieve success.

Brian Fox asks at 1:20:

Any tips for how I can fix my lower body movie forward so much on the down swing and also stop casting the club? I've been told it hurts my power and leads to fat shots.

Alex asks at 1:00:

I have always been told that with the grip for a right-handed player, the top two knuckles of your left hands hould aim at the target and when griping the club your right hand should basically have your right palm facing up. This seems to a be a really strong grip. Is this the way to a proper grip?

I am not a big fan of using the knuckles as a reference point. The basic idea is that your hands get on the club in a position that gets the clubface relatively square during the swing. Some great players play with a grip that is slightly weak, more play with a grip that is slightly strong, most play with a grip that is neutral. Here is a picture of a very good grip and some points of interest to help you get your hands on the club better.


Eh asks at 12:45:

Brady, I have a problem with coming over the top at times, mostly with the driver. Lately it's resulted in a hook, rather than a pull-fade. Can you offer any good drills to correct this? My swing thought that seems to work is to exaggerate having my right shoulder (I'm right-handed) move down and under, rather than out and around.

That is a swing thought that can work. The one thing I would love for you to understand is that the club doesn't attack the ball from directly behind it, but from inside it. In other words, the club should work toward the INSIDE-BACK of the ball and not the back of the ball. If you focus on getting the club to track properly, the right shoulder will do exactly what you are describing without having to focus on it. As a rule, you are always better off thinking about the direction the club should be taking instead of a specific body part.

Scotty asks at 12:30:

I'm having a lot of trouble understanding when to start the transition from backswing to downswing. Is there a movement or position that I should key on to know when to start coming forward? I have a late wrist hinge and have been waiting until I feel my wrist really start to hinge fully before coming forward. This is somewhere after my right elbow folds and my shoulder turn is almost complete. I'm not sure if this is correct or if I should start coming forward sooner, say just as the right elbow begins to fold on the backswing. This is screwing everything up as I'm waiting for a "feeling" to know when to go forward.

Thanks so much for your help.

When you start the downswing is very personal. It has to do with your athletic ability, body type, and personality style. The important thing is that your weight move towards the target before your arms and club come down. The best way for you to get the sequence down is to actually throw a ball. This will help you feel the "when" of the downswing so you can stop focusing on the pieces. You need to get your mind out of your elbows, shoulders, and especially your hinge, if you are going to be a consistent ball-striker.

SJ asks at 12:15:

Brady... What things should I be working on... here is my video.

JJ asks at 12:00:

Here are a couple of videos..... and some things that I see.

On the backswing.. my arms seem to go away from my body at the beginning rather than straight back. I also have to much armlift at the top of the backswing. What is your analysis and how do I fix these things?

On the downswing.... I notice when the club is parallel to the ground the clubhead is behind my hands (too far inside). How do I fix this and do you have any other thoughts.

One last question, I have one of these tac-tic things to keep the wrist flat, the only training aid I ever had. What do you think of these?

Hopefully the camera angles aren't too bad!!

Thanks for the videos, JJ. I agree that your arms move away from your body in the takeaway forcing them up at the top. The fact that your clubhead is behind or inside your hands when you are at parallel to the ground on the downswing is a good thing. This is the result of a very important and effective re-route of your club at the top of the swing. The position you achieve coming down is quite good, despite the unorthodox takeaway and backswing positions.

This is one of those times as a teacher when you can fix something that is obviously unusual and most likely make the student worse. I see no reason at this point to change your backswing dramatically because it does what a good backswing should do, set up an on-plane downswing. There is no question we could make it look more normal, but I don't see where the results would improve.

Here is where I think you could get better. You don't come close to maintaining your "tush line" during the swing. If you have read the blog at all over the past few months you know this is one of the elements of the swing I am particular about. If you draw a line perpendicular down on the back of your tush and one horizontal above the top of your head you will see how much your posture has changed during the swing. While you stand up and get closer to the ball with your lower body during the swing, the vast majority of Tour players are more bent over and the same distance from the ball with their lower body at impact. This fault will make you inconsistent, make it difficult to his short irons crisp, and make it nearly impossible to hit a fairway metal solid.

To fix this you need to get your knees bent over your toes and start with the weight out of your heel and in the balls of your feet. This will enable you to move weight into your LEFT heel going back (as you are left handed) and into your right heel going through. Ironically, this will make the takeaway and backswing look more neutral. Check out the pictures below to help you see the difference. 


March 17, 2010

Ask the Top 100 LIVE: Brady Riggs is here to fix your game

Posted at 10:43 AM by Brady Riggs

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs was online today at noon EST to help you with your game. If you missed him, Brady will be back on next week to help you with your game.

Thanks to everyone for your participation this week, especially to those of you submitting videos. Let's keep them coming next week.

Andrea asks at 1:05:

What is one drill I can use to help me keep my head down during the swing. I seem to be raising up to create space.

Here's the link to my swing video (I hope it works):

I've been working on rotating my hips to start the downswing but I can't test my game yet (snow).


Your head is moving because your body is changing its posture during the swing. It isn't the cause of the problem. If you look at where your tush is at address and where it is at impact you will see a big movement toward the ball. This makes your spine become more upright through impact and as a result your head moves. The improvement to your golf swing, which I think is quite good, will come when you improve your ability to maintain contact with the line during the swing. Trying to sit back in your heels in address will only make the problem worse. You need to get your legs and tush feeling as if they are farther from the ball at impact than address. I have included a set up and impact of Anthony Kim to show you where you should be. 


Adam asks at 1:00:

What is the one quick tip or drill that will help me keep my right elbow (I'm right-handed) close to my side on the downswing, to avoid casting the club and pulling the ball or put too much slice spin on it? Thanks .

Focus on hitting the inside-back of the ball and not the back of it. When your eyes are on that part of the ball and you are attacking in that direction, your right elbow will stay close to your body and the over-the-top/casting move will be gone. It may seem too simple, but if your clubface is square and not open it will change your game.

Dan asks at 12:50:

Good afternoon. I have a problem spinning my hips out too early. (I guess trying to start down with the lower body.) I really struggle feeling that bump while staying over the ball. When this happens I feel like I'm cutting across the ball and the club and my arms swing to the left with an open clubface. I lose about 10-15 yards and the ball flutters to the right of the target line. I have tried working on the L-drill for releasing the club and "throwing" my right side (arm, tricep, knee, you name it) toward the target. Nothing sticks for more than a range session. At times, to overcompensate, I end up moving too much laterally, and all sorts of things happen. Hide the women and children! Please help.

A good way to kill the spin out and prevent the slide is to focus on your left leg during the downswing. You want to feel the left quad or thigh "engaged" late into the downswing. This stops the spin from happening entirely because your weight is more over the ball of the left foot later in the downswing. Getting the weight into the ball of the foot also keeps you from letting it get to the outside of the foot, a natural consequence of a slide. One thing to keep in mind is that the weight should be moving into the heel of the left foot at impact as the left leg is straightening out. The later this happens the more dynamic and explosive your motion will become.

Lem asks at 12:30:

I am having trouble getting my arms stuck behind me on my downswing, coming at the ball too far from the inside with an open clubface. Any advice on how to remedy this problem? Thanks in advance.

First, let me say that it is extremely difficult to get your arms stuck behind you on the downswing. More often than not the problem of attacking excessively from the inside comes from either getting the club too far across the line at the top of the swing and/or allowing your legs to crash in toward the ball on the downswing. Yes, they can both happen in the same swing and if they do, you will hit some miserable shots.

You need to work on both of these elements to help you get the club attacking on the proper path coming down. I have included a couple of pictures to help you see the idea.



Jan Lernfelt asks at 12:15:

Hi, Mr Riggs! You answered my question two weeks ago, regarding the shift of my plane at the top of the backswing. You said it was because of me tilting forward over the ball in the backswing thus creating a even less shallow plane than before.

I've filmed a new video, which I think looks a lot better. The only thing I tend to do now is that I "over-rotate" in the finish, with my right shoulder ultimately facing the target line in the end. So first, do you think my backswing and turn looks better than last time? And second, what do you think is the reason for me overturning in the finish? I have a rather high finish, do you think it has something to do with that? Or is it because I tend to have my motion turning to the left through the ball rather than "chasing" after it towards the target line with the knees and arms/hands after impact as I've heard is the way to go?

I should add that this shot was hit with about 70% power to ensure I get all the mechanics right.

G asks at 12:00:

I'm pushing everything...generally it's a push with the irons and a push slice with the driver. I've tried checking my alignment and opening up, exaggerating the release, rotating the hips more aggressively through impact...nothing seems to help.

That sounds miserable, G. This is a problem many good players deal with at one time during their career. If you have checked your grip to make sure it isn't too weak and have the clubface relatively square during your swing the issue is in how your body is behaving through impact.

When you mention that you have tried to open up at address and rotate your hips more aggressively through impact, these are the exact opposite fixes you need to be exploring. The deal is this, when your body is rotating quickly through impact, your clubface will rotate slowly, and vice versa. Despite the fact that you have tried to exaggerate the release, your hands can't save the block or block-slice if your body is spinning too quickly.

The best thing for you to work on at this point is keeping your body more facing the ball at impact so your arms and club can pass. This will feel very passive to you, but it will give the club a chance to square up, something it can't do if the body is overactive.

March 16, 2010

Tiger Woods will be favorite to win the Masters

Posted at 4:38 PM by Brady Riggs

Johnny Miller said last week that Tiger Woods needed to play a warm-up tournament like Bay Hill to have a chance at winning the Masters. Well, Johnny never won the Masters, so maybe he doesn't know everything.

Just kidding, Johnny. I never won the Masters either (sigh!), but Augusta National is the best place for Woods to return and he'll be the favorite even in his first event back. Why? Because Woods is by far the best player in the world. As the Tour has proved this year with its winner of the week, we have a lot of really good players who are very close to each other and then we have Woods, the only player who can win when he doesn't have his best game. Phil Mickelson is probably the closest to Woods and Mickelson's not within a light year of him.

Remember, this isn't an injury comeback. Woods should feel fine physically and, according to the guys on Tour who've seen him at the range, he's hitting the ball well. For an elite athlete in a time of personal crisis, your sport is the one place where you're totally comfortable. For any of us, the first tee at Augusta National would be a terrifying place, but for Woods it's comforting. Playing will  be like therapy for him. He needs to get back into his rhythm of preparing, working out and competing. That's how he's going to get his life back to normal.

The Augusta National course itself is ideal for his return because he's had so much success here and because it's not as taxing off the tee as a U.S. Open track. At Augusta National, Woods can afford to make a few mistakes and take advantage of his length in a way he couldn't do at a U.S. Open. If he was going to return at a major, Augusta makes the most sense.

The one thing I'll be watching for is Woods's distance control with his irons. If you're not playing much and not traveling to different courses, your distance control can get erratic. Anyone can hit full 7-irons on the range, but how often do you get that shot on the course? Maybe one out of every four shots. Usually, you're dealing with those "tweeners." If Woods is out of practice, that's the one thing that will hurt him because Augusta National is a second-shot golf course. You need to control your yardages there to make birdies because you're not going to make 40-foot putts on those greens. Woods didn't three-putt once when he won here in 1997 because his distance control with his irons was otherworldly.

Woods will still hold the psychological edge that made him so tough to beat. The guy has been so strong mentally for so many year that it's hard to imagine he'll just all of a sudden start making mental mistakes. Plus, I think he's going to find some extra motivation in his recent troubles. Y.E. Yang beat Woods last year in a gutsy performance at the PGA Championship, but that red shirt on Sunday will still intimidate a lot of guys.

It's sure going to be fun.

Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs is the director of instruction at Woodley Lakes Golf Club in Van Nuys, Calif. He also hosts the Ask the Top 100 Live instruction chat on

March 15, 2010

The Big Play: The grip secret for Els' high and soft bunker shots

Posted at 6:12 PM by Mike Walker

Ernie-els-sand-doral By Top 100 Teacher Craig Shankland

Who: Ernie Els
What: 36-foot bunker shot to two inches from the hole
Where: 175-yard par-3 15th hole at Doral's Blue Monster, Miami
When: Final round of the CA Championship

Ernie Els could've lost the CA Championship if he hadn't hit a perfect sand shot at 15 on Sunday. Els led playing partner Charl Schwartzel by one stroke, and Schwartzel had just stiffed a shot from the same bunker in which Els' ball was sitting. No surprise, though, that Els stuck it close; he's one of the Tour's best bunker players. This season, Els ranks 11th on Tour in bunker play, getting the sand save 64.52 percent of the time.

Els is so good in the sand because his swing is so smooth. There's no violence in his action, so his sand wedge glides through the sand. Ernie also doesn't shorten his swing in traps. He takes a full swing on short bunker shots, and after opening his clubface he lets the wedge do the work of slipping under the ball and lofting it high and soft.

The Tip: To play short greenside bunker shots, try gripping the club with the thumb of your upper hand pointing directly down the middle of the grip. Be sure your thumb is not angled even a little bit over to one side of the grip. At address, you should look down and see just one knuckle–the forefinger's–on the lead hand. This grip, which I call an "alternate" grip, weakens your normal grip just enough to assure that the clubface will be a bit open at impact. You should take a full swing, and the open clubface will propel the ball so it has a high and soft trajectory.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Craig Shankland teaches at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla.

(Photo: David Walberg/SI)

March 09, 2010

Ask the Top 100 LIVE: Brady Riggs is ready to fix your swing

Posted at 11:21 AM by Brady Riggs

Thanks to everyone for the questions. We will see all of you next week.

Jeff asks at 1:00: Is there a difference between coil and pivot? Please explain what a proper pivot is. Does a swing with an upright motion have a different pivot than a flatter swing? Love the blog.

Very cool question Jeff. I will give you my definition of the two and see if that helps explain things. Coil is how your body "twists" against itself on the backswing. This is done differently by different players based upon flexibility, body type and most often pure preference. For example, Ricky Fowler uses his whole body to coil on the backswing, hips, knees, back and shoulders are all playing a very active role. In his case, he coils more against his feet than anything else. Camillo coils his upper body against his lower body. His hips turn very little going back making his back and shoulders do all the turning. Most older players, thicker players, and less flexible players use Fowler's style, many younger more flexible players use a form of Camillo's, but neither is more correct.

Pivot on the other hand is the sequence of motion your body takes during the swing. It combines the "coil" or turn with the movement of weight across the feet from the very first movement of the swing until the follow through is complete. Pivot styles vary as well, with some players moving more laterally and some sequencing at different times but all can be effective. Think of the difference in sequence between a slow, smooth swinger like Couples vs a very fast one like Tommy Armour III.

To answer your last question No, the pivot of a more upright swing isn't necessarily different than that of a flatter one.

Mike asks at 12:40: I've come to realize that I hit the ground before the ball, sometimes as much as a few inches behind the ball. Anything I can work on to fix this?

There can be any number of reasons for this issue Mike, but I will give you the most common fix. First, get the ball forward in your stance. Yes, I said forward. Most people that struggle with hitting the ground first have the ball too far back in the stance to begin with, making it impossible to move the body properly during the swing. The next thing to understand is that the bottom of your swing (where the club hits the ground) is under your left pec. To hit an iron properly the pec must be closer to the target at impact than it was at address and slightly in front of the ball. This requires the weight to be on top of the left foot at when you make contact. The shift of weight to the forward foot should be what triggers the downswing. This is the same action as throwing a ball or hitting a pitch and should feel like an athletic motion to you. A great practice drill is to take your normal address position and then move your body into its proper impact location while the club is still behind the ball. This will give you a feel and a visual of just how far forward you need to be at impact. Here is a picture with some lines on it showing you the ball position at address and the correct amount of movement needed during the swing. 


Jason Jeschke asks at 12:30: I am playing to about an 8 handicap right now and striking my irons very well...a problem i am having is with my driver. I have to line up the ball on the driver towards the heel to avoid hitting it off the toe of the club. I dont know why this is, do you have any suggestions...

This usually happens when the downswing is excessively steep. Think of it this way, impact is three dimensional. The club should be traveling forward, down, and also OUT when it strikes the ball. If you get too much of one early in the downswing you can't have it at impact. In the case of hitting the toe, the OUT has occurred in the beginning of the downswing leaving you with no OUT at impact. This keeps the club from working on the proper path as it approaches the ball and the club can't get to a position where you can strike the sweet spot. This is why the toe keeps being contacted regardless of where you start the club. I would rather you start the ball towards the toe with the driver and encourage the club to work away from you during impact, rather than starting towards the heel and having it work closer. Check out the previous two questions and answers as they both relate to getting the club on the proper path.

John asks at 12:15: I've been playing golf for ten years, 6 handicap with strong grip. I've always have a steep angle with my irons n wedge and as a result the divot is big. How do i make adjustments to shallow out the swing with irons.

Thanks for the question John. If you look at the answer I just gave to the previous question it applies perfectly to you. The combination of a proper turn and a good idea about how the club works into impact will shallow you out. You have a specific type of swing that I call a "shut face" holder. Shut face because the grip is strong and holding because you are so steep. Shallowing out your path will certainly fix the divot issue, but it could also lead to an excessive amount of hook. If that happens, the time to weaken the grip slightly has come.

Brian asks at 11:42: Brady, Any tips for a 6'3" 170lb hitting a draw? I find it more difficult to swing "around" my body vs my shorter pals who seem to do it more naturally.

Bob Tway had a great line about taller players and the challenge they face playing the game when he said you have more angles to maintain than shorter players. What he meant was that the forward lean at address and knee flex where more severe than that of a shorter player and thus more challenging to keep together.

With that said I am not a big fan of excuses, especially since you aren't 6' 7". Hitting a draw is the same regardless of your height, it is all about the path the club takes on the downswing and the release of the clubhead through impact. The most common mistake when trying to hit the draw is taking the club back excessively inside thinking that will make the downswing easier. What this usually accomplishes is the opposite effect and the downswing becomes steep and over the top.

Assuming your grip is solid and not too weak, I would have you focus on two things during the swing. First, your hips should turn sharply on the backswing with no slide away from the target. This will help the arms and upper body achieve a position at the top that is far enough behind you. Second, you need to understand and embrace the idea that the club doesn't attack the back of the ball, but the INSIDE back of the ball. This can be the revelation that takes you to the next level as a player. Check out the picture below to help you get the idea.


March 08, 2010

The Big Play: Develop lag to hit solid iron shots like Villegas

Posted at 12:23 PM by Jim Suttie, Ph.D.

Villegas-big-play Who: Camilo Villegas
What: 207-yard approach from the rough to five feet for a birdie
When: Final round of the Honda Classic
Where: 508-yard, par-4 10th Hole at PGA National

Camilo Villegas demonstrates classic traits that are common to all great iron players, and he's a great player to watch if you need to improve your iron play.

Villegas generates a ton of lag in the downswing, and he sustains that lag for an extraordinarily long time. At impact, his hands are well ahead of the clubhead, which means he traps (or squeezes) the ball into the turf. Villegas also has a very steep angle of attack, created in part by his huge lag, and that angle leads to solid and powerful hits.

Hitting solid irons requires lag, which involves keeping the clubhead well behind your hands during both the downswing and at impact. Most amateurs have little or no lag at impact, while all good players have lots of lag.

Here’s a good drill to develop lag in your swing.

Draw a straight line on the turf that goes from under the ball to your left heel. (The ball should be positioned inside your left heel with most iron shots.) Two inches closer to the target, draw a second line that’s parallel to and the same length as the first line. With a good player, the divot on an iron will begin at the second line, ahead of the ball. A poor player will have his line start at, or even behind, the ball. If you generate lag, your swing arc will be steep and the bottom of the arc will actually be a little ahead of the ball.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie teaches at the Club at TwinEagles in Naples, Fla.

Photo: David Walberg/SI

March 02, 2010

Big Play: Stay rock solid on clutch putts like Hunter Mahan

Posted at 10:38 AM by Eric Johnson

Who: Hunter MahanHunter_mahan_putt
What: 14-foot birdie putt
Where: 162-yard par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale
When: Final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open

Everybody on Tour hits a lot of solid shots, but the guy who wins is usually the guy who makes not only crucial putts, but also the most putts. Hunter Mahan won in Scottsdale, Ariz., because he made all of his crucial putts and a ton of others. From within 10 feet, Mahan was 65 of 67 for the week.

Mahan was so darn steady and still over the putts. His head didn’t move a bit and his eyes were eerily calm. He kept his eyes down over where the ball was well after impact. That’s the opposite of what I see in most amateurs when they putt. They get so nervous that all they think about is whether they’ll make it, and they forget about the only thing they should think about: how to execute the stroke. Because they’re worried about making the putt, people tend to shake and move their bodies a lot and lift up their heads to follow the ball, all of which usually makes them miss the putts.

Here’s a simple but effective way to practice staying rock-solid steady on pressure putts. Stand 15 feet from the hole and think only about executing the putt, not whether the ball goes into the hole. After impact, keep your eyes focused on the spot where the ball was sitting for a couple of seconds, until the ball is at least eight to 10 feet away. Be sure to take this practice regimen to the course and do the same thing while playing.

Eric Johnson is director of instruction at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa.

(Photo: AP)

March 01, 2010

Ask the Top 100 LIVE: Brady Riggs helps you reach the next level

Posted at 3:45 PM by Brady Riggs

Thanks to everyone for your participation in the blog today. See everyone next week!

Philip Nielson asks at 1:20:

I have become fascinated with golf. Am I very good, not yet. But I would love to have a job as an instructor. What are the steps and who do I contact to achieve my goal? How was your process of becoming an instructor? I love the game and am intrigued in learning various concepts of the game.

Philip, it's a long process. If you love the game and think you would like to teach I have a couple things to recommend. First, find out who the best and busiest teacher is in your area and ask him/her if you can watch a few golf lessons. Most teachers will try to help providing you stay out of the way. If you do this with several different instructors you will get an idea what it is all about. 

If you want to continue you should go online and look at the PGA of America's program about becoming a member. While there are other organizations that will "teach" you how to teach, the PGA is still the best by far. Credibility is a big deal in this business and the PGA logo goes a long way in providing it.

When it comes to learning about different philosophies, theories, approaches, etc., you can find everything online. Start by researching the Top 100 teachers and their ideas, it will take you a long way.

Lance asks at 12:54:

I seem to have difficulty getting warmed-up and loose prior to my lessons or a practice session. When I play, I have a hard time loosening up during my warm-up session prior to playing.

What warm-up routine(s) do you recommend for when you first get to the driving range prior to a lesson or practice session? How at all does this differ from the warm-up session prior to playing?

I went over the basic idea of warm-up earlier in this blog today. I would also add that start your stretching from your neck and work down to your lower leg. This is an excellent way to make sure you don't miss anything along the way. It is also a great idea to make practice swings from both the right and left sides. This helps you stretch both sides of your upper body equally and can prevent an imbalance in your body.

Ryan asks at 12:50:

What is a good drill thats help you get to your left side, but, with out sliding your hips and/or getting the upper body ahead of the ball?

I have discussed the step drill in this blog before and while I am not a big fan of drills in general, this one seems particularly effective. Start with your normal address position, move your front foot next to your back foot. Start the swing and before you reach the top step with your front foot towards the target. This will help you feel the proper sequence of motion without getting your upper body in front of the ball.

JJ asks at 12:45:

Brady.... I think one of the posts last week talked about eye dominance. I am left handed and left eye dominant. Last year I noticed I was missing longer putts way left. I started picking out a mark 3 feet in front of the ball to aim at and that helped, but I'm sure there is something better I can do?? Does this affect the full swing much?

You can aim a bit more right when putting from long range. This will help you see the line much better and improve not only your direction but your distance control as well. It can have an effect on your full swing. I went over the differences in detail last week. You can check those out on the previous blog but I would always recommend sending in your swing so I can have a look and give you some specific advice.

Jan lernfelt asks at 12:20:

Working on my fundamentals during the winter and had a little video-session. I hit the ball solid but there are two things that keep nagging me and I don't know how to fix them.

First, as I get past the half-swing, my head does this little tilt, no matter how hard I try to get it still.. it's difficult to see from this angle but it's almost like I get a little reverse pivot motion without the C-look of my spine.. minor thing but it annoys me... the other thing is worse.. no matter how hard I try I change plane when I get to the top of the backswing.. I think my backswing is great but at the top I kinda "shift" and goes above plane causing me to come down on the ball from the outside (even if it's only by a little).. Any thoughts on this?

You mentioned the tilt with your head, which is normal, but I am more concerned with the fact that your head move out over the ball during the backswing. This is significant because your arms and club will follow the momentum of your head as you begin the downswing, causing the slight shift in your plane that you mention. Most tour players change the vertical position of their head during the swing and not the horizontal. In other words, going down and up isn't as big a deal as going out and in. The fall of your head over the ball during your backswing is the cause of your plane shift making it the priority in improving your ball striking.

I agree that your backswing looks good when it comes to your hands, arms and club positions. Getting your head to "feel" like it is moving back away from the ball is the best way to begin improving your issue. As a result, your weigh will move back into the right heel a bit more than it currently is forcing your arms and turn to be more "deep" at the top of the swing. This will encourage the club to start down on a more shallow plane than you are currently swinging on. 

Here is a picture of AK dropping down and not falling over. 


Ben asks at 12:10:

First, congrats to your student Ben Fox making the cut. I know he probably wanted more out of the weekend but he aquited himself well. Second, I've sent you a few videos, one on the range, to jog your memory 80's swing with a Nicklaus finish, backs a little bent on the follow through. After considering my current game and coming up with goals, I'd like to be scratch. Currently I fluctuate between 2.5 and 3.5. I play lots of courses and always play the tips. They are usually in the 72-74 course and 125-140 slope range and I'm not that consistent. Avg round is 79 with the range from 72-87. So its kind all over the map. Looking at the stats though, I hit 50 percent of the fairways/greens and have 34 putts. Don't seem to get up and down all that often. Less than a 3rd of the time. I think I need work on the short game and putting, but I know thats a factor of where I miss and where I am on the green so would you think I need to spend more time on the chipping and putting or correcting my swing and getting that more consistent? I feel like I'm pretty creative with shots around the green and can pull off some pretty good shots but I can't seem to do the simple standard chip very well, or a standard bunker shot. I know thats a lot I just thought you would need some background for analysis.

Thanks for the kind words about Ben. It was a good week, could have been better but that's what learning is all about. 

I think you are right on about the basic shots around the green. Hitting the spectacular shot around the green is fun and can impress your friends but the fact is it doesn't happen very often in a round of golf and won't significantly improve your score. It is the basic shot you must be fantastic at if you want to improve your up and down percentage. Let me give you an example. Anthony Kim grew up in my neck of the woods and I watched him play a great deal of golf as a kid. One of the things about AK is that he could hit any shot you put in front of him but, the easy shots were ridiculously good. If he was just off the edge of the green with a good lie you expected him to either make it or have it almost go in. Ben on the other hand can also hit the amazing shots around the green, but it is the simple shots that he needs to be more consistent with. This is true of professionals and low single digit players such as yourself.

To get to the next level of being scratch you need your up and down percentage from the sand to be above 50% and from off the green to be around 60%. Part of this is missing in better, easier places and part is working on the basic shots. If you have the opportunity to go to a tour even, Champions, PGA, Nationwide, or LPGA you will see a huge difference in their ability to get the ball up and down vs yours. Improving your swing is fun, challenging, and can help your ability to score in obvious ways. Getting your short game to the level it needs to be should be your priority.

Taylor asks at 12:05:

I have trouble before I am warm, the first 30-40 balls I hit, I leave the clubface open, I think. I hit everything right, not much slice mostly push, but once I am warm and I get out on the course, everything goes straight. Am I doing something wrong? Is this typical?

Make sure you are doing a good job of warming up before you hit balls. Get your blood flowing, stretch, and make some swings with two clubs before you hit any balls at all. When you begin your ball striking, hit some easy shots with a 7 iron about half as far as normal. These should be full swings not at full speed to help you feel the timing and movement you need as you pick up the pace. Since squaring up the face is an issue for you, I would concentrate on that as you hit these easy shots. With this warm up routine in place you should start the round ready to go.

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