What You Can Learn From a Long-Drive Champ
By Justin James
As a former world long-drive champion, I often hear from regular golfers that they’ll never come close to being able to swing like me. Not true. You can. If you copy even a little of my technique, the ball is going to come off the face of your driver hotter than ever. Try these things the next time you’re on the range. By Justin James —with Ron Kaspriske
CHEAT THE SCALE
If you just stood on a scale, it would give you your body weight. But if you push down, that number will go up. When I make a backswing, I’m loading more than 100 percent of my body weight into my trail leg (right leg for righties). So really push into the ground with your trail leg as you take the club back. It will help you create and store a lot of energy.
GET OFF THE HEEL
As you swing back, it’s OK if your lead heel comes off the ground. That’s going to help you make a bigger backswing—especially if you’re not that flexible. You’ll really load up on your right side.
AVOID THE SWAY
Feel like someone standing behind your back is grabbing a belt loop near your right hip pocket and pulling it toward him. In other words, sink into that right hip as you swing back, which will keep you from swaying away from the target.
PLANT AND BUMP
To start your downswing, replant your left heel if you let it come off the ground. I mean really plant it. Try to leave an indentation in the turf. You’re using the ground to create energy for more swing speed. Also, let your left hip shift toward the target. This bump allows you to stay behind the ball with your upper body so you can apply all your weight to the strike.
GO WITH THE FASTBALL
I don’t think about pulling the handle of the driver down toward the ball, and I don’t think about releasing the club, either. Instead, I get the sensation I’m throwing a fastball with my right hand. It probably comes from my time as a minor-league pitcher. This feel will really boost your speed down into the ball.
SHOULDER THE LOAD
You want your club moving its fastest as it meets the ball. To make that happen, get the right shoulder facing the target as you finish the swing. It’s got to keep moving. As long as my lower body leads in the downswing, this turn helps blast the ball way down the fairway.
JUSTIN JAMES, 29, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, won the 2017 World Long Drive Championship. He plays a Krank Formula X Snapper driver (48 inches, 3.5 degrees of loft). He hit a 435-yard drive to win the championship.
Masters 2019: Never mind copying a tour player – you should swing like Augusta legend Jeff Knox
By Matthew Rudy
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Yes, you’ve already heard about Augusta member Jeff Knox, the decorated amateur who holds the course record of 61 from the member tees and gets the call to play as a marker when the field goes to an odd number after the cut.
But what exactly makes the 56-year-old charitable foundation executive such a good player? It goes without saying that anybody who can shoot 61 from any tees at Augusta National has a wonderful short game—and every tour player who has gone around with Knox has confirmed he’s the best at navigating the greens here they’ve ever seen. But it’s his simple, repeatable swing that makes him such a valuable marker. He almost always hits it where he’s looking—so he can do his thing at the speed his playing partner prefers.
“When you bake out the differences between tour players because of their different body types and flexibility levels, virtually all of them still do some common things that explain why they hit the ball so well and so consistently,” says Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Michael Jacobs. “Jeff Knox does a lot of the same things. He has what I would call a great ‘vanilla’ tour swing. It’s a terrific model for anybody to use as a starting point for their swing.”
The reason tour players look so fluid is because they aren’t doing a lot of re-routing of the club. “Knox’s left arm comes up during his backswing and goes directly across his right shoulder, and when he makes his downswing, the club never gets pushed or forced too much behind him or in front of him,” says Jacobs, who is based at Rock Hill Country Club in Manorville, New York. “When you see better players come down with the clubhead way behind them, they have to contort their body in strange ways to get to the ball. And weekend players usually have the opposite problem—they push the club way out and over the top so that it comes down steep and cuts across the ball.”
Knox’s clean and efficient move is why he’s been able to keep up on a 7,500-yard course well into his 50s—and shoot an unofficial 74 that would have beat or tied ten official competitors who teed it up Saturday.
“Like I said, players have different bodies and levels of flexibility, so you don’t want to try to copy exactly what somebody else’s move is,” says Jacobs. “But you can definitely train a better hand path like the one Jeff has by simply paying more attention to how much it goes behind you or in front of you on the downswing. Get that part more ‘neutral’ and your pattern of misses will get much more narrow.”
John Rahm: Low Scores Start with Maxing Out Your Drives
By John Rahm
There might be some par 4s where it makes sense to tee off with a 3-wood or an iron, but it’s rare to see me using anything but driver. I’m more comfortable with it. When it comes to scoring, I’d rather hit it as far down the fairway as I can and have a wedge in my hands for the next shot—even from the rough—versus a middle iron from the fairway. My strategy seems to work. I’m second on the PGA Tour in birdie average (4.5 per round) and third in strokes gained/off the tee. My goal with the driver is pretty simple.
I want to load up in the backswing and then use the ground in the downswing to generate as much power as possible. It’s a short-and-fast swing, with my legs and torso doing most of the work, so there’s not a lot that can go wrong. If you’re like me and would rather hit driver every chance you get—I bet you do!—here are some tips to help simplify your swing and make it your most effective scoring club. —With Ron Kaspriske
GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE SWING
This backswing position you see (below) is a checkpoint for me. I want to make sure I haven’t whipped the clubhead inside the target line with my hands. Taking the club back like that is a real power-and-accuracy killer, and if I think about what my hands are doing, I assure you my driving won’t be good. Instead, I want my torso, arms and club moving back together. You’ll know you made a good backswing if you feel it in your right hip. That’s the main thing for me. I want to load into that hip. If I don’t, it feels more like a stack-and-tilt swing where your weight stays on the left foot. You can’t hit it far from that position. Instead, I want to feel my weight on the inside of my right foot and thigh. When it gets there, I’m ready to swing down.
PUSH DOWN AND TURN HARD
To start the downswing, I want to push into the ground with my legs, which lets me turn hard and left with my hips and then the upper body. When I do this, it feels like the club is just being pulled into a great impact position. Again, I’m not trying to hit the ball with my hands. One thing to remember: You’ve got to keep turning—even after impact (below). I feel like I’m powering the club through the ball with my body rotation. In other words, don’t stop until you can’t turn anymore. For me, this produces a fade that feels really solid coming off the clubface. I guess you could say I just think aim left and swing hard left. Do that, and the ball gets out there a good way. Then just grab your wedge and go make birdie.
5 quick tips to conquering the downhill chip
By David Leadbetter
Usually the area around a green is level with or lower than the putting surface. But sometimes you’ll find your ball on a mound near the green, leaving you with a downhill chip. Sure, it was a lucky break that the hill kept your ball within chipping distance. But now what? This atypical lie presents a challenge for a lot of golfers, because it drastically reduces the chance of popping the ball up and landing it softly on the green—especially if you have a tendency to try to help the ball in the air with a scooping, wristy action. You need to make some adjustments to pull off this shot.
“KEEP YOUR KNEE FLEX IF YOU WANT TO POP THE BALL UP.”
First, you can’t afford to make contact with the ground behind the ball, or you’ll blade it across the green. So play the ball slightly back of center in your stance. Another thing that will help you make ball-first contact is to lean the handle a little toward the green, so your hands are closer to the flag than the clubhead. I also recommend gripping down on the club—your most lofted wedge—for more control.
Next, the way you swing is important, too. Maintain flex in your knees throughout the swing (above). Remember to keep the shaft leaning forward through impact and abbreviate the follow-through. A time-honored swing thought for this shot is to swing down the slope with the clubhead.
All of this might seem like a lot to remember, so boil it down like this: Ball back, hands ahead, and swing down the slope. Do that, and you’ll get just enough loft on the ball to stop it near the hole. — with Ron Kaspriske
The first step in fairway-bunker play: Clearing the lip
By Scott Chisholm
You’ve run down the fairway-bunker checklist in your head—take an extra club, dig into the sand with your feet, grip down on the handle, aim a little right of the target—all the things you’ve been told that will help execute this shot. You’re confident this is going to work out, and you make a swing that reflects that self-assurance.
What happens next? Thud. Your ball smacks into the lip of the bunker and rolls back into the sand. So much for best-laid plans. Though I applaud the analytical approach to escaping fairway bunkers, you can’t ignore the first step—which is to clear the lip!
If you find it difficult to get out of fairway bunkers in one shot, I’ve got two options for you, and you’re not going to like the first one. You can simply take your sand wedge or lob wedge and play back into the fairway like it’s a greenside-bunker shot. (See? I knew you wouldn’t like that option.)
Your other choice is to take a longer club and try to reach the green, but you need to adjust your swing. The reason you’re hitting the lip is probably because you’re swinging down into the ball on too steep an angle. The steeper the downswing, the lower the ball will fly. I’m guessing you’re doing this because you’ve been told that ball-first contact is crucial to this shot—especially if you hope to reach the green in regulation. But to clear the lip, you have to come into the ball on a shallower approach. Ball-first contact still applies, but try to swing into the ball from inside the target line. That will take some steepness out of your downswing and deliver the original loft of the club as it strikes the ball. Unlike a shot from the fairway, you don’t want your golf shaft leaning toward the target at impact. Too much shaft lean is going to make the ball fly lower.
So here comes the part where I tell you how to clear the lip and reach the green. You know, the “gimme one thing” tip. I want you to think about your lead leg (left for right-handers) matching the position of the club’s shaft at impact. And that position should be as straight up and down as possible.
Essentially, you’re trying to post up on that lead leg during the downswing, which will let the club’s shaft return to the ball in that ideal upright position. This is crucial to striking the ball with enough loft so it doesn’t carom off the lip, and with enough force to reach the green.
Think, leg straight, shaft vertical—and you’ll stripe it.—with Ron Kaspriske
SCOTT CHISHOLM is a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher based at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa.
Jack Nicklaus: Why You Lose Your Grip
By Jack Nicklaus and Roger Schiffman; Illustrations by Jim McQueen
WHAT I WROTE IN 1973
Loosening the hands at the top of the swing is a major fault of weekend golfers and a sure shot-wrecker. The answer lies not in putting a stranglehold on the club, but in maintaining a consistent firmness in the hands. If you haven’t swung the club back adequately by turning your body, loosening your grip will be instinct’s way of getting it there.
It’s never a good thing to let go at the top. If I do it a little today, it’s because my body won’t turn like it used to. But I never, ever tried to turn. Never consciously made a shoulder turn. I let the club turn me. I let my body coil through inertia, with the momentum of the club pulling me back.
It should be a flow back, but only go as far back as your body will allow. If your swing is a little shorter as you grow older, that’s fine. When you try to force a bigger turn, you move off your plane; you lift your hips, your shoulders, your head; and yes, you loosen your grip.
When I was playing really well, I might have let go a little with my right hand, but never my left. Keep that left-hand pressure constant, and you’ll be much more consistent.
Jack Nicklaus writes only for Golf Digest. In this series he looks back at his classic lessons published in the magazine.
It’s Wedding Wednesday!
At Twin Ponds, we pride ourselves in our elegant event venue for weddings and banquets. With our experienced background we know that planning can become stressful for the bride or the banquet planner. So every Wednesday we’ll be posting a little bit more about ourselves as well as some tips and tricks for your special occasion!
The 4 Running Lists Every Bride Should Maintain at All Times
By Erin Celletti
Budgets, guest lists, important dates, to-do lists, and more can flood your mind and make what should be a fun and exciting time feel quite the opposite. Don’t worry—thanks to digital documents and smartphones, you can stay up-to-the-minute organized in an easy way, keep everything you need to know on you at all times—and ultimately save your sanity. Enjoy wedding planning a little bit more by keeping these four running lists.
Guest List & RSVPs
Once the dreaded initial draft of the guest list has been decided upon, create a Google Doc or something similar that is editable and instantly saved and shared and that includes names, guests, and addresses. You’ll be grateful you’ve done this on a few occasions: once it comes time to assemble and mail invitations, as you track RSVPs as they come in, and when it becomes time to make the seating arrangements.
All Type-A’s out there, rejoice—this one’s for you. Every single bride should keep a running list of tasks, even if she has enlisted the help of a wedding planner or coordinator. If you usually think nothing is more satisfying than crossing things off your to-do list, it’s 10 times better for overwhelmed brides-to-be. Whether you prefer to go old-school and use a trusty notebook or keep an app for your planning needs, as long as you have one, you’ll be organized and accomplished daily.
While traditionally your maid of honor or bridesmaid will be tasked with writing down what you receive and from whom at your bridal shower, you will likely receive gifts outside of that occasion too. As a gracious and thankful bride, keep a running list so that writing out thank-you cards is a bit less overwhelming. It’s also great to save this list as an upcoming reference for when you’re a wedding guest!
“Day Of” List
It will be here before you know it, and to keep your wedding morning focused on beauty, mimosas, and excitement, you’ll need to make sure you have every single thing you need for the night before, day of, and morning after you say “I do.” You may be surprised how much stuff you will need on hand for your big day, from the more obvious items like your gown and undergarments to other details like reception decor, toothpaste, and makeup remover. Be sure you are prepared! Nothing is worse than a last-minute errand or snafu to throw off your positive pre-wedding vibes.
Some of the best chippers in history do these two things for extra-crisp chips
By Luke Kerr-Dineen
Top Teacher Andrew Rice has two thoughts to help your improve your chipping strike: Rotate and Rise.You probably think “staying down” is a good idea when hitting chip shots. It’s not. Staying down limits rotation and alters the radius of your swing, which has an adverse effect on strike quality. When it comes to short shots, strike is king.Study the best chippers in history—players like Seve Ballesteros and José María Olazábal—and you’ll notice they shift pressure forward onto their front foot during the backswing. This positions the body for the proper descending strike. In the downswing, they elevate or stand up slightly through impact. This might go against the grain, but getting “taller” in your downswing will encourage your chest to rotate through impact—an important element of a crisp chip strike. During practice, work to coordinate a subtle shift forward followed by a gentle rise through impact. Your swing thought: Rotate and Rise. Do that, and you’ll lift to your up-and-down percentage. — Andrew Rice
Escape Any Bunker: How to Get Over a High Lip
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