Below you will find a series of short articles that I have written for The Preserve Golf Club’s weekly online news publication. The series is entitled, What We Can Learn From Golf's Greats.
Jack Burke was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame for capturing 16 PGA Tour titles and winning both the Masters and PGA Championship in 1956.The son of a teaching professional in Houston Texas, Burke grew up with golf in his blood. Burke reaped the benefits of his father's lessons on the practice range and at the dinner table, which was an informal classroom for such teaching and Tour legends as Jack Grout, Harvey Penick, Jimmy Demaret, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan, who gathered regularly to trade stories and advice. An owner and teacher today at Champions Golf Club, Burke talks about the importance of a dynamic setup.
Burke is a believer that the set up should be similar to that of a track runner poised to take off at the sound of a gun. Burke states that you should get some good knee flex with the left foot flared out 45 degrees toward the target and the right foot perpendicular to the target. By charging your muscles correctly in this dynamic setup, it is easier to transfer mass and power back to the target starting with transition all the way through impact to the finish.
Gary Player is one of golf’s greatest superstars having won nine major championships. He is one of just five men to capture the career Grand Slam. Gary Player was also known as one of the all time great bunker players. Player wrote,
“One thing you must do is cock your wrists so that you are able to release the club head and get it moving through the sand. We're not playing on grass, we're in sand, which really stops the club. So work on your wrist-cock to get that nice bit of acceleration.”
Another thing that Player has talked and written about was using different clubs out of a bunker for different distances. He was known for using clubs as high as a seven iron out of the sand. This would help him to swing the same speed as say, a sand wedge from 20 feet but, have the ball travel a greater distance for those extra long bunker shots.
Lee Trevino was one of the great players of all time, averaging 19 feet from the hole on approach shots. Although at first glance his swing appeared unconventional, his delivery to impact was bar none the greatest of all time. Trevino was a phenomenal wedge player who grew up practicing in the high winds and baked hard-pan of Texas municipals. Being a product of his environment, Trevino developed the “burner wedge.”
First, Trevino used an open stance with the feet pointing roughly 35 degrees left of the target. Next, he would play the ball way back in his stance parallel to the inside of his right heel to help promote a downward strike of the ball. For the swing, he never used 100% of his power, always taking more club and making a smaller more controlled motion. Most importantly, at impact and slightly beyond, Trevino held the lag of the club (i.e. his hands stayed ahead of the club head). Post impact he would sustain this lag, while driving his hands low and left around his body. Clearing the hips and shoulders left through the hitting area was easier to achieve with his open stance.
This combination of a de-lofted club face while keeping the right hand from outracing the left following impact produced deadly accurate, low and penetrating shots that both produced a lot of spin and were easy to control. Remember, the closer you keep the ball to the earth the easier it is to flight the ball to your desired distance.
Have you ever noticed that the ball has an uncanny knack of flying in the general direction in which your body is facing at the end of your swing? That's why professionals all like to rotate through impact to finish with their body facing the target.
Hall of Fame golfer and current Golf Channel commentator Nick Faldo states that one of the big problems he finds with the average golfer is their finish. Faldo notes that most players finish their swing off balance and on their back foot. He states, “If you fall back off the shot and finish with your stomach pointing out to the right, that's where the ball is most likely headed.” On the other hand, if you are one of those players who steers it a bit, and finishes in a rather flat position, chest pointing left, you probably spend a lot of time in the left-hand rough. You can correct both of these problems if you focus on turning through so that you wind up straight on the target. Remember, the key is to always accelerate into impact and beyond to ensure that high beautiful finish. Emulate the finish of one of your favorite Tour players’ next time you are out playing and I am sure you will see some positive results.
Two time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw was known as one of the great putters of all time. Ben developed his own personal style of putting form an early age that was built on being comfortable over the ball. Crenshaw states, “I don't think precise or mechanical thoughts. I just stay loose, comfortable and easy.” Ben employed high hands when putting similar to that of today’s great putter Steve Stricker. Crenshaw stated that by utilizing high hands there was less chance for the breakdown of the wrists to occur. In this sense, the high hands allowed his wrists to remain in a “locked” position while maintaining a very light grip pressure.
Another fantastic characteristic of Crenshaw’s stroke was that he always remained in control of the club head by maintaining a slight forward press through impact. He never allowed the left wrist to break down and become un-cupped through impact. This is a great example of a golfer controlling the mass of the club head which helps to get the ball rolling faster, as opposed to bouncing, off the club face. Finally, Crenshaw believed that despite all the technical advice, putting should be kept simple. “Think of it this way: the object is to see how close you can come to the hole every time. The bonus is when, and if, the ball falls.”
BYRON NELSON'S SWING EVOLUTION
Byron Nelson was one of the all time great ball strikers and holds the record for most consecutive wins on the PGA Tour at eleven. In an interview taken before Nelson passed away, he spoke about the evolution of his golf swing. Like most youngsters, he battled the hooks in his early days. He found that if he did not roll the right hand over the left through impact, that he could hit the ball much straighter and eliminate the left side of a golf course. However, he found that by doing this he hit the ball much higher and sacrificed distance. Nelson went on to say, “Then I found out by accident that if I stayed down through the ball longer I could hit the ball down. But I still did not hit the ball far. Then by sheer imagination I started using my feet and legs through the shot which people did not do in those days.”
Nelson developed the shanks but felt he was still on track with his strong lateral leg drive. After further investigation he discovered that his upper bodywas following his legs too much so he experimented with keeping his head behind the ball prior to impact while continuing to thrust his legs to the left. The results speak for themselves as he went on to capture 52 PGA Tour wins. Nelson’s hard work and determination is not only a great example of perseverance but also demonstrates the importance of the feet and legs in the golf swing. Too many golfers confuse power in the golf swing with swinging hard with the hands and arms. Learn to use and sequence the bigger muscles in your body. Only then will you be able to leverage immense power.
Johnny Miller was one of the great iron players the game of golf has ever seen. As a youth with a junior membership at the Olympic Club he used to play an ongoing game, challenging himself to see how many approach shots he could hit within a flag stick length from the hole. His standing record was 7. Miller was not afraid to shape shots and believed that this was the recipe for getting it close. Assuming the odds of hitting a perfectly straight ball at your target are extremely low, even for the best players in the world, you have a greater probability of getting a shot close by curving it into your target.
Take a tee shot for example. If the fairway is 30 yards wide and you try to hit a straight shot down the middle you are dealing with maximum miss of 15 yards either right or left. Now if you aim down the left edge of the fairway and commit to hitting a cut shot you are dealing with 30 yards of fairway. Even if you missed it and sliced it 35 yards you would still be just in the rough and not in the trees. Miller described this tactic as putting up and imaginary wall on one side of the course and shaping every shot away from that wall so that you essentially have only one miss. As applied to approach shots on the green, if the pin is on the left, aim at the right side of the green and draw it in. If the pin is on the right, aim at the left side of the green and hit a cut shot in. By doing this you also decrease the odds of short siding yourself from the home.
Ben Hogan, arguably the best ball striker of all time, spent hours upon hours on the practice tee tinkering and perfecting his swing. When asked how he arrived at the secret of superior ball striking he replied, “I dug it out of the dirt.” There was no one secret to Hogan’s move, but rather a wealth of knowledge extracted from years of experimentation and hard work. One aspect of Hogan’s swing that the average golfer can aspire to obtain is the waggle. In his book, “Five Lessons,” Hogan devotes an entire chapter to the purpose and execution of the waggle. The waggle is essentially a little move taken before the swing unfolds designed to ease tension and key up the body in preparation for the swing.
Hogan used the waggle to feel and prepare for different shot shapes. Keeping his arms and body stationary he would cock/roll his hands up until the shaft reached waist high and then return the club to the ball on a slightly shallower plane. In essence, he would perform a miniature golf swing, executing the proper movement of the hands, wrists and forearm rotation in the golf swing. If he wanted to play a draw shot his waggle would be slightly more inside, or under, the plane. If he planned on playing a cut shot he would cock the club up with his hands more than normal and return the club on a slightly more outside to in plane. Experiment and practice the waggle. Not only will it free up your grip pressure, it will also get your mind and body cued up for the shot at hand.
Over the past few weeks I have had several members approach me about the rule for a ball being stuck in a tree. Living on the Monterey Peninsula which is home to the thick branched Cypress tree, this would indeed be a useful fun fact to know. There are three options for continuing play when your ball comes to rest in such a lofty position.
1) Play it as it lies: If you’re feeling adventurous, you may climb the tree and give it a lash!
2) Unplayable: You may declare the ball unplayable and take a one stroke penalty. Ordinarily you would be allotted a drop within two club lengths of the balls position. However, in this scenario the spot from which you measure the two club-lengths is that spot on the ground directly under where the ball rests in the tree. In addition, in order to declare the ball unplayable, you must first POSITIVELY identify your ball. This may mean climbing the tree or attempting to shake the ball free from its clutches. If you dislodge the ball without having made your intentions clear you will incur a one stroke penalty and will be required to put the ball back in the tree! Failure to replace the ball would result in an additional 1-stroke penalty.
3) Lost ball: Sadly you may not be able to find or identify your ball, even if you know it is there. Your only option then would be accepting a penalty for a lost ball. You would then have to return to the spot of the previous stroke, where you would replay the shot.
On the day that this may happen to you feel free to let fly the proverbial explicit, take a deep breath and know your rules. If nothing else, take a lesson from Nick Faldo who famously attempted to climb a tree on the 14th hole at Pebble Beach in the Crosby; stay out of the woods!
George Knudson was one of the great Canadian players of all time whose swing and ball striking resembling that of Ben Hogan. If not for a shaky putter, Knudson would have won many more tournaments as he was a superior ball striker. In his book “Natural Golf Swing” Knudson emphasized the importance of balance. He stated that the only part of the body in the golf swing that does not move is the left toe (for a right handed player). A great admirer of Hogan, Knudson watched his swing and discovered that Hogan’s left toe remained planted throughout the entire motion. He also noted how many players were finishing without balance, jutting forward, or pulling back after their release. This differed greatly from Hogan who was never off balance.
Knudson stated that implementing this stable left foot in his golf swing took 16 months to master to the point where he could do it every time. This is not only a great example of hard work but also demonstrates the importance of transferring your weight properly to your left side and sticking your finish. The next time you are out on the range, practice finishing fully balanced on your lead foot.
As another tremendous Master’s week comes to a close it is interesting to look back and see what separated those in the hunt from those on the periphery. One thing that I like to watch as players enter the back nine of a Major is their pre-shot routine. By looking and timing ones routine, you can get a better sense of a players comfort level beneath the surface. For example, take the Masters champion, Bubba Watson, who can be hasty and careless at times. Despite his shifty eyes Watson demonstrated great poise in the final round by talking with his caddy and executing a consistent routine every time.
Most impressive, however, was runner up, Louis Oosthuizen. His routine was 10 seconds long from the moment he began walking into the shot until he took the club back to begin his swing. I like 10 seconds because it is a relatively quick routine allowing for a more athletic reaction to the target and the least amount of thoughts concerning swing technique, outcome or fear. Constructing a consistent routine is important because it allows us to get into the process of each shot and find the present moment. When players deviate from their pre-shot routine it is often because they are distracted or uncomfortable which increases the probability for errant shots.
The Australian golfer Peter Thompson was known for his penetrating ball flight and ability to play in extreme weather conditions. Like most European golfers in the 1950’s and 1960’s, he was an international player. The winner of five British Open Championships in a seven year run where he did not finish higher than second place, Thompson believed in a more traditional style of play.
As one of the more intellectual players to have played the game, Thompson studied the game’s history and devised that a low running game proved advantageous on difficult golf courses. Thompson hit a low fade that got on the ground quickly with plenty of roll. The lower the ball flight, the less time it has from curving off line. Having a low running shot off the tee is particularly helpful with the driver if your purpose is specifically to get the ball in play. Having a lower trajectory shot with your irons is another positive as it allows you to both hit the ball through or under the wind. Similarly, you will find that it is easier to control distance when a shot is played on the ground compared to the carry.
Anyone who has watched Moe Norman hit balls knows they are witness to elite ball striking. Sam Snead described Norman as the greatest striker of the ball. In January 2005, Tiger Woods, told Golf Digest that only two golfers in history have "owned their swings: Moe Norman and Ben Hogan. Woods stated, "I want to own mine."
Norman was an extremely fast player whose autism led to some unconventional behavior. It is said that on one hole his caddy told him he could get to the green with a driver and a 9-iron. Norman proceeded to tee off with his 9-iron and then hit the green with his driver. In another event, his caddie told him to lay up short of a creek. Norman took out his driver and bounced his drive across the bridge which crossed the creek. As a self taught golfer who never took a lesson, Norman was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1995. Norman swung the club with rigid arms, a very wide stance with minimal knee bend, shorter-than-usual back swing and extended follow-through with minimal hand action.
One characteristic that was specific to his swing was the way he held his finish. Norman finished in balance every time with his hips and chest facing left of the target and his club outstretched to the target with extended arms. Norman did not allow his arms to fold in the follow through. He used his body to turn the club through and accelerate to a high and powerful finish. The important lesson here is that a successful golf swing is one where you connect a starting position to a finished position. Any breakdown from A to B has a greater likelihood of producing an errant shot.
In 1966 a 54-year-old Sam Snead began improvising with a croquet style method of putting. Using what he dubbed the "squat shot" Snead won the 1967 PGA Seniors' Championship by nine strokes and tied for 10th at that year's Masters. It was at Augusta that Bobby Jones reportedly complained about the putting technique that Snead was using. Not long after the USGA instated a new rule prohibiting a player from standing astride the line of his putt or any extension of that line behind the ball. In 1989 the USGA and R&A declared a new decision affirming belly and broomstick putters as conforming with little fuss that using a long putter would have a tremendous impact on the game. Then in 2011, a bunch of youngsters on tour got hot with the long flat stick. Adam Scott made a resurgence in his career. At the PGA, Keegan Bradley became the first to win a major championship with a putter longer than 40 inches. Then Webb Simpson won twice, and Bill Haas won the FedEx Cup.
What the long and belly putter allows one to do is consistently keep the shaft angle at impact the same. This is achieved by the fixed axis that does not move when anchoring the butt end of the putter to your body. Ironically, some of the great classic putters ingeniously achieved this same fixed axis with the conventional putter. Paul Runyan, the Cory Pavin of Snead’s era, bowed out both elbows as far as they would go to form the shape of a box. He said he felt like then, all he would need to do is “rock the box.” Billy Casper and Arnold Palmer wound both their arms inward until their elbows were locked at their sides. Their hands were able to stay in a nice fixed position where they used a somewhat wristy pop stoke that resembled that of the long putter pendulum. Ben Crenshaw and Steve Stricker putt with high hands where their wrists stay locked in an un-cocked position. From there they feel that they can just rock their shoulders and the club face will stay on a consistent path. The next time you are on the practice putting green, experiment with internally or externally rotating your arms to the maximum. You may feel very locked in, stable and able to maintain a fixed axis.
THOUGHTS FROM LARRY NELSON
Larry Nelson won the US Open in 1983 and two PGA Championships during his career. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and is the only player to post a 5-0 record in a single Ryder Cup where five matches is the maximum, doing so in 1979.
After returning home from service in the Vietnam War he started working at Pine Tree Country Club in Georgia. He taught himself golf by reading Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf and broke 100 the very first time he played at the age of 21. Nelson stated,“I'd show up every day at 5:30 a.m. and play with the superintendent before opening the club at 7:30. Within nine months I broke 70.” Just a couple years later, in 1973, Nelson made it through Q-School on his first attempt and was on the PGA Tour at age 27.
When asked about the evolution of his game in a recent interview Nelson said, “There are very few absolute truths about the golf swing. In fact, there are only two I know of. The first is, ‘Shots don't lie.’ That's very important when you're learning the game, because the golf ball tells you exactly what's happening through impact, and you start fixing it from there. The second is, ‘Keep the club moving with as much speed as possible.’ I built my entire game around those two keys, and I recommend them to everybody. If you focus on those keys when you're learning to swing the club, you're going to be a good player. Simple as that.”
Earlier this month Tom Watson was announced as the captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup matches in Scotland. The eight-time major champion played on four U.S. Ryder Cup teams that went 3-0-1 as he posted a 10-4-1 record. Watson also is the last captain to win on foreign soil, as his troops defeated Europe, 15-13, at the Belfry in England in 1993. The USA has just two wins since then in 1999 under captain Ben Crenshaw and 2009 under captain Paul Azinger.
In Tom Watson’s short game book, Getting Up and Down, he references an interesting habit that very few amateur golfers are aware of. Watson was known as an aggressive putter who seldom left his ball short of the hole. This is beneficial in two ways:
1) You give your ball a greater chance of going into the hole. As Bobby Jones sarcastically stated, “99.9% of the time if you leave your ball shot it will not go into the hole.” Think of it this way; when you are bowling, are you going to knock down the front pin or all of the pins?
2) Watson states, “One advantage of putting aggressively is that when you knock the ball past the hole you can see the break you’ll face coming back.” Many amateurs hit a putt too hard and turn away in disgust because the ball’s heading well past the hole.
Next time you see your ball come off the putter with a little more heat than you first anticipated, watch closely as the putt travels by the hole. You may get a good idea of how the comeback putt will break.
The grip is arguably the foundation of a golf swing. It is no accident that most instructional books begin with a chapter dedicated to the grip. If you have ever taken a lesson then you may have heard the famous quote by Sam Snead about grip pressure, “You want to hold the club like you would a bird; you don’t want the bird to fly away but you also do not want to squeeze the bird to death.” Jack Burke Jr., a former Masters Champion and two time PGA Championship winner shed some light on this comment in a recent interview. “Snead once told me,” recounts Burke, “that what he didn’t say was that both he, Hogan and Nelson were holding a Hawk.” All three of these players had extraordinarily strong hands and what felt like holding a bird for them felt like holding a much bigger animal for most other people. This allowed them to have the two hands work as a unit where the club head would never twist or turn during the swing. Here are some pictures of Hogan’s hands. In the words of the baseball Hall of Famer and big league slugger Ted Williams after meeting Hogan in 1951, “I just shook a hand that felt like five bands of steel.”
The key thing to know here is that despite their strong hand/finger pressure, they maintained supple wrists. This allowed them to hold lag coming into the ball and release it actively with their hands and forearms coming into the strike. Next time you are out on the driving range, give yourself a grip strength test. See how many balls you can consecutively hit without re-gripping or taking your hands off the club. You may notice that on either the first, second or third swing your club will twist to the point where you will no longer be able to set up to the next ball squarely. Gary Player and Vijay Singh are known to hit up to 100 balls without re-gripping.
Tom Kite, the 1992 U.S. Open Champion and 19 time winner on the PGA Tour, was an exceptional wedge player from 30 to 40 yards. One thing that made him so excellent around the greens is that, despite his swing length, he always accelerated the club through impact and beyond. Kite’s key thought was to swing the club back only as far as he swung it through.
Many high handicappers tend to take too long of a back swing and decelerate the club through the impact zone to a short finish. If you suffer from this ailment, try doing the opposite. The next time you are out on the practice tee, swing the club back shorter and accelerate it more firmly through the ball to a higher finish. By doing this, you ensure a proper weight transfer with maximum acceleration.
One of the challenging things about the game of golf is our inability to see ourselves in action. For this reason, we must take advantage of all available clues. I don’t care how good you are, if you play the game long enough, every golfer faces challenges with their ball striking. The key however, is to be able to know what is going on and make adjustments on the spot. As Lee Trevino once said, “the driving range is a long way from the first tee!” Jack Nicklaus, whose record 18 Major Championship victories speak to the golfer he was, was undoubtedly great in detecting, analyzing and correcting faulty swings. Nicklaus always looked at two things during his post shot routine. The first was the ball’s flight. Secondly, he observed the direction of his divots as a clear indicator for what he was doing with the club.
A divot moving from right to left relative to your target line is the result of an out to in swing path. This path produces a pulled shot when the club face is square to its path, or a left to right slice when the clubface is open at impact. The opposite divot shape, from left to right relative to your target line, denotes an in to out swing path. This path causes a push when the club face matches the path, or a right to left hook when the club face points left of it at impact. Remember, the signature to every shot is always in the sky and on the ground in the divots you make. Understand the swing path that causes each ball flight, and you will be on the road to better ball striking.
Arnold Palmer, the man, the myth, the legend… The King! Arnold Palmer has perhaps held more golf clubs than anyone who has ever lived. Palmer has approximately 10,000 clubs and 2,000 putters stored away in buildings and workshops in Latrobe, PA, and Orlando. As a young man growing up, Palmer's father was the pro at Latrobe, and one of Arnold's first jobs around the shop was repairing the members' clubs. In those days, woods were made of wood, and steel had replaced hickory as the best material for shafts. The area at the tip of the shaft that went into the wood was covered with string whipping and restoring it was one of Palmer's first jobs.
As Palmer’s interest in clubs grew, he began to tinker with his equipment. When he turned pro in 1954, he signed a contract with Wilson Sporting Goods. Although Wilson made the clubs, Palmer made adjustments to them while touring. Palmer says he traveled with a vise and a hammer and made repairs anywhere he could find a place to work. Today, equipment companies provide repair services at every PGA Tour stop. If a pro needs a club built or altered, the company he represents has a technician who does it for him. Palmer states, "Most of the young pros do not have any idea what we worked with," Palmer says. "They don't do the things we did. To me it was fun, and a club was a work of art." There is something to be said for really understanding and owning the equipment that you use. If there is anything that technology has shown us today, it is that being fit properly with the right tool really pays dividends.
Calvin Peete was one of the most consistently accurate ball strikers who dominated the PGA Tour during the 1980’s. Peete won the Players Championship and in 26-plus years of playing professional golf he hit one ballout of bounds. "I've always been fascinated about being able to control the golf ball," Peete stated in an Esquire interview. "I'm only going to hit the ball so far. I only have so much physical ability, and what I have to do is learn to play within that ability, and just play my game." Peete won 11 times on tour and became the first African American golfer to earn over $100,000 in one year on the PGA Tour.
At the age of 11, Peete fell out of a tree and broke his left elbow in three places. Surgeons repaired the elbow, but it remained permanently fused so that Calvin could never fully straighten his arm. Peete turned professional at great odds but ended up leading the tour in driving accuracy for 10 straight years as well as leading the tour in greens in regulation three times.
Peete took the club back to the inside and then finished the backswing with the club pointing across the target line to the right. However, what Peete did from there was pure genius. Like Furyk, Sergio, Snead and Hogan he then shallowed out the shaft into the downswing and used his legs to drive the club through impact. Speaking about his game Peete concluded, "I don't feel that there was any talent there. I feel that it's something any person could do through hard work and determination."
PACE OF PLAY
Despite holding the greatest record of all time, Jack Nicklaus has acknowledged his role in the current trend of slow play. With televised golf tournaments adding to the popularity of the game in the late fifties and early sixties, viewers watched Nicklaus’s deliberate play and mimicked his every move. Before his era however, very few players were so slow. When Jimmy Demaret was once asked why he did not take practice swings he replied, “If I did, which one would I use?”
The putting routine of Aaron Baddeley, one of the best putters currently on the PGA Tour, is a great example of how a player can be both fast and successful. When it is Baddeley’s turn to play, he stands behind the ball, visualizes the putt he wants, walks into the setup, looks once at the hole and strokes the putt. Baddeley uses 10 seconds of the 45 allotted to hit a shot by the rules of golf. This is not only an efficient way of playing but it also allows for the least amount of thought and the most amount of athleticism and creativity. Here are some more helpful tips for improving upon the enjoyment of the game.
In friendly matches, play "ready golf" - players hit as they are ready.
When two players in a cart hit to opposite sides of a hole, drive to first ball and drop off that player with his club, then drive to the second ball. After both players hit, meet up farther down the hole.
When walking from your cart to your ball, take a couple clubs with you.Taking only one club, then having to return to the cart to retrieve a different club, is a huge time-waster.
Practice “continuous putting” – rather than marking your second putt and anxiously waiting, step up and roll your putt with confidence and courage.
RAYMOND FLOYD ON CHIPPING
Raymond Floyd was known during his PGA Tour career as a tough competitor and a great chipper. He won the 1976 Masters, the 1982 PGA Championship and the U.S. Open in 1986 at the age of 43. Floyd discovered the importance of a solid wedge game at an early age when he found that he could beat older and longer players by getting up and down from anywhere. Floyd states that the key to a good short game is practice, imagination, experimentation and creativity.
Floyd states, “The best chippers are self-taught. There are so many lies, types of grasses and conditions, it's impossible to explain them all. After someone shows you the basics, you're best off being on your own. As a kid in Fayetteville, N.C., I played golf all day, every day, a lot of it by myself. I spent hundreds of hours around the greens at Cape Fear Valley, the course my dad owned, hitting every shot I could think of -- the one-hop-and-release, the chip that lands dead, the explosion from a bad lie. I would try hitting the same chip with every iron in my bag, just to see the possibilities. There are good chippers who were taught, but the great ones -- Seve, Watson, Mickelson, Tiger -- figured it out for themselves.”
Floyd illustrated the importance of creative practice where you are constantly changing shots, lies and club selection. The next time you are up on the practice green, have fun with your practice and attempt shots that you would ordinarily shy away from. In doing so, you may learn something new that will be beneficial out on the course. Plus, you may also have more fun in the process!
Dr. Cary Middlecoff was a dentist who gave up his practice to become a professional golfer in the 1940’s. We can learn a lot from the "Old-timers" such as Dr. Middlecoff who won two U.S. Opens and one green jacket. Instructors today talk a lot about restriction of movement and less moving parts during the golf swing. This philosophy can definitely be helpful to some. However, what parts of your body you choose to quiet can be the difference between mediocre ball striking and superb ball striking.
Middlecoff’s pivot reminds me of Byron Nelson with the enormous leg drive and the use of ground forces to propel his swing, even on his wedge shots. Nelson described it as his "Rocking Chair" move, others called it a "caddy dip", but I say it's better than the upper body lunge! Whatever the metaphor, the simple truth is that the great players of the game all use their feet, legs and hips to generate speed, control the club face through impact and hit the ball nice and straight.
Think of it this way; if golfers were suspended by cables in the air then the golf swing would look completely different. It would be a test of upper body strength and arm speed. Because golf is a game played on the ground, you must learn to use the earth similar to when you push off to start a sprint or jump as high as you can. Middlecoff understood this and used the big muscles of his legs to propel the ball far and straight. If you want to do the same remember that everything below the waist is active in the golf swing and everything above the waist is reactive to its movements.