Masters 2019: Never mind copying a tour player – you should swing like Augusta legend Jeff Knox

By Matthew Rudy

The Masters - Round Three

Andrew RedingtonAUGUSTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 13: Eddie Pepperell of England fist bumps marker Jeff Knox on the 18th green during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 13, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

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.”

 

Source: GolfDigest.com

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.

Jon Rahm
Photo by Giovanni Reda“If I think about what my hands are doing, I assure you my driving won’t be good.”

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.

Jon Rahm
Photos by Giovanni Reda‘My advice for amateurs? Play the ball farther forward and tee it higher. Take advantage of that driver.’

Source: GolfDigest.com

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

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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 handleaim 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.

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Make the Ones You Hate to Miss

By: Jamie Lovemark

A six-footer is by no means a gimme, but it’s still short enough that it stings when it doesn’t go in. To make more of these, start by locking in your speed. It’s the most important part of every putt. And when you assess speed, don’t just factor how fast the ball needs to roll to get to the front of the cup. Think about it: You’re not trying to be so precise with your putting that the ball falls in on its last rotation. So forget the front of the cup. You should be looking at a spot 1½ feet beyond the hole. You’ll still be in tap-in range if you miss, but now you know the ball is going to get there every time.

Once you’ve determined that spot, then you can read the break. Start by walking to the hole, and try to picture the line in your head, keeping in mind that it continues 18 inches past the cup. Typically a putt of this length isn’t going to break that much—unless your course is Augusta National.

To get my speed down, I often practice with a small silicone cover over the top of the hole. The ball rolls right over it. If you don’t have one, you can just putt over the location of an old cup like I’m doing here (see bottom photo). The point is to get the ball to stop at a consistent distance beyond the hole. After I hit a putt that rolls over the cup and stops where I want it to stop, I’ll put a dime down to mark that end point. Then I’ll stroke putts over the hole trying to get every one to stop on a dime, so to speak.

DEVELOP A SHOT CLOCK
Having a pre-shot routine is important, but that doesn’t mean only doing the same things before every putt. Just as important is the amount of time you take to do those things. It will make a big difference if there’s a consistent duration from setup to stroke—it gives you good rhythm and confidence. Another thing you should do before you hit a putt is to take one last look at your line of putt all the way to the hole and then back to your ball—but do it quickly. The longer you stand over the ball, the more likely you’ll start to psych yourself out that you might miss. Good putting is a lot more mental than physical. Not a lot can go wrong with your stroke on a six-footer—it’s a fairly short and quiet motion. If you can relax and trust in what you’ve done prior to the putt, your chance of rolling one in will go way up.

BE AN ATHLETE, NOT A ROBOT
If you struggle with these makable putts, it’s probably because you’re too focused on using perfect mechanics. I’ve got news for you, guys like me on the PGA Tour rarely set up and make a textbook stroke, yet the tour average for putts made from six feet last season was 70 percent. What I’m saying is, there are a lot of ways to get the ball to go in the hole.

Putting is extremely personal, but everyone should feel comfortable over the ball. I like when my arms hang freely, and I have a slight roundness to my back. As for the stroke, I don’t think about the length the putter moves back and through. Instead, I try to be as athletic as possible, meaning my process is to look at what I have to do—then react. If you’re shooting a basketball, you don’t think about how hard your arm has to move for the ball to reach the basket, you just look at the rim and let it fly. Try putting with that same mind-set. —With Keely Levins

 

Source: https://www.golfdigest.com/story/make-the-ones-you-hate-to-miss
Written by: Jamie Lovemark

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Be A Better Lag Putter And Control Your Distance

By: Butch Harmon

In golf, your instincts can get you into trouble. A good example is when you have a long putt. The tendency is to think you have to hit the ball harder than normal. That mind-set leads to a short backstroke and a fast flick on the downstroke. The result is usually poor contact—and a putt that never gets to the hole.

A better technique is to lengthen your backstroke but keep the pace of the motion the same. That produces more energy at impact—the longer stroke gives you smooth acceleration—and a better chance of catching the ball flush. It’s just like trying to get more distance on a full shot: Hitting the ball in the middle of the clubface is the best thing you can do to transfer energy into the ball. And the best way to lose energy? You guessed it—make a wild swing and mis-hit the shot.

To become a good lag putter, you might have to reconsider the way you think about the stroke. If you believe you should lock your arms and hands and simply rock your shoulders, you’re going to struggle from long distance. Lag putts require some play in the elbows and wrists. I’m not saying you should purposely hinge them, but you should let them react naturally to the motion. Lock those joints, and you can only make so much swing.

So get into your setup with a nice light grip, and maintain that pressure throughout the stroke. That will let you keep some softness in your hands and arms for a longer motion that has more momentum—and more power. Your lead wrist will naturally have a little cup or backward bend in it at address. Feel like that wrist flattens on the backstroke (above), and then the trail wrist flattens through impact. That’s how you create speed without forcing it.

“IF YOU’RE A STIFF-WRISTED PUTTER, YOU’LL STRUGGLE FROM LONG RANGE.”

PUTTING WOES? GET A NEW LOOK I’ve used the same putter for 20 years. I love it. The simple design and the dark finish against the white ball help me square it up. That’s not to say we always get along. If your putter goes cold, do what I do: Switch to something totally different. I’ll go to a big mallet head for a few rounds; for you, maybe it’s a blade putter. Point is, give your brain and body a new experience. You might end up sticking with the substitute—but keep your old pal close by.

 

Source: https://www.golfdigest.com/story/be-a-better-lag-putter-and-control-your-distance

 

Jason Day’s 3 Keys to Better Golf

By: Jason Day

There are times when we all make this game too complicated. That’s why I started this article with a simple thought: Send it, then hole it. I’m not saying golf is easy, but I find that if you simplify your keys to executing all the main shots, you’ll stop playing golf swing and start playing golf. The goal is to advance the ball and drop it in the cup in as few strokes as possible. That’s really hard to do if you’re bogged down with swing mechanics. Instead, have a clear plan for what you want to do on the next shot, get your alignment right, and then make a swing or putting stroke that’s smooth and balanced. I guarantee if you keep it that simple, you’ll give yourself a better chance of playing good golf. On this page, I’m going to give you some keys to hitting all the main shots. Easy stuff to remember so you can put more focus on your round and not your swing. Like my coach, Col Swatton, says, “Understanding that the golf course is where you should play, and the range is where you practice, is your first step to lowering your scores.” — With Ron Kaspriske


PUT YOURSELF IN POSITION FOR A GOOD DRIVE
With a driver, I’m thinking only about hitting the ball as hard as I can in the center of the clubface. If you want to do the same, remember these keys before you take the club back: 1.) Get in a good setup. Start with a wide stance, a slight knee bend, your weight equally distributed on both feet and not in the toes or heels, and let your arms hang naturally as you tilt toward the ball from the hips. 2.) Always check ball position. If it’s too far back in your stance, it will kill your chance of the club coming into it square and on the correct path. The same is true if it’s too far forward. I like the ball lined up just inside my left heel. 3.)Think, slow takeaway. A lot of amateurs take the club back too fast, and that causes them to decelerate on the downswing. Do the opposite. By keeping my tempo smooth and taking it back slower, I can be aggressive through the ball without my timing being off.

TREAT YOUR IRONS WITH CARE
No matter what iron I’m swinging, my process stays the same. Here are my keys: 1.) Set up neutral. I want to hit the ball high, low, left and right, so I try to be as neutral as possible with my setup and grip. If you set up to hit only one type of shot, that’s fine, but you might struggle if the situation calls for something other than your stock ball flight. 2.) Shorten your swing. Good iron play is about hitting down on the ball with the center of the face. I find that’s easiest to do if you go with a three-quarter shot instead of a full swing. Put the ball an inch back in your stance, cut your backswing down, and focus on solid contact—not hitting it as hard as you can. The ball will go five to 10 yards shorter than with a full swing, so remember to club up. 3.) Finish like a statue. To improve your tempo and rhythm, make a swing that lets you get into a balanced, wraparound position like I am here.

GO BIG AROUND THE GREENS
Whether it’s a fringe chip or a pitch in tall grass, my three short-game keys don’t change. 1.) Focus on a spot in front of the ball. To avoid hitting it fat, you want the low point of the swing to be after it strikes the ball. This technique will help you get a nice, clean strike. 2.) Minimize wrist action. My chipping and pitching swings don’t have a lot of hinge. In fact, there’s very little elbow or wrist bend all the way through the shot. That makes it easier to make good contact and keep the clubface square with the target. 3.)Use the big muscles. It’s tempting to hit these shots using mostly your hands and arms, but your consistency will improve if you put some body into the shot. My shoulders rotate toward the target on the downswing, and my sternum is in front of the ball by the time the club strikes it.

PUTT WITH COMMON SENSE
My process on the greens has helped me become one of the best putters in the game. This is one area where the right type of practice will allow you to focus on line and speed when you play.

My keys: 1.) At address, get your eyes directly over the ball, and make sure your hands aren’t leaning the shaft too much forward, back, in or out. Your eye-and-hand positions greatly affect accuracy. 2.) Focus on path and face. A smooth-and-controlled stroke will help make sure the face is square with your putting line at impact. If you can’t roll it on the right line, nothing else matters. 3.) Overestimate. Amateurs often fail to give their putts enough break or speed to reach the hole. Varying your putting scenarios in your warm-up will help get a better feel for line and speed that day. But when in doubt, overestimate both. Give every putt a chance to go in, and you can bet some of them will.

Source:https://www.golfdigest.com/story/jason-days-3-keys-to-better-golf

Nine changes in the new Rules of Golf you absolutely need to know for 2019

 

By: Ryan Herrington

As Jan. 1 approaches, it’s time to consider what New Year’s resolutions you’ll be making to help your golf game in 2019. For those who haven’t come up with any, here’s a suggestion: Learn the Rules of Golf. (No, really learn them this time.) Perhaps you’ve tried, only to find that by February, the copy of the rules book you picked up is covered with as much dust as that Peloton you bought to get into shape. Yet here’s the thing: There’s no better time than now to give it another shot because a new, modernized version of the rules goes into effect on New Year’s Day.

In the most sweeping revision in more than 60 years, officials from the USGA and R&A, golf’s governing bodies, have reorganized the rules to make them easier to understand and apply. The number has been cut to 24 from 34, and the language simplified to make it more practical. Roughly 2 million copies of the Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf were published and circulated this fall. If you haven’t gotten one, you can find it online at usgapublications.com, as well as with explanatory videos at usga.org/rules. The free USGA Rules of Golf app has been updated, too.

To help you keep this resolution, here are nine changes to the new rules you should know.

I. Accidents happen
The controversy over Dustin Johnson’s ball moving on the green during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open exposed the old rules for being too harsh when it came to what many considered tickytack infractions. New language, first adopted through Local Rules since 2017, states there is no penalty if you accidentally move your ball (or ball marker) on the green. Put the ball back, and you’re good to go. The same applies if you’re searching for a lost ball and mistakenly move it.

II. The fix is in
Golfers often complained about the silliness of letting players fix a ball mark on the green, but not a spike mark. What’s the difference? With no good answer, officials now will let you fix everything without a penalty. You can also touch the line of your putt with your hand or club so long as you’re not improving it.

III. A lost cause
To improve pace of play, golfers now have just three minutes to search for a missing ball rather than five. Admit it, if you hadn’t found it in three minutes, you weren’t finding it anyway.

IV. Knee is the new shoulder
The process for dropping a ball back in play is revamped in the new rules. Instead of letting go from shoulder height, players will drop from around their knee. This is a compromise from an original proposal that would have let golfers drop from just inches above the ground. To preserve some randomness with the drop, officials went with knee height instead. Why change at all? Primarily to speed up play by increasing the chances your ball stays within the two-club-length drop area on the first try.

V. No longer at touchy subject
Hitting a ball into a water hazard (now defined as “penalty area”) should come with consequences. But golfers don’t have to be nervous about incurring an additional penalty for a minor rules breach while playing their next shot. You’re free to touch/move loose impediments and ground your club, eliminating any unnecessary worry. The only caveat: You still can’t put your club down and use it to improve the conditions for the stroke. You can remove loose impediments in bunkers, too, although touching the sand in a bunker in front of or behind the ball is still prohibited.

VI. Damaged goods
We all get mad on the course, and sometimes that anger is taken out on an unsuspecting driver or putter. Previously, the rules were confusing on when or if you could play a club you damaged during a round, and it led to instances where some players were disqualified for playing clubs with a shaft slightly bent or some other damage they didn’t realize the club had. Now you can play a club that has become damaged in any fashion. If you caused the damage, however, you can’t replace the club with a new one.

VII. Twice is … OK
A double hit is almost always accidental, and the outcome so random as to hardly be beneficial. So golfers are now spared the ignominy of adding a penalty for hitting a ball twice with one swing. It counts as only one stroke. Somewhere T.C. Chen is smiling.

VIII. The end of flagstick folly
Another nod to common sense eliminates a penalty for hitting a flagstick left in the hole while putting on a green. Taking out and then placing back in flagsticks can often cause undo delay in the round, and the flagstick is as likely to keep your ball out of the cup as it would help it fall in.

IX. O.B. option
Courses may implement a Local Rule (not for competition) that offers an alternative to the stroke-and-distance penalty for lost balls or shots hit out-of-bounds. A player may drop a ball anywhere between where the original ball was believed to come to rest (or went out-of-bounds) and just into the edge of the fairway, but no nearer the hole. The golfer takes a two-stroke penalty and plays on instead of returning to the tee. This way, the Local Rule mimics your score if you had played a decent provisional ball.

Image by: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Source: https://www.golfdigest.com/story/nine-changes-in-the-new-rules-of-golf-you-absolutely-need-to-know-for-2019

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