Imitating the Pros- Three Things To Watch For

Many of us are visual people. We learn by seeing how someone does something and then imitating that person. That’s why I sometimes recommend to students talking my golf lessons to watch how the pros do something. Some players excel at hitting a particular type of shot. Others illustrate perfectly the correct execution of a technique. Whatever it is, you can sometimes learn as much about golf from watching how a pro does something as you can from taking a private golf instruction session.

Take Phil Mickelson. He’s a crafty left-handed player and among the tour’s best golfers. Over the years he’s become known for his uncanny ability to hit a flop shot, as I mentioned in one of my golf tips. It’s become one of his signature shots. You can learn a lot from watching how he hits it, especially if you’re left-handed. Of course, some of the flop shots he hits exceed our abilities, so be careful what you try to imitate. Nevertheless, you can takeaway something from watching him hit that shot.

Below are some players to keep an eye next time you’re watching golf on television. We’ve focused on three key areas in the swing and added drills to help you improve in those areas.

1. The Stack Up. All accomplished players display a solid position at impact. This position is called “the stack up.” If you took a photo, it would look something life this: At impact, the player’s left wrist (right-hander) is flat while his right wrist is bent. His left hip is clearing out of the way while the weight on the toes of his left foot is transferred to the left heel. Meanwhile, his left shoulder, hip, knee, and hand are all on top of his left foot. There’s no hang-back. And there’s no reverse “C” position. Try watching Darren Clarke next time he plays on TV to see how well he stacks up at impact.

The “hitting short shots from a pre-impact position” drill is often used to teach players about the stack up position. Start with the club at the top of the downswing then swing down on the ball through impact. The key is sucking your tummy against your spine and maintaining that feel while lifting the toes of your lead foot and shifting your weight onto your left heel. Concentrate on being on top of the ball at impact, not hanging back.

2. Alignment of Your Elbow. In giving golf lessons I noticed that some players have an extra hard time keeping their swings in sync. Often, it’s because they need to work on improving the alignment of their right elbow (right-hander) and wrist at the top of the swing. This does two things. It keeps you from going too far back in your backswing, and it keeps you in sync with the coiling of your upper body, improving consistency and increasing swing speed. Keep an eye on Davis Love to see how well he executes this move.

Start with your right elbow slightly bowed out at setup, in the alignment it’ll have at the top of the backswing. As you take the club away, bend your right wrist back so you can see creases in the skin. Continue to make several swings, always stopping at the top to check the alignment of the right elbow and the bend in the right wrist. This drill creates the feel of a solid backswing while ingraining the proper arm and elbow positions.

3. The Head Turn. Locking your head in a set position throughout your swing is wrong, as my golf tips point out. It’s the primary cause of the slice inducing “chicken wing” (flying elbow). It is also the root of many back problems. Your head should turn naturally through the ball for maximum power. This enables the hips to clear out of the way, creates better extension of your arms after impact, and puts less stress on your lower back and neck. Watch David Duval and Annika Sorenstam swivel their heads toward the target through impact.

At address, place a second ball about two feet in front of the ball you’re trying to hit. Make sure the ball is slightly inside of the target line. While hitting off the tee, look at the second ball during impact. This rotates your head to the target while keeping it in sync with the movement of your upper body. You should feel your hips clearing much more easily and a better extension of your arms.

Keep an eye on these three key areas next time your see a tournament on television. Watch how the pros perform in these areas and see if you can pick up any tips from what they do. Also work on the drills described above. If you really want to lower that golf handicap, you need to create an efficient, balanced swing. This approach is one way to do it.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse