Jhonattan Vegas: How To Go Deep When You Need To

By Jhonattan Vegaswith and Mathew Rudy authors at golfdigest

Everybody wants to swing faster and hit the ball longer. But I make fewer than 20 driver swings a year where I use more than 75-percent effort. Why? The longest bombs happen when you get the right combination of launch and spin, and that comes from swinging under control and in good sequence—not from swinging harder. When you really need a long drive, you want to hit the center of the face and get that great launch. I'll show you a couple of tips to make it happen.

LEVEL OUT YOUR TURN I bet you've heard "you need to turn more" plenty of times. I won't disappoint. You do need to turn. But the driver works the best if swung on a shallow plane. You lose that plane if you make a very steep turn, and your left shoulder dips very low on the backswing and then comes around very high. That makes the bottom of the swing steep and narrow, not flat and wide like it should be. To feel a good turn, hold a club across your chest and turn back and through with the shaft remaining roughly level with the ground. Recreate that feel when you play.

LET THE ARMS LEAD When my driving is off, it's usually because my lower body has unwound much faster than my upper body. When that happens, I have to use my hands to try to save the shot, which costs distance and accuracy. How you start down is crucial. While keeping your feet anchored to the ground, let your arms and club start to drop before unwinding. This helps sling the club faster through the impact zone. You'll start hitting it farther without any extra effort. Remember, you're not trying to attack the ball. You're trying to launch it.

Jhonattan Vegas, winner of the RBC Canadian Open, averaged 304.4 yards off the tee in 2016.

Source: http://www.golfdigest.com/story/jhonattan-vegas-how-to-go-deep-when-you-need-to Photos by J.D. Cuban

Start Hitting It Great Tee to Green

By. Rickie Fowler, author of golfdigest

The last couple seasons I've hit the ball more solid than ever. Instead of constantly trying different swing thoughts, I've worked with Butch Harmon to really focus my approach. With my posture at address, I always confirm that my chin is high. If your chin is stuck on your chest, there's no room for the front shoulder to turn under it, so you'll tend to tilt toward the target instead of loading onto your back leg. My thought on the backswing is to stay wide.

A lot of average golfers get hung up on keeping the right elbow tucked to the body. At the top of the swing, all that matters with the right elbow, Butch says, is that it points down. Swing your hands as far from your body as feels comfortable, and then just let 'er rip.

WAGGLE LIKE A PRO
Being meticulous with your setup is important, but my top priority over the ball is to stay loose. If I sense tension in my forearms, neck or anywhere, I get rid of it with a gentle waggle of the club back and forth. See how my thumb is off the grip? Lightly re-gripping the club a bit as I rehearse the first part of my takeaway is my go-to trick. While waggling, I stare down my target, then glance at the ball to start my swing. Struggling golfers tend to do the opposite: They'll stare at the ball, growing tense, and glance at the target with no real commitment to the shot.

STAY DOWN AND EXTEND
Through the ball, I think about maintaining the spine angle I started with at address. This helps my feet stay heavy and quiet. With a stable base, I can just fire my right side through the shot. To me, it kind of feels like I'm throwing the club and my right arm in a straight line at the target (above). In pro-ams, probably the most common fault I see is guys standing up at impact. They straighten both legs and get up on their toes. Without great timing, this kills your consistency. You want to extend your arms, not your legs.

CHECK YOUR BALANCE
I already emphasized the importance of being tension-free at the start, and the same goes for the finish. I know I've gone too hard if I'm straining—even slightly—to keep my balance as I watch the shot. Butch says the arms are the real indicators. It's true, if I've made a good swing, my arms feel soft. If I'm out of balance, I'll notice my arms flexing or straightening to save me from stumbling. Here, see how my right shoulder is closer to the target than my left, and the shaft is in a steady position behind my head? That's a pure finish. I hit this one stiff.

The Cure For First-Tee Jitters

Jeff Ritter, who is a swing coach, gives you strategies for handling driver nerves.

First-tee jitters are a widespread problem in golf, plaguing high and low handicappers all over the world. While a little bit of nerves can be good, you don’t want to twist yourself into a knot to the point you can’t even put a good swing on it.

If you’ve ever had issues with first-tee jitters, someone has probably told you to just “block out” all the distractions: The hazard on the left? Block it out. The people watching you? Block them out. The trees on the right? Block those out, too. Swing coach Jeff Ritter is here to tell you that’s all a bit ridiculous. He says stop trying to block out distractions, because that strategy doesn’t really work.

If there’s trouble, Ritter says to embrace it. Think of those trees and hazards as markers showing you where you should aim, not future disasters you have to avoid.

As for the guys in your group and the groups behind you that are lined up watching you tee off, Ritter says to stop focusing on feeling like you have to hit it in the middle of the fairway. Focus instead on what you get to do: spend the day outside with some buddies.

 

Feel This One Move To Quit Slicing

There's a reason more Golf Digest instruction attention has been devoted to the slice than any other subject throughout our history.

A lot of people do it, and it can be a hard problem to fix.

A lot of advice starts with changing the way you swing the club or the amount, direction and timing of your lower body movement. That advice can be fine, but many players are looking for a simple, single cue to get going on the right track.

Top Maryland teacher Bernie Najar has one of those cues: Your left arm. "When a slicer starts the downswing, the left arm moves excessively outward and away from the torso," says Najar, who is based at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. "This mistake sends the club into the ball in an open position relative to the swing path."

This Tip Will Keep You From Hooking Your Driver

We’re guessing this scenario is going to sound pretty familiar: You’re standing on a tee, telling yourself Don’t go left, and then you proceed to hit a huge hook. It’s infuriating, but avoidable. Rick Smith from Golfdigest.com says that you’re hitting a hook in this situation because you’re not letting your torso turn all the way through.

“You think if your upper torso turns left of the target, the ball will follow,” says Smith. “Ironically, the opposite is true. By slowing or even stopping your turn toward the target, your arms and hands whip through the hitting area and shut the clubface, producing that dreaded snap hook.”

So, how do we keep that clubface from shutting at impact? Smith says the key is to keep turning.

“It's hard to convince yourself to do this, but you have to trust it. Let your chest and hips rotate forward until your shirt buttons and belt buckle point left of your target. This stops the clubface from flipping closed and will help keep your ball in play.”

If you stop fearing the hook and start swinging all the way through, you're going to spend a lot less time hunting for balls in the woods.

 

Pipe Your Driver : How to boost your power and accuracy

 

Here's what Justin Rose from Golfdigest.com thinks about when driving the ball well and hitting greens:

I finished this year ranked fourth in a new stat called strokes gained from tee to green. It measures performance versus the field in everything but putting. For tour players, that really means driving and approach shots. 

OFF THE TEE

The most important part of my driver swing is generating power from the connection between my feet and the ground. It starts with a good setup. I play the ball up in my stance—you need to catch it on the upswing with the driver if you want distance. I get into a good, athletic posture, and from there I start my swing.

The one-piece takeaway is a thing of the past. I think of it in pieces: the clubhead goes first, then the hands, then the arms. I turn into my right side, loading my right hip and engaging my glutes (above), similar to doing squats or deadlifts. That feeling of loading my right leg is a huge key for me.

Throughout the backswing, I'm thinking of the word develop. I'm not rushing to the top. I'm letting the swing develop in its own time. That helps me sync everything. At the top, when all my weight is loaded into my right side, I feel like my right big toe is pressing into the ground. I'm building as much leverage as possible from the ground up.

That sets up my move back to the ball. The key moment of my downswing is when I'm halfway down. There, I'm focused on storing power and maintaining my height. I keep up the pressure into the ground through my feet. With all that leverage, I can push off and release the club powerfully into the ball. If I've stayed "in the shot" and kept my connection to the ground, I'm ripping it down the middle.

DRIVER PRACTICE

Here's a drill I use for building power out of the ground. I drop my left foot back and put 90 percent of my weight on my right foot. Then I bring my arms to the top and practice swinging halfway down. My weight doesn't move off my right side, so my right leg is constantly engaged (right). Repeating this motion helps me feel explosive into the ball, just what I want with the driver.—with Keely Levins

JORDAN SPIETH: TRY MY 5 DRIVER KEYS

There's a lot going on in the split second it takes for the club to move from behind your head down to the ball. So much that you really can't pinpoint any one element as being the most important. When my coach, Cameron McCormick, and I are fine-tuning my swing, we like to make sure I'm moving through certain positions during the downswing. Here's what we see and like in this photo from the PGA Championship last summer at Whistling Straits. —With Ron Kaspriske

1) LEFT HIP
From the start of the downswing, my left hip is turning behind my torso. It's most noticeable at impact, and it signifies that my lower-body rotation is leading the way to the ball. What you don't want to see is the lead shoulder directly above the lead hip as you swing down. That's a classic sign that the club is coming from outside the target line—and the ball's going to slice.

2) FEET
Shifting toward the target on the downswing is critical, but not to be overlooked is what my feet reveal here. The toes of my left foot have rolled off the ground, proving that my weight has moved into my left heel. That allows me to straighten my lead leg so I can pivot my body and swing around that leg like a post. On the other side, the heel of my right foot is off the ground. That shows I'm pushing through for extra leverage into the ball.

3) CHEST
My hips have really rotated through, but you can see here that the upper half of my body is not going as hard—it's basically facing the ball. Also, my right shoulder is still substantially lower than my left. Cam says these positions create a conduit for moving the energy I've created during the downswing out to the clubhead for maximum speed.

4) HEAD
There are two things to notice regarding my head position. The first is, despite a lot of lower-body thrust, my head looks to be in the position it would be at address. If it didn't remain pretty stable during the swing, center-face contact would be a serious challenge. The second thing is, I appear to be looking at the ground behind the clubhead. This proves I'm "staying behind the ball," as teachers say. It helps me square the clubface at impact and sling the club out to the ball.

“KEEPING MY HEAD BACK HELPS ME SQUARE THE CLUBFACE AT IMPACT.”

5. CLUB
This photo is a milli-second after impact, but the orientation of the club suggests it's moving level to the ground or slightly upward. With a driver, that's what you want to maximize your launch angle and carry distance. You also can see the clubface is very solid—still looking at the ball. I remember this drive ended up in the fairway, Position A.

Jordan Spieth writes instruction articles only for Golf Digest.

Do you know how high to tee your driver?

How do you tee up your ball when you’re hitting driver? Do you have one of those tees that has lines on it that lets you know how high the tee should be? Do you measure with your pinky? Or do you more go by feel? There are a lot of theories out there about how high you should tee your driver, but there actually isn’t one definitive answer. A lot of this has to do with the face angle of your driver.

Say you have a driver set at 10 degrees. That means it’s 10 degrees in the sweet spot. But half an inch up, it becomes 12.6 degrees; half an inch lower, it’s 7.4 degrees. Those are three different types of shots you can hit with one club, all depending on how high you tee it. According to swing coach Sean Foley, “The right height varies depending on the shot you're trying to hit and the playing conditions.”

“When you tee the ball higher, you have a better chance of swinging up on it and hitting the top part of the clubface, which launches the ball higher and with less distance-robbing spin,” says Foley. “Less spin means you have a better chance of getting some roll.”

When it’s calm or when the fairways are soft, Foley says he likes to tee it higher. "Conversely, in some windy conditions teeing the ball lower might make sense to help keep it below the treeline," says Foley. "The lower flight can help reduce the effects of the wind, and you'll get more control on the ground because more backspin means less roll.”

While you can get some control over your ball flight by slightly altering how high you tee it, make sure you’re never teeing it too high or too low.

“The highest it should ever be is with half of the ball above the top of the driver,” says Foley. “The lowest is with the top of the ball slightly higher than the top of the club.”

Lydia Ko's Favorite Drill Will Fix Your Swing

 

Lydia Ko, the No. 1 player in the world, spent some time with Golfdigest.com to talk about her favorite drill. Don’t worry, it doesn’t require any fancy contraptions, or a world-class coach to talk you through it -- you can do this drill on your own. It is called the split-hand drill.

If you’re a righty, take your normal grip, then slide your right hand down a few inches. Once in place, take some swings. You don’t have to take a full swing, or go at it as hard as you usually would, but hit some balls with the split grip and feel what positions it puts you in during the swing.

Ko likes it because it puts her in the right position in her takeaway, coming back down into the ball, and where the club shallows out.

“You don’t want 15 different drills,” says Ko. “You want one or two that cover all the things you’re working on.”

She says this drill is also great for amateurs, especially if you have issues whipping it inside. If your hands are separated, you’re not going to be able to take it inside. Also, if you have a bad habit of coming over the top on your downswing, Ko says the split-hand drill will help solve that problem, too.

If the split-hand drill is a cure-all for the best player in the world, it’ll probably help a few things in your swing, too.

Don't Ever Say This To Beginner Golfers

If you’re a decent player and have a friend that’s picking up the game, you’re probably giving them mini lessons every time you’re at the range or course together. We love seeing golf infused with new blood, but we’re guessing you’re not a professional swing coach. Which means, you could ultimately be doing more harm than good when it comes to your friend’s swing.

Jason Birnbaum, the Director of Instruction at Manhattan Woods Golf Club and one of the golf instructors at GolfDigest, says that the worst thing you can say to a beginner golfer is rattle off all of those clichés, such as:

  1. Keep your head down
  2. Keep your eye on the ball
  3. Straighten your left arm
  4. Keep your head still
  5. Pause at the top
  6. Swing slower

“Most of these are detrimental to any golfer,” says Birnbaum. “They create tension and are terrible swing thoughts when it comes to improvement.”

Instead, Birnbaum says to tell beginners to make half swings and to use a tee anywhere.

“You want to give them every chance to succeed early,” says Birnbaum.

Oh, and one more important thing: Don't keep score.

Stop Steering Your Driver and Swing It

For a lot of players, that section of the bag at the top reserved for the driver can be radioactive.

When the hole gets the least bit tight, they don't want to go near it, and if they do pull driver, it's obvious they don't want to be touching it.

If you're nervous about where the ball is going to go, you're probably going to make a tentative, steery swing. The result? A shot that is both shortand crooked.

Dustin Johnson doesn't have that problem, and if you follow a few of his simple keys, you'll hit more consistent drives.

Generate more speed and produce more solid contact by understanding how and when to turn on the power in your swing, Johnson says. Start by making a slow, controlled backswing. "And before you start down, feel like you can't turn back any farther," says the 2016 U.S. Open champion. "You'll store extra power and give yourself more time on the downswing to square the face."

Once you've made that big backswing, resist the temptation to pour on all the speed right away. "I see a lot of amateurs who use up so much energy to start down that their swing runs out of gas too early," he says. "If you try to swing down from the top at your maximum speed, you're going to be slowing down at the ball. Try to make sure the club is moving its fastest right around impact. You'll know that happened if the swing's momentum carries the club up and around your body."

Stop getting trapped in the sand

Plenty of advice for the middle-handicapper starts with "Don't try to do too much."

It's certainly easy to default to the conservative play when the shots actually count. But when you have a good lie in a fairway bunker and no tall lip to contend with, you don't have to play defense and blast out to the fairway.

With a good setup and a few mechanical tweaks, you can take aim for the green and keep a par in mind.

"Bad fairway bunker shots happen primarily for two reasons -- a faulty setup and fear," says Golf Digest Teacher Shaun Webb. Instead of making a tentative scoop at the ball, get your fundamentals right and make a confident swing.

Set your feet just wider than shoulder length apart -- which promotes stability -- and set the ball an inch or two back of center in your stance. This helps you hit the ball first, not the sand. Take one more club than normal for the shot, and choke up on the handle a half inch.

"Make a controlled, three-quarter swing and keep your feet quiet," says Webb. "Focus on making a crisp, downward strike." There's no need to scoop the ball out. The loft will do the work.

The result? There's almost nothing better than seeing the look on your opponent's face when you hit the green from what looked like punch-out jail.

How to Catch Drives Flush

Having problems making contact on the center of the clubface with your driver, and that's costing you distance and accuracy?

HOW YOU KNOW IT'S HAPPENING
When you hit it off the heel, it'll feel like you just hit a brick and the ball will shoot dead left. If you hit it off the toe, you'll feel a soft impact, like you whacked an old apple.

HOW TO FIX YOUR HEEL AND TOE HITS
Lay four dowels (or pool cues or even string) on the ground as shown. The spaces between the dowels should be slightly wider than your clubhead. Address an imaginary ball in the middle lane. If you tend to hit it off the toe, take practice swings making sure your clubhead travels through the far lane after impact. If you hit it off the heel (or tend to shank your irons), your downswing path should go through the near lane. After 10 practice swings, tee up a ball and swing away. Now that you're slotted correctly, you'll hit it square and the same distance every time.

 

Picture Source: Golfdigest.com

Picture Source: Golfdigest.com

How to Groove a Perfect Backswing in One Minute

If you're busy or don't live at a convenient distance from a driving range, practice your backswing at home with a new twist: make your backswing last an entire minute. This technique has been proven to match the effectiveness of hitting thousands of balls.

When you reduce your backswing to extra-slow-motion speed, your concentration and muscle memory soar to new levels. Get into your address posture with your driver, and then start the clubback very slowly. The club should literally move at a snail's pace. Follow the pace indicated by the photo (i.e., take 10 seconds to swing your hands from address to mid-thigh, then another 10 seconds to get the shaft almost to parallel, and so on). Don't just swing to the positions and stop — the motion should be extra slow, but you should never stop moving. Keep in mind that this is more of a workout than you might think (you'll see what I mean as soon as you get to the top).

Perform this drill every morning before work, and after a week take your new backswing to the range. You'll be surprised at your results, and how easily your body remembers the positions you practiced in your slow-motion swing.

Note: This technique works for your downswing and through-swing, too. After a few weeks of practicing these swing sections over the span of a minute, try making your full swing over 3 and then 5 minutes.

Picture source: Seancochran.com

Picture source: Seancochran.com

3 KEYS FOR BIG TEE SHOTS

You can hit it far. You're probably not limited by your size or fitness as much as you think. The secret is not leaking any energy, not a single drop, at the top of the backswing. If one little part is loose or out of place, all the good tension you've created is undone. 

Here are the TOP 3 Driver tips of golf professional Rickie Fowler:

1.) THE BACK KNEE STAYS BENT
If my right leg straightens at any point in the backswing, I give up a ton of leverage. I'll end up swinging the club back farther, but what I lose is a strong connection to the ground with my right foot. Without stable footing, it's impossible to hit the ball anywhere near your potential. You want to turn your weight on top of that knee, like a screw.

2.) THE ARMS RIDE ON THE CHEST
See how my left shoulder is snug across my chest? If I were to let my upper arms stray any farther from my body, so they're flapping around, I'd have a hard time syncing things up again on the downswing. Don't be overly strict about this, because you want to stay relaxed, but it's kind of like you keep your armpits more closed.  

3.) THE LEFT WRIST SETS FLAT
Butch Harmon and I have worked on getting my hands a little higher at the top of the backswing so my arm plane is less flat—I want my hands higher than my shoulders. I really like how my left wrist is perfectly flat in this photo. It mirrors the clubface, which is square. From here, the chances of hitting the ball square go way up. You don't have to worry about saving the swing on the way down. You can just uncoil.

BONUS TIP: Hitting driver off the fairway takes precision, but it's not impossible. In fact, the shot is a little easier than it was five years ago because a lot of the new driver heads have a lower center of gravity. I'd say most single-digit handicappers should at least mess around with hitting it off the deck. Even if you don't have the confidence to do it in competition, just practicing this shot does wonders for your swing by training your shoulders to be level through impact. If you tip back and try to help the ball up, you'll top it. Come in too steep, and you'll drive it into the ground.

How To Stop Slicing And Add Power

When golfer in particular want some extra yards, they usually stand farther from the ball and really stretch out their arms. They feel more powerful in this extended position. But the reality is, they end up producing less swing speed and hitting a weak drive to the right. 

The problem with extending your arms is, you get more bent over, and your weight moves out to your toes. When you swing from there, gravity pulls you out even farther, so you react by pulling up to save your balance. That causes the club head to swing across the line from out to in. You might hit a strong pull, but chance are, you're going to wipe across the ball and send it slicing.

A better approach if you want more distance is to set up to hit a draw. Start with your arms relaxed and hanging comfortably from your shoulders, then take a closed stance, with your feet, hips and shoulders aimed to the right of your target. Then try to swing out to the right and hit the inside part of the ball. Think of it like a big, sweeping forehand in tennis. You'll sling the club through and rotate your right arm over your left. That's a draw—and that's real power.

Try it our with our Smart Golf club and see the results live on any Smart device of your choice. 

 

FAKE POWER (ON LEFT): Extending your arms might feel powerful, but it leads to a slice.

REAL POWER (ON RIGHT): Get in a closed stance, and swing out to the right for a draw.

Source: GolfDigest

 

The Turn Secret You Don't Know

What You Do

You're afraid of coming over the top and slicing or pulling the ball, so you hold your right shoulder back and swing from inside to outside.

Why That's a Mistake

It's a risky play because at some point you must get your right shoulder through to the target. Otherwise, you'll get a swing that stops at the ball instead of going through it. Expect pushes and weak slices when you try to hold back.

The Move You Need

They key to producing straight, powerful is to turn your right shoulder through your left armpit line on your downswing. This enables you to explode through impact, release the club down your target line and finish in balance.

How to Do It

Try one, or all, of the following to correctly get your right side through to the target without coming over the top.

1. At the top, think of replacing your left shoulder with your right. That will help you turn through while keeping your right shoulder under your head instead of spinning out in front of you.

2. Hold your finish. Check that the outside of your right shoulder points at the target and not in front of you (which is evidence of an unfinished swing).

3. Practice this drill: Place the head of your driver in front of your left foot so that your left arm is fully extended (parallel to the ground) and the shaft is straight up and down. Swing your right arm to the top of your backswing.

Swing your right arm down and, as you do, turn your right shoulder inside the shaft while keeping it under your left arm. This "under and through" shoulder turn is the correct way to hit past the ball and make a full swing with a powerful release.

To maximize the productivity, we recommend using our Smart Golf club for this practice. SMARTGOLF will analyze your swing motion and help you to understand every aspect of it. 

 

Source: Golf.com

Picture: TheMicheliCenter.com

Improve Your Practice Routine To Shoot More Consistent Scores

 

“I want to be more consistent.” This wish is listed often at the top of a golfer's wish list. 

If your goal is to shoot lower scores more consistently, your practice routine starts to become more important. Practice makes permanent, and you really should practice how you play. This means you need to have a relaxed but focused mindset, have a specific plan or list of goals for the day, and make every shot count.

 

Here are a few simple rules to follow that will allow your practice sessions to become more productive:

1. Always have a goal in mind when you practice

2. When working on mechanics, don’t worry about where the ball is going. Work on your golf swing, not hitting shots. Work towards developing a feel to use while on the course.

3. When working on hitting golf shots, always go through your pre-shot routine, have a target, and always switch clubs allowing for a two club gap (8 iron to 6 iron, or 6 iron to 4 iron).

4. Practice course management and controlling your golf ball by reading the situation, planing the safest and easiest shot to hit, and executing what you are trying to do without being afraid to fail.

5. Last but not least, practice with the world's first smart golf club. Our club will not only help you to practice whenever and wherever you are, but also record the most important aspects of your swing and help you to understand you strong points and weaknesses.

 

 Source: GolfTEC

Preparation

Too often we underestimate the importance of preparation. Let's go over how you can prepare physically and mentally before a round of golf.

Body preparation

Source: The Golf Course Locator

Source: The Golf Course Locator

  • Stretching and warming up your body is essential before practice or a game to improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury. Try out these simple stretches or check out Tiger's minute by minute warm-up routine.
  • Eating light and a healthy meal will provide sustained energy release throughout your game. Don't forget to bring along some healthy snacks such as edamame, mixed nuts, veggie sticks with hummus, or deviled eggs to keep your energy up. And of course, don't forget to hydrate frequently!

Mental preparation

  • Visualize your shot before playing it.
  • Practice the exact shot you are about to play.

Practice

  • Don't think too much about your swing. Over thinking and hesitation will most likely result the same way. Confidence is key.
  • Begin with short-irons, move to mid-and long irons and then the woods.
  • Don't forget to practice your short game.
  • When you don't have time to go out to a practice range, don't forget to regularly train with your Smart Golf club! Review your performance history and your best swings.

Source: Golfinthemoment.com