Golf is the same game your grandfather played, but it's taught differently today. Top 100 Teacher Eden Foster puts a modern twist on the tips from our first issue and shows you the new fundamentals.
The teachers featured in the first issue of GOLF Magazine had one thing in common: they were fantastic players. In 1959, you didn't have "playing" pros and "teaching" pros. Even Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen wore several hats; they played, taught and even found time to repair clubs. Just imagine getting a bunker lesson from Phil Mickelson and then asking him to re-grip your driver.
Back them, teachers tended to teach the game the way they played it. Today's teachers use video to analyze the mechanics of their students, frame by frame. This allows them to fix their students' problems while taking their own games out of it. Heck, many great teachers today aren't even good players!
Equipment has also changed how the game is taught. I attended the Masters this year and couldn't believe the huge cuts that nearly every player took with his driver. Nobody swings the club smoothly anymore, because the forgiving technology in today's clubs allows players to whack away without having to worry about spraying it too far offline.
Still, there's a lot of timeless stuff in these old tips,
and the overall principles still hold true. The aim of golf
instruction then was the same as it is today: to help you
play better. So let's get started...
Tip #1: The Long & Short of Irons
The Long & Short of Irons
Make a more aggressive swing with longer irons
Swing your 3-iron like your 9-iron
The reason you sometimes have trouble with long irons is that you swing them too hard. Instead of trusting the length of the club to produce farther hits, you try to put some extra mustard on it and your shoulders and back take over your swing. Instead, swing your long irons with the same tempo as your short irons and you'll make solid hits with all of your irons.
To compensate for your long irons' longer shafts, you must bring your hips, legs and feet into play, at least more actively than you do with the short irons.
In 1959, players were taught to stay centered over the ball with their head still. Then you'd adjust your weight distribution and ball position depending on the club. Players today shorten their swing to hit a short iron. Watch Tiger hit a wedge and you'll see that his swing is compact on his backswing and his follow-through. With longer irons, you should make a bigger swing, which means your movement off the ball increases in the backswing and the follow-through. In 1959, the swing was the same for the 3-iron and the pitching wedge.
Today, the tempo is
different. Tiger takes a
much more aggressive
cut with a 3-iron than he
does with a wedge. You
Tip #2: Getting Punch in the Wedge
Getting Punch in the Wedge
Rotate your body and keep your hands firm
Activate your hands for wedge shots that bite
Many golfers try to add loft to their wedge shots by "scooping" the ball and finishing with most of their weight on the right leg. The result is a short shot that lands with no backspin. To fix this, address the ball with your weight favoring your left leg. The way to punch the ball is to restrict your pivot and generate power from your arms and especially your hands, while keeping your head as steady as possible.
To correct a scooping move on your wedge shots, you should address the ball with 60 percent of your weight on your left leg.
The fault is still the same. Hanging back on the right leg and scooping is probably the number-one fault I see with students. But the fix today is different. Look at the picture from the 1959 issue you'd probably say it was correct. But what Lew Worsham does in the picture is not always what he says in the text. This is an example of how teachers taught what they felt in the swing, not what they were actually doing. In the original tip, Worsham talks about keeping his head steady, but in the picture his head is looking over to the left side of his body. He also talks about using his hands a lot in this swing, but in the picture his hands look steady. To hit this shot today, you want to take your hands completely out of it. Take the club back and rotate only your body, keeping your hands and wrists firm through impact without a lot of flippiness. This is especially true for high-handicappers, because their version of "hands" is scooping. Tip #3: The Big Drive
The Big Drive
Rotating your core is the modern power key
Square the clubface
To add yards to your drives, make sure the back of your left hand is aligned with the clubface at address and swing with the feeling that your arms are a single unit. When all the components of your swing are working together, you'll bust your longest and straightest drives.
"I make sure that the back of my left hand is aligned on a plane parallel to the face of my driver."
Your left hand is
still a factor in
your swing, but
the grip isn't as
distance as it
was back then.
Today, your more forgiving
means that the
power move isn't
swinging as a
unit. You need to
use your core and
rotate your body
into the ball as
hard as you can
to hit a superlong
Tip #4: The Soft Four-Wood
The Soft Four-Wood
Don't leave any yardage gaps in your bag
Turn your 4-wood into a 5-wood
High handicappers have difficulty hitting 2-irons and 3-irons, so utility woods have become popular with many players. (Sound familiar?) But with players carrying 5-woods, 6-woods as well as sand and pitching wedges, how do you stay within the 14-club limit? The answer: Turn your 4-wood into a 5-wood or 6-wood by choking down on the club four inches.
You shorten the length of the shot (without any loss in accuracy) by choking down on the shaft about four inches.
This tip was ahead of its time in that most of the guys on Tour now hit utility clubs. However, you'd never see a Tour player choking down four inches on the club unless he was trying to hit a low shot. Instead, they alter their timing. For example, Tiger Woods is always toying with his shots: soft 8-iron, hard 8-iron. For the average player, altering your timing is death, so gripping down an inch is the best way to get a more solid, controlled hit (or a "soft" hit). Equipment advances have made the original tip obsolete because with hybrid clubs and TrackMan launch monitors, most players shouldn't have yardage gaps in their bags anymore. Tip #5: Cutting the Ball From a Sand Trap
Cutting the Ball From a Sand Trap
You can get out with your regular swing
Cut the ball from the sand
Address the ball with the face of your club laid wide open so that the front edge of the club acts as a knife blade. Then strike the sand at a spot several inches behind the ball. In short, you "cut" the shot. This is a shot that requires more nerve than skill, even for pros.
Imagine that the front end of your wedge is a knife blade and that a strand of rope is running vertically through the spot behind the ball.
You'd never see "sand traps" in Golf Magazine today. If you're playing with someone who's a Rules guru and you say "sand trap," you'll get your head ripped off. It's correctly called a bunker. That said, what Al Besselink is talking about in this tip is 100 percent correct, but only a 1- or 2-handicap could play a bunker shot like this. The average player? No chance.
Today, we teach bunker shots by handicap level. I might teach my best students to play a bunker shot like this, but mid-handicappers should open the clubface slightly and make their normal golf swing. If they attempted to fully open the face and "cut" the string behind the ball, they'd never get it out of the bunker.
Bunker shots were
difficult in 1959 than
they are today. You
used to try to avoid
the bunkers. Now, if
you miss the green,
you'd rather be in the
bunker than taking your
chances in the rough.
The reason is course
conditioning and better
equipment. In 1959,
everybody feared the
bunker. Today even high handicappers
this shot. They know
they can get it out.
Tip #6: Putting on 'Pool Table' Greens
Putting on 'Pool Table' Greens
Brush the green with your putter for a smooth stroke
Tap your putts
Play your putter like a pool cue. The putting stroke is made almost completely with the right hand, which "taps" the ball. The left hand acts strictly as a guide, drawing the putter back in a straight line while keeping the face square to the hole. When you strike your putts like this, the overspin will cause the ball to hug the green and actually "look" for the hole, like a mouse looking for a place to hide.
I bend low over the ball, much as I bend down when playing a pool shot.
2009Brush your putts
Doug Ford's thoughts on putting are good, but if you look at the guys who win the Masters every year, they have a longer, smoother putting motion. Back then, a "fast" green probably ran at 9 on the Stimpmeter; today it would run at 13 or even higher. So in 1959 you probably had to punch or pop the ball because a fast green then is a slow green today. I teach my students to have a Phil Mickelson-style putting stroke, which is more of a brushing motion with a longer backstroke, very little acceleration through the ball and a short follow-through. I like the image of the mouse finding the hole as a place to hide. The firm "tap" follow-through from the 1959 tip puts a good roll on the ball.
That still holds true today. If you're lipping out a lot of putts, you're not getting a good roll on it. Watch Tiger. When he's rolling it well, his ball hugs the ground and dives into the hole like it was looking for it.