Even today I still get nervous on the first tee or if I’m playing with people I don’t know that well. When I first came up on Tour, I was nervous all the time, especially when faced with a tough shot, such as hitting a half wedge over water or a long iron off a tight lie. So I came up with a drill—maybe my single best tip!—to help me feel the most important parts of my swing and instantly build the confidence needed to pull off the shot. I call it the “Brush-Brush” drill, and I’m certain that if you try it, you’ll hit better shots.
On the range, use the toe of your club to make a line in the grass, then set up centered over the line. Make a half swing and try to brush the grass on the target side of the line—not a huge divot, just a slight brush—then repeat. I do it twice in a row, because it instills a good rhythm: “brush-brush.” It sounds simple, but you actually have to do so many things right to brush the grass in the right place that, when you do, you’re grooving good mechanics. Plus, success in this drill will prevent you from catching the ground behind the ball, which is the fastest way to hit a really bad shot.
The trick is to get the butt of the grip even or ahead of the line before unhinging your wrists and brushing the grass with the clubhead. Most amateurs make the mistake of unhinging their wrists when the butt end of the grip is still behind the line, and some players release the hinge when the butt is still behind their right leg. But if you lead the clubhead with the handle and delay the unhinging until the last possible moment, you get that crisp, Tour-style impact with the shaft leaning slightly toward the target with any iron or wedge.
Not only does this drill get you into a better impact position, it gives you ball-first contact regardless of your lie. Anyone can make decent contact on a flat range, but on the course you’ll encounter uphill lies, downhill lies and lies where the ball is either above or below your feet. Slopes like these tend to exacerbate impact problems, and if you have the type of swing that brushes the grass behind the ball, you’ll have no chance on anything but a perfect lie. Lead with the handle, then brush. I’ve been around golf for 60 years, and this drill beats them all.