Dear TJ,I am 57 years old with a 14-handicap. I tend to hit my driver either straight or I get into problems with consistent pulls. The ball will fly straight but left of target. I think it is because I get my hips moving too quickly or turning before my body. It really hurts my game and usually causes me to waste a shot just to get the ball back in play. I usually end up with a bogey rather than par because of the bad drive.Ron C., Houston, Texas Hey Hipster,
You’ve targeted the wrong body part—it’s not your hips that are the problem. In fact, your hips should lead the “trapping” sequence to impact: the hips trap the shoulders, the shoulders trap the hands, and the hands trap the clubhead. By trap I mean each part stays ahead of the one behind it until the right side runs over the left wall at impact, then—boom!—the club catches up in a rush of energy and releases across the wall. That’s how those small women on the LPGA Tour hit the ball so far. Some of them look like they fell of a charm bracelet, but their trapping sequence is perfect so they nuke it.
Check out this photo below. Rich Beam didn’t come to this position by slowing his hips down.
Your problem is that you think your hips are too fast so you do exactly the wrong thing: You slow them down, allowing your shoulders and arms to catch up to and then pass your chest. The result is a dead pull. Instead, work on this trapping sequence and you’ll hit the ball hit long and straight. Just don’t expect to be bombing it like LPGA star Jeong Jang right away. She blasts it about 250 yards per drive, and she’s 5 feet tall! Dear TJ,I am a decent (11.2 index) and improving golfer, and I enjoy getting out to the range to improve my swing and learn new techniques. One area I struggle with is uneven lies, particularly with the ball above my feet. My home course presents this situations with some frequency and I tend to hit the ball fat and low. What are the setup tips for these shots, and is there any way I can practice them on a flat driving-range mat? Mike J., Seattle, Wash. Dear Fat and Low,Practicing a lie above your feet on a flat mat is tough. If you have some room, you could try teeing the ball on the left-hand side of the mat and standing off it. But follow my setup keys and you can use your regular swing to beat this lie:
When the ball rests above your feet, you're forced to swing flatter and more around your body, causing your shot to fly to the left of target (usually with a right-to-left spin). From this lie, your tendency will be to pull-hook the ball. To offset this, you need to make several adjustments to your setup.
First, lean into the hill and leave your weight there as you swing. Also be sure to keep your weight on the inside of your back foot. The danger here is that as your swing progresses, the momentum of your turn will topple you backward, an error you can prevent if you're well anchored on your back side.
Take one more club and choke down so you can stand closer to the ball. Move the ball back in your stance because you'll reach the bottom of your arc sooner when the ball is above your feet. To account for the tendency to pull this shot, allow your shoulders to close, an alignment that will aim your clubface to the right of the target. With both your shoulders and your clubface aimed to the right, your swing takes an inside path that offsets the tendency for the ball to start left. Once your aimed properly, simply swing the club using a three-quarter arc, allowing your setup to determine your swing path.
Check out the photo below. To stay in control of my balance I set my weight into the slope. Look how much I've choked down on the handle. And I know my hair looks ratty, but the world-class wind discombobulates everything on Nantucket.
Please keep sending questions my way, along with any hair products you think I should try.
Best,TJ Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher TJ Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You can learn more about TJ at www.tjtomasi.com