Every Monday, we tap GOLF’s Top 100 Teachers in America for their insights on what went down between the ropes over the weekend on the major tours, and more important, how you can use this information to improve your own game. Call it trickle-down tips—learn from the best to play your best.
1. Memorial runner-up Rickie Fowler missed a lot of greens long and left on Sunday. Was he too pumped or too aggressive?
Martin Chuck, Tour Striker Academy at Raven G.C., Phoenix, Ariz. (@tourstriker): You can’t tuck a pin tight enough to lure Fowler into a safe play—he’s as aggressive as they come. With only four wins over seven-and-a-half seasons, however, maybe it’s time for him to rethink his overall strategy. Flag-hunting is dangerous business, even when you’re striping it. My advice: Give yourself a 10-yard buffer on all sides of the pin. Move the center of the zone around the green until you find the spot that combines the largest area of the putting surface with the least number of hazards. This area may be several yards from the pin, but making the center of your safety zone your landing spot means you’ll stay out of trouble.
2. The double-whammy to missing greens long and left is that you’re faced with a tough pitch coming back, usually from deep rough. What’s the smart play here?
Chuck: The tough thing about missing long is that you have to chip or pitch the ball back to a green that’s sloping away from you, since most greens tilt back to front. You need a soft shot that lands like a butterfly with sore feet, and then trickles down the slope to the pin. It’s not impossible. Grab your most lofted club, take a slightly wider stance than normal and play the ball forward of its usual position. This adds loft to the clubhead before you even swing it. Now, make a bunker-style swing, entering the grass behind the ball and sliding the clubhead smoothly underneath it.
Krista Dunton, Berkeley Hall, Bluffton, S.C. (@kristadunton): Can’t trust your bunker swing? Try this. Set up with the ball in the middle of your stance, your feet close together and your shoulders level (no leaning or tilting). Use your normal short-game motion, but as you swing through impact, turn your right palm up toward the sky and let your left wrist flex back. You should feel a “cup” forming in the back of your left wrist as you swing through the ball. Keep an even pace and the ball will pop up with lots of shot-stopping spin.
3. What about the winner? Jason Dufner grabbed his first victory in 16 months with some clutch putting and a ridiculously accurate iron game (he finished 21% better in Strokes Gained: Approach than the next finisher). We like the 230-yard 3-wood to the front of the green on the par-5 15th on Sunday, fueling a two-putt birdie. Obviously, he took something off that shot. Managing distance with your irons is one thing, but a fairway wood? What’s the trick?
Chuck: Owning the ability to saw off yards with any club is a must-have skill. The method’s the same regardless if you pull an iron, wedge or wood: choke down. As a general rule, choke one inch for every nine yards you need to take off the shot. Your results may vary, but the 1-to-9 ratio is pretty solid. It’s worth toying with at the range.