Big Play: Control shots in high winds like Brendan Steele

Big Play: Control shots in high winds like Brendan Steele

Brendan Steele earned his first career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Texas Open.
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WHO: Brendan Steele

WHAT: A 7-iron to 3 feet, 3 inches for a birdie

WHERE: 207-yard par-3 7th hole at TPC San Antonio

WHEN: Final round of the Valero Texas Open

The wind was a huge factor all week in San Antonio. It routinely blew at 20 mph, and often gusted to over 30 mph. Steele prevailed largely because he beautifully flighted his ball in the challenging conditions. The biggest difference between how good players like Steele and rank amateurs handle the wind is largely a matter of mindset. High handicappers gauge the wind by how many extra or fewer clubs they need to hit. So you might hear a 21-handicapper say, “It’s a four club wind.” A tour pro will never say that. Rather, he’d say something like, “I need to take some spin off this,” or “I need to take some speed off the ball flight.”

THE DRILL: Playing into the wind, you must feel like you’re hitting it soft, which goes against the natural instinct to hit the ball hard. You also have to take a lot of extra club, and only experience can tell you how much extra club to hit on a particular shot into the wind. One crucial thing you must do when hitting into the wind — and I learned this from Ben Doyle, who teaches at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, Calif. — is to stand a bit closer to the ball. Doing that puts your hands a bit further ahead of the ball than normal at impact, and that will help keep the ball low and in control.

I grew up in northern England and Scotland, and I learned to deloft the club at impact while playing in the wind. That means the butt end of the grip will be significantly ahead of the ball at impact. To do that, you should feel like you’re dragging the clubhead through impact, like it’s a wet mop, with your body pivot and your arms doing all the work. There should be absolutely no throwing the clubhead at the ball. I like to say, “Drag, drag, drag.” To promote dragging, firm up the last three fingers of the top hand on the grip (the left hand for a righthander). Do that and see how low you can hit the ball on the practice tee.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Martin Hall is the director of instruction at Ibis Golf & Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. Send him an email here.