WHO: Tiger Woods
WHAT: 170-yard eight-iron to one foot for a birdie
WHERE: 444-yard par-4 18th hole at Sherwood Country Club
WHEN: Third round of the Chevron World Challenge
For one week anyway, Woods is starting to regain precise control of his irons, something he’s not had in a very long time. Here’s how he described his approach from the fairway at 18: “It’s nice when the ball starts off right where you’re aiming. I hit it dead straight.”
Most golfers should try to hit only dead straight shots with short irons and wedges. With those clubs, putting spin and curving the ball is very risky. Unless you’re in total control, the odds of hitting a solid shot will be slim if you try to curve the ball.
To hit it straight, you must make dead solid contact. And the only way to do that is to have your divot start just after the ball. That goes against the common, and mistaken, perception that your divot should start before (or in back of) the ball.
Practice on a range by using short irons. Take one practice swing before hitting each ball. In the practice swing, take a divot. Then place the ball on the grass at the back edge (farthest from the hole) of the divot. Now hit the ball. The divot should get just a tad bigger, because you’re contacting the ball first, driving down and starting your new divot ahead of the ball.
Good players practice by putting their balls on the backside of divots, because they know that they need to have their divots start just in front of the ball. Most amateurs place the ball at the front of the divot to tee it up, and then they contact the ground first trying to scoop under it. That’s a mistake you should never make again.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Mark Wood teaches at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster Township, N.J.