Last week, Eddie Merrins was inducted into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame, joining 14 of the most accomplished instructors in the game. Here is a collection of the best tips from this esteemed group of teachers.
Percy Boomer (1874-1949)
Class of 1998
Turn in a Barrel
Percy Boomer’s classic tip is designed to create the sensation of a proper turn. He would ask students to imagine being inside a barrel that extended from the chest to the knees, big enough around to allow the hips to turn freely but not so big as to allow any sway, either forward or back.
With this image in mind, a student can start making the proper turn and develop muscle memory without having to remember many complex technical points.
Harvey Penick (1904-1995)
Class of 1998
How to Take Dead Aim
At address, hitting the ball has to be the most important thing in your life. Shut out all other thoughts, pick a target and take dead aim. Forget about how your swing looks and concentrate on where you want the ball to go.
In his famous Little Red Book, Penick said to “take dead aim at a spot on the fairway or the green, refuse to allow any negative thought to enter your head, and swing away. … Make it a point to do it every time on every shot. Don’t just do it when you happen to remember.”
Ernest Jones (1887-1965)
Class of 1998
Hitting a golf ball is very similar to driving a nail into a plank in that both involve the control of a swinging implement. Watch a carpenter as he swings his hammer, and you’ll see that the head acquires its maximum speed at the moment of impact with the nail. You can be sure that his mind is not cluttered with thoughts of wrist cocking, pausing at the top of the swing, correct hand action, or 101 other individual motions that make up the complete action of driving a nail into a board.
If it were, he would seldom, if ever, hit the nail at all. He has one thought in mind: Hitting the nail by swinging the head of the hammer in the most efficient manner possible. The rest takes care of itself.
Tommy Armour (1895-1968)
Class of 1998
Stop at the top
One easy tip will infinitely improve the timing of most golfers. Simply pause briefly at the top of the backswing. This cures the worst fault, that of starting to hit from the top of the swing, which creates an outside-in path through impact, which causes a pull or a slice. The hacker does this invariably.
In practice, count as you swing “One-Two-Wait-Three.” “One” and “Two” are counted as you swing back. “Wait” at the top. Then, on the count of “Three,” start your downswing.
Davis Love, Jr. (1935-1988)
Class of 1999
The 10 Commandments of Putting
1. Accelerate through the ball.
2. Keep the hands close together.
3. Putt with your eyes over the ball.
4. Hit the top half of the ball to promote a smooth roll.
5. Play fast putts off the toe of the putter, but never play slow putts off the heel.
6. Putt on the last hole just as you did on the first. (How often have you seen a golfer give up during a bad round, as if putting didn’t matter any more? The golfing gods remember that stuff; they’ll get you next time.)
7. The putter should be soled level, not with the toe up.
8. On long putts, speed is more important than line.
9. On short putts, line is critical. Get the line right, putt the ball on the line, give it enough hit, and the ball will go in.
10. Follow through to the hole.
— From Every Shot I Take by Davis Love III
Class of 1999
Relax Your Arms for More Yards
Tension is the enemy of speed. In golf, your arms allow your hands to create swing speed; relaxed arms mean faster hands. Here’s an exercise to underscore the point. Pick a spot on the carpet (or put a tee in the ground) and swing an iron back and forth at the spot, trying to brush the spot or club the tee. You’ll find that hitting the spot becomes easy and you can swish the club quite fast if your arms and hands are relaxed. Tighten them, and suddenly it’s very tough.
Class of 2000
Fairway Woods Need a Steady Head
By far the leading criterion of fairway wood play is stability and precision of head position. The ball must be hit exactly at the bottom of the arc, not on the way down, and not on the way up, unless the lie is unusually bad in one case, or unusually good in the other. To do so consistently, your head must be anchored, with the back arching strongly to hold you in place.
— From Paul Runyan’s Book for Senior Golfers
Class of 2001
Repeat After Me
The only purpose of the golf swing is to move the club through the ball square to the target at maximum speed. How this is done is of no significance at all, so long as the method employed enables it to be done repetitively.
Class of 2002
Feel the Clubhead
Hold the club straight up with the shaft perpendicular to the ground, and feel the weight of the clubhead. Can’t feel the clubhead at all, right? Too light.
Hold the club in front of you, parallel to the ground. Causes a little pull at the top of your wrists, right? Too heavy.
Hold it pointing halfway between the first two positions. Close your eyes. Focus on the weight you feel: just right. That’s the weight you want to feel throughout your golf swing.
Bill Strausbaugh Jr. (1923-1999)
Class of 2003
45 Minutes to Learn, a Lifetime to Master
We can teach a person all he needs to know about the golf swing in 45 minutes. But you can spend 45 years teaching the muscles to respond correctly. There’s a quick end to learning, but no end to the application and development of what you’ve learned.
Peggy Kirk Bell
Class of 2004
The Grip’s the Thing
You need to grip the club so that your hands work together. This is the most important thing. I’ve had students come to me with terrible grips. Once I teach them a good grip, they say to me, “I can’t believe it, this game is too easy now.” You can’t think about the golf swing-you have to feel it.
Manuel de la Torre
Class of 2005
Swing It Forward
To me, a swinging motion is backward and forward, not up and down. That’s why I always use the term forward swing instead of downswing. After all, you’re trying to move the golf ball forward, not down into the ground. I tell my students that the club is pulling in the direction of the target — that’s an effective image to have through the hitting area to achieve full arm extension.
Claude Harmon Sr. (1916-1989)
Class of 2006
If It Was Easy, It Wouldn’t Be Fun
“Golf’s hard,” Dad would say, pointing a meaty finger at me as if he were about to reveal the secret of the Rosetta Stone. “Good golf is damn hard, and championship golf is something only a few will ever see. But that’s how it should be. If it were easy, everybody would do it. And where’s the fun in that?”
— The Pro: Lessons About Golf and Life from My Father, Claude Harmon, Sr., by Claude ‘Butch’ Harmon Jr. and Steve Eubanks
Gary Wiren, Ph.D.
Class of 2007
Swing Through the Ball
If the ball is causing you to add tension to your body that kills the swing, then you have to use your imagination. Imagine that you are going to get your greatest speed about a foot past the ball. It is a swing thought that two of the greatest players of all time, Ben Hogan and Harry Vardon, used because they realized that deceleration was a huge mistake. Don’t just swing to the ball. Rather, swing through it, on both short and long shots. It will take you to a winning finish.
— From Trump: The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received, by Donald J. Trump
Class of 2007
The Club Stays Under the Shelf
Visualize a shelf running above the club at address, parallel to the ground and extending from the 8 o’clock position to 4 o’clock. Initiate your swing by feeling that the butt end of the club moves away low. This will keep your hands working underneath the shelf. Not only does this foster the proper linkage between body and club, it also helps maintain both your center of gravity and spine angle. Try to produce this powerful feeling coming into impact, at impact and past impact-in other words between 8 and 4 o’clock.”
— From The Golf Swing, by David Leadbetter
Class of 2008
Swing the Handle
“Swing the handle of the club from one side of your body to the other, employing your forearms to do so. It’s the keynote of all my teaching philosophy.”