So you want to swing it like a PGA Tour player? We can help you out. Watch slow motion swing sequences of 11 of the top golfers in the world, and then read what some of our Top 100 Teachers say you can do to adopt their key moves, as seen in Golf Magazine's "Play Like A Pro" instruction book.
Golf fans have always had a love affair with long hitters, a fact that has helped Bubba Watson become one of the most popular players on Tour in recent years. His homemade swing, easy demeanor and shotmaking savvy are already the stuff of legend — Bubba is to driving what Seve Ballesteros was to the short game. His thoughts on his game run simple: "I know I'm swinging it well when the ball goes far." In an age in which every Tour practice swing is digitally captured and analyzed down to the millisecond, Watson is certainly a breath of fresh air.
Bubba's 120-plus mph swing isn't one you can mimic overnight if at all. But if you're looking for a few extra yards on the tee, there are some Bubba moves you can borrow to make your swing more athletic and dynamic. First, copy Bubba's wide takeaway, and experiment with delaying your wrist hinge for as long as possible on the way back. That's an easy way to increase the width of your swing. Then, use more leg in your motion. Like most big hitters, Bubba increases the flex in his knees as he transitions from backswing to downswing, then straightens his lower body coming through impact. It's the same move you'd use to do a standing long jump. The greater the change in knee flex, the farther you'll jump — and the longer you'll hit it. Look closely for these key moves in Bubba Watson's swing to help your driving game, but don't blink or you'll miss them. — Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs
Although it's highly accurate, Graeme McDowell's swing isn't that different from yours, making it the perfect model for you to copy for more consistency. McDowell isn't big (5' 11", 170 pounds). He isn't fast (112.8 mph swing speed), and his swing isn't what you'd call classic. That's good news, because it means you can find more fairways even if, like McDowell, you have a few quirks in your motion.
McDowell is too erect at address (just like most amateurs), he swings the club to the outside going back (another common amateur move), and he tends to lay the club off at the top. (You'll see this all day on any public range.) But he sets the club perfectly on plane. He gets there by keeping his arms and hands quiet and methodically unwinding his lower body as soon as he transitions from backswing to downswing. It's this body turn — not anything he does with his hands and arms — that seemingly loops the club back on plane.
A good way to get this feeling is to make practice swings, but instead of waiting for your backswing to end before turning your lower body, rotate your hips to the left while you're still swinging the club back. Not only will you almost magically reroute the club for an inside delivery, you'll add some whip action to your swing and a few extra yards to boot. If you can make this important move at this crucial moment in your backswing, you'll stripe it regardless of what happens before or after. — Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs
"I've always hit the ball far — at 6' 4" it's easy for me to generate speed — but I continue to pick up yards every season. One thing that allows me to swing fast yet consistently make contact in the center of the clubface is to minimize my angles and make a level turn through the ball.
On every driver swing, my goal is to remain standing tall so that my arms have enough room to come through and fire the club with max power. I lose the space I need when I start bending my knees on the way back down. This sets my shoulder line, my belt line and my knee line at too severe an angle, which makes it impossible to return to my address posture at impact (a good thing to think about to make consistently solid contact).
When I practice this move, I like to picture a circle on my right hip. As I turn from the top of my backswing, I think of keeping the circle at the same height and my knees stable. If I do it right, my hips will be level at impact and I'll have ample space to fire the clubhead through the ball." — Dustin Johnson
Obviously, Hunter Mahan has built a swing without a lot of difficult-to-time parts, which is the main reason he's so accurate off the tee. So accurate it's almost boring to watch. All he has to do is rotate his hips faster or slower to dial in the distance required for the shot he's facing.
Notice how Mahan swings his hands straight back without rolling his forearms and wrists. This keeps the clubface pointed at the ball for a longer period of time during the backswing. Most amateurs tend to roll the club to the inside at the very start and whip the clubface too much open. This is the first bad move in a series that ultimately leads to slices. Mahan then uses his core and back muscles to wind all the way to the top. Then, it's all on the feet, which he uses to grip the ground and call his legs into action at the start of his downswing. The trunk, arms and clubhead ultimately follow, whipping the club through the ball at max speed. Despite what you've heard, Mahan proves that setup and impact are not the same. At contact, the hips and shoulders are open, the right arm is much more bent, the hands are higher than they are at address, his right heel is up — the list goes on and on. While you can't micromanage impact, painting the right picture in your mind can go a long way toward helping you master it time and again. — Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs
Sergio García's full swing, developed under the tutelage of his father, has featured the same shape since he burst onto the scene as a teenager. I first saw Sergio in the late 1990s, when he was an amateur playing a round with Mark O'Meara at Isleworth. His action was as impressive that afternoon as it is today — García's swing is still one of the most dynamic and explosive out there. Many of the swing traits that separate Sergio from the rest might be difficult for an amateur to copy, but they still warrant discussion — you should at least become aware of the way power and speed develop in their purest forms.
First, notice how he drops from the shoulder plane almost immediately to the shaft plane at the start of his downswing. This is the definition of lag, and the only way to get it — and supersize your power — is to flatten your approach, as Sergio does. You can see how fast he is by the fact that his hands barely move through impact, yet the clubhead speeds through the ball and down the target line. The club responds to the lag by releasing swiftly and naturally. Important point. You don't "do" a release, it simply happens. — Top 100 Teacher Mitchell Spearman, Isleworth Golf & C.C., Windermere, Fla., and Doral Arrowwood, Rye Brook, N.Y.
Louis Oosthuizen has one of the most beautiful and simplest swings on earth, so it wasn't a surprise that he came within an eyelash of winning his second major at the 2012 Masters.
I think his setup has a lot to do with how effortlessly he swings the club. Over the ball, Oosthuizen is so athletic that he looks like he could excel in almost any sport. He could be ready to shoot a free throw, return a serve or belt a home run. Take special note of the tilt in his spine and how he extends his forearms and maintains a sizable width between his knees — these are great ways to put a solid driver swing in motion.
During his swing, Oosthuizen keeps his lower body stable and balanced while pivoting his upper body extensively back and through. This is a great lesson for amateurs, who often use too much lower-body action and not enough upper-body turn. Another key is how he pushes the club away from the ball using his forearms and then again when he reaches the top. Try these two moves and see if you don't increase your leverage and power. — Top 100 Teacher Dana Rader, Ballantyne Resort, Charlotte, N.C.
In an age when almost everyone knocks it 300 yards, Ian Poulter chooses to rely on accuracy, course-management skills and a world-class short game. (He led the PGA Tour in Scrambling in 2012.) His style is as old-school as his tartan pants. Poulter also ranks high in final round scoring (70.4 in 2012), which tells you something about his spirit, tenacity and will to win.
On the tee box, Poulter makes two backswing moves that every amateur should pay attention to. The first is when he traces a wide swing arc, which allows him to switch to a narrow approach on the way down. (You can't have it both ways.) The second is how he stops his shoulder turn when his body can no longer rotate. Swinging beyond this range is a recipe for disaster. Poulter has said that he likes to focus on keeping the clubhead low to the ground and swinging it back to the inside using only his shoulders. Following his advice will certainly increase the likelihood that you'll approach the ball from inside the target line instead of swiping it at like you do when you swing over the top. — Terry Rowles, San Francisco Golf Performance Center, San Francisco, Calif.
Rickie Fowler's swing reminds me a lot of Sergio García's. El Niño continues to be one of the best ballstrikers on Tour, and he always hits it solidly. The same is true of Fowler. For a guy who weighs only 150 pounds, Rickie kills it. But there's more to Fowler than power. He controls trajectory and shot shape better than anyone, which is amazing for a golfer his age. He swings fast, but can produce draws, fades, low shots and high shots without blinking an eye.
Rickie's natural swing plane is a bit lower than what you see with most players, yet his technique is well worth copying. As soon as he reaches the top, he clears his left side from the ground up and with such speed that his club drops from his shoulder plane all the way down to the shaft plane. You can tell that this is his natural track to the ball by the way he maintains his spine angle and distance from the ball. Mechanics aside, Fowler plays with a take-no-prisoners attitude. He's humble, but he has zero doubts about his ability and believes that he's as good as anyone on Tour. — Top 100 Teacher Mike Adams, The Medalist Club, Hobe Sound, Fla., and Hamilton Farm G.C., Gladstone, N.J.
When amateurs release their hips on their downswing — if at all — they tend to thrust straight out toward the ball or simply turn them in place. These moves are big-time no-nos. Great players such as Rory McIlroy release their hips on their downswing by firing them to the right of the target and then halting this action until momentum drags the hips to the left of the target.
Again, this gives the appearance that good players only turn as they swing from the top, but as slow-motion analysis proves, your core doesn't "clear" (a passive move to the left to get out of the way). Instead, it leads in the same way a six-footer dunks a basketball: He squats, then explodes out of the squat with his pelvis adding snap power, which is something that the concept of clearing doesn't include. The jumper converts pelvic thrust into elevation, while the golfer converts pelvic thrust into clubhead speed. Firing your pelvis to the right of the target is the key element in the kinematic sequence in which linear and rotational motion combine for a big bang at impact. — Top 100 Teacher Dr. T.J. Tomasi, Tomasi Golf, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
"Be quick, but don't hurry." This famous quote from UCLA coaching legend John Wooden is an apt description for Ernie Els's swing — the clubhead moves quickly, but Ernie is never in a hurry. Els understands that power comes from proper sequencing, that it builds rather than bursts. Most golfers confuse good tempo like Els's with swinging slowly, when in fact tempo means to move the club at the same consistent pace throughout your motion.
One of the secrets to generating Els's effortless power is in your wrists. Notice how he hinges them quickly and fully as he swings the club to the top. When he unhinges them on his downswing, it gives the appearance of swinging smoothly, even though his clubhead is blasting through impact at 120 mph. You should mimic his hinge, but don't copy it move for move. Ernie cups his left wrist at the top and releases the club very late. He does this to fight his tendency to hook the ball under pressure. You'll do better with a flat left wrist at the top and a strong release once your hands reach the hitting zone. — Top 100 Teacher Dr. T.J. Tomasi, Tomasi Golf, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Great ballstrikers "grow" the clubshaft out of their left arm at impact. Here's what I mean: Notice at address how the clubshaft extends straight out from your left forearm. Good ballstrikers such as Tiger recreate this alignment at impact. The goal is to feel like the club is growing out of your left arm as you strike the ball. If you can maintain this relationship until the momentum of your swing causes your left arm to fold in your release, you'll hit the ball straight and solidly.
Get a feel for this by developing a stinger swing like Tiger's. Think of it as a punch shot with a little extra oomph. When you make contact, try to get the shaft and your left arm to match the positions they held at address. It helps if you "stick" the club at impact. Then work on keeping your left arm and clubshaft in line until your swing moves past your left leg. You'll develop some serious shotmaking skill and improve your swing, to boot. — Golf Magazine contributor and NBC lead golf analyst Johnny Miller