Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi answers your questions

June 27, 2008

Our Top 100 Teachers are here to save your next round. E-mail [email protected] to cure what’s hurting your scores with advice from the very best teachers in the game.

T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D., teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Siasconset, Mass. Tomasi is a Class-A PGA Teaching Professional. He holds a doctorate in education and has published 11 books.

What’s the best way to hit a high-lofted wedge off a tight lie?
Dan Huffman, Columbus, Ohio

First, use your lob wedge. Lob wedges typically have less bounce and you want less bounce from a tight lie. Also, the lob has more loft so you can hit it harder — most golfers ease up on this shot but with the lob wedge you can swing more fully. Here are four other things to think about:

1. Keep your weight on your left leg from start to finish.

2. Don’t shift your weight. Rather, rotate your body both back and through – you should finish with your chest facing the target.

3. Keep your legs quiet during your, then activate them on your downswing.

4. Don’t look at the ball and think: “How am I going to fit the club under the ball?” A tight lie is like a regular lie: just hit the back of the ball and let the club’s loft get it airborne.

How do I stop topping my fairway woods?
Ed Villemez, Alexandria, La.

Fairway woods are the hardest clubs for most golfers to hit. They present the worst of both worlds: they have big heads and relatively low lofts. Here are three things you could be doing wrong.

1. You tend to straighten up through impact in an attempt to lift the ball into the air. When you do this, you shorten the club, resulting in thin contact. This is what I call hit-what-you-fear syndrome: you fear topping the shot so you help the club in the air, shortening the club, which causes you to hit the top — exactly what you feared.

2. That big clubhead can also make you think you should hit “up” on the ball like you would with your driver. You should hit up on driver — it sits on a tee — but the concept of “hitting up” shouldn’t carry over to fairway woods where the ball is on ground. Don’t hit up or down on the ball; instead, focus on hitting “forward” on the ball, with the goal of hitting the back of the ball with the clubface as it’s moving toward the target.

3. Don’t swing too hard. The lower loft of a fairway woods means lower shots, which can be exacerabted by a slow swing speed. But don’t try to swing out of your shoes for a couple extra mph of swing speed. You’ll be more effective if you make a smooth, controlled swing in rythyym. Many golfers swing fairway woods much too hard, causing off-centered high hits at equator of the ball. High contact = low ball flight.

T.J.’s 3 Keys for Fairway Woods

1. Play the ball off the logo of your shirt
2. Swing with 75 percent power
3. Hit “forward” on the ball

How should your swing change as the club gets longer? I have heard some say it should not change, but others say it should.
Taylor Urban, Sacramento, Calif.

Your swing does change, but you don’t change it.

At contact the shaft of the club should mirror its angle at address. Each club in your bag has a different shaft angle so if you carry 14 clubs you have 14 different shaft angles. Let’s say your 5-iron has a lie angle of 62° and your 9-iron has a lie angle of 66°. (“Lie angle” refers to the angle created by your shaft and the ground when the club is at address.) What this means is that when you swing your 9-iron correctly it will be more upright than your 5-iron, and your 5-iron swing will be much more upright than your driver (a lie angle of 55°.)

This is why the angle of your swing changes with each club: the slant of the arc of each swing is established by the club you choose. But don’t worry — you don’t have to consciously adjust your swing. The correct progression of lie angles is built into your clubs at the factory. Instead, you have to adjust your setup and ball position to accommodate the club you’ve chosen. Then all you have to do is make your normal swing and let the club do its thing.

I am 63-years-young and not as fit as I could be. I don’t shift my weight with my driver and I don’t get the distance or straight shots I desire. Do you have some advice?
Jerry Harrelson, St. Augustine, Fla.

Whatever you do during your swing, your weight must be on your target side coming down.

Some teachers say to shift your weight in your swing just like you are dancing. The problem with this advice is that trying to consciously shift your weight around while you dance makes you a terrible dancer and it will do the same for your golf. Plus, you don’t want your pals calling you “Twinkle Toes.”

So save the foxtrot for the dance hall. Don’t try to push your weight around using your lower body, instead do it by keeping your legs quiet and turning your chest until it points over your back foot at the end of your backswing. This move makes you “pull” your weight onto your back leg at just the correct time and in just the right amount.

To completely understand the concept of weight distribution a distinction should be made between the concepts of weight and pressure. Your weight stays the same no matter what your body is doing — standing on one foot, laying down or swinging a golf club. But the pressure you exert on the ground (pounds per square inch) is always changing. Pressure transfers in the golf swing are quiet redistribution’s of force. “Weight shifts” are easily overdone causing imbalances.

Your goal is to make your “pressure transfers” occur as a result of coiling your upper body. You often hear that you swing from the ground up, but in this case you coil from the top down.

OK, class dismissed. Have fun out on the course this weekend!