Front9 Special: What the World No. 1s Can Teach You

Front9 Special: What the World No. 1s Can Teach You

In the October issue of the Golf Magazine, the Top 100 Teachers in America explained the secrets of the World No. 1s — the 15 players who have reached the No. 1 spot since the rankings debuted 25 years ago in 1986. In this Front9 special, we highlight the No. 1 thing you can learn from each player along with a video of the No. 1 in action. Enjoy! Greg Norman: Weeks No. 1: 331 (1986-1998) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Norman’s “Great White Shark” persona is a lesson for anyone who wants to go low. Like the ocean predator, you pick your targets, then attack with total focus and without reservation. Watch video of young Norman hitting his driver — he powers through the ball with such force that the shaft rebounds off his back. Full commitment, not an ounce of doubt. —Mike Davis, Walters Golf Academy, Las Vegas, Nev.  

  Seve Ballesteros: Weeks at No. 1: 61 (1986-1989) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: I watched Seve practice at the Kemper Open at Avenel in the early 1990s. I was inside the ropes and could hear him speak to other players about the short game. He said, “Keep the angle in the back of the right wrist.” This is great advice with short, delicate shots because it steadies the little muscles, which can jerk or yip. It’s not easy developing Seve’s shotmaking ability with long irons, but by following that advice, you can get his legendary touch around the greens. —Steve Bosdosh, the Members Club at Four Streams, Beallsville, Md.  

  Bernard Langer: Weeks at No. 1: 3 (1986) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Actually, Langer teaches us two things. First, keep it simple. Move your arms, club, and body in a balanced, unhurried manner. If you can copy Langer’s approach, you’ll improve dramatically. The second is the importance of fitness. At age 54 on the Champions Tour, Langer’s body looks as taut and fit as it was in the 1980s. To play your best for life, add physical training to your regimen. —Lou Guzzi, the Lou Guzzi Golf Academy at Talamore C.C., Ambler, Pa.  

  Nick Faldo: Weeks at No. 1: 97 (1990-1994) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: For all the wonderful mechanics in Faldo’s swing — especially the way he keeps his lower-body quiet, promoting control — the No. 1 thing he can teach you is to thicken your skin when making changes or improvements to your game. Too often amateurs heed poor swing advice from friends to avoid hurting their feelings, or they worry about what their swing looks like when they’re playing with a better golfer. Stay true and committed to your goals and you can be like Nick, who never paid attention to what the so-called experts said about his game. —Brian Mogg, Golden Bear Golf Club at Keene’s Point, Windermere, Fla.

  Ian Woosnam: Weeks at No. 1: 50 (1991-1992) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Woosnam always said he tried to “slog it with his right side” and power the ball by releasing his right shoulder and hip. This is a great swing thought that’ll get you firing through impact and keep you from hanging back. You’ll know you’re doing it right if your right shoulder is closer to the target than your left in your finish. —Brady Riggs, Woodley Lakes G.C., Van Nuys, Calif.  

  Fred Couples: Weeks at No. 1: 16 (1992) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Copy Couples’s looseness. Check your grip and arms. Are they tight, or are they loose and whippy? Then rotate freely back and through while letting the clubhead swing and, as crazy as this sounds, try not to care where the ball goes. Also, stay in the moment. Once Fred hits a shot, he forgets about it. Rounds are played one shot at a time, and the more you “quiet” your mind after a shot, the more likely your outcomes will add up to a good score. If you feel yourself starting to fret over swings, take a moment and picture Fred in his prime, the boy in the park playing without a care. —Paul Marchand, Shadow Hawk G.C., Richmond, Texas    Nick Price: Weeks at No. 1: 44 (1994-1995) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Copy Price’s three-step process: Visualize the shot, set up, and pull the trigger. His routine is stripped of the mental clutter and extraneous thoughts that bedevil most players. Price’s “ready-golf” passion will instantly help you play and score better. —Chuck Evans Gold Canyon Golf Resort, Gold Canyon, Ariz.

  Tom Lehman: Weeks at No. 1: 1 (1997) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Experiment with the Lehman leg drive. Moving into the ball with your legs limits the damage your upper body can do, ensuring an assertive move through impact, with the ball simply “getting in the way.” —Joe Hallett, PGA Center for Learning and Performance, Port St. Lucie, Fla.

  Ernie Els: Weeks at No. 1: 9 (1997-1998) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Find a swing speed that lets you finish in absolute balance. Doing this is easy if you build a move based on solid fundamentals: grip, posture, acceleration. That’s how Els honed one of the sweetest swings in history. —Bill Moretti, Academy of Golf Dynamics, Austin, Texas

  Tiger Woods: Weeks at No. 1: 623 (1997-2010) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Don’t try to copy his swing. Be like Tiger at his best and find a motion that works for your body and physical capability. And know the importance of a solid short game, reliable putting stroke, and a competitive attitude. Tiger always wants to win and utterly hates to lose. So should you. —Mike Adams, Hamilton Farm G.C., Gladstone, N.J.

  David Duval: Weeks at No. 1: 15 (1999) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Duval didn’t so much swing as, well, unwind, staying open through impact and leading with his left hip. To add a dash of Duval shotmaking to your game, try this: Take an open stance and hit some shots with half of a backswing. Feel that your belt buckle is facing the target at impact. You’ll find it easier to square the clubface. —Brian Manzella, Brian Manzella Golf Academy at English Turn Golf & C.C., New Orleans, La.

  Vijay Singh: Weeks at No. 1: 32 (2004-2005) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: To see the essence of freewheeling confidence, watch Vijay. From the way he swung to the way he walked, he was simply…free. The lesson: Fear? What fear? Let it rip. Make it your mantra for golf and for life. —Krista Dunton, Berkeley Hall, Bluffton, S.C. Lee Westwood: Weeks at No. 1: 22 (2010-2011) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: His swing isn’t pretty — steep shoulder turn, bent left arm at impact — but Westwood has some dynamic moves you can use. Watch how he pushes off the ground in his downswing while “crunching” his upper body slightly closer to the ball, which sets the clubface on the perfect delivery plane. Also, try this: Hit the ball hard. Like Lee, take a mighty lash! You won’t hit every shot perfectly, but this aggressive mind-set simplifies things and, honestly, is a lot more fun. —Jon Tattersall, Terminus Club, Atlanta, Ga. Martin Kaymer: Weeks at No. 1 18 (2011) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Add Kaymer’s rhythm and fluidity to your swing by keeping your upper and lower body more connected — don’t allow one to outpace the other. Overusing your arms or legs produces herky-jerky movements and inconsistent shots. Feel like the weight of your lower body is propelling your upper body and the club through the ball. —Ed Ibarguen, Duke University G.C., Durham, N.C.

Luke Donald: Weeks at No. 1: 15 and counting (2010-2011) The No. 1 Thing You Can Learn: Luke will tell you that an improved short game is the fastest route to low scores. The trick is how you improve. Luke challenges himself at practice by creating tough, uncomfortable conditions that require patience and thought. He’ll hit pitches from sidehill lies or bunker shots to ridiculously tight pins. This kind of variety elevates your learning curve in ways that hitting 50 balls from one spot never could. —Pat Goss, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

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