Shot Shaping 101

There are many, many different ways to control the shape of a golf shot, yet none quite as reliable as the method I have outlined below.

This formula works off the fact that most golfers spend hours trying to make their golf swing as consistent as possible.  If you spend all that time 'grooving' your swing why, when you need to shape a shot, do you employ a totally different golf swing from the one you worked so hard on?

Do you remember your mother saying, "Two wrongs don't make a right!" ?

Well, for shot shaping, three rights make a left! And three lefts make a right. Keep in mind that whether you are a lefty or righty the formula works the same.  Here's the explanation:

To curve the ball to the right

  1. Aim your body and club face to the left; the direction you would like the ball to start.
  2. Move the ball position to the left in your stance. (As you view the ball)
  3. Rotate both hands to your left on the grip of the club. This should be done in a subtle fashion.

Once you are set and ready to fire;  make the same swing that you are accustomed to making and the ball should launch in the intended direction and curve to the right.

To curve the ball to the left

  1. Aim your body and the club face to the right of your target.
  2. Shift the ball to the right in your stance
  3. Rotate both hands slightly to the right on the grip.

With a little practice you will start to get a sense for how much the ball position or grip needs to be altered in order to produce the desired result.

Regardless of whether you are a Tour golfer or a beginner,  shot shaping is a necessary component to controlling your golf ball.  If it's simply a hook to find your way back into play or a soft little cut 6-iron into that front right pin position shot shaping is something you need in your 'bag'.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on shaping the ball please feel free to let me know or post them here.

The Plan for 2012

I would like to dedicate 2012 to one word - scoring. I am a firm believer that if we went out and played a round of golf in similar fashion to what we already do, yet scored five strokes lower, we would enjoy ourselves a lot more and feel much better about our golf
At this point you're asking, "How I can play in a "similar fashion" and somehow magically score better?" Certainly upgrades are required, but we're talking something fairly simple. I believe a change in approach and practice habits in three areas, driving, wedging and putting has the greatest chance to lower almost any golfer's score quite substantially.
During the course of a round you hit somewhere in the vicinity of 60 shots just with these three or four clubs. Wouldn't you like to keep the ball in play off the tee on two more holes than you normally do? Or find a way to gain 10-15 yards? How about getting two more up and downs per round? Or even just making a higher percentage of putts from inside five feet? While none of the above upgrades are "game changers" on their own, when a golfer improves with the clubs they use for sixty shots per round, good things are bound to happen.

Here are a few really simple pieces of information pertaining to each of the three scoring components that far too few golfers incorporate into their games:
  • I have been able to help so many golfers increase the distance and accuracy of their tee shots simply by showing them how to hit up on the ball. Make it one of your goals this year - get on a launch monitor regularly and learn how to hit up with the big stick. Do you know that golfers who take a lesson TrackMan gain an average of 12-15yards? That effectively makes every golf course they play 200 yards shorter!
  • When it comes to pitching are you trying to do more than you should? Course management is huge in pitching and way too many golfers are going for shots that are beyond their handicap level. Learn when to "hold 'em" and you'll save at least two strokes per round.
  • You cannot buy a wedge without bounce on the sole of the club. Know why? The manufacturers want us to be successful with their equipment and bounce is an important aid to help us all wedge better. Use a set up that maintains some bounce on the sole of the's not hard once you know how.
  • The single greatest putting key is to keep your eyes focused on the spot the ball occupied before it was struck. Sounds Is it something you incorporate into your game?
What I'm saying is that I believe I can take multiple strokes off your game simply by teaching you to: hit up on the driver; understand bounce and how to use it; know when to go for certain pitch shots and when to just hit the green; and teaching you to keep your eyes quiet when you putt. How hard is that? If you dedicate your work and practice to the above items I guarantee that you will see progress.

Zach Johnson is a perfect example of what I'm referring to. He's an average size guy who grew up in the golfing mecca of Iowa, yet he's managed to turn himself into one of the top 20 golfers in the world. He's an efficient, yet short driver of the ball, a great wedge player and a very handy putter - a proven recipe for success.
In the upcoming months you will notice a change at The majority of all articles and instructional posts will be directed toward driving, wedging and putting. So whether you need to keep it in play or get longer off the tee, get it on the green or up and down, two putt from 40 feet or stop missing 3 footers - you will learn drills, games, challenges and techniques to get the job done more effectively.
I have been blessed to take numerous overseas trips to play golf and they are always the highlight of my year. My favorite country to play golf in is Ireland as the links courses and locals are simply second to none. If you are planning an international golf trip to either Ireland or South Africa feel free to drop me a line if you need any suggestions. Should you be in the early stages of planning your trip be sure to check out golf holidays abroad - they can certainly offer some excellent advice.
Please do us both a favor and do away with tips and swing fads and band aids - make 2012 the year where you establish a long term plan and commit to really getting better. It can be done...stay tuned.

An Interview with Dr. Mo

Morris Pickens, or Dr. Mo as he is most often called, has quietly become the "guru" of golf-focused sports psychologists.  When you look at him or spend time with him he is just a regular guy from Orangeburg, S.C., who loves college football almost more than golf.  What you wouldn't realize is that Dr. Mo is one win away from completing the mind coach Grand Slam - his students have won the Masters, the US Open and the Open Championship in recent years and with the young stable of players he is currently advising the PGA Championship could be added sooner rather than later. He currently works with Nick Watney, Lucas Glover, Zach Johnson, Kyle Stanley, Jonathan Byrd, Stewart Cink, Will McGirt and Justin Leonard.

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with Dr. Mo on a golf trip and asked him a few questions about his philosophy and what he works on with the various tour players....

What's the best advice you could give the average golfer?

Practice the game how it is played. There are scoring clubs and there are advancing clubs (irons). The scoring clubs are the driver, the wedges and the putter - focus on getting better with those when you practice.

Would you say something different to a young, aspiring golfer?

I would always encourage them to key in on the scoring clubs, but do this in more of a competitive environment. Have closest to the hole and up and down contests or see who can hit the straightest drive on the course. Basically, find players who are good and challenge them with the scoring clubs.

What are the biggest mistakes you see golfers make?

Golfers very often rely too heavily on technique or lessons. They seem to think that the "right swing" or a golf guru will turn their game around instead of realizing that working hard on the important aspects of getting the ball in the hole is what will really make a difference to their game.

You are big on scoring. How do you get your players to practice, and ultimately get better, with the scoring clubs?

I like to have them play a few games that isolate the scoring clubs. My favorite is a game called Drive and Five: You play seven holes - so play a nine and skip the par threes. You hit two tee shots off each tee box, pick them up and then advance closer to the green where you finish out one ball from anywhere between 40 and 120 yards and another from somewhere around the green. Par is five for each hole and you keep track of how many shots it takes you to get the two balls into the hole. The catch is that you add one stroke for each ball that finds the rough off the tee and two strokes for each ball that finishes in a hazard, bunker or trees. A tee shot in the fairway adds nothing to your score. Par is 35 strokes and that's really hard to do. Zach Johnson once scored 30 - that's really amazing! This game really illustrates how you're doing with the scoring clubs and takes just over an hour to do.

I also like Wedge Worst Ball: Here par is three you go on the course and play two balls into each green from anywhere between 60 - 90 yards out. You select the shot that's furthest from the hole and play out from there, but make sure you select the worst putt too. It's almost like a scramble in reverse - if you have a four footer you need to make it twice!

How much time do these top golfers dedicate to their putting each week?

In the off season I would say 4-5 hours a week and during the season it's more like two hours per week. That doesn't include pre round warm ups or post round practice sessions.

When Zach Johnson won the Masters in 2007 legend has it that he planned to lay up on all the par fives for the week. Was that really the case?

No. We had devised a checklist that he had to go through before attempting to hit any par five in two that week. The points on the check list were as follows: He had to have less than a 3 iron to reach the green; he had to have a good lie; he had to have a level stance and the pin had to be in an accessible location. On Sunday he had 209 yards into the 13th green with 190 to carry the water which would be a comfortable 4 iron for Zach. The shot had a hanging lie which meant it did not meet the required criteria so he layed up and made birdie with his scoring clubs.

This is fantastic information that I know we can all benefit from. I have been around sports psychologists before and I found it interesting how Dr. Mo seemed to help golfers with a game plan - he provides them with a formula for practice and play that points them in the direction of improved performance and lower scores. If you would like to look Dr. Mo up check out his website. He has also written a very helpful book series Learn to Win....check it out too.

Anyone up for a game of Drive and Five before dinner?

Golf Has Only Nine Shots!

I've got all the shots I'm just not sure when I'm going to hit them!

Control Your Ball!

Or what about a shank, a top, a blade, a whiff?  Okay, there are only nine proper shots that a golfer needs to master.  They are the low draw, straight one and fade; the regular height draw, straight one and fade and the high version of each option.  Tiger Woods incorporates all of the above shots into his practice sessions - shouldn't you?

Try this fun and challenging exercise in your next practice session:

  • Be sure to use an alignment string that is set up to a target within range of a 7 iron.
  • Keep the size and pace of your swing at around 75%.
  • Start on the 'ground' floor (low) with the shot shape that is most comfortable for you (draw or fade)
  • Stick with the low shots until you have hit one of each.  Keep in mind the draws/fades should start at the target and curve away from it.
  • Work up to the medium and high trajectory shots until you have also hit one of each.
  • Keep track of the number shots required to complete the SLAM (all nine shots) and set yourself a target score for the next time you practice.  The fewer shots, the better.

This exercise will illustrate to you the type of shot that is most difficult for you to hit. (Hey, some golfers just don't know!)  Practice the most difficult shot until you can pull it off on the course.  This will serve to neutralize your swing and allow you to ultimately hit the ball straighter.

If you struggle with slicing the ball, practice hooking the ball!  If you hit the ball inordinately high, practice hitting low punch shots all day long until you can hit it at a regular trajectory.  Get to a point where your extreme misses are less extreme than before and the ball will stay closer to the intended target and your scores will do the same!

Over the upcoming week I'll address the techniques required to hit the ball low or high and with a draw or fade.  Check back!

Things to Ponder:

  • At the Texas Open this Lance Ten Broeck, both caddied for Jesper Parnevik and played in the event. They both missed the cut but what must it feel like as a player when your caddie beats you! (Ten Broeck 141 vs. Parnevik 144)
  • The PGA Tour must be struggling to find players.  I can think of 20 golfers better than a caddie and a dozen washed up golfers from the 80's to play in a PGA Tour event!
  • And this little interesting snippet from

John Huggan with this nugget from last week's Players:

Not only did the diminutive leader of the world's richest circuit manage to mangle the champion's name, calling him "Heinrik" more than once, Finchem's minions were apparently hard at work pressuring host broadcaster NBC into not mentioning just how many Fed-Ex Cup points the Swede picked up along with the $1.7million first place cheque. Embarrassingly, that number is nil, due to the fact that Stenson (who will no doubt have welcomed the sizeable boost to his bank balance in the wake of losing a goodly chunk of his fortune amidst the recent Stanford fiasco) thinks he can muddle by without being a PGA Tour member.

  • Don't think the PGA Tour does not go out of their way to censor what information we get during the broadcast of their beloved 5th major!
  • Zach Johnson is quietly becoming a top five player in the world.  Gutsy!

Quail Hollow Notes

Tiger@Quail Hollow (Getty)


  • Sunday is shaping up to be a beauty with Zach Johnson on the cusp of a 'validation' year and Tiger and Co. hot on his heels.
  • The top 13 players in the field (T9 or better) played the Green Mile in a mere +3.  Zach is +1 for the week even with his bogey, bogey, bogey finish yesterday and Tiger is +4 for the week.
  • The group of Ian Poulter (now there's a guy who can dress!) and Cliff Kresge played the 14th to the 18th holes in 6 under;  with 3 birdies on the Green Mile holes!
  • Someone must come up with a better name than the Green Mile!  That's not scary.
  • The 17th hole is a poor design and something needs to be done!  On what hole do the best players hit a well struck 7-iron that lands pin high and releases 60 feet before being stopped from going in the water by 3 feet of rough?  The shape is fine, but the green must be changed!
  • Was today the blue shirt and khaki pants day? (notice Tiger above)  I saw 3 or 4 players wearing that same line-up.
  • I like the 14th hole.  When was the last time you saw a major winner hit a 50 yard pitch into the water?  There is a great risk reward balance on the hole.
  • I do believe the 2 inch rough plays into Tiger, Phil, Bubba and Goosen's hand.  So what!  I like birdies and the greens are countering the lack of rough with excess speed this year.  Good idea!
  • What Zach is doing this year once again proves that there will always be room on the PGA Tour for a 'little' man with a big heart.  Just ask Gary Player, Corey Pavin, Lee Trevino and Ian Woosnam.  Even though Zach has each of those guys by a few inches.....
  • Tiger Woods seems angry almost all the time. Ever since Augusta, all I ever see him doing is cursing or giving somebody the evil eye.
  • I look forward to watching someone stand on the 16th tee and attempt get a one stroke lead to the clubhouse tomorrow.
  • Watch my man David Toms........