With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed toward improving your game. This week it's Mark Wood (pictured), a part-time radio talk show host who is ranked among the Top 50 Greatest Teachers in America by Golf Digest.
Director of Golf, Cornerstone Colorado Montrose, Colo.
- Golf Digests 50 Greatest Teachers
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers in America
- South Florida PGA Section Teacher of the Year
- Host, GolfWorld On-Air Radio Show
Students (past and present):
Stewart Cink, David Toms, Dudley Hart, Bo Van Pelt
'I couldn't lose either way,' said Wood. 'On one hand you had Tom Watson possibly making golf history, and on the other you had Stewart, whom I taught as a kid and young professional. It was obviously a life-changing victory for him.'
To submit a question to Wood or one of our teachers, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered. Who knows, it just might be the impetus you need to shoot your best round ever come the weekend.
Do you have a favorite Stewart Cink story?
One year I gave him this training aid to help him create the feeling of more width in his swing. When I asked him how it was working out, he said it had fallen out of his golf cart and that despite several attempts to run it over, it wouldn't break. So he kept on using it. You give Stewart something to work on and he'll keep at it, even if he doesn't want to. So long as there's a benefit, he's willing to do it.
Stewart used to work hard on his footwork with you. How should your feet work during the swing?
If you stand up and take your stance without a club, and simply rotate your hips open (to the left), you should start to see your right heel come up off the ground. As you continue to rotate, the right foot should roll onto its instep. At the same time, your left foot should remain flat on the ground and your left leg stable. This way, you can swing within the framework of your stance. That's good footwork. When the hips slide forward, that's when the left foot rolls up to the outside (this was Stewart's fault), and your power and accuracy suffers.
Keep the ball in the same position relative to your left foot -- two balls inside the left heel -- for every club but your driver. When you need to move the ball back or forward in your stance, simply move your right foot. For example, to hit a short pitch shot, narrow your stance by bringing your right foot closer to your left; this will draw your weight forward and level out your shoulders to create a more descending blow. If you want to hit a full hybrid, widen your stance by moving your right foot away from the target, thus shallowing out your swing some. The only time you need to move your left foot is when you're hitting driver, because the ball needs to be more forward -- opposite your left instep -- in your stance.
What happens is that people move the ball, which changes the position of their shoulders relative to their stance. When you move the ball too far back, for example, you get the club coming in too much from the inside with the clubface open, which leads to a push-slice. If you play it too far forward, there's no way you'll be able to hit the ball and take a divot in front of the ball. If you can get your ball position to a point where you're very confident with it, then you'll find yourself making solid contact more often, regardless of the club.
One of our readers, Jesse, writes in: I'm having problems with my chipping and short pitch shots. The problem seems that I stab at the ball and either chunk it or skull it over the green. What can I do to correct this?
Jesse, the reason you're mishitting the ball is because you're using your hands too much. Here's the perfect drill to combat this; it's called the 'Anti-Wristy Drill': Take a second club (preferably a short iron) and turn it upside down so the clubhead is just below the grip of the first club. Hold on to both clubs as if it were one long extension of the first and take your normal address position; the second club should sit to the outside of your left hip and ribcage. Now try and chip the ball without letting the second shaft hit your left side. If it bangs into your ribcage, you're using your wrists too much and throwing the clubhead past the handle. You want to move your arms forward, toward the target, without breaking your wrists. Provided you do this the shaft will miss your left side and you'll hit the ball with a descending strike.
Jack Nicklaus used to keep the club suspended off the ground for all shots, not just the driver. Why'd he do this?
Paul Runyan, a fantastic teacher and player who taught Jack a lot of what he knows about the short game, always talked about underreaching the ground so that the clubhead barely reached the top of the grass. Even on a very tight lie, he believed the club should be suspended off the ground. This way, the arms would have room to stretch and could take a divot after the ball. When you overreach, or sole the club on the ground at address, the tendency is to hit the shot fat or pull up and top the ball.
The momentum of your swing is going to stretch your arms, which is why it's a good idea to keep the club suspended. This is especially true in the rough, because the ball has a tendency to perch up on top of the grass like a snow cone. If you soled the club in the ground and the ball was an inch or two off the ground, you would then contact the ball on top of the clubface and miss the sweet spot.
To underreach, stand up tall in your hips and extend your arms so that the leading edge of the club is resting off the ground and you can feel the weight of the clubhead. Then swing. Provided your arms have room to stretch, you should hit the sweet spot more often and control the distance of your shots much better.
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