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 Martin Hall, the 2008 PGA National Teacher of the Year.
Director of Instruction, Ibis Golf & Country Club West Palm Beach, Fla.
- Golf Digest’s Top 10 Greatest Teachers
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers in America
- 2008 PGA National Teacher of the Year
Students (past and present):
Morgan Pressel, Lisa Hackney
'What’s remarkable about Jack – and we will see about Tiger [Woods] – is that he did everything with five kids,' said Hall. 'He’d get on a plane Friday night to watch one of his boys play in a basketball game, and then fly back to the tournament Saturday morning. The stories you read about family first, golf second certainly applied to Jack.'
To submit a question to Hall 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.
What's the most memorable tip you received from Nicklaus?
I have no doubt about that one at all. One afternoon I said to him, ‘Can you tell me why you won 18 professional majors?’ He said, ‘Well, it was a lot of things.’ He felt like he was more conservative on the back nine come Sunday, while others were too aggressive, and he made a lot of critical putts. But then he said, ‘You know what, what really did it for me was that during the last nine holes of a major, I knew I wasn’t going to miss the target one yard to the left of where I aimed.’ I replied, ‘Well, how did you do that?’ And he said, ‘That’s simple, I just made sure I wouldn’t let the toe of the club pass the heel after the ball was gone.’
Jack's thought was that at hip height in the follow-through, the palm of his right hand would face skyward. I said, ‘Jack, I have hours and hours of video of you and it certainly doesn’t look like you kept the right palm up to the sky after impact.’ He responded with a few choice words and said, ‘I know what I felt.' That was his way, even though it didn’t show up on video, of eliminating any chance he had of hitting a hook.
Now, as a caveat to the readers, this is fantastic advice if you never want to hook the ball again. However, should you slice the ball you must do exactly the opposite: If you don’t want to lose the ball to the right, turn the right palm down to the ground after impact.
There are those who argue that Jack was the greatest player ever, and those who say Tiger is the best ever. In your mind, what are both of them greatest at?
What was remarkable about Jack was that he was the first person to take a golf course apart by having yardages, sectioning up the greens and knowing where to hit the ball. I believe he was the first person to pace yardages out and know how far he had to hit the ball. And his mental strength was immense, just like Tiger’s. I think under tournament pressure he never doubted himself.
As far as Tiger – and Jack did say this to a very good friend of mine – he is the greatest putter the world has ever seen. I think he’s also the best at getting up and down that we’ve ever seen. Tiger seems to have an ability to pull off the most ridiculous shots at the most opportune times. …like chipping in from the back of No. 16 at Augusta National. His ability to do the unbelievable is, well, unbelievable. I don’t know how in the world you teach that. Maybe he is the chosen one like his father said.
Just how does someone hit an 8-iron from 181 yards to a foot, like Tiger did recently to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational? What makes him such a great iron player from that distance? (Woods is ranked No. 1 on the PGA Tour in approaches from 175-200 yards, with an average leave distance of 29 feet.)
If I knew that I wouldn’t be teaching. It’s a combination of strength and [clubhead] speed and how he releases the angles on the downswing. The handle is still slightly ahead of the clubhead at impact.
If you want to know how to hit your irons high like Tiger did on that particular shot, I’d say first of all proceed with caution. Trying to hit irons really high is a rather dangerous thing for most club golfers because it leads to them scooping at the ball.
Unless you’re a single-digit handicapper, you shouldn’t worry too much about flying your irons high. You should worry about making more solid ball-turf contact. The angles of Tiger's swing are exemplary; very much on-plane the entire motion. And if you look at his 7-, 8-, 9-iron and wedges, he never swings the club back to parallel. It’s sort of an on-plane, three-quarter backswing. That's where he gets his accuracy.
Any advice for the weekend warrior? Something that may help them drop a shot or two during their Saturday or Sunday round?
Teaching legend Harvey Penick said of all the things he did for his students, the thing that benefited them most was to get them to stop using a driver. Actually, when he died they went to this locker and found about 60 drivers that he confiscated from his students. Penick felt his club players would be better off using a 3-wood instead.
A lot of people think putting is the most important element in the game, but I once chatted with Bob Ford, the head pro at Oakmont, and he said, ‘There’s no question if you can’t putt, you can’t score. But let me tell you this, if you can’t drive, you can’t play.'
Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan both felt that driving it in play was the most important part of the game, and so do I. The club player should leave their driver at home for the weekend and see how much better they score. If most people used a 3-wood off the tee, they wouldn’t give up that much distance and they’d be in the short grass.
One of our readers, Arthur, writes in: I raise my head up to keep track of the ball, and as a result often hit it to the right. Is there a drill that will help me keep my head down?
I’d answer that by saying, ‘Look, I could give you a drill to stop hitting the ball to the right, but I’m not going to give you a drill for keeping your head down because no one who’s any good does that.' Good players keep their head relatively still until they make contact with the ball, but then they release it toward the target.
Some of the best ball-strikers the world has ever seen turn to look down the target line very early, Annika (Sorenstam) being one. And I think if you slow-mo Tiger he’s looking down the target line pretty early these days. You want the head to chase the ball, and if you try and keep it down it’s not going to release. You do that long enough and you’re either going to get a bad back, a bad neck or a bad left elbow. Or all three.
Do not think that lifting your head makes the ball go to the right. Lifting your body too much might cause you to top the ball, but what makes the ball go to the right is an open clubface. If you’re a right-handed golfer, that means you’re hitting the ball with the side of your left hand and giving the ball a karate chop. What he should concentrate on is rotating both forearms a bit more as he goes through the ball, or go back to the opposite of Nicklaus’ thought and turn the right palm down after impact.
Martin Hall Instructional Videos