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 Mike Tucker, head professional at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.
Head Professional, Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis, MO
- 2005 Professional of the Year, Gateway PGA
- 2004 Player of the Year, Gateway PGA
- Competed in nine PGA Club Professional championships
- Shot lowest non-competitive round at Bellerive (60)
An accomplished player, Tucker followed his brother, Jerry, as head pro at Bellerive. A PGA Master Professional teaching in South Florida, Jerry Tucker has given his famous Tucker Short Game Test to more than 100 pros, including Lee Trevino, Tony Jacklin and Jay Williamson. 'What it does is test all aspects of your short game – pitching, chipping, short putts, long putts and wedge shots, controlling the distance you hit your wedges in the air,' said Mike Tucker. 'It's 100 shots worth of practice, instead of blindly hitting shots with no results. You're actually competing against yourself.'
To submit a question to Tucker or one of our teachers, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered.
You've played with several members of the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff, including John Smoltz and Adam Wainwright. What makes pitchers such good golfers?
The pitchers have the best hand-eye coordination of anybody in baseball, and maybe all of sports. What they’re able to do at 90, 95 miles per hour to place these pitches where they do is extraordinary. When they put a golf club in their hands, they can square that clubface up a little more instinctively than most.
Is there a drill the average golfer can try to improve their hand-eye coordination?
There are different ways to get the clubface square to the ball. What I like to do is work with small golf swings, from waist height to waist height, which gives you feedback on what a good ball flight looks like. I like my students to draw the ball. If I can’t get them to hit a solid little draw from a waist-height swing with an 8- or 9-iron, I don’t have much chance at a full swing. Once they feel how to square the clubface and make center-face contact, then we can expand. You can’t go from 0 to 100 (mph) and pass 30, 40, 60 first.
You also recently played with Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa and Hall of Fame basketball coach Bobby Knight in a celebrity event. Did you observe anything from watching these two coaching legends that might help the average golfer?
I’ve played with Tony several times. Skipper is a little quiet – not real demonstrative – but he’s extremely competitive, just as we all know Coach Knight is. He likes to win. Tony was getting frustrated some but he was all about team. He did a good job of complimenting everybody, and if someone didn’t hit a good shot in our scramble he’d pick them up, just as he’d do in the dugout.
You have to be able to learn from your mistakes and some of your bad shots. Tony never quits. By the end of the day I was able to work with him a little bit on his wedge shots and he hit his last two wedges to about five, six feet. In the end, his desire to get better paid off.
I guess the lesson is that it's good to be competitive and to try and win, but be patient. Golf is not a game that’s going to be mastered or perfected.
What was the best wedge tip you gave La Russa?
When the clubs get shorter, and we get down to the sand wedges and lob wedges, the golf swing gets more upright. Tony, like a lot of mid- and high-handicappers, had the clubhead swinging too far to the inside going back. Because his swing wasn't moving at a very high rate of speed, he had little chance to get the clubface back to square. He'd produce a continual push to the right of the target. I was trying to get him to take the club back a little straighter and more vertical, so he could trap the ball and drive it out there. Once he was able to pick up that concept, he hit straighter shots with a little more solid contact; more of a downward trap of the ball than an inside, thin push.
Any advice for the weekend warrior? Something that may help them drop a shot or two during their Saturday or Sunday round?
At impact, see if you can get your right elbow in front of your right hip pocket, as Tiger Woods demonstrates here.
Always work off a small tee. First of all, you don’t want to challenge the lie; you want a consistent lie. A lot of my students will challenge me and say, ‘Well, the lies aren’t like that in the fairway.’ And I say, 'Let’s make sure we can hit the ball off a good lie first.'
You want positive feedback, and you also want accurate feedback. If I’m hitting off the same lie every time, I can judge my ball flight. We all know how driving ranges are – sometimes the turf is fluffy or full and the ball sits up, and sometimes it’s down in a hole. It’s not good for your psyche or for learning what your golf swing is doing.One of our readers wants to know how he can speed up his hand and arm action through impact. He has a tendency to lead with the lower body through impact and fade his driver. Any advice?
What he needs to do is think, ‘If I stopped myself at impact, where should I be?’ Sometimes it helps to go through a slow-motion drill where you can feel where you are at impact. I always try and imagine my lower body turning, or clearing, out of the way. To do that, I need to get my right elbow to line up with the opening of my right pocket at impact, so I know my lower body has turned and my right shoulder is coming down on plane. This image will help you to either speed your lower body up, or, in this reader's case, slow the lower body down.
Related Videos from Jerry Tucker (Mike's brother)