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Bump and Run Ai and Mighty

We know it's difficult to find time to practice during the week. When a Saturday or Sunday tee time rolls around, you're hoping to find some spark or productive swing thought that will help you break 100, 90, 80 or whatever your scoring goal may be.
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 we have two of the game's top coaches, VISION54 co-founders Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson.
Lynn Marriott and Pia NilssonLYNN MARRIOTT & PIA NILSSON
Co-founders, VISION54, Legacy Golf Resort, Phoenix

- Golf Digest's 50 Greatest Teachers
- Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers
- Authors, Every Shot Must Have a Purpose (2005); The Game Before The Game (2007)

Notable Students (past and present): Annika Sorenstam, Ai Miyazato, Brittany Lincicome, Suzann Pettersen, Kevin Streelman
Web Site:
Contact: 602-482-8983

The core principle behind VISION54 is that every golfer has unlimited potential. For years, no player was more synonymous with VISION54 than Ms. 59 herself, Annika Sorenstam. The LPGA Hall of Famer believed it was possible to birdie every hole, and nearly accomplished that goal in 2001 when she birdied 12 of her first 13 holes en route to a 13-under-par 59 at the Standard Register Ping tournament.

Sorenstam retired after last season, but the VISION54 model is stronger than ever, embodied in such current LPGA stars as Ai Miyazato, Suzann Pettersen and Brittany Lincicome.

'Everybody misses seeing Annika out there, and we’re certainly no different,' said Marriott. 'For so many years people thought Annika was the only one who could do the things that we coached. Now, it’s fun to see how an Ai Miyazato or a Brittany Lang accomplish their 54. This just doesn’t work for Annika, but for all different types of personalities and players.'
To submit a question to Marriott and Nilsson or one of our teachers, please e-mail and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered. 

One of your players, Ai Miyazato, has enjoyed a breakout year in 2009 with 12 top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour. What clicked for her this year?

Pia: When she came to the U.S. she had to deal with a new country, new courses, a new language. …she lost herself as a golfer. What made her such a fantastic golfer in Japan was her rhythm and tempo and her inner strength. She lost all of that. We had to go back to tempo training, balance training, and tension awareness. From that base, we gave her some technical things to improve upon, and advised her on what she should stay away from. For example, she had to quit working so much on changing her grip and squaring the clubface. It messed up her game almost to point where she had the yips with her driver. We made sure all the other things got good first and while working on those things, her clubface started to square up more, without even focusing on it.

Japan's Ai Miyazato is the picture of good tempo.
It was pretty obvious her grip was too strong, which caused the closed clubface. When she tried to isolate the grip it didn’t work. It just created more tension. By being more aware of tension and tempo in her swing, her face became more square. And she got her distance back. This year, she gained 15 yards with her driver. She’s hitting it farther now than ever before. People like to say she’s sneaky long. It doesn’t look like it’s going to go very far, but it sneaks up there.

Miyazato is known for her slow, languid swing and easy tempo. How would you define tempo?

Lynn: Tempo is a full analog sensation. When you start to work on pieces of the swing, like your clubface position halfway back (at 9 o'clock), you can't have tempo. Tempo is a whole sensation. People can get their clubface in a better position but their tempo is horrible. That doesn’t transfer to the golf course.

Is there a drill that will help you establish a good tempo and rhythm before you tee off?

Lynn: With Ai, she’ll take a couple of clubs from her bag, including a mid-iron and a driver, and swing them at four different tempos – 25, 50, 75 and 100 percent. The key to this is when you swing at 25 percent of your full tempo, you do it so it’s constant and consistent throughout. And you complete the whole swing. You don’t stop at impact or halfway through.

Pia: Most people know they have to work at tempo, but it's an intellectual thing. The only way it will ever work is if you feel it in yourself when you’re swinging. The main purpose of Ai's drill is to get your body to feel or sense the difference between these four tempos. From there you can capture what combination of these four tempos is going to help you swing best on a particular day. This way, you’ll have an awareness of your tempo and be able to modify it on the course. You need to feel it in your body to know the difference.

Jack Nicklaus said that when he wanted more distance, he would slow down his swing. Is there an ideal tempo for the driver?

Lynn: It completely depends on the person and what they can do physically. Nicklaus is a perfect example: If physical assessments and screens had been around when he was a player, we would have found out why he had a flying right elbow or why he had to lift his left heel on the backswing. He made the most of that swing with a slower tempo.

Pia: We were at The Barclays with [PGA Tour player] Kevin Streelman, and the last day he was warming up on the range he had Tiger Woods on his left and Padraig Harrington on his right. Tiger hit a lot of wedge shots with a super-slow tempo, and Padraig performed these drills where it looked as if he was forcing the tempo beyond 100 percent. It was fascinating to see. That’s why we want players to check it out and see what’s the right value, or tempo, for them. In general, there’s a lot of men over 30 years old who are swinging the club at a faster tempo than their bodies can handle. They’re not aware they’re so inflexible. On the other side, there’s a lot of women who swing too slow at the ball, who don’t dare increase their tempo and let it flow to the finish of the swing.

Any advice for the weekend warrior? Something that may help them drop a shot or two during their Saturday or Sunday round?

Pia: There’s so many things that influence their technique when they’re playing, so it’s so important they don’t try and make these big dynamic swing changes. If they’re doing any swinging at home in their living room or out on the lawn, it’s much more beneficial to do some balance drills standing on one leg or with both feet together. On the range, hit four shots with four different grip pressures just to check the tension level in the grip. These things will help you swing better with the mechanics that you have.

One more thing is that they’re really clear with their decisions, and that they have the guts to stick with them. If you’re a weekend golfer, it’s not that hard of a skill to learn and it will help you play better golf with what you have. You can’t cram in golf. When you tee it up, you have the swing you have, so what’s the best you can do with it?

One of our readers is having problems shanking his short wedges. It's something he started doing this season and he can't get it fixed. Any suggestions?

Lynn: Check the distance from your ball at address. Often we find that people who shank it actually are standing too far away from ball. That results in too flat an angle coming into the ball, which leaves the face open. By getting closer to the ball, they get the plane steeper. Secondly, keep the energy or tempo in your swing the same to the finish.

Pia: Have constant grip pressure. When it’s a shorter swing, there’s less clubhead speed and you have a little fear going on, it’s easy to change grip pressure. Whatever grip pressure you start with, keep it constant until the end of the swing.

Related Videos from Lynn Marriott & Pia Nilsson
  • Lynn Marriott: Check Your Grip Pressure
  • Short Game Practice Advice
  • Golf 54 - Pt. 1 - Introduction