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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hitting It Low

Since those soggy boys at the Open Championship are doing a lot of it, I thought I'd put up a couple of thoughts on keeping the ball low when hitting into the wind.

First, here's a video by PGA player Bob Byman. It shows a couple of different approaches to hitting it low:

Another tip comes from author John Andrisani, who's written books on the playing styles of several players like Jack and Tiger. In his book The Bobby Jones Way, he tells about how Jones battled the wind in the 1930 Open Championship at Hoylake. Andrisani writes:
"...Jones realized that a strong headwind magnifies errors in striking, so he concentrated on hitting the ball straighter and not harder. In fact, after setting up with his feet square to the target, the ball back only slightly, and the hands just slightly ahead of the ball, he swung the club back inside the target line and at a slower pace than normal to enhance control.
"On the downswing, Jones chased the ball with the clubhead for a longer period through impact, then employed a shorter finish. To help you swing the correct way, think of brushing the grass with the clubhead, in the take-away and hitting area. This swing will help you create a wide backswing arc and swing the club into the ball on a low trajectory to ensure an extremely solid strike. The shot you hit will bore into the wind and stop fairly quickly on the green." (pages 60-61)
Jones would have "swung the club back inside the target line" anyway since he tended to hit a draw most of the time, so I don't know if I would exaggerate that. But I want to draw your attention to one fact: You DON'T want to hit down on the ball, since that makes the ball jump up in the air. That's why you move the ball only slightly back and put your hands only slightly ahead at address. However, I may have an image that will help you in your attempts to "chase the ball" through impact.

Imagine that your club is actually a small broom. What you want to do after you make contact with the ball -- and yes, that contact is slightly downward; you want to hit the ball first, you just don't want much of a divot -- after you make contact with the ball, imagine you sweep the line in front of the ball for a foot or two before finishing with your hands low. You aren't helping the ball up into the air; the sweeping image will help you move the club forward rather than up so quickly.

Finally, you may have heard Tom Watson telling TV viewers an old saying he once heard, "Hit with ease into the breeze." Regardless of what approach you choose, this advice always seems to come up. And when one of those sources is the patron saint of links golf himself, you better listen! ;-)

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