If you want to improve your ball striking, I suggest you do what
Rich Beem did on Sunday at the Hyundai Team Matches. Instead of
trying to rip a nine-iron from 136 yards on the par4 17th, Beem
gripped way down on an eight-iron (above) and made a controlled,
relaxed swing, knocking his approach to four feet to seal a 2and1
victory with teammate Peter Lonard over Mark Calcavecchia and
Fred Couples. Choking down on the handle is the easiest way to
improve club control for players of all levels.
PETER THE LATE Beem played great down the stretch, but I was
particularly impressed with Lonard. The guy may be a 35-year-old
PGA Tour rookie, but I think he's on the verge of stardom,
despite his unorthodox setup. Lonard stands practically on top of
the ball, with locked-up knees, but he gets away with it because,
at 6 feet and 225 pounds, he is so strong. He also dispels the
myth that choking down means sacrificing length. Lonard, who
grips way down on almost every club, including the driver,
averaged 281.4 yards off the tee in 2002, matching Ernie Els. An
Aussie who played for 11 years on the European and Australasian
tours, Lonard made the cut in 22 straight Tour starts to begin
the year, and he deserves to be rookie of the year over Jonathan
Byrd, who may have won a tournament but was far less consistent.
DIFFERENT STROKES The Hyundai featured many world-class players,
but only one of them, Tom Watson, had what I would consider a
classic swing. In fact, many of the best golfers have had
something unique in their motion, including Jack Nicklaus's
flying elbow and Arnold Palmer's windmill follow-through. Don't
feel you need to change an idiosyncrasy, because it may be the
best thing in your swing. Instead, learn what you're doing right
and refine it.
ANCHORS AWAY? I hear through the grapevine that the USGA is
seriously considering making the long and belly putters illegal.
Even though these flatsticks have helped many people, I'd be in
favor of this ruling because I think golf should be played with
your hands. Anchoring the putter changes the fundamental nature
of the game.
HIGH TIMES Since the introduction of large-headed drivers I've
seen more and more amateurs make the mistake of teeing the ball
too low. When using a deep-faced driver, such as the 400cc models
that have flooded the market, use three-inch tees so that at
least half of the ball is above the top of the driver's face at
Shankland is an instructor at LPGA International in Daytona
Beach, and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 teachers.
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ABC (TOP)
COLOR PHOTO: PORTER BINKS (2) BUTT OUT Let at least two inches of grip show.
COLOR PHOTO: PORTER BINKS (2) [See caption above]
Choking down on the club on full shots, as Beem and Lonard did
regularly at the Hyundai, is one of the easiest ways to improve
your consistency, but there are a couple of things you need to be
NEW SENSATIONS After you grip down on the club (below), some
things will feel different. You will be standing closer to the
ball. Also, your arms and hands will hang lower than normal.
Finally, the backswing and follow-through will be shorter. These
things will happen naturally.
DOWN TIMES Choking down is advisable for almost all full shots,
but there are specific ones that demand it. The most common is
when the ball sits above your feet. It's also helpful when
hitting shots from fairway bunkers or thick rough, because those
are shots in which the player does not want the club to pass too
far under the ball. Finally, it's best to hit any feel shot
around the green by choking down because, as I like to say, it's
hard to be gentle with a club that's big.