Mike Bender, one of Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers in America, coaches PGA Tour pro Zach Johnson (left) on how to shape his shots.

What Great Swings Have in Common

Mirror leading pro golfers' shared traits to polish your stroke on the course

BY TOM MACKIN | Photo by Michael Cohen

No two golf swings are exactly the same. Dozens of physical, mental, and technical variables come into play, providing each golfer with his or her own swing DNA. But despite that singular nature, the very best players in history do share certain swing traits. Incorporating one or more into your own game would be a smart step toward lowering your scores. Three top teachers pick the game-changing traits you should take a swing at next time you set up to the ball.


MIKE BENDER ON ...
SHAPING SHOTS

"Every great player has curved the ball right or left to some degree. Their stock shot is either a draw or a fade. If you visualize a line from the ball to the target, and you play a draw, imagine everything to the right of that line is painted green and everything to the left is painted red. The best players try to keep the ball in the green zone all the time and work on not crossing that line, essentially eliminating one side of the course. I spend an inordinate amount of time working with Zach Johnson on practicing that skill. Most amateurs get on the range and just try to hit a target while not paying attention at all on how the ball actually gets to the target."

Practice Drill: "One drill I do with Zach, and all of my students, is to place an alignment stick in the ground 10 steps in front of the ball and in line with the target. Then we try to make sure that every shot starts to the right of that alignment stick before drawing back to the target. That instant visual feedback will make your swing better and more consistent without being overly technical. Why start this drill by focusing on a draw rather than a fade? Because as Ben Hogan once said, ‘To be an accomplished fader of the ball, one must first know how to draw it.' "

Bender's Cred: Master instructor at the Mike Bender Golf Academy in Lake Mary, Fla. Named one of Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers in America 2015-2016. Has coached two-time major winner Zach Johnson since 1999.

 

SEAN HOGAN ON ...
CONSISTENT TEMPO


"Rhythm is the glue great players such as Lydia Ko use to sync their swing up and repeat a consistently solid strike on the ball time and time again. Rhythm is simply how all the moving parts [the torso, arms, hands, and club] in the golf swing sync together. You can have an up-tempo swing with great rhythm like Nick Price or Brandt Snedeker - so great rhythm is not always about having a slow swing. Lydia certainly has a great rhythm naturally. However, with drills and exercises, [all levels of] players can improve their swing rhythm and sync. Just watching Lydia swing on YouTube can help players improve their swing rhythm."

Practice Drill: "We use the ‘Flow Drill' with Lydia and many of our weekend clients to encourage better rhythm in their swings. To execute this drill, simply make your practice swings by starting the clubhead 8 to 10 inches in front of the ball while pointing it toward the target. Then take the club back as you normally would [past the ball] and make your normal swing. Doing this encourages a tension-free start to the swing and promotes great rhythm once you're over the ball moments later."

Hogan's Cred: Director of instruction at the Leadbetter Golf Academy World Headquarters in ChampionsGate, Fla. Coaches Lydia Ko with David Leadbetter.



TRAVIS FULTON ON ...
FORWARD-LEANING SHAFT

"Every great player returns the shaft to the point of impact with a degree of forward lean, especially when using irons. Most amateurs don't do that; at impact they come in more neutral, or often with a bit of an under-release. With a proper forward shaft lean, you achieve more of a descending clubhead. All of the best ballstrikers have a descending attack angle when hitting irons. Doing it properly means better compression of the ball at impact and increased distance. You're also creating a bit of deloft in the clubface, which gets the ball to launch lower and that leads to more distance. It's simply more efficient - less effort and more power. Henrik Stenson is a great example. He has a significant forward shaft lean, particularly with his 3-wood, which he hits more like an iron. That's one of the reasons why he hits it so far. A 120-mph clubhead speed helps too, of course."
 
Practice Drill: "Take a sand wedge back to the 9 o'clock position and then come into the ball feeling your right hand is bent and left hand is flat and turning downward. That should result in a bit of a knockdown shot that is launched low. You can also take little impact zone swings - take it back halfway, just past the hip, and hit a little stinger with a low finish. The shaft is still in line with the lead arm and pointing down toward the ground [lower than the waist]. The clubface has rotated to 45 degrees relative to the target. This ability to launch it lower with wedges is really the biggest distinction between a PGA Tour player and the average player."

Fulton's Cred: Lead instructor at the Golf Channel Academy With Travis Fulton at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. One of Golf Digest's 2015-2016 Best Teachers in Your State (Florida).

Members of ClubCorp Clubs GO MOBILE

Log on to your club website or m.myclubmobile.com on your mobile device for two more swing traits top golfers share and drills you can do to improve your game. Click on Private Clubs, and then on the Bonus Content headline to find:
• A Smart Set-Up, as used by Jason Day, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods
• A Good Drop, as used by Rory McIlroy

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