What I Learned at The Masters

I had the pleasure of attending The Masters this year (and yes, the “Tiger Roar” is real and unmistakable) and re-learned several things.  First, pimiento and cheese on white bread should be eaten only in Augusta, GA, just as Red Stripe should be drunk only in Jamaica. Secondly, and more importantly, the greatest golf training tool in the world can be yours on Amazon for a mere $15.  What makes Tiger other-wordly? Aiming sticks. OK, so that might be a slight exaggeration but having spent time over the years at both LPGA and PGA Tour events, observing the best players in the world on the driving range, they ALL practice with an aiming device at their feet.

Of all the concepts I have tried to teach people over the years, the importance of setup is perhaps the hardest to ”sell.”  I have heard it attributed to Jack Nicklaus that “professional golfers spend 95% of their practice time working on setup, 5% working on swing; amateur golfer – 5% setup and 95% swing.”  I don’t know about you, but when it comes to golf, I’m with Jack.

Many people approach practice as just “hitting balls,” and when asked what they are aimed at, the most common answer I get is “I’m not paying attention to that; I’m just hitting balls.”  Alas, hitting balls while mis-aimed or mis-aligned rewards poor swings and punishes good swings. If I am aimed 30 yards right of my intended target, I will need to pull the ball 30 yards to make it go where I want it to go.  Over time, I will groove that move and as my setup changes from swing to swing, I will be befuddled when what feel like a good balanced swing with clean contact results in a poor result. And, if the best players in the world practice with aiming sticks EVERY SINGLE SESSION on the range, perhaps I could benefit from a similar discipline.

A quick review of aim and alignment.  So, first, they are two different things and each should be done on every shot, and in that sequence:  aim, then align. The clubhead gets aimed at the target – the leading edge of the club should be perpendicular to the line from the ball to the target.  My body (toes, hips and shoulders) gets aligned parallel to the target line. To be absolutely explicit about something I have heard myriad (even single digit) golfers get wrong:  as a right-handed player, my body will be aligned left of (not at) the target. Just remember, WWJD.

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