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Wedge it like Stricker

Doug Hammer Scottsdale, AZ (Sports Network) -- How many of you want to shoot lower scores? Hopefully, everyone said yes to that. Now, how many feel that the path to lower scores leads through the driver, or getting more distance with your clubs? My guess is way too many of you agree with that statement. If you really want to improve, take a lesson from Steve Stricker, he's been on TV quite a bit lately!

Mr. Stricker is quietly putting together one of the best seasons in PGA Tour history, and definitely the best season of his career. I think it can be very helpful to analyze why. Will any of you become Steve Stricker good? Probably not, but if you emulate some of his qualities it just might help you reach your personal goals.

Let's start by looking at a few of Steve Stricker's statistics. He is currently 115th in driving distance and 46th in driving accuracy. The summary of that adds up to his not being a great driver of the ball. This is well documented. He has struggled with this facet of his game throughout his career, and struggles still. Look at some of the fortunate bounces he got this past weekend. I am sure Steve works hard on driving the ball, as tour players tend to work hard on every aspect, especially their weaknesses. But, he also found a way to offset this weakness.


The flattening of the backswing helps shorten up the backswing as the body gets in the way and keeps the backswing under control.
Take a look at Greens in Regulation. Stricker is currently ranked 29th. But that is not all. He also leads the PGA Tour in Scrambling at 68.11%. That means he gets up and down on PGA Tour golf courses better than two-thirds of the time!! Now, that gets my attention. Not only does he hit a ton of greens (currently 67.37%) but, if he misses, he gets up and down better than two out of three times!! How does this guy ever lose?

What is his secret? Let's examine his swing characteristics. What is the first thing that stands out? A shorter and flattened backswing. The flattening of the backswing, or more rounded arm swing, helps shorten up the backswing as the body gets in the way and keeps the backswing under control. Most amateurs tend to take the club back with just their arms, allowing the club to swing too upright and over the shoulders. Nothing is there to stop the club at the top of the swing, allowing it to go back too far and, in many cases, past parallel to the ground.

This results in the most penalties around the green and from 100 yards and in. I feel that most golfers take the club back way too far when trying to hit less than full shots from inside 100 yards. This results in a decelerating strike to the golf ball, making distance control almost impossible to have with degree of consistency. The next time you are heading to the range for a practice session, try these simple things and focus on 100 yards and less:

1. Make sure that the left shoulder initiates your takeaway, NOT the lifting of the arms. Most people forget to turn when shortening the swing. Start your motion with a shoulder turn.

2. The backswing should feel noticeably shorter.

3. Consciously accelerate the club through the hitting zone making a longer follow through than backswing. In other words, hit it hard!! (See Photos)


Accelerate your club through the hitting zone making a longer follow through than backswing.
4. Work on hitting shots this way in ten-yard increments. Start at 20 and progress to 100. Each distance may take a slightly bigger backswing so be sure to accelerate through each time. If you hit it too far, shorten the backswing.

5. Take your video camera to the range. Taking pictures Is the most effective way to really see how long or short your backswing is. My guess is you will be shocked at how far back you are really taking the club.

6. Take this same approach with all of your iron shots.

7. Repeat this process every time you practice and watch your handicap drop.

Working on this part of your game is much more important than gaining distance or hitting the driver better. If you are struggling off the tee, try shortening up there too, I bet you gain a little bit more control. Although it is always hard for me to root against Tiger, I will be cheering very hard for Steve Stricker to hang on and win the FedEx Cup this year. Nobody deserves it more.



Doug Hammer * Director of Instruction * Troon North Golf Club p 480-585-5300 ext. 251 * f 480-585-5161 * www.troonnorthgolf.com 10320 E Dynamite Blvd. * Scottsdale, AZ 85262 Managed by Troon Golf? * www.troongolf.com



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