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What We Learned: Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters

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I always try to look at the positive side of things, and I’m going to say Danny Willett won The Masters as opposed to Jordan Spieth losing it. In this article, I will be discussing what you can learn from both men in one of the most enthralling and unpredictable Masters Sundays since Faldo/Norman in ’96 and Jack Nicklaus in ’86.

Willett’s Tempo

Danny has what I would classify as a fast tempo swing. It’s fast back and fast through, similar to three-time major champion Nick Price. Now, whenever I teach, I usually hear a lot of players’ reasons as to why they might have hit a poor shot. Numerous reasons tend to surface, but one of the most popular excuses for a bad shot is, “My swing got too quick.” Unfortunately, this results in a lot of golfers slowing down their swing, which can make things worse.

When we swing at a tempo that’s different from what’s instinctive, we lose the sequencing in our swing. Our kinesthetic movement is obstructed, leading to the club feeling out of balance at various points in the swing. Let’s say you’re a fast walker and I asked you to walk at an older person’s pace. It would be pretty difficult to not be consciously moving your muscles as fast as you did before. It would feel unnatural.

My point? If you’re hitting bad shots, don’t blame your swing tempo. I would bet good money that your bad shot is not caused by a tempo that’s too fast, and that there’s another underlying cause. Go see a quality instructor to help guide you to what the issue is.

Shoulders Create Path

For all you eagle-eyed viewers of the Masters Tournament, and Willett in particular, you might have noticed something a little different in his setup; his shoulders are closed to his foot line (feet pointing left, shoulder line pointing at target). The majority of elite players tend to have feet and shoulders running parallel with where they want the ball to start its flight. So why should this matter to you?

The shoulders are what I call one of the two “engines” of the golf swing (the pelvis being the other), and they play a big role in determining where the path of the club travels, whether it be in-to-out or out-to-in.

Here’s something to remember: Shoulders pointing right of target, in-to-out path. Shoulders pointing left of target, out-to-in path.

We all know by now that an out-to-in path causes the ball to curve to the right, a very common miss for golfers. If you suffer from this shot and have for years, make sure you can see your left shoulder at address (if you’re a right-handed golfer). You should barely be able to see the right shoulder, as well. This will help close your shoulders, enabling the club to approach more from the inside. Assuming centered contact and face that’s closed to your path at impact, your shots should curve to the left.

It’s a superbly simple drill that will help encourage the club path of your dreams!

Jordan Spieth’s Card Wrecker

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At The Masters, Spieth’s long game was decidedly mediocre (for him), and needed the help of long-time coach Cameron McCormick after Round 3 to help put it right. And yet he was leading comfortably until his capitulation at No. 12. Truth is, we’ve all done what Spieth did — made a few good shots, holed a few putts, got excited that we could be winning… and then made a card wrecker with no way back.

So why does it happen and how can you prevent it?

Spieth wasn’t going for the hero shot; he wasn’t trying to purposely go for the flag in a tough position. He said, however, that he lost sight of his target. His focus turned to what the consequences of a bad swing would be, rather than what he actually wanted to do, which was hit the ball to the middle of the green.

Don’t let your mind wander over the ball in your next round. It sounds simple, but it’s harder than you might think. Focus on what you want to do with the golf shot at hand and forget the possible consequences of a bad shot. Why think about something that will actually harm your chances of shooting your best round possible?

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Richard is the Head Golf Instructor at Whittlebury Park Golf and Country Club in Northamptonshire, UK. He's on a journey to discover why he couldn’t achieve success as a Tour Pro at a young age, and is helping golfers understand what they can do to reach their potential. He uses using Trackman and GASP LAB video analysis, and well as his own experience, to help his students discover the "why" in their games.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Pingback: What We Learned: Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters - Sports Digger

  2. John Lancaster

    Apr 16, 2016 at 6:31 am

    Willet got lucky, just as Nicklaus got lucky in 86, when Seve “lost it”! Thanks, end of pointless discussion!

  3. Mike

    Apr 15, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    I’m not a pro, not even close. At the same time like many single digit handicappers you gain a wealth of knowledge from daily practice. That being said, Mr. Cartwright’s is sending mixed messages with this article that is confusing to players needing help. For example, at one point he says “If you’re hitting bad shots, don’t blame your swing tempo”. In the next paragraph he says, “When we swing at a tempo that’s different from what’s instinctive, we lose the sequencing in our swing”. Tempo is critical to a golf swing and bad shots are directly related to tempo because as Mr. Cartwright indicates you WILL in fact loose your sequencing, which leads to inconsistent strikes.

    My advice to golfers is if you suffer from inconsistent contact more often than not, grab a PW and spend an hour or two hitting balls off grass using half swings s.l.o.w.l.y. Make sure you “feel” the weight of the club head from start to finish in the swing…especially through impact. Remember, when you swing fast the first thing you loose is the feel of the club head, which leads to inconsistent contact. Swinging slowly will also expose technique errors. Lee Trevino said, your game is in the dirt. And LEE is RIGHT. Good luck and hit em straight and long.

  4. Ned C

    Apr 13, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Willett won and Speith lost. End of discussion. It’s a Major. You can’t push the ball all day and expect to win!

  5. slider

    Apr 13, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    What We Learned: Danny Willett luckiest guy in the world; didnt even want to play in the tournament, last player to sign up, trails the leader for most of the tournament and if spieth pars 12 willet does not win

  6. Sad Smizzle

    Apr 12, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    He’s half-Swedish. Why do all these Swedes have weird swings that use the hands a lot? Is it in the genes? :-p

    • Jay

      Apr 12, 2016 at 11:44 pm

      Can’t take it back low and slow thru the snow- got to get the club up quick???

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Instruction

A simple formula to figure out the right ball position for you

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In this video, I offer my simple formula on ball position that has seen my students produce more consistency. Watch to see how you can adapt your ball position to hit more shots on target.

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How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Instruction

Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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