We refer to it as the low country. Hilton Head and the surrounding shores are a beautiful landscape for golf. It’s the type of setting where a dream golf vacation can take place. There’s one element that can quickly turn that dream into a nightmare and that is the wind. It has wreaked havoc many times in determining the eventual champion of the RBC Heritage.
The men of the PGA Tour aren’t the only ones facing windy conditions this week. The amazing women of the LPGA are in Hawaii competing in the Lotte Championship. Based upon the synchronicity of the schedule, it is a great time to reach into the PGA Coach toolbox and talk about successful strategies for controlling your ball flight in windy conditions.
In watching the coverage this week, you will see plenty of flighted shots. A “flighted” shot is one where the player chooses to create a specific trajectory. Take for example, a player is hitting into the wind and they wish to keep the ball flight down or lower than normal. Purposely changing the height of the shot is flighting it. Many of us feel that controlling our shots to that level is outside of our talent spectrum.
That’s not the case, with a couple of simple setup changes and one dynamic (in swing) thought, you too can become a trajectory specialist.
The simple beauty of practicing this skill is that you don’t even need it to be windy! Let’s take a trip to the practice range. Start by selecting a mid-iron, maybe a seven iron. If we choose a club that starts with some shot height it will be easier to see the effect we can create.
Once you’re warmed up and have your trusty seven iron in hand, start by moving your feet a little closer to the ball. The second simple setup change is to move the ball a little forward (½ inch) in your stance. Forward means toward the target or closer to your lead foot. These simple modifications will do more than you think. With less distance between you and the ball it will make it easier to cover the ball. Moving it forward will cause an increase in weight shift toward the lead foot. Both of these factors will lower the ball flight.
The concept of covering the ball is the notion of the actual iron clubface coming onto the ball while striking it. It’s the opposite of scooping it. In order for the clubface to be in this position, the shaft must be leaning toward the target. The more the shaft leans forward, the lower the ball flight. As we just mentioned, getting the ball a little forward in our stance creates more movement toward the target in our downswing. As you strike the ball, your trail shoulder should also feel as if it is covering the ball.
Many of you reading this have been told to move the ball back and hit down in order to flight the ball lower; please don’t. The further we move the ball back, the more we hang back on our trail foot. The more we hit down, the more spin we impart and spin creates lift in the wind causing the ball to go higher. So please stick to the PGA Coach recommendations listed below.
Move a little closer to the ball.
Move the ball slightly forward in your stance.
Cover the ball with your trail shoulder through impact.
Using these steps will allow you to better control the ball flight. With a little practice you’ll be ready to not only lower your trajectory, but lower your scores as well.
Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.