X Marks the Spot for Consistent Ball Striking Like Xander Schauffele
By Keith Stewart, PGA
The Olympic golf competition is really unlike any other. How many “regular” tournaments only award the top three players. Every week on the PGA and LPGA Tour, players who make the cut are paid. Not this week. In fact, no players will be paid and only three will get medals. This is what makes the Olympics special. Get a medal or get nothing at all.
Most golfers compete in similar competitions. Very few readers of this article are awarded for making the cut. Whether they play at their local or member club when they compete only a couple at the top of the leaderboard receive prizes. It’s going to be fun for the next two weeks watching the best in the world compete for such a small and valuable purse.
When we look at the men who contend this weekend you will see great all-around players. Take for example our leader after 36-holes; Xander Schauffele. Xander is ranked third in Strokes Gained Total on the PGA Tour. How has Xander become so well-rounded? That’s the lesson each golfer can take away from watching him this weekend.
Ranked 9th in Putting, 12th in Tee to Green, 17th in Approach and 24th Off the Tee there aren’t any weaknesses to his phenomenal game. All his success can be easily broken down into one very simple constant, Xander Schauffele hits the ball solid. Whether it is a driver and iron or the putter he strikes the ball with the center of the clubface. For those watching at home who envy his incredible contact, here’s a simple experiment you can do to analyze your ball striking abilities.
On your way to the practice range pick up some Dr. Scholl’s Odor-X spray powder from your local store. Warm up on the range and once you’re ready, spray the powder across the face of your favorite iron. Hit another ball. Where was the mark? Make note of its position. Spray again and hit another ball. Take note again and continue this experiment for five more shots.
Look at your list and see where all the strikes are. For some they will be near the center. Others the marks will be scattered or all leaning toward one end of the club or the other. If you consistently strike the ball in the center, keep practicing. For the rest of you try this drill:
- Using that same club you tested with, set up to the ball. Take a backswing and do not break your wrists. This will limit your backswing to about 60% of its normal length. Make a nice transition and swing through impact and into a similar finish. Try not to break your wrists on the backswing or forward swing.
- This will limit the length of your swing in both directions and that’s okay. Now take a couple more swings like this until you get somewhat comfortable. Now spray the clubface again. Repeat the drill and look where you hit the face. With less moving parts, your guaranteed to get the impact mark closer to the center. Repeat the drill paying specific attention to the wrist movement.
You should feel twice the amount of turn and half of the wrist and hand movement you usually do. Our hands and wrists can make small movements in our swing creating inconsistent contact. Limiting their movement increases your need for body rotation. Using turn rather than hands will improve your consistency immediately. Continue performing the drill with other clubs. You can use any iron and certainly practice your chipping and pitching this way as well.
Every once and while spray the face and see where your contact is. Feeling a great strike and then seeing the mark in the powder is tremendous positive reinforcement. That’s a truly tangible tool you can take to the course during your round. The type of confident feeling that will help you hit the ball more solid and lower your scores.