A Lesson Learned: Be Bold and Lay Up

John Merrick

With a wealth of experience at Riviera Country Club, John Merrick didn’t hesitate to lay up on the drivable 10th, a shot that proved to be the difference in Merrick’s playoff win at the Northern Trust Open.

Jon C. Wright

Problem Area: Off The Tee
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013 | 8:45 p.m.

The hardest shot in golf down the stretch in a tournament isn’t the long bunker shot or the towering drive; it isn’t the curling downhill putt or the finesse chip.

No. The hardest shot to make yourself hit under pressure is the layup, the iron shot to the fat part of the fairway when the green is tempting you like a mistress. You know that you are one perfectly struck shot away from glory; you know that the crowd wants to see you pull out the driver and go for it; you know that if you pull off the big shot, it will make all the television highlights.

You can’t imagine the pressure that comes with trying to win for the first time. It doesn’t matter if it’s your club championship, a member-guest or the Northern Trust Open, the biggest obstacle to winning is always your own emotions.

That is what makes the par John Merrick made on the short par-four 10th at Riviera to win the playoff over Charlie Beljan such a teachable moment. Merrick could have hit driver there. The hole is only 315 yards long. He could have threaded a tee shot onto the front portion of the green and had a two-putt birdie and a chance at eagle.

But Merrick grew up in Long Beach and had been coming to the L.A. Open since he was a boy. He had also played many rounds at Riviera during his days at nearby UCLA. So he understood that the smart play was to take an iron off the tee and lay up to the fat part of the fairway left of the green.

There was no drama in that shot. It wasn’t going to make any highlights. No one would ever talk about the layup long iron.

Of course, some layups make history. David Toms hit a layup on the last hole of the 2001 PGA Championship to win. So did Payne Stewart at the 1999 U.S. Open. Both were tough decisions. If they hadn’t worked out, those guys would have been criticized forever. But they were the right shots under the circumstances, as history proved.

Merrick’s shot was a slightly easier call because the 10th at Riviera is a tough short hole to drive.

As it turned out, Merrick’s long iron landed perfectly. He was able to spin a wedge on the right tier of green and two-putt for a par while Beljan, who went with the driver from the tee, couldn’t hit the green with his second shot and failed to get up and down.

Confidence and calmness come in a lot of forms, especially when you’re trying to win for the first time. Merrick’s confidence came through his familiarity with Riviera and the fact that was playing so close to home.

His experience on that golf course and the comfort he had playing in front of family and friends, gave him the confidence he needed to pull out an iron on the 10th tee and make a par on a hole where par is often good enough.

It won’t get any votes for shot of the year, but if you want to learn something from the new Northern Trust Open champion, remember that there is nothing wrong with hitting a quality layup. In fact, it is sometimes the hardest shot in golf.

J.C. Wright is the head golf professional at Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Arizona

Golf For Beginners – Find Golf Schools and Friends to Learn Golf – PGA.com

Golf For Beginners – Find Golf Schools and Friends to Learn Golf – PGA.com

Playing with Pace

Golf is sometimes perceived as a secret society with its own mores, culture and language, which can make it feel exclusionary, elitist or unwelcoming.  Yet, while the sport is deeply rooted in history and traditions that make it great, today’s golf scene is getting with the times like never before.  In fact, golf will present you with such unbelievable personal and shared experiences that the only fear you’ll have nowadays is a FOMO –a “Fear of Missing Out!”

There are almost too many reasons to list for taking up this great game, but here’s eight of them to get you started:

  • Connections Abound – Golf’s a relationship game.  Every angle of the sport is rooted in relationships—both personal and business. And your time spent in and around the game allows you to make connections and foster relationships through shared experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise make.
  • “Grass Ceiling” No More – Tired of being excluded from the informal networks your colleagues, especially the guys, are building on the course and then leveraging for career advancement?  Grass ceiling no more, girl.  Get in the game.  You’ll break down those barriers, and build a network for a lifetime.
  • The Great Outdoors – In this high-tech generation of being chained to our mobile devices while doing more with less at the office, who couldn’t use a little more time outside in the fresh air?  Can’t you just hear your mom saying, “Go outside and play!”?  Mom knows best, especially when it comes to what a little fresh air can do to boost your mind, body and spirit.
  • Calorie Burn – Who couldn’t use a little extra off?  You’ll burn approximately 2,000 calories during an 18-hole round (while walking and carrying your clubs) or even 1,300 calories when riding a golf car as you play!
  • Your Wardrobe Awaits – Forget about the stodgy, starchy, boxy and, yes, tacky golf shirts of days gone by.  Cute, fashion-forward, sexy, professional, sporty; whatever look you’re going for on the course, the fashion world is your oyster in golf.  Oh, and the shoes!  One word.  Love.
  • Your Significant Other – Golf is such a special sport to share with a spouse or partner.  You’ll leave the world behind and be together, undisrupted in a beautiful setting where nothing else matters but the two of you.  Fun and closeness are sure to result.  (And don’t fret if you don’t currently have a significant other, many happy couples are known to have met on the golf course.)
  • Destinations Await – Around the corner or even the globe, golf travel can take you to stunning locations all over the world.
  • That One Shot – There’s no way to do justice to describing the feeling of pure exhilaration you’ll experience the first time you connect your golf club with that little white ball.  There’s really nothing like it!  You can do it…And you’ll never forget it!  Believe me, it will keep you coming back to the game you love!

So, no more FOMO…Get Golf Ready today!

Youth Golf

How to have fun with Dad … today!

PGA of America

PGA of America

Published: Thursday, January 09, 2014 | 10:31 p.m.

Don’t you just hate it when your Dad corrects your manners…gets on your case for eating too much candy…or nags you for watching too many TV shows?

Now, here’s your chance to get even—and you’ll both have fun in the process—on the golf course!  That’s because you can always have a fair competition in golf. And there’s nothing like beating your Dad at something that gives you both a BIG smile.  It could be putting contests or a full game of golf.  The point is you’re hanging out with Dad and creating memories for a lifetime.

Plus, no couch potato syndrome here!

So, what if you want to play with your Dad, but on the same team?  Well, how about creating your own mini-PGA Junior League Golf match, taking on a friend and their Dad?  It’s a lot of fun to play together, using a nine-hole “Scramble” format, where everyone hits their team’s best shot each time. If you hit a bad shot, it’s no big deal. That’s because your Dad can help you out on his turn! And what could be sweeter than after seeing your Dad hit one in the pond, you step up and save the team with a great shot of your own?

It’s a wonderful way to bond with “Dear ol’ Dad!”  Plus, you’ll get to tell THAT story a million times!

How To Choose A Golf Instructor

A great golf instructor is invaluable

Photo: Courtesy The PGA of America
The right golf instructor can make a world of difference in your golf game.

By John Kim

I originally wrote this article in 2003.  With 11+ years of advancement in technology, communication, and business, I felt it was time to revise the original article and provide a look at some factors that should help influence you in one direction or another when deciding who you choose to help you reach your potential as a golfer.

The process is still as unique as your fingerprint, based upon who you are as well as what level you want to accomplish.  And the process is still comparable to choosing the best doctor to diagnose and treat you for an illness or decease.  There are certain questions you would ask your doctor and certain things you would require from your doctor that will allow you feel comfortable with your treatment plan.  You should ask similar questions and expect similar services from your golf instructor before investing your time and money improving your game.

Compatibility – It is your responsibility to insure that there is a fit between you and your instructor on all levels regarding personality type, mutual goals, are your beliefs similar about the game and how it should be played, as well as your instructor’s ability to relate to your individual needs. 11 years ago, the communication vehicles and methods we now have access to did not exist, and now have to be part of the compatibility side of choosing the best golf instructor for you.  Does the instructor use modern methods of communication that provides you instant feedback and contact with your instructor?  Or is the instructor still using antiquated forms of communication and not replying to his or her clients request for contact and follow-up?

Find a PGA Instructor near you

Before throwing a dart in the phone book under “golf instruction,” research the professionals in your area. One way is to ask your friends and playing partners for referrals of good instructors in your area they have used. Ask them about pricing, reputation, location, and their improvement under the instructor’s tutelage.  Also ask about the instructor’s use of technology and how good is the instructor at delivering timely communication to you in a personal way.  Chances are if you get along with your playing partners and the instructor does too, the instructor(s) they use may be a good fit for you too.  Call the instructor and ask if he or she has some time to get to know you by phone or if you can come by and watch a lesson.  A good instructor will be happy to talk to you about your game, get to know you as an individual, as well as allow you to peak into a lesson prior to helping you with your golf game.

Accreditation and Experience – Does your golf instructor have the education and experience to take your game to any level you desire? Many individuals claim to be golf instructors. Many of these individuals are self-proclaimed “experts,” or had enough money to take a one to two week course on how to teach golf and make more money.  11 years later, I will not back down from this statement that caused the most commotion about the original article.  I will tell you some of the organizations that accredit golf instructors have upped their games and are providing improved educational opportunities for those who are not wanting to become PGA or LPGA Members.  These companies are still ultimately out to make money the easiest way they can and at their lower levels of accreditation allow substandard instructors to promote themselves under their brands.

But you can not get any better golf instruction than from a Member of the PGA or LPGA.  The programs these men and women complete are intense, include first-hand experiences over a longer course of time, and are constantly required by the organizations to re-educate themselves on a regular basis.

When seeking a golf professional to help you with your game, insure that the individual has an active accreditation with the PGA or LPGA, or another accreditation association that places more value on education over a longer period of time, versus just a couple of weeks of training.  Be sure the instructor is remaining active in the association he or she belongs to and is constantly educating themselves on the latest innovations of technology and instructional methodology.  And most important is to be sure that the instructor has a history of creating positive results for the clients he or she serves.  No matter what affiliation of accrediting association the instructor is part of, asking for and receiving references from the instructor is a great way to confirm if this is the instructor for you.

Putting Grip

How to establish a putting grip that maximizes feel and minimizes misses

by Marius Filmalter

There is a saying: “You will never find a good golfer with a bad grip, but you might find a bad golfer with a good grip.” Although that is very true, I don’t think the “type of grip” is all that important in putting. I have observed too many different types of successful putting grips on the PGA Tour to think that one is better than the rest. For instance: we have the popular reverse overlap grip, the overlap, the cross-handed, the praying hands, the claw, and a few more that I’m not even sure have a name yet.

 The only two things important in putting are to control the 1. Direction (line) and 2. Distance (speed) you hit the ball. In other words, to hit the ball where you THINK you are aiming with the correct speed. A good grip will significantly enhance your chances to achieve these goals.

For most amateurs, I recommend the standard putting grip. It’s simple and easy to learn.

The key to the standard grip is getting the putter into the palms of your hands–not the fingers, like you would in a full-swing grip.

And that means, on your left hand, instead of the grip coming at a slight downward angle across the bottom of your fingers and the heel pad resting on top of the club, the grip comes almost straight up and down through your palm, with your THUMB pad on top of the putter.

See how that works?

That’s the first basic of more effective putting–getting the grip in the palm of your hand as opposed to your fingers to maximize your feel and minimize your misses.

The second basic is the actual grip itself. While you may prefer to use a ten-finger, overlap, or interlock grip in your full swing, using these grips for your putting stroke can lead to overactive hands, inconsistent results and poor play.

That’s why I recommend the “reverse overlap” to most of my students. In the “reverse overlap,” the index finger of your left hand overlaps your right hand and rests comfortably between the ring and pinkie finger of your right hand.

Now, when you grip the putter with both hands, the putter grip should run comfortably through both palms with your left thumb sitting on top or slightly right of the putter and fitting snugly into the lifeline of your right hand.

This position helps to keep the hands quiet, while also combining them as one unit to give you maximum control over your club.

So how do you know if you have a good putting grip or not?


* For right-handed putters, take a hold of your putter with your left hand like I outlined above, with the grip intersecting the palm and your thumb pad on top.

* Now simply remove the pinkie, ring, and middle fingers, with only your thumb and trigger fingers on the club.

Your putter should balance nicely in the trigger finger and thumb pad, with the weight evenly distributed. You should feel as if you have complete control over your entire putter. Because, in a sense, you do.

If you can perform this little test with your putter in your hand, you should be good to go. Simply bring in your right hand so your left thumb fits comfortably into your right thumb pad, line up your putt, and make your stroke.

So let’s review the characteristics of a good putting grip:

1. Both hands should be in a natural and relaxed position…tension is “poison” for feel.

2. The palms should be facing each other. That encourages the hands to work together.

3. The palms should be square to the clubface. Square is significantly determined by the palm of your right hand (for right-handed golfers).

4. Both thumbs should be on the grip. We exercise most feel through the thumbs.

5. The grip should be more in the palm of the hands….very similar to driving a car. You want your hands able to react to “feel” but not be overactive.

6. The shaft of the putter should be an extension of the forearms.

Follow these simple grip guidelines, and you should find yourself sinking a lot more putts and getting a lot less frustrated on the greens.


Get More Distance Out Of The Ground


Get More Distance Out Of The Ground

3 power moves the pros make that you don’t


March 2011

There are a lot of differences between the golf swing of an elite player and that of the average amateur, but what are the biggest? Let’s look at what most golfers want more than anything: power. My work with biomechanics researcher Jean-Jacques Rivet has proved that most amateurs don’t push into the ground effectively to create leverage in their swings. And leverage leads to power.

With the use of J.J.’s data, we’ve found three spots in the average golfer’s swing where a lack of leverage is most evident: the takeaway, halfway back and the transition. I’m going to share our findings with you and give you some drills to fix these power leaks. Follow our advice, and you’ll start hitting the ball better than ever.


Ground force in the takeaway: 
Pro: 125% of body weight
Amateur: 70% of body weight
Most amateurs tend to lose leverage early in the backswing by raising their bodies, which lightens the force they apply to the ground. The pros do the opposite and apply even more force, giving them a much more stable base to coil the upper body.


Take a wood block or similarly weighted object such as a hardcover book and place it behind your 6-iron at address. Push the block away from the target as you start your backswing (right. You should feel pressure building in your right heel as well as the ball of your left foot from the extra effort it takes to move the block.


Ground force in the takeaway: 
Pro: 125% of body weight
Amateur: 65% of body weight

Even if they had good ground force at the start of the swing, many amateurs lose that grounded feeling at this point. As that pressure decreases, they stop coiling and begin to lift their hands and arms as a compensatory move to finish the backswing. Pros continue to coil all the way to the top because they’re still grounded.


Place a club on the ground and stand on the shaft with both feet as shown (right, shoes optional). Then swing a 6-iron while standing on the shaft. As you move past the halfway point in your backswing, you should feel a steady or increasing amount of force in your right heel and the middle of your left foot. Because of this force, you should be able to complete your upper-body turn just like the pros do.


Ground force in the takeaway: 
Pro: 145% of body weight
Amateur: 90% of body weight

As the club starts down, elite players increase the pressure under their feet — it looks as if they’re starting to squat — which shallows the swing plane and increases clubhead lag. It’s a huge power move. Most amateurs swing down on too steep of a plane and release the clubhead lag early, usually resulting in a weak slice. They often have more ground-force pressure halfway down than at impact. The sequence of the downswing should be from the ground up, but these players frequently do just the opposite, leading with the upper body.



Set up with your feet and hips open to the target and take the club to the top. As you start to swing down (right), rotate your hips in a clockwise direction — a feeling of closing them off to your target even more. This dynamic move will force you to push into the ground with your front leg. It also will keep your shoulders from unwinding early and will drop your arms and club onto a shallow plane. Those are keys to hitting a powerful shot that curves from right to left.

DAVID LEADBETTERa Golf Digest Teaching Professional, is based at ChampionsGate, near Orlando. JEAN-JACQUES RIVET is the sports biomechanics consultant to the European Tour.

Fairway Bunker Shots

Tips and instruction to learn proper fairway bunker shot technique.

By Kevin Cotter, PGA

The primary difference between a fairway bunker shot and a green side bunker shot is you strike the ball first then the sand in a fairway bunker.  The angle of attack to the ball is also more shallow than that of a green side bunker, in a fairway bunker the clubhead travels somewhat level to the ground through impact.

Also, position the ball more towards the middle of your stance.

Plan on up to a 1/3 distance loss with fairway bunker shots, therefore you may have to take some extra club, but do make sure you still have enough loft to to clear the lip of the bunker.

Check out the video link below with PGA Professional Michael Breed demonstrating a key tip on how to position the right foot in the sand in an effort to stabilize the back leg during the swing minimizing lower body movement. You must emphasize movement of the upper body with fairway bunker shots and keep the lower body fairly quiet.  This helps prevent your feet from pivoting/shifting in the sand during the swing.

Fairway Bunker Shots | PGA.com

PGA Professional Michael Breed hits Hazeltine National Golf Club to give you some helpful tips on the best ways to get out of those dre…
Below, Phil Micklelson describes the shallow attack angle and how he casts the club (breaks the wrists early in the downswing) to create a more shallow angle:


Happy golfing!


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