May 13 2012
THE PLAYERS Championship -- a championship every player in the world game would love to add to his resume -- always makes for intriguing spectating and television. Staged at the PGA TOUR headquarters, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is one of tournament golf’s venerable venues. A demanding layout with a spectacular finish, the Stadium Course is one of those courses on the PGA TOUR rota that is as much of a topic of conversation and analyses by the pundits as the tournament competitors are.
An integral part of that fantastic finish is the island-green par-3 17th hole. The middle of a stretch of holes that comprise the par-5 16th, the 17th and the demanding par-4 finishing 18th hole, the 17th is only 137 yards long -- a short iron for most competitors -- but the capricious spring winds and the nature of the hole make it the perfect setting for both triumph and tragedy. Much like the Coliseum in Rome, galleries surround the hole and the players enter it just as the gladiators would. In reality the short par-3 should really be a doddle for the competitors and I am convinced that if the hole were not surrounded by water it would probably have an under-par tournament stroke average. But that is not the case and each and every player breathes a sigh of relief if he leaves the 17th en route to the 18th tee with a par on the card.
The 18th tee saw an event unfold on Saturday afternoon that caused a lot of chatter from the galleries, the announcers and some of the players. Clearly struggling with emotional and mental challenges, Kevin Na took more than his regular number of pre-shot waggles before he stepped out of the shot and took a violent practice swing as he chided himself with “Pull the trigger, Kevin!”
Inasmuch as it was unbearable to watch, there is a lot to learn from Kevin Na’s travails. I often see clients who struggle with the same challenge of clearing their minds and pulling the trigger and the advice I offer them is simple. Don’t fret the situation and develop a swing trigger.
Too often when one becomes concerned with starting the swing or hitting the shot, the event begins to become bigger in the individual’s mind than what it really is. In a sense, the player becomes a victim of his/her own alternate reality. So get back to the truth and remind yourself that it is fine to take a little extra time (as long as you have not dawdled en route to the shot). Remind yourself also that the shot that you are over is only as good as the next one. Indeed Ben Hogan described the “next shot” as the most important one.
Secondly, develop a swing trigger. A great example of a swing trigger is the right knee “kick-in” as used by Gary Player. Before Player swings the club back he kicks the right knee in and this move forms a brace for the backswing and creates enough flow and movement to trigger the backswing. In my opinion the knee kick is the best trigger for the golf swing. If that does not work for you other triggers that could be employed are: a turn of the head to the right (see Jack Nicklaus); a slight turn of the hips in the opposite direction of which they would turn in the backswing. Even a blink of the eyes (as if you were clicking a picture of the ball with your eyes) to start would help. Anything that makes the start rhythmical and less cerebral will go a long way to helping you to get that club swinging back smoothly.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution available on iTunes/iBooks.