April 16 2013
Adam Scott hit more than three-fourths of his greens in regulation en route to winning the Masters (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
“A tradition unlike any other” and a rite of spring, the Masters is, in my opinion, a tournament without a peer. Every year it captures the imagination of the golfing public around the globe and, almost incredibly and without fail, it manages to deliver gripping excitement and riveting drama as the players navigate their way around the Alister Mackenzie masterpiece.
Augusta National also represents a master-class in golf course architecture. Mackenzie and Bob Jones crafted a thoughtful and beautiful layout around the rolling slopes on tract of land that seems as if God had intended it to be a golf course from the beginning of time.
Beautiful and beguiling, Augusta National allows the competitors to swing freely off the tee as some of the landing areas are wider than most typical major championship layouts. From there however the challenges amplify. Jones believed that you do not make a course more challenging by making it longer, you do so by placing an emphasis on the quality of the approach shot and the shots that come directly thereafter. Consider his commentary from April 1959 (Courtesy SI Vault):
FINE SHOTS EARN BIRDIES
We are quite willing to have low scores made during the tournament. It is not our intention to rig the golf course so as to make it tricky. It is our feeling that there is something wrong with a golf course which will not yield a score in the 60s to a player who has played well enough to deserve it.
On the other hand, we do not believe that birdies should be made too easily. We think that to play two good shots to a par-4 hole and then to hole a 10-foot putt on a dead-level green is not enough. If the player is to beat par, we should like to ask him to hit a truly fine second shot right up against the flag or to hole a putt of more than a little difficulty.
There is absolutely no doubt that to contend at Augusta National the players have to have their wits about them on and around the greens. Adam Scott let us into that not-so-secret: "You're going to have to make putts to win this thing; that's just how you win tournaments."
To get really legitimate looks at birdie however, the competitors have to strike quality iron shots that fly to the target on the correct trajectory and on the correct line. Contenders in the Masters certainly did so (indeed Adam Scott hit 76.3 percent of the greens in regulation) and this is a lesson we can learn from the pros.
Three major determinants of a crisply struck iron shot are a squaring clubface, a center-strike and a descending blow at impact. There are various elements to achieving each of the aforementioned but in my opinion the following three tips are crucial to success:
Squaring clubface: The best way to ensure a square clubface throughout the swing and especially at impact is to ensure that you grip the club correctly. If you pay close attention to Adam Scott’s pre-shot-routine you will notice how he makes sure that his left (lead) hand is correctly situated on the club before he goes about gripping the handle with his right hand. He is so diligent about this element that he does not move any further until that left hand is on the button and he has checked it. Once in position he is able to set up to the ball and swing with conviction because he can rest assured that he has the correct hold on the club. So do as the 2013 Masters Champion does and pay very close attention to your grip as your hands are your only direct influence on the club.
Center-strike: The quickest route to poor strikes is a violent spin-out of the shoulders resulting in the arms trailing behind the torso in the downswing and through impact. Certainly, your trunk needs to lead the arms into the downswing but if you look at pictures of all the greatest strikers you will notice that their chests/shoulders are fairly square to the target-line at impact. To achieve this, strive for a smooth and slow unwind of the shoulders in the transition from backswing to downswing. As you do this your arms will swing back in front of your body and from there you can swing and rotate your body through to the finish. Remember, you will be at your best when your arms are in front of your body.
Descending strike: A descending strike is more the product of correct body location than anything else. Sure, some forward shaft lean through impact plays a part in a solid and compressed ball-strike but in the end it is a good shift of the weight back through impact to the lead side that allows you to “cover” the ball at impact and make a downward strike. A simple image that will help you with this is to imagine that you have a search-light shining from your chest. At address that search-light will be lighting up the ball. In the backswing it will rotate away from the ball and then it is your job as you commence your downswing to return that search-light to the position where it highlights the ball through impact and on to the finish. Obviously at the finish it will be pointing somewhere around the target.