Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life - – WITH MAX ADLER

I’ ve al­ways played my best golf in the sum­mer. I won the 2011 PGA Cham­pi­onship in Au­gust, and my other two PGA Tour wins were in Au­gust and late May. Could be from grow­ing up in Ver­mont. After shak­ing off the rust in spring and get­ting my body used to play­ing again, I al­ways felt the pres­sure of about a 10-week win­dow to shoot some low rounds and prove to my­self I was get­ting bet­ter. Now that I play the PGA Tour and live in Jupiter, Florida, my life is per­pet­ual sum­mer. Still, there’s a part of me that ex­pects to hit that mid-sea­son form my bud­dies and I used to talk about.

WHEN IT’S DEEP INTO THE SEA­SON and you’re not play­ing well, it’s frus­trat­ing. This is when it’s time to re­visit some ba­sics. To me, the ba­sics are driv­ing and chip­ping. If you can do those two things well, you’ll be hard to beat. It’s rare to mess up a short iron from a fair­way that badly. And if you can chip the ball to a foot, your put­ter doesn’t mat­ter.

THE BEAUTY IS, while you’re work­ing on chip­ping you’re also work­ing on driv­ing. This is be­cause the bot­toms of both swings – the area around im­pact – are iden­ti­cal. From the mo­ment the club­head is two feet from the ball un­til two feet after im­pact, the tech­nique of a good chip is the same as a ripped tee shot. The club­face isn’t flip­ping or do­ing any­thing funny. It’s stay­ing square to the path of the swing and strik­ing the ball as solidly as a bat hits a base­ball. A good feel is the back of the left hand stay­ing pointed at the tar­get through the strike. Ex­cept for flops and a few other spe­cialty shots, that’s how ev­ery swing with ev­ery club should feel at the bot­tom. It’s why I start my prac­tice ses­sions with sim­ple bump-and-runs. I’ll take an 8-iron and make a swing that’s as short as a putting stroke and just watch how the ball rock­ets off the club­face for a me­tre or so. My teacher, Chuck Cook, calls it a “square pinch” be­cause the face stays square and pinches the ball off the turf. If I’m strug­gling, Chuck will say, “Hey, Kee­gan, give me a square pinch.” This means stop what­ever I’m do­ing and hit a chip to re­mem­ber what solid con­tact feels like. 

AFTER YOU MASTER THE SQUARE PINCH, try some longer chips. Work your way up to a 40-me­tre pitch, or what Chuck calls a “high sweep.” Go through the bag un­til you’re hit­ting driver. Same as with the short chip, the way to get max­i­mum speed on a drive is to present the dead mid­dle of the club­face to the ball. When you achieve that, you re­alise that a full swing is one sim­ple mo­tion that feels like a chip, only with some wrist hinge and body turn. I’m a feel player, but pay­ing strict, tech­ni­cal at­ten­tion to chip­ping has given the right amount of struc­ture to my swing.

THE OTHER HALF OF THE SCOR­ING EQUA­TION IS, of course, men­tal. I owe my ticket off the mini-tours to Jim McLean, who taught me to ap­proach golf like my other favourite sum­mer­time ac­tiv­i­ties. I love throw­ing the foot­ball and shoot­ing bas­kets. Rickie Fowler, Bren­dan Steele and some other guys and I will get full-on soft­ball and volleyball games go­ing. When I throw a soft­ball, there’s no time to think about the mo­tion of my arm. I just look at the first base­man’s glove and re­act. So when you’re star­ing at flags from the fair­way this sum­mer, just pre­tend you’re play­ing catch in the back yard. Or maybe even at the beach.



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