My full-swing checklist will help you hit longer, straighter iron shots
The two-time European Tour winner transforms your swing in four simple steps.
SWING TIP 2 Clubhead stays outside hands in the takeaway
I want to see the clubhead a little outside my hands but still under my chest when it’s halfway back. This is easier to achieve when you stand a little closer to the ball (see tip 1). If I stand too far away from the ball, I end up reaching for it and that forces my left shoulder high and away from me and throws the clubhead too far inside the line going back.
SWING TIP 3 Get left arm pointing right in downswing
I use my left arm as a reference on the way down. I tend to get it a little disconnected from the body and it ends up pointing left of the target. The best ballstrikers keep the left arm connected to the body so it points right of the target. Keep your left arm close to your chest so your hands are below your right shoulder, not your head, when viewed down the line.
SWING TIP 1 Stand close to the ball at address
I like to stand quite close to the ball because it means my hands sit a little lower naturally and I get into a better posture and move the club into a better position on the way back. The classic thing you’re taught when you’re learning to play is that you should have a hand’s width of space between the belt buckle and the butt of the grip, but I prefer half a hand’s width.
SWING TIP 4 Rotate upper body to deliver the club
Once you’ve got your body into a position where your left arm is more shallow and aiming to the right of target starting down, you simply rotate the big muscles in your upper body to square the clubface up and compress the ball at impact. That body rotation is vital as it creates the clubhead speed you want and makes it easier to deliver the clubhead on a consistently neutral path. especially when Pepperell is tired. For a year in his late teens he was, in his own words, “useless,” a young man bereft of energy and strength. As ever though, he has a fascinating – and typically different – take on his illness.
“I liken it to an expression I hear in economics,” he explains. “The three things that really matter in terms of long-term prosperity are productivity, short-term debt cycle and long-term debt cycle. I think of my mindset as productivity. As long as that is good I’m always going to trend up. Current form is my short-term debt cycle, which is dictated by decisions I make. Then there is the long-term career (debt) cycle. As I saw it, I’d had 10 good years and the illness was just the sort of dip you have to expect in the long-term. I think I’ll have two more dips like it before I’m done. It would be unusual for me not to experience some sort of event that causes a downward shift in my fortunes.”
It wasn’t long before Pepperell was achieving great things in amateur golf. He picked up the Welsh Strokeplay and the Portuguese Amateur, as well as being one-sixth of the winning England side at the 2010 European Amateur Team Championship. Alongside the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Chris Paisley and Tom Lewis – all winners on the European Tour in 2018 – Pepperell saw off future PGA Tour player David Lingmerth in the singles as the English lads beat Sweden in the final.
At that stage it was all part of the plan, one encouraged mightily by Pepperell’s father, Ron. After 25 years as a toolmaker, the elder Pepperell gave it all up to run the clubhouse of a local football team. Then it was on to a driving range and the perfect avenue for his younger son to blossom as a player.
Which is not to say that, quite apart from his nightmare experience in Portugal – one that reduced Pepperell and his long-term partner, Jen, to tears in their hotel room – things have
‘FOR A YEAR IN HIS LATE TEENS PEPPERELL WAS, IN HIS OWN WORDS, “USELESS”.’
gone entirely smoothly. After turning pro in 2011, the former amateur star found himself playing the mini-tours without much success. Things got so bad insolvency loomed before a life-changing Challenge Tour victory in France.
“Winning that week was so important because it meant I could play the Challenge Tour for the rest of that year,” he asserts. “If I had failed there, I would have done all my sponsorship. I’d have had to turn to my parents for help and they would have struggled to do that.”
From that timely success Pepperell made it onto the European Tour in 2013. And it is fair to say things are going rather nicely at the moment. After adding a wire-to-wire British Masters victory to a Qatar Masters win earlier this year, Pepperell had added close to £2m to his once paltry bank balance.
“I have never questioned my mental capability to win,” he insists. “Why should I? I won as a kid. I won as an amateur. I won on the Challenge Tour. I’m not all-of-a-sudden going to be afraid to win on the European Tour. That makes no logical sense to me. Which is not to say that it is not harder to win on the European Tour. It requires more types of shots and a better quality of shot. I could always achieve that level when not under pressure. But I have found it more difficult when I am under pressure.”
That claim was hardly borne out by his play at Walton Heath en route to the biggest victory of his life. Making an extraordinary hole-in-one on the opening day – the ball hit the pin, bounced away then spun back into the cup – and holing out for an eagle two at the par-4 10th on the final day, Pepperell displayed an extraordinary level of calm in seeing off a powerful array of challengers.
“When Eddie hit the front he looked very comfortable,” says Sky Sports commentator Ewen Murray. “He led from start to finish. That’s not easy to do,
especially for someone who is not a seasoned pro. And it is important that he has won again so soon after the first one.
“His independent thinking showed up in his play. He instinctively knew what to do in what were tough conditions. He shortened his backswing and follow through. I can see why he does well in links golf.”
It is not, however, in the full swing where Pepperell has made his biggest strides in 2018. Rather, a new-found expertise with the putter has initiated the most significant difference. Depressed with his play on the greens, Pepperell stopped in to see putting guru Michael Kanski on the drive north to the Scottish Open. It was to prove a fruitful visit, one that has led to the unlikely claim that “Homebase has saved my career.”
“I’ve done just one simple drill since July,” explains Pepperell. “I am someone who plays totally off feel in my long game and this drill gives me that same sensation with my putting. All I do is stick some Blu Tac to the top of my grip. Then I wedge a tee horizontally to the top of the Blu Tac, so it is at right angles to the grip and rests between my wrists. It doesn’t actually touch my wrists, but it is almost a perfect fit between them.
“So, if I ‘drag’ the handle of the club away from the ball, the tee is going to stick into the inside of my left wrist. The key is to maintain the little gap between the tee and my wrists so that I stay ‘connected’ throughout my stroke. In other words, the relationship between my hands and the club is constant.”
As for the future, it is difficult to see Pepperell following the well-worn path so many of Europe’s leading players have taken to the PGA Tour. Not full-time anyway. As Murray points out, “Eddie is the quintessential Englishman,” one happy to spend most of his time at home walking his dog, a Hungarian Vizsla named Gus, who has become something of a cult figure through Pepperell’s Twitter feed.
Still, things are going to be different in 2019, at least in terms of scheduling. As a member of the world’s top 50 players, Pepperell will be exempt into all four segments of golf’s Grand Slam and all of the World Golf Championship events. Which should not be a worry. Already, the lad from Oxford who read his first book at the age of 20 – rugby star Lawrence Dallaglio’s autobiography – has shone at major level. There was a T-16 finish in his first US Open at Erin Hills in 2017. And, infamously as he admitted to being a little hung over during the final round, a tie for sixth in the Open at Carnoustie earlier this year.
Characteristically though, Pepperell is already pondering what is to come from all angles.
“I’ve been thinking about next year with some apprehension,” he admits. “It’s all going to be very new to me. I love playing in the majors but they are bloody big deals. And stressful. And almost unenjoyable at times; there is so much going on. Which is sad in a way. But I have to deal with all that.
“I’m excited though. My earning potential is going to go through the roof. Which is obviously good. But more importantly I’m going to have the opportunity to challenge myself against the best in the world more regularly. I’ll have four WGCs with no cut that will give me a chance to build my way into those events.”
One last thing. While Pepperell may have made a first move towards becoming part of the European Tour establishment – he has already become a member of the tour’s tournament committee – it is unlikely that a seat at the top table will curb his instincts much.
“I don’t want to be the guy who complains in ignorance,” he says. “I just want to be more aware of what is happening.”
One thing that will never change.
‘PEPPERELL’S SUMMER VISIT TO PUTTING GURU MICHAEL KANSKI HAS LED TO THE UNLIKELY CLAIM THAT “HOMEBASE SAVED MY CAREER”.’
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I check my hand position by placing my right hand against my belt buckle. The fingers overlap my left hand.
Walton Heath win proved growing composure.
Public relations: Pepperell is part of a close family.