Whittaker's Weekend Takeaway: How to hit your driver under pressure

Elite coach Dan Whittaker explains what we can learn from three incredible shots from Shanghai and how we can play them

I’ve picked three shots from the WGC-HSBC Champions this week that the club golfer often struggles with. Let me take you through how the pros tackle them…

Xander Schauffele’s tee shot at the 72nd hole 

My first thought with the tee shot is he chose a shot shape that he was comfortable with and that’s something that everyone should take out of this, he had a shot shape that he liked to hit, whether it was a little cut or a little draw. He will have really narrowed his focus down and picked a particular spot where he wanted to put the ball so he’s not had any other internal thoughts fighting for his attention to tell him about any water and any other danger that might be around.

He’s clearly committed to that shot, stood there with the shot shape he’s wanted to hit and has been 100 per cent totally committed to the shot.

Really good players’ pre-shot routines will involve a questioning process in their mind so it’s almost like they have a set of questions they ask themselves before they hit a shot. Where am I going to start the ball? What shot do I want to see here? Where’s the wind coming from? Where do I want to see the ball finish? So everything they are going to do and talk about is going to be positive reinforcement of the shot they’re going to try and execute and, once they have all those positive cues, it’s all about just hitting that shot.

What to practise: I think the problem with club golfers is that they don’t have the questioning process in their mind of what they’re going to do and how they see it? Instead, they choose the shot they want to hit and, all of a sudden, when they look up they see the danger and, because they don’t have a questioning process in place, everything that is negative is trying to draw their attention away from what they should be doing. If you have questions of what’s the shot, how am I going to play it, how am I going to execute it then you give yourself a good chance of hitting a good shot.

Ian Poulter executing the fairway bunker shot

Notice how quiet his leg action is. Poulter has got quite active legs generally in his swing but here he has a very stable base which is a must. Anytime you’re in the fairway bunker you have to find a consistent bottom to your swing, if you struggle with fatting it out of the fairways then you’re going to struggle out of a fairway bunker because obviously all the energy is going to go straight in to the sand.

I’d encourage more people to get out and practise and find your low point in the sand and then try and get the feeling of what the bottom of the arc feels like. You very often see Poulter hitting all of his shots at 100 per cent but this swing looks so smooth and the tempo and the rhythm look a lot calmer than normal. Because you’ve got a slower rhythm, you’re going to stay in balance and it’s going to be a lot easier to deliver the club at the bottom of the arc still with a consistent swing and that’s something I see as being a key skill with fairway bunker play.

What to practise: So many amateurs just practise on a flat lie on a driving range, they don’t experiment in fairway bunkers. It’s just a case of learning how to have that smoothness, tempo and swinging a bit more within yourself and feeling the bottom of the arc. You’re ever only going to find out what works best for you with the experimentation of it when you practise in scenarios that you would find yourself in on the course rather than being surprised when it comes up in a competition.

Patrick Reed and the three-quarter pitch

When you look at it he hit it quite low with a bank in front of him, it grabbed on the second or third bounce, trickled over the ridge and ran out to about four feet. Brilliant. For this particular pitch shot the ball was on the back foot to help keep the ball low and to keep the flight lower.

The one thing you could really see was there was no weight transfer from foot to foot, rather he was very much staying centred and maybe a little bit over the left side. When the ball is back our weight tends to get a bit forward and then he’s committed to keeping the pressure on that left side, he wasn’t leaning but he has a constant point that he’s moving around and then he’s used the body back and through.

Because the weight is forward and the ball is back it helps de-loft the club going back and, on the way through, you can see that he maintains the loft on the face. So on the followthrough you can’t see the handle of the club but you can see the clubhead. His body was in charge of the clubhead and his hands never took over.

What to practise: Notice here that the followthrough is relatively quite short and the rhythm of the shot quite snappy. Amateurs get scared of over-hitting it with water behind the pin and they associate that with making a short swing but what they should be doing is use the body more.

Reed has a beautiful tempo and it always looks the same, whether he’s hitting one 40 yards or 80 yards and he matches his arms and his body beautifully. Lots to learn from here..

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