Golf instruction truths: What your divots should look like

Instructions

Next time you get to a par 3, compare the divots on the back tee to the ones on the closer tees. You should see two differences: Divot holes from better players start past the ball (you can usually tell where the tee was), and they point to the target. The ones from less-skilled players start behind the ball and point left, often way left.

The ground can tell you a lot about what was going on at impact. Good iron shots come from ball-then turf contact, and a straight divot is a good indicator that the shot was on target. If the divot hole starts behind where the ball was and goes left, you know the shot was fat and produced a pull or a slice.

Here’s how to improve your divots, which will lead to better iron play. First, focus on starting your downswing from the ground up, with your lower body leading. That’ll keep the club to the inside so your arms can extend out to the ball and produce a straighter swing path and a straighter divot.

Next, feel like your chest is “covering the ball” at impact. You can see that my shirt buttons are directly over where the divot starts—that’s what covering it means. It’s a result of moving toward the target, which positions the low point of the swing forward so you strike the ball before the ground. That’s how you hit it pure and take a pro divot. Now go pick it up and repair the turf! —WITH PETER MORRICE

At the 1995 Masters, Tiger played with Jose Maria Olazabal in the first round. I was working with both at the time, and their games were very different. Tiger was a 19-year-old bomber. Jose Maria was a short-game king. Giving up 50 yards on drives, Jose Maria later told me that after two holes, he never watched Tiger hit another tee shot. But Jose Maria shot 66 that day to Tiger’s 72.

I asked Tiger how it went, and all he wanted to do was learn more about how Jose Maria chipped. Over the next few years, Tiger revamped his wedge game, and we often talked about that day at Augusta. He always wants to adapt what he sees in the great champions. Tiger has many special skills, but his desire to keep learning is the one I admire the most.

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