Up your golf game with 5 tips from Jimmy Hanlin

Esteemed golf pro Jimmy Hanlin is known for stellar mechanics – and dynamic attire. He’s host of 18 Holes and Swing Clinic, a nationally-televised show for which he’s received critical acclaim. Jimmy travels to the nation’s most exclusive resorts to get in 18 holes with golfers Natalie Gulbis and Holly Sonders, and gives tips for all skill levels with co-host Elise Lobb on Swing Clinic. 

Here are 5 tips from Jimmy on how you can improve your game before golf season heats up in Myrtle Beach.

Q: How can I keep from digging deep divots? I’m guaranteed to hit the ground before the ball when I’m trying to drop it on an island green or some other such tough approach.

A: Especially with water in the background, like the green at No. 16 at True Blue Golf Club, you want to hit it solid, but not be too steep in your descent. If you’re too up-and-down, your club becomes a digger. It starts with practice swings. Take them up around your shoulders as you would with a baseball bat. Get the feel for the swing around you instead of up and down. As you swing, let it lower until you get to the golf ball.

That’ll help you shallow it out if you’re a digger with your iron shots. The downswing is crucial too. Rather than let your forearms move downward into the shot, you want them to fall backward, like iron-master Sergio Garcia. Feel your club fall back behind you to help shallow your swing and you’ll hit many more solid irons.

Q: I tend to overplay my distance when putting, especially on a tough approach to the green. Any tips to help this?

A: You’ve just hit a ball and just missed the green. Sometimes, you get in panic mode. It’s one of the most difficult shots in the game of golf. People struggle with this because they have no rhythm with this shot. We tend to take the club back to far on the swing, which results in 1) a shot that goes too long or 2) slowing down as we hit the shot, and chunking it. If we shorten our swing, we can create a little bit of rhythm. 

Pro players take several practice swings when taking this shot. Why? They’re figuring out the length of the backswing they want and the speed they want their club to move. Nice and short, easy rhythm, allows you to get the ball up on the green. Even if it isn’t hit as solid as you’d like if you don’t take the swing back too far and don’t decelerate, you’ll get the ball moving toward the hole and be much better around the green.

Q: I know I’m not very consistent through my swing. What can I do to get better at this?

A: To play well, you must be precise in your yardage and how you hit the ball. When you watch tour players, you see they hit every shot the same. It’s all about the posture. What I see many amateur players do is that they either come out of their posture on the way down or on the way up, usually right in your hip flexor or knees. That makes it hard to get a solid strike. You either hit down on the ball too much or come up out of the ball.

To fix it, use alignment sticks, a golf bag, or even a wall. Take several practice swings keeping your backside on the sticks or bag all the way through to impact. If I do that, my posture stays the same through the shot. It’s important for hitting a great golf shot.

Q: How can I improve contact with my irons?

A: Where people struggle most with irons is not having their bodies in the right position. On impact, we want the shaft to be out a little ahead of the clubhead. Most people, trying to help the ball get off the ground, let their bodies fall backward. That makes it impossible to get that shaft forward for good contact. 

When you set up to the ball on the driving range, lift your back heel off the ground. Leave it off the ground the whole time you hit balls. This will help you put weight on your front foot on impact and striking the ball first and bottoming out right after the ball. Keep on the toe that entire time to get that solid strike. You’ll hear that sound. Trust me: You’ll become a much better iron player. 

Q: Any advice for playing better out of bunkers?

A: No. 1, you have to figure out what kind of sand you’re in. Most times in Myrtle Beach, you’re getting a more compact, denser sand and that will affect how you play it. You’ll want to keep your sand wedge a little more square. If you open it up too much, it’s going to bounce off the sand. Keep it a little more square than you would with soft, fluffy bunkers. 

Secondly, you need to get that ball position. You want to move it up a bit from the center. Just a little bit. Lastly, players tend to come out of their posture when hitting a bunker shot. As I hit this club, my knees must keep the same flexion throughout the swing. If you go up or down, your angle of attack will dramatically change while hitting the bunker shot. Again, the ball position must be upfront a little, knees have flexion and stay the same.