The most important thing is how well you strike the ball. You have got to have some consistency in your strike and belief that you can connect with the ball how you intend. Practice that as one of your first drills, working simply on the mechanics of the stroke. You are trying to produce the same little action as consistently as possible. Once that is sorted you can adapt it. By altering the ball position and clubface you’ve got a lot golf shots. There are 101 varieties but if you find the basics you can build on it.
TECHNIQUE 1: FEELS LIKE THROWING UNDER ARM
I try to keep it as simple as possible. Get the feeling of that underarm throw. I want to feel my arms connected to my body, so I feel a bit of pressure under the armpits. Wherever the chest goes, the arms go. You don’t want to be trying to find the ball with the hands, which you do when you get nervous. You want the same stroke with every shot
TECHNIQUE 2: IMPACT AT ADDRESS
I say you cheat impact by getting yourself in the impact position already. So address the ball like you're at impact: knees pointing forward a bit, hips open, chest out of the way. This gives you the room to get through the ball.
TECHNIQUE 3: FOLLOW THROUGH
Let your body be soft and respond. Often we are so engrossed with the ball that we stay still. You have to let things go. When you throw a ball you move, and turn and face the target. But golfers don’t do that sometimes... you have to let it go.
TRY THIS: CHANGE THE BALL POSITION
If you move the ball off the left or right toe you can vary the height, three shots without doing anything different. Take one club at a time, move the ball around and get some feedback. Learn what each club and each ball position does.
TRY THIS: CHANGE THE SWING LINE
Swing line through the ball is important. Slice across it and you can help it to stop quicker. The opposite is topspin, coming from the inside; it makes the ball release - and is great for a flag on a ridge up the back of the green. Experiment and see if you can make the ball do different things.
TRY THIS: MY SCYTHE SWING
This is great for really deep rough over the back of a green. You need to hack out but don’t want it to go too far. Widen the stance, swing with dead arms and swing wide back. You need the club moving fast but not too steeply into the ball. The ball should pop up and land softly.
TRY THIS: MY AUGUSTA CLASSIC
This was an Augusta classic, and one I practised endlessly. Use it when you’re over the back of the green on a downslope and just need to get the ball moving slightly. Have your hands almost resting on knees and let gravity drop the club into the back of the ball.
TRY THIS: THE LOW WEDGE
Another one from Augusta was great for chips where I needed to be positive. Really lean on on your left side and drop the club steeply onto the ball and trap it. It comes out low and goes 'bite, bite, release.' It needs a highly lofted club to really make it check up.
TRY THIS: MASTERS SKITTLES
I used to do this at Augusta every year. I placed a ball on a tee about a couple of feet onto the putting surface. Then I would chip from the edge of the green and try to knock it off by landing a ball on it. Keep moving further back with each shot. This drill really hones the sense of landing on a point and will help when you do miss the green. If I wanted to get fancy I'd try to land it there with different actions. I might play a high one, a normal one or a lower one – land them all in the same place but see how they ran out and how they stopped.
Originally published November 2009, updated May 2013.