Welcome to Play Smart, a game improvement column that appears every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from game improvement editor Luke Kerr-Dineen (who you can follow on twitter right here).
At the Masters earlier this year, a half-joking, half-jealous Jon Rahm spoke about the advice he’s received from his idol Tiger Woods over the years.
Or rather, the lack of it.
“You may have to ask Justin Thomas,” Rahm said. “There’s only one man in this field who listens to Tiger’s advice, because I’ve asked before and I don’t get anything.”
A week before the 150th Open Championship in St. Andrews, the conversation flows between the pair, but Tiger, characteristically, still holds his cards close to his chest.
Rahm, on the other hand, is putting it all on the table, as seen here at the JP McManus Pro-Am. (Maybe in the hope that he gets something in return one day?) You can catch a glimpse of the exchange below, and for the army of golf nerds, it’s heavenly. Let’s break it down.
Rahm shares his swing idea
The first thing we see is Rahm demonstrating the feel of his wrist at impact. Rahm has a weaker-than-average left-hand grip, so he uses a lot of flex in his front wrist to square the clubface and add power to his golf swing.
“Do you still knock on [the ball] with your driver? Like Dustin? Tiger asks.
Tiger asks this because flexing the front wrist like Rahm or Dustin Johnson, who uses his front wrist in a similar way to Rahm, can often tip the shaft forward and cause golfers to hit the ball low, creating too much spin.
Hitting the ball with the driver helps decrease spin (and thus increase distance), which is why Tiger asks the question. That’s when Rahm explained the swing key that allows him to do both.
“When you turn your chest, that’s what it does [the club] climb,” he says.
Rahm goes on to say that when he takes his best swing, he hits about 1.5 degrees above his driver, “three degrees when I try to hit the ball higher.”
That’s when Tiger asks Rahm what he needs to adjust. Specifically, when he needs to make a lob shot from right to left.
Up ball in position to make a draw
“Did you put it here?” Tiger asks, demonstrating a ball position that is higher up in your stance. That, by the way, is something Tiger told Golf Digest that he does himself when he’s trying to hit a big draw. Rahm agrees, then explains.
“It is difficult for me to manipulate [the clubface]Rahm says. “Even if it doesn’t go as high as Rory’s [drive]it still reaches four or five degrees of launch.”
Tiger asked about spin, apparently worried that the setting would take too much spin out of the golf ball, which can cause an entirely separate list of problems. Rahm said that he was still at “22”, referring to 2200 RPM, which is still the optimal range.
“Are you really?” Tiger asked, in a tone that suggested he was both impressed and surprised.
“Yeah, because I let the path dictate where the clubface is pointing,” explains Rahm.
The camera pans over to Tiger, who watches in deep thought before responding.
“Yes because [the clubface] he’s closing in on you a little bit,” says Tiger.
This, as an aside, is good knowledge for the rest of the golfers. No matter how you swing a club, the clubhead moves like a windshield wiper at impact. Slightly open, to square, to slightly closed. Moving the ball slightly up in your stance means that the clubface will be slightly closed by the time you hit the ball.
“Exactly,” Rahm said. “It’s just the loft and the face that gets me a draw.”
At that time, Rahm was taken to his departure time. All good things must come to an end, I guess. But we’ll be chewing on this for a while.