Tim Mahoney Golf Blog

Tim Mahoney Golf Blog


Tim Mahoney Golf Blog

Green Reading- An Art or Science?
An Art or a Science
By Tim Mahoney

All great putters from Bobby Locke to Ben Crenshaw, share the unique talent of superb green reading.  Consistent putting is the combination of distance control, directional control and the ability to read a green.  I have been in the golf instruction arena for over 30 years and I believe that green reading is an art not a learned science.  Consistent green reading consist of the following:

1.       All golf courses have some type of a prevailing break.  Away from mountains, towards the water or towards the setting sun.  At the Westin Kierland Golf Club in Scottsdale Arizona where I conduct he majority of my winter instruction, the general rule is that “all putts will break towards Phoenix,” based on the elevation and the roll of the land.  When checking into the golf shop for the next round of golf, asked the professional staff the green breaking tendency.
2.       As you approach the putting surface look for areas of drainage.  The golf ball will generally break in the direction of water runoff.  The golf ball will generally break towards lakes, creeks, ponds and drainage bunkers.
3.       As you read your putt, you want to align yourself behind the ball on the target line as close to the ground as possible.  In this position you are reviewing the overall direction of the putt.  Imagine if you were to pour water over the line of the putt, where would the water run.  This is the direction of the break.
4.       Walk to the halfway point on the low side of the putt.  From here, you are reviewing the overall distance of the putt.  It is much easier to measure something from the side than it is from behind.
5.       Next, walk to the hole, from here you are reviewing any sudden breaks at the cup, grain direction and reviewing the direction.  (Grain direction is indicated at the cup by any worn areas inside the hole.  A worn edge will indicate the direction of the grain.  A shiny look will indicate grain growing away from you, a faster putt, a dull look, the grain growing towards you and a slower putt.)
6.       Speed will always determine the break.  Less speed means more break and speedier putts means less break.  When I am asked by a golfer,” which way will this putt break,’ I ask the golfer “how much speed is required?” (Aim putter string)

Directional control, distance control and the ability to read a putt are the keys to excellent putting.  Your first read is always the correct one.  Trust your read, stick with a consistent routine, aim the putter and your body and react to the target.

Drills for successful practice sessions
Drills for successful practice sessions
By Tim Mahoney

After observing the practice sessions at the 2014 Masters tournament I noticed significant change in the manner of practice from the elite tour players: golfers utilizing drills into their practice routine.  Tiger Woods, Rory McElroy to Lee Westwood, all golfers utilizing a movement or practice swing to isolate a muscle movement or change.  The old age of “practice makes perfect,” had been amended to “perfect practice makes perfectly permanent.”  All level of golfers needs to develop a movement or thought that will allow them to incorporate the needed change.  At the Mahoney and Troon Golf Academy we have developed several drills that will assist all golfers with the quest of perfecting the movement.

Right Arm Drill- the right arm controls the shaft into the downswing and through the impact area.  The club must fall as the body turns.  A great drill that we have created is the right arm throw exercise.  Hold a golf ball into your right hand and simulate a backswing with your right hand and arm.  To simulate the down swing:  hold your trunk in place and attempt to throw the ball and strike the ball on the ground.  This drill will produce the desired straightening of the right arm and the correct angle of approach.  A ball released on the target side of the ball the arm plane to steep and a ball released prior to the ball on the ground is to shallow.  Hit the ball on the ground and your plane and release are correct.

Right hand in arm only for putting drill- controlling distance is the secret to successful putting.  A drill that will assist all golfers with this goal is putting with only your right hand onto the club.  From 5-6 feet, hold the putter in your right hand.  As you stroke the putts maintain the angle established in the back of your right wrist.  By maintaining this angle, this allows the putter head to gradually accelerate through impact.  If the right wrist straightens, the putter over-accelerates and the golfer can not control distance.   Try 20 putts and keep track of how many putts were made and continue your daily accounting.

Pivot drill- is a drill that will assist golfers with correct hip rotation during the backswing.  Bio-mechanical test have proven during the backswing that the weight doesn’t shift to the backside but the body rotates freely as you create tension between the upper and lower body.  A drill that will assist with this sensation is the pivot drill:  position a club along side your right hip and allow the hips to turn freely on the back swing.  If the club moves or falls-the hips have slid on the back swing.  The hips should turn as you body weight is centered between your feet.  This drill is a backswing only drill.

Practice like a pro and incorporate the drills outlined above.  Keep in mind that practice makes permanent and “perfect practice makes perfectly permanent.”

How to make a swing change
How to Make a Swing Change

By: Tim Mahoney

Every week millions of golfer’s watch Jordan Speith, Lydia Ko and others compete in Professional events, and the amateurs use these individuals as standards for their own golf games.  What the golfing public doesn’t see is the other 60 or so golfer’s who are competing each week making pars and bogeys, the 70 other golfers’ who missed the cut and the amount of time these professionals spend perfecting their skills.  If you measure your own game against the top professionals, you have unrealistic expectations and will be forever frustrated with your game.

The first objective when making a swing change is to understand that cause and effect of your motion.  Is the over the top motion the effect of an open clubface or the cause.  Is the in-correct pivot a mis-concept or a flexibility issue?  Once you and/or your coach determines the cause than a game plan for success must be developed.

Swing change game plans typically include a perfect set-up, practice swing routine, playing strategies, how to stretch and how to make a change.  This game plan must be adjusted during the swing change in order to address the cause and effects of the swinging motion.

1.       Changing motor skills takes a minimum of 2-3 weeks of practice.
2.       Practicing while playing on the course results in higher scores.
3.       Ben Hogan would only hit 5-6 perfect shots per round.
4.       Don’t compare yourself to Jordan Spieth.

A golf swing is a constantly changing and evolving motion.  Flexibility, fitness level, practice commitment and playing time will adjust and change the shape of a golfer’s motion.  As a result, the golf swing must be adjusted and changed.  Understanding the cause and effect of your swing with realistic expectations will allow you swing and golf enjoyment during your golf careers.

Playing the Game
Playing the Game
By: Tim Mahoney

Playing the Game

The final goal in golf is the end product: the score. Hitting perfect shots does not equate to a low score. Good “bad” shots, a consistent short game, and controlled tee shots allow golfers to achieve the ultimate goal – a low score.  To this end, golfers must learn how to play the game – including understanding tee-shot placement, reading bad lies, and selecting a club. Practice the following theories and you will begin to understand how to “play the game”.

The Friendly Theory

Cobra Advisory Staff member Hank Johnson recommends that golfers follow the “friendly” theory when playing golf. Golfers should use friendly clubs, make friendly swings, and choose friendly targets.

1.       Friendly clubs are ones that golfers have practiced with and spent some time with on and off the course. Keep in mind that to get the ball up in the air, you must get the center of the club beneath the center of the ball at impact. Your fairway woods are designed to lift the ball, and are much easier to hit than your longer irons. Choose the friendliest club dictated by your lie and the shot you wish to execute.
2.       Friendly swings are swings that you have practiced and have the ability to finish in balance. A balanced finish indicates that your swing is non-hurried and flowing. All golfers should hold their follow through until the ball lands. The inability to hold your follow through indicates a hurried and non-friendly swing.
3.       Friendly targets are forgiving targets with generous landing areas. A pin tacked behind a bunker may not be a friendly target. Choose open areas which will not so severely penalize a bad shot.

**Conservative off the Tee – Aggressive around the Greens

Matches can not be won off the tee. Your mindset should be one of being conservative off the tee and aggressive around the greens. You must get your “first serve in”, position your tee-ball in the fairway with a conservative mindset. If you are having difficulty with drawing the ball with your driver, use your 3 wood. Cutting doglegs may not be the prudent move – instead, get your ball in the fairway. As you get closer to the hole, become more aggressive. Whenever you find yourself with a short game shot (pitching, chipping, bunker or putting), your mindset should always be to try to hole the shot. 

So, to play the game well, and lowering your scores, remember to incorporate the friendly theory, and the conservative to aggressive theory, into your game plan.

Good luck.

Find your distance potential

“Find your distance potential”

By Tim Mahoney


One of the keys to playing golf in this era is to hit the ball long.  As golf courses continue to be designed longer and more difficult, hitting the ball with power allows players the best chance to score.  Although Tiger Woods has possibly the greatest short game in the history of the game, it is also a huge advantage the he has been consistently ranked among the longest hitters during his career.  How can you hit it longer?


Quite simply, there are two keys to hitting it long:  solid contact and speed.  Hitting the ball in the center of the face with maximum speed will allow you to hit it as far as you can.  This combined with the latest in club and ball technology can help you find your true distance potential.


The first thing you should determine is if you hit the ball solidly with your current swing.  The easiest test is to use face tape that can be found at most golf shops.  Place a piece of tape on your club and hit a shot.  The ball will make a mark on the tape which will show you your contact point.  Hopefully you will find you are consistently finding the center of the clubface.  Make sure you test both woods and irons as you want solid contact with all clubs.


If you find that your contact is not as solid as you would like, look at two things to improve your swing.  Make sure your posture at set up and throughout your swing is in an athletic position that you maintain during your swing.  Good posture will help you swing the club around your body consistently “on plane” which leads to center hits.


Once you are satisfied with your contact point, the next key to distance is trying to increase your swing speed.  In the golf swing there are three power sources that will help you swing the club faster.  The combination of proper wrist action, an arm swing that puts the club in position throughout the swing and a powerful body pivot that supports the swinging action of the club will allow the club to swing consistently and produce power.


Finally, if you feel you are making solid contact and are using your power sources, make sure your equipment fits your swing.  Clubs and balls that are fitted specifically for your swing will probably give you an extra few yards as well.


Learning to hit the ball longer is a very fun part of the improvement process. Examine your current swing and determine your needs.  With a little practice, hopefully you will find a few more yards.


Remember if you do hit the ball farther, you will have shorter approach shots to the hole.  It is important to work hard on short game distance control so you can take advantage of your distance and hit it closer.  This should take pressure off your putting game and allow you to improve your scoring average.



Speed and Strength through Structure

Speed and Strength through Structure

By Tim Mahoney

All golfers from Rory Milroy to Lydia Ko are in constant attempts to generate more speed and strength throughout their golfing motion.  Golfers we see throughout our golf schools are attempting more speed and strength as well.  The only way to generate more speed and gain speed is to have stability and structure throughout the entire motion of the golf swing.  The old adage, “would you rather shoot a cannon from a canoe or a stable surface.”  More speed and strength through a stable surface.  Golfers must develop stability first before attempting speed and strength

Structure starts at address with a balanced posture and set-up.  Bending from your hips with a neural spine.  Weight on the balls of your feet.  Arms hanging directly from your shoulders with your feet shoulder width apart.  Body must be in a position where the muscles are holding and supporting the movement.  Feet hold the ground as your hands hold the club.  Bending from your hips with a small amount of knee bend.  Body must be tall and balanced.  This position will provide structure throughout your golf swing.

As the arms swing, body turns and wristcock golfers must maintain the structure established at address.  The feet continue to hold the ground.  Maintain the bend in your hips and the neutral spine.  Body turns freely as you maintain the structure stability and positions.  Maintain angles and positions. 

As the arms swing, body unturns and wrist uncock to impact the structure and stability established at address, top must be maintained.  Body turns around a fixed point.  The fixed point established at address and maintained throughout the motion. Dynamic motion through a static structure position. 

As the body unwinds, arms release, wrist uncock and the club released, structure is maintained throughout the entire motion.  Bend maintained, angles and lines kept through structure.  Speed and strength the effect of stability and structure.  Maintain structure for a strong and fast golf swing.


Fairway Bunkers


Fairway Bunker’s 

By Tim Mahoney


Fairway bunker shots are regarded as some of the more difficult in the game.  Adding distance, a high lip and a difficult lie and the task is almost impossible.  There are several myths when it comes to fairway bunker shots, and I hope to dispel some of those this week.  Golfers, must keep in mind, when facing a bad lie (bad lie is defined as when there is question about the lie), the first objective is to advance the ball to a good lie.  Second objective, never attempt a miracle shot after a poor one.  Finally, never attempt a shot that you have not practiced.  Keeping these objectives in mind, fairway bunker shots will become an easier task.


When faced with a fairway bunker shot, preparation is the most important element.  Keys for the set-up:

1.       Club choice- take enough loft to clear the lip.  Golfers should never hear “ball-thump.”  As a reference 1 more club should be utilized.  High lofted fairway woods are an excellent club of choice, assuming limited loft is need. 

2.       Position the golf ball back in your stance.  Your impact objective is a steeper angle of approach, striking the ball first and sand after.  The rearward ball position will assist in steepening the angle.

3.       Gripping down on the club.  Shorten the club about an inch.  The shortened club will reduce the chance of striking the sand prior the ball.

4.       Dig your feet into the sand about an inch.  The lowering of your feet will reduce the amount of lower body motion during the swing.  Excessive amount of lower body slide will result in an incorrect bottom of the swing.

5.       Lean your body weight towards the target.  As you lean your weight allow the grip end to move towards the target.  The weight and the hand adjustment will move your swing bottom towards the target, resulting in a steeper angle of approach.


The adjustments in your set-up will steeper the angle resulting in ball/sand contact.  Checkpoints during the motion:

1.       Make a balanced swing.  Holding your finish until the ball comes to a rest guarantees success.  Inability to hold the finish is an indication of an out of balance motion.

2.       Allow the upper body to wind against the lower body on the backswing.  The lower body must resist and hold.  The coil generated is a power source.  If the lower body does not hold, the swing bottom will occur behind the ball, resulting in sand and ball contact.

3.       Maintain swing posture throughout the motion.  Turn the upper body on the backswing and clear the lower body on the forward side.  Golfers must maintain their measurement and posture throughout the motion.  A conscious attempt to lift the ball will result in a shallow angle.


Golf is a unique game, due to the fact; they never face the same shot twice.  Consistency is the result of developing a repeating swing motion. Pre swing adjustments are utilized when faced with different lies.  Golfers should 1 swing with different set-ups.  Perfect your swing, make a few simple address adjustments and the fairway bunker shot will be a simple one.


Sand Play





Sand Play

By Tim Mahoney


Sand play is often regarded as the easiest shot in golf, due to the fact, that the club never comes in contact with the ball during a greenside bunker shot.  As a result of over 30 years in the golf instruction business, I have found that the greenside bunker shot maybe the most difficult.  There are several myths when it comes to this shot:  first of all, “you must hit 2” behind the ball, actually with the skidding effect of the bounce the clubs enters the sand approx. 3-4 inches behind the ball.  Attempting to strike 2 inches behind may result in club ball contact.  Second myth, due to the clubface open at address one must aim to the left. The golf ball is positioned forward in the stance  (off of left heel) and no club ball contact the golf ball travels in the direction of the swing path not the clubface.  Keeping this in mind there is no need to aim left.  Third myth, you must swing more upright.  Ninety percent of all golfers slice the ball due to an upright swing; swing more upright simply produces a weak glancing hit that will travel a short distance to the right.  And the final myth, you must look and aim behind the ball.  All shots in golf you make every attempt to strike the ball first, now we are told to strike the sand first.  If you make 2 adjustments in your set-up: ball positioned off of the left heel and lower your body in the sand you will automatically strike the sand first.  Look at the ball and attempt to hit it.


Consistent sand play is the effect of:

1.       Adjust the clubface according to the lie.  Good lie open the face, bad lies close the face.  As you adjust the club you must use the entire club.  You never grip down on a greenside bunker shot.

2.       Position the golf ball off the left heel.  This position will allow the club to enter the sand behind the ball.

3.       Lower your body in the sand by digging in.  This adjustment will allow the club to get beneath the ball.

4.       Align and swing towards the target.  The golf ball travels along the swing path not the clubface alignment.

5.       Make 3 times the amount of swing.  The amount of sand ways 3 times the weight of the ball.  Keeping this in mind you must make enough swing.


Trust the club and your full swing for the green side bunker shot.  Keep in mind that consistency is the effect of perfecting one swing shape and make pre-swing adjustments for different shots.


How to Aim



How to Aim

By Tim Mahoney


A perfectly struck shot with an imperfect aim results in an imperfect result.  An imperfect shot with a perfect aim could result in a perfect shot.  The art of aiming I believe is the single most difficult aspect in the game, due to the fact that the golfer is inside and above the ball line.  I have been in the instruction arena for over 30 years and have tried every aiming tip with my students, and have come up with the conclusion that all good aimers have 2 common traits: a consistent ball flight and they always aim the clubface first and body second.


Consistent Ball Flight


Golf swing and pre swing compatibility will develop a consistent ball flight.  For an example: strong grip, centered ball position, body supports golf club and a reverse K posture these alignments will produce a controlled draw.  Conversely, a weaker grip, forward ball position, X posture and an arm control will produce a controlled fade.  Uncontrolled ball flights make a consistent aim impossible.  Hooks followed by a slice develop an atmosphere where it is impossible to aim.  Develop a consistent ball flight and then develop your game plan for aiming.


Clubface Followed by Torso


The only contact with the ball is the clubface.  Consistent aimers align the club first followed by the torso.  Step 1 of a consistent aimer is positioning the clubface behind the ball with the completed grip.  During this alignment the golfer must align the leading edge at right angle to the target line.  After successfully aligning the clubface the golfer must position the body parallel to the intended starting line.  The golf ball and club head would be on the outside rail of a railroad track with the body on the inside rail.  The body will be parallel left.  A line across the eyes, shoulders, forearms, hips, knees and feet must be aligned parallel left.  Inconsistent aimers consistently check there feet, when the feet are only 1 piece of the aiming puzzle.  Aiming is guaranteed if you aim the leading edge at your intended target line and then aim your body parts parallel left.  Your golf club will approach the impact area on a line across your shoulders; as a result it is an imperative that the golfers position their trunk parallel left.


Develop a consistent ball fight with a compatible set of pre-swing and in swing fundamentals and as you aim, position the club with your body aligned parallel left.  Consistent aiming is the effect of a consistent ball-flight not the cause.


Controlling Trajectory in the Short Game


Controlling Trajectory in the Short Game

By Tim Mahoney


In executing short game shots, inside 50 yards (pitches and chips), a player’s ability to control the ball’s flight trajectory can be just as important as controlling the ball’s direction and overall distance.  A golfer has options to create consistent ball flight trajectory and as a result consistent shot patterns swing after swing.


Option One – Ball Choice:

A golfer’s choice of golf ball will have an affect on a golf ball’s flight characteristics.  It is the dimples on a golf ball that are responsible for its flight characteristics.  Their design (size, shape and pattern) will help dictate the ball’s trajectory.  The size and depth of the dimples affect performance.  Shallow dimples generate more spin on a golf ball than deep dimples, which increases loft and causes the ball to rise and stay in the air longer and roll less, which is advantageous when playing to elevated greens.  Deep dimples generate less spin on a golf ball than shallow dimples, which decrease loft and causes the ball to stay on a lower trajectory, with less air time and greater roll, which is advantageous when playing to low elevated greens. 


Option Two – Ball Position:

A correct ball position helps you contact the ball crisply and achieve the proper trajectory on the shot.  Ball position affects the path and the angle of approach the club takes into the ball which ensures a consistent loft angle of the club at impact.  With the ball positioned too far forward, your shoulders align left of the target, thus creating a swing path that is too steep and out-to-in.  If you locate the ball too far back toward your right foot, your shoulders are closed, which creates a swing path that is too shallow and in-to-out.  You will be able to produce consistent ball flight trajectories only if the ball is positioned correctly in your stance.  For chip shots, position the ball about two inches back of center.  You want to strike the ball with a descending angle of approach creating a low trajectory, running shot.  For all wedges and pitch swings from normal lies position the ball in the exact center of your stance.


Option Three – Swing Technique:

To create a low trajectory chip or pitch shot, set your hands slightly ahead of the ball.  A forward hand position will naturally de-loft the clubface, helping to start the ball on a low trajectory.  Also, concentrate on making a rhythmic swing with a slightly slower tempo on the forward swing.  A slower tempo will produce less spin, helping to keep the ball on a low trajectory.  Stay level with your hips as you swing through impact.  Feel as though the handle of the club leads the clubhead through the hitting area to prevent adding loft to the clubface at impact.  A low trajectory shot means a low finish.  The lower you want to hit it, the lower you want to finish, not only with the hands and arms, but with the clubhead as well.  While it is okay to play the ball back in you stance to produce a lower trajectory, it is not advantageous to play the ball forward in your stance as a means of getting a higher trajectory.  Playing the ball forward in you stance moves it ahead of the bottom of your natural swing arc.  To hit a higher shot, the first choice should always be to take a more lofted club and make your standard swing.  The second choice is to open the clubface, aim your swing line to the left of the target and keep the ball exactly in the center of your stance.  Keeping the ball in the middle of your stance ensures crisp contact.


Option Four – Club Selection:

The easiest way to vary shot trajectory from a normal lie is to choose a higher degree lofted club or choose a lower degree lofted club.  If you need a higher soft landing shot, choose a lob (60 degrees), sand (56 degrees), gap (52 degrees), or a pitching wedge (48 degrees).  If you need a lower running shot, choose a 9 iron (39 degrees), 8 iron (34 degrees), 7 iron (30 degrees), or 6 iron (26 degrees).  It is easier than creating a different swing or changing your mechanics.  Clubs are designed with the clubface having different lofts.  It is loft that makes a golf ball take flight on an ascending trajectory, not an upward direction of swing.  The club actually hits the ball in a horizontal or slightly downward angle. 


Choose the option that works best for your game.  Your golf ball selection will be based on the design of the golf course that you’ll be playing.  Under normal lie conditions, you’ll want to maintain a consistent ball position for crisp club to ball contact.  Vary the length of your swing technique to produce low or high trajectories.  And choose your club wisely.  Practice with different lofted clubs and observe the ball flight trajectory patterns.  Take your observations to the golf course.