For Your Game: World No. 1 Yani Tseng

Yani Tseng

ORLANDO, Fla. – Gary Gilchrist was instructing Yani Tseng’s opponent when he watched the compact 15-year-old from Taiwan win the 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. Gilchrist was at Golden Horseshoe in Williamsburg, Va., to watch his pupil, Michelle Wie, but he remembers being impressed by Tseng’s game.

Tseng was 4 down to Wie, then a 14-year-old phenom, in the morning round of the 36-hole match before winning, 1 up.

“You could see how she just kept fighting her way back,” Gilchrist said. He remembers Tseng, then 5 feet, 4 inches, outdriving the 6-foot Wie on several holes. Tseng won with a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole. “She just got over it and – boom! – in the back of the hole. That showed me she was determined to be a great player.”

Tseng and Gilchrist started working together in December 2009. Gilchrist’s goal with Tseng was to help her keep the club in balance throughout the swing.

“I feel like I have more control,” Tseng said. “I trust myself more.”

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Two-club drill: Keep club in balance

To help teach Tseng the proper takeaway and wrist hinge, Gilchrist had her make practice swings while holding a club in each hand. It is important to hover both clubs above the ground before starting the swing. This forces the player to keep the club in a balanced position throughout the swing.

Controlling a club with one arm makes it difficult to make many of the mistakes typical of amateurs.

“If you take it back incorrectly, it’s going to feel terrible,” Gilchrist said. “It helps you get the club more in balance. The clubs should feel nice and light.”

Having the club in balance helps naturally flatten it in the transition between the backswing and downswing, Gilchrist said.

In Tseng’s case, this drill kept her from taking the club back outside and with a closed clubface, and kept her from getting the club laid off when she hinged her wrists.

Gilchrist also had Tseng make swings with her right index finger running down the shaft. This increased her sensitivity to the clubface’s position, allowing her to feel it properly rotate throughout the swing.

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Full swing: Feel weight shift with soccer ball

Tseng used to stand too far from the ball. She started her swing by taking the clubface outside the target line and shut. To compensate, she would swing the club more around her body as she hinged her wrists. The club was laid off at the top of the swing, which pulled her weight back to her left side, instead of allowing it to load properly on her right side.

“The face started shut, then got open,” Gilchrist said.

The weight would return to her right side during the downswing as she “backed out” of the shot.

To fix this, Gilchrist has Tseng make practice swings while holding a soccer ball. This drill helps players feel their arms and body staying connected throughout the swing.

To get Tseng to properly shift her weight in the downswing, Gilchrist would stand down Tseng’s target line and have her release the soccer ball at impact. Her weight must be properly shifting to her left side for her to throw the ball straight at Gilchrist.

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Balancing act: Identifying weaknesses

Making swings on hills can cure many faults. Gilchrist had Tseng hit from upslopes and on slopes that put the ball above her feet.

“Slope training really helps you identify where your weight goes throughout the swing,” Gilchrist said.

Upslopes help a player from keeping too much weight on the left side at address, a common fault among amateurs, Gilchrist said.

“It helps her wind her body into her right side,” Gilchrist said. “Then she can swing her arms through, and they pull her into her left side.”

Hitting balls on an upslope also gets the player’s spine tilted slightly to the right, which allows a turn around the spine and loading up on the right side at the top of the swing, while also preventing a weight shift outside the right leg.

The player must shift weight forward on the downswing or lose balance.

“When you move into the ball, you drive your midsection through and use your weight,” Gilchrist said.

Placing the ball above Tseng’s feet helped keep her from taking the club outside on the takeaway, Gilchrist said.

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Short game: Positions alters swing, flight

Some simple address adjustments help Tseng hit a variety of short-game shots. When she wants to hit a low, running shot, she places the ball farther back in her stance. This gets her shoulders more square at address, which causes her to swing more around her body.

“The club moves slightly inside, but it’s on the arc of her body,” Gilchrist said.

When she wants to hit a higher shot, she puts the ball forward in her stance, which opens her shoulders. Many amateurs know to swing along their shoulder line when hitting high chip shots but neglect to reroute the club in the transition, instead coming “over the top.” Just as in the full swing, the club’s shaft must flatten during the downswing while still swinging along the shoulder line.

To help players achieve this, Gilchrist has them address the ball in a position that mimics the impact position of the full swing. The player’s weight should be on the left side, braced against a bent left knee, with the upper torso bent slightly to the right.

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Putting: Ball position squares shoulders

Poor setup can cause problems throughout the putting stroke. Tseng used to have the ball too far forward in her stance, which caused her shoulders to be open. The ball was positioned off of her left foot; now it’s under her left eye (pictured above). As a rule of thumb, the farther forward a player has the ball in the stance, the farther left the shoulders will aim, and vice versa.

Tseng also used to set up with a closed putter face, which caused her to “drag” her putter inside the target line, Gilchrist said.

“The putter would go inside and shut on the backswing, and then out (to the right) on the through swing,” Gilchrist said. “Once the putter face is square, it can move on the proper arc.”

Players with an open face have a tendency to swing the club outside the target line on the backswing, while

a closed face causes many players, including Tseng, to take the club inside.

Tseng also was too far away from the ball and too “scrunched over” the ball.

“Then you can’t rock your shoulders,” Gilchrist said. “The arms dominate the stroke.”

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