Why you *shouldn't* keep your head down, according to a PGA Tour pro

erik van rooyen takes a shot during the 2023 world wide technologies championship

Focusing on keeping your head down at impact can do more harm than good.

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One of the biggest challenges for new golfers is making solid contact with the ball. The golf swing is a completely foreign movement when you’re just getting started, and it makes learning the fundamentals tough.

One of the most common misses for beginners is a top. They don’t quite stay down on the ball and only make contact with the top half of the ball, sending it low and short. When this happens, it’s all but guaranteed you’ll hear someone say “keep your head down.”

The advice is well-intentioned — and an extremely common refrain — but is it actually good advice? According to PGA Tour pro Erik van Rooyen, trying to keep your head down at impact typically does more harm than good.

“Most people, when they start out want to look — where the hell is the ball?” van Rooyen says. “And then they end up missing it. So like, make sure you hit the ball, but once you kind of get going, for me, having my head [turn] helps me to rotate through the ball.”

When beginners are told to keep their heads down during the swing, it can have some unintended consequences. One of the biggest, as van Rooyen noted, is a lack of rotation. When you are focusing so hard on keeping your head down, it can cause you to stop rotating your body and forces the arms to get overly involved.

“Keeping you head down is actually going to restrict all the rotation,” he says. “You can’t get through the ball. It’s clanky. It’s not great.”

It’s always important to keep your eyes on the ball so you can make solid contact, but don’t be afraid to let your head rotate as you make your turn. This will help promote proper rotation in your swing, helping you hit more powerful — and solid — shots.

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.


Local talent favoured for edition three of US Kids Indian C’ships

US KIds Golf
Group photo of participants in a US Kids Golf event at the Classic Golf and Country Club recently.

By Rahul Banerji

The stage is set for edition three of the flagship US Kids Golf Indian Championships with 91 youngsters from eight countries in all set to compete.

The three-day competition from December 6 to 8 is one where the players earn World Amateur Golf Ranking and Junior Scoreboard points that play a crucial role in creating career paths.

Players also earn priority points to help gain spots at the 2024 US Kids European Championships in Scotland and the 2024 US Kids World Championships in Pinehurst next year.

Apart from hosts India, entries have been received from Canada, the US, Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore, UAE, and the UK.

Wide spectrum

Competitions will cover eight age groups, for boys from Under 7 to the 15-18 years section and five age groups for girls from age eight to the 15-18 years category.  The entries include 67 boys and 24 girls.

The three-day at the Classic Golf and Country Resort will have age-specific yardages in all sections.

Indian golfers, who have had some excellent results in US Kids European and US Kids World Championships in 2023, will look forward to more success.

“Playing at home will be a big advantage for Indian golfers, as many have played their competitions on US Kids Local Tour at the Classic course,” US Kids Golf India president Rajesh Srivastava, said.

Talent source

“The increase in the number of players on the local Tour and the excellent scores makes us believe that US Kids Golf India has brought to the fore some very good talent. We want our youngsters to qualify for the European and World Championships.”

He added, “The advent of US Kids Golf series in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand has increased interest in various parts of Asia. We will be expanding to more countries, and we have plans for a US Kids Golf Asia Tour.”

Some of the top Indian challengers are Nihal Cheema in Boys 7, Kabir Goyal, Indian Championship winner in Boys 7, who has now moved into Boys 8, and Adit Veeramachaneni, now in Boys 10 after having won the Boys 9 in 2022.

Similarly, the Boys 11 Category will feature Vidit Aggarwal, who won the Boys 10 title last year.

Healthy field

The Boys 13-14 event has drawn a large field including Prince Bainsla, Arshvant Srivastava, Ayan Dubey, Sohang Har Kantor and Zorawar Singh Toor.

The defending champion in Boys 15-18 Ishaan Ahuja will face Pritish Singh Karayat, winner of the Boys 13-14 title in 2022.

Other strong Indians in Boys 15-18 will include the likes of Vihaan Malhotra, Anshul Bhatti, Veer Ganapathy, and Manyaveer Bhadoo.

India’s top stars in various Girls’ age groups will include Ahana Shah (Girls 8), Naina Kapoor (Girls 11-12) and Ananya Sood and Parnika Sharma in Girls 13-14.

Also read: Zorawar, Amaira and Aanya score trebles at US Kids Golf North


Pro golf’s Player Empowerment Era is here. It will be messy 

Jon rahm

Jon Rahm is joining LIV Golf in a shocking twist of events in the pro golf world.

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We are long past being surprised by pro golf news. Surprise left our range of emotions months ago. But while the official news that Jon Rahm has left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf may not be startling — after weeks of rumors swirling online — it can still be stunning.

Jay Monahan and the people who comprise the PGA Tour, both the executives in Ponte Vedra and the hundreds of pros reading about it on the internet, are no doubt stupefied. Uncertainty envelopes their fortress once again. Just when things felt calm and the Tour could move forward with confidence, WHAM. One of the most valuable assets in the stable is gone. One they figured they could count on.

Welcome to life as a soccer fan.

This is a very soccer-like move, anyway, leaving one league for another, wooed not by the style of play nor the level of competition as much as the riches on offer. Record-breaking riches, in this case. Players do this all the time in European football, vamoosing England for Germany or the Spanish league for France’s Ligue 1. Fans don’t benefit nearly as much as player and agent bank accounts do. But the players are the ones in control. They hold the power. 

This is the culture that surrounds Rahm’s other favorite game. The Saudi PIF-owned Al-Hilal soccer club was ready to pay $1.1 billion for Kylian Mbappe last summer, which would have been the biggest deal ever made, had Mbappe accepted it. The richest deal ever taken seriously in pro golf? It’ll be Rahm’s, from the same Saudi bankroll, worth a reported $300 million (and maybe more) over multiple years. Is it surprising that the mega-millions athlete who will be in Spain next week to attend his favorite soccer club’s match — while wearing the Augusta National green jacket, no less — made a move so many soccer stars also made in the last six months? 

Maybe not. But this is still earth-shifting news. Like the leading side of a chess board suddenly losing a rook. And this chess board would confuse the hell outta Magnus Carlsen. We won’t understand the significance of this move for weeks and maybe months. We won’t know how this impacts PGA Tour-PIF negotiations, or if it will inspire additional LIV signings. What we do know is that pro golf is in an ongoing player empowerment era. The key word: ongoing. It started slow and in early September it felt like it might be ceasing, but now it’s coming all at once. 

In some ways you could argue player empowerment was already here. It started on whichever day Phil Mickelson’s lawyers allowed him to sign the dotted line and join LIV. Or whenever Mickelson convinced Bryson DeChambeau and others to join him. Perhaps even 12 months earlier when Mickelson won the 2021 PGA championship at 50 years old, reclaiming every ounce of pro golf relevance during a magical four days. What you do matters, but when you do it matters almost just as much. 

The timing of Rahm’s decision comes just as negotiations seemed to be dragging between the PGA Tour and its future investors. Just as Rahm bailed on the first season of the TGL. Just as Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods, two members of the PGA Tour’s policy board, began to acknowledge ’non-negotiables’ that the player membership was keen for. Just as things were feeling…vulnerable. That can be when player empowerment has its greatest success rate. You see it in NFL holdouts and NBA lockouts. 

The controversial reports surrounding Patrick Cantlay at the Ryder Cup? Those said less about the size of Cantlay’s melon and more about players feeling endowed enough to ask for a greater piece of the financial pie that is, unquestionably, one of the most fruitful tournaments in the world. Things got rather messy for all involved — Stefan Schauffele included — but the next Ryder Cup is bound to look a bit different as a result. 

Collin Neville, one of the premier brokers of sports money on the planet, was ushered into the Tour-PIF negotiations in late July to work on behalf of Tour players. A “special advisor” role created out of thin air. It’s up to Neville to ensure — just like he did with Premier League Lacrosse — that the future PGA Tour will be player-owned. Past-, current- and future-player owned. Tiger Woods will, no doubt, have the most equity, for he pulled the Tour toward what it is today. Will Phil Mickelson be entitled to some of that equity, too? I’ll tell ya how Lefty feels. 

It’s not just money. Even benign things like port-a-john frequency and cold tubs and convenient parking are being demanded of PGA Tour tournament officials in recent months. The latest was passed down from Tour HQ in November: if tournaments wish to continue hosting the best players in the world, courtesy cars are mandatory. Laundry and dry cleaning, for pros and caddies. Tournaments themselves will be asked to put up part of the growing purses. According to Sports Illustrated, it’s pushing some tournament directors toward a breaking point. Players rarely bear the costs of their demands. 

Just last week, a petition made its way from inbox to inbox, player to player, asking professionals to sign on and fight for their right to more FedEx Cup points in non-Signature events, a system that was ultimately devised by 21 of the best golfers on the planet. The angst between those two factions — the haves and the have-nots — seems to grow every month. How seriously was the petition received? Not seriously enough, which helped elevate a fascinating wrinkle of player empowerment: Not all players have it. 

It was a fitting chapter for the final stages of 2023, a year dominated by players talking about (and in Rahm’s case, walking toward) what they think is best for them, status quo be damned. There will be some sort of resolution in the end, sure. But not all golf fans might love it. That’s the thing about the Player Empowerment Era, though: it’s not designed to benefit all parties. That just might be the point. 

The author welcomes your comments, concerns, and any other notes at sean.zak@golf.com.


Newly-turned pro shares 3 secrets for dominant wedge play

Pro golfer Erica Shepherd hits shot during golf tournament

Improve your wedge game with the same practice routine as Erica Shepherd!

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Welcome to Shaving Strokes, a new GOLF.com series in which we’re sharing improvements, learnings and takeaways from amateur golfers just like you — including some of the speed bumps and challenges they faced along the way.

All too often, amateur players don’t have intent when they go to the driving range. So instead of putting together a focused practice strategy, many of us just go beat balls around without actually working on the areas of our game that require the most attention.

Many times, this means taking out the driver and just trying to bomb it, thinking that this is the way towards lower scores.

While increased distance off the tee is helpful to improve your scorecard, what makes golf so difficult is that everything must be in synch in order to consistently shoot low. So even if you rope your driver 300 yards, if you don’t have touch with your irons, wedges, or putter, you’re likely staying in neutral as a player.

GOLF Top 100 Teacher Trent Wearner shares the steps he used to help a teenage golfer shave 13 strokes off his handicap in just one year

How this teenager gained 60 yards (!) of carry and shaved 13 strokes


Nick Dimengo

Trent Wearner, Top 100 Teacher

That’s why having a plan each time you go to the range is so important — and in today’s Shaving Strokes lesson, Erica Shepherd’s teacher, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Tony Ruggiero, shares the game plan that the newly-turned pro golfer uses to master her wedge play.

Not only was Shepherd a two-time All-American at Duke University, but she’s also a two-time USGA champion and represented the U.S. in both the Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup.

After finishing her collegiate career, Shepherd earned Epson Tour status through Q school, and is now just kicking off her pro career. So take a look below to see how you can mirror her practice plan and dominate with your wedges.

3 ways that Erica Shepherd dials in her wedge play

“One area that I see Tour players spending a lot more time on than recreational players is with wedge play,” says Ruggiero. “Practicing your wedge game is much more than just mindlessly hitting the first shots of a range session.

“Instead, it’s an opportunity to improve your golf swing by working on your mechanics in a manner that will allow real change to happen.”

Since wedge work is an opportunity to learn how to hit the required shots to score lower, Ruggiero and his team share secrets from a lesson with Shepherd.

“By utilizing these tips, you can learn to practice more effectively, ultimately transferring your hard work to the course,” adds Ruggiero.

1. Use bands to slow swing speeds

The slowest way to change a motion is in full speed with a ball and club. That’s because, at full speed, your brain is basically in performance mode, meaning you’re often using familiar habits.

That’s why I like to use bands and other things away from the ball, which help teach new movement patterns.

By doing this, once you transition to performance mode, it gives you a chance to think and feel the different moves that you’re trying to make.

The best players understand the root cause of their problems, and work slowly and diligently to fix that issue. Players that never seem to improve spend their time on the range chasing symptoms.

So if you really want to improve, identify the one thing that needs to be fixed in your swing, and start with wedges and slow speeds to make the change.

2. Practice hitting shots at specific distances

In my experience, Tour players never hit a shot where they don’t know the distance to the target; and neither should an amateur.

Tour players work on hitting specific clubs to specific distances with different trajectories.

I teach golfers to take distance off in one of three ways.

They can either choke up or down on a club, shorten their backswing, take speed off the motion (which I think is hardest for weekend warriors), or a combination of all three.

By practicing this and experimenting with the different ways to take distance off of clubs, it will help you gain a better understanding and feel for hitting the shots you need to score better on the course.

3. How to transfer your practice to the golf course

Many amateurs I teach often tell me how well they hit it on the range, but how poorly they transfer that to the course. This is a reason why Dr. Greg Cartin is such an important part of our team.

In the video above, you can see how Cartin helps to ensure that Erica’s wedge work transfers to the course.

So how can you do the same? Simulate what happens on the golf course. This is something that Tour players do all the time.

In order to make your wedges sharper on the course, do your full pre-shot routine, hit different clubs with each shot, hit to specific distances, and put boundaries on every shot.

For example, on your first shot, say you have 122 yards to the flag and you can’t carry the ball more than 118. On shot two, you have 85 yards to the flag, and the ball has to carry 70 yards, but can’t go more than 90 or be right of the flag.

By thinking of and changing these shots in practice, you’re simulating real scenarios, which can then transfer to the course.

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Nick Dimengo

Golf.com Editor


McIlroy shortlisted for PGA Tour player of the year

Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Wyndham Clark all in the running for the PGA Tour’s player of the year award, voted for by the players; Winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award to be announced in January

Last Updated: 04/12/23 4:03pm

Rory McIlroy looks back on his 2023 season and gives it a seven out of ten, but adds that the Ryder Cup win with Europe was a key highlight.

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Rory McIlroy looks back on his 2023 season and gives it a seven out of ten, but adds that the Ryder Cup win with Europe was a key highlight.

Rory McIlroy looks back on his 2023 season and gives it a seven out of ten, but adds that the Ryder Cup win with Europe was a key highlight.

Rory McIlroy, world No 1 Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm are among the nominees for the PGA Tour’s player of the year award for 2023.

McIlroy – a three-time winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award – defended his CJ Cup title and claimed a dramatic victory at the Genesis Scottish Open during another impressive campaign, where he posted top-10 finishes in all-but five of his 18 starts.

Rahm won four times in a three-month stretch at the start of the year, including a second major title at The Masters, while Scheffler followed his title defence at the WM Phoenix Open with a dominant win at The Players.

Watch the winning putt as Jon Rahm became 2023 Masters champion with a par on the 72nd hole at Augusta National.

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Watch the winning putt as Jon Rahm became 2023 Masters champion with a par on the 72nd hole at Augusta National.

Watch the winning putt as Jon Rahm became 2023 Masters champion with a par on the 72nd hole at Augusta National.

Scheffler also enjoyed a consistent season, with 17 top-10s in 23 starts in a campaign where he had the lowest scoring average on tour, while Viktor Hovland and Wyndham Clark are the other two players on the shortlist.

Hovland won back-to-back events at the end of the PGA Tour season to snatch FedExCup victory, with Clark also among the nominees after winning the Wells Fargo Championship ahead of holding of McIlroy to a maiden major title at the US Open.

Highlights from the fourth round of the Tour Championship from the East Lake Golf Course.

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Highlights from the fourth round of the Tour Championship from the East Lake Golf Course.

Highlights from the fourth round of the Tour Championship from the East Lake Golf Course.

The Player of the Year award is determined by a member vote, open to PGA Tour members who have played in at least 15 FedExCup events, with the winner set to be announced ahead of The Sentry in Hawaii in January.

The shortlist for the Arnold Palmer Award for the rookie of the year has also been revealed, with European Ryder Cup star Ludvig Åberg among the nominees despite only turning professional in June.

Highlights from the final round of the RSM Classic in Georgia.

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Highlights from the final round of the RSM Classic in Georgia.

Highlights from the final round of the RSM Classic in Georgia.

Åberg won the RSM Classic in November and has made 10 cuts in his first 11 PGA Tour events, including four top-10s, with the Swede going up against Vincent Norrman, Nico Echavarria and Eric Cole.

Norrman won the Barbasol Championship and Echavarria earned his breakthrough win at the Puerto Rico Open, while Cole claimed two runner-up finishes on his way to finishing 43rd in the FedExCup standings.

Watch every event of the 2024 PGA Tour season and all of the majors exclusively live on Sky Sports. Stream the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour and more with NOW.

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