Lesson tee: tips from the top

I was kidding myself when I said I was really OK right after the episode at the 84 Lumber Classic on Sept. 15 last year. That’s when I went down to one knee, holding my chest, having trouble breathing. Believe me, anytime they put you on a stretcher to get you off the golf course, you get scared.

Doctors diagnosed my condition as supraventricular tachycardia–a racing heart, maybe more than 250 beats a minute. They gave me beta blockers to slow my heart down. On Nov. 17 at the Mayo Clinic, I underwent an ablation procedure. Doctors moved a catheter with an electrode at its tip through a femoral artery to my heart. There they used a mild, painless radiofrequency energy that destroyed the very small area of heart muscle–about one-fifth of an inch–that had conducted the extra electrical impulses causing the rapid heartbeats. It was a five-hour deal. Before, I was always thinking, Am I going to be carted off the golf course? I’m very happy to say I don’t think that anymore.

golf player placing the ball on tee. beautiful sunrise on golf course landscape in background

On Dec. 4, four days before the Target World Challenge, I hit a golf ball for the first time since Nov. 6. How’s my swing? Well, the club felt like a sledgehammer. The big thing was how I felt standing over the ball. When I was taking the medication, I felt sluggish, like I just wanted to sleep. Now I’m off the beta blockers, I’m refreshed and ready to get back to the form you see on the following foldout.

A model of consistency

It’s easy to see why David Toms’ swing repeats

You never know how something as traumatic as having heart surgery is going to affect anyone, but I can honestly say David Toms’ golf swing is still every bit as consistent as it was when we were teenagers growing up in Shreveport, La. David’s strength in this game remains his ability to deliver the club back to the ball on the sweet spot time and time again.

David has never been one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour, but after working with him all these years, we’ve both come to the conclusion that we’re not going to chase after some new swing that’s going to give him 30 more yards. It wouldn’t make sense for us to try to rebuild his swing so he can overpower a golf course the way a lot of tour players can. If we did that, we wouldn’t be playing to his strengths anymore. What we’ve done since his return from surgery is focus on making solid contact with an efficient swing that relies on a good body turn. Nothing fancy. It’s the same stuff that made him one of the winningest players on tour during the last six years.

 

It’s a shame we can’t put his swing in motion on these pages (for that go to golfdigest.com/ swing sequences), because what these pictures don’t show you are his rhythm and tempo. That’s the No. 1 reason he can repeat his swing. He’s very precise with his tempo, and the result is a ball that might not go as far as some guys can hit it, but flies a lot straighter than most.

There are a lot of things that make his swing special, but the big secret can be found by looking at the photo of David on the preceding page. At impact, his left wrist is always straight and his right wrist is always slightly bent. This demonstrates his consistency and control over the clubface more than anything because his hands haven’t flipped over in an attempt to save a bad swing. He’s delivering the club to the ball with a smooth body turn that doesn’t stop until the ball is long gone. Average players would do a lot better trying to copy David’s swing.

SWING SEQUENCE

Age: 39 * Height: 5-feet-10 * Weight: 165 * Driver: Cleveland Launcher 460 Comp * Ball: Titleist Pro V1 Clubhead speed: 107 mph * Ball speed: 162 mph * Average driving distance (carry): 275 yards

OLD HABITS

On the way back, David often gets the club slightly outside his hands. I want it more down the target line. But it’s not a huge deal.

LATE TURN

Making a hip turn late in the backswing is critical to keeping the swing in sync. You can see here that halfway back. David hasn’t turned much. But at the top, his belt is facing away from the target. It’s easier to stay on a plane this way.

DOWN THE TARGET LINE

David’s club shaft used to point right of the target at the top of his swing, and he would have to re-route it on the way down. Now it’s pointing at the target and perfectly on plane.

BOARD STRAIGHT

Although this photo is just past impact, David’s left arm and wrist have straightened. He’s not slapping at the ball. He’s putting his body into it, and that’s where he gets his consistency.

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