Jim Suttie: Make adjustments by watching ACE

As many of you get out to see the professionals play at The ACE Group Classic at TwinEagles this week, please notice how all of their swings look different and yet are successful for the individual player.

Also, the players have been able to stay competitive by making adjustments in their swings that their bodies are telling them to make in order to "time" their motion.

The players who were highly successful on the PGA Tour are, oftentimes, not so successful on the Champions Tour because they are unwilling to make some of those adjustments that accommodate for their changing body.

In this article, I will talk about some of those that help golfers maintain their ball-striking skills well into their middle 60s and later.

As players age, they tend to lose their ability to rotate or turn their body. Look for many of this week's professionals to narrow their stances and flare their feet outward. This allows them to turn their hips much easier.

Generally, when the players were younger, they tried to limit the turn of their hips and just turn their torso on the backswing.

The senior player can't do this so easily anymore. By turning the hips on the backswing, the shoulders will be forced to turn.

This, of course, will maintain the length of the swing arc as one gets older.

Also, the professionals this week will play out of closed stances (a stance aimed to the right). This also allows them to turn their bodies to the right much easier on the backswing.

You will also want to look at the ball position. As we get older we do not drive our legs very aggressively as we once did. For this reason, the professional may tend to play the ball back farther in their stance than they did earlier in their career.

The professionals on the Champions Tour, in many cases, have shortened their swings as they may find they are often not as flexible.

Shorter can often be better because it eliminates the lifting body which is a result of an overly long arm swing. You won't see as many high, long swings as it's just too hard to get back to impact from that position.

Another difference that can be noticeable is the takeaways are not nearly as wide and extended as their PGA counterparts.

The professionals tend to set their hands and wrists a little earlier on the backswing while keeping their arms somewhat closer to their body, and move their heads on the backswing. This helps them turn into their right leg better and creates a great weight transfer.

Sometimes a still head will just kill all the motion in the backswing.

You might see a few of the players swinging what appears to be over the top on the downswing.

For example, Craig Stadler, who had to withdraw from the tournament on Tuesday to attend the funeral of instructor Dick Harmon, will aim to the right and come down slightly outside in. He is swinging across his body line, not his target line, because his stance was closed at address. But, also watch him repeat, again and again.

Very few of the Champions Tour players fade the ball. Most of them draw the ball to get more distance. Watch their finishes. All of them are in perfect balance and stand up very erect at the finish.

This takes pressure off their backs.

Watching the players' skills around and on the green can also be informative.

Notice how the professionals have good pace and ball speed with their putting, keeping the same speed back as on the follow through.

It is important to develop distance control; that is, go back approximately one-third of the total distance and come through two-thirds of the total distance.

The professionals you will see this week are particularly good with the lag putting — long putts, which utilizes the good pace and speed.

We would all like to see if Loren Roberts can make it three times in a row on the Champions Tour.

Having worked with Loren for many years, I have analyzed his swing for the Naples Daily News. Look for it at www.naplesnews.com.

Dr. Jim Suttie, the 2000 PGA Teacher of the Year, is director of instruction at The Club at TwinEagles in North Naples and at Cog Hill Golf Club in Lemont, Ill. His new book is "Your Perfect Swing" and is available at bookstores and at amazon.com. He also is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher and rated No. 15 by Golf Digest. Suttie coaches the FGCU men's golf team. E-mail him at jmsuttie@aol.com.

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