Nobody knew what to make of Boo Weekley when he sauntered onto the PGA Tour wearing camouflage rain pants back in 2002.
Now everyone recognizes Weekley not just as the southern boy dripping aw-shucks charm, but as one of golf's very best ballstrikers.
Weekley, whose real first name is Thomas, remains as laid-back and colorful in 2013 as he was his rookie season. But his game has come light years. After losing his card and wallowing on golf's lesser circuits, Weekley re-emerged on the PGA Tour in 2007. He established his credentials by winning that year's Verizon Heritage – played on the ultimate shotmaker's course, Harbour Town Golf Links – then backed it up by repeating there in 2008.
Often undermined by a balky putter, Weekley ended a long winless streak at the 2013 Crowne Plaza Invitational. The venue: Colonial Country Club, yet another tight, tree-lined test. It's fitting that Colonial is nicknamed “Hogan's Alley,” since Weekley idolizes the great Ben Hogan.
Like his fellow Hogan admirer Jason Dufner, Weekley shares some swing similarities with “The Hawk.” It's no surprise, then, that Weekley routinely ranks among the Tour leaders in Greens in Regulation and Total Driving (a combo of distance and accuracy stats).
Hoganesque qualities aside, Weekley's swing is all his own. What else would you expect from such a singular character?
Weekley's signature: Simple swing based on a strong grip.
What it looks like: Boo holds the club with his hands rotated well to the right, much like Zach Johnson, Fred Couples and Paul Azinger (though his grip isn't as strong as theirs). This effectively closes the clubface at address; with the hands pre-rotated, the club won't open as much on the backswing as it will if the player's grip is neutral.
Unlike Johnson and Azinger, Weekley doesn't overcome this grip position with a major compensating move. Indeed, his swing is a model of simplicity.
Why it works for Weekley: Where Johnson and Azinger work hard to prevent hooks by keeping the hands from releasing at impact, Weekley lets his hands and arms turn naturally coming through the ball. His release isn't as vigorous as you'll see from a golfer with a classic neutral grip – Tiger Woods, for instance – but neither does he fight off hooks with a rigid left arm.
He's able to do this by keeping his lower body loving through the shot, which prevents the upper body from taking over and flipping the club. Weekley also places his hands well in front of the clubhead at address. They return to this position at impact, which prevents the blade from shutting too quickly. It also de-lofts the club, produces a “trapping” blow and a low, penetrating ball flight.
Observers often note that Weekley's shots sound different from those of other pros. That wicked trapping action is the main reason why.
How it can work for you: A strong grip has its advantages. Many golfers feel most natural holding the club this way, and it can help if you have trouble releasing through your shots. The downside is, a strong grip can turn you into a hook machine without some swing adjustments.
If you feel comfortable with a strong grip but tend to miss left of target, be like Boo by doing these things:
- Make sure your hands are ahead of the clubhead when setting up to the ball. With the driver, it's OK if the hands are level with the club since you don't want too much of a descending blow. (Ideally, the driver hits the ball on the upswing.)
- Don't try to fend off a hook by “holding on” with the hands through the hitting zone. More often than not, you'll block the ball to the right.
- Keep your lower body moving throughout the downswing and into the follow-through.
- Learn to love your low ball flight. You'll get more roll off the tee and plenty of backspin into the greens. And you'll whip everybody on windy days.
Boo Weekley – Unique Character, Simple Golf Swing
There is a certain stereotype that fits most of the golfers on the PGA Tour. The average Tour player is professional in their appearance and behavior, they tend to toe the 'company line' when it comes to interviews and public appearances, and they don't often show too much personality on the course. For better or worse, the majority of Tour players fit into this very narrow description. Boo Weekley, on the other hand, does not.
Weekley stands out from the crowd on the PGA Tour for a variety of reasons. For one thing, he is known to prefer to wear rain pants whenever possible to avoid having to wear traditional golf attire such as slacks. Also, Weekly is frequently unshaven out on the course, whereas most of his peers keep to a clean shaven, professional look. Never afraid to speak his mind and offer up honest opinions, Weekley quickly became a fan favorite when he first debuted on the Tour in 2002 thanks to the unique personality that he offered.
Where most top-level professional golfers attended Division I schools on golf scholarships, Weekley attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College for just one year before heading back home. After school, Weekley worked outside of the golf industry before making his way into the game through the mini-tours. Despite his humble beginnings in the game. Weekley has reached many of the highest points possible, including capturing three wins thus far on the PGA Tour. He also played in the 2008 Ryder Cup, and posted a top-ten finish in the 2007 PGA Championship.
Most of the attention paid to Boo Weekley throughout his PGA Tour career has pertained to the unique character that he represents, but that focus has lead most people to overlook one thing – Weekley has an impressive, simple golf swing that allows him to be a quality ball striker at the highest level of the game. If you are looking for a model of how to swing the golf club in a basic, repeatable manner, watching video of Boo Weekley is a great place to start. While it is never a good idea to attempt to exactly copy the swing of a professional golfer – or anyone else, for that matter – you can certainly learn some things from Weekley's swing that you can attempt to apply to your own game.
A simple golf swing is desirable for a number of reasons, but mainly because it is so easy to repeat time and time again. Golf is a game that rewards consistency over everything else, so you need to make sure that you can consistently move the club around your body in the same manner from the first hole to the last. Obviously, Boo Weekley is able to do just that, as he has succeeded at the highest level of the game. While you shouldn't expect to reach that kind of level anytime soon, you certainly can raise your game by working toward a simpler, more reliable motion.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Built Around a Grip
One of the keys to playing good golf is having all of the various components of your swing working together in the same direction. In other words, you don't want your swing to be fighting against itself – make sure everything works together nicely, and you will play better in the long run. For Boo Weekley, that means everything starts from the grip and moves from there. In his case, he uses a rather strong grip (which means the hands are turned to the right on the grip). Since that grip is the foundation of his swing, everything else that Weekley does from that point forward will be based around his strong grip. He doesn't have to fight against his grip during the swing, because he technique has been designed to compliment that hand position.
There are a number of good reasons to consider using a strong grip in your own game. If you have thought previously about changing your grip into a stronger position, consider the following points to be a few of the many possible advantages.
- Easier to produce a draw. If you would like to play a right to left ball flight as your predominant shot, you are going to want to use a strong grip. With your hands in a strong position on the club, it will become extremely easy to release the club head through impact – and that release is essential to the production of a draw. While it is possible to play a draw with a weaker grip, you will have to work harder through the hitting area in order to do so. Also, you will have to have better timing in order to pull off that kind of draw time after time.
- Stability through impact. Many players feel like they are able to maintain a steadier club face position through the hit when they use a stronger grip. Using a weak grip doesn't put as much control over the club into your left hand, which is why the club might not feel as solid at impact. If you would like to feel as though you have total control over the club throughout the swing, test out a stronger grip to see if you notice a difference in the feel of the ball coming off the face.
- Simple overall motion. As mentioned earlier, Weekley has a wonderfully simple golf swing, and that fact is due at least in part to the use of a strong grip. Since his grip is turned to the right on the grip at address, there will be very little face rotation throughout the swing. With fewer moving parts to be worried about, Weekley is able to strike the ball with an impressive level of consistency from week to week. Players who use weaker grips certainly can achieve consistency as well, but they may need to work harder to reach the same level. There is something to be said for the way that a strong grip can take much of the variation out of your swing shot after shot.
Of course you can play good golf without using a strong grip, but there are enough benefits of a strong grip to at least consider giving it a chance. Even a move to a slightly stronger grip can provide you with some of the benefits listed above without having to make a dramatic change to your swing as a whole. Grip changes are notoriously difficult to build into your game, so start with a minor change and go from there. If you do want to eventually get into a position where you are using a rather strong grip, the best thing to do may be to work toward that goal one minor move at a time. Continue to gradually turn your grip into a stronger position one practice session after the next, and pretty soon you will find that your hands have reached their destination.
Lower Body Rotation is Key
To compliment his strong grip, Boo Weekley does a great job of turning his lower body through the downswing and on into the finish. The lower body rotation that he uses is crucial because his strong grip could easily cause the club to shut prematurely at impact without that rotation in the hips and legs. It is really the lower body that keeps Weekley from producing a quick hook with each swing, so it is essential that this part of the swing holds up its end of the bargain.
This point highlights exactly why it is important to have your grip match up to the rest of your golf swing. If Weekley were to pair a weak grip with this aggressive lower body action, he may not be able to release the club in time to hit shots that fly on the intended line. A weak grip requires a more-active release at the bottom, and releasing the club sufficiently to square it up at impact while still using a big lower body turn just might be too much to ask. However, with a strong grip, it is not problem at all to find that square position. The club isn't going to rotate open significantly during the backswing, so you won't need much release on the way down in order to square things up nicely. As long as your lower body keeps turning out of the way through impact, the club face should hold square and solid shots will be the result.
It is one thing to understand the concept at work here – that a strong grip pairs nicely with an aggressive lower body turn in the downswing – but it is another thing entirely to actually put this concept into action. Many golfers struggle to make this work for a variety of reasons, and they end up hitting quick hooks as a result. Often, it is a timing issue that leads to problems in this case. If you look at the swing of Boo Weekley, he does a great job of getting the downswing started with his lower body while the club is still 'hanging' at the top waiting to get started forward. By starting the lower body first, the lower half gets a head start that it can use to beat the hands and the club through the hitting area. It is this order of operations that will lead to solid, consistent ball striking.
Unfortunately, many amateur golfers struggle with this kind of move. Instead of starting down with their hips, they start the downswing with the hands and arms, which throws everything out of sync almost immediately. When you start down with your hands and you are already using a strong grip, it is almost assured that you will miss the shot to the left (either with a hook or a straight pull). It is absolutely essential to start the downswing with your lower body when you play with a strong grip, as you have to have your lower body out in front at impact if you are going to hit a relatively straight shot.
The timing of starting your lower body ahead of your hands is one of those things in golf that simply takes repetition to learn. At first, this move will likely feel uncomfortable, and you will probably hit some poor shots along the way. However, once you understand how powerful and reliable this move can be, you may soon find yourself wondering how you ever played golf any other way. Put in the time and effort right up front to learn how to move through the ball with your lower body and your game may never be the same again.
A Trap Game
Another element of Boo Weekley's swing that allows him to produce quality shots on a regular basis is the fact that he traps the ball nicely against the turf thanks to a slightly forward press at address. When setting up over the ball, Weekley has his hands pressed a couple of inches in front of the ball, which is exactly where they will return to at impact. This is another piece of the golf swing puzzle which fits nicely into the overall puzzle, at least for a player who uses a strong grip. Since the strong grip is going to encourage the club face to close on the way down, positioning the hands in front of the ball will make it possible to hit a controlled trap toward the target.
There are a number of benefits to hitting a trap, whether you are competing against the best players in the world, or just trying to better your own personal best score. Some of the advantages of this type of swing are as follows.
- A penetrating flight. Golf, as you know, is a game that is played outdoors in a variety of conditions. Since you have no control over the conditions which you will face on a given day, hitting a low and penetrating ball flight is desirable when it comes to consistency. While a high, floating ball flight might work just fine on a calm day, that same shot could give you all kinds of trouble when the wind comes up. On the other hand, if you already hit a relatively low ball with your natural swing, you can deal with changing conditions without too much trouble. As a PGA Tour player, Boo Weekley has to face an incredible number of different conditions throughout the season. Instead of needing to alter his game to match the conditions, he can simply hit his shots in the same manner week after week thanks to the penetrating flight he possesses.
- High spin rate. Another benefit of pinching the ball against the turf is the amount of backspin that can be put on the ball. If you are going to hit the ball slightly lower than normal, as is going to be the case when you hit a trap, you will want plenty of backspin to go with that flight in order to stop the ball quickly. Fortunately, that is exactly what you should find, as long as you are making clean contact and you are using the right kind of golf ball. Obviously, Boo Weekley is using a Tour-level ball which offers plenty of spin, and you should think about doing the same if you are going to try trapping the ball with most of your swings.
- Dealing with tough lies. Perhaps the biggest benefit of all to using a trapping action at impact is being able to deal with tough lies. You are bound to run into at least one or two bad lies during the course of an average round, which is why it is so nice to be able to hit down on the ball aggressively at impact. Bad lies are usually best handled with a descending blow through impact, so applying your trap swing to the ball when it is sitting down is a great way to get the ball up and out cleanly. You won't ever be able to strike the ball quite as cleanly from a bad lie as you would from a perfect lie in the fairway, but hitting down is going to give you the best chance to succeed. With the combination of a strong grip and a trapping action at impact, there will be few lies that you won't be able to handle with relative ease.
Just as is the case with a strong grip, it is also certainly possible to play good golf with trapping the ball into the turf. However, this is very much a viable way to play the game, as has been proven by Boo Weekley (in addition to a number of other top pros). Trapping the ball will help you control your ball flight nicely, and you will be able to play at a consistent level despite ever-changing weather and course conditions.
Getting away from the impressive golf swing that Boo Weekley possesses, we should also talk for a moment about the attitude that he brings to the course. Weekley is a laid back person in all aspects of life, and that certainly applies to the way he plays the game. Even if you are nothing like Boo Weekley from a personality standpoint, you should still consider taking cues from him when it comes to how your conduct yourself on the course. It should not be too much of a surprise that he has found success on Tour, as players with this kind of laid back attitude tend to fair well in the high pressure world of professional golf.
There is an incredible amount of pressure on the players of the PGA Tour to perform at a high level each week. In fact, you could argue that there is more pressure on professional golfers than there is on any other category of professional athlete, as there are no guaranteed contracts in golf. If you don't perform at a high enough level in golf, you lose your job – it is just that simple. The pressure to perform is always there, and it can easily push stress levels over the top if the player doesn't have the right attitude. While all players feel nerves at one point or another, players with a relaxed approach like Boo Weekley tend to fair better than others.
Of course, you probably aren't going to have to deal with PGA Tour pressure anytime soon. However, that doesn't mean that you don't need to deal with pressure in your own right. When you play in a match against your friends, or when you are trying to beat your own personal best score, you are sure to feel at least a few nerves. If you can get comfortable with playing golf in a laid back, relaxed manner from the first hole to the last, you should be better able to deal with the nerves that you are feeling. This is, obviously, easier said than done, so it will take some practice in order to keep your mindset in the right place to play well under pressure. It is worth it, however, because there are few feelings in golf better than hitting a great shot when the pressure is on.
Boo Weekley is an easy golfer to root for when watching the PGA Tour each week. Sure, a big part of his appeal comes down to his personality and the fact that he is so different from many on the Tour, but there is also a lot to admire about his swing. With a simple action and a strong grip, Weekley is an impressive ball striker and has been for many years. While you probably shouldn't try to copy Weekley's swing frame for frame, you can take some tips from his action that you can use in your own game. Good luck!