The best swing tips and advice from legendary teacher Harvey Penick

harvey penick talks to tom kite

Harvey Penick is among the most influential instructors the game has ever seen.

Getty Images

Welcome to Play Smart, a regular game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.

This week the PGA Tour heads to Austin, Texas for the Dell Match Play. This will be the final time the Tour appears in Austin with the announcement that the event has been eliminated from future schedules. This is not only sad for the golf community in the Texas capital, but also for one of the game’s most legendary teachers.

The late Harvey Penick might not be at ACC this week, but his legacy lives on. A statue of Penick stands outside the clubhouse and his teachings are still used by some of the best players in the game. Golf in Austin — and on a whole — would be much different without Penick’s influence.

In honor of the Tour stopping at Penick’s old club for the final time, we’re looking at some of his most famous teachings in today’s edition of Play Smart.

How to perfect the grip

The grip is an oft-overlooked fundamental of the swing. Although it’s one of the most important elements of a proper swing, most people don’t spend enough time perfecting how they hold the club.

“He said, ‘If you don’t have a good grip, you aren’t gonna play good golf,'” said longtime Penick student Ben Crenshaw. “It can’t be more clear than that.”

Like most of his teachings, Penick taught how to perfect the grip in a simple way. He suggested his pupils pick up a yardstick with two hands and then start swinging it. Then, put the same grip on the golf club.

How to shave 5 strokes off your game

Everyone wants to shave strokes off their scores, but few people know where to start. According to Penick, all you need to do is change the way you practice — and devote plenty of time to your short game.

“If you want to see radical improvement in your game and cut off five strokes in a week or two, you must make a radical change in the way you practice,” Penick said. “For two weeks devote 90 percent of your practice time to chipping and putting, and only 10 percent to the full swing. If you do this, your 95 will turn into 90. I guarantee it.”

How to hit a perfect bunker shot

Bunker shots typically give recreational players fits. But that’s because they don’t have access to a bunker to practice them, and when they do, they don’t know how to practice them. Penick (like always) liked to keep things simple.

“Play the ball with the shaft pointing at your zipper and your hands slightly ahead,” Penick said. “Take a square stance and open your clubface so it points right of the target.”

He suggested players favor their weight on their lead side and then make a normal swing — but instead of hitting the ball, hitting a few inches behind it.

The “magic” move

The golf swing is a serious of complex motions, but one move stood out more than the rest in Penick’s eyes. He stressed it every day, and called it the “magic” move.

“To start your downswing, shift your weight to your left foot while bringing your right elbow down to your body,” Crenshaw explains in the video above. “Practice this move again and again.”

If you can nail this move, it will help you perfect your transition and have you hitting solid shots in no time.

Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for 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