What every golfer can learn from Rose Zhang’s swing secrets

rose zhang swings a driver during the 2024 founders cup

In today's edition of Play Smart, we catch up with LPGA star Rose Zhang as she explains the secrets to her recent resurgence.

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

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Rose Zhang stands on the 15th tee box next to her black-and-white Callaway bag and stares down the narrow fairway. There’s a trio of fairway bunkers guarding the landing area some 240 yards away — and on this tricky dogleg left, you’d better be in the fairway off the tee.

After a quick aside with her caddie, Olly Brett, Zhang grabs a fairway wood. She steps up to the ball and goes through her pre-shot routine, complete with a rehearsal of her takeaway. Moments later, she sends a tight draw soaring through the sky. Her ball splits the fairway bunkers and rolls over a mound in the fairway, nestling in the shortgrass on the other side.

Watching Zhang swing, it’s hard to imagine her ever missing a shot. There’s no wasted motion and every component of her body works in conjunction. The result is tremendous efficiency and easy power.

For much of 2024, though, Zhang’s sweet swinging superpower was missing. After a standout rookie season — including a win in her debut — this year has been more of a struggle. When the calendar turned to May, Zhang had as many top 10s as she did missed cuts.

But last week, things started to fall back into place. She won the Founders Cup (and threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium), and now she’s at the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National in N.J., the site of her first pro win. She was even announced as an ambassador for Mizuho, the tournament’s title sponsor.

“Last week came a little bit unexpectedly,” Zhang said. “Going into the event I haven’t had the best season yet and I’ve been learning a lot about myself, been learning a lot about my game and how I should prep.”

What was it that Zhang learned about her swing that led to her success? You can check it out below — and learn how you can apply it to your own game.

Stay committed

What Zhang said: “I also just felt like I was not being intuitive enough with my golf game as I normally was. Usually I’m pretty — back in amateur golf days I didn’t have a caddie and I didn’t have Olly by my side, so every decision that I made was full commitment and it was full-on intuition about how you felt about the shot. Last week I did try a little bit more to be able to really dig deep a little bit more and handle what kind of shots I needed to hit and make a decisive point on that.”

What it means: Pro golf is an entirely different beast than amateur golf. Not only are the margins thinner, but the team around you is much bigger. This includes having a caddie alongside you on every shot. This can be an advantage, but as Zhang explains, she was leaning too much on her caddie at times during the slump. You’ll always hear pro golfers opine about the importance of committing to each shot, and it sounds like Zhang got away from that during her struggles.

What you can learn: Never step into a shot with doubts clouding your mind. If you’re going to hit a shot, you need to be fully committed. Your mindset standing over a shot is one of the few things you can control on the course, so it’s important that you manage it. This starts with committing to the shot.

Keep things simple

What Zhang said: “It’s been a while since I’ve been able to have eyes on my golf swing, so it was a lot of going back to what I was really good at, keeping the swing simple. I was coming really inside and that causes a lot of different shots to happen that are not exactly the best. So I think it was more so just getting myself on plane and being able to come down with the right timing.”

What it means: Zhang doesn’t travel with a swing coach on a weekly basis, and not having a second set of eyes on her swing on a consistent basis let her slip into some poor habits. She mentioned coming inside, which led to a swing that needed perfect timing to be effective. Recently she got to work with her swing coach, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Todd Anderson, and he helped her get back to the basics and simplify the swing.

What you can learn: When things start to feel off, don’t be afraid to go see a coach. Self-diagnosing your swing can be a recipe for disaster. Switching one thing in your swing can lead to tons of compensations, which rarely works out. Go see a coach if you’re starting to lose your swing. You’ll be amazed at how small the tweaks are they make. But while the changes might be small, they’re almost always effective.

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.