Nelly Korda: My Simple Secrets To Better Practice
Olympic gold medallist Nelly Korda reveals how she prepares for each round - and how you can too
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Nelly Korda has one of the sweetest swings in golf. But that doesn't mean she doesn't work at it. Since turning pro in 2016, the 23-year-old has been tipped for greatness and fulfilled her destiny as a major-champion-in-waiting when she won the 2021 Women's PGA Championship. Six weeks later, she followed that up with an Olympic Gold Medal.
Golf Monthly contributor Garrett Johnston recently sat down with Korda to find out how she prepares for each round and what the rest of us can learn.
Read the full Q&A below...
What is the focus of your pre-round warm-up?
NK: It’s more that I’m working on my strike out there. It’s about finding my timing. I typically start about an hour and five minutes before my tee time. I want to make sure my body and muscles are loose. I start off with pitch shots on the range and then I work my way all the way up through my bag.
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I am mainly just working on impact. On the putting green I do a drill because your eye-line and eyesight change every single day. You may see the ball and your line differently every single day, so doing a line drill is really important as you start your putting. Try it for five minutes to make sure you dial in your alignment. Once you do that, then you work on your distance.
What is the best way for us recreational golfers to prepare for a round?
NK: I would say go to the course with a routine. I feel like people get really messed up with trying a bunch of different things. If you’re consistent and you have a routine and you stick to that every day you play, you won’t get better right away, but eventually over time you’re going to get better. You can’t make changes and expect to see a result right away. It’s all about consistency.
How can we improve the way we practise and play out of bunkers?
NK: Bunkers are all about the strike. My short-game coach makes me hit shots out of bunkers every single day and just focus on the strike of the ball and how it sounds. I would say, one of my favourite practice drills is to draw in the sand, a line one inch behind the ball. Try to strike it there.
A lot of recreational golfers, they either get it too chunky or they hit the ball first and top it, so making sure that you strike the ball an inch behind and focus on getting more sand, that’s how you’ll get the right height on your shot.
Do you want to hit a certain number of practice bunker shots like this in order to get the confidence pre-round?
NK: It doesn’t matter about the total number of times you hit it. It really doesn’t matter how far you hit these shots, I would just focus on the strike, then you can start focusing on distance. You don’t want to focus on distance first. It’s like when you started playing golf as a kid, you didn’t go to the range first. Like for me, the first thing I ever did was work on fundamentals with a coach. At that point it doesn’t matter about strike, but once you get your fundamentals down then everything is so much easier.
When it comes to bunkers, you need to get your strike down and make sure you’re using the bounce of the club and that you’re opening the club face and you’re striking it well. Once you do that, then you can focus on how far it goes.
What specific fundamentals do we want to be checking during our range warm-up?
NK: The first thing you want to check is if you’re gripping it correctly, it makes a huge difference in your swing. You could easily be too weak or too strong and it will affect where the face of the club is. So grip is important as well as stance and where your weight is. Once you get those fundamentals all down, it’s so much easier to work on consistency and easier to work on shooting lower numbers.
Chipping before our round, what should we work on there?
NK: What I work on before my rounds on chipping is to not move my head so much. You have to be pretty still in chipping and make sure you don’t lose your angles in your legs. A lot of people get straight-legged when they hit it and they either chunk it - they move their head too much - or they top it. I would say being still with your body is very important in chipping.
What’s a good swing thought over an iron shot?
NK: Obviously every person has different tendencies and me and my coach try to keep my swing as simple as it possibly gets. One of my tendencies is I move my legs a little too much on irons and woods so I just try and keep my lower body a little more still.
What about with a driver as we stand over tee shots, what’s a good thought?
NK: You’re definitely putting a different swing on driver shots versus iron shots. Irons you’re thinking more attack the ground, and with the driver you’re trying to hit up on it a little more, so it’s kind of a different feeling. One swing thought I have with my driver is "left shoulder to chin". It’s just a very simple thought and it really helps me with my path and everything.
Does it guide your swing?
NK: Yes. The driver is a lot longer than our irons so sometimes you have a tendency to make your swing a little too long with the driver. When I have that feeling of shoulder to chin, I’m more consistent with how long my swing is.
Garrett Johnston is a golf reporter and presenter who’s covered pro golf for 12 years including over 30 majors. His goal each year is always to “grow with the rookies” on Tour. The idea is to get to know the superstars before they become household names. Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, and Patrick Reed are just some of the players Johnston has covered from their early pro careers for their hometown newspapers. Johnston’s favorite event is always The Open, and he credits his unforgettable experience covering the 2015 Open at St. Andrews where he got to interview Tom Watson (in his final Open) and winner Zach Johnson exclusively throughout the week as his favorite event so far. Johnston has also developed a strong rapport with Tour caddies and regularly contributes to Caddie Network and Golf.com. He also has his own podcast: Beyond The Clubhouse (opens in new tab)
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