Lee Trevino Golf Techniques

By Mike Southern
You can clearly see Lee Trevino's firm lead wrist as he chips from the rough.
You can clearly see Lee Trevino's firm lead wrist as he chips from the rough.

Although his swing was often ridiculed, no one could attack pins like Lee Trevino. The unusual techniques he used when hitting shots were developed on the hard fairways and windy conditions in Texas, where he learned to play. Trevino turned pro in 1960 and won 29 tournaments during his PGA Tour career, including six majors – two U.S. Opens, two British Opens and two PGA Championships. Many pros looking for an edge study the approach of the "Merry Mex," and his tips are usually simple enough that a weekend player can learn them quickly.

Firm Lead Wrist

It doesn't matter whether you talk full swing or short game, Trevino almost always recommends keeping your lead wrist firm. (That's the left wrist for a right-handed player.) Too many swing faults are caused by flipping your wrists at impact. That firmer lead wrist helps you play a slight fade, which was Trevino's preferred shot. For players struggling to chip better, Trevino recommends practicing with two or three thick rubber bands to hold your club's grip against your lead wrist. It eliminates any extra wrist motion so that you'll hit the ball more consistently.

The Burning Wedge

This imaginatively named shot, also called a check wedge, is the trademark Trevino shot. The burning wedge comes in low, hits the green with a lot of backspin, takes a couple of hops and either stops almost in its tracks or spins back slightly. As with most Trevino swings, you want to keep your lead wrist firm. Leave the ball in its normal position in your stance, but open your stance and stand closer to the ball in order to use a very steep, downward stroke. Be sure your club hits the ball before it hits the ground; you should take a divot after – not before – you hit the ball. Rocco Mediate won the PGA Tour's Frys.com Open in 2010 after a lesson from Trevino. Mediate holed out from the fairway in three rounds and made a hole-in-one in the other using Trevino's tips for the wedge shot.

Don't Grip Down

Perhaps because he was never a long hitter, Trevino preferred to make all shots except chips and pitches with the full shaft. On the short shots, control is important, but choking down on the grip prevents you from hitting the ball as high. Trevino was revered for his ability to consistently hit the ball at the same trajectory, which made his distance control extremely accurate, but he also had trouble hitting high shots, so he only gripped down on chips and pitches – and never on any club longer than a 9-iron.

Keep It Simple

Trevino's game was built around simple things – fundamentals that didn't require a lot of fussing. Things such as that firm lead wrist, hitting shots lower by standing closer to the ball, paying attention to little things like ball position and grip pressure – he tried to relax his grip slightly as he started his backswing – were the backbone of the Merry Mex's game. His overriding rule was "the easiest shot is the best shot." That rule of thumb won him six major championships against legends such as Hale Irwin, Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd and Jack Nicklaus, so it's probably a good rule to follow.

About the Author

North Carolina native Mike Southern has been writing since 1979. He is the author of the instructional golf book "Ruthless Putting" and edited a collection of swashbuckling novels. Southern was trained in electronics at Forsyth Technical Community College and is also an occasional woodworker.

Photo Credits

  • Bob Levey/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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