The Driven Golfer goes to the practice range with a purpose and zeal. It is important to have a topic each time you practice so that you are always looking to improve upon a weakness. Over the course of time experimentation brings about theories of the golf swing in general and your swing in particular. What do I like to see in a golf swing? I like to see thoughtful, appropriate practice swings. Patience going back reflects the swinging momentum I teach. A student must understand how the swing of our trunk influences arm swing and the club. Quiet hands allow a repeatable, circular swing. I like to see your entire left foot stay on the ground throughout the swing. The right foot is pulled off of the ground by your turning body. I don’t like to see your hips go toward the target during your backswing. I ask my students to “stay back on the pitch,” so that they can rotate into the drawpoint without over committing past the ball. All of these things speak to discipline.
While on the subject of discipline and what I like to see. I like the “gym rat” student who enjoys hard work. I don’t like to see anger or tantrums or sense of entitlement. I ask my younger students to see the big picture. I ask them not to make anyone or anything “suffer them.” By this I mean they must respect the game, their parents, their playing partners, the course, and the equipment they use (but probably didn’t pay for). Most of my younger students are influenced by other players they see. They all have the alignment sticks, the cell phones, and best golf equipment parents can buy. I just ask them to be respectful of the opportunity they have been given and it will blossom into many wonderful things. Certainly I would like to see them be a scratch golfer, and they will achieve that goal. I am most proud when they are respected for their conduct, earn scholarships, graduate from college, become responsible, hard working adults and are great parents.
Again, it all comes back to the discipline you show in your preparation. Knowing that the things you are working on are valid keeps you from wasting valuable time and effort. Eventually you will know fully what you do in your method and why you do it. That empowers you to play with confidence. This level headed approach allows you to build your recognition abilities, or how to see “the big picture.”
If you have ever seen your swing on video you might have been surprised by what you saw. That should tell you that your swing feels different than it looks. No one sets out to make a poor swing, it just happens.
Through my own experimentation I can tell you that you can video ten swings thinking about one thing and then ten swings thinking about something else. The first ten feel different than the next ten but on the video all twenty look the same.
Our swing is a combination of feel and mechanics and where your mind lies. Thinking about the right thing over the ball is crucial to performing well.
There is a difference between having a bad swing and making a bad swing. You can have a mechanically correct golf swing and still perform it poorly. Many times pressure makes this happen. If your swing is good you must trust your instincts to the end and let your swing flow.
On the other hand, if you have a bad swing you are forced to make your results happen. Nothing comes naturally. This player must then commit to making changes in his method.
The terms rhythm and tempo have been used to describe the smooth movement of the golf swing. I believe that they fall short of describing exactly what we want to feel in the swing. These terms, to me, imply a constant speed in the swing. If this speed matches the body type and manner of this player then they should perform reasonably well. However, if this constant speed is too fast or too slow to match that players personality or physical capabilities then there will be problems.
I encourage my students to try to feel momentum in every swing they make. To me, momentum says that the swing will begin in a relaxed manner and gradually increase in speed.
Once a player achieves this feeling there is no rush at any point of their swing. They show a patience in allowing their force to build. As I have mentioned before, if you are swinging something heavy you will not be able to do anything to swing it except let the momentum build. That is why you see the best players swinging weight clubs.
Soon you will be swinging hard without fighting the club. This helps us to de-emphasize the ball and accelerate through impact.
This term release is hotly debated throughout the teaching community as to exactly how to correctly rotate the club through the ball.
Some feel that it is a conscious movement of the hands. I believe this feeling comes from pre-swing mechanics that force a conscious strike at the ball. In other words, if the ball position is constantly changing then you must manipulate the club to get it to square at the right time. If your grip is weak you will have to use your hands to find square and won’t be able to trust the swing of the body to square the club.
The problem is, if you are working your hands through the ball, even if the clubface is square when it strikes the ball, the face will be turning too quickly to keep it square. The result of this timing move will be vicious side spin on the ball and inconsistent divots.
There are two kinds of release. We’ll call them the “high road” and the “low road.” If you right hand grip is weak, you must take the “high road”, which means your right shoulder will be in a high position and move toward the target above your heart. Your focus will be on covering over the shaft with your upper body. It will be a “palm down” feeling in your right hand. Many players who try to use an aggressive move with their lower body, but still grip the club in a weak manner, are forced to take “ the high road” to catch up with the lagging clubface. This can be problematic as it is hard to drive the ball well out of this release. This is because it is hard to keep the clubhead level and sweep the ball off of the tee.
The “low road” is preferred because your right shoulder moves in the same path as the club and goes around the arc, under your heart, and through the ball. Your right hand grip is stronger and behind the club. Your right arm is turned under and supports the shaft. This is ideal for the shallow path of the club that works well with shots off of the ground and on the tee. From behind you can see this player keep his spine angle (leaned toward the ball) constant while the “high road” player must rise out of their posture to help the right shoulder cover over the ball. These players correctly allow the club to release, rather than force it.
The reason most accomplished players use a strong grip is so that they can turn their body at top speed and still get the clubface to square . By taking the “low road” they correctly influence the path of the club while “staying under” the ball.
Many times, by not turning your chest fully in each direction, a person forces himself to work his hands to make the circular arc of the swing. Again, this is a timing move.
I believe that release naturally runs its course as a part of a correctly swung golf club. If you haven’t snatched the club away from the ball to start your swing and haven’t thrown the club to begin the downswing, then there is no reason to fear what the club does as it goes through the ball.
A correct release is the result of good mechanics and a patient, relaxed swing.
Extension or width within our swing refers to the size of the circle created by the swinging golf club. You want the circle to be the same size on both sides of your body.
Extension in your backswing is created in part by your turning shoulders. As they rotate the arms remain extended until the right elbow starts to bend. Your right elbow is the first hinge, not your wrist. If your wrist breaks at the beginning of the backswing the club will be too close to you or your circle will be collapsed on the right side. The club then will have little chance to find the ball naturally on the downswing.
You are waiting for the swinging of the club to bend your elbow and then cock your wrists at the top.
The length of your backswing is measured by how far your left shoulder moves.
Extension on the downswing is vital to creating a path that spends a long time on the target line.
As the club approaches waist high on the downswing the player has a decision to make. Do I stop the turning of my shoulders and push the club at the ball? Or do I continue to turn my chest and body and let the club collect the ball as it proceeds to the finish?
When throwing the club at the ball, the handle generally stops and rotates behind the ball, which doesn’t allow much extension for the clubhead. If you continue to turn your chest the handle continues with your arms extended through the ball and the clubhead travels much farther out the target line.
The term staying under the ball, used by the best players, is a feeling that the right shoulder and the right side of the chest goes down and under our chin. This is instead of the right shoulder rising and stopping in a “fake release”. Staying under the ball feels much the same as letting go of a bowling ball along the lane. Getting “over” the ball feels like throwing a ball straight down at the ground.
Most good players would tell you that shotmaking is determined by the first foot the club travels past the ball. The ability to continue out the path and keep the face stable while it touches the ball is the key to accuracy.
Golfers with a correct grip (slightly strong) learn extension better because they feel both arms and the club must move together to keep the face square. They learn to swing the WHOLE club, from handle to clubhead, through the ball.
Those with a weak grip force a collapse in the handle and left arm to get the face square. The farther they extend the harder it is to get the face to square.
As I earlier stated, there are many more good players who play with a strong grip than play with a weak grip. Regardless, good players know their impact position and match their body swing with it.
Shifting Weight Into The Ball
I believe that the way your weight shifts is vital to leading the club into the ball on the correct path. Many players shift their weight away from the ball, pulling out of the downswing to the left. They end up on the side of their left shoe with their body facing well left of the target. This picture illustrates a common swing flaw in players of all levels. No matter what your arm swing is like, the movements of our trunk should follow a controlled path leading our arms and shaft down the line and through the ball.
A glancing blow is likely. Generally this is due to aiming right of their target and having to shift their weight to the left to find the target.
If the student is correctly aligned, I teach them to shift their weight toward the ball. That way they strike the ball with their weight still moving in that direction. This is definitely the most powerful move they can make, much like stepping into a baseball. The most forceful move we can make is to move into something. You must finish your swing facing the target. Watch a good player from behind (down the line to the target). Ask yourself where it looks like they are going to hit the ball. Then, after they have swung the club, see if they still look like they are going the same direction. Many times they will now look as if they were swinging to the left of where they originally intended. Their backswing and downswing do not match, in terms of body (trunk) swing.
Your weight shift should lead the path of the club. I ask my students to picture the big ball rotating into the little ball. The big ball, as you look down at address, is your torso or your chest. The little ball is the golf ball. Done correctly you will impart the most relentless path and strike through the ball. Release and extension are greatly influenced by the direction your weight is shifting as the club comes through the ball. Your weight shifts only to where the divot starts. I believe many players would benefit from defining their weightshift, rather than moving over their left foot in some undisciplined manner
I tell my students that they are shifting their weight to the drawpoint. By this I mean that I want them to feel as if they are influencing the takeoff of the ball with the movement of their weight. If they know the ball should start slightly to the right of the target, then their body should be facing that direction at the end of the swing. I don’t agree with players rotating to a point far left of the target. I don’t see how the club can release consistently unless the rotation of our body is controlled and oriented in the direction we want to see the ball take off.
Make sure that your left big toe is on the ground at impact and after. If it is in the air your weight is likely shifting sideways.
If your spine (or the buttons on your shirt) are tilted to the right of the ball as you look down you are much more likely to move into the ball. If your spine or the buttons on your shirt face to the left of the ball your shoulders are facing to the left and your weight will undoubtedly move away from the ball.
I believe wrist cock is something that we allow to happen instead of consciously making it happen. It is helpful to know that your wrists cock at the end of the backswing and uncock at the end of the downswing. It is simply a function of a correctly swung golf club.
The feeling you want in your backswing is that your arms are raising until the club lays over at the top and cocks your wrists.
On the downswing your arms are under the club and falling heavily to the all. You never put pressure on the shaft to move the club to the ball. Putting pressure on the shaft feels like pressing down on the top of a table with the palm of your right hand.
Instead of leaning on the shaft we should be supporting the shaft. We want to feel like our right palm is facing the sky all of the time in our backswing. Think of holding a plate of food with your hand under the plate. That plate of food should stay right side up all of the way through the backswing and downswing, instead of throwing the plate of food to the floor as you approach the ball.
To make a conscious attempt to uncock our wrists on the downswing will definitely bring inconsistency in our release of the club. In the next section we will discuss some ball striking topics that will arise during your development and pursuit of ball striking excellence.
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