CLEAN MECHANICS- Your golf bag is filled with clubs where no two are the same. They are all different in length and loft. If your mechanics are good, you need only to make a good swing to play a good shot with any club. Poor mechanics will limit the clubs you will play well. Also, poor mechanics will wound your golf swing and take away that relaxed, comfortable swing we all hope to play with.
The term “clean” mechanics means two things to me: 1) they are very consistent and don’t vary from shot to shot and 2) they match your swing and produce your intended ball flight.
Your mechanics are your GRIP, STANCE, AND BALL POSITION. This refers to the way we hold the club, the way we stand and where we put the ball between our feet. Mechanics refer to the positions we adopt before we swing the club.
Through my teaching career, I have had players who were a combination of great swing and athleticism and others who didn’t have the picture-perfect swing but could really scramble and compete. Many players, of all levels, have a very hard time keeping their mechanics in line. If your ball position gradually changes you will notice a change in your ball flight and trajectory. This will force you to manipulate your release through impact.
Also, if your aim slides over a few weeks time, you will start to miss targets and lose that relaxed, confident feeling while swinging.
Tour pro’s who travel with their swing coach are mostly looking for help keeping them on point, not really changing things constantly. Some players might say that their biggest weakness is an inability to keep their mechanics perfect.
There is surely an Ebb & Flow to our mechanics. More so than our swing. It is a daily and weekly journey, and you are wise to acknowledge that. Your swing RESTS within clean mechanics.
As I say in The Driven Golfer, a bad swing from good mechanics results in a manageable miss. A bad swing from bad mechanics will be a big miss.
So, what I am speaking of is the consistency in which you place yourself over the ball before your swing. It is up to you to determine what your exact fundamentals might be.
If you believe you have a natural swing, born of human nature, shouldn’t you go looking for mechanics that match that swing? Most of the time a student will show me a mixed bag of positions that won’t allow a consistent result. If you have a weak grip, a hook stance and an ever-changing ball position, there is nothing that points toward a consistent result.
I have previously mentioned, when speaking of release, that it must match our swing. This blend of athleticism and fundamentals are the partnership that creates solid ball striking.
Ownership of our method, or the thing that makes us feel like a technician, is the belief that you know what you do and why you do it. You must monitor it on a daily basis. Experimentation generally serves to bring confusion to a situation that requires the utmost of consistency of action.
2 Areas of Feel
2 Areas of Feel- There are 2 areas of feel within our mechanics. Put another way, there are two things you can change that will bring an immediate difference to how your swing feels.
The first is your grip. This may be obvious. What you feel by touching the club becomes a tendency that drives our swing. If you change your grip, even a little bit, the clubface will feel different at the top of your backswing. For many players this change will have a nearly paralyzing affect, while others use the different feeling as a swing key. They hope it feels different.
The second area of feel, and not nearly as obvious to most players, is the way your feet touch the ground. You can rotate the toes of your shoes to the right or left and your swing could be changed drastically. It allows more or less hip turn and therefore proportional shoulder turn. A small turn of your toes to the right might produce that small draw that has been hard to achieve.
If your feet are square, like a box, they won’t provide any athletic assistance. This month we will study how and why we use our feet to make our swing more dynamic.
Ball Position- This area of your mechanics is vital to producing the shots you visualize. If you see your swing path as being a slight arc in front of you, where you place the ball on that arc begins to establish the equation that makes your ball flight pattern.
Many players consider ball position as the relationship of the ball and our left heel. The left heel gains its pertinence from believing that your left shoulder or armpit (over your left heel) is the natural bottom of the arc in a correctly swung club. This is when the club is allowed to fall naturally and not forced to the ground.
I would say most of the greatest players try to follow this ball position understanding, and then make adjustments when the situation requires. But that is not the only way to establish ball position.
Many players use their sternum, or center line of their chest, to make a ball position. On a shot that requires a shift of weight, they place the sternum just behind the ball and then move their center across the ball to begin the downswing.
On a short game wedge shot, they just place their sternum over or slightly in front of the ball and it will be stationary throughout the swing.
Others move the ball from left of center, to middle and then to the back of a constant width of stance. The longer the club, the more forward the ball must be to create the shallow arc necessary. This ball position theory ignores the idea that the changing length of club might influence a change of balance point. The longer the club, the harder it is to keep your balance.
The evolution of golf clubs has influenced ball position as well. In the past, we hit the ball low (flighted it) by moving it back in our stance. The clubs were all flow weighted or muscle back. The general weight throughout the clubhead made it easy to create a lower ball flight.
Now, with perimeter weighted clubs, it is very easy to create high trajectory. Even if you move the ball back and de-loft the club, the spin still happens.
Today we use the same ball position, in relation to our left heel. We then narrow our stance and put our weight on our left foot throughout the swing. We also take more club and swing easier. This is the best way to take spin off the golf ball.
Shafts are also much more consistent than ever and can be selected to produce any type of desired trajectory. Distance is best achieved by taking a low loft head and pairing it with a high launch shaft.
Uneven lies- Most of our work, when building our method, is done from the sanctuary of a level lie on the range tee, as it should be. Mechanics are spoken about and recommended with that in mind: straightforward golf.
With that in mind, if you walk up to your ball and you recognize that this lie or situation is not straightforward golf, then it should make sense to you that a change needs to be made. That may be as simple as swinging harder out of the rough, because the strike will not be a clean as a fairway lie.
A bunker shot of 10 yards will certainly require a swing that would hit the ball more than ten yards from a clean turf lie.
Downhill lies require a movement of the ball toward our trail or back foot. This is because the club will come to the ground much sooner with the slope behind the ball.
Will you mechanics support changing lies? Many beginners fail to make adjustments and become discouraged. These things are learned through the experience of playing.
Nothing empowers a player more than to design a shot to handle a nondescript situation and to pull it off. 98% of golf is normal stuff and the other 2% is the separating point within a group of great ball-strikers. Imagination is key to high-level play.
Again, ask yourself, “is this shot straightforward, or does it need adjustments within your basic mechanics?”
Swing changes- When we are not striking the ball well, what do we change? Do we change something in our golf swing? My answer is probably not. As I have stated before, it was your mechanics that changed and affected your golf swing or how you swing the club.
But aren’t my mechanics sacred? YES!
You don’t change your grip every time you miss the target (like beginners do.)
Nor do you move the ball around a lot within your stance. That forces you to search for the ball, with the club, during the downswing, like it is a hand-eye move.
The safest adjustment we can make, while practicing, is to SLIGHTLY adjust our stance width. I am talking about moving ONLY YOUR BACK FOOT. This will make a subtle change in the time it takes to make the clubhead arrive at impact. Start there and usually you will find the information you need to get back on track.
In this article I am asking you for clean mechanics. This speaks to adopting a grip, stance and ball position theory that you take care to keep consistent.
You must be a student of the golf swing, in general, and your swing, in particular. Consistency of action, like a good pre-shot routine, build belief in ourselves.
Clean means consistent and clean means matching our golf swing. Ownership of your method relies on several things but clean mechanics is the foundation of everything else we hope to build.
Michael Wolf, Certified Master Teaching Professional, has been playing golf for 46 years and teaching professionally for over 34 years. He has given over 30,000 golf lessons. Author of The Driven Golfer: Building Your Method For Scratch Golf. Harvey Penick Award Winner- 2016 (Top Instructor U.S./World Golf Teachers Federation)