Things you Feel—See–Know

As a teaching professional, I realize that there are several (at least) paths I can take, when working with a student, that can help us arrive at our goal of improvement.

Many times, it revolves around things we KNOW. We are all students of the game. Soon after starting to work on our method, we adopt a grip and know what that hold on the club means to the clubface. That grip also provides a FEEL for the club that allows us to develop instincts for where the face is. We want that club to feel light, while swinging, so we place the club in our fingers and promote dynamic movement.

When practicing, it is important to SEE the flight of the ball. Compare trajectory from club to club and notice the bounce of the ball when landing. There is typically a battle between the spin on the ball and the wind. If the wind is blowing hard from left to right but your ball kicks left when it lands, what does that tell you? Wind can change curvature of the ball, but it won’t change the spin on the ball. You normally hit a draw, but the wind was harder than the right to left spin, so the wind won the battle. When a pro “holds the ball into the wind,” he is calculating how much spin to put on the ball to counteract the side wind, hoping for a straight shot as a result.

In this example, the pro must KNOW how to set up to the ball mechanically to promote the shot. He will SEE the shot in his mind and then FEEL the swing, first in a practice motion and then over the ball. A great shot will then be what he pictured in his mind, his mental blackboard.

Use golf on TV as a continuing education seminar. Play a game of prediction before each shot. What is he going to do here? When they show the shot from down the line, guess which way the ball went by what the swing looked like. SEE how often you are right. 

Drills are valuable because they allow us to work on our swing without the obligation of the shot. Our athletic movement is free and easily digested. Close your eyes and you will FEEL things like never before. Focus on a certain part of your body or golf swing, like the sole of your left foot or your right shoulder blade. FEEL how they accept obligation during the swing. Ask yourself if that could be done in a better way or compare video of a great player to what you SEE in your swing.

When you believe that what you do is correct, it becomes something you KNOW. Once you build a group of things you see as your method, you are on the path to playing some great golf. Knowledge is power applies to golf in so many ways. Developing different paths will allow you to travel directly toward your goals, rather than aimlessly wandering in the world of “hit and hope.”

I Can’t Just Relax and Swing

I want you to do an experiment the next time you go to the practice range. Without aiming at anything, I want you to relax, as much as you can, and hit a shot. Notice what the ball does. First of all, you might find this hard or disconcerting. All I want you to think about is relaxed swinging. 

Two things will be revealed here. If your ball goes straight or shows little curvature, then your method is in a good place. I noticed, years ago, that every time I tried this drill, I hit the ball to the right. This showed me that I was using tension or pressure, through impact, to make the ball curve right to left. This hand-eye move would NOT stand up to tournament pressure and needed to be addressed.

This drill will also show you what your current “stock shot” is. By that I mean: what does your ball do when you try to do nothing with it? This is valuable when you need to hit a shot in a pressure situation (by your definition of pressure) or when just laying up on a par five or short par four. Tour pros will try to play their stock shot as often as possible. This line of thinking will also tell them when the situation dictates a shot outside of their normal ball flight pattern.

Work until you can relax and swing, thinking only of solid contact. It’s like you are standing on the beach, trying to hit it in the ocean. You can’t miss. Use the freedom to reveal your stock shot.

Chest more, Arms less

The better the player, the more the body becomes the leader of the motion. You will never know a freedom and true relaxation while swinging until you give your arms to your body. 

In terms of your chest, most players turn their chest (or rib cage) very little during their backswing. Your arms quickly detach and go on an inconsistent path. This requires strength and tension to govern the movements and makes it hard to gather your swing and get it to show up at impact with any type of true consistency.

A simple swing thought like “turn chest, turn body” will give you a functional backswing and downswing. What I mean is: your backswing is basically an upper body function, and the downswing requires the participation of the whole body.

But make no mistake: learning to use your body aggressively will reap rewards of accuracy and distance. Turn your elbows under (until they face the ground), lay your arms against your body and focus on keeping them relaxed. Put the onus on your hips,  shoulders and trunk, as a whole, to create the movement. 

There have always been two schools of thought: your arms swing your body, and your body swings your arms. I believe that the best of all things concerning golf: power, accuracy, relaxation and LONGEVITY IN THIS SPORT, come best through the lead of your body.

About Me

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)

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