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How to actually stay down through the shot

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Most serious golfers have seen slow-motion video of Tiger Woods or some other tour pro who moves his or her body down in the moments before impact. Those players actually lower what is called their “center,” or upper body on the downswing. But rarely, if ever, do amateurs make the same move.

In fact, many amateurs rise up during the same portion of the swing. And when they do, some well-meaning friend will often tell them to “stay down through the shot.” It’s good advice, but it almost always falls on deaf ears.

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Above: What it looks like when a golfer “rises up” at impact

Why? Well, because staying in your posture, or moving down is much easier said than done. Professionals do it because they are in a position to do it.  By that, I mean that they have the golf club moving on an angle that allows them to stay down. At the top of the swing, most professionals “re-plane” the golf club. That is, they lower the club onto their original shaft plane position (or close to it), which allows them to move aggressively through the ball.

The reason most amateurs stand up or “bail out” as I call it, is because they usually have the club at an angle that is too steep. If you have seen your swing on video and the grip end of the golf club is pointing at the ground during the transition, you have little to no chance of “staying down.” That’s because if you do, you will stick the club straight into the ground.

photo 2

Above: This steep angle of the club shaft created by an improper transition is the cause for several impact flaws.

To avoid this steep angle of attack you do the sensible thing, bailing out as you approach impact. Almost EVERYONE finds a way to avoid hitting the ground, and if the club transitions very steeply bailing out is a good way to do it. And that’s a fine fix until some well-meaning member of your group tells you to “stay down, man.”

The other fix is to “back up,” which is the common fix for more experienced players. Golfers always hear about “turning through, getting to their left side and following through,” etc. But if the club starts down too vertical, a golfer only has two choices: to bail out or back up. Backing up is a term I have for when a golfer tilts his or her upper body away for the ball. It shallows out the shaft plane and helps them avoid hitting the ground. But it is an ineffective form of bailing out because it does not allow a golfer to apply as much force to the golf club.

So how can you get the golf club on a angle that will allow you to swing aggressively through the ball, really going down and “getting it” like tour players? Well, when you get to the top of the swing and begin your downswing, the golf club has to get lower or shallower. Players have different keys for doing this, and you have to find your own. But one you may see at the top of the swing is players doing is this:

photo 3

Your right (or rear) elbow has to move forward, more toward the target line. And you can’t move the whole unit, just the rear elbow (get up right now and try that, because it’s harder than it sounds). Go to the top of your swing, and move the elbow in front of you. If you did it right, you will see the right wrist flex and the left wrist flatten. That means you have just put the golf club in a position from where you can “stay down” through the shot.

When many golfers first put this move into practice, they often hit some topped shots. This is because these golfers have flattened the plane of the shaft, but they are still bailing out of the shot, a leftover behavior. But when they stay with it, they soon start to feel what turning through the shot and keeping their posture feels like.

A good check point might be this: If you see yourself on video, you may want to have the grip end of the club pointed at or slightly outside the golf ball at the halfway-down point. Your attack angle will shallow and you’ll be hitting it like the big boys, moving down through the shot.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Dennis

    Jan 4, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    What about weight shift to left side first?

  2. David

    Dec 31, 2015 at 2:42 am

    A very thoughtful piece of instruction. My ball striking is good at times but goes “off” when I get too vertical and commence “backing up” or “standing up”. A variety of undesired consequences can follow. I am going to try this rear elbow movement. Hopefully more bang for my buck. Keep you posted. Happy New Year!

  3. Sayan

    Jul 8, 2015 at 10:39 am

    This move has helped me a lot. I tried to get into the position of the Tiger pic by moving my right shoulder down to the ball and the left shoulder in the opposite direction (rotate the shoulders around the spine). The club head would lag and then release. This worked but is a more vertical swing so the margin of error is small – if my spine angle changed. With laying the club back first with the elbow move, I simply turn my left hip away and keep the head behind using the left neck muscles (otherwise there is a danger of spinning out). This is giving me more margin for error and the contact is much less dependent on timing.

    Two small problems: This tends to produce a little more draw and the ball starts out a little more to the right (hit a few trees that force you to fade). With the vertical swing I could start the ball along the line. Also I seem to lose a little distance. However, this allows me to be much more consistent. Thank you.

  4. Matty D

    May 19, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Hello Dennis Clark

    I resently started starting making this move and it’s been night and day for my golf swing. It’s really really coming around. With good balance I can hit skiing short irons. With great distance.

    My only question is my Driver (I’m 6’3″ 190lbs)

    My slice came back, the end of the club was about 6-10inchs away from my waist.
    After moving the end of the club father away from my waist I was able to straighten the driver again.
    I’m kinda puzzled by this one? Do you or anyone else on here have an opinion on this?

    Or dose this sounds like a case of different stroks for different folks?

  5. Matty D

    May 19, 2015 at 8:33 am

    I agree this is great and Yes this is how “the big boys do it”

  6. Tony P

    Feb 13, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Dennis recently analyzed my swing via his email system and it was awesome. It clearly showed my swing doing the exact things mentioned in this article ( maybe I was the inspiration? ) In any event, I’ve been working really hard to not rise up and shallow out my angle of attack during my downswing. The tips mentioned here are invaluable and nothing but high praise for Mr. Clark. Keep the tips coming sir.

  7. Cottora

    Dec 5, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    This is a really good article that helped me visualize an issue I have. One thought that seems to work for me.

    When you get to the top of the backswing pretend you are holding a Frisbee with your right index and thumb. Now, how can you sling the Frisbee to the target? You must drive the inside of your right elbow hard towards the target before and while releasing which will flatten or lay down your arm.

  8. Dmitri

    Mar 14, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Nice article! I also would like to add that the steep angle of attack/over the top is many times caused by poor lower body movement and initiation in the transition, causing what is called “early extension” where the hips thrust towards the ball, resulting in the upper body rising up and going backwards like Dennis explained. Getting physically screened, like a TPI golf screen, could be very beneficial in discovering what your body can or can’t physically do.

  9. cydtazz

    Jan 3, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Great article Dennis!

    Sadly some will never get it.

  10. Mark

    Dec 23, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Isn’t this elbow move the same “Magic Move” that Harvey Penick talked about in his Little Red Book almost 20 years ago now?

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 30, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      Actually 21 years, there is a 20th anniversary edition out in fact. Mr Penick taught for many years in Austin, Tex. He loved a flat swing that produced a low draw shot because that was the preferred ball flight of Texas players. So the club getting stuck to steeply would have ben a cardinal sin-particularly in that part of the world. Many kids who turn pro from that area have to learn to hit the ball higher when they tour.

  11. Yea

    Dec 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I like to stamp down like the old fashioned way. The lifting of the front foot on the backswing will make you stamp down and attack the ball at through the hit. It works.

  12. Martin

    Dec 2, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Great article. Now I can tell my friend why he sometimes “bail out” :)In “The Slot Swing” Jim Mclean gives this “magic move” a very understandable explanation. In short: when you push your left hip forward a few inches from a good at the top of the swing position the club shaft will automatically fall into a more flat and inside angle, making it easier to find “the slot”, ie a good impact. I dont know if Dave is with me on this, but it works well for me (most of the time :))

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      Who is Dave?

      • Jeff

        Oct 4, 2014 at 5:45 pm

        Dave is Dave Dennis. You answer the question “who is Dave?” And you’ll have found the holy grail of golf secrets.

        • Dennis Clark

          Oct 4, 2014 at 9:04 pm

          I can’t remember why I asked about Dave whoever he may be…my 50 year holy grail quest led me back to the earth. Everything else is show biz as they say. ????

        • JP Sartre

          Dec 16, 2015 at 8:37 pm

          The burning existential question is not so much “who” is Dave, as “why” is Dave?

  13. Joe

    Nov 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    It doesnt matter what dennis myers says

  14. Jack

    Nov 26, 2013 at 12:29 am

    For me the difference is feeling like I am maintaining my spine angle. That keeps me down and through. The scrunching down feel works too. But down forget the forward weight shift or its chunk city like a prior poster said.

  15. k

    Nov 24, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Never listen to a man with stock shafts…

  16. ZC

    Nov 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Just watched the sacho Mckenzie video on you tube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuJaSM7Kexw

    Really interesting stuff, strikes me as one of the keys in generating ‘whip-like’ yet relaxed club head speed. and more importantly for me, an easier way to square the clubface using natural torque and not forcing it with forearm muscles

  17. ZC

    Nov 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for this article Dennis – I have noticed tour pros ‘re-plane- the club at transition but though this move is done actively using the wrists. It seems much more simple if you just move the elbow as you transition down as this will position the hands and club for you?

    I also come out of posture and have been trying for months to not early extend…hope this tip will help, although I also think my left hip rotation could be better (also doing rehab exercises for it) which is why I don’t stay down ands though it as well as I’d like.

    Will give this tip a good go though!

    • ZC

      Nov 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Sorry, I meant ‘but thought this move was done…’

  18. Michael

    Nov 22, 2013 at 8:42 am

    I am not understanding elbow forward. Is Dennis saying that the elbow is supposed to be ahead of the club handle on the downswing? Confused.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

      The center of mass of the golf club should fall below the plane of the hand path. Ala Sergio Garcia. Research Sasho Mackenzie. Great golf research scientist from Canada.

  19. TheLegend

    Nov 22, 2013 at 12:37 am

    You actually cant stay down. Thats not how the body works. You can however shrink like tiger or jack while rotating. When David Duval was in his prime he would not even be looking at the ball at the moment of impact. Saying stay down is very bad advice.

    • Dan

      Nov 22, 2013 at 12:58 am

      As oposed to coming up out of the shot. Did you even read this?

    • naflack

      Nov 22, 2013 at 2:20 am

      Staying down equals chunk city for me, ironically my swing looks allot like the Annika/Duval move. I’m guessing this applies more to those who literally come out of the shot.

  20. bainz69

    Nov 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Why did no-one tell me this when I first took up golf?? Is this move of the elbow really the ‘magic move’ us amateurs have been looking for (for a long time in my case)??

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 21, 2013 at 7:45 pm

      Depends. Remember that one plane swings have the club into the delivery position at the top and in the transition. Those who swing it up more need to “replane” in transition hence more need for the elbow forward bit.

      • bainz69

        Nov 22, 2013 at 8:04 pm

        So hackers have club above hand plane and chop down at the ball, whereas good golfers get it underneath hand plane and spin the clubhead out at the ball creating more speed and consistent hits??

        • Dennis Clark

          Nov 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

          I would be more kind…”Average golfers” can struggle with club face squaring due the problem I discussed. When you can get the center of mass of the club under the hand plane (laid off)it is easier to square it. Squaring can achieved more “passively”.

  21. Troy Vayanos

    Nov 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Well explained Dennis,

    This is something all Amateur golfers can work on.

    Cheers

  22. Vince

    Nov 21, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I’m gonna try this. Great article Dennis.

  23. Philip

    Nov 21, 2013 at 6:10 am

    It is always amazing if you recognize your swing flaw and get an explanation why you do this and how to fix it.

    The “bail-out” is my current problem and thanks to this article I have an idea what I have to correct.

    Good job, thank you!

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Instruction

Golf 101: What is a strong grip?

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What is a strong grip? Before we answer that, consider this: How you grip it might be the first thing you learn, and arguably the first foundation you adapt—and it can form the DNA for your whole golf swing.

The proper way to hold a golf club has many variables: hand size, finger size, sports you play, where you feel strength, etc. It’s not an exact science. However, when you begin, you will get introduced to the common terminology for describing a grip—strong, weak, and neutral.

Let’s focus on the strong grip as it is, in my opinion, the best way to hold a club when you are young as it puts the clubface in a stronger position at the top and instinctively encourages a fair bit of rotation to not only hit it solid but straight.

The list of players on tour with strong grips is long: Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Fred Couples, David Duval, and Bernhard Langer all play with a strong grip.

But what is a strong grip? Well like my first teacher Mike Montgomery (Director of Golf at Glendale CC in Seattle) used to say to me, “it looks like you are revving up a Harley with that grip”. Point is the knuckles on my left hand were pointing to the sky and my right palm was facing the same way.

Something like this:

Of course, there are variations to it, but that is your run of the mill, monkey wrench strong grip. Players typically will start there when they are young and tweak as they gain more experience. The right hand might make it’s way more on top, left-hand knuckles might show two instead of three, and the club may move its way out of the palms and further down into the fingers.

Good golf can be played from any position you find comfortable, especially when you find the body matchup to go with it.

Watch this great vid from @JakeHuttGolf

In very simple terms, here are 3 pros and 3 cons of a strong grip.

Pros

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and helps you hit further
  2. It’s an athletic position which encourages rotation
  3. Players with strong grips tend to strike it solidly

Cons

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and can cause you to hit it low and left
  2. If you don’t learn to rotate you could be in for a long career of ducks and trees
  3. Players with strong grips tend to fight a hook and getting the ball in the air

 

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Well, we have been doing our own thing and blazing a trail for our 115, 000 followers, and because your Human-machine is free of wires and strings, it knows what to do if you give it a clear task. CLARITY IN YOUR TASK will get you the consistency in the movement and it is important for your mind to understand so you know how to let things happen! Enjoy this video on proper leg work in the golf swing and enjoy the practice in your backyard with the easy drills we provide you!

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