3 golf swing “myths” that can hurt your game
Golf is the only game with more teachers than players. Go to a driving range and you will find any number of well intentioned (but not always well informed) folks ready to help you with your game. ”Hey I saw you top that shot, try keeping your head down.” Or … “I think you’re swinging way too hard; try slowing it down and you’ll get rid of that slice!” And of course the time honored, “you took your eye off that one.” Well it just so happens that these tips, and others like them, do not help, and can in fact HURT your game. So lets take a minute to separate fact from fiction and sort through some very common myths about the golf swing.
Myth # 1. KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN!
In all my years of teaching and video taping golf swings, I have NEVER, I repeat never, seen anyone pick up their head at impact. Yet it remains the No. 1 self diagnosis of most golfers. One of the things I hear most often when people come to my lesson tee is, “I know what I do, if I could just learn to stop picking up my head”. The thought is so all consuming sometimes I ask if they are trying to smell the golf ball or hit it. The excessive attempt to keep your head down ruins your posture and therefore your ability to move in balance.
Fact # 1. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP. In order to have balance, your head must be up. Yes you maintain eye contact with the golf ball, but if the head is down to the point where the chin is buried in the chest, this is a sure fire way to restrict the turning motion that is so critical in the swing. This is why bifocals become a bit of a problem — just to be able to see the golf ball, you have keep the head down too much. Most reverse pivots start with your head too far down. Most “chicken wings” (bent left arm at and through impact) are the result of a poor pivot caused by the head too far down. Your head weighs between 8 and 12 pounds and is the heaviest part of the human anatomy — keeping it down can make you top heavy and ruin motion. Heads up at set up!
Myth # 2. SLOW YOUR SWING DOWN.
The second most common thing students tell me is something like “If I could just slow down, I’d be fine.” See there I go again, too quick,” or “I rushed that one.” I tell them something like … “You fight a slice. A slice is hit because the club face is open relative to the path of the swing. So if you slow your swing down and still hit the golf ball with an open face, all you are going to achieve is hitting a SLOW SLICE. It has nothing to do with squaring the face in and of itself.
Fact # 2. LEARN TO SWING YOUR ARMS AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
Almost everyone wants and needs to hit the golf ball further. The No. 1 contributor to distance is speed. Lots of it. The more the merrier. With that in mind, why would you swing slower? Most people I teach lack distance due to lack of arm speed. In fact, I can hear their practice swings, but rarely hear their real swing. That lovely “swish” sound we hear on television is from speed. If you can make that sound on your practice swing, you can make it on your real swing! Try this: put your feet together and see how much speed you can create by swinging your arms. You’ll probably hit it further than ever! Find the maximum speed at which you can swing without losing your balance and have a go at it. Swish your way to better golf!
Myth # 3. THE STRAIGHT LEFT ARM
Forever it has been taught that the left arm should remain ramrod straight throughout the golf swing. While this position, which is a preference not a principle, is the chosen method of some great players, trying to make it the foundation of your golf swing causes any number of problems.
Fact # 3. SOFTEN YOUR LEFT ARM.
A high percentage of people I have taught over the years have too much tension in their swing. Particularly upper body tension. This can be the result of holding the club too tightly or hunching the shoulders, but it is ALWAYS the case when you try to keep your left arm straight. Straight begets stiff, stiff begets tense and tense far too tight, thereby limiting your ability to turn your shoulders in the backswing. Try keeping the left arm relaxed, softer, even if means a slight bend in it at the top of your swing. The natural momentum of your downswing will extend it sufficiently into the impact position. The benefits of a relaxed left arm will outweigh any advantage you get from keeping it stiff. And remember Calvin Peete, who won the Players Championship and 11 other PGA tour events and was one of the straightest drivers ever had a permanently bent left arm!
The point is this: while these tips, and many others like them, may help some people some of the time, misinterpreting them can be disastrous. Most of them fall into the “old wives tale” category, folklore that does not hold up in the age of enlightenment. Remember this: there is no silver bullet, no magic tip or piece of advice that applies to all of us. When you hear one passed on, you can bet it did not come from a knowledgeable teacher. One student’s medicine is another’s poison. Be sure to understand the meaning of these “tips” before incorporating them, and be doubly sure they apply to YOUR SWING.