Golfers, in their never-ending quest to improve, will listen to almost anything if it means knocking strokes off their score. They should be aware that this practice can be really dangerous for their game, because not all swing advice applies to everyone. Even a good suggestion may not be good for them.
I come across these scenarios all too often. Let’s say that Golfer A, a well-meaning friend or playing partner, passes along a tip that helped him improve to Golfer B. Golfer B tries it and suddenly can’t get the ball on the clubface. The very thing that was great for Golfer A was the worst thing for Golfer B’s game, and this happens more often than you might think it does.
Let’s look at a few situations. As you will see, good swing advice can often make things worse if the audience is wrong.
Swing Fault No. 1: “Rocking”
Throughout my years as a golfer and instructor, one of the most common swing flaws I see is the “reverse pivot,” or what the great John Jacobs more aptly described as “rocking.” Rocking is when a golfer’s weight shifts to their front foot, or towards the target, during the backswing. The golfer then falls away from the target in the downswing, moving weight to the back foot. This causes a very shallow attack angle into the golf ball and leads to a number of problems.
Photo by J.D. Cuban: Image from Golf Digest.
Most golfers who cannot take a divot are rockers. When the body backs up to the rear foot, this causes the golf club to ascend, or hit UP on the ball. Golfers can get away with this on a tee shot since the ball is elevated on a tee, but they rarely hit clean shots from the turf.
Here’s where good swing advice from a friend can kill your game. A well-meaning friend points out that you are “rocking” and suggests that you “get more weight on the rear foot in the backswing.” He/she heard Mr. Analyst talking about it on TV or heard it said at the 19th hole.
It sounds good enough, so you shift your weight to the right foot as you take the club away. Great. Now you have placed yourself in a perfectly good position to miss the golf ball entirely. Why? Because you have corrected only one part of the problem.
A rocker’s body is very in tune with falling away on the downswing, because you rocked to your front foot in order to keep your balance. The trouble is that if you fall away from the new position at the top of the backswing you will hit UP more than ever. You went from shallow to MORE shallow, which can be a killer.
The original downswing move was somewhat compatible with a reverse pivot, but now it’s the WORST thing you can do. You will most likely miss the golf ball altogether if you shift your weight toward the back foot. This is a perfect example of good advice falling on the wrong ears and it can destroy a golfer’s progress. There will come a time to work on a better backswing. It’s just not the FIRST thing this golfer should do in this case.
Good teachers understand this dynamic and handle it with care. When to introduce a change and who should make that change is every bit as important as the change itself. Nothing happens in a vacuum in a golf swing; every single part of the swing is closely related to every other part. You cannot isolate a new move and simply try it on its own.
In the example I just discussed, the player would have been much better served to turn through the ball (as much as possible) until the attack angle actually gets steep. THEN he can work on turning AWAY from the ball.
A few more scenarios will help show that good advice in the wrong ears can hinder progress.
Swing Fault No. 2: “Over the top”
The dreaded outside-in swing path, usually accompanied by a steep plane, is a move that about 75 percent of golfers are guilty of to a certain degree. It usually results in a “fade,” which is just a nice word for a slice (the only golfers truly “fading” the ball are playing for a living).
Again, when you are informed about this age old problem, your buddy tells you to “hit more from the inside.” However, until you’re able to correct the cause of the over-the-top move in the first place — a majorly open face — the dreaded outside-in path will be unaffected by his/her advice. So, the observation that you’re coming over the top is accurate, but you’ll need to learn to square the clubface if there is any chance to correct the path.
Swing Fault No. 3: Early Release
Golfers who release the club too early tend to slide in front of the ball. They MUST or they will hit well behind it. Are you going to:
- Learn to stay behind the ball first?
- Learn to delay your release first?
Here’s why it matters: You need positive reinforcement as soon as possible.
Let’s say your buddy tells you to “stay more behind the ball.” If you do so before you correct the early release, you’ve made the problem much worse. In other words, getting in front of the ball complements an early release. It is not optimal, but it can be functional. By changing only one part of the problem, you are no longer functional at all.
Swing Fault No. 4: Flat backswing
Matt Kuchar has one of the PGA Tour’s flattest swings, but his position at the top of his backswing matches the rest of his swing. That’s part of the reason why he’s one of the Tour’s most consistent ball strikers.
Golfers with flatter backswings tend to turn their body into the shot from the top, which is done out of necessity so they don’t get too far underneath the ball. If he/she first learns a more upright takeaway before the “turning into it” move is corrected, most of the shots will be skulled or topped to the left. While the flat backswing MAY have to be corrected at some point, the order of the correction is all important to avoid that dreadful first shot negative feedback.
Good advice with bad timing is bad advice!
There are many scenarios that illustrate the moral of this story, but one thing is certain; the early days of changing your swing can be frustrating, often tempting you to dismiss the whole idea of making improvements. Find a teacher you can trust, however, and he/she will guide you on how to get the entire swing ready for the golf course. If you are a regular reader of my GolfWRX articles or one of my regular students, you know that I warn golfers all the time about the action/reaction dynamic in golf instruction.
No matter what your major swing flaw is, make sure to seek professional teaching advice and not just accept a band-aid fix from a playing partner. Often times, these quick fixes can cause more swing problems than you had in the first place, hindering your scores and enjoyment of the game in the process.
Before making any changes, think about their cause/effect on YOUR swing and whether that change will help or hurt YOUR game. If you don’t know what those causes and effects are, it’s often best to seek the advice of a professional.
As always, feel free to send a swing to my Facebook page. I will do my best to give you my feedback.
Master your takeaway with force and torques
Most golf swings last less than 2 seconds, so it’s difficult to recover from any errors in the takeaway. Time is obviously limited. What most golfers fail to realize is that the force and torque they apply to the club in the initial stages of the swing can have major effects on how they are able to leverage the club with their arms and wrists.
Our research has shown that it is best to see the golfer as a series of connected links with the most consistent golfers transferring motion smoothly from one link to another and finally to the club. Approximately 19-25 percent of all the energy created in a golf swing actually makes its way into the motion of the club. That means the remaining 75-80 percent is used up in moving the body segments. This emphasizes the fact that a smooth takeaway is your best chance sequence the body links and become more efficient with your energy transfers.
In the video above, I give a very important lesson on how the forces and torques applied by the golfer in the takeaway shape the rest of the swing. There will be more to come on the subject in future articles.
Learn from the Legends: Introduction
There is a better way to swing the golf club. I’d prefer to write that there is a correct way to swing the club, but I know that really freaks people out. People love to talk about how everyone’s swing is different. “There are lots of ways to get it done,” they say. “Look at Jim Furyk’s swing – it’s not what you’d teach, but it works for him.”
To some extent, they’re right. Elite swings do have different looks. Some take it back inside (Ray Floyd). Some cross the line (Tom Watson). Some swings are long (Bubba Watson). Some are short (young Tiger). But these differences are superficial and largely irrelevant. When it comes to the engine – the core of the swing – the greatest players throughout the history of the game are all very similar.
Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you. In this series of articles, I will do my best to show you – with pictures and videos and data – that the legends all move a specific way. Focusing on these elements (while ignoring others) and practicing a certain way is the surest path to improving your golf swing and lowering your scores.
So, let’s get into it. There are a number of important elements that all the legends have, but the biggest and most important of these elements is rotation. Every great player throughout the history of the game has had elite rotation. It’s the most important thing they do, and it’s easy to see. When you’re looking down the line at all the great players at impact, you’ll see hips and torso open.
This is what the legends look like at impact:
And here’s what some very good players with less good rotation look like at impact:
Now, there are plenty of nuances to how great players rotate. They do it while keeping spine flexion, for example, and they do it with very little (or no) lateral movement toward the target (lateral movement impedes rotation). I will discuss these things in detail. My hope is that at the end of this series you will have a much better understanding of what separates the legends from the very good… and from the rest of us.
You will understand their “engine,” and hopefully this understanding will help you begin to create your own legendary swing!
10 reasons your golf game isn’t improving (even if you’re practicing a lot)
One of the things I hate to see is when you watch someone come to the practice facility day after day, week after week, truly doing what they think is best for their games and they continue to get worse. In fact, you can actually do more harm than good by “practicing” if you are not careful. So in this article I want to give you my top-10 reasons your game is not improving, even if you’re practicing more than ever.
1) You’re not practicing, you’re just getting exercise
We all know the guy who walks into the grill room and boasts that he has hit five pyramids of balls that day. The problem is, at least 90 percent of those shots were a complete waste of time! This guy is only getting exercise, not doing himself any good whatsoever. As a matter of fact, this is my number one pet-peeve for my clients who have retired and are looking for something to fill their day. When you hit this many balls, you have no chance to get better as you are only ingraining poor swing flaws or improper motions from getting tired.
Please limit yourself to one hour per range session, and use this time wisely with slow motion swings, proper feedback, and mirror work; this way, you just might improve. Anything past that hour mark (unless you’re a trained professional athlete or top-level amateur), and you are spinning your wheels, in my opinion.
2) You don’t understand “feel vs real”
Feel and real are two different things, and if you don’t know the difference, you’ll have to practice twice as hard for twice as long to get any better. Remember the feeling of making that “new” move? How weird it feels and how similar it actually looks on camera? Don’t be afraid to exaggerate a new move in order to make the change you want; if you don’t exaggerate it, then you may have to put in much more time in order to eradicate yourself of whatever move you’re trying to eliminate.
Use video feedback to remind yourself of what is actually happening when you’re making a swing change. Huge changes in our mind often translate to very small changes in real life; the camera will remind you what needs to be done.
3) You only practice the fun things
How many times have you gone to the range and worked on smashing your driver versus working on hitting trouble shots around trees, or your super-long lag putting? In fact, we are all guilty of working on things that we are already good at or enjoy doing with the excuse that “we don’t want to lose it.” Personally, I hate practicing my long irons and seldom did when I was playing, and because of this fact, I am not too stellar from outside 200 yards still today. Why? Because that was in the days of small bladed forged irons and whenever you missed them they felt terrible and therefore I avoided them. Not a smart idea. Hone your strengths, but work hard on your problem areas to really improve.
4) You’re not making practice uncomfortable and pressure filled
Another one of the things I constantly see is where a player can hit the ball like a champ on the range, but the moment they walk on the course, things change for the worse. Why? Because they become too outcome focused. If they could reverse the mental process — making practice pressure filled and the course worry-free — they would be a world beater. My favorite drill is to set a goal during a practice session, such as making 100 3-footers in a row; and if you don’t reach that goal, open up your wallet and throw $20 on the ground for someone to find. If you do this, I promise you will focus and feel pressure. These are the type of things that one must do in order to simulate game-like conditions.
5) You’re not testing your changes on the golf course
Ok, you’ve worked on it, and you feel that you have mastered the “new” move that will cure your snap hook… now take it to the course and test it out! There is no better way to see if your no-double-cross swing is working by aiming down the line of trouble and trying to work it away from it. The course is the only place for you to see if you truly have a grasp of the new move, and under pressure on the course is the only way to actually know for sure!
6) Your equipment isn’t truly fit to what you’re trying to do as a player
If you have faulty equipment, then how can you actually know you have eliminated a faulty move or funky shot? Maybe those super-slick grips are causing your grip pressure to increase at address and this is the reason why you tend to swing the club too much to the inside on the way back? Or is it a faulty motion of the forward arm and wrist? If your clubs are not correct, then you will always fight something that might not actually be your issue.
Think about the buddy of yours who has irons that have an incorrect lie angle… how much easier could the game be if they were correct?
7) You don’t have any… goals, practice, evaluation or feedback
I’m sorry, but just swatting balls daily is not the best way to get any better! Have you ever asked yourself “what is today’s goal?” and then “what is the best way to work toward achieving that goal?” Next time you’re at the range, ask yourself those two questions, and then ask yourself how you will measure this and understand the feedback you’re given. Most people do not even think of these things, nor do they have factors in place in order to do so.
To be a better player, like in life, you have to have clear-cut goals in mind, or else you are being sloppy. Remember to take into account the four things above, or you will not improve as rapidly as you’d like!
8) You’re working on mechanics only, not how to score
Yes, you can do either or both in your practice, but don’t get them confused! What is your first objective in a given practice session — making a more consistent motion or lowering your score? Most of the time, they don’t have anything to do with one another.
9) You’re overly focused on the “look,” not the function
Are you too focused on making a perfect swing instead of one that is functionally correct and repetitive? Yes, we’d all like to look as pretty as Adam Scott, but understand that Furyk has a better record — it’s not about beauty, it’s about function at the end of the day.
10) You’re working on your swing with a non-professional
This is one that hits close to home, as I HATE to see people working on the incorrect things on the range, or from their buddy who can’t break 90. It kills me to watch someone working on their exit pattern when their grip or transition is the fault. Please make sure you at least consult with someone who knows more about the game and the swing than you do, and if your thoughts check out, then by all means go at it alone. I’m a big fan of players being self-sufficient, but for every Watson or Trevino who figured it out on their own, there are millions of golfers who screwed themselves up royally doing this.
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