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Winning Swings: Tim Clark, don’t sweat the small stuff

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[youtube id=”hiyJDmmt6NI” width=”620″ height=”360″]

Tim Clark is a world-class player who has built his swing around a physical condition that doesn’t allow him to rotate his palms upward. In the video above, I take a look at his mechanics and swing plane, but the real lesson here is to not let size or physical challenges stop you from being all you want to be.

I grew up in the inner city and spent many summer days waiting until 4 p.m. so I could play golf for the discount rate of $2.50, so I always admired athletes who achieved more than others in their position may have. The professional tours are full of physically gifted golfers who have had a world of opportunity, but I’m a fan of the guys who achieve more with less.

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

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. paul

    Jul 28, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I started playing golf with a very strong grip and thanks to swinging a hammer for 12 years (similar motion in my right wrist, I am a lefty in golf) I could pound it into the 280-300 yard range pretty good. I have since sprained both wrists and can’t gain my distance back. Any suggestions for gaining back the 30-40 yards I lost would be appreciated. My accuracy is excellent, distance sucks. Drive 240, 7 iron 155 carry. I just suffer on longer courses. Par 4s at 420+ are silly hard but I used to play em fine. 10 handicap… Ish.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 28, 2014 at 10:05 pm

      Paul, if it’s mechanical it’s correctable; id need to see a video of it. But if it’s physical…another story. What doers your doctor or trainer say? I lost 20 yards after heart surgery and cant find it? It’s a strange thing…

      • paul

        Jul 28, 2014 at 10:57 pm

        Not mechanical. I tried a strong grip a few days ago hitting into a net and my wrists hurt for two days after. Its all physical now. I play a neutral grip now. I am debating trying strengthening my grip a tiny bit at a time and seeing if I can gain a little distance back. But I am struggling with if its worth the trade off. I enjoy my swing, its just my ego that wants the big numbers back. I used to be quite inaccurate and had a big hook sometimes. Now I play a straight shot or straight fade. I have had rounds where I hit 80-90% of fairways. I used to be 30%. Also dropped 10 strokes with new neutral grip.

        • paul

          Jul 28, 2014 at 11:00 pm

          Physiotherapist said she would need xrays to know for sure what is going on in my wrists. My wrists were hurt when I tried a used club and the tip let go and the head flew off as I released the club.

  2. spinout

    Jul 28, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    How does Tim flatten out his driver swing then? I’ve read on here that he’s one of the most efficient drivers of the ball based on his club head speed. I think I saw some something where his angle of attack was like +5 degrees. I cheer for the guy whenever he’s in contention and I think they should allow him to keep the belly putter after the rules change

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 28, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      It looks to me like he moves more behind the ball and swings flatter with his driver. And “backing up” from a steep downswing can create a hitting up motion with the driver. Some things cant be explained, look at a Jim Furyk or Raymond Floyd…talent is a word that comes to mind.

      • spinout

        Jul 29, 2014 at 12:47 am

        Just so I can learn something. Does backing up mean not shifting your weight on the down swing? I’m guessing by your response and your talent comparisons that this swing has some crazy compensation move that you have to have some amazing talent to time.

        • Dennis Clark

          Jul 29, 2014 at 9:12 am

          It means your upper body tilts away from the target to get the club back on plane or in a position from where you can avoid a crash because of a steep downswing. The analysis suggest that great players have a series of motions that are compatible. Lesser players go through a series of motions that are incompatible, that is don’t match. In Clark’s case, his strong grip and physical limitation are the base lines of his motions. Strong grip, extended (cupped) wrists create steep downswing plane but that is compatible with a strong grip and so on…get it?

  3. Andrew

    Jul 28, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Agree with the sentiments above about coaches not coaching to the individual and helping the student becoming the best they can with what they have got (that could be limited physical, mental ability and with the how much time to be able to practice).

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 28, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      Andrew, it’s the ONLY way to teach and coach. What a player does as result of their body type is not gonna change….a teacher has to work with that.

  4. Lord Helmet

    Jul 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Just goes to show you – many ways to skin the cat. Just get to a good impact position and you will be just fine.

  5. Bryan

    Jul 28, 2014 at 10:29 am

    That was an excellent review. Being that my swing has always been very vertical, and little forearm rotation, it’s nice to see it pay off for a tour level player. I’m a 3.6, and I’ve wondered if my swing that is much more comparable to Tims than that of a Sergio, has held me back from a scratch. I don’t have his hip rotation though impact.

    I wish more PGA teaching pros would teach to the individual student vs. teaching positions that only 1% of the world are able to attain.

    anyways; great review

    • ZC

      Jul 28, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Very much agree with this comment – physical limitations do influence the golf swing (maybe not always as much as Tim Clark’s) but they inevitably do to some extent.

      The more teaching that takes them into account the better…

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Instruction

Learn to play like the pros by mastering course management basics

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The line that is drawn between amateurs and professionals certainly covers more than one aspect. However, there are some things that anyone can do in order play like the pros and shoot better scores. Knowing how to plot your way around the course from tee to green is something that not many amateurs take into consideration, though it is something that professionals do so well. Learning how to play to your strengths and learning to take what the course gives you will ultimately lower your scores, no matter what your handicap.

From the tee

-Use sound judgment when setting up on the tee box by knowing what your miss is and playing for it. For example, for those that fade that ball, teeing the ball on the right side of the box allows you to play for your shot shape with more room for the ball to work. This is also the case for playing away from trouble, in being that lining up on the side of trouble allows you to play away from it.

-In some cases on short holes, make a note to hit your tee ball to where you leave yourself with a comfortable yardage for your approach. You don’t gain anything from hitting a driver if it leaves you with a feel shot from 30 yards when you could hit a wood or hybrid and leave yourself with a full club in. (This is also the case when hitting your second shot on a par 5)

Hitting into the green

-Know which pins you should attack and which ones you shouldn’t. The biggest mistake that many amateurs make is trying to hit the ball at a tucked pin. Even the professionals choose which flags to go at and which holes to play safe, making sure they leave themselves a putt rather than short siding themselves.

Chipping/Putting

-The biggest thing that gets us in trouble around the greens or on them is trying to make the ball go in the hole. It’s easy to get greedy with your shot and create the mindset that you have to make it when, in reality, it’s much more feasible to play for a three-foot circle around the hole. Leaving you an easy tap in. There is nothing more infuriating than a 3-putt.

I hope these tips will benefit your golf game by allowing you to manage your way around the golf course. The pros use these same approaches when they step on each hole, and it is imperative that you do also. We all may not have the ability that professionals do, but we can certainly learn things from them that will lower our scores.

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Lesson of the Day: Improve right arm connection for a more consistent golf swing

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In our “Lesson of the Day” video series with V1 Sports, we match a different GolfWRX member with a different V1 Sports instructor. It’s extremely important to both V1 Sports and GolfWRX to help golfers improve their games and shoot lower scores, and there’s no better way to do that than getting lessons. While we not only want to provide free lessons to select GolfWRX members, we want to encourage and inspire golfers to seek professional instruction. For instructions on how to submit your own video for a chance at getting a free lesson from a V1 Sports instructor as part of our Lesson of the Day series, CLICK HERE.

About the pro

Clinton Whitelaw is the Head Teaching Professional at University Park Country Club in Sarasota, Florida. Clinton was a prolific junior player in South Africa before he attended UCLA on a full scholarship. He turned pro at age 21 and has recorded more than 55 top-10 finishes around the world, including winning the 1993 South African Open and the 1997 Moroccan Open on the European Tour.

Lesson synopsis

There are two main swing flaws identified in this GolfWRX member’s swing that can be improved. The first is a disconnected right arm in the body that causes the arms to be out of sync with the body. The second is a bent left arm in the follow through, which causes a loss in power. Two easy drills can be practiced to create a simple, repeatable, and consistent golf swing.

Student’s action plan

  1. Practice with a glove under the right right armpit to improve connection with the body
  2. Practice the “9 o’clock to 3 o’clock” drill demonstrated at the end of the video lesson

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Should you strive for a flatter transition in your golf swing?

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A lot has been said recently regarding flattening the transition in the downswing. As a teacher for many years, I totally agree that this is clearly what highly skilled players do. Sasho Mackenzie, the great biomechanist from Canada, explains that when the center of mass of the golf club gets UNDER the hand path coming down, we get a much easier squaring of the club face.

There is, however, a difference in the players we see making this move and average amateur golfers. Nothing in the golf swing happens in a vacuum, so to speak. That is, every move has to complement the other moves and balance the equation. So when we see Sergio “laying the club down” (flatten) in transition, it complements or is in sync with the “delivery” he has into impact.

Sergio has Hogan-esque “lag” in his downswing. That is, his wrists stay cocked very late as he approaches impact. with a great deal of forward shaft lean. While this may be characteristic of all great ball strikers, his “flat” action is more pronounced than most. He lays the club down, downcocks his wrists and voila, strikes it solid.

The point here is when the shaft is laid off and flattened in transition, it cannot then be released early. Those who cast, or release early from a laid off transition are staring shanks right in the face, and feeling heel hits with the driver. The reason is the club is being cast out, not down when it is coming in on a more horizontal plane. When a professional flattens it, they then tighten the delivery with hands in and a narrowed arc into impact. This is a huge distinction, and one I feel is little understood. If you are working on laying it down, but are used to an early release, you may accomplish the former, but are asking for trouble on the latter. It has to be released later and tighter after the transition to work.

Another common error I see quite often is the hand path issue. Here I’m referring to to how far from the body the hands move on the down swing. If you are a player who transition steep (too vertical), your miss is very likely the toe of the club. As a result you develop a habit of sending your hands out and away from your center (the distal and proximal, in biomechanist terminology) to compensate for the toe hit and in an attempt to find the center of the face. That swing habit is common and will, at times, compensate for the steep transition.  So you can see why the club will be more likely to hit the heel if it is delivered on a more horizontal plane.

The point here is this: it’s the same theme that I have seen and written about for many years:  Golf swing corrections, if that be your goal, are rarely singular; the come in pairs.  And the reason it can be frustrating is because we have develop two new feelings, not one. Many golfers abandon the effort because the accomplish one without the other.

If, for example, you decide your transition is far too steep, and you flatten it but then cast the club (remember now OUT not DOWN) and hit the heel of the club or shank a wedge, you may say: “Hey, that’s just not for me; or that was WORSE, not better”. And you’d be right, the RESULT is likely to be worse- but maybe not the effort.  If you are committed to a swing change, it rarely comes with a singular correction.

Be sure you know what you’re in for when working on laying the club down ala Sergio, or Furyk, or Ryan Moore, when you are told you’re too steep starting down.  My advice would be to try and work on one thing at at time.  For this particular correction, I have my students ht balls on a sidehill, above the feet lie. This can orient you to a more horizontal swing feeling and then an only then can start to work on keeping the hands, arms and body connected (the “inside moving the outside”) for the completion of the swing change.

One final note on this: I want to repeat that any change is optional based on your current ball striking, not what your video looks like. Phil Mickelson is one of the best players EVER, and his swing starts down as steeply as any club golfer, and he swings his hand path out away from him as a result every time. Let me me ask this question: who among us would change the swing of a 44-time champion and five-major winner on the PGA Tour? Whatever works…

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