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Solving your golf swing equation



I think of the golf swing as two parts: The backswing and the downswing. Each represents a side of an equation that needs to be balanced. In other words, the downswing needs to be compatible with the backswing; it has to complement it for a golfer to reach a good impact position.

It would not be a stretch to say that a golfer can make almost any backswing if they learn the counterbalance motion in the downswing. Those of you who are regular readers of my instruction columns know that I often discuss this issue, simply because it is the single most important aspect of hitting the ball solidly.

If we look in the golf hall of fame, we would see a variety of backswings. Take Lee Trevino’s backswing and compare it to Raymond Floyd’s. Or to use a more recent example, take Jim Furyk’s backswing and compare it to Matt Kuchar’s.


Matt Kuchar (left), Tiger Woods (center) and Jim Furyk.

What do these swings have in common? Each player learned a downswing that is fully compatible with their backswing.

If you look at the video below, I have filmed a student who has a very Jim Furyk-like backswing, that is, the left arm is almost totally vertical at the top, but the downswing difference is radically changed and rather obvious.

It is very difficult to change the way golfers get to the top of the swing. The good news is that you might not have to — at least not drastically!

A few more detailed examples.

The golf swing has two components: Vertical and horizontal. The more vertical it is, the more narrow the motion tends to be. The more horizontal it is, the wider it tends to be.  Picture the up-and-down swing as a “V,” and the around swing as a “U.” If you have an upright backswing, you’ll need a little width coming down to balance your swing equation. Conversely, if you take the club away flat, you’ll need to narrow your downswing arc.

How do golfers gain or lose swing width? Look at it this way: If a player stays very centered over the golf ball, with little to no motion “off the ball,” he or she could balance that narrowing with a fairly wide arm swing, i.e. pushing the club away or setting it quite late. So the width here would be with the arms and club, as in a flat swing.

Golfers who move to the rear foot with a more lateral move off the ball have their width in the body motion. Their swing will need to be balanced with a more narrow swing arc, as in a vertical swing: one that stays in tighter to the body or sets the club up earlier in the backswing.

When Tiger Woods was younger, for example, he had a very wide body move off the ball, but took the club way up high (and across the line) to balance the slide. When he started staying more “stacked,” his swing got flatter by necessity (he was much more comfortable in my opinion with the old way, but he did win both ways). Tiger seems to be getting wider again off the ball now, and a little more up with the clubs and arms.

Then we have a Sergio Garcia-type swing. He is very wide going back, with no offsetting upright move in the backswing, but he has a very, very narrow downswing arc with all that lag. Again, a balance. All elite level ball strikers have matching components.

Jim Hardy said once that golf can be played in even numbers, never odd numbers. that is, Two back, Two down works, but 3 back, 2 down does not.

The permutations are numerous, but matching is the key. Another example: Does Jim Furyk drop and flatten the club coming down because he takes it back so upright? Or did he start out by learning that drop, and then figure out that the super upright backswing matches it? The answer is, “Who knows or even cares.” It has worked for him to the tune of some $64 million.. and counting.

I can’t think of ONE THING that all great golfers did in their swing except hit it solid. I’ve played in PGA section events and state opens with guys who looked like they were digging ditches and shot 68. I also teach some “beautiful swings” who can’t break 80. The difference? Compatibility.

It’s usually futile to try and change your whole swing. I might suggest finding an innate CORE MOVE and building around it.

If you’d like me to analyze your swing, go to my Facebook page or contact me ( about my online swing analysis program.

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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



  1. Pingback: Golf Swing Mechanics - Backswing and Downswing - Golf Training News

  2. Craig

    May 8, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    I have always been told my problem is L.O.F.T. – Lack of Freaking Talent.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 9, 2015 at 9:06 am

      LOL. We all have LOFT but we do the best we can with what we have to work with????

  3. Mike

    May 7, 2015 at 9:45 am

    “I’ve played in PGA section events and state opens with guys who looked like they were digging ditches and shot 68. I also teach some “beautiful swings” who can’t break 80. The difference? Compatibility.”

    Scary and makes me wonder if it’s a talent thing and all of our work is in futility.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 7, 2015 at 10:22 am

      Never futile my friend. There are also plenty of classic swings who can flat golf their ball!

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Brooks Koepka’s grip secret



Here is a great video on understanding what allows a great player to get through the ball and deliver hardcore to his targets. Without this part of his grip, he would be hard-pressed to deliver anything with any kind of smash factor and compression. See what you can learn from his grip.

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Swing speed vs. quality impact



In today’s age of hitting the ball as hard and as far as you can on tour, I am amazed at the number of amateur golfers who totally disregard the idea of quality impact. In fact, you can hit the ball further with better impact than you can with poor impact and more speed (to a point.) Sure, if you can kick the clubhead speed up 10 MPH-plus versus your normal speed, then this is not a requirement, but in reality most players only swing a few MPH faster when they actually try. Yes, this is true, I see it day after day. You might think you can swing 10 MPH faster but rarely do I see more than 2-3 MPH tops.

I had a student that came in the other day and was obsessed with swinging harder but when he did his impacts were terrible! When I put him on Trackman and showed him the data he was astounded that he could swing slower yet produce more distance.

Here was a typical swing he made when swinging faster 105.8 mph where the impact was low on the face and the ball carried 222.3 yards.

Here was a typical swing he made when swinging slower 102.9 mph where the impact was much better on the face and the ball carried 242.7 yards.

Now, obviously we know that this works to a certain degree of swing speed but it does show you that focusing on quality impact is a key as well. I’m always telling my players that I want them to swing as hard and as fast as they can AND maintain quality impact location — if you can do both then you can have it all!

The best way to understand impact quality without dismantling your swing is to use foot spray to coat the face of the club then hit a few balls to see where impact normally occurs and see if you can adjust.

If you can, great, if not, then go see your teaching professional and figure out why so you can find quality impact once and for all!

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How to warm up for golf PROPERLY



Leo Rooney, Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance, shows you how to get ready to hit balls and/or hit the golf course.

Who is Leo Rooney?

Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance
B.Sc Exercise Physiology

Leo Rooney played 16 years of competitive golf, in both college and professionally. He got a degree in exercise physiology and has worked with anyone from top tour players to beginners. Leo is now the Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance and is responsible for the overall operations but still works closely with some elite tour players and the UCLA Men’s Golf Team.

He also has experience in long driving with a personal best 445-yard drive in the 2010 European Long driving Championship.

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19th Hole