In my previous article, I showed how different impact positions produce different ball flights and distances at a given speed because of dynamic loft. The reader feedback split the board, achieving both a ton of likes and shanks.There’s nothing like a bit of controversy to make people think!
The message was not that lag and shaft lean are necessarily bad things; it was to create awareness that:
- Launch angle plays a massive role in carry distance, especially at slower speeds. If you have a ton of shaft lean at impact with a slower swing speed (and a lot of people are trying to do this), you will hit the ball too low and will limit your carry distance.
- Most golfers recognize that a very low trajectory is not optimal, so their subconscious mind will severely resist creating the “lag n’ lean” position they think they need. That’s why so many golfers struggle to add lag to their swing; their subconscious mind hates the associated flight!
- It is possible to lag the club a lot and then get rid of the lag to arrive at impact with less forward shaft lean at impact. If you are going to create a lot of lag, however, you better have the ability to create the work (forces and torques) necessary to un-lag it enough to create your desired impact position (Finney, 2015).
From the above, we basically have a couple of choices. Either we create more lag n’ lean and deal with the lower trajectory (an option for higher speed players), or we learn to swing with slightly less shaft lean (an option for slower speed players).
One of the predominant arguments I saw in the comments section of my previous article was that you need tons of forward lean to strike the ball correctly. That’s not true, because having forward lean alone does not create a perfect strike. Golfers can still dump the club head a foot behind the ball with a ton of shaft lean, and there are a whole host of other variables contributing to strike quality. Also, there are ways of making minimal forward shaft lean work.
The trajectory of our club head throughout the swing is circular, or elliptical in nature.
- Height: How deep or shallow it is into the ground.
- Position: How forward or back it is from the ball.
- Distance: How close or far it is from a golfer’s feet.
Let’s look at height and position.
Lag N’ Lean
With a lag and lean approach, the lowest point of the swing arc will typically be much farther forward of the ball position (more target side). This will also require the low point to be deeper into the ground in order to strike the ground in the right place (see the image below).
With this type of strike, the angle of attack will tend to be steeper, and the club face will tend to be more open to the path. That’s why severely closed-face players such as David Duval, Tommy Gainey and Dustin Johnson all have so much shaft lean at impact. It is their way of creating a more open face angle, as well as the desired trajectories for their swing speeds.
For these types of players, dynamic loft will also tend to be lower at impact, lowering their trajectory.
The other option is to have less forward shaft lean at impact, which results in more dynamic loft and a higher trajectory. For slower speed players, this can increase carry distance and stopping power dramatically. It can also help to close the face more at impact, which can help golfers who struggle with blocks and slices.
With less lean in the swing, the low point will be farther back and more level with the ball. As a result, the low point will need to be closer to the surface of the ground in order to make sure the ground is struck in a functional place, as seen below.
So we see that there is a relationship between the position of the low point of the swing and the depth, as well as where the strike with the ground is. We (almost) always desire to strike the ground where the ball is resting, but this can be done in varying ways (as seen). These different ways produce different impact conditions that will launch the ball differently.
“But all the pros lag n’ lean it. Shouldn’t I do that?”
You’re right; most tour players have a lot of lag and shaft lean in their swings. But they also swing their 6 irons at an average of 92 mph — a speed most golfers are no where near. Tour players need more lag n’ lean because they swing at this higher speed. It reduces their spin and launch, and creates a playable trajectory.
Emulating a pro without the ability to create the speed at which a pro swings often results in less-than-optimal trajectory – even if the strike is crisp.
This article is all about connecting the pieces for the individual player. Taking into consideration a player’s ability to do work (the process of de-lagging), their swing speed, their low-point position and their intended trajectory, we can figure out functional variables to achieve optimal performance. A top player will also have the ability to create more lag ‘n lean or to reduce it, depending on the shot and scenario they’re facing.
I am not recommending that any golfer get into a position where the club is leaning backwards at impact, as a low point that is behind the ball is non-functional in most cases (apart from shots that are teed up). But most golfers will probably do better if they stop their effort to create more lag, or at least stop thinking about it as the be-all, end-all of a good swing. Instead, focus on hitting the ball with a crisp strike and a playable trajectory!
Have more questions? Leave them below. And stay tuned! Next week, I will be discussing another topic relating to low point.
Editor’s Note: Adam discusses these principles and much more in his book, “The Practice Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Golfers,” which is available on Amazon.
Davies: The pitfalls of trying to generate lag in your golf swing
Alistair Davies shares with you how to get lag in the golf swing the right way. Many players go about it the wrong way causing other issues in the golf swing. All will be explained in the video.
What should your hips do in the golf swing?
If you want to become more consistent, a better ball striker and hit longer golf shots then this is the video for you. This video will show you exactly what your hips pelvis should be doing during your backswing, downswing and through impact. Having great control of your pelvis and it’s movement will help you have greater control over your golf swing.
Playing in your mind vs. playing out of your mind
Comparing the recreational beginner to the elite player
As a player, I know there are rounds of golf where I feel like I worked extremely hard to achieve the results and there are also rounds that are effortless and just plain easy. Why do we go through these peaks and valleys in golf?
As an instructor and player, I want to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be playing out of your mind vs. playing in your mind.
I want to address both beginners and elite players on their quest for better play. All beginners and elite players must understand that, as players, we are all experiencing ups and downs. The bottom line is that some handle them better than others.
Why is this a feeling golfers have: “playing out of your mind”?
Well, it is pure relaxation. It is fluid, seamless, continuous motion. No hang-ups. No hiccups.
The next big question, how do we achieve this regularly?
We get to this without forcing it, by believing in our makeup. It is locked in our subconscious. It is a controllable, uncontrollable. Subconsciously, your nervous system is in the green light. You are just doing. This is peak performance. This is the zone. This is playing autonomously, out of your mind.
I believe that over time, a golfer’s game is compiled in his/her built-up expectations of the player they truly believe they are. Expecting to make a putt vs. just so happening to make it feeds two different minds. When you place an expectation on an action tension is created. Tension creeps into our nervous system and our brains either respond or they don’t. This is called pressure. This is what I call playing in your mind. You are in your head, your thoughts are far too many and there is just a whole lot floating around up there.
The more players play/practice, the more they will expect out of themselves, and in result, create that pressure. (ie. Why progress is difficult to achieve the closer you get to shooting par or better). The best players are better at responding to that pressure. Their systems are auto-immune to pressure. (ie. Think of practice like medicine and think of a pre-shot routine like the Advil to help calm the spiking nerves.)
- Playing in your mind = high tension golf… you might need an Advil.
- Playing out of your mind = low tension golf… you are in a good headspace and are doing all the right things before your round even started.
The key to understanding here is that we can play in both minds and achieve success in either situation. It is all about managing yourself and your re-act game.
Subconscious playing is beyond enjoyable. It is more recreational in style. I believe beginners are playing more subconsciously, more recreationally. I believe elite players can learn from the beginner because they are achieving superior moments and sensations more subconsciously, more often. All players at all levels have off days. It is important to remember we all have this in common.
The goal is always to play your best. When I play my best, there are no preconceived thoughts of action. It’s simply action. Playing out of your mind is an unwritten script, unrehearsed, and unrepeatable on a day to day basis, you’re living it.
Say you have that one round, that out of your mind, crazy good day. The next few days, what do you do? Do you try to mimic everything you did to achieve that low number? As good players, we take these great days and try to piece it together into a script of playing. We know we can get it down to almost damn near perfect. The more a player rehearses the better they get. Edits are made…knowing that things are always shifting. Visualization is key.
No doubt, it’s a huge cycle. Players are in a continuous race to achieve results in numbers. Players looking to reach great success should generate a journal/log and compile a record and playback method and revisit it repeatedly.
There is no secret or magic…it takes mastering the minds to achieve the best results more often. Most important, as players, we must recognize that during our amazing rounds…
- We are relaxed
- We are having fun
- We are just doing
In this game, the deeper we go, the more we propose to be there. It will always bring us back to the basics. One complete full circle, back to the beginner in all of us. So, the next time an experienced player sees a beginner on the first tee…take a moment and appreciate that player!
Remember to enjoy the walk and believe that hard work always works!
Please reach out to me at email@example.com to learn more about the zone and how to become accustomed to playing autonomously.
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