What fundamentals?

by   (Senior Writer I)   |   June 29, 2012
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Last time I talked bout some common myths about the golf swing; things you might hear at the hot dog stand or 19th hole.  This article is a variance on that concept, but deals more directly with selectivity and your ability to pick and choose your personal swing changes.

We hear so much about the “fundamentals” of golf.  I think the prevailing mentality here is if one gets a good grip, learns to aim, position the golf ball and gets into the correct posture, we are all set to make a swing.  And certainly after many years of teaching I agree with this, but at the same time I have learned that these “fundamentals” vary considerably from player to player.  Your path to improvement is based on your ability to incorporate selective changes into your motion and set up.

When I first started teaching I was a method teacher; a true one size fits all, if it’s not in “Golf My Way” forget it kind of teacher. I quickly learned that this approach was going to help some, but by no means all-or even that many.  All you have to do is look at the top 50 players in the world and you’ll find an infinite variety of postures, ball positions, swing planes etc.  The reason for this is simple:  There are many ways to swing the golf club.

But what the great players are able to do is find a way to match their various components to produce great impact. Tiger Woods is a classic example:  Every time Tiger has changed teachers, he has had to change something about the way he set up to the golf ball.  That’s because, for example, the Harmon ball position might not work with the Haney grip or the Haney posture might match the Foley aim.  So when you hear or read something about the golf swing, how do you know if the information fits your game? The answer is that you don’t!  You don’t know if you’re throwing a wrench in the machinery that might ruin the whole operation!  I never, ever change something in a golf swing because some manual said this is how it should work, or because it makes someone look better.  Every correction has to be tailored to that player’s motion.

Here’s what you have to know:  Once you develop a golf swing it is very difficult to change it.  Period!  The good news you may be able to work within the parameters of your move by finding a grip, ball position, width-of stance, posture etc. to complement it.  And even if you do succeed in changing your swing pattern you will certainly need a grip change or something else that is compatible with the new delivery.  Example:  Can you play with an outside-in swing?  Sure as long as the club face is a little open to the path!  Learn to balance your personal equation! Here are a few examples:

  • Flatter swings tend to produce a clubface that closes more easily than steeper swings. So a strong grip is usually not compatible with a flat downswing plane.
  • Out to in swings are late into impact (swing bottom further forward) by design.  So they usually require an earlier release of the golf club.
  • Wide arm swings usually need a more centered pivot in the backswing
  • “Lagging the club” (a very late release, something I rarely if ever teach) usually needs a full shoulder turn in the backswing and an inside path into the golf ball.
  • Around-the body swings usually need to stand a little further from the golf ball. And up and down swings usually need to stand a bit closer.
  • Very early releasers usually need to be more active in their body motion through the golf ball to avoid fat shots.
  • Swings that have a very steep angle of attack usually need to aim a bit more left. (down is right, up is left)

The list is endless; these are just some examples of certain observations I have made over the course of some 30,000 golf lessons.  And please make note that I put the word “usually” in italics on all these points simply because there are exceptions to every rule.  But this much is clear:  When you try to make a swing change pay particular attention to what “fundamentals” complement that pattern.  You cannot randomly choose to grip the golf club stronger just because you read somewhere that it might increase distance. Or you cannot simply increase your shoulder turn in the backswing because it works for one of your golf buddies.  This is how most people get seriously off course; by trying to incorporate a “fundamental” that is fundamentally incorrect for their pattern, they cannot find their way back.

But maybe I should keep quiet…friends helping friends keeps me in business!!!  Good luck, DC

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum.

About

Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional and advanced certified instructor, a distinction held by fewer than 2 percent of all PGA Professionals. He is recognized as one of the top instructors in the country, and holds no less than seven PGA awards including "Teacher of the Year" and "Golf Professional of the Year." Dennis directs his own academy in Naples, FL. He can reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

Dennis holds two degrees in education and has worked with golfers of all levels for over 30 years. A native of Philadelphia, Dennis currently directs the Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.

GolfWRX Writer of the Month: April 2014, May 2014


5 Comments

  1. dennis clark

    July 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Try lengthening your left thumb, really stretch it down the shaft and see how it goes.

  2. Keith

    July 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Dennis,
    Great post. Interesting points on the golf swing and the many swings you’ve seen that are successful. I am struggling right now with the hook/duck-hook. I’ve fought this swing problem over the years and most of the time, buckets after buckets of balls at the range seem to fix it. I have seen my handicap move from a +1 to now teetering on 8 in just over five years. I’ve been doing exactly what you described – just finished re-reading Ben Hogan’s Five Fundamentals book and working on my grip with little thought to the other parts of the swing that are being affected. Great points and great post. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience.

  3. Josh

    July 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Very interesting article. I’ve been working with Dennis for a couple years now and he knows the golf swing better than anyone I’ve ever gone to. He has taken me from the dreaded s words to now getting into a single digit handicap

  4. Nathan

    July 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Very interesting read! As a youth I emulated MJ with my tongue sticking out as I played hoops. Do you find players emulating their favorite PGA star?

  5. Troy Vayanos

    June 30, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Great post Dennis,

    Yes there are so many different golf swings out there. I’ve had to work really hard at making swing changes that have been there for 20 years. It’s really tough to do and something you need to work constantly at.

    Cheers

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