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What fundamentals?

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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.

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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

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. dennis clark

    Jul 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

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

  2. Keith

    Jul 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

    Jul 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

    Jul 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

    Jun 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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Instruction

Trackman Tuesday (Episode 2): Driver Loft

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Welcome to Episode 2 of Trackman Tuesday. In this weekly series, I will be using Trackman data to help you understand the game of golf in a little more detail and help you hit better shots and play better golf.

In this week’s episode, I look at driver loft. What effect does driver loft have on your shots and how important is it, really?

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Instruction

How Far Away from the Ball Should You Be at Address?

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How far away from the ball should you be at address? This video is in response to a question from Tom McCord on Facebook.

In this video, I look at the setup position. I offer a simple way to check your distance from the ball at address with your driver, irons and wedges.

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Instruction

Tour Pros Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up

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You want to be better at golf, more consistent and longer off the tee. I am sure a lot of you would love to stop hurting. You would like these things with minimal work, if possible. You also want them yesterday. That about sum it up?

In the next 5 minutes, you’ll learn about the one thing that solves these problems for good. Before we dive in, though, I want to tee up three stats for you from my research.

  1. PGA Tour players can jump between 18-22 inches off the ground while LPGA Tour players can jump between 16-20 inches off the ground. Long drive competitors can often leap 30+ inches off the ground!
  2. Elite-level golfers who drive the ball 300+ yards can shot put a 6-pound ball more than 30 feet with less than a 5-percent difference in right-handed to left-handed throws.
  3. Elite golfers in the world can hurl a medicine ball with a seated chest pass just as far in feet as they can jump in inches (ie. a 20-inch vertical leap and a 20-foot seated chest pass).

What do these numbers have to do with you and your game? More importantly, what do these stats have to do with solving your problems? Let’s start by telling you what the solution is.   

Objective Assessment and Intelligent Exercise Prescription

Say that three times fast. It’s a mouth full… But seriously, read it two more times and think about what that means.

It means that before you act on anything to improve your health or your game, you need to objectively assess what the problem is and get to the root cause. You should use quality objective data to arrive at intelligent health and golf improvement decisions based on the long-term likelihood that they will be successful. We can’t just select exercises, swing changes or training aids based on what is hot in the market today or what the latest celebrity was paid big bucks to sell to us.

There is a reason why the infomercials you see today on Golf Channel will be different in 2 months. The same gimmicks run out of steam when enough people realize that is what they are… gimmicks. When looking to achieve your goals of playing better golf and/or having less pain, don’t just grab for the quick fix as so many golfers today do. 

We are in the information age. Information from quality data is power. Using this data intelligently, you can fix problems in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hopefully, I am giving you the power to make a meaningful and lasting change in your game. I’m sorry to say that most amateurs will not be hitting 300+ yard drives despite what the latest marketing ploy will have you believe. But, if you know what tests you can do to measure the areas that affect your distance off the tee, you can at least gain insight into where your biggest return on your time investment will be. 

This is where working with a golf fitness expert can be so valuable to you. Not only can they help you interpret your results from the tests, but they will also be able to prescribe you the most effective means to move closer to 300 yards from where you are right now.  

If you have a problem with your car not accelerating as fast as you would like or not being able to reach top end speed on the highway, I hope you take it to the mechanic and don’t just look up quick fixes on YouTube to see what you can do on your own. The reason you pay the mechanic to fix your car is because that is what they do all day. They will get it done as quickly as possible. More importantly, they’ll get correctly so that the problem doesn’t pop up again in 2 weeks.

A golf fitness expert is no different. Use them for their expertise and knowledge. Once you have a diagnosis of what is holding you back and a plan to correct it, you are on your way and won’t have to waste any more time or money trying silly quick fixes that never stick.

The three statistics mentioned earlier represent numbers measured across the globe by industry leaders and at our facility 3-4 times per year on hundreds of golfers each time. Our facility has thousands of data points. With this much data comes the ability to draw conclusions from objective assessments. These conclusions drive the intelligent implementation of successful solutions directed at the root causes of problems for thousands of golfers around the globe.

The first three statistics have an R-value of over 0.85 in correlation to clubhead speed. Translation: if you perform well in the first three tests with high numbers, you are very likely to have a high club speed. Further, if you improve in any of those three tests relative to where you started, you are almost assured to have a higher club speed than when you began (assuming swing technique and equipment is relatively unchanged).  

Keep in mind that in statistics, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. But when the R-value is that close to 1 and anecdotally you have seen the results and changes we have, you put some weight behind these three tests. So:

  • See how high you can jump
  • See how far you can shot put a 6-pound medicine ball
  • See how far you can chest pass a 6-pound medicine ball from a seated position

Doing so will give you an idea of how much power you have in your lower body, total rotary system and upper body respectively. Train whichever one is the worst, or train them all if you want. Rest assured that if you improve one of them, you will more than likely increase your swing speed.  

By doing these assessments and addressing the one or two weak areas, you will improve with the least work possible. Sounds about what you were looking for, right? If you are able to identify where you need to improve BEFORE you buy whatever is claiming to fix your problems, you will save lots of money and time. You will actually start to improve with the least amount of work possible and in the least amount of time possible.  

What’s next? After completing the assessment tests, start working to improve them.

  • Coming Soon: Lower Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Upper Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Rotary Power for Golf
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