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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

6 ways to improve your self image as a golfer

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According to a ranking done by FanSided, The Ohio State Buckeyes are the current kings of Fandom! This ranking is not limited to sports; it also includes entertainment, celebrities and even different brands.

Growing up in Michigan, I certainly take exception to seeing The Buckeyes at No. 1, but that is certainly not the point here. I went to college with a few folks from Ohio, one who was an absolute diehard Ohio State fan. He grew up rooting for the collegiate program through both the ups and the downs. We often joked about how Ohio State could not beat Michigan when we were younger, and now the Wolverines can’t seem beat the Buckeyes. But outside of our differences, when he described every trip he made to “The Horseshoe,” you could feel his fandom. As he described the people, the food, the neighborhood and the history, you could feel the aura of “The Horseshoe.” This was a special place to him, as it is to many. Every time he left, win or lose, he could not wait to return. He was and still is a raving fan.

Unfortunately, on the lesson tee, I usually hear a different story. I rarely hear golfers describe their own game in good favor. Instead, I hear them talk poorly of every aspect of their game. I rarely hear anyone who is truly a raving fan of his or her own game. I am by no means giving anyone the green light to be arrogant, but to display confidence and develop a positive self-image. I hear plenty about how good other golfers are: Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, even some of their buddies or co-workers who shoot no better scores than they do! The best players at any level are raving fans of their own games. So how do we change our own self-image and fall in love with our own game?

The key is understanding our mental self-image. Many people want to change their strategy. “I need new clubs. I need a better swing. I need everything!” What I want you to do is change your story. I want you to realize that inside, if you can change your mental approach from “I’m a 100’s shooter” to “I’m a bogey golfer,” you can start achieving that goal. If someone asks me what I shoot, I’ll tell them between 69 and 76. Someone who shoots 110 will tell you he shoots between 105 and 110. How can someone be that consistent with that high of a score? It’s simple; that is the game that golfer plays. It’s his self-image.

So again, how do we change it? Here are six ways to get started. 

1. Visualize Your Game

Every day, I want you to write out a scorecard. I don’t care what you use: a piece of paper, on a scorecard, on an iPhone note. What I want you to do is visualize your round. Simply think of where you normally hit your drive and where you normally hit it on the green. Play each hole normally as you would on the course. What you’ll find is that you’re not going to make any double or triple bogeys, because you’re simply playing the holes the way you have before. That will add up to a score that is 5, 10, or maybe even 15 shots lower. It will also start to give you the understanding that to shoot those scores it isn’t about perfect shots, but solid rounds of golf. If you haven’t visualized it, how can you possibly achieve it?

2. Keep Your Commitments to Yourself

Make a game plan and stick to it, case closed. Be it instruction, fitness, diet, playing more… don’t cheat yourself, just do it. Keep a journal, as journaling helps you see growth and makes it easier to stay committed.

3. Educate Yourself

We live in an information age, so choose wisely. The internet can be hard to navigate, but follow trusted sources, read books, or pick up the phone and call someone who can answer your questions. As you learn more about your game, the information will become easier to apply and you’ll see growth.

4. Be Consistent

Commit to good habits and then consistently follow through. You will start to impress yourself when it becomes routine, and when it is routine is when you see results.

5. Acknowledge and Fix Problems

I’m not saying that you should be trying to fix every problem with your golf swing. If you are giving your golf game a true assessment, however, and you’re doing what you can to address issues, you will know that you are truly doing your best.

6. Deliver on Your Game Plan +1 Percent

Ask yourself what you could do to give it the +1 percent. You don’t need to be 50 percent better. Just 1 percent can take you from satisfied to a raving fan. Commit to what you want, follow through with the commitment, add the extra 1 percent and you will be well on your way to becoming a raving fan of your own game.

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Instruction

Shallowing the Club: Two Moves to Avoid (Part 1)

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It’s the move we all want in the downswing… and rightfully so. Shallowing the club is a great way to put your swing on plane and really start to narrow you misses. All shallowing moves are not equal, however; in fact, there are a couple that you’ll definitely want to try to avoid because they can actually have the opposite effect!

We’ve broken this series into two parts to make it more digestible. This is Part 1. Thank you for watching!

Shallowing the Club: Two Moves to Avoid (Part 2) is coming soon!

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Instruction

WATCH: How to hit better pitch shots by improving weight transfer

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In this video, I use technology to help you better understand how you can pitch the ball like the pros.

When pitching, you may have learned to keep your weight on your lead foot throughout the shot. That’s not always the best approach. With BodiTrak, I show you how to move your weight correctly to achieve more consistent strikes.

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