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Many good golf swings are ruined by tension

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There is an old saying in golf instruction that goes like this: “You have to give up control to gain control.”

From a golf mechanics standpoint, it means that if your grip pressure is light and your arms are relaxed, the club will move more naturally and the golf ball will respond more favorably than if you had more tension in your body.

I see a lot of golfers ignore this idea and squeeze the club very tightly, with lots of forearm tension, and impose their own will on the club in an attempt to make it move a certain way. And more often than not, it’s the wrong way. If you just setup and let everything hang relaxed, the club face will naturally swing open going back find its way back to square at impact.

Let’s look at an example.

Recently, I had my first lesson with a really good player who competed in high school and college on accomplished teams. After graduation he got a job, got married and became successful at something other than golf.

Now, having some time to work on his game, this player wants to improve and be as good as or better than the collegiate version of himself. As we hit some shots and I watched his swing, it became apparent that he tense over the ball. I noticed the veins in the forearms popping out and his hands were squeezing the club. It was like he was gripping a live snake. The result of this was that he “imposed his own will” on the club and it went back dramatically shut with the face of the club pointing too much into the ground.

RObStranoGolf

The outcome was shots that started left and went left. Looking at the data, shots Nos. 5-9 clearly show the face pointing way left at impact. Both the ball angles and spin axis show a heavy left bias.

So what we attacked was his grip and arm pressure, and I explained how that was restricting the club as it went back. The results of the simple changes in these two areas was immediately visible in the ball flight and showed up in the data on shots Nos. 1-4 on the FlightScope screen. Everything we wanted to change improved.

This player’s club went from a left bias at impact to slightly right and his ball angles moved from too far left to slightly right on most shots. Since he was “letting go” with the hands and arms, the club face was able to open and close in a more natural pattern, and he was able to produce quality shots that didn’t start start left and go farther left.

Most golfers can learn from this, and you should learn to relax when you set up to the golf ball. Tension will restrict your club face from working how it should, and it will affect your ball flight, and your scores. So, lighten up!

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Me too

    Nov 13, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Sounds just like me! Minus the college golf;) Just like your student, when I ease up on my grip & arm pressure, it slows everything down and I’m able to get out of the way of my swing. Great tip.

  2. Matto

    Nov 13, 2015 at 4:26 am

    Many good golf swings are ruined by me.

  3. Chip

    Nov 13, 2015 at 12:40 am

    Great article Rob. I totally agree with tension killing the swing. I am curious- On a scale of 1 to 10, how light should someone hold the club?

  4. Pingback: Is tension ruining your otherwise good golf swing? | GolfJay

  5. Carlos Danger

    Nov 12, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Sometimes a lil “samson” will cure your tense swing. Actually, it will cure alot of things…

  6. Al385

    Nov 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    That’s the story of my life. Great article.

  7. NC

    Nov 12, 2015 at 11:27 am

    How did you attack his grip and arm pressure? Did you change his grip? Use a larger grip? Swing thoughts? Curious to know what worked for him. I realize everyone is different but would be interested in knowing what helped his situation. Cheers.

    • BigWednesday96

      Nov 12, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      This is such great advice. Not only can these suggestions help to improve your swing and ball flight immediately, it can also help in the prevention of injuries. I’ve struggled with too much tension in my swing for many years (mostly brought on by overdoing grip pressure). Elbow and shoulder injuries resulted. For me – the first step in alleviating the tension was to get properly fitted for grips. Most of us mid-high handicappers simply assume that standard grips are fine. My hand size is a bit larger than average and I discovered mid-size grips with a couple of extra tape wraps was what I needed. I no longer had to “strangle” the club in order to feel I had a secure grip.

    • MQ

      Nov 12, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      Getting fit for the right size grips seems to be hugely overlooked. I was recently fit for a new set of irons and it appears I’ve been using grips that are way too small for me. I definitely had a tendency to grip the club way too tight, which is alleviated now that I’ve moved to a midsize grip. I feel much more comfortable holding the club and I’m striking the ball solidly much more consistently.

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Instruction

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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