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Hamilton: A trick I give my students to make their ball position automatic

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The author, Scott Hamilton has created a comprehensive video series on his keys to hitting the driver. He has made the first seven videos of the series free to GolfWRX readers. You can check them out here or check out his website, OnTOURgolf.com.

A good setup is the catalyst to the chain of events in your golf swing that makes good impact possible. If you make a mistake early, you spend the rest of the swing trying to compensate for it. Instead of a good first move that sets in motion a chain of other good moves, you get a bad move that requires recovery throughout the swing. That’s why what you do before you hit your driver is so important.

I made a full series on how I teach the driver for my website, but I made all the pre-swing videos free because getting the start right will help a ton of people.

In the video above, I talk about driver ball position. Having your ball position up near your front foot is nothing new. It’s probably one of the few things you won’t find many Tour players or coaches disagreeing about. Even so, I see bad ball positions all the time.

There are lots of reasons why players might not follow the age old advice of playing the ball near their front foot. Having the ball way up in the stance for the driver can just feel funny when it’s the only shot played that way. That’s why it’s easy to let the ball creep toward the middle of your stance, where it feels more comfortable. Watch the video to learn the trick I give my students to make their ball position automatic.

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Currently teaching 14 PGA Tour players, Scott Hamilton is a staple on the PGA Tour range each week. In 2015, a poll of PGA Tour players conducted by Golf Digest ranked him as the No. 2 instructor on the PGA Tour. His players like him for his ability to conduct a complete analysis of their games and return a simple solution to help them play better. “You get the result you want without all the big words.” as Scott often says.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Derick S

    May 3, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Mr Hamilton,
    Just signed up for your membership…
    Thanks for the video post.. Was straight to the point, easy to understand, and very helpful…
    Even though I’m 3 handicap, I still tend to put the ball back in my stance here and there….
    For long irons, say 3i-6i, do you set up differently or stay the same!!
    These are the clubs i have trouble with… I do got a 2 hybrid 16.5* and hit it like my driver and FW Woods…
    Any tips for the long irons would be much appreciated Sir…
    1SG Derick S.
    U.S. Army (retired)
    2nd Ranger Bn
    RLTW

  2. Mark H. Davis

    Apr 21, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    DAMN! That’s good advice. Much appreciated. (PS: this is exactly how I putt, to find that ball position too.)

  3. Michael

    Apr 20, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Great video Scott. So for guys who block or push the ball out to the right do you think on top of moving the ball well forward in your stance that also putting the ball writing visible on the back when you tee it up and then make sure you can read it all the way till impact is a good idea?

    • Scott Hamilton

      Apr 21, 2016 at 12:18 am

      Man- I don’t know. I can’t say that I’ve ever known of a good player telling me that they try to see the ball until impact. If I wash pushing it- I’d be looking to get the face more shut at impact or the path less in-to-out.

  4. Carter baker

    Apr 20, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    I wish I had learned this trick much earlier in my career

  5. Shallowface

    Apr 20, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Really appreciating these tips. Thanks, Scott!

  6. Cory

    Apr 20, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Love the forward ball position except that it leads to open shoulders. How do you combat that?

    • mhendon

      Apr 20, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      You tilt your shoulders back in other words lowering your right shoulder. If you do it right you won’t open your shoulders.

    • Scott Hamilton

      Apr 20, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      You’re right, sometimes people open their shoulders when they setup to a ball in the front of their stance. Get a friend to check it for you or use your phone to help yourself.

  7. Ben

    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    this was a really good video Scott. Concise and short and to the point, would love to hear more.

    • Scott Hamilton

      Apr 20, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      There’s a free video in a course called “Solid Contact Series” that I did that gives another good system for ball position with your irons. You can get in on the homepage of my site.
      http://www.ontourgolf.com

  8. Matt

    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I’m guilty of this in my golf game. Ball position has creeped back towards inside of my left heel. True enough, my fairways hit % has dropped too. Thanks!

  9. Ian

    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Great, do you have any tricks for ball position throughout the bag?

    • Ben

      Apr 20, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      I wonder if you could take this same idea except right before you move your trailing foot back, move your leading foot forward a certain amount (depending on club).

      • Scott Hamilton

        Apr 20, 2016 at 1:20 pm

        That would just mean that your ball would be off your rear foot instead. For other clubs-I like when the ball is placed the same distance inside the front foot and then drop the rear foot. It’s similar to this technique.

    • Scott Hamilton

      Apr 20, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      Hey Ian- I got a similar question above. There’s a video in my “Solid Contact Series” that goes over the rest of the bag. You get free access when you sign up for the free membership level. Just go to http://www.ontourgolf.com and sign up.

      • Ian

        Apr 23, 2016 at 1:16 pm

        Hi Scott. I took your advice and signed up on your site. When I saw your video on iron shaft lean/face direction something clicked. I used to have shaft lean but got rid of it over the last year (thinking that it was better not to have it). Played this weekend with shaft lean again and my ball striking was significantly better! 12 greens and 4 birdies (not a brag, just enjoying the game again). So thanks again! Oh and not a hint of a shank (which was starting to become common place).

        • Scott Hamilton

          Apr 24, 2016 at 10:03 am

          That’s really cool man. Thanks for joining the site. Shaft lean is critical for good iron play. Post your swing up in the Swing Review section and I’ll give it a look.

  10. Joe S

    Apr 20, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Thank you. This was very good and simple!

  11. Scott Hamilton

    Apr 20, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Hey GolfWrx-
    I didn’t travel to this weeks TOUR event in San Antonio. I’m teaching today but will check back here later to answer questions. So post em up!

    -Scott

  12. RS

    Apr 20, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Anyone else getting a privacy setting error when trying to play the video?

    • Zak Kozuchowski

      Apr 20, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Sorry, RS. Give us a few minutes to sort this out, and please check back.

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Instruction

Self-discovery: Why golf lessons aren’t helping you improve

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Of all the things I teach or have taught in golf, I think this is the most important: It’s not what we cover in a lesson, it’s what you discover. 

Some years ago, I had a student in golf school for a few days. She was topping every single shot. Zero were airborne. I explained that she was opening her body and moving forward before her arms and club were coming down. “Late” we call it. I had her feel like her arms were coming down first and her body was staying behind, a common correction for late tops. Bingo! Every ball went up into the air. She was ecstatic.

Some time later, she called and said she was topping every shot. She scheduled a lesson. She topped every shot. I asked her why she was topping the ball. “I think I’m picking up my head,” she said to my look of utter disbelief!

I had another student who was shanking the ball. At least 3 out of 5 came off the hosel with his wedges. I explained that his golf club was pointed seriously left at the top of his backswing. It was positioned well OUTSIDE his hands, which caused it to come down too wide and swing OUTSIDE his hands into impact. This is a really common cause of shanking. We were able to get the club more down the line at the top and come down a bit narrower and more inside the ball. No shanks… not a one!  He called me sometime later. The shanks had returned. You get the rest. When I asked what was causing him to shank, he told me “I get too quick.”

If you are hitting the golf ball better during a golf lesson, you have proven to yourself that you CAN do it. But what comes after the lesson is out of a teacher’s hands. It’s as simple as that. I cannot control what you do after you leave my lesson tee. Now, if you are NOT hitting the ball better during a lesson or don’t understand why you’re not hitting it better, I will take the blame. And…you do not have to compensate me for my time. That is the extent to which I’ll go to display my commitment and accept my responsibility. What we as teachers ask is the same level of commitment from the learners.

Improving at golf is a two-way street. My way is making the correct diagnosis and offering you a personalized correction, possibly several of them. Pick the ONE that works for you. What is your way on the street? Well, here are a few thoughts on that:

  • If you are taking a lesson at 10 a.m. with a tee time at 11 a.m. and you’re playing a $20 Nassau with your buddies, you pretty much wasted your time and money.
  • If the only time you hit balls is to warm up for your round, you have to be realistic about your results.
  • If you are expecting 250-yard drives with an 85 mph club head speed, well… let’s get real.
  • If you “fake it” during a lesson, you’re not going to realize any lasting improvement. When the teacher asks if you understand or can feel what’s being explained and you say yes when in fact you DO NOT understand, you’re giving misleading feedback and hurting only yourself. Speak up!

Here’s a piece of advise I have NEVER seen fail. If you don’t get it during the lesson, there is no chance you’ll get it later. It’s not enough to just hit it better; you have to fully understand WHY you hit it better. Or if you miss, WHY you missed.

I have a rule I follow when conducting a golf lesson. After I explain the diagnosis and offer the correction, I’ll usually get some better results. So I continue to offer that advice swing after swing. But at some point in the lesson, I say NOTHING. Typically, before long the old ball flight returns and I wait– THREE SWINGS. If the student was a slicer and slices THREE IN A ROW, then it’s time for me to step in again. I have to allow for self discovery at some point. You have to wean yourself off my guidance and internalize the corrections. You have to FEEL IT.

When you can say, “If the ball did this then I know I did that” you are likely getting it. There is always an individual cause and effect you need to understand in order to go off by yourself and continue self improvement. If you hit a better shot but do not know why, please tell your teacher. What did I do? That way you’re playing to learn, not simply learning to play.

A golf lesson is a guidance, not an hour of how to do this or that. The teacher is trying to get you to discover what YOU need to feel to get more desirable outcomes. If all you’re getting out of it is “how,” you are not likely to stay “fixed.” Remember this: It’s not what we cover in the lesson; it’s what you discover!

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Jumping for Distance (Part 2): The One-Foot Jump

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In Part 1, I wrote about how I think this concept of jumping up with both feet for more power may have come about in part due to misinterpretation of still photography and force plate data, self-propagation, and a possible case of correlation vs causation. I also covered reasoning why these players are often airborne, and that can be from flawed setups that include overly wide stances and/or lead foot positions that are too closed at setup or a re-planted lead foot that ends up too closed during the downswing.

In Part 2, let’s look at what I feel is a better alternative, the one foot jump. To me, it’s safer, it doesn’t complicate ball striking as much, and it can still generate huge amounts of vertical ground force.

First, set up with an appropriate stance width. I like to determine how wide to stand based on the length of your lower legs. If you go to your finish position and stand on your lead leg and let your trail leg dangle down so your knees are parallel, your lower trail leg should extend only as far back as it will go while being up on the tip of your trail toe. If you roll that trail foot back down to the ground, viola, you’ll have a stance width that’s wide enough to be “athletic” and stable but not so wide you lose balance when swinging. You can go a little wider than this, but not much.

To contrast, the stance below would be too wide.

Jumping off the ground can be caused by too wide of a stance and lead foot position that is too closed at setup

Second, make sure your lead foot is open sufficiently at address. I’ve previously outlined how to do both these first two points in this article.

Third, whether you shift your weight to your trail foot or keep a more centered weight type feeling in the backswing, when you shift your weight to your lead foot, be careful of the Bubba replant, and then push up with that lead leg to push your lead shoulder up. This is the one-foot “jump” and it will take advantage of parametric acceleration (read more about that here).

But also at the same time, shift your lower spine towards the target.

From a face-on viewpoint, this can look like back bend, but in 3D space it’s side bend. It kind of feels like you are crunching the trail side of your mid-section, or maybe just bending over to the side to pick up a suitcase, for example. This move helps lower your trail shoulder, which brings down the club (whereas this is more difficult to do if you try to two-foot jump with your trail leg). It also helps you to keep from getting airborne off your lead foot. Further it doesn’t change your low point (by not changing the relative position of the C7 vertebrae in its general orb in space) and complicate ball striking like a two-foot jump does.

At this point, the club releases and you can stand up out of the shot (you don’t need to transition in to any sort of dangerous back bend) in balance on your lead foot having generates tons of vertical ground force without having jumped off the ground or putting yourself at risk for injury.

“Movember” mustache… not required!

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Move Your Legs Like the Legends: The Key to the Snead Squat

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It’s important not to overdo the “Sam Snead squat.” Understanding the subtle leg movements of the game’s greats is key to making your practice purposeful and making real improvement.

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