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Your golf swing is more consistent than you think it is

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I need to preface this article about consistency by making one point quite clear: Golf is inconsistent! Pure and simple. If you can’t accept that fact, you might be better served taking up another hobby. Our game is played in such a variety of conditions and playing fields that to expect consistency is an exercise in futility.

That being said, many of my new students tell me on my lesson tee, “My problem is I’m inconsistent.” So I always observe the ball flight, and it is very inconsistent. Left, right, tops, fats… you name it. The golfer’s logical conclusion after hitting those shots is, “I must be doing everything wrong,” and this is one of the reasons we teachers use video and radar in diagnosing swing errors.

Another common exchange at the opening of a lesson is, “I’m working on so many different swings, I don’t know which one to use.” I’ll say something like, “Well, show me an example of the different swings you’re using.” Then I video all the samples.

And do you know what the videos show? Almost exactly the same swing on every single ball hit! If you don’t believe that, I invite you to my golf school in Naples to spend 6 hours with me on the lesson tee one day. And I’m not just talking about high-handicap golfers.

Other than BRAND NEW golfers, every student I have ever taught is unbelievably consistent.

So if the swings are the same, why is the ball flight inconsistent? The simple answer is that the club face and the bottom of the swing arc vary greatly, but almost never the direction of the swing or the motion that caused it. The video below shows just a few examples of something I see every day.

You see, missed shots come in groups or “families.” For example, an in-to-out swing path can cause a push, a hook, a “drop kick,” a shank or a topped shot (usually to the right). ALL are the result of the very same in-to-out swing path. An out-to-in swing path can cause a pull or a slice, often a toe hit, and a topped shot (usually to the left from what we call a “late top”).

Here’s the point, though: rarely does a golfer slice and hook. They might pull-draw a shot and see it as a hook, but it isn’t. Rarely does a player hit the heel and toe. And rarely, if ever, does a golfer get way ahead of the ball on one shot, and way behind it on the next.

It just doesn’t happen.

Your swing motion is remarkably consistent. And by the way, this is good news for those of us who coach and teach. My job would be much more difficult if my students did something different every time. What does vary is the club face angle at impact, however, as golfers use their hands to react to the shot they have just hit. That’s why a slice on one shot and pull draw on the next is NOT a different swing.

The lesson here is to know your swing patterns. It’s important to realize that your swing is in a certain mode — it is a very grooved pattern — and IF changes are needed, the drills and practice focus must be for your pattern. You can’t try every training aid and attempt to incorporate every tip out there, because at least half of them that do NOT apply to you. You may be hitting hooks from an inside-out path and hear a tip about “getting elbow tucked into your side on the downswing,” and there’s a good chance you’ll make the problem worse.

Having explained this concept, there is a requisite caveat. All golfers react to one of two things: the shot they have just hit, or the shot they usually hit. It is not uncommon for a fat shot to be followed by a thin one, simply by pulling away from the ground. So we get a pattern of fat and thin shots. That does not indicate that the swing changed; the only thing that changed was the reaction at the bottom of the arc to the previous miss.

I’ve watched this interesting dynamic closely over many years, and having an awareness of it can help your game. Remember, it will take video to know if you are actually making a change, and I suggest that you change ONLY that which needs correcting.

For more about me and how I teach, visit www.dennisclarkgolf.com or go to my Facebook Page

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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

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Seankinni

    Jun 30, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Dennis you are the man! That video is an instant classic! Good stuff man.????

  2. um

    Jun 29, 2016 at 3:20 am

    redrum

  3. Dennis clark

    Jun 28, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Thx to those undaunted souls who agreed to let me use their videos as examples. There is such courage in humility.

  4. Gordy

    Jun 28, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    As someone who has video taped my own swing, and tried to work on ingrained swing flaws. This is a spot on article. Literally, no change from trying to work on things. My position at impact never changes.(I come down steep and I stand up thrusting my hips towards my target at impact) I know enough about a golf swing to tell you what I’m doing wrong. And more than likely how to fix it. However, going from there and incorporating it to my swing is another thing. I am 28 and playing for about 20 years and realize that these bad habits are tough to break, but not impossible. The thing that I’ve realized over the years is that I was ok with having my flaws and trying to work it out on my own and shoot in the high 70’s and low 80’s. So, my journey to playing serious good golf begins tomorrow. I am going to take lessons and actively work on it. Really, what I am doing is seeing what some serious dedication to my golf swing will produce. Hopefully good results.

    • dennis clark

      Jun 28, 2016 at 6:42 pm

      Good for you Gordy! Good luck and keep me posted. remember flaws are only flaws at impact…

  5. Golfrnut

    Jun 28, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    I wish more people would read/listen to stuff like this. This is the same argument used as a rebuttal for getting anyone with a higher handicap fit for clubs. “There’s no sense in it” “Hackers are inconsistent” “No use getting fit unless you are a single-digit handicap” blah blah blah. It’s the same dribble spoken by people who have no idea what anyone’s swing looks like, never seen video, and never seen anyone on a descent monitor that measures all the club data. People don’t go from swinging in-out to out-in every other swing, etc…don’t care what level you play at. Trends and tendencies are common with everyone, no matter what skill level they play at.

  6. Bobalu

    Jun 28, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    I once overheard a local teaching pro comment that the vast majority of mid to high handicap golfers that have played for more than a few years are incapable of making significant changes in their golf swing. They’ve ingrained a faulty swing pattern with little time or mindset to make significant swing changes. I have noticed that virtually every struggling golfer that tells me they’ve made new swing changes- with or without a swing coach- honestly just look the same. Rarely do I see a golfer change their swing pattern, but they do find varying compensations, for example, like aligning too far to the right compensating for their steep downswing and pull hook. On the course, this type of golfer usually proclaims, “Smoked it! What I tell you? I’m back brother!” LOL, gotta love it.

    • dennis clark

      Jun 28, 2016 at 6:43 pm

      True that…

    • Jack

      Jun 28, 2016 at 10:58 pm

      Well I can understand that. Though I feel I have made huge changes, it still looks similar. Though I think having instant replay on the swing really helps, because often you feel like oh I’m swinging so differently, and you’re not even close. Basically it’s gotta feel like a drastic 180 degree change for it to look a little different. But things like a straight left arm, proper shoulder turn, not overswinging, and proper sequencing of the body in the swing, prevent casting the club, those things can be changed. And it sure wasn’t easy. Still got lots to work on. I think many people are unable to make changes one because they can’t see that they are not swinging any different and b they revert back to old habits because it’s “easier”.

  7. rd

    Jun 28, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Yes my swing is consistently hitting my balls left and right and never where I want to

  8. NC Golfa

    Jun 28, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Dennis, Your articles and explanations are simple and excellent. I had a recent series of lessons that did not help. I’ve been playing for 30 years and probably have ingrained a not so great swing. It almost seems based on your article, we should relax and just work with our existing swing and pay attention to the face at impact. Cheers!

  9. Double Mocha Man

    Jun 28, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Not only is it important to be able to adjust your swing within a round it is equally important to adjust your swing over time. Swings are living, breathing entities… not something static. The molecules and cells in our bodies are changing by the minute. There is no way to maintain the same swing… just an approximation.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jun 28, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Do you see considerable change in your student swings from swing to swing?

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jun 28, 2016 at 9:43 pm

        Hi Dennis. I am not an instructor. So, no students. I’m just a 3 handicapper trying to get to scratch. And my swing changes and feels different day to day even though I play or practice about 6 days a week. I try to work with what I’ve got, make minuscule changes and grind. Though I am always looking for the magical combination of swing keys. 🙂

        • Dennis clark

          Jun 28, 2016 at 11:20 pm

          Keep at it man…the joy is in the journey!!

        • Dennis clark

          Jun 29, 2016 at 6:22 am

          Send me a video. I’d like to see it

        • Jack

          Jun 30, 2016 at 3:18 am

          I almost feel like the adjustments are just small differences in timing and contact points. Even the worse swing that hits the sweet spot straight will feel amazing.

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Instruction

How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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How to eliminate the double cross: Vertical plane, gear effect and impact location

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One of the biggest issues teachers see on the lesson tee is an out-to-in golf swing from a player who is trying to fade the ball, only to look up and see the deadly double cross! This gear effect assisted toe hook is one of the most frustrating things about trying to move the ball from left to right for the right-handed golfer. In this article, I want to show you what this looks like with Trackman and give you a few ways in which you can eliminate this from your game.

Below is the address position of a golfer I teach here in Punta Mita; his handicap ranges between scratch and 2, depending on how much he’s playing, but his miss is a double cross when he’s struggling.

Now let’s examine his impact position:

Observations

  • You see a pull-hooking ball flight
  • The hands are significantly higher at impact than they were at address
  • If you look at the clubhead closely you can see it is wide open post impact due to a toe hit (which we’ll see more of in a second)
  • The face to path is 0.5 which means with a perfectly centered hit, this ball would have moved very slightly from the left to the right
  • However, we see a shot that has a very high negative spin axis -13.7 showing a shot that is moving right to left

Now let’s look at impact location via Trackman:

As we can see here, the impact of the shot above was obviously on the toe and this is the reason why the double-cross occurred. Now the question remains is “why did he hit the ball off of the toe?”

This is what I see from people who swing a touch too much from out-to-in and try to hit fades: a standing up of the body and a lifting of the hands raising the Vertical Swing Plane and Dynamic Lie of the club at impact. From address, let’s assume his lie angle was 45 degrees (for simplicity) and now at impact you can see his Dynamic Lie is 51 degrees. Simply put, he’s standing up the shaft during impact…when this happens you will tend to pull the heel off the ground at impact and this exposes the toe of the club, hence the toe hits and the gear effect toe hook.

Now that we know the problem, what’s the solution? In my opinion it’s a three stage process:

  1. Don’t swing as much from out-to-in so you won’t stand up as much during impact
  2. A better swing plane will help you to remain in your posture and lower the hands a touch more through impact
  3. Move the weights in your driver to promote a slight fade bias

Obviously the key here is to make better swings, but remember to use technology to your advantage and understand why these type of things happen!

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