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.