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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

3 keys for getting out of bunkers with soft sand

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One of the most infuriating things in golf is to land in a bunker that has too much sand, or sand with the consistency of a truckload of talcum power. Now, I am not picking on the Superintendents; they do have to add new sand from time-to-time, so no hate mail please! It’s my fault for hitting it in the bunker in the first place, and bunkers are supposed to be hazards; I know that.

The one thing we will assume for this article is that even though we are in soft sand, we will have a good lie, not a plugged or semi-plugged one. We are in a bunker that just has a bunch of sand, or it’s soft and fluffy sand. Everyone asks me what the secret is to handling these types of conditions and I’m here to help you get better.

1) Get a wedge with the correct bounce

Let’s consider that you play the same golf course every weekend, or that you mostly play on courses that have the same type of playing conditions mostly. When you have this luxury, you should have wedges that fit the conditions you tend to play. So, if you have a low bounce wedge with a sharp flange and you’re playing from bunkers with lots of sand, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Why alter your swing if the wedge you have can help you? Use a high bounce wedge (9-12 degrees of bounce) for soft sand, and a low bounce wedge (6-8 degrees) for firm sand.

2) Control your Angle of Attack 

As with most things in golf, there are always things that you must pay attention to in order for you to have the odds in your favor. Simple things such as paying attention to the lie you have can help you save shots in the rough. In bunkers, you cannot test the surface, however, you can use your feet to feel the density of the sand. Pay attention to what you feel in the balls of your feet. If you feel a ton of sand below you, then you know you will have to alter your angle of attack if you want any chance to get out of the bunker successfully.

So what do I mean by this?

The setting of your wrists has a very dynamic effect on how much the wedge digs in or skids through the sand (assuming you have an open face). When there is a surplus of sand, you will find that a steeper attack caused by the maximum cocking of your wrists makes it much easier for the wedge to work too vertical and dig too deep. When you dig too deep, you will lose control of the ball as there is too much sand between the blade and the ball — it will not spin as much and won’t have the distance control you normally have.

The secret to playing from softer sand is a longer and wider bunker swing with much less wrist-set than you would use on your stock bunker shot. This action stops the club from digging too deep and makes it easier for you to keep moving through the ball and achieving the distance you need.

3) Keep your pivot moving

It’s nearly impossible to keep the rotation of your shoulders going when you take too much sand at impact, and the ball comes up short in that situation every time. When you take less sand, you will have a much easier time keeping your pivot moving. This is the final key to good soft-sand bunker play.

You have made your longer and more shallow backswing and are returning to the ball not quite as steeply as you normally do which is good… now the only thing left to do is keep your rear shoulder rotating through impact and beyond. This action helps you to make a fuller finish, and one that does not lose too much speed when the club impacts the sand. If you dig too deep, you cannot keep the rear shoulder moving and your shots will consistently come up short.

So if you are in a bunker with new sand, or an abundance of sand, remember to change your bounce, adjust your angle of attack, and keep your pivot moving to have a fighting chance.

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Instruction

WATCH: How to stop “flipping” through impact

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Are you flipping through impact? In this video, I share a great drill that will help you put better pressure on the golf ball at impact. By delivering the sweet spot correctly, you’ll create a better flight and get more distance from your shots immediately.

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Instruction

The Wagon Wheel Drill

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For many golfers, the ability to hit shots golf ball to the target is a difficult task, especially when you take into account the rough, trees or hazards lining the hole. In this video, I share “The Wagon Wheel Drill,” a simple idea of how to practice intentionally hitting the ball left, right and on target.

Practice this and you will soon be hitting the target more often.

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