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Squaring the Face of the Golf Club

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The release, perhaps the most discussed term in the golf instruction lexicon, is also one of the least understood. Let’s take a few minutes to define it, clarify it and look at how it might apply to your swing.

Two distinct motions are involved in releasing the golf club: Unhinging the wrists (which have hinged in the backswing) and torquing the shaft to square the face of the club. In this piece I’d like to discuss the twisting or torquing of the shaft, which is distinctly different than releasing the club itself.

Not surprisingly, great players have different ways of doing it, and it is also NOT done at the same time or to the same degree for every player. The video below explains this part of the release, but I wish to elaborate on the concept in the written portion of this article below.

Dennis Clark Quick Tip 1 Squaring the Club Face from Tracy Danbert Tirrell on Vimeo.

Most GolfWRX readers understand the face-to-path relationship in the act of squaring the club face. They also know that ball flight begins mostly in the direction of the club face at impact, and curves away from the path of the club head. But HOW does the club face get to open or closed? That’s less understood.

To put it simply: The more horizontally the club swings, the LESS the shaft has to be twisted. The more vertically the club swings, the MORE it has to be twisted.

In other words if your swing approaches the golf ball FLATTER, it needs less “pronation and supination” of your arms and hands. On this plane, a LOT of twisting hits low, snap hooks that barely get off the ground. Contrast that with a club that comes into impact with with higher hands and the shaft “standing up.” The same amount of twist might very well square the face nicely.

Golfers tend to believe that if the golf club arrives from inside, it will hook. And if it arrives from the outside (of the face of course) it will slice. True, all things being equal. Those things are created by the plane of the club and of course, your grip, and golfers who struggle with squaring the face may very well be ignoring the plane.

A VERY high percentage of golfers are coming into impact too steeply (they have too high of a vertical swing plane), and their swings require a lot of twisting to square the club face. That’s why they use a stronger grip, and it’s good they do. But take the same strong grip and alter the swing to create a swing much lower on the vertical swing plane, and look out left!

Take, for example, hitting on side hills: why does the golf ball fly left from a side-hill, above-the-feet lie and go right from a side-hill, below-the-feet lie? Two reasons: yes, the lie angle of the golf ball is altered with the toe well up on the above-the-feet lie, and the heel way up on the below-the-feet lie. But we also see perfect evidence of the dynamic I am  discussing here. Flatter arc=close(ing) face and upright arc=open(ing) face.

You can try this out in your own swing. If the feeling of a rollover release is causing you to hit low sniping hooks, you will need “quieter” hands through impact. If high, right slices are your problem, it may be the result of a steep plane which requires very “active” hands to keep from blocks or slices.

If you’d like to look into my online swing analysis program, email me or message me on 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

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. John Everson

    Dec 14, 2016 at 11:59 am

    This has already been explained before. If you haven’t seen it, read The Release, by Jim Hardy. It was put out earlier this year and goes into detail on exactly these two types of releases. Excellent stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Solo

    Dec 14, 2016 at 2:43 am

    Get a handle on hitting a flipping-shut at the right point of impact. Got it.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 14, 2016 at 8:33 am

      if you come in lower, no flip needed, if you come in steep flip away…

      • Solo

        Dec 14, 2016 at 11:41 am

        Oh, but I think you do, even if you come in lower. What if your left arm is broken and can only do the chicken wing that pulls it away because it’s already in that shape, and normally the handle get way ahead of the head. You’d have to really force that flip with the right side even if you were really flat and was very flat in the swing compared to standard clubs, the clubhead could use some toe-up set up too

        • Dennis Clark

          Dec 14, 2016 at 2:35 pm

          you’re describing flexion and extension, a form of release. (slapping) ala Calvin Peete to cite your example. Pronation and supination (rollover) are not needed, or need to a much less degree, when the plane is flatter. Thx

  3. Dill Pickleson

    Dec 12, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Nice, succinct and very useful article and video. Thanks for that. I have the steep/strong approach with an occasional miss left which is a result of a long history of coming in too flat and resorting to that under pressure. Good to remember….

  4. Arik

    Dec 12, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    If you are thinking of these kinds of things while swinging you are doomed. Golf is an athletic game pure and simple. It takes great hand eye coordination to be consistent. People who start out listening to others get so many ideas in their head they cant make a tension free swing.

    Impact is like trying to grab an apple off a mail box from the back of a pickup truck doing 80mph. Now is that a smart thing to do?

    • knoofah

      Dec 12, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      Your analogy is ridiculous. Take up chess.

  5. Ron

    Dec 12, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Interesting article. My understanding of the terms might be a bit off. The demo in the video, when you showed the more ‘upright’ swing plane, seems to show the swing plane to be dramatically from the inside, which, if you don’t roll your forearms, will of course cause a block to the right. As a player with a more naturally upright swing plane, I know if my swing flattens by the duck-hook that results on my driver. I’ve played with my swing plane without any other changes to my grip or swing to fight that hook and it does work. I’m now playing the tiniest of fades.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 12, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      The inclined plane of the golf club is quite another matter from the direction. Steep is steep regardless of outside or inside. It is still likely to be more open if its more upright. Inside steep is right to right blocks and outside steep is left to right slices. Same principle. Flatter arc into impact= easier to close face and vice versa. Thx

  6. JustTrying2BAwesome

    Dec 12, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Really interesting, thanks. Sounds like this can be a relatively quick adjustment if things start to go sideways on the course.

    How does this explain the phenomena of the predominate miss with wedges being a draw, and predominate miss with driver an open face high push slice? Flatter driver swing would suggest the driver should more naturally square at impact.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 12, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      IIt’s not a phenomena at all really but if it’s YOUR MISS consider loft and lie…10 degrees vs 50 degrees and 45 degrees and 62 degrees lie. And I can show you no end to people swinging ther driver 10-15 degrees more vertical at impact than address.

  7. Andrew S

    Dec 12, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Dennis, You are the first instructor who suggests the correct way. In this case, have a flatter plane. But, also offers a suggestions for the average AM – if you make a mistake there is a way of living with it (roll the hands/arms). Your articles are appreciates. Not every golfer cares to or is able to physically make the correct moves and just wants to have fun. You cover both!

  8. Bryan

    Dec 12, 2016 at 2:23 am

    Great info, thanks for sharing. I’m surprised this article didn’t turn into a golf instructor bashing session with the typical WRX responses: “All golf instructors are worthless, especially PGA members. I’ve met 2 PGA members in my life, but all 27,000 are bad instructors. I’m a 17 handicap and post in the equipment boards all the time and I know way more than every instructor.”

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 12, 2016 at 7:07 am

      LOL…there are some, but for the most part i think readers appreciate our attempts to help. We do this with no compensation and for the good of the game. I’m glad you appreciate it. Thx

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 12, 2016 at 11:11 pm

      LOL

  9. Andrew Tursky

    Dec 11, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    We apologize if you could not see the video in the article as it was originally posted. The issue has been addressed, and we hope it helps.

  10. Dennis Clark

    Dec 11, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Sorry, it seems the video did not come out for everyone. I’ll ask my editor to correct it. Sorry.

  11. C

    Dec 10, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    This article is worthless without pics and diagrammes!

  12. Eric Schafhauser

    Dec 10, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    This is a fantastic article! Enjoyed the perspective on FTP relationship relative to steep and flat swings.

    • Tom

      Dec 11, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      I agree. While reading it, I kept picturing myself doing (committing) the offenses in the article.

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Instruction

WATCH: How to swing the driver “from the inside”

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In this video, I show you how to consistently deliver the driver from the inside.

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Golf 101: How to properly grip the golf club

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I’m sure you’ve heard by now that a good grip is one of the cornerstones of a good swing. Clichés become clichés because they’re true, and putting your hands on the club is extremely important… for reasons you know, and for some reasons you probably haven’t heard before.

Let’s start with the big, obvious one you already know. Your grip establishes the default relationship between the clubface and the golf ball. If you set your grip in a way that promotes bringing the club back to impact open or closed, you’re going to have to do something else in your swing to compensate for that. In other words, a sound grip makes the job of squaring the club easier.

The less obvious reason that a good grip is important is speed. If you set the club in your hands correctly—so that the handle runs across the base of the fingers in your left hand and not across the palm—you’re giving your wrists much more freedom to move. This wrist “mobility” is what allows the final transfer of energy from the body to the club. A great swing thought is to envision that your wrist joints were just greased up. They should feel like they are unrestricted and “oily.”

Another less obvious problem caused by a bad grip is that it tends to perpetuate itself. If you have a bad grip and repeatedly make off-center contact on the clubface, the off-center hits will actually jar the face of the club more off-line, and you’ll hit it even more crooked. And the bad feeling those shots produce in your hands will cause you to continually adjust it. There’s no consistency or feel there. It’s like hitting a whole bunch of baseballs off the end of an aluminum bat on a 39-degree day. A recipe for pain.

To fix your grip, start with your left (top) hand. Set the handle along the first joints of your fingers, and hold it like you would carry a suitcase or briefcase by its handle.

When you get the grip in this position, you’re creating an angle (and a lever) between the club and your left arm, and you’re giving the wrist freedom to move. If you turned the handle so that it crossed your palm diagonally—like a putting grip—you’d immediately feel how your wrist would be much more restricted in how it could bend or turn. That’s why it’s great for putting—because it restricts how the face turns. But on a full swing, you want to take full advantage of the range of motion that comes from rotating from open to square. (this is what the club is designed to do!)

Get a firm grip on the handle with all of the fingers of your left hand and get as much of the thumbprint pushed onto the grip as you can. Now, place your right hand on the handle so that the underside of your right thumb covers the left thumb as much as possible, and get as much of the thumbprint on your right hand onto the top of the grip as possible.

Where you place your hand on the grip is more important than if you decide to interlock, overlap or play with all 10 fingers on the handle. I prefer the overlapping grip because it keeps the index finger of your left hand on the handle, and that extra finger can make a difference for many players.

If your grip isn’t great and you make these changes, it’ll definitely feel strange at first. But I’m betting that straighter and longer shots will make up for it.

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WATCH: How to use a sledgehammer to stop swaying in your golf swing

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It is pretty much impossible to sway when swinging a sledgehammer. Take advantage of the feel you get from swinging a sledgehammer and see how easy it is to implant in your own golf swing. You were built for this move!

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