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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

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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Instruction

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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Instruction

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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