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Faults and Fixes: Getting Too Steep

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The idea of correcting your golf swing is one that all of us entertain, and we probably all should work to fix our swing at one time or another… at least those of us who want to play better. So golfers go in search of faults and fixes every chance they get. If a golf website, video or magazine offers a quick tip that might help, it makes too much sense to try it.

But there has always been something missing from this school of golf. In my many years of teaching, I have found that a singular swing correction almost never works. The reason is simple; when you get the golf club or your body out of position in your swing, you will inevitably attempt to correct that move to get the club face back to the ball.

Here’s an example. Golfers who get the club too “steep,” either during the backswing and especially during the downswing, are almost always “shallow” at impact. The reason is simple; NOBODY wants to hit the ground the behind the golf ball, so golfers make every compensation possible to avoid it (they stand up, they back up, they chicken wing, they raise the handle, etc.). So the result is a swing that is too steep, but an attack angle that is too shallow.

“I have found that a singular swing correction almost never works.”

What I’d like to offer to GolfWRX Readers is a series of articles that deals with two-part adjustments called “Faults and Fixes.” Each article will offer a correction of the initial problem, and just as importantly a correction to the reaction to that fault.

I will also discuss the order in which faults may be fixed. Make no bones about it; this is a series for serious golfers who wants to take their game to the next level. Let’s get started.

Fault: Too Steep

Faults_Fixes_Too_Steep

Most amateurs get the golf club too steep, particularly in the transition. If the butt end of the club is not pointed at the golf ball or the line of flight, it can be too vertical.

This incline can cause fat shots, toe hits, weak slices and occasionally toe hooks. The cause can be one of several things: a cupped lead wrist, crossing the line at the top, coming over the top, trying to “lag” the club down (instead of moving it down the plane) or a “flying” rear elbow.

This steepness in the swing is common and very correctable. But here’s the catch; does the steepness of the golf club need to be corrected, or does a golfer’s REACTION to the steepness have be fixed? And how do you know? How can you be sure if it’s the position of the club causing poor impact, or if it’s a reaction to the poor position? The only way to be certain is to know the answer to this question, “What’s happening at impact?

Too steep, by definition, should cause deep divots, slices and toe hits… but you may be very shallow with tops, hooks or even shanks. In the later case, you can be sure that the reaction to the golf club is your issue.

In the video at the top of the article, you saw a golfer who hits “thin hooks.” But if you only watched the video of his swing you would think he’s hitting fat slices. You see him raising the handle and flipping the hands through impact in the video. If he was actually sticking the golf club in the ground behind the golf ball and slicing, we would FIRST have to put his club in a better position. But remember if we do and he has the old reaction, he may actually miss the golf ball altogether! Tricky business, because the last thing a teacher wants to do is have the first few shots be worse.

What I usually do, and what I’m suggesting you do, is correct impact. In working with this golfer, I helped him learn to release the club and hit down through the golf ball. In other words, I made the club act as it should from where it was. I took away his reactions to the steep position instead of correcting the club first. Why? Because he’s shallow more than anything and hits hooks, even from that open club face position and steep shaft.

Let impact be your guide, NOT the positions the video suggests could be a potential problem. If and when you start actually getting steep, THEN try correcting the golf club.

Here’s a few tips for the golfers out there who are struggling with an impact position that is too shallow:

  • Hitting balls from downhill lie.
  • Turning through the ball at impact and getting more onto lead foot.
  • Releasing the club down (not dragging the handle).
  • Lowering the handle into impact.

With these corrections a golf swing will become steep, and then we can lay the shaft down a little.

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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 Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Rogerinnewzealand

    Feb 25, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Dennis, as always, a thoroughly researched article with great insight! And courteous answers to the disbelievers.

  2. Mike

    Feb 23, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    you have to fix the turn first . he doesnt turn his shoulders and has no depth at the top . all he can do is throw is hands forward. fix the turn first

    • GOLFman

      Feb 23, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      A+. Mr Clark mentioned a arms and hands connection. I agree but I’m sure Dustin Johnson wouldn’t hit anywhere without the ground and proper footwork. Needs depth big time.

  3. dennis clark

    Feb 23, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    John Jacobs once remarked that the he had heard so much about footwork in golf that he thought the objective of the game was to kick the ball around the course. Footwork is critical to balance and creating force but does not direct the golf club. After observing this dynamic for some 35 years I have reached the conclusion that the body reacts to the position of the club. Not the other way around. No amount of footwork or leg work or great balance automatically puts the golf club in the correct position. It is held by the hands and arms. When it gets too steep, too flat, too outside, too open, too closed etc. the body will do whatever it can to right the ship. That’s why the grip is soooo critical. IT controls the face, therefore commands the rest of the motion. If i move the weight of my body perfectly but cup my lead wrist or orient the club too steeply I will hit a well
    Balanced slice. And when my golf ball spins off to the right I will swing well left to combat it.

    • SoCal

      Feb 23, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      Well, we agree to disagree. Try making a golf swing without touching the ground, you’ll get my point… Motion that takes place in the body in rotation from the ground, involves position, velocity, acceleration, plus angular position, angular velocity and angular acceleration. Each of which a vector is needed. Thus ground… It’s the initial start point, plus proper balance and footwork is very important…

      • Dennis Clark

        Feb 24, 2017 at 6:56 am

        But we are NOT disagreeing on proper use of ground reaction forces. No teacher who studies this craft seriously would disagree with that. Its simple physics and bio mechanics. However, where the misunderstanding lies may be this: I’m trying to explain WHY golfers misuse the ground and execute poor motions. It is because the golf club is well out of position and no proper ground force can put it in the correct place because the hands and arms hold the club. This is where some of the science today is divorced from the reality of what golfers actually do. He could have 100% correct turn and weight displacement with a poor grip, a flying elbow, a cupped lead wrist etc…and then when the golf club gets in the position we see here (or any number of poor positions) he will IMPROPERLY use the ground forces you correctly describe. Or even if he did push off the earth properly starting down it will not, could not, hit a good shot because the club is open and steep. In this case he would be very late into impact with an open face. So what does he do? He reverses his weight, hangs back and raises the swing center to try and right the ship. If someone can prove to me that proper ground reaction forces will correct the plane and face of the golf club, I will take another look at this. Believe me I have changed and adapted to many things the golf science community has taught us as I’ve grown as a teacher over 35 years. But I cannot see the connection here. BTW So Cal I am not disagreeing with you personally, I also raised this point at the teaching and coaching summit recently and raised a few eyebrows there too. I did not receive one logical good answer to the disconnect I see here. Thx for the discussion, these are always healthy for the game and our part in it. DC

    • HoleIn2

      Feb 23, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      There is a video on how pressure helps hit a draw on golfwrx by meandmygolf. Give it a view Mr Clark. I think SoCal brings up a valid opinion. Plus your reference to the Great Mr Jacobs is ok, but technology now is what it is. The instructor I have in Arizona was mostly based on how my feet and body work. JAT

      • Dennis Clark

        Feb 24, 2017 at 7:02 am

        HoleIn2…I am aware of the video and own a boditrak unit myself, but let me ask you this as I did them: If I use the proper “force” and execute an inside path, WITH an open face from a steep shaft or a poor grip, will I hit a draw. And how will those forces correct that plane or grip? I’ll get on any force plate you want and execute all the correct motions and top, slice, hook etc all day, IF that golf club is not fixed. Thx DC

    • Pinhigh

      Feb 23, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Completely disagree about your position on proper lower body mechanics in relation to the path on the backswing. Went to a GEARS assessment and that’s what they stressed the most. Body lineage.

  4. SoCal

    Feb 23, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    IMO. You’re not discussing his poor footwork. Place him on a pressure plate to get him to feel dynamic motion.

    • Looper

      Feb 23, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      I agree with SoCal I think you’re working in reverse. SoCal might like from the ground up.

  5. Philip

    Feb 22, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    So would you know why the golfer is steep? Or it really isn’t relevant in that everything is so interconnected and reliant on each other that it is easier to get impact correct first, and then over time the body will correct itself all the way back to one’s setup and how they hold the club? It’s just that one has to allow their body to teach them how to swing the club instead of thinking the swing? Just curious because I was stalled with my OTT (backswing too flat or totally upright ITO) for 3 years before I changed my approach 2 years ago to focus on impact. Since then little things have continually clicked and now my swing is falling into place over this winter. One of the bigger things for me was to just stop and take a minute to reflex on what it was I wanted my body to do – I never actually visually thought about what a golf swing looked and felt like from the person doing it – I was always looking from the 3rd person via videos and photos.

    • dennis clark

      Feb 23, 2017 at 12:09 pm

      right. What’s know as whole part whole style learning. You have to have the big picture in mind before working on details. I agree.

  6. Randel

    Feb 22, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Nothing wrong with an up right golf swing, agree getting to Impact with it takes a little practice, as Inbee Park, Jack Nicklaus, D.J. Trahan etc. have proven it can be done to a high level…..

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 22, 2017 at 7:11 pm

      Yea worked pretty well for Jack huh? Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, nowadays Geoff Ogilvy…. Big diff here though. They were upright for sure and even more vertical into impact than say Trevino or Hogan, but…rarely will you see an elite ball striker get the center of mass of the golf club ABOVE their hand path in transition. Craig Parry, maybe Craig Stadler possible rare excetions. Mid, high cap club golfers do, so the face gets seriously open, as the video demonstrate. The first little move from the top flattens on even the most upright swings of the professionals. Take say Furyk, that almost gets too flat into impact, you’d never think it at the top. They MATCH components amateurs don’t bye and bye… Thanks for reading

  7. dennis clark

    Feb 22, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    The last paragraph states: IF you are struggling from shallow IMPACT position, try these drills. DOWNHILL LIES and sidehill ball-below-the-feet lies are a drill for steeping attack angles; Uphill lies and ball above feet are used to SHALLOW attack angles. The golfer has a VERY shallow attack angle, hence the point of the article. The point is NOT to change transition but to change the REACTION to the transition. If/When he gets too steep at IMPACT, then and only then we will address shallowing the AA.

  8. MAC

    Feb 22, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE A GOLFER WITH A STEEP TRANSITION HIT BALLS FROM A DOWN HILL LIE AS A DRILL! WTF!?!?!?

    YOU ARE OUT OF THE PROGRAM!

  9. Bigly Yuge

    Feb 22, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Just do the A-Swing. You can go from the photo on the left to the photo on the right if you just did the A-swing. Simples!

  10. dennis clark

    Feb 22, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    I agree Marnix. That would a good title.

  11. dan

    Feb 22, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Why are there so many shank comments on this article? What I took from it is that it’s important to understand that just trying to fix the “look” of someones swing is a bad idea if you don’t understand that the glaring “look” can influence a players reaction at impact. Makes sense to me. You have to have the student understand the basic impact conditions you’re trying to get them to achieve before you start talking about the swing.

    I liked the article. About putting the horse before the cart.

    If people are going to click shank, they should at least give a basic explanation of why.

  12. Marnix

    Feb 22, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Well done, although the title of the article is a bit confusing – it should really be something like “Impact is Everything”, or “Make Students Better, not Worse”. I have had quite a few lessons where my ball striking afterwards was worse then before, probably because they started with fixing the wrong fundamental flaw first. And yes, in the theme of ‘let’s start from scratch and get you a new swing’, that approach is defensible. But it really takes the fun out of your game for a (long) while until you have mastered the new fundamentals. It’s not about fixing what’s wrong, it’s about fixing what matters. Actually, that would be a good title too :).

  13. dennis clark

    Feb 22, 2017 at 11:59 am

    When golfers get the club back to shaft plane at address or close to it they often shank the ball. That’s why they stand the club UP!

  14. Dennis Clark

    Feb 22, 2017 at 10:10 am

    If you notice the grip end of the club is pointed up at his chest into impact; it started at his belt buckle. That’s what I mean by striving to get the handle lower into impact. He raises the handle because he is too steep to release the club properly.

  15. Steve

    Feb 22, 2017 at 7:51 am

    What exactly do these things mean?

    Releasing the club down (not dragging the handle)
    Lowering the handle into impact.

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Instruction

A Jedi Mind Trick For Improved Target Awareness

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I think all golfers, at some point in their life playing the game of golf, has gotten stuck, or become frozen over the golf ball. Why?  They’re trying to remember which of the 23 different swing thoughts they used for the day performed the best.

The disheartening reality: none of us are going to perform well on a consistent basis with our thoughts being so internally driven. Swing thoughts force our awareness inward. Is the shaft in the correct position? Am I making a proper pressure shift? Was that a reverse pivot? Close that club face! Regardless of the technique you are trying to manage or modify, these kinds of questions make you acquire sensations internally.

To complicate things further, we are taught to look at the golf ball, not the target, while hitting our golf shot. And yet instinctively, in almost all other skills of making a ball or object finish towards a target (throwing a ball or frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, skipping a rock across water, shooting a basket ball) our awareness is not on the ball or the motion itself, but rather the ultimate target.

So, can we develop a skill that allows us to still keep our eye on the ball, like the game of golf encourages, but have awareness of our target, like so many other target sports demand?  Yes, the answer is (third rate Yoda Speak), and the skill can easily be yours.

Here’s where this gets fun. You already have learned this skill set, but under different conditions. Perhaps this example resonates with you. Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? Remember how you used to close your eyes and count to 10? During those 10 seconds of having your eyes closed, weren’t you using all of your senses externally, trying to track where your friends were going to hide? Weren’t you, just like a bloodhound, able to go directly to a few of the less skillful hiders’ hiding places and locate them?

Or how about this example. When you are driving down your own local multilane highway, aren’t you aware of all the cars around you while keeping your eyes firmly on the road in front of you? Reconnecting, recognizing and/or developing these skills that all of us already use is the first step in knowing you’re not too far away from doing this with your golf game.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a putter and place your golf ball 3 feet away from the hole on a straight putt. Aim your putter, and then look at the hole. As you bring your eyes back to the golf ball, maintain part of your awareness back at the hole. Each successive time your eyes leave your golf ball and head back to the hole, your eyes will be able to confirm your target. It hasn’t moved; it’s still in the same location; your confidence builds.

When you know for certain that your external awareness of the target is locked in while still looking at your golf ball, step up and execute your putt.

The wonderful beauty of this skill set is that you now have the best of both worlds. You are still looking at the golf ball, which gives you a better chance of striking the golf ball solidly… AND you are now target aware just like you are when you are throwing an object at a target.

As always, acquire this skill set from a close target with a slower, smaller motion. If you don’t execute properly, you have a better chance of making the proper corrective assessment from a slower, smaller motion and closer target. As you become more proficient with this skill, allow the target to get farther away and try to add more speed with a larger range of motion.

So give learning this skill set a go. I don’t think there is anything more valuable in playing the game of golf than keeping your “athlete” attached to the target. Become proficient at developing this awareness and you can tell all your friends that the primary reason your scores are getting lower and you’re getting deeper into their wallets is because of Jedi Mind tricks. Good luck!

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Instruction

6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick

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One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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Instruction

Is There An Ideal Backswing?

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In this video, I talk about the backswing and look into optimal positions. I also discuss the positives and negatives of different backswing positions.

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