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

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

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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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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