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Faults and Fixes: Open Club Face at the Top

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This is the second article in our “Faults and Fixes” series with PGA Master Professional Dennis Clark. In this series, Dennis explains specific swing flaws and the method in which they should be fixed to produce the best long-term results. 

Fault: Open Club Face at the Top

One of the most common swing faults I encounter with golfers is one where they tend to get the club face open at the top of the swing or even sooner. And if you look at the video at the top of this article, you’ll see a club face that is considered “open” at the top.

Note: Even a “square” face is actually 90 degrees open to the target at the top of the backswing, but the club face you see here is very open to the path/arc of that swing.  

Now it’s true that the cause is the grip this golfer employs, as well as the “cup” or “extension” in his the lead wrist, but those problems should be dealt with later. Why? You’re watching at a golfer who fights a very severe hook. Yes, even with his open club face at the top he can hook the ball off the planet.

But just for a second, let’s pretend we started by correcting the club face at the top of his swing. What would happen? I can tell you, because this golfer was aware of his fault so he asked me to fix it. And when I corrected the club face for him, his shots barely got off the ground and dove hard left. Why? Because this golfer has learned to play what’s called “open-to-shut” golf. What that means is he has become adept at flipping the club closed into impact.

On my FlightScope, this golfer’s path measured +4 degrees (in to out) and his Boditrak center of pressure trace showed 65 percent of his pressure on his trail leg at impact. Basically, he was hanging back and flipping the club closed at impact.

So the two big problems for this golfer are his path and his inability to get through the golf ball. He is used to hooking the ball, so he has ingrained his move reflexively. That’s why I did not want to immediately correct his club face position. To do the correction in that sequence would make the problem worse, not better. Yes, his swing might look better on video, but as we saw his ball flight got worse.

So what to do?

In this case we worked on setting up a little open to the target and we moved the golf ball slightly forward. I also wanted him to feel his body rotate through the ball more. This correction took some hook out of the ball flight and enabled him to “finish” the shot, or follow through. Over time his swing actually started to produce the ball flight it should with an open club face at the top: a weak push/block to the right. Then we squared the face and the correction was complete.

Again, it’s critical to pay attention to impact before changing anything in a golf swing. It’s just like the previous Faults and Fixes article where we met a golfer with a plane that was too steep. It couldn’t be corrected until the student understood that his reaction to the flaw was the problem, not the flaw itself. This week’s student had to learn that his reaction to his open face was causing the swing flaw, not the open face itself. Once that was understood, he was (and still is) on his way!

If you’re interested in having me take a look at a video of your swing as part of my online instruction service, you can contact me at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com.

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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

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Instruction

Lesson of the Day: Understand cause and effect to make permanent swing changes

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In our “Lesson of the Day” video series with V1 Sports, we match a different GolfWRX member with a different V1 Sports instructor. It’s extremely important to both V1 Sports and GolfWRX to help golfers improve their games and shoot lower scores, and there’s no better way to do that than getting lessons. While we not only want to provide free lessons to select GolfWRX members, we want to encourage and inspire golfers to seek professional instruction. For instructions on how to submit your own video for a chance at getting a free lesson from a V1 Sports instructor as part of our Lesson of the Day series, CLICK HERE.

This week, V1 Pro Dan Marvosh looks at WRX Member Matt Chappellie’s swing.

About the pro

Dan Marvosh is a PGA Professional as well as TPI Certified instructor based at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, CA. In addition to providing a TPI physical screen to understand your body’s movement patterns he also uses the advancement of technology to accurately measure all of the key components that go into making you a better player. These tools include V1 Pro software for analyzing your golf swing, Flightscope launch monitors as well as a brand new wrist sensor called Hackmotion. In addition to in person coaching and programming, Dan offers his students the ability to learn from anywhere in the world via his golf academy.

Lesson context

My first impression of Matt was that he has an athletic setup and likely plays regularly, but like many of you, definitely will benefit from understanding the core cause and effect of why his inconsistencies in ball striking occur. Matt has a very weak grip, evidenced by the “v” of the trail hand pointing in front of his sternum. Players with weak grips generally get the club face fairly open in the back swing and thus have to react accordingly on the down swing to match up the open club face. While most high-handicap players usually react to an open face by swinging left or “over-the-top” to square that open face, Matt has a better players match up where he combines his weak grip with pressure towards his toes at address which cause him to stand up (to maintain balance) in the back swing.

As Matt makes his transition, you’ll notice he continues to early extend (note the loss of tush line) which for him does get his swing direction to the right, however in doing so he will have a significant loss of forward shaft lean and most importantly, face control. In short, standing up in the downswing reduces your ability to create ground force which encourages torso and hip rotation. If you watch Matt’s video, you will be able to understand the connection more clearly. Notice that when the shaft is parallel to the ground in the downswing (Golf Machine aficionados call this p6) the club face is still fairly open (hence why just working on rotation will not work), however just past impact the face has rolled significantly closed, further showing the effect on not utilizing the ground properly to stabilize the face.

In conclusion, like many swings it is often easy to notice the symptoms of Matt’s flawed pattern, however understanding the core cause and thus effect allows permanent change to be more possible and for a lot of my players that starts with the club face. Here are the key steps for Matt to take in order to allow permanent change to show up on the course — where it matters most!

Steps to improvement

  1. Create a stronger grip at setup- the checkpoint for Matt is to have the “v” of the trail hand to line up more with his trail forearm. Most of you will also benefit from being able to see two knuckles of the top hand from address given its effect on controlling the tendency of an open club face.
  2. Feel like pressure at address in the feet is more in the mid foot as opposed to towards the toes.
  3. Work an early extension drill (in the video) to create body awareness and new rotational feels with more ideal pressure shifts (Whenever doing a drill, start off slow and work your way up to speed and take advantage of your smart phone to measure your progress – feel and real are often two extremely different things. Finally, dedicate a portion of your practice to practice swings at 90% speed that incorporate portions of the change you are making and try to match those swings on a ball, this is ultimately the swing you want to take to the course because it has athleticism and incorporates your new pattern)
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Instruction

How-to Series: How to move your hips on the backswing

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Lucas Wald How To Series: How to move your hips on the backswing

This is the first installment in our How To Series — follow this plan to master the movements of the hips on the backswing!


Watch the series introduction here

This new series is all about helping you improve your golf swing quickly. We’re going to break the swing down into its component parts and give you specific practice direction — master these key elements of the swing and you’ll see improvement fast!

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Instruction

How “long arms” at the top of the backswing can help you hit the ball farther

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One of the hardest things to do as we get older is to make a big shoulder turn with extended arms at the top. It’s the swing of a younger golfer! However, every one of us can add width at the top so we can hit it farther, but few know how to actually do so. In this article, I will use MySwing 3D Motion Analysis to help you understand how beneficial long arms are at the top.

As you examine the swing of this particular player, you will notice that the lead arm is “soft” and the hands are close to this player’s head at the top. This is the classic narrow armswing to the top that most older players employ. And as we all know this position leaves yardage in the bag!

Now let’s look at the data so we can see what is actually happening…

At the top you can see that the shoulders have turned 100 degrees which is more than enough, but the arms look jammed and narrow at the top. Why?

The answer lies within the actions of the rear arm, the lead arm is only REACTING to the over-bending of the rear elbow. As you can see at the top the rear elbow is bent 60 degrees. In a perfect world, when the rear elbow is at 90 degrees (a right angle) or more, the lead arm will be mostly straight — depending on how you’re built.

Something to note…in this position the hands are just past the chest and the shoulders have turned almost 90 degrees. However, when this player finished his backswing, he added 30 more degrees of rear elbow bend and only 11 more degrees of shoulder turn! What this means is that for the last quarter of the backswing, all this player did is allow the hands to basically collapse to the top of the backswing. This move is less than efficient and will cause major issues in your downswing sequencing, as well as, your transitional action.

As stated when your trail elbow stays at 90 degrees or wider in route to the top, you will have a much straighter lead arm.

One last thing to note when comparing these two players is that this player two had a shorter backswing length but a BIGGER shoulder turn with WIDER arms at the top, giving this player a short compact motion that resembles Adam Scott — which seems to work for he and Butch!

Therefore, the thing to remember is that if your lead arm is soft at the top and your arms look crowded at the top, then you must fix the over-bending of the rear elbow on the backswing. And if you have wider arms you will have a more solid “package” to become a ballstriking machine!

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