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. This summer, he's teaching out of Southpointe Golf Club in Pittsburgh

    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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