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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

WATCH: How to take your hands out of your swing

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In this video, I share two great drills that help golfers take their hands out of the golf swing. These drills encourage more rotation through impact with quieter hands to improve consistency.

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A simple formula to figure out the right ball position for you

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In this video, I offer my simple formula on ball position that has seen my students produce more consistency. Watch to see how you can adapt your ball position to hit more shots on target.

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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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