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Have you ever seen your swing on video and realized that your hands were really far from your body at impact? There are drills and training aids teaching professionals use to correct this swing flaw, but by and large they are ineffective because they usually do not address the root cause of the fault.

The most common reason golfers get their hands away from their body is to flatten out a golf club that is too steep coming down. Here are few things golfers do to put the club in a better position to hit the ball when they are too steep in transition:

  • Raise the handle at impact
  • Raise the swing center
  • Shorten the radius of the lead arm (chicken wing)
  • “Reverse Pivot” (back up)

What they also do, which is by no means last in importance, is swing the hands OUT and AWAY from their body. This horizontal motion with the hands will flatten the club, but it leaves a golfer in a poor position to hit the golf ball; that is, not connected to the body. In my experience, this is the move I see golfers use most often to correct a golf club that is too steep in transition. You can see it in action in the video at the top of this story.

There are drills we could offer to correct the hand path, but trying to keep your hands in closer to your body does not correct the transition and will likely leave you hitting fat shots every time.

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Let’s start with the most frequent result of sending the hands out: heel hits and shanks. Spray the face of your golf club or put some face tape on it. If you notice all your impact marks near the heel, you need to keep your hands closer to the body.

The one drill I use most often to start the fix is to place an empty water bottle in your right pocket (if you’re right handed). Make a few practice swings trying to crunch the bottle. You’ll hear it make the plastic noise as your right arm hits the bottle. The BenderStik is another good tool for feeling the motion. You could also place a tee INSIDE the ball you’re trying to hit and attempt to hit IT. This may give you a feeling of your hand path staying in… but that’s IF and ONLY IF you’re hitting the heel.

Here’s the big IF in this series; IF you see the hand path WAY OUT on video and you’re hitting the TOE, then you have to learn a flatter downswing. The golf club has to lower in transition so that it can swing on a more horizontal plane into the golf ball. The root cause of the problem has to be corrected at some point.

So we come back to my original reason for writing this series: Knowing what to correct and when, and the answer is always impact. I see toe hits with hands way out from the body and I see heel hits with hands in close to the body every day. It all depends on the inclined plane the golf club is on as it swings into impact.

Read back through my articles for GolfWRX. You’ll see a common thread that runs through most of them. The golf club gets too steep in transition and the golfer reacts to that club being out of position. In other words, the BODY reacts to the CLUB, not the other way around. There is no greater proof of that than this: MOST steep swings have a shallow attack angle. Sending the hand path OUT is just another example of that dynamic in action.

Finally, for anyone who is too steep in transition, I HIGHLY recommend hitting a LOT of golf balls with the ball above your feet on a side hill lie. This cannot be overdone if the handle of your golf club is pointing at the ground in transition. It provides a horizontal orientation to playing golf. We can never forget golf is a SIDE-ON game, and that part of it has to addressed as much as the up and down part.

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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

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Jason

    Jun 23, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Dennis: Enjoy reading your posts. I have watched this post and also went back to viewed your previous articles. I am a golfer suffering with early extension and high hands (fats, shanks, blocks) and all methods I have tried (bumping shaft behind rear, alignment rod across hips, golf bag behind rear, pushing rear back, squatting in D/S) have not worked. I am wondering if this is due to your thoughts on steepness. When you refer to the hand path – is it simply the path of hands from top to impact? Should the clubhead be under this path at all times in the swing not just in transition? On video, I am across the line with clubhead above this path at the top then clubhead basically traces the hand path all the way down and maybe slightly above at impact. Again, no matter what I try I can’t achieve impact position of body in same posture and shaft on same plane as address..no matter what I try!

    • dennis clark

      Jun 25, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      Id have to see a video but generally it is much easier to “lay it off” at the top than to “lay it down” in transition…but yes the steep transition is likely the reason for early extension

  2. ButchT

    Jun 19, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Dennis: is the same good effect that is produced by dropping the club under the plane line in transition duplicated by simply being flatter in the takeaway and maintaining that flatness in the downswing? Or, do you still have to come under the plane line (hands) in the downswing?

    Thank you for your contribution to golfwrx! Butch.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jun 20, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      either way is fine as long as the club gets onto a hitting incline early in th downswing. The butt pointed at the ground leads to the variety of errors I’ve listed. Thx

    • Dennis Clark

      Jun 20, 2017 at 8:23 pm

      Butch…and thank you for your respectful comment. Those of us who spend our every day with struggling golfers and have seen every imaginable swing flaw, try to share those experiences with the readers of WRX. It’s nice to know that some of you appreciate it.

  3. Bobalu

    Jun 19, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Just google GGSwingtips and watch GG’s YouTube videos to find out how to correct this problem without using instructional bandaids (like the old classic empty water bottle in the trail pocket- decent feel drill but simply does not address the root problem). Make the effort to rebuild your pivot and learn how to stop your hip sliding, stalling, and poor rotation that causes your pelvis and hands to move out and causes you to stand up with in an early release of the club. If not, you will continue to get crappy impact and loss of distance. If you are sufficiently motivated, you can learn how to stop goat humping. It starts with changing the pivot motion (to stop the hip slide) and learning how to rotate and square the clubface with rotation. Use the ground forces correctly. Take the stress off your body. Some body types may not be able to pull it off, but most golfers can do it if they are motivated. Are you willing to put in some effort to get better or do you just want more bandaid drills from frustrated coaches?

  4. Loz

    Jun 18, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Flattening the shaft seems to have been covered by every popular YouTube channel in recent weeks. My problem is that I’m 6′ 4″ and have very poor flexibility. Even when I was young I could never touch my toes. Some channels specifically mention this as a cause of early extension and suggest stretching exercises. Your comment about hitting off a side hill lie was interesting. I always hit the ball well off that lie, but strangely also generally don’t struggle with the ball below my feet. I have a very large wrist to floor measurement, I come out 5 degrees upright on on pings scale. I’ve tried and tried and tried (till my thumb bled) but cannot flatten the club in transition. I’m a 4 hcp and generally a good ball striker, but video analysis didn’t exist when I started playing in the mid 80’s, neither did good instruction in my area, so I never knew I had this bad flaw in my swing. Any tips for the taller player would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jun 20, 2017 at 8:27 pm

      Well look at Kuchar…just because one is tall does not mean he/she has to have an upright golf swing. If your video or Tman numbers suggest that an up-and-down dominant motion is hurting you, I would certainly try flattening the downswing arc. Regardless of height. But I’d have the see the swing before I’d say for sure. Thx

  5. Dennis clark

    Jun 18, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Physical limitations and variations certainly play a role in the swing pattern that is adopted by some golfers. It is not however a panacea for more biomechanically “correct” motions. This does however open a much larger discussion on the relationship of the body and arms/hands/club. Historically the approach in swing corrections has tended to favor how the body is ACTING at various points in the swing. It has been my experience that the body often REACTS to the position of the golf club. A classic example might be a very extended lead wrist (cupped) at the top of the swing and a vertical pull down of the handle-From where the body is compelled to try and get the golf club back into position. I have found little to no evidence that the torso or pelvic movement can correct this resultant steepness of the golf club, which again is held by the hands/arms. I have had much better success when changing the golf club/hands/arms position ALLOWING for a more efficient force being applied to the golf club. Certainly I agree with your analysis of the variety of body types and the requisite allowances for them, but regardless of the type, the golf club must get into a position to which the body can react in a better, more effective way. Again just my experience. Thx

    • Nathan

      Jun 18, 2017 at 11:57 pm

      This is the near future of golf instruction.

      Getting away from this nonsense of changing body positions to change the club head position/motion

      …it should be the exact opposite in my opinion.

      Change the club head position/motion in order to naturally correct the body positions.

  6. Dennis clark

    Jun 17, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    It would not hurt. But really I don’t think there is any one body much be that, in and of itself, changes the golf club. Hands and arms change club incline. Flatter lead wrist, sending rear elbow out in front of the ribs,extending right wrist etc…experiment and find what works for you.

  7. BCKnoll

    Jun 17, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Do you feel the little sit down move ala Sam Snead enough to drop a volleyball from between the knees helps shallow out the club/ plane…..

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The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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