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Faults and Fixes: Why your hands are so far from your body at impact

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

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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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Instruction

A Jedi Mind Trick For Improved Target Awareness

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I think all golfers, at some point in their life playing the game of golf, has gotten stuck, or become frozen over the golf ball. Why?  They’re trying to remember which of the 23 different swing thoughts they used for the day performed the best.

The disheartening reality: none of us are going to perform well on a consistent basis with our thoughts being so internally driven. Swing thoughts force our awareness inward. Is the shaft in the correct position? Am I making a proper pressure shift? Was that a reverse pivot? Close that club face! Regardless of the technique you are trying to manage or modify, these kinds of questions make you acquire sensations internally.

To complicate things further, we are taught to look at the golf ball, not the target, while hitting our golf shot. And yet instinctively, in almost all other skills of making a ball or object finish towards a target (throwing a ball or frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, skipping a rock across water, shooting a basket ball) our awareness is not on the ball or the motion itself, but rather the ultimate target.

So, can we develop a skill that allows us to still keep our eye on the ball, like the game of golf encourages, but have awareness of our target, like so many other target sports demand?  Yes, the answer is (third rate Yoda Speak), and the skill can easily be yours.

Here’s where this gets fun. You already have learned this skill set, but under different conditions. Perhaps this example resonates with you. Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? Remember how you used to close your eyes and count to 10? During those 10 seconds of having your eyes closed, weren’t you using all of your senses externally, trying to track where your friends were going to hide? Weren’t you, just like a bloodhound, able to go directly to a few of the less skillful hiders’ hiding places and locate them?

Or how about this example. When you are driving down your own local multilane highway, aren’t you aware of all the cars around you while keeping your eyes firmly on the road in front of you? Reconnecting, recognizing and/or developing these skills that all of us already use is the first step in knowing you’re not too far away from doing this with your golf game.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a putter and place your golf ball 3 feet away from the hole on a straight putt. Aim your putter, and then look at the hole. As you bring your eyes back to the golf ball, maintain part of your awareness back at the hole. Each successive time your eyes leave your golf ball and head back to the hole, your eyes will be able to confirm your target. It hasn’t moved; it’s still in the same location; your confidence builds.

When you know for certain that your external awareness of the target is locked in while still looking at your golf ball, step up and execute your putt.

The wonderful beauty of this skill set is that you now have the best of both worlds. You are still looking at the golf ball, which gives you a better chance of striking the golf ball solidly… AND you are now target aware just like you are when you are throwing an object at a target.

As always, acquire this skill set from a close target with a slower, smaller motion. If you don’t execute properly, you have a better chance of making the proper corrective assessment from a slower, smaller motion and closer target. As you become more proficient with this skill, allow the target to get farther away and try to add more speed with a larger range of motion.

So give learning this skill set a go. I don’t think there is anything more valuable in playing the game of golf than keeping your “athlete” attached to the target. Become proficient at developing this awareness and you can tell all your friends that the primary reason your scores are getting lower and you’re getting deeper into their wallets is because of Jedi Mind tricks. Good luck!

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Instruction

6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick

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One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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Instruction

Is There An Ideal Backswing?

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In this video, I talk about the backswing and look into optimal positions. I also discuss the positives and negatives of different backswing positions.

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