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.
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.
3 keys for getting out of bunkers with soft sand
One of the most infuriating things in golf is to land in a bunker that has too much sand, or sand with the consistency of a truckload of talcum power. Now, I am not picking on the Superintendents; they do have to add new sand from time-to-time, so no hate mail please! It’s my fault for hitting it in the bunker in the first place, and bunkers are supposed to be hazards; I know that.
The one thing we will assume for this article is that even though we are in soft sand, we will have a good lie, not a plugged or semi-plugged one. We are in a bunker that just has a bunch of sand, or it’s soft and fluffy sand. Everyone asks me what the secret is to handling these types of conditions and I’m here to help you get better.
1) Get a wedge with the correct bounce
Let’s consider that you play the same golf course every weekend, or that you mostly play on courses that have the same type of playing conditions mostly. When you have this luxury, you should have wedges that fit the conditions you tend to play. So, if you have a low bounce wedge with a sharp flange and you’re playing from bunkers with lots of sand, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Why alter your swing if the wedge you have can help you? Use a high bounce wedge (9-12 degrees of bounce) for soft sand, and a low bounce wedge (6-8 degrees) for firm sand.
2) Control your Angle of Attack
As with most things in golf, there are always things that you must pay attention to in order for you to have the odds in your favor. Simple things such as paying attention to the lie you have can help you save shots in the rough. In bunkers, you cannot test the surface, however, you can use your feet to feel the density of the sand. Pay attention to what you feel in the balls of your feet. If you feel a ton of sand below you, then you know you will have to alter your angle of attack if you want any chance to get out of the bunker successfully.
So what do I mean by this?
The setting of your wrists has a very dynamic effect on how much the wedge digs in or skids through the sand (assuming you have an open face). When there is a surplus of sand, you will find that a steeper attack caused by the maximum cocking of your wrists makes it much easier for the wedge to work too vertical and dig too deep. When you dig too deep, you will lose control of the ball as there is too much sand between the blade and the ball — it will not spin as much and won’t have the distance control you normally have.
The secret to playing from softer sand is a longer and wider bunker swing with much less wrist-set than you would use on your stock bunker shot. This action stops the club from digging too deep and makes it easier for you to keep moving through the ball and achieving the distance you need.
3) Keep your pivot moving
It’s nearly impossible to keep the rotation of your shoulders going when you take too much sand at impact, and the ball comes up short in that situation every time. When you take less sand, you will have a much easier time keeping your pivot moving. This is the final key to good soft-sand bunker play.
You have made your longer and more shallow backswing and are returning to the ball not quite as steeply as you normally do which is good… now the only thing left to do is keep your rear shoulder rotating through impact and beyond. This action helps you to make a fuller finish, and one that does not lose too much speed when the club impacts the sand. If you dig too deep, you cannot keep the rear shoulder moving and your shots will consistently come up short.
So if you are in a bunker with new sand, or an abundance of sand, remember to change your bounce, adjust your angle of attack, and keep your pivot moving to have a fighting chance.
WATCH: How to stop “flipping” through impact
Are you flipping through impact? In this video, I share a great drill that will help you put better pressure on the golf ball at impact. By delivering the sweet spot correctly, you’ll create a better flight and get more distance from your shots immediately.
The Wagon Wheel Drill
For many golfers, the ability to hit shots golf ball to the target is a difficult task, especially when you take into account the rough, trees or hazards lining the hole. In this video, I share “The Wagon Wheel Drill,” a simple idea of how to practice intentionally hitting the ball left, right and on target.
Practice this and you will soon be hitting the target more often.
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