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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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Instruction

3 keys for getting out of bunkers with soft sand

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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.

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Instruction

WATCH: How to stop “flipping” through impact

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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.

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The Wagon Wheel Drill

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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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