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5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Golf Swing

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As a golf coach, I see hundreds of different swings every year. No two are the same, and it is my job to help my players make the most of their talent and technique to shoot the lowest scores possible. There’s no question that technique has a very important role in shooting lower scores, but it’s usually not the starting point of the work I do with my golfers. More often than not, I start by helping golfers get the most out of the swing they already have before we start fine tuning things.

Here are five ways you can start getting the most out of your golf swing right now. See how far these tips can take you before you decide to rebuild a golf swing that may already be good enough to help you achieve your golf goals this summer.

1. Pick One Ball Flight

You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve worked with high-handicap golfers who tell me that they’re struggling to hit draws, fades and knockdowns. As great as I think it is that golfers want to have total control of their ball flight, it’s my belief that a golfer must first gain command of their natural ball flight before they attempt to work the ball on the course.

Say you’re a 12-handicapper who struggles to hit a draw. That’s OK! You can score very well hitting a fade on every singe shot, no matter the situation, pin placement, wind or distance. You’ll be surprised how much easier the game becomes. Own it, know it, hit it!

2. Have a Game Plan and Stick To It

Before your round, plan out how you are going to play the course. Visualize different scenarios in your head and how you will react to them. Don’t always just plan the good shots, either; know what you’ll do if you hit it in a trouble spot that you tend to find on the course.

I like to have my players write their game plan before a tournament in essay form. Writing out what they’ll do in sentences helps them be more specific in exactly what they’ll do, which makes them better prepared on the course.

3. Know Your Tendencies in Different Situation

Let’s say you’re on the 18th hole hitting your second shot from 145 yards. There is a bunker on the left and water short and right. The last three rounds you hit your second shot in the water because you came up and out of your shot early. Now the match is on the line and you need to hit a good shot.

In this situation, it’s a good idea to be aware of your tendencies. If you’re between clubs, you’ll want to take the longer one to make sure you clear the water no matter what you do, right? Remember, you can make a par or birdie from just about any where besides the water. Once you decide on your club and shot, however, don’t let the past enter your mind. Your only goal is to execute the task at hand.

4. Get Target-Oriented

Far to often when I am on course with a student and I ask them what are you thinking about, they’ll tell me something like, “I’m going to close my stance and adjust my grip so I can hit a draw into this pin.” You don’t want that to be you.

Once you are on the course, let your technical thoughts go. You will be surprised how well your body will react when you let yourself play target-oriented golf. I like to use a basketball analogy to explain. When you catch a pass and go up for a shot are you thinking any of these things?

  1. Turn and face the hoop
  2. Bend your knees
  3. Elbows in
  4. Jump
  5. Extend your arm
  6. Release the ball
  7. Follow through

If you’re good at basketball, probably not, right? You look at the hoop and rely on your hours of training to make the shot. I have even experimented with putting a shot clock on my players to force them to simply try and react to the target they have chosen. Pick a target, hit your target. It can be that simple.

5. Be Brutally Honest with Yourself… and Play Within Yourself

This may very well be the most important tip on this list. We all have that “friend” who tells anyone who will listen that he is a scratch golfer, but for some reason every time he plays with you he cant seem to break 80. That golfer is not being honest with himself, and he will never reach his potential because of it.

From time to time, all golfers should take an honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. This is when you make the time to break down all the parts of your game, piece by piece. Look at everything from your full swing to your short game to your putting to how you react after a bad shot, and write down what you like and don’t like about each part of your game. If you do, you’ll be surprised how much more positive and accepting of yourself you’ll become on the course. You’ll also be able to better communicate what you need help with to an instructor like me when you’re ready to take your game to the next level.

Put these 5 tips to work if you want to get the most out of your swing right now!

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Dan Gaucher is a Teaching Professional at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Connecticut. He also host a very successful podcast called "Rebel With Out A Par". Dan also has experience in the health and fitness industry which has allowed him to further understand the biomechanics of the body and how it correlates to the golf swing. Dan enjoys being a student of both the human body and the game of golf. Dan works with players of all abilities from beginners to aspiring professionals.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Riles

    May 25, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Hogan said it best : three things you must have ; a driving club, a approach club, putter.

  2. larry fox

    May 24, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Loved the extra tips at the end! Nice article!

  3. cgasucks

    May 24, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    I totally agree…, especially #5. Improving in golf is like going to an AA meeting. You have to admit to yourself that you have a problem with your game and realize you have to do something about it.

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Instruction

Self-discovery: Why golf lessons aren’t helping you improve

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Of all the things I teach or have taught in golf, I think this is the most important: It’s not what we cover in a lesson, it’s what you discover. 

Some years ago, I had a student in golf school for a few days. She was topping every single shot. Zero were airborne. I explained that she was opening her body and moving forward before her arms and club were coming down. “Late” we call it. I had her feel like her arms were coming down first and her body was staying behind, a common correction for late tops. Bingo! Every ball went up into the air. She was ecstatic.

Some time later, she called and said she was topping every shot. She scheduled a lesson. She topped every shot. I asked her why she was topping the ball. “I think I’m picking up my head,” she said to my look of utter disbelief!

I had another student who was shanking the ball. At least 3 out of 5 came off the hosel with his wedges. I explained that his golf club was pointed seriously left at the top of his backswing. It was positioned well OUTSIDE his hands, which caused it to come down too wide and swing OUTSIDE his hands into impact. This is a really common cause of shanking. We were able to get the club more down the line at the top and come down a bit narrower and more inside the ball. No shanks… not a one!  He called me sometime later. The shanks had returned. You get the rest. When I asked what was causing him to shank, he told me “I get too quick.”

If you are hitting the golf ball better during a golf lesson, you have proven to yourself that you CAN do it. But what comes after the lesson is out of a teacher’s hands. It’s as simple as that. I cannot control what you do after you leave my lesson tee. Now, if you are NOT hitting the ball better during a lesson or don’t understand why you’re not hitting it better, I will take the blame. And…you do not have to compensate me for my time. That is the extent to which I’ll go to display my commitment and accept my responsibility. What we as teachers ask is the same level of commitment from the learners.

Improving at golf is a two-way street. My way is making the correct diagnosis and offering you a personalized correction, possibly several of them. Pick the ONE that works for you. What is your way on the street? Well, here are a few thoughts on that:

  • If you are taking a lesson at 10 a.m. with a tee time at 11 a.m. and you’re playing a $20 Nassau with your buddies, you pretty much wasted your time and money.
  • If the only time you hit balls is to warm up for your round, you have to be realistic about your results.
  • If you are expecting 250-yard drives with an 85 mph club head speed, well… let’s get real.
  • If you “fake it” during a lesson, you’re not going to realize any lasting improvement. When the teacher asks if you understand or can feel what’s being explained and you say yes when in fact you DO NOT understand, you’re giving misleading feedback and hurting only yourself. Speak up!

Here’s a piece of advise I have NEVER seen fail. If you don’t get it during the lesson, there is no chance you’ll get it later. It’s not enough to just hit it better; you have to fully understand WHY you hit it better. Or if you miss, WHY you missed.

I have a rule I follow when conducting a golf lesson. After I explain the diagnosis and offer the correction, I’ll usually get some better results. So I continue to offer that advice swing after swing. But at some point in the lesson, I say NOTHING. Typically, before long the old ball flight returns and I wait– THREE SWINGS. If the student was a slicer and slices THREE IN A ROW, then it’s time for me to step in again. I have to allow for self discovery at some point. You have to wean yourself off my guidance and internalize the corrections. You have to FEEL IT.

When you can say, “If the ball did this then I know I did that” you are likely getting it. There is always an individual cause and effect you need to understand in order to go off by yourself and continue self improvement. If you hit a better shot but do not know why, please tell your teacher. What did I do? That way you’re playing to learn, not simply learning to play.

A golf lesson is a guidance, not an hour of how to do this or that. The teacher is trying to get you to discover what YOU need to feel to get more desirable outcomes. If all you’re getting out of it is “how,” you are not likely to stay “fixed.” Remember this: It’s not what we cover in the lesson; it’s what you discover!

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Instruction

Jumping for Distance (Part 2): The One-Foot Jump

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In Part 1, I wrote about how I think this concept of jumping up with both feet for more power may have come about in part due to misinterpretation of still photography and force plate data, self-propagation, and a possible case of correlation vs causation. I also covered reasoning why these players are often airborne, and that can be from flawed setups that include overly wide stances and/or lead foot positions that are too closed at setup or a re-planted lead foot that ends up too closed during the downswing.

In Part 2, let’s look at what I feel is a better alternative, the one foot jump. To me, it’s safer, it doesn’t complicate ball striking as much, and it can still generate huge amounts of vertical ground force.

First, set up with an appropriate stance width. I like to determine how wide to stand based on the length of your lower legs. If you go to your finish position and stand on your lead leg and let your trail leg dangle down so your knees are parallel, your lower trail leg should extend only as far back as it will go while being up on the tip of your trail toe. If you roll that trail foot back down to the ground, viola, you’ll have a stance width that’s wide enough to be “athletic” and stable but not so wide you lose balance when swinging. You can go a little wider than this, but not much.

To contrast, the stance below would be too wide.

Jumping off the ground can be caused by too wide of a stance and lead foot position that is too closed at setup

Second, make sure your lead foot is open sufficiently at address. I’ve previously outlined how to do both these first two points in this article.

Third, whether you shift your weight to your trail foot or keep a more centered weight type feeling in the backswing, when you shift your weight to your lead foot, be careful of the Bubba replant, and then push up with that lead leg to push your lead shoulder up. This is the one-foot “jump” and it will take advantage of parametric acceleration (read more about that here).

But also at the same time, shift your lower spine towards the target.

From a face-on viewpoint, this can look like back bend, but in 3D space it’s side bend. It kind of feels like you are crunching the trail side of your mid-section, or maybe just bending over to the side to pick up a suitcase, for example. This move helps lower your trail shoulder, which brings down the club (whereas this is more difficult to do if you try to two-foot jump with your trail leg). It also helps you to keep from getting airborne off your lead foot. Further it doesn’t change your low point (by not changing the relative position of the C7 vertebrae in its general orb in space) and complicate ball striking like a two-foot jump does.

At this point, the club releases and you can stand up out of the shot (you don’t need to transition in to any sort of dangerous back bend) in balance on your lead foot having generates tons of vertical ground force without having jumped off the ground or putting yourself at risk for injury.

“Movember” mustache… not required!

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Instruction

Move Your Legs Like the Legends: The Key to the Snead Squat

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It’s important not to overdo the “Sam Snead squat.” Understanding the subtle leg movements of the game’s greats is key to making your practice purposeful and making real improvement.

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