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Are you struggling to hit solid iron shots? Here’s a scenario that plays out all over the golfing world. You’re playing with your weekly group of buddies and then it happens… again… a topper. You think to yourself, “That’s a great ground ball to second base.” Then, one of the guys yells, “Keep your head down.” Another one says, “Don’t move around so much.”

Though this advice is well-meaning, it typically causes more damage than good to your game. Don’t listen to them. Try these 3 tips to hit solid iron shots instead.

Tip 1: Weight Forward

Weight forward

When you set up for an iron shot with your weight forward on your lead leg and foot, good things tend happen. This setup helps move the bottom of your swing forward, and finding the bottom of your swing is the No. 1 fundamental in golf. The expert player can hit the ground in the same spot every time because he or she is setting up with his or her weight forward.

Many struggling golfers bottom the club out early and behind the ball. This happens because their weight starts and stays on the back foot/leg, which generally leads to a slice. My most successful students say they hit the ball more solid when they consciously set up with their weight forward.

Tip 2: Handle Forward

Handle Fowrard

Now that you’re set up with your weight forward, the handle of your golf club needs to be leaned forward as well. Having both in sync will shift your path more to the right for the right-handed golfer, and it will do just the opposite for the left-handed golfer. This type of path makes it more likely that you’ll hit a draw.

When your handle leans backward, you are opening the club face to the path. That leads to a slice, and it’s also a much weaker motion that will not allow you to compress the golf ball at impact as well.

Tip 3: Arms Straight

arms-straight-e1503338082112

Keep your arms straight as you strike the ball, and keep them straight through your finish. Having straight arms at impact and keeping them straight through the ball allows the forward wrist to flatten and the trail wrist to bend. This important detail also generates pressure into the back of the golf ball. Keeping your arms straight through the ball is crucial if you want to hit your irons solid.

The majority of golfers coming to me for golf lessons have their arms pulling apart through and after impact. Losing structure in your arms causes all sorts of issues, including the “chicken wing.”

Bonus Tip: Raise Your Belt Buckle!

raise the belt

Raising your belt buckle means to allow your body extend. Many struggling golfer stay down as they swing. As soon as they make contact, they’re basically done with their swing. Don’t do this. It’s key to allow your body to naturally move with the motion of the golf swing.

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Jess Frank is a PGA Teaching Professional at Deer Creek Golf Club in Deerfield Beach, Florida. He's owner of the Jess Frank Golf Academy, and his passion is to help golfers play better and have more fun on the course. Students have described his instruction style as non-intimidating, friendly and easy to understand. Jess works with every level of golfer, and his lesson tee includes complete beginners and high-level golfers. Playing lessons are also a very important part of his lesson program. His greatest joy is seeing his students smile and get excited about playing golf! Please feel free to email him at pgapro@jessfrankgolf.com or contact him directly at 561-213-8579.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Jess Frank

    Sep 17, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Hello Sam, thank you very much for reading my article and taking the time to make a comment on the post. You are correct in saying hitting the sweet spot is crucial and I often address this with my students. The majority of students I teach stay flexed over way too long and bend their arms way too much, especially the lead arm. So extending or raising the belt buckle and straightening the arm actually improves their arc or radius and makes hitting the ball more solid easier. Weight forward, arms straight and raising the belt buckle to the sky has helped golfers play better for sure:) Thanks again for your comments and have a great week!

    • sam

      Sep 18, 2017 at 2:26 am

      Hey, Jess …. you are responding to my comment below, namely:
      “The 3 tips will help duffers hit the ball but it still won’t be a solid hit because impact will still be all over the clubface. Only sweet spot hits will feel solid.”
      ———————-
      What most recreational golfers do is block their hips coming into impact because they cannot rotate their hips open and maintain the spinal tilt through impact. They block their hips in order to keep their balance because if they continued rotating their ‘belt buckle’ their Center of Pressure would move outside their feet area and they would topple over. Also they go erect coming into impact as a natural reflex to ‘hit hard’. It’s all so so wrong.

  2. OX

    Sep 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    If you don’t match your shaft flex with your swing speed you will have impact feel problems.
    A slow speed swing and a stiff shaft will make impact feel dull and not satisfying. You will only get solid hits if your shaft tip flexes adequately to whipsnap the clubhead through impact. With a stiff shaft you are not releasing the clubhead through impact.

    • H-Pylori

      Sep 17, 2017 at 8:14 am

      Match your shaft flex for added moi right?

  3. Speedy

    Sep 13, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Good tips, Jess. You got me back on track with my irons.

    • sam

      Sep 13, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      The 3 tips will help duffers hit the ball but it still won’t be a solid hit because impact will still be all over the clubface. Only sweet spot hits will feel solid.

    • Jess Frank

      Sep 17, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Hey Speedy! Thanks for reading and great to hear!:) Please let me know if you have any more questions!

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Instruction

Golf 101: 3 fundamentals to straighter shots

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Editor’s Note: This article was written by Kyla Carlson (Alaska), Hayley Mortensen (Oregon), Garret Howell (Arizona) and Seth Abrahamson (Guam), four students in New Mexico State University’s PGA Golf Management Program.

It is our belief that the majority of golfers are looking to achieve a straighter ball flight at a more normal trajectory. To accomplish this, we put together three fundamentals to help golfers improve. They are:

  1. Contact the Ball with the Center of the Club Face
  2. Contact the Ball when the Club Face is Square to the Target Line
  3. Swing the Club along the Target Line

Below, we take a step-by-step approach to helping golfers achieve these fundamentals so they can hit straighter shots.

Fundamental #1: Contact the Ball with the Center of the Club Face

In the photo above, Hayley demonstrates the circular nature of the swing as she maintains her balance.

Setup: A balanced setup is one where your weight is evenly distributed between your feet (50 percent on your right foot, and 50 percent on your left foot) and evenly distributed from heel to toe. The reason for the balanced setup is that it creates a radius between you and the ball. By maintaining your balance, you maintain the radius of the swing. Therefore, the center of the club face will return to the ball.

Swing: It is important to remain balanced throughout the swing. Be sure not to slide the weight of your body from left to right, as we want a balanced, circular rotation, not a swaying motion.

Fundamental #2: Contact the Ball when the Club Face is Square to the Target

In the photo above, Garret demonstrates holding the club with the grooves vertical. In addition, he demonstrates holding the club face “open” and “closed.” respectively.

Setup: To confirm that you’re holding the club with a square club face, stand up and hold the club out in front of you so that the shaft is parallel to the ground. From this position, the grooves of the club should be vertical.

A neutral grip gives the player the best chance to return to the point of impact with a square club face. A neutral grip is one where your palms are facing each other. In addition, the palm of the right-handed golfer will face the target. The club should be positioned behind the ball so that the club face is square to the target. Then, set your body so that you’re square with the grooves of the club face and so your club is in the center of your stance.

Grip Check: With your normal grip, stand upright with the club out in front of you and allow a friend to hold the club head with his or her index and middle fingers. Once he or she has a hold on the club head, relax your joints and lean back. This will mimic the centrifugal pull that is created by the swing. Depending on the position of your hands, the club head may twist one way or the other. If it does, adjust your hands (clockwise or counter-clockwise) until the club doesn’t twist. A neutral grip will not twist.

In the photo above, Henry does the grip check to confirm that Garret is holding the club with a neutral grip.

In the photos above, Garret and Henry also demonstrate the effects of holding the club with a “strong” and “weak” grip, respectively.

Swing: The club face should maintain its relationship to the player as it swings. The player should make no attempt to twist the club face. Holding the club face with a neutral grip will allow centrifugal force to square the club face at impact (as long as the player started the swing with the club in the middle of his stance and maintained balance throughout the swing).

Fundamental #3: Swing the Club Along the Target Line

In the photo above, Kyla demonstrates swinging the club along the target line. Notice how the shaft of the golf club tracks the target line as it swings around her body.

Setup: Set the club face so that it is perpendicular to the target line (Orange Line). The shaft of the golf club should also be perpendicular to the target line. Then set the feet and shoulders so they are parallel to the target line.

Swing: The shaft of the club should track the target line and point directly at the target just prior to 9 o’clock in the forward swing. Thinking of the shaft as a fire hose or telescope can be a helpful visualization for a player to understand this concept. A drill that may be helpful is to swing a short pool noodle along the target line, stopping before 9 o’clock to look through the hole and confirm that its pointing at the target.

By understanding and practicing these fundamentals, you will experience straighter shots and have more fun playing this wonderful game.

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Instruction

Davies: The Trail Elbow In The Downswing

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In this video, I discuss the role of the trail elbow in the downswing. I also share some great drills to help golfers deliver the trail elbow correctly, which will help improve distance and contact.

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Instruction

The 3 different levels of golf practice

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“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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