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Why Every Golf Swing Tip Should Come With a Warning

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The internet has given birth to a plethora of golf swing advice, tips and how-to information. For average golfers, I think it has become a source of confusion rather than clarity… and with good reason. The information itself is all well and good, but the interpretation of the advice is a cause for concern. I know this because I teach golf every day to weekenders and people who play golf for enjoyment. Often, I hear them relate how they are attempting to incorporate a tip into their swing. And sometimes, in fact quite often, what they are trying to do is flat out wrong for them. The operative phrase here is for them.

Imagine for a minute that Jordan Spieth had read or heard about the importance of a straight left arm, or a full pronation and supination of his arms coming into impact. Those two pieces of advice have been widely discussed throughout the instruction community for years. And for some, perhaps many, they are relevant. Not so much for Jordan. His instructor was wise enough to know better in this case. That same teacher may very well have another student do those things; he just knew it was not in Jordan’s best interest.

How does a golfer know something they have read or heard is good for their swing when it’s likely the author or video creator has never seen them swing. Personally, I try to steer away from offering generalized swing tips. Rather, I focus on an approach that can best be described as, “If this, then that.” IF your golf ball is doing this, THEN you might try this.

I start every one of my lessons with a direct question: “What’s your miss and what poor shot do you, at times or often, hit?” That’s a loaded question for an instructor, because the answer contains a ton of information about a golfer’s pattern. For example, high upright swings create high slices; lower, flatter motions create low hooks; wide swings hit the heel; narrow ones hit the toe; steep swings hit fat shots; flatter ones miss thin. On and on.

I have had a lot of golfers come to my lesson tee trying their best to incorporate a move they’ve read or heard, and what they are attempting to do does not fit their puzzle. A recent example comes to mind about a player who was struggling with swaying off the ball and very wide takeaway. Consequently, he was hitting 2 inches behind most shots off the turf… even drop-kicking his driver. He told me how a Golf Channel segment had suggested that a wider arc creates more power. True enough, perhaps; it just happened to be terrible advice for him because he was already wide.

The very best swing advice you can get comes from your own instructor, but if you are going to attempt to employ a new pattern on your own, please be sure it can help correct your old one. In other words, be certain the prescription fits the condition.

Every swing tip should come with a warning: “Side effects can be hazardous to golf swing. Trying this can cause slices, hooks, shanks, pulls, pushes, thin and fat shots, skulls and pop ups. If any of these symptoms appear, please see your instructor right away!”

In deciding what information to incorporate, as I’ve said, a personal instructor is best, but if you are interested in trying a new tip from a friend, book, article or video, perhaps an online video review of your swing might reveal what is helpful and what could be harmful. In other words, buyer beware. I would hate to see any of you make your current swing problem worse. My new website will include a limited number of online students so I can work more directly with golfers through Skype and other platforms, but I have to know your history, your ball flight trends, and any physical limitations before offering assistance.

I know a lot us who write articles are accused of wanting more business. Personally, I do not want more business; I have all I can handle. If I were to get a rash of new students, I would need more time and/or a bigger staff-neither of which I care to do. I’m simply saying “swing-unseen” advice can be dangerous. Please know what you’re getting into.

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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

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Tom54

    Jul 26, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Please can we retire that picture of the body bug skin disorder looking thing once and for all??

  2. Tom54

    Jul 26, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    I am one that falls into trying all sorts of methods and tips. That’s what keeps us coming back for more isn’t it? As long as we see the pros struggle with their games and that’s their livelihood, than we can struggle with ours too. Arnie said it best when he said “swing your own swing”. Every day we go out there is a chance to play well. Nothing beats a good round

    it best when he said”swing your own swing”. The reason golf is so alluring is that every day out there is a chance to have

  3. Eric B.

    Jul 25, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    A lot of truth here. I am a beginner and initially started out with YouTube. I must say, I learned several good things initially such as grip and backswing form. I was hooked right away and signed up for a 3 lesson package from a local pro. In my first lesson, he really helped me and my friends couldn’t believe my improvement. I swore I wouldn’t watch any more videos and focus on what he was teaching. But, due to scheduling issues, it was a month before I could go back for my second lesson. The siren’s call of the internet was too much and I started watching them again. Soon I regressed and was all over the place. Too many conflicting opinions and my lack of experience prevented me from filtering out the noise. After my second my lesson, he righted the ship again and I started swinging much better once again. Thing is, I do enjoy the videos. They’re fun and interesting. But now I avoid anything related to the swing or grip or alignment, etc. I’m leaving that to my instructor. Instead, I watch the ones about golf course management, dealing with bunkers, green readingor anything related to strategy. I get my fix but also don’t pollute my head with conflicting info.

  4. Joe D

    Jul 25, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    I’m a new golfer, still exploring my swing. I’ve been obsessed with videos. Meandmygolf. Crossfield. Shiels. Clement. Alistair Davies. Paul Wilson. I had a decent driver swing, bad wood swing, decent iron swing.

    After obsessing over all of the videos, I’d try each tip at the range and the results were far from good. I eventually developed a better iron swing, and a better wood swing. But my driver went to shat. That was my best club and I couldn’t hit it at all. Saw this article, last night, off to the range today. Forget all of the damn advice. Just swing the damn thing. So far everything came back.

    • acemandrake

      Jul 25, 2017 at 7:03 pm

      Yes. The tough part is keeping this approach: Swing thoughts are seductive.

  5. Philip

    Jul 25, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Totally agree – baby steps, tiny tweaks, taking it slow and allowing time (weeks or months) before deciding to stop something or to give it more time is the only way. Of course in saying that I am expecting that things haven’t gone sideways with a tweak – in that case one has to slam on the brakes and step back as obviously something was misunderstood or misapplied. Having someone you trust looking at your swing is great. The only caveat with an external point of view (whether instructor or video) is that one still has to internalize the swing and any tweaks – thinking that if one physical part of your swing is off and all one has to do is make the direct change is a recipe for a fools errand – and the endless going in circles. What may be required to change the location of an arm in the swing may have nothing to do with the arms. Hence the reason for drills – to encourage change in a better direction without trying to force it immediately via thoughts.

  6. CB

    Jul 25, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Excellent piece. This is why I enjoy visiting the instructor that I see. He takes what i bring to the table and incorporates ideas/mechanics/thoughts to make what I have better. His whole goal was to get me to the best impact position that my middle age amateur ability could. With his guidance, I went from a bogey golfer to shooting in the 70s with ease (with a personal best of 74). I see him once or twice a year for checkups.

    • acemandrake

      Jul 25, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      Your experience confirms what I believe works best for learning this game. I’m a combination of formal instruction and self-learning while still young and able to practice a lot.

      If asked, I tell anyone to find an instructor they like, work with them, and ignore all other golf swing info from other sources (web, Golf Channel, golf magazines).

      “Happy with ball flight & a swing that repeats” may be all that most golfers need.

      BTW, nice playing, CB!

  7. AceW7Iron

    Jul 25, 2017 at 7:50 am

    It surely comes down to each individual and finding a swing that fits their body and abilities. The internet can certainly hurt some seekers but it can also help some tremendously. I recently started slumping (9 hc) after weeks of really good ball striking. I didnt feel like I changed a thing but all of the sudden I could only pull hook a ball…period. After about 4 rounds I was so frustrated it seemed taking 3 weeks off and quitting was the best thing I could do. Then I started searching for videos on how to hit a fade…No, I didn’t really find the magic bullet there in plain sight but hidden among all the hours of youtube video I found a gem called the “Coat Hanger Drill”. I figured what did I have to lose by going to the closet and swinging a few times in the living room with a coat hanger. Turns out the sensation was immediately different than the way I was swinging and I knew I had to stay more connected with the club handle & my wrist. My 1st drive after that was really a slice…my eyes lit up…I can tame a slice. My next drive split the fairway and my approach shot covered the pin. I was back and all because I had a great tool at my fingertips that I didnt have to leave my home to use.

    • dennis clark

      Jul 25, 2017 at 9:09 am

      No doubt it can be a huge help, I like to think some of the things I’ve written have helped folks but the secret is knowing which tip to employ. Thx

      • dapadre

        Jul 26, 2017 at 7:39 am

        Yes you have most certainly sir. Your look on golf is so insightful and I always look forward to your write ups. I actually print some out for later references. My favorite was where you spoke about how your grip has to match your swing dynamics, GOLDEN!

    • dapadre

      Jul 25, 2017 at 9:16 am

      Totally agree. Hence Im just love that Speith is doing so well, why? If we never heard of him and saw his swing, I can guarantee you that there would be comments on how bad it was ( ie his chicken wing and that crazy grip where the v’s dont even align) but it works for him. As its been said its all about the impact. Look at greats like Nicklaus on the backswing his club is actually vertical. I read a book recently that changed my whole look on golf, The L.A.W.S. of the Golfswing by Mike Adams. In short he states and I agree totally, that since we are all different builds and flexibility etc, its impossible to try and teach ONE way to swing. Since reading the book ive dropped strokes and my impact is more solid then ever. Im a club longer and my carry distances on my drives have gone up 20 yards. Since I have stopped fighting my natural swing and have adopted that which suits my body, ive only seen progress.

      • dennis clark

        Jul 25, 2017 at 9:27 am

        Yes if we put a wig on Jordan and some baggy jeans, everyone would be finding fault. IMPACT!

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 25, 2017 at 10:05 am

          … and take away his shiny Titleist clubs… and remove his caddy. Those are givaways. 🙂

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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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