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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

How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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How to eliminate the double cross: Vertical plane, gear effect and impact location

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One of the biggest issues teachers see on the lesson tee is an out-to-in golf swing from a player who is trying to fade the ball, only to look up and see the deadly double cross! This gear effect assisted toe hook is one of the most frustrating things about trying to move the ball from left to right for the right-handed golfer. In this article, I want to show you what this looks like with Trackman and give you a few ways in which you can eliminate this from your game.

Below is the address position of a golfer I teach here in Punta Mita; his handicap ranges between scratch and 2, depending on how much he’s playing, but his miss is a double cross when he’s struggling.

Now let’s examine his impact position:

Observations

  • You see a pull-hooking ball flight
  • The hands are significantly higher at impact than they were at address
  • If you look at the clubhead closely you can see it is wide open post impact due to a toe hit (which we’ll see more of in a second)
  • The face to path is 0.5 which means with a perfectly centered hit, this ball would have moved very slightly from the left to the right
  • However, we see a shot that has a very high negative spin axis -13.7 showing a shot that is moving right to left

Now let’s look at impact location via Trackman:

As we can see here, the impact of the shot above was obviously on the toe and this is the reason why the double-cross occurred. Now the question remains is “why did he hit the ball off of the toe?”

This is what I see from people who swing a touch too much from out-to-in and try to hit fades: a standing up of the body and a lifting of the hands raising the Vertical Swing Plane and Dynamic Lie of the club at impact. From address, let’s assume his lie angle was 45 degrees (for simplicity) and now at impact you can see his Dynamic Lie is 51 degrees. Simply put, he’s standing up the shaft during impact…when this happens you will tend to pull the heel off the ground at impact and this exposes the toe of the club, hence the toe hits and the gear effect toe hook.

Now that we know the problem, what’s the solution? In my opinion it’s a three stage process:

  1. Don’t swing as much from out-to-in so you won’t stand up as much during impact
  2. A better swing plane will help you to remain in your posture and lower the hands a touch more through impact
  3. Move the weights in your driver to promote a slight fade bias

Obviously the key here is to make better swings, but remember to use technology to your advantage and understand why these type of things happen!

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