Every golfer wants to know how to strike the ball like a pro, and strike quality alone is such an important element. It determines:

  • Energy transfer into the ball (and hence maximal distance)
  • Spin rates
  • Consistency of clubface delivery
  • Gear effect

All of the above factors will affect our ability to hit greens in regulation, the leading correlator to lower scores.

Low Point

As discussed HERE, the pros hit their irons from the ground with a descending blow, where the club is traveling on the downward part of the arc, strikes the ball, and then enters the turf. In order to do this, it is necessary to have the lowest point of your swing arc in front of the ball to some degree as seen in the video below.

There are a million videos/books/bits of information out there regarding low point control, but they are missing a key element. It’s called “Arc Height Control.”

Arc Height

Having a low point that is in front of the ball is not enough in itself, although it is a necessary starting point. If your low point is in front of the ball, we have to match it with the correct “depth.” Think of this as the depth at which the club goes into the turf. Some golfers dig deep into the ground, while other golfers pick the ball off the top of the turf.

Adam_Young_Ground_Contact-1

In the above picture, we see how a deeper swing arc (bottom) produces a ground contact that is farther back than a higher swing arc (semi-transparent). The video below explains how, with a good low point location, we can:

  • Still hit a fat shot if our arc gets too deep.
  • Hit the ball thin if our arc gets too high.

What Controls Arc Height?

In basic form, anything that gets your hands closer to or farther from the ball at impact (in 3D space) will change arc height. This is where it gets infinitely complex.

If we are to look at body motions in the golf swing, there could be many reasons why we might see a change in arc height. All of the following can create a change in arc height:

  • A change in knee flex
  • A change in lead shoulder distance from the ground
  • A change in lead shoulder rotation
  • A change in spine angle
  • A change in lead arm flex
  • A change in release/amount of shaft lean aft impact compared to address

These six elements are only the tip of the iceberg, too.

Technique

When I am teaching arc height in a live lesson, I look for patterns. For example, is the player consistently too deep, or consistently too high with their swing arc? If there is a pattern, I may look at the body motion and see if there is something we can change to improve this pattern.

For example, if a player is hitting deep divots behind the ball consistently, and this correlates with a big drop in head height, we could reduce the head drop or add more “jump” through impact. I know that teaching a “jump” might be controversial, but many of the world’s best players move their bodies in a squat-jump fashion. It can actually be a nice way to shallow the swing arc while adding speed. Ever see the jump moves that the long-drive champions use?

I will always consider what I feel is best for the player and what I think they can manage more easily, as well as other goals. For example, there might be ways to add “arc-raising” moves and improve swing path at the same time.

Skill Drills

Any technical changes to your golf swing should be made with an experienced instructor, however, there are ways that every single golfer can improve their control of arc height without consciously-directed motion changes. Through using skill drills (think “tasks” that improve your coordination while subtly improving your technique unconsciously), we can get quite dramatic improvements in our ability to strike the ball.

The video below shows a great skill drill for all golfers using a bottle cap. It’s particularly effective for golfers suffering with fat shots that are created by a deep arc depth.

The bottle-cap drill fits in with the latest motor learning science in that it has an external focus, or a focus placed outside of our body. These kinds of drills improve coordination by focusing golfers on one task, which allows our subconscious mind to improve our ability to coordinate all of the moving parts (shoulder, arm, knees etc.) into a workable solution.

I have developed many drills similar to this that deal with specific issues, such as low-point issues or arc- depth issues. You can learn more about those drills on my website: www.AdamYoungGolf.com/The-Strike-Plan

Conclusion

I hope this article provided you some value. Here are the summary points:

  • Having a good low point position helps, but it is not enough. We also have to control the height/depth of our swing arc.
  • Many body movements can contribute to the arc height changing.
  • Technical changes should be done under the supervision of a competent instructor, but skill drills will improve all golfers regardless of swing style. They are tasks that improve the coordination of all the moving parts with an external focus. All of the leading motor learning science says practicing with an external focus is ideal for optimal learning and retention.
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Adam is a golf coach and author of the bestselling book, "The Practice Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Golfers." He currently teaches at Twin Lakes in Santa Barbara, California. Adam has spent many years researching motor learning theory, technique, psychology and skill acquisition. He aims to combine this knowledge he has acquired in order to improve the way golf is learned and potential is achieved. Adam's website is www.adamyounggolf.com

Visit his website www.adamyounggolf.com for more information on how to take your game to the next level with the latest research.

78 COMMENTS

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  1. Rob Harrand:
    So what’s your diagnosis of elite athlete brain cramps when they try to scientifically understand their sport? Let me give you my answer.
    Elite athletes are natural athletes and they grow into their sport until they hit their ceiling, and then as adults they seek answers to their limitations.
    They look to scientific analysis and that messes up their juvenile brains. Yes, most of these athletes in their teens and twenties are still children no matter how mature they may sound.
    Science baffles their simplistic minds, and they crash in confusion. Their athletic abilities are ‘artistic’ and resides in their ‘unconscious’ minds. It just happens because they are naturals!
    Give them conscious scientific instruction and their childish unconscious mind is thrown into chaos. They don’t have enough intellectual brain power to handle the new reality.
    I see that attitude in your braggadocio — my speed, my vertical, my athletic record. Because you’re successful doesn’t mean you can teach others.
    Look, science is a b!tch and if you try to embrace her without a basic knowledge of physics, math, anatomy, psychology, she will screw you up. That’s what your failed friends experienced mainly because those who attempted to inject science into their sports mind were incompetent.
    Golf is in turmoil scientifically.Other sports such as olympic sports have utilized scientific knowledge to the max. Other sports such as ol’ boy team sports not so much. Golf primitively.
    Now tell us how you think science can be effectively used to help golfers, or are you just an elite level athletic luddite.

    • Oh you’re Dr. F now! How’s that working out for you? Any better? You sure write poorly for a doctor. Hmmm…

      Anyway, I’m good and I couldn’t care less about your angry, inchorent babble. You’re going off on tangents and no one cares. Good luck with the new title.

      • Cut and running back to your perfect world? Why did you come here anyway with your attack on the article author Adam Young? You avoid answering basic questions about your academic qualifications, likely because you have none. You are a fraud.

      • Actually, there’s a core commonality between what both of you are saying — that good players tend to be good because they’ve set a task for the body to accomplish with a club, the body does it, and they feel “this,” not an infinitely parsed set of linear instructions. It’s just that you (Rob) seem to be saying this is how it ought to be and is a kind of genius in itself (which is more or less my position), and “Dr. F” is flexing his alleged scientific-elite muscles and saying these guys are functioning at instinctive and primal levels and are either disinclined or not capable (most of them, anyway) of getting the science right. Or maybe he’s just saying the science is _different_, but to the degree that he’s saying that, I don’t know what the relevance here is. It ends up being just academic.

        Have no idea if this guy is an actual scientist, but continuing to insist that “I have the science, you don’t, ordinary people don’t understand it like I do” is really just another form of posing out here. Maybe he knows something worth knowing, maybe not. What you’re saying here and what “ooffaa” says below tends to make me think he’s the same guy I’ve seen doing this kind of voguing on other posts, but I’m not that interested in finding out, honestly. I’m just interested in responding on the substance of what is said.

        Aside from that is the question of whether knowing whatever he knows would help somebody play better or enjoy the game more. More generally, it’s the question of what role disintegrative or dissectional analysis plays in performance. So, for instance, is an athlete or musician who plays with a whole-body feel and who isn’t aware of dissected bits of analysis somehow inferior? Was Snead inferior as a golf thinker to Dr. F because he resisted too much dissection? Jack Grout and Jack Nicklaus? Is the person who drives a car — who, with life at stake, merges into traffic, brakes at the right time and at the right rate, switches lanes while unconsciously calculating rates of acceleration and deceleration, taking in a wide range of variables and factors, etc., without thinking about the science of every separate movement, the anatomy of the foot on the accelerator and the brake, the way the eyes and ears receive stimuli that are processed by the brain, the speed of neural responses, etc., working at a lower level or a higher level than the scientist who looks at those things in a lab? Was Snead working at a lower or higher level than somebody on Trackman or some other analysis hardware? Was Grout, or Toski, or Flick, or even Leadbetter or Harmon, working at a lower or higher level than the guy reading the swing monitor at the local golf school or discount store?

        That’s not to say there isn’t a role for science. I’m totally interested in it myself, starting with being one of the only people to really digest Cochran and Stobbs (Search for the Perfect Swing) back when only a few golf nerds were paying attention to it. There have been many other analyses since then, of course, and other systems and ways of thinking about the science of the swing. Certain aspects of the Ralph Mann thing are valid and interesting, for instance. But it’s always a double-edged sword, and I would say that to some extent analysis is on a separate track, sort of like how the research of physics as it applies to auto production is different from what a Formula One driver does and needs to think about, or not think about. Those two tracks inform each other at certain points, but one doesn’t substitute for the other. And I’m not sure the genius of the body and brain are being given full accord by people like Dr. F.

        • If you are only interested in the ‘substance’ you should tell us what your academic qualifications are to post what you posted. Harrand too, otherwise both of you are only anonymous pedants.

        • I agree. I think everything you’ve written here is well thought out.

          A Cheetah can run upwards of 75 MPH. There is an absolute ton of science involved. However, a Cheetah knows none of it. It’s pure, innate, instinct. If it were possible for the Cheetah to consciously internalize and process all of the science occurring, it would only serve to slow him down.

          Regardless, I don’t really care how someone achieves whatever it is they’re trying to achieve. Whether it be a science experiment with sensors and isolated drills and gadgets or externalizing on a focal point, so be it. Whatever works for the individual is all that matters.

          Personally, I love science. I’m a natural “thinker”. I enjoy learning how things work. However, in my experience both playing and coaching and being around both elite and average every day athletes, the overwhelming majority of human beings perform at their best with a quiet mind… similar to being in “the zone”.

          Like I said earlier, I think sports-science and technology has its place. I think it’s a truly great feedback tool, I just don’t think it’s always the best instructional tool. If anyone disagrees with that, fine. Like I said, no one person knows it all. No need to be totally outraged and condescending.

            • And what exactly is your claim to fame? Let’s hear it. Please. By all means. Let’s hear all your “academic qualifications”, accolades, all the books you’ve read, all the success stories of all of your students. You seem to have it all figured out. Seriously man, I’m looking forward to hearing it.

              It’s absolutely amazing how someone can take issue with what I just wrote. I literally just wrote “regardless, I don’t really care how someone achieves whatever it is they’re trying to achieve. Whether it be a science experiment with sensors and isolated drills and gadgets or externalizing on a focal point, so be it. Whatever works for the individual is all that matters”… and yet you still throw stones.

              Shows your true character.

  2. Not sure how a golfer consciously trying to squat then jump is going to help them to consistently find the sweet spot on a club head moving 100mph+? In the split second from top of the backswing to impact?
    Sure some long hitters do that, but it’s confusing what happens in the swing (and what we see) with what you should be thinking of doing.

      • Your focal point externalizing is simply “mind over matter” subconscious intent.
        It may work for you but it won’t work for the average non-athletic recreational golfer who refuses to condition his body and won’t make a commitment to intensive practice.
        Your approach is elite and impractical for most golfers.

        • No, it’s actually not. If you don’t understand, please don’t comment and insinuate that I don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s worked with everyone I’ve coached and has been adopted by mainstream Baseball and is working wonders.

          And please, do tell, what does work for the non-athletic, recreational golfer who refuses to condition their body and won’t make a commitment to intensive practice? Praying? Give me a break.

          • What does work for the non-athletic recreational golfer? Simple. They come to this open forum to declare their love for their new clubs — aka ‘gearheads’. This forum is full of them.

        • Lorne, External focus training is the opposite of elite and impractical! It’s saying here’s a task, here’s the tool, let your instincts work out how to perferom the task, and use trial and feedback to refine how you’re doing it. So swing the club and move the bottle cap, hit a tee, brush the grass e.t.c. It’s nothing new, just Harvey Penick and others didn’t label it with a scientific term. Too high, too low, just right-that’s a much more practical way to learn arc height control. Trying to swing a club head travelling at 100+mph and conciously thinking about what height you want it come into the ball, within a 1/2″ margin for success and failure, with an instruction to keep your head still, knees flex, lead shoulder rotation e.t.c. is probably going to be tough for most golfers.

          • I really wonder what would happen if somebody used modern quantified measuring capabilities to test the old Ernest Jones approach, which is really along these lines. For anybody who’s not familiar, it’s the idea that a swinging motion will teach your body “parts” what to do — in other words, that we get causality backward in observation after observation regarding the swing. We think of moves B, T, and X as making the swing happen, when in fact a swinging motion tends to make BTX happen along with every other letter in the alphabet. One of the smartest things I ever heard anybody say about the swing has been repeated by several teachers down through the last four or five generations, but the earliest iteration of I ever heard was from Seymour Dunn: Never confuse what happens in the swing with something you have to try to do. That would be a total game-changer for a lot of players, if they caught hold of it.

            Again, that’s not to say there’s _never_ a right occasion for working on parts — Penick, Grout, Toski, Flick, Jones, et al. certainly did it when they thought it was appropriate — but rather that the direction ought to be less dissectional and disintegrative, and less focused on working with individual body movements except when needed for remediation, never as an end in itself.

            • Absolutely agree. Dunn was spot on; confusing what happens with what you should be trying to do. But it happens all the time, probably more than ever now with all the exposure to swing analysis, and bio mechanists breaking down every moving part. We’re conditioned into doing it. You can’t watch TV golf for 5 minutes before a slow mo analysis telling us what went “wrong” with a tour players’ swing, or showing a particular move that explains why they’re on tour and you’re not. We’re told, look at Hogan’s/Garcia’s amazing lag, or Nicklaus’s leg drive, or how “connected” Faldo/Price are or, today (and this article throws it in too even though it seems aimed at a higher handicapper simply trying not to top the ball or stick the club in the ground), look at this long drive champ and his “squat-jump” move and all the GRF-why don’t you try to do that too?!

    • It’s totally not. See Facebook post above. This is simply one of those “whatever a current player is doing, you try it too” things.

      If you go to the list of greatest players in history, the only one you’re going to see with a “squat-jump” is Woods, and his greatest stretches came when he was doing this the least.

    • Yep. And ANYONE recommending that move should not be handing out advise. Sure a select few can do it at a high level. A few out of millions. This article is a “shank” based on that comment alone. Now this guy wants people to swing like long drive guys? How many of the long drive guys can break 80, or 90.

  3. By FAR, the biggest problem I’ve encountered over and over again, in all my years of Pitching professionally, playing College Basketball and competing in Long Drive, is that the overwheming majority of sports instructors teach almost everything as a conscious movement. It’s a massive, detrimental mistake. The goal should be to 1) make sure you properly conceptualize what exactly it is you’re trying to accomplish, 2) externalize on a focal point and 3) let “intent” subsconsciously dictate technique. When you do these things, you’re going to improve far more quickly than breaking things down into a hundred different pieces, using beach balls and garden hoses and whatever the hell else, as training aids. You’re also going to reduce your risk of injury because you’re not going to be forcing artifical positions. Lastly, you’re going to eliminate any chance of paralysis by analysis, which, as we’ve seen with numerous big time athletes, can totally destroy a career. Everything else should be handled in the weight room (strength, mobility, flexibility, etc). We overcomplicate everything and it’s ridiculous.

    Rob.

    • Rob, you simply don’t understand Learning & Motor Control Science as it applies to adults.
      A child’s growing brain can do what you prescribe because children are like plastic sponges. Adults cannot learn effectively in this manner because their mature brains resist change. Adults must train in slow conscious segments and then work to put it all together into their unconscious mind.
      Go buy a college textbook on L&MC, read, study and even ask for professional academic help on things you don’t understand.
      Furthermore, your “intent” is simply “desire” or at worse “hope”.
      As for you “subconscious” state of mind, that does not exist in the science of psychology. You are either operating consciously or unconsciously/automatic.
      Your ‘subconsciousness’ is simply sliding in or out of consciousness or unconsciousness. It’s like a ‘twilight zone’ state of mind and unstable too.
      When golfers say they feel “effortless power” they are talking about an automatic unconscious state of mind after experiencing good results.

      • Dr. Freud is it? Quite the self-appointed title.

        “Go buy a college textbook on L&MC, read, study and even ask for professional academic help on things you don’t understand”.

        Is your PhD in condescension by chance?

        For what it’s worth, I’ve spent 25 years as an athlete, up to the professional level. I’ve been around elite High School, College and Professional athletes my entire life. I’ve worked with several of the biggest names in sports instruction and strength training in the world and I’ve spent my entire adult life training athletes of all ages, in multiple sports. Lastly, I built myself a 96 mph fastball, a 44 inch vertical and a swing-speed approaching 150 mph, using the very approach I referenced.

        On the flip side, I’ve seen first hand what happens to athletes when they break everything down, micro-analyze every aspect of their body and technique and perform countless repetitions of gimmicky drills, and it’s not good. Not mentally or physically.

        Now by no means am I delusional or arrogant enough to think one man knows it all but I do know that quieting the mind and keeping things as simple and natural as possible should be the goal of every instructor. The more talented the individual, the less instruction they typically require.

        Other than condescending, I don’t know who you are or what your claim to fame is, but the fact that you see fault in this approach tells me everything I need to know.

        • Questions: Have you studied any scientific subjects that you applied to your teaching of sports? It seems golf is on a scientific binge with force plates, 3D video imaging, K-Vest, Trackman, etc.. Have you ever used these scientific instruments to analyze a golf swing? What is your opinion about formal scientific approach to sports? Thanks.

          • Based on some of the responses on these forums, I’m not sure if this is an angry, loaded question or you’re genuinely curious, but I’ve used all of the above. I love science and I’m definitely not one of these old school, anti-science guys. I think sports-science and technology is a great FEEDBACK tool that definitely has its place. I just don’t think it’s always the best TEACHING tool. That might sound contradictory but it’s actually not.

            • You’ve obviously developed a successful teaching technique based on personal accomplishments and experiences. Do you have any scientific academic qualifications in teaching sports or is it only experiential? Thanks.

      • Wozeniak:– “Let me first talk about a quick definition. If I took a string with a rock attached to its end, held it between my thumb and forefinger and twirled my fingers around that rock would spin around on the end of the string as well. The faster I twirled the faster the rock would fly through the air. My hand would represent an inner moving force (centripetal force) the rock would represent the resulting outer moving force (centrifugal force) and the two forces would be equal. In short, the inner force controls and determines the outer force that is centripetal force. Translated to golf, centripetal force allows you to swing the club powerfully and repetitively.”
        _______________________
        Steve, if you were an engineering student you would get a big fat “F” in physics for this explanation of centripetal and centrifugal force. Fyi, there is no centrifugal force in a rotating system, none. You are making up this force because you ‘feel’ something pulling you out. Your Newtonian frame of reference is wrong wrong wrong.

        • LOL, that’s right. If you have two equal and opposite forces you have a static situation and nothing moves. Since centripetal force is applied in rotatory movement there can be no equal and opposite centrifugal force otherwise rotation would stop. Simple Statics & Dynamics 101.

    • Hi Rob. I am a big proponent of constraints led and task led learning, which promotes self-organization of better movements/skills without conscious thought (my book, The Practice Manual, is one of the first books to talk about those concepts as it relates to golf). The towel drill in this article, for example, helps players to improve arc-height control and low point position without thinking about the movement.

      • In short, how does “constraints-led learning” promote better movements/skills? I’m thinking about those large plastic hoops the golfer stands inside and swings/slides his club shaft on the hoop ‘plane’. Am I correct in my example?
        My suspicion is that constraint learning actually dumbs-down the non-conscious mind and there is no carryover from training to performing. Perhaps you can clarify. Thanks.

  4. Once again,
    “This is where it gets infinitely complex.”

    You don’t know how to teach. You should not teach. This is not the way to say things to people who are trying to learn. This is an idiotic statement. Who would want to do something that is the most complex thing? If it’s infinite, it’s not solvable.

      • I quantified my reasoning quite succinctly, whereas the writer of the article used hyperbole and superfluousness and made it impossible for any human to ever achieve the goals he proposed by saying it was “infinitely complex.” If you do not understand mathematical equations perhaps you should butt out

    • Hi Heich. My “infinitely complex” statement was surrounding the amount of variables involved (and many ways in which those variables can operate). Unfortunately, it is infinitely complex (if you don’t believe me, have a go at explaining the body movements required to control low point alone).

      HOWEVER (not shouting, just highlighting an important part), complex does not mean difficult or impossible. Just as “simple” does not mean “easy”.

      The reason for me explaining the complexity of the subject is to show golfers that they would be foolish to try to control each variable. They are better off (for the most part) focusing on certain external tasks (such as the towel drill) to improve the coordinational aspects of this skill, while self-organizing better technique.

      The tasks present a simple, singular focus, which automatically resolves the complex movement patterns requires. Just like the focus of “grab the glass of water” self organizes the complex arm, shoulder, finger and wrist movements needed (as well as forces).

      It’s a basic rule of motor learning. It would be disingenuous of me to claim that controlling low point was “simple” or involved few variables. And when I have left this statement out in the past, many commenters ask “what do I do with my body to achieve this”.

  5. Do long drivers and tour pros actually physicallyy implement/initiate a squat- jump move or does that move simply occur organically as they unwind and sequentially fire certain muscle groups in a certain order? I’ve heard using the ground so many times yet never heard anyone say whether this is a proactive or reactive force. Also just because a muscle fires or activates does that happen due to conscious effort or due to previous body part/muscle group movements? Pretty sure what a self aware golfe feels is not reflected in real data because so many forces are at work on multiple planes fighting for position so to speak

  6. Excellent article on iron ball striking. I like the reference to conscious and unconscious states during the golf swing practice and play. Drills will train our brain consciously so that we can perform unconsciously or automatically. Btw, there is no “subconscious” state of mind even though it may feel like it.

  7. this seems like something already discussed in teaching and called something different to make it seem new man.

    I think you got nothing with this. how is this different from establishing the low point? I just think this is mumbo jumbo.

    • Hi David.
      Low-point position (ahead of or behind the ball) is very different to the height/depth of the swing arc. Most information has concerned the front to back location of the low-point, without discussing depth. Both are critical if you want a quality strike.

      • thanks. each players “depth” with vary based on the attack angle right? so how can you say this isn’t being diusucssed? each player will have a different “depth”. Shallow swing arcs vs. steeper swing arcs. Zach Johnson vs. henrick stenson for example (I don’t have their trackman numbers but it seems about safe enough to assume.)

        • Hi David, yes, the low point and depth combo will be different for every player. Steeper AOA’s tend to have/need deeper arcs to function – although there are several cases where this is not true. While it is too complicated to explain in a comment, I have an article on my site called “Angle of attack, myths and misconceptions” where I give visuals and explain. Hope that helps.

  8. Great article. Question: I dip (lower) my body on the downswing. Do you have any thoughts/drills that could help me “maintain my level”?

    Maybe the Bottle Cap Drill Clip? Others?

    Thanks!

  9. Several years ago I had a playing lesson, in which I was hitting about an 80-yard pitch into a tight pin. My first practice swing brushed the tips of the grass, my second contacted the ground, and the third went through the grass — all in the same spot, all of them decent swings. The pro said each of those swings would have sent the ball a different distance and that if I wanted to zero in on pitching distances, I had to get that depth issue fixed.

    Same years before that, I was at an LPGA tournament following the Paula Creamer group. They were waiting on the tee of a par 3 for the green to clear. Creamer made three practice swings and hit the ground at the same spot, with the same sound, each time. That’s what we’re talking about.

    Excellent article on an important swing feature you never read about.

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