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Are These The Two Worst Swings in Golf? Not So Fast…

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A golf swing is like a fingerprint; no two are alike. While some golf swings may look more aesthetically pleasing, there’s no one swing that will be effective for every golfer. Just look to the PGA Tour for proof. You have your Adam Scotts and Jason Days, who have seemingly perfect swings, and then you have your Bubba Watsons and Jim Furyks. Their swings look less pleasing, but they’re not less effective.

The point is, every golfer is different and some golfers can make nearly any swing work. How a swing looks isn’t as important as what happens at impact.

One of the best parts of my job at Combine Performance in Scottsdale is having all the instructional tools at my disposal that help me to NOT change something in a golf swing if I don’t have to change it. Using the latest technology, we can look deep into the mechanics to see what actually needs to change to improve performance.

To demonstrate this point, I want to discuss “the high” and “the low” in the golf swing, and everything in between. The two swings below will help you see that perfection isn’t necessary to play this game… and play it well.

The High

unnamed-1Our GolfWRX Tour photographer snapped this photo recently on the range at a PGA Tour Pro-Am. According to our source, crowds were gathering to watch this man hit 240-yard draws from this backswing position.

The Low

This is swing so rounded that the head must rotate off the ball, and it’s certainly not something you’d teach. I saw this swing with my own eyes, however, and this gentleman also hit the ball 240 or so with a nice draw. In fact, he shot in the low 80’s that day at Bighornn on the Canyon’s Course, which is no slouch!

The Middle Ground

StickneyAtTheTop

After looking at the high and the low in the previous examples, you can now understand that the rest of our swings are somewhere in the middle, including myself (see above).

As a young golfer, I spent years on the range trying to build a swing that looked good. It was my first priority, and figured that playing well would come as a result. Boy was I wrong! As I have said before, golf is all about learning how to score. I’d rather score like Furyk than look like Ernie Els on a day when he’s struggling to find the center of the club face.

Here’s the question you need to answer for yourself: Are you willing to own your mechanics and make the ball talk, or must you try to conform to what everyone says the golf swing should look like and possibly not break 90?

The lesson to be learned here is that sometimes you just CAN’T move in a certain way due to past injury or X number of years doing it the other way. The key is to make your golf swing manageable, and if you do that, you can likely perform to your expectations. You must understand, however, that drastically unorthodox swing will likely only achieve a certain skill level of play.

In the golf instruction world, we have the technology to know exactly what will improve your swing. The question is, how much time to you have to execute the change? If the answer is “not much,” my advice is to learn to OWN your swing. Make peace with it… and make sure your short game is killer

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction at Combine Performance in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 60 people in the world.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Robert Parsons

    Sep 1, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Working or not, I’d still try to fix it and improve.

    • Jeb

      Sep 2, 2017 at 1:26 am

      Would you tell the obese guy to shrink his gut as the first obvious fix? You can’t safely rotate your core carrying all that fat ballast hanging over your belt. Golf can be dangerous for such obese men if they attempt to swing all that fat around their spine.

  2. Ron

    Sep 1, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Completely agree with this article. The issue is finding an instructor who is knowledgeable enough to only fix what he needs to. Most instructors these days seem to have one vision of the swing and try to teach that method to every one of their students.

    • OB

      Sep 1, 2017 at 3:53 pm

      You don’t plug in a swing into a body, you assess the body and then tailor a swing to that body type.
      There is a book called The L.A.W.s of the Golf Swing where they classify the body types and then determine the optimal swing mechanics for that body. I have the book and it is written by a pro teacher and biomechanists. It is the only book that I know of that attempts to type the body and then prescribe a swing style. All other instruction books, articles and videos apply a generic swing into some kind of standard body shape without regard to physical limitations.

    • MacD

      Sep 2, 2017 at 1:32 am

      A smart instructor would first try to sell those weirdos a new set of Single Length golf clubs and convince them that they will only need one swing style for all clubs. Then let them go and muddle about for a while and then have them come back for lessons. They are stuck with the club cost commitment so then they can be milked for lessons to get the kinks out of their new swing. It’s the same as reeling in a big fish.

  3. Steve S

    Sep 1, 2017 at 9:22 am

    Golf is a game of results. I play with a guy who appears to cut across the ball on every swing, including putts. He consistently breaks 80. He somehow squares the clubface at impact and hits baby fades on driver thru wedge and makes a lot of putts. His tempo is also extremely fast. He snatches the club back so fast it appears to be as fast as his downswing(but it’s not). He breaks every rule of the “conventional” golf swing but it works for him. He’s never had a lesson and should never have one!

    • pooch

      Sep 1, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Exactly.
      Is the ball straight? is it in the fairway? Results.

  4. TT

    Aug 31, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Looking at “tubby” he’s got his top of swing in front of him because he can’t rotate all the belly mass whatsoever. Not only does his belly interfere with rotation, it giggles around on it’s own so he simply blocks his hips. Swinging that belly mass would destabilize him and he would topple over.
    He has a pure “arm” swing and gets away with it to his credit. Keep on heavin’ tubby.

  5. Mower

    Aug 31, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Does the “Low” golfer have some kind of condition not enabling him to make a full backswing? It’s kinda weird… or… no – it’s full-blown weird.

  6. Roger McIntosh

    Aug 31, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    If it ain’t broke don’t overanalyze it. Let the jokers have fun no matter how grotesque.

  7. cgasucks

    Aug 31, 2017 at 9:30 am

    You don’t hit the ball with your backswing. It’s impact that really matters. Jim Furyk would agree with me.

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Instruction

6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick

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One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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Instruction

Is There An Ideal Backswing?

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In this video, I talk about the backswing and look into optimal positions. I also discuss the positives and negatives of different backswing positions.

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Instruction

Build A More Consistent Short Game Through Better Body Movement

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So far in my collection of articles on GolfWRX, I’ve talked at length about the importance of posture, stability and movement patterns in the full swing, particularly utilizing the GravityFit equipment for feedback and training load. Many coaches use the same equipment to teach better movement in the putting, chipping, and pitching actions.

To help give some more insight into exactly how they do this, I have recruited Matt Ballard to co-author this article. Matt is an Australian-based coach and short game specialist who has been working with Adam Scott for the past year.

Matt Ballard (right) with Adam Scott.

According to Matt, the short game issue that the club players he coaches struggle with is contact and delivering consistent loft with their wedges.

“Most people tend to get steep, the handle comes in first and not enough loft is delivered,” he says. “This means that the bounce of the wedge isn’t being used properly, which makes control of contact, trajectory, and distance very difficult. ”

As Matt explains in the video below, this problem tends to manifest itself in chips and pitches that are either fat or thin, fly to short or not far enough, and either check up too soon or go rolling on past the pin.

The really frustrating part is the inconsistency. Not knowing how the ball is going to react makes committing to a shot extremely difficult. This has the unnerving effect of turning a simple task into something difficult… and pars into bogeys or worse. For the past few months, Matt has been using the GravityFit TPro to teach correct set up posture and body movement for chipping and pitching.

“I use the TPro to first of all establish spine and shoulder position,” Matt says. “I like my students to have the feel of their shoulders and forearms being externally rotated (turned out). From this position, it’s much easier to control the clubface (i.e. not getting it too shut or too open). The second benefit of using the TPro is controlling the golf club radius during the swing, with the radius being the distance the club head is from the center of the body. Controlling the radius is paramount to becoming an excellent wedge player. The third reason I use it is to help teach that pure rotation from the thoracic spine (mid/upper back), minimizing the excessive right side bend (for a right handed player) that gets so many people into trouble.”

20170712-_MG_5867

Nick demonstrating how TPro drills can be performed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essentially, Matt uses the GravityFit TPro to train a simple movement pattern that, once mastered, all but eliminate the typical problems normally associated with chipping and pitching.

“When (golfers) learn to turn using their thoracic spine and keep their arms in front of their body, it has a dramatic effect on how they deliver the club to the ball,” Matt says. “They are now able to maintain width or radius on either side of the ball, shallow out the club, and engage the bounce (sole) of the wedge to interact with the turf effectively, which is a key trait of all excellent wedge players. Doing this greatly increases their margin for error from a strike perspective and produces a far more consistent outcome in terms of loft, trajectory and distance control.”

Here is Matt’s 5-step process that you can follow with the TPro:

  1. Push handles out in front of your body, keeping slight bend in elbow.
  2. Stretch tall. Feel the green spikes in your middle/upper back and your shoulder blades on the paddles.
  3. Hinge forward into posture for pitching or chipping (the shorter the shot, narrower the stance.).
  4. Slowly turn chest into backswing, keep arms out in front of body, and maintain pressure on the spikes and paddles.
  5. Turn through to finish position using normal tempo, maintaining same pressure on the TPro and keeping arms in front of your body.

In summary, using the TPro and Matt’s drill can help you train a simple movement pattern that can give you far more control over the strike, trajectory and distance of your chips and pitches.

Click here to learn more about the TPro. To discover more pearls of wisdom from Matt, take a look at his website here and his social media activity here.

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