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The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Matt Strube is a certified golf geek who started playing golf later in life. He quickly developed a passion for the game, and in 1997, Matt and his partner wrote atheir honors thesis, ‘The Golf University’, that focused on bringing golf to the masses through specialized golf training programs. In 2012, Matt began working with Tim Overman at Golf in Motion Chicago to train his move and lower his handicap from 24 to 7 in just two-years. Matt has now partnered with Tim to bring simple and effective golf instruction to #AverageGolfers through an online workout style home training program. Matt currently works a day job in the corporate world. Tim Overman is the technical contributor to instruction articles, Co-Founder, and Director of Golf Instruction for True Motion Sports. Tim coaches golfers of all abilities out of his Chicago studio.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Lane Holt

    Aug 22, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    Mr.Strube,

    You are correct . If I told a 15 hdcp to HIT with his hands he would definitely perform as you stated- poorly !. However, I would NEVER tell someone to HIT period ! HIT is a word that I never use to teach. I would tell them that they must teach their external brains ( their hands which are the only connection to the human structure ) to perform a task that is totally foreign to the Human genetic design.
    These facts and truths have been around since 1992 and I have been trying to share this knowledge with those interested. The golf swing is not a natural action . I would recommend you check out Cortical Homunculus . This may give you insight to the Human design.
    Respectfully,

    Lane

    • MattStrube

      Aug 23, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks Mr. Holt, I’ll check it out. Always open to new ways of thinking about things and learning more. Really appreciate your comments. Matt

  2. Lane Holt

    Aug 21, 2019 at 7:32 am

    Mr,Strube,

    Nearly 50 % of our brain is dedicated to our * HANDS* , none to our feet! Our feet seem to perform quite well without our attention. Example , walking, running, etc; .
    Teaching our hands to perform this task called the golf swing in a manner that is exactly opposite to the human genetic design is the key to a successful golf swing. Our HANDS control body movements and our body will always obey the hands.
    The blueprint to a successful golf swing has been laid out for all to learn from, yet we still ignore it!
    Best ,
    Lane

    • Matt Strube

      Aug 22, 2019 at 5:29 pm

      Just saying/teaching/preaching that 50% of our brain is dedicated to our hands doesn’t get golfers better…Proper Training does, and it doesn’t start with the hands, Full Stop.

      Additionally, the other point about what you’re saying depends on the individual’s own feels. , Feel vs. Real combined with Skill Matters a lot. If you tell a 15 handicapper to use his hands to hit a golf shot, you’ll get laid over sod, blocks, pull hooks, toppers, etc. They haven’t developed the 50% of the brain that you’re telling them to use. We see a lot of those types of folks, and they first and foremost need to learn how to move their body properly, full stop. Finally, it’s all about training the right parts of the body, hands, and arms, in the right order.

      • geohogan

        Aug 22, 2019 at 7:56 pm

        I bet Mr Holt can teach the complete golf swing, as Ben Hogan did it
        in less than 30 minutes… its like dominoes when you start with the HANDS!

        • geohogan

          Aug 23, 2019 at 8:09 am

          50% of the motor cortex is devoted to hands by thousands of years of evolution, not be learning
          or teaching by a golf instructors. Its in our DNA our genetic makeup as human beings.

          Cant teach someone how to use a tool, if knowledge of the tool is incomplete.

      • geohogan

        Sep 7, 2019 at 1:10 pm

        https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/news/former-blue-jay-josh-donaldson-praises-current-young-star-bo-bichette-he-has-the-gift-020323584.html

        I took one thing away from Josh when I talked to him the first time I met him and he said your hands and your lower body always have to be in synch,” Bichette recalled, according to Longley. “That’s something since that day (I’ve) tried to do.

        What Josh Donaldson told Bo Bichette is remarkably similiar to what Mr Holt wrote.
        Maybe he also knows that 50% of the motor cortex is about supporting the intent we have for the hands?

  3. geohogan

    Aug 19, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    Balance is an autonomic mechanism to keep us upright.
    Our subconscious knows what it needs to do in order to maintain
    balance as we move 30-40 pounds (two arms and golf club) from one side of our body to the other.
    its genetic pre programming.

    Ground forces are reaction forces to intent to move weight of hands and arms. The specifics of the intent
    determines how the balance mechanism reacts. Golf instructors know the correct intents or they do not.
    If the latter, no amount of repetition or hard work will be successful.

    • MattStrube

      Aug 20, 2019 at 11:31 am

      Yes, balance is automatic, but I would say the opposite with regards to the reaction forces you mention (if I understand your comment correctly, I apologize if I misunderstood). The movement of the golf swing starts from the ground, with the feet, then moves up through the legs and then into the body’s core to rotate everything through the shot (oversimplification). The hands and arms do not move independently of the body.

      • geohogan

        Aug 20, 2019 at 8:19 pm

        With all due respect Matt, putting out my thoughts on the matter.

        Ive been taught that the hands dominate the motor cortex. ie whatever our intent is for our hands
        the body will support, subconsciously. its a survival mechanism in our genetics.
        We consume food using our hands. Balance is a big part of that support.

        Ive also been taught that the subconscious preprograms all our complex movements in fraction of time prior to the actual effort.

        Understanding the above to be true, then is it not logical that our lower body , knowing in advance
        where the weight of our hands and arms are intending to move, the subconscious balance mechanism will
        brace in advance.

        To all external observation it appears the lower body makes the first moves, true.
        If teaching or learning, it makes all the difference if the above premise are true.
        Most teach and most learn one body part a time(internal focus).

        As a result IMO, proficiency at golf is by any measure a tedious and fruitless effort, resulting in diminishing interest in the game.

        • MattStrube

          Aug 22, 2019 at 5:35 pm

          Possibly, but why does every low handicapper lose spine angle and “hump” towards the ball when they use their hands and arms to hit a golf ball? If what you’re saying is true, shouldn’t the subconsciously be able to properly shift into their left side and move their lower body like el Tigre every time? If you don’t train golfers how to use their lower body, then they won’t improve by telling them “how” to use their hands better.

          • geo

            Aug 22, 2019 at 6:43 pm

            It sounds you think you have figured out how to train a person how to balance during a complex all body motion with bodies comprised of over 200 bones and 600 muscles, rather than letting the hundreds of billions of neurons in our brain and thousands of years of evolutionary learning in our DNA do its job.

            Think about how arrogant and foolish that sounds when we have evolved to do that work subconsciously, perfectly.

            Tiger is the poster boy for bad golf instruction, one body part at a time. His swing in 2000 was perfect
            until the long line of instructors began f… with his swing and his body and his balance.

            Golfers loose spine angle , hump the goat and all kinds of other contortions because their golf instructors dont know the correct INTENTION to teach.

            Golfers are either provided with the PROPER INTENTION for use of their hands in the golf swing or if not the correct intention, golfers will suffer from evolutionary genetic tendency that causes all sorts of golf swing issues, not to mention the self inflicted damage to their bodies that will also result.

            As Mr Holt wrote, the brain makes sure the intent of the hands is supported both by the entire body and the autonomic balance system. It is the evolutionary basis of survival for all humans, even golf instructors.

            • geohogan

              Aug 22, 2019 at 6:57 pm

              and to “hit’ with the hands is absolutely the worst intention and cause of the majority of golf swing problems.

  4. GG

    Aug 18, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    I can teach the transition in 30 mins or less like dominoes.

    • Matt Strube

      Aug 19, 2019 at 12:15 pm

      If this is the Real GG, I’m sure you can…mad respect.

    • geohogan

      Aug 24, 2019 at 8:38 pm

      No doubt about it a perfect transition can be taught. What good is a perfect transition if the rest of the golf swing sucks.

      Complex movement by humans is one continuous preprogram, set up by a singular intention,
      not a patchwork of positions to piece together.

  5. Larry

    Aug 18, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Great article!

  6. Cameron Wilson

    Aug 16, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Shout out to Robbie Schremp.

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The 3 best ways to train your golf swing

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Understanding how to effectively train and practice is critical to transferring skills to the golf course.

In golf, I view training as a thoughtful, deliberate rehearsal of a motion to develop technique. This is better rehearsed away from the golf course. Practicing golf consists of developing your skill to take to the golf course—an example being learning to hit shots in certain winds and shot shaping.

“A lawyer will train to be a lawyer, then he or she will practice law” – The Lost Art of Golf

I find the below examples the best ways to train effectively. These techniques will also help facilitate a swing change and make your training and practice more efficient.

Mirror Work

I like my student to implement what I call “mirror work”. This is done by looking into a mirror from the face-on position.

This is a great way to get external feedback (information delivered from an outside source). Learning by external feedback will help facilitate the required body movement to produce a particular shot. It’s also a cheap and effective way to train. Research suggests observation in a mirror is considered external, so the use of mirrors will elicit external feedback, enhancing the learning process.

I prefer students to only check positions from the face-on view. If a player starts checking positions in a mirror from down-the-line, moving your head to look in the mirror can cause your body to change positions, losing the proper direction of turn.

Train Slow

Learning a new motion is best trained slow. At a slower speed, it is easier to monitor and analyze a new motion. You will have increased awareness of the body and where the shaft is in space. At a faster speed, this awareness is more difficult to obtain.

I often use the analogy of learning how to drive a car. First, you took time to learn how to position your hands on the wheel and position your foot next to the break. When comfortable, you put the car in motion and began to drive slowly. Once you developed the technique, you added speed and took the car on the freeway.

In martial arts, there are three speeds taught to students: Slow-speed for learning, medium speed for practice and fast speed for fighting. Again, the movement was trained slow to start. Once comfortable, the motion was put into combat. This should be similar to golf.

Finding Impact

Use an impact bag to get the feeling of impact and an efficient set-up. If you don’t have an impact bag, a spare car tire, bean bag or something light and soft that can be pushed along the ground can be used.

I like to refer to the impact bag as a “Push bag”. Start by setting up into the bag, lightly pressing the shaft into the bag. You will notice how your trail arm slightly tucks in and as your right shoulder drops below the left with your body leaning forward, an efficient set-up.

To get the feeling of impact swing the club back and down into the bag while maintaining your body shape. Don’t move the bag by hitting it, rather pushing it. Note how you maintain your wrist angles while pushing the bag (not flipping) and the right side of your body moves through impact.

Train your swing with these three training techniques to play better golf.

@KKelley_golf

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How posture influences your swing

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S0 what exactly is posture and how can it alter your swing? Posture is often the origin to a player’s swing pattern. I like to look at posture as the form of the body from the front view and down the line position at address.

“Shape” in posture is the angles our body creates at address. This includes the relationship between the upper and lower half of our bodies. This article will examine the importance of this shape from the face on view.

For an efficient posture that creates a simple, powerful, and repeatable swing, I like a player’s shape to be set into what I call their “hitting angles.” Hitting angles are similar to the impact position. In the picture below, note the body angles at address highlighted in green.

Once we are set into these hitting angles, the goal of the backswing is to maintain these angles, coiling around the spine. When these angles are maintained in the backswing, the club can return to impact in a more dynamic form of our set-up position. This creates minimal effort that produces speed and repeatability—essentially doing more with less.

The further we set up away from these hitting angles, our bodies will have to find impact by recovering. This is often where a player’s swing faults can occur. We want our body to react to the target in the golf swing, not recover to strike the ball.

Think of a baseball player or football player throwing a ball. When the athlete is in their throwing position, they can simply make the movement required to throw the ball at their intended target. If their body is contorted or out of position to make the throw, they must re-position their body (more movement) to get back into their throwing position, thus making them less accurate and powerful.

The good news about working on your posture is that it is the easiest part to control in the swing. Posture is a static motion, so our body will respond to 100 percent of what our mind tells it to do. It’s talentless.

Here is a simple routine to get you into these hitting angles.

To start, tuck in your trail arm making it shorter and below the lead arm, which makes your trail shoulder lower than the lead shoulder. This will give you the proper shape of the arms and wrist angles. Pictured right is Ben Hogan.

With these arm angles, bend from the hips to the ball and bump your body slightly forward towards the target getting ‘into yourself’. You may feel pressure on your lead foot, but your upper half will still remain behind the ball. Note the picture below with the blue lines.

Practice this drill using a mirror in front of you, head up looking into the mirror. Research has shown mirror work enhances motor skills and performance. Anytime you have external-focus based feedback, the learning process will escalate.

There are a lot of different postures on the PGA Tour and many ways to get the job done. There are no cookie-cutter swings, and players have different physiology. However, research and history have shown that an efficient posture gives us the best chance for solid contact and our desired ball flight. Work hard on the areas that are easiest to control: the set-up.

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Golf 101: How to chip (AKA “bump and run”)

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Although golf for a beginner can be an intimidating endeavor, and learning how to chip is part of that intimidation, this is one part of the game that if you can nail down the fundamentals, not only can you add some confidence to your experience but also you lay down a basic foundation you can build on.

How to chip

The chip shot, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-golf swing. To the beginner, it may seem like a nothing burger but if you look closely, it’s your first real way to understand contact, launch, spin, compression, and most importantly the fundamentals of impact.

What is a chip shot? A pitch shot?

Chip: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a 3-iron to a lob wedge that launches low, gets on the ground quickly, and rolls along the surface (like a putt) to the desired location.

Pitch: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a PW to a lob wedge that launches low- to mid-trajectory that carries a good portion of the way to your desired location and relies on spin to regulate distance.

Now that we have separated the two, the question is: How do I chip?

Since we are trying to keep this as simple as possible, let’s just do this as a quick checklist and leave it at that. Dealing with different lies, grass types, etc? Not the purpose here. We’re just concerned with how to make the motion and chip a ball on your carpet or at the golf course.

Think “rock the triangle”

  1. Pick a spot you want the ball to land. This is for visualization, direction and like any game you play, billiards, Darts, pin the tail on the donkey, having a target is helpful
  2. For today, use an 8-iron. It’s got just enough loft and bounce to make this endeavor fun.
  3. Grip the club in your palms and into the lifelines of your hands. This will lift the heel of the club of the ground for better contact and will take your wrists out of the shot.
  4. Open your stance
  5. Put most of your weight into your lead leg. 80/20 is a good ratio
  6. Ball is positioned off your right heel
  7. Lean the shaft handle to your left thigh
  8. Rock the shoulders like a putt
  9. ENJOY!

Check out this vid from @jakehuttgolf to give you some visuals.

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