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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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Instruction

Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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Fix early extension: 3 exercises to get your a** in gear

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It’s pretty common knowledge that “early extension” is a problem for golfers everywhere, but how does it affect your body and your game? And what can you do to fix it?

First, let’s look at early extension in its most simple form as a physical issue rather than a technical issue.

During the swing, we are asking our body to not only create force, but also resist a number of different forces created by the aggressive rotational pattern we call a golf swing. The problem comes down to each player’s unique dysfunction which will likely include bad posture, weak glutes or a locked out thoracic spine for example.

So when we then ask the body to rotate, maintain spine angle, get the left arm higher, pressure the ground, turn our hips to the target (to name a few) a lot of mobility, strength and efficiency are required to do all of this well.

And not everyone, well actually very few of us, has the full capability to do all of this optimally during the swing. The modern lifestyle has a lot to do with it, but so does physiology and it has been shown that tour players as well as everyday golfers suffer from varying levels of dysfunction but can ultimately get by relative to learned patterns and skill development.

But for the majority of players early extension leads to one or more of the following swing faults:

  • Loss of spine angle/posture. During the swing, a player will ‘stand up’ coming out of their original and desired spine angle, this alters the path and the plane of the club.
  • “Humping” the ball. Johnny Wunder’s preferred term for the forward and undesirable movement of the lower body closer to the ball.

Lack of rotation during the swing occurs due to the shift in the center of gravity caused by the loss of posture as your body does its best to just stay upright at all.

Ultimately, early extension leaves us “stuck” with the club too far behind us and nowhere to go—cue massive high push fade or slice going two fairways over (we’ve all been there) or a flippy hook as your body backs up and your hands do whatever they can to square it up.

Not only is this not a good thing if you want to hit a fairway, it’s also a really bad way to treat your body in general.

As a general rule, your body works as a system to create stability and mobility simultaneously allowing us to move, create force, etc. When we can’t maintain a stable core and spinal position or force is being transferred to an area that shouldn’t be dealing with it, we get issues. Likely, this starts with discomfort, possibly leading to prolonged pain, and eventually injury.

The body has a whole lot to deal with when you play golf, so it’s a good idea to start putting in the work to help it out. Not only will you reduce your risk of injury, but you’ll also likely play better too!

So we have three simple exercises for you here that you can do at home, or anywhere else, that will help you with the following elements

  • Posture
  • Core strength
  • Glute function
  • Thoracic mobility
  • Asymmetrical balance
  • Ground force development

#1: Forward lunge with rotation

  1. Standing tall, core engaged with a club in front of your chest, take a reasonable step forward.
  2. Stabilize your lead knee over your front foot and allow your trail knee to move down towards the ground, trying to keep it just above the surface.
  3. Maintaining your spine angle, rotate OVER your lead leg (chest faces the lead side) with the club at arm’s length in front of your torso keeping your eyes facing straight forwards.
  4. Rotate back to center, again with great control, and then step back to your original standing position.
  5. Repeat on other leg.

#2: Bird dog

  1. Get down on all fours again focusing on a quality, neutral spine position.
  2. Extend your left arm forward and your right leg backward.
  3. Control your breathing and core control throughout as we test balance, stability and core activation.
  4. Hold briefly at the top of each rep and return to start position.
  5. Repeat with right arm and left leg, alternating each rep.
  6. If this is difficult, start by working arms and legs individually, only life 1 arm OR 1 leg at a time but still work around the whole body.

#3: Jumping squat

  1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, eyes fixed forward.
  2. Engage your squat by sending your knees forwards and out to create pressure and torque, whilst sending your hips down and back.
  3. Squat down as far as possible whilst maintaining a neutral spine, active core and heels on the ground.
  4. As you naturally come out of the squat, push the ground away using your whole foot, creating as much speed and force as possible as you jump in the air.
  5. Land with excellent control and deceleration, reset and repeat.

Got 10 minutes? Sample workout

3 Rounds

  1. 10 Forward Lunge with Rotation (5 each leg)
  2. 10 Bird Dog (5 Each side or 5 each limb if working individually)
  3. 5 Jumping Squats
  4. 1 Minute Rest

If you can take the time to make this a part of your routine, even just two or three times per week, you will start to see benefits all round!

It would also be a perfect pre-game warm-up!

And one thing you can do technically? Flare your lead foot to the target at address. A huge majority of players already do this and with good reason. You don’t have to alter your alignment, rather keep the heel in its fixed position but point your toes more to the target. This will basically give you a free 20 or 30 degrees additional lead hip rotation with no real side-effects. Good deal.

This is a great place to start when trying to get rid of the dreaded early extension, and if you commit to implementing these simple changes you can play way better golf and at least as importantly, feel great doing it.

 

To take your golf performance to new levels with fitness, nutrition, recovery, and technical work, check out everything we do on any of the following platforms.

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