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Clark: How to hit it low

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It’s almost PGA Tour time again, and as the guys head to Hawaii next week many of them will be working hard to get their games ready for competition. Despite the tropical paradise that the Hawaaian Islands are, their golf courses are always a stiff test of golf thanks to the strong and persistent winds that blow through that beautiful part of the world. If you were to go to the practice range there, I’m sure you’d see the guys working on their “knock down” shots.

In places like Hawaii, Texas and Florida, low shots are a must. With that in mind, it might be a good time to look at the dynamics of hitting the ball low. A lot of amateurs can’t hit the low shot, but it’s one they should practice. If they do, they’ll likely see an improvement in the overall quality of their ball striking.

To understand the concept of hitting it low, let’s talk about the things that cause trajectory in the first place. Here are the variables that figure into the equation:

  • Loft
  • Point of contact (on the face)
  • Spin
  • Speed

These are the actual impact factors that create flight. Things like ball position, width of stance, attack angle, etc. are how you affect the impact, but are not causes in and of themselves. Very often, I work with players who want to know what caused a certain flight, and they are always quick to jump right into what the body did. You have to remember the player is influencing the club directly and therefore the ball indirectly. So in creating low shots, what ballistics do we need? Well, it would stand to reason that we need less dynamic loft, less spin, less speed and contact slightly lower on the face of the club than we would on a regular or higher trajectory shot. Make sense? Good. So, how do we do it? Try these tips.

The setup

  • Use one more club. If the shot requires a full 6 iron, use a 5 iron. Then choke down an inch and take your regular grip.
  • Move the ball back and the hands forward (slightly).
  • Aim slightly left to offset the back ball position.
  • Narrow your stance. A wide stance can get the swing center too far behind the ball.
  • Keep the right side higher at set up (very little axis tilt with upper body)

The swing

  • Make a low takeaway with less wrist action than normal. You’ve gone back far enough when your left arm gets to parallel.
  • Keep your pivot centered over the ball.
  • No flipping on the downswing. Keep the hands ahead of the clubhead at impact.
  • Keep the finish low, no higher than perhaps belt- or rib-cage high coming through.
  • For a driver, tee it lower (to insure lower face contact).
  • Swing slower than normal. Too much speed creates too much spin.

The principals

Here’s a simple phrase that helps a lot:  LOW SHOT, LOW SWING.

The more you get the wrists involved, the more likely you are to add loft and get “flippy” into impact. The is a shot that must be driven with a low, boring trajectory.  The only way to do that is to keep the hands in front of the clubhead, which de-lofts the club at impact.

The second the clubhead gets ahead of the hands, or the upper body reverses (backs up), the more you will add loft at impact. Look at it this way — address the ball as you normally would with a 7 iron. Then move the handle forward until you have the loft of a 6-iron. You can move it even more forward to give you the loft of a 5-iron, and so on.

Caution: Moving the handle forward is not the same as closing the club. You can move the handle as far forward as you like and still keep the club square (leading edge perpedicular to target line). Remember, the golf ball has to be driven low and can’t rise too much. It’s critical that the club arrives on a lower plane and the hands lead the clubhead.

Here’s a drill to help you get a feel for the shot:

Find a bench at the range, maybe 2 feet tall. Put it two yards in front of you, grab a 7 iron and see how it feels to hit the ball UNDER that bench. You will get the idea quickly.

Several times in this article I mentioned the word slightly. Normally I would not advise that. My regular readers and students know that believe in exaggeration. In the case of correcting a slice or hook, you almost can’t overdo the prescription. But changing trajectory is a different story.

Ball position is a great example. If you get it too far back, you can get really steep with a high vertical swing plane.  I have seen people put the ball SO far back and de-loft the club so much that they can’t even get it a shot off the ground. To fix it, they start hanging back and increase upper body tilt, which completely defeats the purpose!

So a little back, a little lower swing, a little less speed, slightly more club and well, you get the picture.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope it’s a good one for each and all of you with lots of birdies, fewer bogeys, no “others.” Most importantly, let’s hope for a lot of smiles 🙂

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Click here for more discussion and the opportunity to ask Dennis a question in the forums. 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. paul

    Dec 30, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Yikes, so much to remember . I just add a club and put the hands forward then pray and hit it. Things seem to workout when i think less. Not to discredit your method, I love your articles 🙂 New years resolution: Take 10 more strokes off my handicap ,like I did last year.

  2. Trevor

    Dec 30, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Excellent article, I think many people take for granted the accuracy a knock down shot gives you under certain conditions, these tips will separate you from your weekend competition. Great article Dennis

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Instruction

Trackman Tuesday (Episode 2): Driver Loft

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Welcome to Episode 2 of Trackman Tuesday. In this weekly series, I will be using Trackman data to help you understand the game of golf in a little more detail and help you hit better shots and play better golf.

In this week’s episode, I look at driver loft. What effect does driver loft have on your shots and how important is it, really?

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How Far Away from the Ball Should You Be at Address?

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How far away from the ball should you be at address? This video is in response to a question from Tom McCord on Facebook.

In this video, I look at the setup position. I offer a simple way to check your distance from the ball at address with your driver, irons and wedges.

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Tour Pros Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up

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You want to be better at golf, more consistent and longer off the tee. I am sure a lot of you would love to stop hurting. You would like these things with minimal work, if possible. You also want them yesterday. That about sum it up?

In the next 5 minutes, you’ll learn about the one thing that solves these problems for good. Before we dive in, though, I want to tee up three stats for you from my research.

  1. PGA Tour players can jump between 18-22 inches off the ground while LPGA Tour players can jump between 16-20 inches off the ground. Long drive competitors can often leap 30+ inches off the ground!
  2. Elite-level golfers who drive the ball 300+ yards can shot put a 6-pound ball more than 30 feet with less than a 5-percent difference in right-handed to left-handed throws.
  3. Elite golfers in the world can hurl a medicine ball with a seated chest pass just as far in feet as they can jump in inches (ie. a 20-inch vertical leap and a 20-foot seated chest pass).

What do these numbers have to do with you and your game? More importantly, what do these stats have to do with solving your problems? Let’s start by telling you what the solution is.   

Objective Assessment and Intelligent Exercise Prescription

Say that three times fast. It’s a mouth full… But seriously, read it two more times and think about what that means.

It means that before you act on anything to improve your health or your game, you need to objectively assess what the problem is and get to the root cause. You should use quality objective data to arrive at intelligent health and golf improvement decisions based on the long-term likelihood that they will be successful. We can’t just select exercises, swing changes or training aids based on what is hot in the market today or what the latest celebrity was paid big bucks to sell to us.

There is a reason why the infomercials you see today on Golf Channel will be different in 2 months. The same gimmicks run out of steam when enough people realize that is what they are… gimmicks. When looking to achieve your goals of playing better golf and/or having less pain, don’t just grab for the quick fix as so many golfers today do. 

We are in the information age. Information from quality data is power. Using this data intelligently, you can fix problems in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hopefully, I am giving you the power to make a meaningful and lasting change in your game. I’m sorry to say that most amateurs will not be hitting 300+ yard drives despite what the latest marketing ploy will have you believe. But, if you know what tests you can do to measure the areas that affect your distance off the tee, you can at least gain insight into where your biggest return on your time investment will be. 

This is where working with a golf fitness expert can be so valuable to you. Not only can they help you interpret your results from the tests, but they will also be able to prescribe you the most effective means to move closer to 300 yards from where you are right now.  

If you have a problem with your car not accelerating as fast as you would like or not being able to reach top end speed on the highway, I hope you take it to the mechanic and don’t just look up quick fixes on YouTube to see what you can do on your own. The reason you pay the mechanic to fix your car is because that is what they do all day. They will get it done as quickly as possible. More importantly, they’ll get correctly so that the problem doesn’t pop up again in 2 weeks.

A golf fitness expert is no different. Use them for their expertise and knowledge. Once you have a diagnosis of what is holding you back and a plan to correct it, you are on your way and won’t have to waste any more time or money trying silly quick fixes that never stick.

The three statistics mentioned earlier represent numbers measured across the globe by industry leaders and at our facility 3-4 times per year on hundreds of golfers each time. Our facility has thousands of data points. With this much data comes the ability to draw conclusions from objective assessments. These conclusions drive the intelligent implementation of successful solutions directed at the root causes of problems for thousands of golfers around the globe.

The first three statistics have an R-value of over 0.85 in correlation to clubhead speed. Translation: if you perform well in the first three tests with high numbers, you are very likely to have a high club speed. Further, if you improve in any of those three tests relative to where you started, you are almost assured to have a higher club speed than when you began (assuming swing technique and equipment is relatively unchanged).  

Keep in mind that in statistics, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. But when the R-value is that close to 1 and anecdotally you have seen the results and changes we have, you put some weight behind these three tests. So:

  • See how high you can jump
  • See how far you can shot put a 6-pound medicine ball
  • See how far you can chest pass a 6-pound medicine ball from a seated position

Doing so will give you an idea of how much power you have in your lower body, total rotary system and upper body respectively. Train whichever one is the worst, or train them all if you want. Rest assured that if you improve one of them, you will more than likely increase your swing speed.  

By doing these assessments and addressing the one or two weak areas, you will improve with the least work possible. Sounds about what you were looking for, right? If you are able to identify where you need to improve BEFORE you buy whatever is claiming to fix your problems, you will save lots of money and time. You will actually start to improve with the least amount of work possible and in the least amount of time possible.  

What’s next? After completing the assessment tests, start working to improve them.

  • Coming Soon: Lower Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Upper Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Rotary Power for Golf
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