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The Swing in Pictures: The Set-Up (Part 2)



Over the next several weeks, Tom Stickney will be presenting a series called, “The Swing In Pictures” on GolfWRX.

Each Monday a different swing position will be coupled with thoughts you (as the player) should pay attention to based on your current handicap level.  I would suggest printing each of these articles out and place them in a binder, as the series will take you from address through the finish from the front and down the line views.

Click here to view Tom’s previous articles.


This article is meant to be used as a general reference for the most common swing model used in today’s game. As with any golf swing there are personal idiosyncrasies that will alter the “look” and/or actions of the clubshaft and body motions back and through so there will always be exceptions. Please keep this in mind as you read each section. As Homer identifies in the Golfing Machine, there are 446 quad-trillion stroke patterns (a.k.a ways to swing the club). You only need to find the one that works best for you personally.

Tom Stickney

The Set-Up Position readies your body and allows you to set yourself in a position where the body and clubshaft can be moved in conjunction with one another throughout the swing. It is here that you can make or break the golf swing.  Jack Nicklaus said that 90 percent of all golf faults begin at the set-up, and he could not have been more correct!

Last week we covered the set-up position from the back view. Here’s an analysis of the set-up from the front view.

For the Beginner Player:

  • The ball position will be between the center of the body to the forward armpit — the longer the club the more targetward the ball should be played.
  • The stance should be wide enough to provide balance as you twist and turn and displace weight during the swing, but not too narrow to impede motion.
  • The Vs formed between your index finger and thumb on each hand should be parallel to one another and pointing between your rear shoulder and your chin.
  • The rear shoulder is below the forward shoulder at address moving 55 percent of your weight into your back foot at address.

For the Intermediate Player:

  • Pay close attention to the position of your ball at address — too far back and it can cause you to hit down on the ball too much or cause you to move in “front” of the ball on the downswing.
  • Make sure that the V’s on the grip match up with one another. The hands must always work as a unit.
  • Correctly find the amount of spinal tilt to the rear that will allow you to “load up on the backstroke.”

For the Advanced Player:

  • The more spinal lean you have away from the target at address the easier it will be to “drop the club under” during the transition.
  • Monitor your dominant eye and rotate your head accordingly.
  • The rotational position of the forward foot relative to the target line will determine the amount of hip slide or hip twist during your transition. If the forward foot is perpendicular to the target line then you will tend to slide; if it is rotated targetward you will spin more during the transition.
  • Make sure the hip sockets are centered over the insides of the feet at address.

For the Professional Player:

  • The amount of spinal tilt is between 8 to 15 degrees laterally away from the target. This lean controls the steepness of the backstroke plane and the amount of “lean over the rear leg” at the top of the backswing.
  • The less you tilt your spine away from the target at address the more centered your swing will tend to become.
  • The grip’s position must match up with the downstroke path used and the desired shot shape.
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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ( 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 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email:



  1. Tom Stickney II

    Jan 27, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    It all depends on what he is trying to get you to do in general; I would say that having your hands slightly behind the ball at address can cause some issues if you are not careful. Sometimes when you have your hands out of position at address it can alter your body alignments…

  2. Jeremy

    Jan 27, 2013 at 10:57 am

    My instructor told me that in order to stop hitting a fade, align the shaft of the club with my left arm at address t get my hands forward. I noticed that you aren’t doing that here. Is my instructor correct?

  3. Tom Stickney II

    Jan 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm


    We ALL have things that get us…thanks for the note. Stay tuned!

  4. Nate

    Jan 22, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Great article, looking forward to more. My biggest mental disconnect with the golf swing is arm action. I can’t get a good explanation anywhere about the proper movement of the arms. I know this might sound bizarre but its what confounds me. I can’t wait until you get to the backswing, downswing portion.

  5. Tom Stickney II

    Jan 22, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Sure…for example, if you are left eye dominant, as was Nicklaus, he rotated his head slightly right at address to compensate for this.

  6. Iain Harris

    Jan 22, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Can you explain in more detail what you mean by “Monitor your dominant eye and rotate your head accordingly”


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How to eliminate the double cross: Vertical plane, gear effect and impact location



One of the biggest issues teachers see on the lesson tee is an out-to-in golf swing from a player who is trying to fade the ball, only to look up and see the deadly double cross! This gear effect assisted toe hook is one of the most frustrating things about trying to move the ball from left to right for the right-handed golfer. In this article, I want to show you what this looks like with Trackman and give you a few ways in which you can eliminate this from your game.

Below is the address position of a golfer I teach here in Punta Mita; his handicap ranges between scratch and 2, depending on how much he’s playing, but his miss is a double cross when he’s struggling.

Now let’s examine his impact position:


  • You see a pull-hooking ball flight
  • The hands are significantly higher at impact than they were at address
  • If you look at the clubhead closely you can see it is wide open post impact due to a toe hit (which we’ll see more of in a second)
  • The face to path is 0.5 which means with a perfectly centered hit, this ball would have moved very slightly from the left to the right
  • However, we see a shot that has a very high negative spin axis -13.7 showing a shot that is moving right to left

Now let’s look at impact location via Trackman:

As we can see here, the impact of the shot above was obviously on the toe and this is the reason why the double-cross occurred. Now the question remains is “why did he hit the ball off of the toe?”

This is what I see from people who swing a touch too much from out-to-in and try to hit fades: a standing up of the body and a lifting of the hands raising the Vertical Swing Plane and Dynamic Lie of the club at impact. From address, let’s assume his lie angle was 45 degrees (for simplicity) and now at impact you can see his Dynamic Lie is 51 degrees. Simply put, he’s standing up the shaft during impact…when this happens you will tend to pull the heel off the ground at impact and this exposes the toe of the club, hence the toe hits and the gear effect toe hook.

Now that we know the problem, what’s the solution? In my opinion it’s a three stage process:

  1. Don’t swing as much from out-to-in so you won’t stand up as much during impact
  2. A better swing plane will help you to remain in your posture and lower the hands a touch more through impact
  3. Move the weights in your driver to promote a slight fade bias

Obviously the key here is to make better swings, but remember to use technology to your advantage and understand why these type of things happen!

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Master your takeaway with force and torques



Most golf swings last less than 2 seconds, so it’s difficult to recover from any errors in the takeaway. Time is obviously limited. What most golfers fail to realize is that the force and torque they apply to the club in the initial stages of the swing can have major effects on how they are able to leverage the club with their arms and wrists.

Our research has shown that it is best to see the golfer as a series of connected links with the most consistent golfers transferring motion smoothly from one link to another and finally to the club. Approximately 19-25 percent of all the energy created in a golf swing actually makes its way into the motion of the club. That means the remaining 75-80 percent is used up in moving the body segments. This emphasizes the fact that a smooth takeaway is your best chance sequence the body links and become more efficient with your energy transfers.

In the video above, I give a very important lesson on how the forces and torques applied by the golfer in the takeaway shape the rest of the swing. There will be more to come on the subject in future articles.

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Learn from the Legends: Introduction



There is a better way to swing the golf club. I’d prefer to write that there is a correct way to swing the club, but I know that really freaks people out. People love to talk about how everyone’s swing is different. “There are lots of ways to get it done,” they say. “Look at Jim Furyk’s swing – it’s not what you’d teach, but it works for him.”

To some extent, they’re right. Elite swings do have different looks. Some take it back inside (Ray Floyd). Some cross the line (Tom Watson). Some swings are long (Bubba Watson). Some are short (young Tiger). But these differences are superficial and largely irrelevant. When it comes to the engine – the core of the swing – the greatest players throughout the history of the game are all very similar.

Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you. In this series of articles, I will do my best to show you – with pictures and videos and data – that the legends all move a specific way. Focusing on these elements (while ignoring others) and practicing a certain way is the surest path to improving your golf swing and lowering your scores.

So, let’s get into it. There are a number of important elements that all the legends have, but the biggest and most important of these elements is rotation. Every great player throughout the history of the game has had elite rotation. It’s the most important thing they do, and it’s easy to see. When you’re looking down the line at all the great players at impact, you’ll see hips and torso open.

This is what the legends look like at impact:

1Hips open
2Torso open
3Both butt cheeks visible
4Left leg extended and visible

And here’s what some very good players with less good rotation look like at impact:

These are very successful players (one of them is a major champion!), but they don’t move like the legends of the game.
1Hips and shoulders not open
2Left leg not totally visible
3Can’t see both butt cheeks

Now, there are plenty of nuances to how great players rotate. They do it while keeping spine flexion, for example, and they do it with very little (or no) lateral movement toward the target (lateral movement impedes rotation). I will discuss these things in detail. My hope is that at the end of this series you will have a much better understanding of what separates the legends from the very good… and from the rest of us.

You will understand their “engine,” and hopefully this understanding will help you begin to create your own legendary swing!

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19th Hole