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

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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.

PLEASE NOTE:

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 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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6 Comments

6 Comments

  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

    Nate–

    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”

    Thanks
    Iain

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Instruction

A Jedi Mind Trick For Improved Target Awareness

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I think all golfers, at some point in their life playing the game of golf, has gotten stuck, or become frozen over the golf ball. Why?  They’re trying to remember which of the 23 different swing thoughts they used for the day performed the best.

The disheartening reality: none of us are going to perform well on a consistent basis with our thoughts being so internally driven. Swing thoughts force our awareness inward. Is the shaft in the correct position? Am I making a proper pressure shift? Was that a reverse pivot? Close that club face! Regardless of the technique you are trying to manage or modify, these kinds of questions make you acquire sensations internally.

To complicate things further, we are taught to look at the golf ball, not the target, while hitting our golf shot. And yet instinctively, in almost all other skills of making a ball or object finish towards a target (throwing a ball or frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, skipping a rock across water, shooting a basket ball) our awareness is not on the ball or the motion itself, but rather the ultimate target.

So, can we develop a skill that allows us to still keep our eye on the ball, like the game of golf encourages, but have awareness of our target, like so many other target sports demand?  Yes, the answer is (third rate Yoda Speak), and the skill can easily be yours.

Here’s where this gets fun. You already have learned this skill set, but under different conditions. Perhaps this example resonates with you. Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? Remember how you used to close your eyes and count to 10? During those 10 seconds of having your eyes closed, weren’t you using all of your senses externally, trying to track where your friends were going to hide? Weren’t you, just like a bloodhound, able to go directly to a few of the less skillful hiders’ hiding places and locate them?

Or how about this example. When you are driving down your own local multilane highway, aren’t you aware of all the cars around you while keeping your eyes firmly on the road in front of you? Reconnecting, recognizing and/or developing these skills that all of us already use is the first step in knowing you’re not too far away from doing this with your golf game.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a putter and place your golf ball 3 feet away from the hole on a straight putt. Aim your putter, and then look at the hole. As you bring your eyes back to the golf ball, maintain part of your awareness back at the hole. Each successive time your eyes leave your golf ball and head back to the hole, your eyes will be able to confirm your target. It hasn’t moved; it’s still in the same location; your confidence builds.

When you know for certain that your external awareness of the target is locked in while still looking at your golf ball, step up and execute your putt.

The wonderful beauty of this skill set is that you now have the best of both worlds. You are still looking at the golf ball, which gives you a better chance of striking the golf ball solidly… AND you are now target aware just like you are when you are throwing an object at a target.

As always, acquire this skill set from a close target with a slower, smaller motion. If you don’t execute properly, you have a better chance of making the proper corrective assessment from a slower, smaller motion and closer target. As you become more proficient with this skill, allow the target to get farther away and try to add more speed with a larger range of motion.

So give learning this skill set a go. I don’t think there is anything more valuable in playing the game of golf than keeping your “athlete” attached to the target. Become proficient at developing this awareness and you can tell all your friends that the primary reason your scores are getting lower and you’re getting deeper into their wallets is because of Jedi Mind tricks. Good luck!

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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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