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Like to take video of your swing? Read this first

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Video is a great tool for teaching and learning golf. It replaced the naked eye in golf instruction, and is used by teachers world wide. A video of a golf swing can show us a lot about what a player is doing, particularly with the body motion. But a word of caution is in order when relying on it exclusively to see the golf swing.

First, we have to consider something called parallax. Because of the design of my car’s speedometer, I can see that I’m driving a certain speed when I’m sitting in the driver’s seat. But the person riding shotgun looks at my speedometer and says: “Take it easy, you’re doing 70 in a 55 mph zone,” because that’s what it looks like from where that person it sitting sitting. That’s a parallax: two different perspectives of the same picture. And we have to be really careful of this when looking at a golf swing on video. Just by moving the camera a few feet left or right, we can skew the picture of the swing we’re looking at. It also explains why the golf ball appears to go so far right every time a player on TV hits.

Secondly, video is ultimately a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional motion. Video cannot see the true path of the golf swing because path is combination of the horizontal and vertical movement of the golf club into the ball. What we see on video is the horizontal plane we are swinging on. We see a base plane line, not a true swing path. The camera can see the left or right but not the up and down, and this can be misleading. A swing which can look well left on the camera may also have a very steep angle, actually requiring leftward movement of the club to zero it out. This means every degree we swing down on say a 6-iron, we have to swing a half-degree left to offset it.  So a very steep angle, say seven or eight degrees down would need as much as four degrees left to get it to actually swing at the target. On video, we’d see on the left (the horizontal plane) it appears over the top, but in fact it is not — so be careful. James Lietz, the great teacher and fitter from Louisiana, does some wonderful work explaining this.

Third, at impact, the contact point on the club can twist the face open (toe hit) or closed (heel hit). This may appear to be the result of a movement the player is making (either over-pronation or over-supination) when in fact it is the result of twisting due to the off-center impact.

Also, when a model swing is being used for comparison, be real careful about what view is being shown and what shot the PGA Tour pro is hitting — this is critical. You may be seeing a top-level player deliberately swinging well right or left, (base plane line) to hit an intentional draw or fade. And when we select them randomly, we just never know what his intention was hitting that particular shot. The parallax issue I noted above is limiting here too. In fact, when I’m teaching I very often use extremes. If I have someone swing well over the top, I may show them a video of a Tour pro hitting way from the inside, just to plant that image in their golf brain. I teach by using the most extreme opposite measure I can.

Now the good points of video analysis are obvious. Is there lifting or lowering of the body during the swing? A close-up of the grip is also very revealing. Sequencing is another motion visible on video; so is the club face in relation to the swing arc. And when the camera is positioned correctly, aim, ball position and width of stance can all be seen accurately. I also like to see the golf club in relation to the lead arm. Is it laid off, is it across the line, is the left wrist flat, is it cupped; where is the club pointed in transition? These are all things in which video is enormously helpful. I have a Casio camera and use it regularly. But of course, for accurate path, face-to-path or attack angle readings I rely on TrackMan or FlightScope.

Note about shooting video: I try to position the camera on the hand line directly behind the player, about belt high. From the face on view, I position it at the belt buckle, 90 degrees to the target line. This gives me the best view. Many times, students send me swings from a camera positioned anywhere but where I can see the swing. I also love an overhead camera which allows me to trace the shape of the arc of the swing. And of course the camera must be still. It cannot be hand-held or moving in any way to get a good look.

All in all, I use video, it is a great help, but the critical areas I mentioned have to be measured.

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 in the “Instruction & Academy” forum.

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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

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Tservos

    Mar 1, 2013 at 9:07 am

    I’ve always wondered why the ball looks like it goes about 30 degrees right on tv. Wouldn’t think that it would make that much difference.

  2. Binx Watts

    Feb 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    A good article. I use the V1 video extensively on my lesson tee. From face on also pay close attention to where the wrists begin to uncock. Most release the angle too soon.

  3. Craig berry

    Feb 8, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Good article!

    Position of camera is paramount!

    Important to not ‘over use’ it, becomes quite obsessive but certainly a great aid to assist in practising correctly!

  4. Knall

    Feb 8, 2013 at 5:22 am

    Great article, finally i have it black on white why balls on TV appear to start so far right. my dad always says “wow did you see how far right that ball started and it landed left of the pin, he played a hardcore draw with his pitching wedge”. and i kept explaining it has to do with the camera angle and noone plays a draw with a half swing approach shot, at least no pro:D
    thanks!

  5. Troy Vayanos

    Feb 8, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Video is fantastic for helping improve a golf swing.

    I have made significant improvement via the help of video and would recommend it to any golfer.

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Instruction

How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Instruction

Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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Instruction

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

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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:

Observations

  • 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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