Stack and Tilt.
The moment someone utters those three little words there’s a thought that jumps into your head and also a connotation. It is one of the most loaded phrases in all of golf and the elephant in the room in terms of golf instruction.
Every season I get a handful of new students who come to me and the first question they ask is, “You’re not going to make me do anything CRAZY like Stack and Tilt, right?”
I never quite understood how Stack and Tilt had become a pejorative phrase among golfers until it dawned on me, it’s different and it actually works.
It doesn’t just work though, it contradicts a myriad of concepts “top golf instructors” in the world teach and therein lies the problem. I will admit I am not a full fledged “Stack and Tilt’er,” but I do incorporate aspects of it in my own swing. Let’s take a look at Stack and Tilt’s basic concepts, why it is scrutinized and see how you might be able to utilize them to improve your golf swing.
The Basics (for a right-handed golfer):
- Weight Forward
- (Left) Shoulder Down
- Hands In
- Straight Leg (right)
- Arms Straight
- Tuck Hips
Flaw: Old school instruction used to teach a full turn with your weight balanced between your two legs, moving the majority of the weight to the back leg and then fully transferring it on the down swing to the lead leg. The problem with this is that many amateur golfers hear this and begin to move their weight and their entire upper body to the right on the back swing, resulting in a sway.
Fix: Stack and Tilt advises you to start with more weight on the lead leg (55 percent or even more), and during your back swing feel an increase in percentage (60 percent or more). This concept eliminates the sway and forces your body to stay more centered over the ball throughout the entire swing. If you struggle with a sway, using a weight forward concept is great option to help you remedy your problem.
Flaw: A lot of golfers concentrate on generating a full turn in their back swing, but many most don’t realize that when they make that turn it needs to be done on an angle where the shoulders turn down and not out. Many amateur golfers don’t turn their shoulders on an angle and as a result need to raise and lift the arms to generate height on the back swing causing erratic loops and inconsistent swings.
Fix: Stack and Tilt states that if you can get your left shoulder to turn down and not out, it allows the head to remain steady and it also allows the club to move vertically without lifting. Keeping the head steady is also key fundamental for striking the ball first and eliminating fat shots. Many golf instructors don’t emphasize this enough during golf instruction, and as a result many golfers generate height in their back swing by lifting the club rather than letting the shoulders do the work. If you struggle with inconsistent ball striking turning your left shoulder down can help alleviate a variety of swing faults.
Flaw: The closer to your body you can keep your arms the better. Take a look at the above pictures, the picture on the left shows a golfer moving the club “straight back,” which is commonly taught by golf instructors. Not only does it move the club immediately off plane, but it causes the arms to disconnect from the body, thus losing any possibility of repeating this move consistently.
Fix: Stack and Tilt advises golfers to move there “hands in,” forcing the club to swing on an arc and thus remaining connected to the body for a more repeatable takeaway. Many high handicappers disconnect their arms immediately to start their swing and either move the club too far inside or too far outside making every swing different than the next. By using Stack and Tilt’s “hands in” fundamental, you can start to improve your takeaway and keep better connection to your body throughout your swing.
Jim McLean just had a heart attack. Just kidding, but isn’t maintaining the flex in your back leg one of the most important rules in golf?
Flaw: Believe it or not, it is impossible to maintain the same amount of flex during your back swing and turn your hips at the same time. To be able to make a full shoulder turn, you need to turn your hips. To do so, you need to change the amount of flex each leg.
Fix: The more your back leg straightens, the more your hips can turn, which lets your shoulders turn even more. Its a win-win. Like anything in golf, we want moderation, so don’t lock the back leg but feel free to let your hips turn and allow that trail leg to elongate on the back swing. Many senior golfers have trouble with making a full turn and generating distance with their golf swing due to flexibility issues but when I get them to turn their hips they create a fuller turn resulting in dramatically more distance.
Flaw: Maintaining length and creating extension are two of the most important aspects of the golf swing. Many beginners tend to misinterpret a hinge of the wrist for a bending of the arm.
Fix: Stack and Tilt emphasizes maintaining extension not only on the back swing, but at impact and into your finish. Many instructors teach the importance of extension, and over look how important maintaining that extension well after impact is as well. Not only will this help produce consistent ball striking, but it will also help generate club head speed through impact. Signs that indicate your extension may be lacking are large divots, seeing the club over your shoulder on the back swing, and the club hitting or resting on your shoulders at the top of your back swing.
Flaw: Many golfers have a difficult time finishing their swing and maintaining their balance after impact.
Fix: There may be a variety of reason for this, so Stack and Tilt simplified things by saying, “Raise the belt and tuck the hips.” Take a look above — by raising the belt, the golfer is forced to clear their hips fully, and by tucking the hips the golfer has placed their core directly over the lead leg in a stable and balanced manner. If you have difficulty maintaining your balance or fully finishing your golf swing, Stack and Tilt is a viable option for creating a stable finish, something all golf instructors can agree upon.
Stack and Tilt is not nearly as terrifying as golf commentators and non-believers make it out to be. It is merely a sequence of moves to get your body moving in a more efficient manner. Although it may seem radical to straighten the trail leg and not transfer weight backward, it is essential to exaggerate these moves to eliminate common faults and misconceptions that have plagued the average golfer for centuries.
There is no perfect way to swing the golf club and there will never be a perfect way to swing the golf club, but there are ways to swing the golf club more efficiently, and Stack and Tilt may be able to help you do that. If your golf swing isn’t quite where it belongs, it might be time to take a look at Stack and Tilt. It may just be the change you’re looking for.
A Guide (Secret) to Better Putting
Putting is a part of the game where we can all do small things to get better. You don’t have to practice 40 hours a week or have a stroke that gets a perfect score on a SAM PuttLab. The universal answer is to simplify the approach as much as possible.
While being a world class putter is an art form, being competent at putting is probably the least physically daunting task in golf — aside from maybe driving the cart. Putting generally provides the most stress and frustration, however, as our results are almost never aligned with our exceptions, which drives us to create unnecessary roadblocks to success.
That being the case, let’s narrow this down to as few variables as possible and get ourselves holing more putts. First off, you need to have proper expectations. If you look at the PGA Tour averages for made putts, you will find that the rates of success overall are far lower than what we see on on TV on Sunday afternoon. That’s because we are seeing the best players in the world, who in a moment in time, are holing putts at a clip the average plus-handicap club champion couldn’t dream of during a near death experience on his way to walking into the light.
If you have ever seen golf balls rolled on a stimpmeter ramp (the device used to measure green speed), you have probably seen something shocking. Golf balls rolling perfectly — the perfect speed, on a perfect green, on a perfectly straight putt — sometimes miss on both sides of the hole on consecutive efforts.
This is a very important point. The farther you get from the hole, the less control you have over making the putt. That’s why actually making putts outside a few feet should not be your priority. Hitting the best putt possible is your only priority. Then be resigned that the putt will either go in or it won’t. This might seem defeatist, but it’s not; its just a perception change. If you judge yourself on whether the ball goes in or not, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you judge yourself on whether or not you hit a good putt, you will be more successful… and you’re going to make more putts.
This sounds like something you’d hear at a Tony Robbins positive thinking seminar, but it has proven successful for every one of my clients who has embraced it. So what’s the secret to hitting the best putt possible each time?
Simplify the process.
- Read the green to the best of your ability.
- Pick a line and do your best to set up to it.
- Do your best to hit the putt solid and at the right speed.
Reading the green is something that gets better with experience and practice. Some will be better than others, so this is an intangible thing that countless books are written about. My advice is simple; DON’T OVER THINK IT. Look at the terrain and get a general sense of where low point is in relation to the hole.
The reason why perfect green reading and perfect alignment are overrated is because there is no one line to the hole. The hole is over 4-inches wide and putts break differently with changes in speed and solidness of contact. I saw a video at the Scotty Cameron Putting Studio many years ago of dozens of PGA Tour players. There was a worm’s-eye camera on a 4-5 foot putt that was basically straight on the artificial grass. Few were aimed at the middle of the hole and many weren’t even aimed at the hole at all… but I didn’t see one miss.
So have a look at the terrain and be decent at lining up in the general direction that will give a chance for a well struck putt to go in or finish close enough for a tap in. Simple. After rambling on for several paragraphs, we get to the heart of how you can improve your putting. Narrow it down to doing your best to hit a solid putt at the right speed.
The “Right Speed”
I ask people after they addressed a putt how much attention they pay to line and speed. Any answer but 100 percent speed is wrong. You’ve already read the putt and lined up. Why is line any longer a variable? Plus, have you ever missed the line on a 20-foot putt by 5 feet? Maybe once in your life on a crazy green, but you sure as heck have left it 5-feet short and long on several occasions.
Imagine I handed you a basketball and said shoot it in the basket. Or what if I told you to toss a crumpled piece of paper into the trash? Having the requisite coordination is an acquired skill, but you wouldn’t grind over innocuous details when it came to the feel of making the object go the right distance. You’d react to the object in your hand and the target for the right speed/distance.
Putting is no different, save one variable. There’s the sense and feel of how the the green interacts with the ball, and that’s a direct result of how solidly you hit the putt. If you use X amount of force and it goes 18 feet one effort and 23 feet the next, how are you ever going to acquire speed control? That is the mark of almost every poor lag putter. They don’t hit putts consistently solid, so they never acquire the skill of distance control.
Since speed is a learned reaction to the terrain/target and consistency is a direct result of how consistently solid you strike the ball, that is what we’re left with.
Learn to Hit Putts More Solid
The road to better putting is as simple as hitting your putts more solid. Put most/all of your effort into what it takes to hit more putts solid. Now for each individual, it’s less about doing what’s right. Instead, it’s about avoiding movements and alignments that make it difficult to hit the ball solid. It would take an encyclopedia to cover all of the issues that fall into this category, so I will list the most common that will cover more than 90 percent of golfers.
The most common one I see — and it is nearly universal in people who are plagued by poor lag putting — is excess hip rotation. Sometimes there’s even an actual weight shift. Think of it this way; take a backstroke and stop. Rotate your hips 20 degrees without moving anything else. The putter and the arc is now pointed left of your intended line. You have to shove it with your arms and hands not to pull it. Good luck hitting it solid while doing all of that.
I had a golf school in Baltimore and told this story. Ten of the 15 people there assured me they didn’t do that. After 8 people had putted, we were 8-for-8. No. 9 said, “There is no ******* way I am going to move my hips after watching this.”
The entire group laughed after his putt told him he was wrong. The last 6 did everything they could to avoid the fault. We went 15 for 15. Many people are unaware that this issue is so dire. If you add the people that are unaware they have this issue, we are near 100 percent of golfers. I have gotten emails from 8-10 of them telling me how much their putting improved after all they did was focus on minimizing hip rotation and just hitting the ball solid.
This issue is not just the bane of average golfers; I’ve had several mini-tour players with putting issues improve with this. We are all aware Fred Couples would have won many more majors if not for a career-long battle with his putter. Watch the next time he misses a 6-foot putt to the left. As you will see, it’s not just a problem for a high-handicappers.
The best way to judge and practice avoiding this, it putting with an alignment stick in you belt loops. If your hips rotate too much, the stick will definitely let you know.
Other issues include the well know chest/sternum coming up too soon in an effort to see the ball go in the hole, as well as:
- Not aligning the putter shaft properly with the lead arm
- Grip pressure issues (too much and too little)
- Too much tension in neck and shoulders
- Poor rhythm
- Long back stroke
I could go on and on and on. The main point; find out why you aren’t hitting putts solid and do whatever it takes to do so, even if it’s something crazy like a super wide-open stance (with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek). See the Jack Nicklaus picture at the top of the story.
WATCH: How to Improve Your Golf Club Release
Many golfers release the club way too early. The low point of the swing moves back and they hit the ground behind the ball or pick the ball clean off the top of the surface. They then dream of “lag” and the “late hit” trying to achieve this by thinking of holding on the the wrist angle too long.
In this video, I share a drill that it will improve the way you release the club.
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