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Keep Your Head Down: The Inexperienced Fix

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Good ball contact is one of the most challenging skill sets a beginning golfer has to develop. Unfortunately, bad ball contact is far too frequently diagnosed with the simple analysis of “you’re lifting your head up.”

Rather than see a world of inexperienced golfers continue to be diagnosed with this one fault, effects all malady, let’s take a look at a couple of the true causes as to why a golfer might be “lifting up your head.”

First, let’s understand that three of the next four scenarios for bad ball contact stem from the golf club traveling at its lowest point (or the bottom of the swing arc) prior to striking the golf ball. We’ll use a hula hoop in many of the following photos to represent where a golf club travels through space. The seat of the chair will represent the ground.

Note how the first photo represents a good impact position. The front edge of the chair, directly underneath the model’s shirt buttons, represents where the golf club will be striking the golf ball.

Allow me a little wiggle room, but note how the hula hoop travels at its lowest point just after the front edge of the chair. If a golf ball was just to the left, or on the backswing side of the edge of the chair, perfect ball contact would be achieved.

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The hula hoop represents the shape of the golf club’s downswing arc. The edge of the chair represents the location of the ball.

In the photo below, notice how the hula hoop is underneath the seat of the chair. This specific scenario represents an individual with bad posture (too hunched over or too low) or a golf swing with body motion that gets excessively lower to the ground during the backswing.

When a golfer has these faults, his or her swing arc also gets lower (note how the hula hoop first makes contact near the seat back of the chair), which in turn effectively moves the bottom of the swing well before the good impact position described. If this golfer wants to hit the right part of the golf ball with this set up or backswing, he MUST raise his posture (or lift his head) to counter the poor technique.

IMG_1551
This golfer needs either a taller, more balanced set up, or he must maintain his posture during his backswing motion.

In the third photo, notice how the hula hoop is well behind the proper impact position described in the first photo. This position frequently represents a golfer who does not laterally move toward the target enough during the downswing sequence. Because there is not enough lateral motion, the bottom of the swing arc is behind the golf ball again. This golfer usually suffers from a misunderstanding of a proper weight transfer, or the need to have a slightly descending strike prior to impact for better ball contact.

IMG_1552
This golfer needs more forward lateral motion to move the bottom of the swing arc forward, and/or a better descending strike.

The fourth and fifth photos represent two different deliveries of the golf club into the impact zone. The first golfer is delivering the golf club with a later hit, or more descending angle of attack due to the club head being three feet above the ground, while his hands are only slightly behind the golf ball.  The likelihood of this golfer hitting the turf prior to the ball is very slim, due to how much downward motion the club head needs to make to hit the golf ball from this position.

IMG_1545
Due to a better wrist hinge, this golfer will unlikely need to lift his head up to strike the ball solidly.

The second golfer is is delivering the golf club with an early hit, or more of an ascending angle of attack. Notice how the club head is only inches away from the ground while the hands are near the back swing leg. There is a very good chance, from this position, that the club head will strike the ground prior to the golf ball, due to how little downward motion this club head needs to make, while still needing to significantly travel forward.

IMG_1546
This golfer has released his wrist hinge too early. The golf club is traveling too close to the ground prior to impact.

The last series of photos represents a golfer who lifts his head due to a poor downswing plane that is not in line with the golf ball for proper impact.

The first picture represents a golfer with a proper swing plane. Again the edge of the chair represents the golf ball on the ground.  Note how the first model’s hula hoop is matched up to an on-plane downswing where the golf club will be traveling on an arc that will encourage good ball contact.

IMG_1565
Note how the hula hoop points at the desired impact position, the edge of the chair.

The second picture represents a downswing plane that is too vertical, or steep. Notice how the hula hoop is now traveling well inside the location of the edge of the chair, or the golf ball.

IMG_1566
The hula hoop is not pointing at the proper impact position to strike a golf ball. Rather, it is pointing at a spot where there is no golf ball.

In an effort to bring the hula hoop on the proper path of the golf ball, the model raises his head and posture to have a better chance of having the golf club travel on a plane that will strike the golf ball solidly.

IMG_1567
Note how the spine and head have risen, which has helped reroute the hula hoop to a path for better impact.

All of these faults have different fixes. The key for you, the reader, is to understand which fault (single or multiple) is the primary cause for your bad ball contact and the subsequent lifting of the head.  You can then do the research (lessons, internet) to apply the proper fix for your specific need.

Best of luck!

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Kevin White

    Dec 11, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Visit the website listed and see the head position of many pros shortly after impact. Keeping your head down thru impact is all mental.

  2. petie3

    May 13, 2014 at 8:07 am

    I cured a 30 year slice in 20 minutes by taking a camcorder on a tripod and simply taping myself with the camera directly behind, then at 90 degrees. When you ‘feel’ your swing is down the line, it is actually outside-in. Same as a batter in baseball, when you feel you’re swinging level you are uppercutting. To hit level you must consciously hit down on the ball. My fix was to separate the slower backswing from the downswing by a tiny motionless fraction and then initiate the downswing with the hips.
    Now if I could only putt.

  3. Alex

    May 9, 2014 at 11:54 am

    An old friend who happens to be a very good amateur told me once: “look at the ball intently,” meaning “be aware of the ball throughout the swing”. That’s one of the best tips I’ve ever received in 30 year of golf.

    Today, I only look at the ball. I don’t think whether my head’s moving or rising, I can see the white ball on the grass all along the swing and it’s gonna be a fine shot.

  4. Nick

    May 8, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I also think another scenario is the player who, for lack of a better image,”humps the goat” which is a lost of posture where the hips move forward and the head moves away (not so much up) from the ball which can either lead to skulls or promote an early release which when conducted with proper posture, or when not times perfectly, will result in poor contact and face control issues. A lot of people who set up with too much knee flex seem to fall into this fault. Its similar to the last illustration in the article but I believe different in some important respects in that its no so much a plane issue as a set up and posture issue.

  5. Teekman

    May 8, 2014 at 1:11 am

    While I see what you are saying here I think the bigger issue with the statement “keep your head down” is the disconnect between the person saying it and the person swinging the club. When I tell friends “keep your head down” I rephrase it by saying “keep a steady head” because that’s what I find to be the biggest issue with new golfers. Anyone can set up well to the ball, however it’s the balance and steadiness that comes with practice that they lack. Other than that, great article.

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