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For solid impact, control your low point

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Besides “consistency,” the second most common request I get from my students is they would like to hit the ball more solid. There’s nothing like the feeling of a compressing the golf ball, and I firmly believe most people would rather hit the ball in the screws and miss the green for 18 holes than beating it all over the face and hitting the green.

I feel the same way. No one likes sticking it in the ground and coming up short on the front fringe, or half-blading it to the back fringe. Ugh!

Whenever you can’t find the center of the face, it means you have lost control of your “low point,” or the lowest point of the forward swing arc that determines where the club hits the ground. In this article, we’ll discuss a few reasons why people have variance within their low point control, as well as my favorite drill to use in order to find your low point once again so you can hit it SOLID!

**Note: For this article, we will assume that your swing plane is perfect and it’s the pivot of your body that’s causing your low-point issue.**

There are three general places that the club can bottom out:

  1. Just in front of the ball
  2. Too far behind the ball
  3. Too far in front of the ball

First, let’s try a sample drill using practice swings to see just what your low point tends to be. As you can see in the photo below, I have drawn a line in the grass and made a few practice swings. You can see that Swing 1 (left divot) was perfect, Swing 2 (middle divot) was too far behind the line and Swing 3 (right divot) was too far in front of the line.

Stickney Low Point Photo 1

So what does the location of these divots tell us?

If you impact the golf ball “on the line and forward” toward the target (as shown in the left divot in the photo above) you can assume that your pivot — how you twist, turn and move your weight — is under control and it allows your club to hit the ground in the proper place. This is what you should strive for in general on every shot. On hilly lies, this becomes much harder to accomplish, thus the reason why pros take so many practice swings before hitting a shot off a weird lie. They want to better “feel” where their low point will occur so they can hit the shot solid.

If your divot is behind the line then something is causing your low point to occur too early. This is often a issue of an unsolid lower body to the top.

The three reasons why this occurs

No. 1: Your right knee can bounce around on the way to the top, thus moving your weight to the outside of your right foot. From there, you cannot get your weight onto your left foot fast enough. Bam! You hit behind the ball. The cure for this is to make sure your weight stays on the FRONT INSIDE portion of your right foot at the top of your backswing. This position will springboard your weight back into your forward foot long before you impact the ball and solid impact will be the result.

No. 2: From the top you can “spin-out” and not allow your weight to move into your left foot before you begin to rotate your hips. (This is often the cause of the dreaded over-the-top move of the right shoulder as well). Whenever the left hip spins from the start of the downswing, the weight moves rapidly into the left heel and the center of gravity stays back behind the ball. Often when you do this, you will hit behind it. The cure for this is to allow your hips to “bump” toward right field so that your center of gravity moves into your left toe to begin the downswing. From there, the right shoulder lowers and you can rotate through the ball hitting the ball first and the ground second.

No. 3: The second part of “spinning out” moves your low point behind the ball and can also cause you to hit the ball thin or even top it. If you are the type of player who never makes a divot, then this alerts you that your low point is occurring behind the ball and you are pulling up through impact. The best way to solve this issue is to place a tee in front of the ball and do your best to hit the ball first and the tee second. This will move your low point back in front of the ball where it should be.

If your divot occurs too far in front of the ball, then it’s apparent that you have a pivot issues, which causes too much lateral motion in your downswing and moves the low point too far in front of the ball.

**Remember we stated earlier in the article that we are only dealing with PIVOT issues causing improper low-points and not PLANE issues.**

There are two basic reasons why this usually occurs for most players:

No. 1: An overly aggressive hip slide into the ball from the top. Sometimes the feeling of moving the weight back into the ball from your rear foot can cause your hips to slide too much on the way down and past your left ankle. When this occurs and the head follows, you have moved your center of gravity too far to the left, which moves the low point too far left of the golf ball (as is shown in the far left divot above). The key to fix this is to kill the excessive hip slide on the downswing and “post” up on the left leg, hitting the ball with the weight on the inside of the left foot at impact, not the outside.

No. 2: The second way this can also occur is to have an excessive head slide from the top. Anytime your head “leans into the ball” from the top, the body will follow. This also moves the low point too far in front of the ball during impact as well. The key to stopping the head slide is to feel that your hips begin the downswing, bumping forward while your head stays back behind the ball at impact. This “hip slide, axis tilt” allows the club shaft and the weight to transition correctly so that your low point is where it should be during impact.
As you can see, your divots should be on the line and forward, but if you have pivot flaws this becomes very difficult. Experiment with these drills I have described above and you will find that your pivot-driven low point issues will be gone for good.
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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) 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: [email protected]

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. ed

    Aug 31, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Tom-
    How far ahead of the ball should the tee be placed for suggestion #3? I rarely take a divot and hit both thin & fat, so assume this may be my best drill out of what you mentioned.

    Thanks!

  2. Pingback: For Solid Impact, Control Your Low Point | Golf Gear Select

  3. Billy

    Aug 26, 2014 at 1:22 am

    Tom, when you say “The cure for this is to allow your hips to “bump” toward right field”. You mean the left hip for a RH golfer?

    How would one do such a thing? Push off the ground with your right (back) leg? Let your hip drop back towards, 7-6 o’clock?

    You are not supposed to slide, but what would be the best option to “bump” my left hip? I don’t do that and I hit it fat.

    • Tom Stickney

      Aug 26, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Hips are rotated in the bs and pointing rt if you put a shaft along your hips at the top your hips bump slightly in that direction to begin the ds

  4. Cwolf

    Aug 25, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks tom. Great article. I have really been focusing on the “bump to left field” and causing my divot to bottom out in front of the ball.

    How would you apply this teaching to a driver when one should be hitting the ball on the upswing and not the low point?

    • Tom Stickney

      Aug 25, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      Ball forward head back through impact. Must move lp behind ball if you can.

  5. birly-shirly

    Aug 25, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Nice article – but how do you establish the validity in the particular case of the assumption that swing plane isn’t the issue?

    Would you work on the pivot “cures” first – and if those don’t work reverse the presumption?

    • Tom Stickney

      Aug 25, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      It can go both ways…depends on the student.

  6. Dennis Clark

    Aug 25, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    well put Tom; Once they get the difference in shallow fats and steep ones, they know which pivot corrects it, as you said!

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Instruction

TXG: Should you carry TWO DRIVERS? // Distance, Accuracy, Draw & Fade Setups

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Some of the best players in the world have been testing a two-driver setup for their bags. Does it make sense to play two drivers if they are set up for two different shot shapes? We test one driver setup for maximum distance and draw flight and another setup for accuracy and fade flight. See whether this could be an advantage for your game—and help you get off the tee better at your course!

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Fixing the shanks: How to stop shanking the golf ball (GolfWRX Explains)

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May you never be concerned about fixing the shanks! But if you’re begging the golf gods for guidance how to stop shanking the golf ball? Ready to offer up your first-born child for the wisdom how to stop shanking irons? Frantically asking Google how to never shank a golf ball again?

Fear not. We’ll get to drills to stop shanking irons shortly that are guaranteed to ingrain the proper feel and anti-shank action, but first, a brief discussion of what exactly a shank is (other than will-to-live crushing).

More often than not, a shank occurs when a player’s weight gets too far onto the toes, causing a lean forward. Instead of the center of the clubface striking the ball—as you intended at address—the hosel makes contact with your Titleist, and—cover your ears and guard your soul—a shank occurs.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded hosel rocket departing your club at a 90-degree angle, you know how quickly confidence can evaporate and terror can set in.

Fortunately, the shanks are curable and largely preventable ailment. While there are drills to fix your fault you once the malady has taken hold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’re trying to understand how to stop shanking the golf ball, you need to understand where the ball makes contact with the club during a shank.

Fixing the shanks

To avoid shanking the golf ball, it’s important to lock in on some keys…

  • Have a proper setup and posture…Athletic posture, arms hang down, neither too bent over nor too upright, weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Keep your grip light and arms tension free…If 10 is a death grip of golf club and 1 is the club falling out of your hand, aim for a grip in the 4-6 range. Make sure your forearms aren’t clenched.
  • Maintain proper balance throughout the swing…50/50 weight to start (front foot/back foot). 60/40 at the top of the backswing. 90/10 at impact.
  • Avoid an excessively out-to-in or in-to-out swing path…Take the club straight back to start, rather than excessively inside (closer to the body) or outside (further away from the body).

The best drill to stop shanking the golf ball

Set up properly (as discussed above), flex your toes upward as you begin your swing and keep your chest high (maintain your spine angle) throughout the swing.

Other than those focal points, keep your brain free of any additional chatter, which only exacerbates shankitis.

(For more advice, be sure to check out what our friends at Me and My Golf have to say below)

Now you know how to stop shanking the golf ball and have the tools to never shank the golf ball again.

Praise the golf gods!

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Cameron Smith’s 3-month Covid-19 training block

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Whilst Covid-19 has presented countless grave health and economic challenges to the world’s population, it has also provided opportunity for many people to focus their attention on projects that they normally wouldn’t have time for.

Turns out PGA Tour players are no different, and in the case of Cameron Smith, we used the enforced break from competitive golf to undertake a very rare, uninterrupted 3 month block of strength training.

Cam plays 25-30 events a year spread across 4 continents and this presents a number of challenges to overcome from a training and programming perspective:

– Varying facilities

– Travel fatigue and jet lag

– Concerns around muscle soreness affecting ability to perform on course

– Physical and mental cost of competing

When combined, these challenges can often render even the most carefully planned training programs redundant. So whilst many golf fans were coming to terms with a prolonged absence of PGA Tour events, I was getting stuck into designing programs that would hopefully elicit the following outcomes for Cam:

– More muscle mass

– More strength

– More power

In a normal season, I’m hesitant to prescribe programs that focus on muscle gain, because the nature of the training volume tends to tighten Cam up (reduce his range of motion), reduce his club-head speed and elicit a lot of muscle soreness…..not an ideal combination for short term performance! But I knew in this case, we could get stuck into some higher volume work because we would have plenty of time to recover from any lost mobility, reduced speed and increased soreness before tournaments started again.

 

Mid March – Program 1 – General Hypertrophy Focus

We decided with the global virus outlook looking dire and the PGA Tour promising to deliver a 30 day notice before resumption of play, we should focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) until the 30 day notice period was delivered. At that point we would switch to a more familiar power based program in preparation for tournaments starting up again.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower focus (legs, glutes, core)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets to failure)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Lower Body Focus (legs, glutes, core):

 

Example Exercises:

 

Mid April – Program 2 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Focus

As Cam was about to finish up his first hypertrophy program, there was a fairly clear indication that there would be no play until mid June at the earliest. Knowing that we had 2 more months of training, we decided to continue with another hypertrophy block. This time increasing the focus on the lower body by breaking down the leg work into 2 seperate sessions and ramping up the training volume.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 4 sessions per week

– 2 x lower body focus (1 x quad focused workout and 1 x hamstring / glute focused workout)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Pull Focus (back, biceps, core):

 

Example Exercises:

Mid May – Program 3 – Power Focus

Once we received confirmation that play would be resuming 11th June at Colonial, we made the call to switch to a power focused program. Moving back to 3 days per week, lowering the volume and increasing the intensity (more weight and more speed in the main lifts).

The idea is to get the body used to moving fast again, reduce muscle soreness to allow better quality golf practice, and supplement the with more mobility work to re-gain any lost range of motion.

We also added some extra grip work because Cam discovered that with the muscle and strength gain, plus lifting increased weight, his grip was failing on key lifts…..not such a bad problem to have!

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower body focus (legs, glutes, core, grip)

– 1 x upper body focus (chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, grip)

– 1 x combined focus (legs, glutes, shoulders, core, grip)

– Volume remains constant (same sets and reps), aiming to increase intensity (either weight or speed) over the 4 weeks.

Training Variables:

Sets: 4 to 5

Reps: 3-5 for main exercises, 8-12 for accessory exercises.

Tempo: X-0-1 for main exercises (as fast as possible in up or effort phase, no pause, 1 second down). 2-0-2 for accessory exercises.

Weight: around 85% of maximum for main exercises, around 70% for accessory exercises.

Rest: 90 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Combined (legs, glutes, core, shoulders, grip):

 

Example Exercises:

 

If you are interested in receiving some professional guidance for your training, then check out the services on offer from Nick at Golf Fit Pro

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