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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 a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.

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

The Wedge Guy: Short game tempo

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One of my favorite things to do is observe golfers closely, watching how they go about things from well before the shot to the execution of the swing or stroke. Guess the golf course has become kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

One thing I notice much too often is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery.

Why?

If you are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I tend to be a fast player and despise five-hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a few seconds extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision. They are outside the “norm” of a golf swing, so give yourself several practice swings to get a feel for the tempo and power that needs to be applied to the shot at hand.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball.” We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So, here’s a practice drill for you.

  1. Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less.
  2. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory.
  3. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time.

My bet is that somewhere in there you will find a swing length and tempo where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.

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The Wedge Guy: The core cause of bad shots

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You are cruising through a round of golf, hitting it pretty good and then you somehow just hit an absolutely terrible shot? This isn’t a problem unique to recreational golfers trying to break 80, 90, or 100 — even the best tour professionals occasionally hit a shot that is just amazingly horrible, given their advanced skill levels.

It happens to all of us — some more frequently than others — but I’m convinced the cause is the same. I call it “getting sloppy.”

So, what do I mean by that?

Well, there was a USGA advertising campaign a while back feature Arnold Palmer, with the slogan “Swing Your Swing.” There’s a lot of truth to that advice, as we all have a swing that has — either frequently or occasionally – produced outstanding golf shots. While there is no substitute for solid mechanics and technique, I’ve always believed that if you have ever hit a truly nice golf shot, then your swing has the capacity to repeat that result more frequently than you experience.

The big question is: “Why can’t I do that more often?”

And the answer is: Because you don’t approach every shot with the same care and caution that you exhibit when your best shots are executed.

To strike a golf ball perfectly, the moon and stars have to be aligned, regardless of what your swing looks like. Your set-up position must be right. Your posture and alignment have to be spot-on. Ball position has to be precisely perfect. To get those things correct takes focused attention to each detail. But the good news is that doing so only takes a few seconds of your time before each shot.

But I know from my own experience, the big “disrupter” is not having your mind right before you begin your swing. And that affects all of these pre-shot fundamentals as well as the physical execution of your swing.
Did you begin your pre-shot approach with a vivid picture of the shot you are trying to hit? Is your mind cleared from what might have happened on the last shot or the last hole? Are you free from the stress of this crazy game, where previous bad shots cause us to tighten up and not have our mind free and ready for the next shot? All those things affect your ability to get things right before you start your swing . . . and get in the way of “swinging your swing.”

So, now that I’ve outlined the problem, what’s the solution?

Let me offer you some ideas that you might incorporate into your own routine for every shot, so that you can get more positive results from whatever golf swing skills you might have.

Clear your mind. Whatever has happened in the round of golf to this point is history. Forget it. This next shot is all that matters. So, clear that history of prior shots and sharpen your focus to the shot at hand.

Be precise in your fundamentals. Set-up, posture, alignment and ball position are crucial to delivering your best swing. Pay special attention to all of these basics for EVERY shot you hit, from drives to putts.

Take Dead Aim. That was maybe the most repeated and sage advice from Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book”. And it may be the most valuable advice ever. Poor alignment and aim sets the stage for bad shots, as “your swing” cannot be executed if you are pointed incorrectly.

See it, feel it, trust it. Another piece of great advice from the book and movie, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days In Utopia”, by Dr. David Cook. Your body has to have a clear picture of the shot you want to execute in order to produce the sequence of movements to do that.

Check your grip pressure and GO. The stress of golf too often causes us to grip the club too tightly. And that is a swing killer. Right before you begin your swing, focus your mind on your grip pressure to make sure it isn’t tighter than your normal pressure.

It’s highly advisable to make these five steps central to your pre-shot routine, but especially so if you get into a bad stretch of shots. You can change things when that happens, but it just takes a little work to get back to the basics.

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Stickney: To stack or not to stack at impact?

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As you look at the impact positions of the best players in the world, you will find many different “looks” with respect to their body and club positions. Some of these impact positions might even appear unique, but don’t be fooled. They all have one thing in common: preserving the players’ balance throughout the impact interval! In fact, if you are not in-balance, then you will lose power, consistency, and have trouble controlling your launch dynamics from shot to shot.

This balance is a necessary key to playing well and one area that can be easily understood with a few graphics shown on GEARS 3D. As you examine the photo in the featured image, you can see a few things:

  • The player on the left has “fallen” backwards through impact slightly moving his head out of the circle established at address
  • The player on the right is more stacked at impact — meaning that his chest, zipper and hands are all in the same place at the same time (within reason)
  • The player on the left has reached this same position in the swing with different segments of the body reaching the ball at different times
  • There will be a difference of impact shaft lean between the two players due to one player reaching impact “together” and the other shoving his hands more forward as he falls back
  • The player on the right is more “connected” through impact…won’t be the longest hitter but will be able to find the ball in the fairway more often
  • The player on the left is putting more pressure on the rear portion of the lower back which could have a potential for injury if he’s not careful

Now, obviously there are pro and cons to both positions. Overall, if you want to be consistent and in-balance more often that not, I would suggest you try your best to focus on being “stacked” when you hit the ball.

Let’s dive in a touch deeper to show you what happens physiologically on 3D when you fall back through impact and I think it will really drive the point home.

  • At address notice the Vertical Spine Number 96.2, this is showing us where the spine is positioned at address
  • You can see the head is in the center of the bubble

  • On the way to the top of the swing you can see that the spine has moved “away” from the target laterally a slight bit to 98 degrees
  • The head has dropped downward and has also moved laterally as well- more lean over the right leg to the top

Now here is where the problem comes in…as you work your way to the top, it’s ok of your head moves a touch laterally but in transition if it stays “back” while your hips run out from under you then you will begin to fall backwards on the way to your belt-high delivery position.

  • We can see at the delivery position that the spine has continued to fall backwards as the hips rotate out from under the upperbody
  • When this happens the hands will begin to push forward- dragging the handle into the impact zone
  • Whenever you have too much spin out and fall back the hands move forward to accommodate this motion and this reduces your Angle of Attack and decreases your dynamic loft at impact
  • This will cause balls to be hit on the decent of the club’s arc and reduce loft making shots come out lower than normal with a higher spin rate and that means shorter drives

Now let’s examine impact…

  • The player on the left has reached impact in a more disconnected fashion versus the player on the right as you compare the two
  • The player on the right has a shaft lean at impact that is less than a degree (.75) while the player on the left has a much more noticeable forward lean of the shaft thereby reducing dynamic loft at impact

  • The player on the left’s spine has moved from 96.2 to 112.9, a difference of 16.7 degrees while the player on the right has only moved back a few degrees. We know this because his head has stayed in the bubble we charted at address
  • The hips have run out from under the player on the left in the downswing and this causes the head to fall back more, the hands to push forward more, and the impact alignments of the club to be too much down with very little dynamic loft (as also shown in the photo below)

Whenever the hips turn out from under the upper body then you will tend to have a “falling back effect of the spine and a pushing forward of the hands” through impact.  Notice how the hips are radically more open on the player on the right versus the left- 27.91 versus 42.42 degrees.

So, now that we can see what happens when the hips spin out, you fall back, and you fail to be “stacked” at impact let’s show you a simple way you can do this at home to alleviate this issue.

  

  • A great drill to focus on being more stacked at impact is to make slow motion swings with the feeling that the upper portion of your arms stay glued to your chest
  • These shots will be full swings but only 20% of your total power because the goal here is connection which allows everything to reach impact together and in-balance
  • The second thought as you make these swings is to pay attention to your head, if you can focus on allowing it to stay “over the top of the ball” at impact you will find that it will stay put a touch more so than normal. Now this is not exactly how it works but it’s a good feeling nonetheless
  • Once you get the feeling at 20% speed work your way up to 50% speed and repeat the process. If you can do it here then you are ready to move up to full swings at top speed

Finally, don’t forget that every golfer’s hips will be open at impact and everyone’s head will fall back a touch — this is fine. Just don’t over-do it! Fix this and enjoy finding the ball in the fairway more often than not.

Questions or comments? [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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