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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

Kelley: How to easily find your ideal impact position

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If you look at any sport, the greats seem to do more with less. Whether it be a swimmer gliding through the water or a quarterback throwing a pass, they make it look it easy and effortless.

In golf, there are a variety of distinct swing patterns to get into a dynamic impact position. I believe in efficiency to find that impact position for effortless power and center contact. Efficiency is defined as “the ability to produce something with a minimum amount of effort.” This can easily apply to the golf swing.

It all starts with the address position. The closer we can set up to an impact position, the less we have to do to get back there. Think of it like throwing a ball. If your body is already in a throwing position, you can simply make the throw without repositioning your body for accuracy. This throwing motion is also similar to an efficient direction of turn in the golf swing.

Once you set up to the ball with your impact angles, if you retain your angles in the backswing, the downswing is just a more leveraged or dynamic version of your backswing. If you can take the club back correctly, the takeaway at hip-high level will mirror that position in the downswing (the desired pre-impact position). In the picture below, the body has become slightly more dynamic in the downswing due to speed, but the body levels have not changed from the takeaway position.

This stays true for halfway back in the backswing and halfway down in the downswing. Note how the body has never had to reposition or “recover” to find impact.

At the top of the swing, you will notice how the body has coiled around its original spine angle. There was no left-side bend or “titling” of the body. All the original address position angles were retained. From this position, the arms can simply return back down with speed, pulling the body through.

The key to an efficient swing lies in the setup. Luckily for players working on their swing, this is the easiest part to work on and control. If you can learn to start in an efficient position, all you need to do is hold the angles you started with. This is a simple and effective way to swing the golf club.

www.kelleygolf.com

Twitter: KKelley_golf

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Wedge Guy: Short iron challenges — and a little insight (hopefully!)

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In my experience, almost all golfers could benefit from better short iron play. The ability to hit it closer to where you are looking with your 8-, 9- and P-irons will do more for your scoring than most anything else you can do. So, why is it that so many golfers just don’t hit the quality shots with these clubs that they do and should expect?

I chose this topic in response to an email from Phillip S., who wrote:

“I’m hitting straight and consistent most of the time but I’ve got a big problem between my 8-iron and everything else below.  I can hit my 8-iron 140-145 fairly consistently every time.  I hit my 9-iron somewhere between 110-135.  My pitching wedge is a mystery….it varies between 85 -125 yards.  No matter how “hard” I swing, I can’t seem to hit my short irons consistent distances.  It’s maddening to hit a great drive followed by a pitching wedge short of the green from 110 yards away.  What am I doing wrong?

Well, Phillip, don’t feel alone, because this is one of the most common golf issues I observe. It seems that the lion’s share of technology applied to golf clubs is focused on the long stuff, with drivers and hybrids getting the press. But I firmly believe that the short irons in nearly all “game improvement” designs are ill-suited for precise distance control, hitting shots on the optimum trajectory or knocking flags down. I’ve written about this a number of times, so a little trip back in Wedge Guy history should be enlightening. But here are some facts of golf club performance as applied to short iron play:

Fact #1. Short irons are much more similar to wedges than your middle irons. But almost all iron sets feature a consistent back design for cosmetic appeal on the store racks. And while that deep cavity and perimeter weight distribution certainly help you hit higher and more consistent shots with your 3- or 4- through 7-iron, as the loft gets in the 40-degree range and higher, that weight distribution is not your friend. Regardless of your skill level, short irons should be designed much more similar to wedges than to your middle irons.

Fact #2. As loft increases, perimeter weighting is less effective. Missed shots off of higher lofted clubs have less directional deviation than off of lower-lofted clubs. This is proven time and again on “Iron Byron” robotic testers.

Fact #3. It takes mass behind the ball to deliver consistent distances. Even on dead center hits, cavity back, thin-face irons do not deliver tack-driver distance control like a blade design. In my post of a couple of years ago, “The Round Club Mindset,” I urged readers to borrow blade-style short irons from a friend or assistant pro and watch the difference in trajectories and shotmaking. Do it! You will be surprised, enlightened, and most likely pleased with the results.

Fact #4. The 4.5-degree difference between irons is part of the problem. The industry has built irons around this formula forever, but every golfer who knows his distances can tell you that the full swing distance gap gets larger as the iron number increases, i.e. your gap between your 8- and 9-iron is probably larger than that between your 4- and 5-iron. Could there be some club tweaking called for here?

Fact #5. Your irons do not have to “match.” If you find through experimentation that you get better results with the blade style short irons, get some and have your whole set re-shafted to match, along with lengths and lie angles. These are the keys to true “matching” anyway.

So, Phillip, without knowing your swing or what brand of irons you play, I’m betting that the solution to your problems lies in these facts. Oh, and one more thing – regardless of short iron design, the harder you swing, the higher and shorter the shot will tend to go. That’s because it becomes harder and harder to stay ahead of the club through impact. Keep short iron shots at 80-85 percent power, lead with your left side and watch everything improve.

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Clement: Easily find your perfect backswing plane with this drill

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When you get on one of these, magic will happen! You can’t come too far inside or outside in the backswing, and you can’t have arms too deep or shallow at the top of the backswing nor can you be too laid off or across the line either! SEAMLESS!!

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