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The club face controls ball flight (and your swing, too)



Golfers hear a lot these days about new technology: the latest biomechanical revelations, 3-D findings, fitness training breakthroughs and so on. I think it’s great, because it’s important to stay on top of what the scientific community is discovering in this techno-age of our game. I have great respect for the folks who are dedicated enough to take on this vitally important work. But sometimes, as a teacher, I wonder if we are losing sight of the forest for the trees.

The forest, in my analogy, is the clubface — the part of the equation that makes the ball do what it does.

Impact is 0.0004 of a second when the face of the club (hopefully) meets the ball. It’s the mega-second of truth, where the “rubber meets the road” — or in our case where the urethane meets the metal. During that time, or halfway into that time I’m told, the ball gets its marching orders. It is programmed to do exactly what it does; nothing more, nothing less. And, in my experience, that “programming” needs to start very early in the swing.

Before I explain the next part, let me define a few terms I’m going to use:

  • First Parallel: When we start the swing back, at some point the golf club reaches a parallel to the ground position.
  • Last Parallel: When we swing down, at some point the golf club reaches parallel to the ground.
  • Post-Impact Parallel (PIP): The position after impact when the club gets parallel to the ground.

Now here’s what we know about the club face. At the bottom of the swing arc, from about the last parallel to PIP, the club face is unwavering. There is little-to-nothing a player can do to influence it. It is pretty much a free-flying object at that time. So whatever we need to do to affect the face must be done well before the bottom of the arc. The safest way to build a repeating swing is to learn to keep the face square to the arc of the swing right from the takeaway, but particularly at the top of the swing. There is so little time between the top of the swing and the last parallel position that most players cannot consistently get the face to square. Of course there are great players who do not square the face at the top, but they are the exceptions to the rule and I don’t recommend it.

I see more golf swings ruined with an open or closed face at the top of the swing than for any other reason. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that most swing errors are clubface reactions in one way or another. I’ll get into a few examples below.

Open Face

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 4.06.45 PM

You have an open face at the top, it’s likely you’ll do one of the following coming down:

  • Come over the top.
  • Cast the club (i.e. throw the club head throw away).
  • Run the upper body ahead (to deal with the early release).

Closed Face


If you have a closed face at the top of the swing, it’s likely you’ll do one of the following:

  • Swing in-to-out
  • “Hold on” (i.e. the block release)
  • Hang back (in an attempt to add loft)

These are just a few swing mistakes that can be traced to a clubface that is not “square” at the top of the swing. I put square in quotes because we have to remember that the face position we call square is actually 90 degrees open to the target due to the natural rotation of the body and arms in the back swing. It is square, however, to the arc on which it is swinging.

Square Face


Those of you who follow my writing or take lessons from me know that I am the ultimate anti-method teacher. It’s clear all the players pictured here play great from different positions at the top, but for mere mortals like you or me I highly advise the Adam Scott position. It is the only one that allows that coveted “one move through the ball” we’re all looking for in our swings. No hanging back, no flipping or coming over the top — just down and through, simple and direct.

Here’s the bottom line: We have known forever that the club face is what influences the ball. I hope you now have a better understanding of how it influences the player as well.

If you’d like me to analyze your swing, go to my Facebook page and send me a message, or contact me ([email protected]) about my online swing analysis program.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at [email protected]



  1. Kevin

    Nov 5, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Hello Dennis. I’m just now coming across this message board so forgive me if it seems outdated to respond. I’m a passionate golfer and have struggled with the shanks for years. When I’m at my best I shoot mid 70’s. However, my bad days are 90’s. It’s awful. One simply cannot play golf with the shanks. In fact, I do not subscribe to the old saying ‘a bad at golf is better than a good day at work.’ That is how awful it is for me. Humiliating and just so frustrating really. It amazes me how I can go out and play a round and shoot such a respectable score then follow it with total disaster. And I mean disaster where any observer would think I’ve never played before. I’m a long driver and seldom struggle with my driver. I’m left handed. I’ve seen 3 different pros who all stated they see me coming too far from the inside with a closed face and swinging outward to the left. I have corrected my overly strong grip to a more neutral. I practice in the mirror and see that I have a good top of the swing position, the back of my lead hand (right) is parallel with the club face. Then all hell breaks loose. I’ve worked so hard on my transition. I’ve even been told I have a good weight shift. But something is going wrong somewhere on the downswing to where I feel I have no control over the club face. I’ve used powder and see that by far my miss is towards the heel along with the hosel. Very seldom do I hit out towards the toe. I do occasionally come over the top but usually I’m too inside. I feel I would need a high speed camera like they have on telecasts to analyze what is happening to my grip (club face, and/or forearms) that is causing my to shank so horrifically. I know you probably need a video, just wanting to get a preview from you if this sounds like any other students you’ve had in all your experience. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  2. Straightdriver235

    Jan 20, 2015 at 10:57 am

    This simply assumes too much… you are pitting Adam Scott versus Graeme McDowell… I’m not sure which I’d take on that, especially under pressure, but it strikes me McDowell has more attributes similar to the common golfer than does Scott… and Scott, for all his attributes is no Ben Hogan. It seems this is a rehash of square to square, which was covered many years ago. Everything comes and goes in cycles I guess.

  3. Jakub

    Jan 16, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Understanding this information is great however it can be assumed that most amateurs do not have the physical capabilities (functional strength, flexibility and balance) in order to attain the advised ‘Adam Scott’ position. I would recommend the author produce another article advising amateurs with physical limitations as to the possible positions optimal to performance.

  4. Mike

    Jan 5, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    I have a fairly open face at the top and battle cutting across the line a little and have been known to nearly walk off the course because of getting a dose of the shanks. The thing I think that saves me is that I maintain a good wrist angle and release the club head on time nice and square to the target. Ahhh vile compensations….

  5. Marlon Bran

    Dec 29, 2014 at 4:47 am

    Thanks for sharing .

  6. Chris C

    Dec 26, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I have read and reread this article in the hope that there might be a simple cure for my over the top and outside to inside swing. Alas! my search continues. I still do not grasp the idea of how my wrist position can alter my overall swing characteristics. I play off of an 8 hdcp and for the majority of my 55plus years of golfing play everything left to right. Last year I spent a great deal of time frustrating one of Wisconsin’s best instructors in an attempt to change the path of my swing. For me, face position did not alter my swing path one iota. Regardless, of face position, my swing path continued to come into the ball from the outside (indeed, from outside the mats } to the inside. What I did confirm was the dramatic impact on shot path. If my face angle was square, I hit nice controlled fades I my face angle opened up, I tended to hit low pulls to the left. If I closed the face, I would hit pathetically high slices. In short, face angle had dramatic impact on the flight path of my shots but no discernible impact on my swing path. I wish it had. I really, really, really wish it had.

    • golfing

      Dec 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      Did you see Mr. Dela Torre video?.

    • Hold

      Dec 26, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      Dear Chris

      Do you know how to hit a hook? (if you are right handed) aim way right, and try to hit a hook continuously at your next range session and only try to hit hooks. Aim so far right that your back is turned so away there is no way that you can have your body or the clubface opened to the target in any way.

      And grip appropriately. If you have your clubfaced aimed at target and set up for a massive hook – you should be able to grip it appropriately. The problem with most people is that they refuse to “hold” the club any way other than how it feels “comfortable” or balanced the way want to hold it

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      Hitting low pulls to the left with an open face is nearly impossible. When you say closed and open, do you mean to swing direction or target? Remember the target is irrelevant. It is only path to face that creates curve. Also Chris remember that 55 years of grooving a swing direction (not path) is a good long time. It may take a bit of time to change it…and change in terms of reaction would require a period of HOOKING not “hitting it better”. Also what are you trackman numbers please?

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 28, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Chris see below, I may responded to your comment in the wrong space.

    • Dave C

      Dec 31, 2014 at 8:35 am

      I think you can only visualize a fade in your mind. So you hit one. You would probably be uncomfortable playing the hook. Plus you would have to do a lot more ball hunting with a hook. One last thing. At your age your golf muscles are locked in. They won’t change. So enjoy your eight handicap and work on your short game.

    • Mike

      Jan 5, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      You might be casting the club…try holding on a hair longer before impact/release of the club.

  7. Dennis Clark

    Dec 24, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Bottom line guys is this: “Closed” (square) at the top is great…if you’re not a “pronater” coming down. If you are, look out left. Great move for slicers, not a great idea for those who hook. I rarely like open at the top; I see too many casters and over the tops to be able to suggest it to many. Thx for the interest and all the positive thoughts. Have a great new year!

  8. Billl

    Dec 23, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong. If you have a strong grip to start, you must return the same way at impact. If you tried to return with a flat left wrist the face would be shut. What is the best way to return the club face square from a closed position at the top ? Thanks.

    • Jeffcb

      Dec 23, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      Bill – If I could throw my two cents in and I’m sure I’ll be corrected but as someone who has those positions I do really one thing: I release like I’m a shortstop throwing sidearm to first base. My right palm basically faces toward the target. If I hold off a tad its a little push but if I get lazy and let my hand roll over its a pull hook. I try and throw the club with my right forearm at the target.

      • Dennis Clark

        Dec 24, 2014 at 8:27 am

        Bill it sounds fine to me. Whatever it takes to square the face. It’s a little differerent for everyone. Happy holidays.

        • Bill

          Dec 24, 2014 at 11:22 am

          Thanks, you are right, if you have a strong grip or shut the face going back, you must come back to impact with your hands ahead. (Think Azinger) That should return the club face the way it started. Also, a comment on the move down with the right elbow. I think that is a great idea for anyone who is coming over the top or is too upright and having trouble getting the club to shallow out. More thoughts on this……

          • Dennis Clark

            Dec 24, 2014 at 2:47 pm

            John Redman, Paul’s teacher is a friend, and his idea was to finish the swing “knuckles up” I.E. NO rotation coming through! Worked pretty well for Paul:)

          • ZJ

            Dec 25, 2014 at 2:36 am

            I would look at Zach Johnson.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 24, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Bill remember this: a “closed” position at the top is actually square IF NO ROTATION occurs coming down. BTW stron grips are fine as long as the hands remain ahead of the head into impact

  9. Jason

    Dec 23, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Firstly great post, only thing i have never really understood is this, If i was to really open club face at address so its pointing right of target,from here if i simply rotated on backswing why is the position i will be at considered closed?

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 24, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Jason. Here’s a way to check it. Take the position at the top and bring it down to impact with no rotation at all. See what it looks like at the ball.

  10. Mark

    Dec 23, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    You’re not talking at all about path here though. Face dictates where the ball starts but path dictates the curve of the ball.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 24, 2014 at 8:17 am

      Mark. Actually I did mention it. Look where it says in to out for closed and over the top for open. Thx

  11. Jeremy

    Dec 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    “Megasecond of truth”?

    Microsecond would be a whole lot closer. A megasecond is about 11 days, and ain’t nobody’s swing speed that slow.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      Jeremy you are absolutely spot on! My bad. How about a New York second? 🙂

  12. Bob

    Dec 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    I have always tried to use a weak grip to get to a “square” position at the top. I have always assumed that if the resulting shot goes straight, I was square at the top. My problem is that I often end up with a pull/hook or a push/fade. My theory is that I am reacting to my perceived position at the top. The other variable seems to be where the trouble is. On a 202 yard par three with a tree about 80 yards out just right of center and a hazard left, I need a fade, so I weaken the grip but still get a push fade into the gully on the right, a low draw into the tree, or a higher draw/hook into the hazard. Occasionally the planets align and I get the soft fade I want, which often comes up short. My “friends” tell me I have a LOFT problem (Lack Of Flipping Talent”.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 23, 2014 at 4:38 pm

      Nah not LOFT although that happens occasionally 🙂 We are all victims of our own results. Golfers react to one of two things: The shot they’ve just hit or the shot they usually hit” Thx Bob. happy holidays

  13. Dennis Clark

    Dec 23, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I love Manuel’s use of the word “hypnotize” here. An apt description Id say.

  14. Dennis Clark

    Dec 23, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Great comments. Most of you know I teach EVERY student on an individual basis and eschew method teaching. The golf hall of fame has a VARIETY of swings in it. All I do is share my experiences and if it helps you, great. If not nothing ventured, nothing gained. You simply have to know your tendencies and reactions and find the position that works best for you.

  15. chris franklin

    Dec 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Nothing new here,John Jacobs was saying all this many years ago.

  16. Bob Vitti

    Dec 23, 2014 at 11:54 am

    As a former engineer, teacher, and now golf professional, I would love for you to clarify your cause-effect logic that leads to golfers’ recognition of where the clubface is at the top of each swing. After all, you need this data point on each swing in order to validate your swing response theory.

    All of that in than .5 seconds or less?


    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      As a golf Master Professional and instructor for some 35 years I have not built my reputation on teaching nonsense. The club face CAUSES the ball to do what it does and the player REACTS TO what the ball ball does. EVERY TIME. thx for your positive input.

      • Bob Vitti

        Dec 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm

        After 35 years and all those wonderful awards, you still missed the point. Human reaction time is not quick enough to react to instantaneous club position data at the top of the swing. Clubface position at the top of the swing can only be translated if it is A PRIORI! Over hundreds of swings. It’s physics and biology.

        I don’t argue that club face orientation at impact is everything. But trying to convince amateurs that they can
        ‘square the clubface’ on the downswing based on some nebulous data point on any individual swing is a disservice to your students.

        Always has been.

        • Dennis Clark

          Dec 23, 2014 at 1:24 pm

          The dozens of young men and women that have gone on to college scholarships, the several young men now playing for a living and the countless juniors I have mentored into a career in the golf business were all mislead by “disservice” as well I suppose. They are the ones that will attest to my commitment to my craft, not PGA award a committees or former engineers. Everyone is a keyboard teacher in this era, but the real teachers I know are the ones out there day in and day out correcting golf swings, lowering handicaps and growing the game of golf through their efforts. You are free to disagree with me, but NOT to question my credentials. Ask anyone who has done this work long enough, and they’ll tell that golfers with a very shut or open face at the top of the swing REACT to it, and build downswings around it.

        • golfing

          Dec 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm

          The club position on top as nothing to do with it, if you are young you have more flexibility and these people say your club is “closed”, and in reality it´s not.

          In this information age, please chose carefully.

        • RG

          Dec 23, 2014 at 4:22 pm

          Suck a lemon Bob. Your missing the point, ipso facto.

        • Stretch

          Dec 29, 2014 at 12:34 pm

          Sorry to burst your bubble about reaction time Bob. I have seen several players who are square at the top be able to hit cuts, straight and draw flights when commanded by a bystander at the top of the swing. From the square to position it is easy to have no roll for cuts, half roll for square and full roll for draws.

  17. Jeffcb

    Dec 23, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Dennis – regarding your comment of Dustin, I was told that yes a closed clubface is actually square to the plane and Adam Scotts is open 90 degrees. I’ve worked hard to get this position (Dustins) because for my single plane swing I don’t have to do as much with my hands to square the clubface at impact. Only thing I do wrong sometimes is have too strong a grip which can lead to a closed face. Easy fix.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 23, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Jeff, Yes this is true. The face we call a “square” position is actually 90 degrees open to the target. And the one we call “closed” is actually square to the target. This is due to the rotation of the forearms and body going back. I was just discussing this privately with another teaching professional. So we as teachers, need to see and get a feel for how much rotation, pronation, supination, the player is INCLINED to do on the downswing. For players who “release” the club or freely roll their arms through the impact area, a square face is preferable. For those who do not or “hold on”-a close closed face is more compatible with their motion. Great players have compatible motions, lesser players do not. Thx Jeff.

  18. Matt

    Dec 23, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Dennis, great article! However I would have liked to see you mention how these positioned are affected by strengthening/weakening grip…

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 23, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      Matt. everyone is different. The thing about weaker or stronger grips is they rend to affect motion in other ways. One of the differences they make is the transition in the swing. When you strengthen a grip, it can cup (extend) the wrist and start the club down vertically, make it more open even with a stronger grip. The reason I PREFER a flat left wrist is I see more swings start down on a good plane which requires less adjustment in the downswing. Same with too weak, it CAN bow and start down a little too flat (rare) but it can. Cupping makes wrist cocking a little easier but can get too steep. That’s why I try to correct slicers with a neutral grip IF I CAN. Hope that helps, Thx and happy holidays

  19. Andrew Cooper

    Dec 23, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Thanks for another interesting article Dennis. Not sure the open face is such a disaster however given the titles won by Jones, Hogan, Sorenstam and others with a cupped left wrist.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 23, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Andrew true, but remember this a “cupped” wrist does not in and of itself, create open. A strong grip with a cup will actually be square. A neutral grip with a cup will be open. IN MY EXPERIENCE, I don’t prefer a cupped wrist because it can start the downswing on too steep of a descent in transition. Flatter wrists tend to start down on a more “in plane” motion. But I agree some great players have done it otherwise. That’s the beauty of our game. But I don’t teach the Sorenstam’s and Jones’ of the world 🙂 I teach Mr and Mrs Average who just want the ball to behave a bit. Thx and happy holidays.

      • Andrew Cooper

        Dec 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm

        Thanks for the reply Dennis. With you that it’s not for the average guy-the open face will generally lead to an out to in path-but interseting nonetheless the really great players (Hogan for example) who shallowed in their downswing and with a very open face-allowing a range of motion to slam into impact. Happy holidays to you and best wishes for the new year.

  20. golfing

    Dec 23, 2014 at 5:39 am

    The closed face at the top gives you little room (time) to release
    the club (centrifugal force), so you release the club too early to deliver it square.

    Open face on the other hand gives you room to optimize centrifugal
    force to the maximum by releasing it later.

    That´s why Tour players have drivers 10º open and 12º loft, that are
    square and 7º loft in reality.

    Also for the average golfer it gives you more distance.

    • golfing

      Dec 23, 2014 at 6:24 am

      The early release is not caused by a open club face is a REACTION to
      a overacted body, so when your lower body run off you have to play
      catch up with the club head.

    • bradford

      Dec 23, 2014 at 7:29 am

      There is no such thing as centrifugal force. The actual physics become much more clear when you remove the forces that actually aren’t there—there is no force pushing the club head in a path parallel to the radius of the swing, in fact it is the combination of exactly the opposite force (in towards the player) with the forward momentum (tangent to the swing path)that creates the swing path.

      • golfing

        Dec 23, 2014 at 9:45 am

        A golf club is released by centrifugal force.

        A wedge have an different release point (less force) than a 2 iron
        because of it´s length.

      • Stretch

        Dec 29, 2014 at 12:23 pm

        So are you saying that centripetal force exists and not centrifugal force? A test for the latter’s existence is to let go of the club 1/2 way down or just after impact and observe what happens. BTW do it when there aren’t other golfers nearby.

    • Alex

      Dec 23, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      So you’re saying that an open face can produce something that flies further because they can release it later?

      Are you sure? Because I’ve got 1000s of cases where that is completely false.

      I wonder if some of you guys commenting have ever had to give a lesson in your lifetime.

    • Shane

      Dec 23, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      10 degrees open? Umm no maybe 1-1.5

  21. Devin

    Dec 23, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Great bit of writing here! Had a lesson the other day on this very thing. I was trying to flip at the bottom due to my cupped left wrist at the top. Now comes the fun…. trying to correct it.

  22. Brian Kelley

    Dec 23, 2014 at 12:50 am

    You can talk to a fade, a hook won’t listen! You can control an open face, you can’t control a closed face, IMO, only pros who can manipulate their lower body speed, and rotation, but not 95% of golfing public can do such w Closed face

    • Alex

      Dec 23, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      Only people who have an open face will instinctively try to shut it as fast as possible and swing left while doing so, normally.

      Ie, 99% of golfers.

      You get someone to shut their face and suddenly you remove the rolling and quick closure rate that is required with an open face.

      These old sayings aren’t really useful. A shut face is much easier to play with. You just hold onto the release…something most amateurs do naturally anyway. They just hold on with an open face. I wouldn’t call a 60 yard slice a “fade.”

      They also spin the ball too much and launch it too high with heel contact on the face.

      I see this 99 times out of 100 at my work.

      • Ben

        Dec 24, 2014 at 1:11 pm


        Your assessment of “people who have an open face” is my exact reality. Its something I’m currently working on.

  23. Dennis Clark

    Dec 22, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    You can have a square face with a cupped wrist if your grip is stron. If fact if your grip is strong it will be cupped from the beginning. But to have a square face with a neutral grip you need a flat wrist. Strengthening you grip to correct a slice leads to other problems namely the cupped (extension) wrist problem which CAN START the club down too steeply. Thx

  24. Dustn Johnson

    Dec 22, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    You should have used my swing as a better shut face example…

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 22, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      LOL. I love your swing. If I could I’d teach more people “closed” which is actually square. Ain’t it?

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      I also believe the value in the the bowed left wrist is the increased extension in the right wrist. Which can orient the player down better (hands ahead).

  25. other paul

    Dec 22, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    I started open and switched to square with practicing in front of a mirror. Now went to shut because I use a stronger grip with my driver because I love distance. Use a more neutral grip with irons and wedges for consistent control.

  26. Jeff

    Dec 22, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    How does someone learn that position by himself without a teacher or coach or video or a mirror?

    I guess I don’t know enough about the swing to tell much of a difference between the positions. To me, open and square look similar, closed looks different but it’s hard for me to explain why.
    HOW would someone go about trying to be able to noticeably feel the difference, between the three positions at the top?

    Thanks Dennis, big fan.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 22, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      Jeff draw a line down Thomas Bjorn’s club face and notice how much more vertical it is than his arm. Now look at Adams club face MATCHING the plane his arm is on. I think you’ll see its a big difference. And G Mac’s is more horizontal although he is swinging on a flatter plane. A CUPPED wrist puts the club more vertical than the arm swing and a BOWED (dorsiflexed) wrist makes it more horizontal. Hope that helps. Thx for reading

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 22, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      I’m really a big fan of a flat wrist at the top of the swing. There’s a glove out with a hard plastic extension that goes up past the wrist. I forget the name of it. That MIGHT help you feel it. Thx

  27. Awedge333

    Dec 22, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Maybe it’s the angle of the photos – but to me (high handicapper) what’s the difference in the closed and square photos?

    Except for a slightly bowed wrist (closed face photo) – the clubface is just a few degrees off. So, at the end of the backswing – what is the clubface square to?

    Thanks and Merry Christmas!!

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 22, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      A, see my reply to Jeff. I think it’ll help you understand the difference. Thx

  28. Mats B

    Dec 22, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    The Picture in the top shows: Thomas Björn from Denmark

  29. Dennis Clark

    Dec 22, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Exactly Greg. Problem with most is they can’t.

  30. Greg V

    Dec 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I don’t know who is in the top picture, but I wouldn’t mind playing like Graeme McDowell.

    Guess what I am saying is that you can work with a closed face, so long as you can rotate your hips through the shot faster than your shoulders.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Of the two, I’d prefer shut to open any day. For plane reasons as well as face control.

      • Andrew

        Dec 22, 2014 at 8:57 pm

        As previously posted, how do you get to this square clubface. It appears by a flat wrist position rather than cupped or bowed,is tis correct? Tanner

      • Tanner

        Dec 24, 2014 at 10:43 am

        Thanks, Dennis. This was truly a great article. I have been playing for 20 years and have never seen seen/understood what an open, closed and square club face looked like at the top of the backswing. Thank you. Also, a bonus is fixing a flying elbow with being being square with a flat wrist. Andrew

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What you can learn from Steve Elkington



When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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Dennis Clark: Hitting from the turf



I have seen as much as 4-5 MPH increase in clubhead speed when my students hit form a tee compared to hitting off the turf. Why?  Fear of FAT shots.

First question: Are you better hitting off a tee than on the turf?

Next question: When you play in a scramble and you have the option of dropping in the fairway or slightly in the first cut, do you choose the rough-especially when hitting over water or sand?

The answer to all these the same: Because the vast majority of golfers do not have a bottom of the swing arc safely in front of the golf ball consistently.

Consider a PGA Tour event, Korn Ferry, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, whatever…You might see missed fairways, missed greens, hooks, blocks, etc. but we rarely, if ever, see a FAT shot. They simply do not hit the ground before the golf ball. Of course, there are exceptions, into the grain on short pitches, for example, but they are just that-rare exceptions. On the other hand, go to any golf course and watch average golfers for a while. Fat shots are not uncommon. In fact, they, or the fear of them, dominate most golf games.

The number one mistake I have seen on the lesson tee for over 35 years is unquestionably a player’s inability to control the bottom of the golf swing. I have seen everything from hitting 4 inches behind the ball to never reaching the bottom at all It has been my experience that that hitting fat shots is the number one flaw in most golf swings.

Let’s start with this fact: elite level players consistently reach a swing bottom (low point) some 3-4 inches in front of the golf ball-time after time after time. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the one I’d like to look at today is the position of the golf club at impact with the golf ball.

The club is leaning forward, toward the target, the hands are ahead of the club head, never straight up over it, never behind it-always, always leaning forward is the only way to consistently bottom out in front of the golf ball.   

A player cannot hit a ball consistently from the turf until he/she learns this and how to accomplish it. For every golfer I teach who gets into this position, I might teach 50 who do not. In fact, if players did not learn how to “save” a shot by bailing out on the downswing (chicken wing, pull up, raise the handle, or come over the top, (yes over the top is a fat shot avoidance technique) they would hit the ground behind the golf ball almost every time!  Hitting better shots from the fairways, particularly from tight lies, can be learned, but I’m going to be honest: The change required will NOT be easy. And to make matters worse, you can never play significantly better until you overcome the fear of hitting it fat.. Until you learn a pattern where the bottom of the swing is consistently in front of the ball, the turf game will always be an iffy proposition for you.

This starts with a perception. When first confronted with hitting a golf ball, it seems only natural that an “up” swing is the way to get the ball in the air-help it, if you will. The act of a descending blow is not, in any way, natural to the new player. In fact, it is totally counterintuitive. So the first instincts are to throw the club head at the ball and swing up to get the ball in the air; in other words, it makes perfect sense. And once that “method” is ingrained, it is very difficult to change. But change if you must, if your goal is to be a better ball striker.

The position to strive for is one where the left wrist (for a right-hander) is flat, the right is slightly dorsiflexed, and the handle of the golf club is ahead of the grip end. Do your level best to pay attention to the look and feel of what you’re doing as opposed to the flight of the golf ball. FEEL that trail wrist bent slightly back, the lead wrist flat and the hands ahead. It will seem strange at first, but it’s the very small first step in learning to hit down on your tight lies. If some degree of that is not ultimately accomplished, you will likely always be executing “fit in” moves to make up for it. It is worth the time and effort to create this habit.

My suggestion is to get on a Trackman if possible to see where you’re low point actually is, or perhaps you may just want to start paying close attention to your divots-particularly the deepest part of them. I’m sure you will get into a pattern of bottoming out consistently in front of the ball when you begin to learn to get the hands ahead and the club head behind. And best of all, when this becomes your swing, you will lose the fear of hitting the turf first and be free to go down after the ball as aggressively as you like.

Ok, so how is this accomplished? While many players are looking for a magic bullet or a training aid which might help one miraculously get into a good impact position, I dare say there is not one. It is a trial and error proposition, a learn-from-the-mistakes kind of thing achieved only through repetition with a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. The hardest thing to do is IGNORE the outcome when learning a new motor skill, but you must do it. A couple of things you might try:

  • Start with 30-50 yard pitch shots, paying close attention to the hands leading at impact. Again ignore the outcome, look only at the divot.
  • Hit a TON of fairway bunker shots. Draw a line in the sand 3-4″ in front of the ball and try to hit it.
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What you can learn from the rearview camera angle



We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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