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What fundamentals?



Last time I talked bout some common myths about the golf swing; things you might hear at the hot dog stand or 19th hole.  This article is a variance on that concept, but deals more directly with selectivity and your ability to pick and choose your personal swing changes.

We hear so much about the “fundamentals” of golf.  I think the prevailing mentality here is if one gets a good grip, learns to aim, position the golf ball and gets into the correct posture, we are all set to make a swing.  And certainly after many years of teaching I agree with this, but at the same time I have learned that these “fundamentals” vary considerably from player to player.  Your path to improvement is based on your ability to incorporate selective changes into your motion and set up.

When I first started teaching I was a method teacher; a true one size fits all, if it’s not in “Golf My Way” forget it kind of teacher. I quickly learned that this approach was going to help some, but by no means all-or even that many.  All you have to do is look at the top 50 players in the world and you’ll find an infinite variety of postures, ball positions, swing planes etc.  The reason for this is simple:  There are many ways to swing the golf club.

But what the great players are able to do is find a way to match their various components to produce great impact. Tiger Woods is a classic example:  Every time Tiger has changed teachers, he has had to change something about the way he set up to the golf ball.  That’s because, for example, the Harmon ball position might not work with the Haney grip or the Haney posture might match the Foley aim.  So when you hear or read something about the golf swing, how do you know if the information fits your game? The answer is that you don’t!  You don’t know if you’re throwing a wrench in the machinery that might ruin the whole operation!  I never, ever change something in a golf swing because some manual said this is how it should work, or because it makes someone look better.  Every correction has to be tailored to that player’s motion.

Here’s what you have to know:  Once you develop a golf swing it is very difficult to change it.  Period!  The good news you may be able to work within the parameters of your move by finding a grip, ball position, width-of stance, posture etc. to complement it.  And even if you do succeed in changing your swing pattern you will certainly need a grip change or something else that is compatible with the new delivery.  Example:  Can you play with an outside-in swing?  Sure as long as the club face is a little open to the path!  Learn to balance your personal equation! Here are a few examples:

  • Flatter swings tend to produce a clubface that closes more easily than steeper swings. So a strong grip is usually not compatible with a flat downswing plane.
  • Out to in swings are late into impact (swing bottom further forward) by design.  So they usually require an earlier release of the golf club.
  • Wide arm swings usually need a more centered pivot in the backswing
  • “Lagging the club” (a very late release, something I rarely if ever teach) usually needs a full shoulder turn in the backswing and an inside path into the golf ball.
  • Around-the body swings usually need to stand a little further from the golf ball. And up and down swings usually need to stand a bit closer.
  • Very early releasers usually need to be more active in their body motion through the golf ball to avoid fat shots.
  • Swings that have a very steep angle of attack usually need to aim a bit more left. (down is right, up is left)

The list is endless; these are just some examples of certain observations I have made over the course of some 30,000 golf lessons.  And please make note that I put the word “usually” in italics on all these points simply because there are exceptions to every rule.  But this much is clear:  When you try to make a swing change pay particular attention to what “fundamentals” complement that pattern.  You cannot randomly choose to grip the golf club stronger just because you read somewhere that it might increase distance. Or you cannot simply increase your shoulder turn in the backswing because it works for one of your golf buddies.  This is how most people get seriously off course; by trying to incorporate a “fundamental” that is fundamentally incorrect for their pattern, they cannot find their way back.

But maybe I should keep quiet…friends helping friends keeps me in business!!!  Good luck, DC

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum.

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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. dennis clark

    Jul 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Try lengthening your left thumb, really stretch it down the shaft and see how it goes.

  2. Keith

    Jul 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Great post. Interesting points on the golf swing and the many swings you’ve seen that are successful. I am struggling right now with the hook/duck-hook. I’ve fought this swing problem over the years and most of the time, buckets after buckets of balls at the range seem to fix it. I have seen my handicap move from a +1 to now teetering on 8 in just over five years. I’ve been doing exactly what you described – just finished re-reading Ben Hogan’s Five Fundamentals book and working on my grip with little thought to the other parts of the swing that are being affected. Great points and great post. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience.

  3. Josh

    Jul 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Very interesting article. I’ve been working with Dennis for a couple years now and he knows the golf swing better than anyone I’ve ever gone to. He has taken me from the dreaded s words to now getting into a single digit handicap

  4. Nathan

    Jul 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Very interesting read! As a youth I emulated MJ with my tongue sticking out as I played hoops. Do you find players emulating their favorite PGA star?

  5. Troy Vayanos

    Jun 30, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Great post Dennis,

    Yes there are so many different golf swings out there. I’ve had to work really hard at making swing changes that have been there for 20 years. It’s really tough to do and something you need to work constantly at.


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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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How to stop 3-putting and start making putts



When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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Golf 101: Why do I chunk it?



Whether you are a beginner, 10 handicaps, or Rory McIlroy, no one player is immune to the dreaded chunk. How many times have you hit a great drive, breathing down the flag from your favorite yardage and laid the holy sod over one? It’s awful and can be a total rally killer.

So what causes it? It could be several things, for some players, it could be a steep angle of attack, others, early extension and an early bottoming out and sometimes you’ve just had too many Coors Lights and the ground was closer than your eyes told you…been there.

This is Golf 101—let’s make it real simple and find one or two ways that a new golfer can self diagnose and treat themselves on the fly.


With beginners I have noticed there are two main things that cause the dreaded chunk:

  1. Players stand too close to the ball and have no way to get outta the way on the way down. This also really helps to hit Chunk’s skinny cousin: Skull.
  2. No rotation in any form causing a steep angle of attack. You’ve seen this, arms go back, the body stays static, the club comes back down and sticks a foot in the ground.


Without doing all-out brain surgery, here are two simple things you can do on the course (or the range) to get that strike behind the ball and not behind your trail foot.

This is what I was taught when I was a kid and it worked for years.

  1. Make baseball swings: Put the club up and in front of your body and make horizontal swings paying close attention to accelerating on the way through. After a few start to bend at the hips down and down until you are in the address position. This not only gives your body the sensation of turning but reorientates you to exactly where the bottom of your arc is.
  2. Drive a nail into the back of the ball: This was a cure-all for me. Whether I had the shanks, chunks, skulls, etc, focusing on putting the clubhead into the back of that nail seemed to give me a mental picture that just worked. When you are hammering a nail into a wall. you focus on the back of that nail and for the most part, hit it flush 9 outta 10 times. Not sure if its a Jedi mind trick or a real thing, but it has gotten me outta more pickles than I care to admit.

As you get better, the reason for the chunk may change, but regardless of my skill level, these two drills got me out of it faster than anything all while helping encourage better fundamentals. Nothing wrong with that.

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