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Get a grip on your club face at impact

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“The golf ball doesn’t lie.” As an instructor, that’s something I commonly say to my students — or at least what I’m thinking.

The way the ball flies tells us nearly everything we need to know about impact. The problem is, players often look to tear apart their swing entirely to fix a ball flight issue, when in reality it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Fixing your ball flight can be as simple as straightening out your grip to achieve the flight you desire.

Recently, one of my players who’s preparing to turn professional came to me with a problem — all of his driver shots were flaring to the right. At 6 foot 4 inches tall with a solid frame, this player generates a ton of power. His driver speed has been clocked at upwards of 130 mph.

Now, when you’re working with an elite talent with a great swing, the first thing you do is look for the obvious. It’s the Occam’s Razor effect of golf instruction. Occam’s Razor is basically a principle that states “the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.”

How does that apply to instruction? Let’s put it this way: If you’re driving down the highway and your car suddenly sputters and stops, do you immediately decide that you need to rip out the engine and put in a new one? Do you call roadside assistance and tell them “bring me a new engine!” Or do you first look for the obvious and check your gas gauge? Of course, you look for the simplest explanation; I’m out of gas. It’s the same concept when working with an elite golfer.

So when he came for a session hitting this odd shot I looked for simple first. Here were his numbers from our radar testing:

RobStranoArticle-4[Leland]

The FlightScope data above shows the before (swings 1-5) and after (6-10).

You can see how wide open the club face was at impact, with a face-to-target pointing between 3.6 and 6.5 degrees right. Also, he was hitting it a mile in the air with too much spin, and lots of horizontal launch to the right. His path numbers were solid, so I began to mentally peel away at the logical variables that might be affecting his driver outcome.

We began to analyze his swing on video, focusing on how his hands moved from setup and through impact, changing the angle of the face.

It was apparent that his hands had slipped into a weak position at setup, putting the face in an open position at the top of his backswing. So we looked at the data and video, and using Occam’s Razor concept, deduced that his hands needed to slide toward the stronger side of the grip. That small grip change produced drastically different numbers, as seen by swings 6-10. His speed jumped, his face squared and ball flight and spin dropped to much more playable numbers. The dramatic change in carry and distance was astounding. Also, his horizontal launch straightened out significantly — it looks like we may have solved the riddle.

Growing up, I played at a country club full of tour players, including a past Masters champion, and if I heard this once, I heard it a million times: “The back of the left hand controls the club face.” What I did with my player above was put his hand in a position that required zero change in how he released the club. The back of the left hand just oriented the face in a different direction at impact and straightened out the ball flight.

So if you feel like you are swinging well, but the ball is flying offline in a certain direction, look to make the following adjustments before revamping your swing:

  • If you are missing right, turn your left hand to the right more (Clockwise for a RH player) and the face will point more to the left at impact.
  • If you are missing it left, give your left hand a little turn to the left (Counterclockwise for RH player) and the face will point a little more rightward at impact.

Start with small changes in hand position because a little goes a long way here — a tenth of a degree can make a drastic difference at impact. So don’t overdo it, more is not better in this instance.

With a simple grip change and a good swing path, you will see the ball on line more often, and have the confidence to swing faster through impact.

Moral of the story? Don’t immediately try to overhaul your entire swing, when something as simple as moving your grip a touch can make all the difference!

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. other paul

    Aug 20, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    I have a pull hook that is so bad right now. Face is totally shut to path. I hit a 9i with a 50 yard hook. Totally driving me crazy. I was just glad the hole played the same way and I was still in the fairway. If I hit the fw on my first shot I made par or birdie. If I missed it was a double bogey because the ball is gone forever.

    • Rob Strano

      Aug 21, 2015 at 9:12 am

      Paul-
      Thanks for your note and I have seen this issue many times.
      I want you to try this simple thing.
      Almost everyone that does what you describe end up aiming huge to the right to cover the total curve of the shot and keep it in play. I want you to do the OPPOSITE…Aim up the left edge of the fairway and do this determined to keep the ball to the right. Over time your internal sense of target and aim will recalibrate and you will start to push the ball back to the right. One more thing, do this with less power in the swing. Shut it down to 75% to start with so you can feel the club face and control it to make the path go more to the right.
      I have seen this simple thought work on the practice area all the time where I have someone aim at a flag straight ahead but try to hit the ball to an alternate target 50 yards to the right. I tell them do not let the ball go left at any price.
      Hope this helps!

  2. agolfman

    Aug 19, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Rob, agree wholeheartedly with identifying the simplest answer to what can seem like a complex problem…many things in life would benefit from that approach.

    I had a similar observation via my Flightscope earlier in the summer, with almost exactly the same path and face issues, granted at 100mph club head speed. My fix was along these same lines of simplicity (I’m old school weaker grip though). I was able to switch my club head to a draw setting while at the same time closing my stance slightly. Straightened my driver out instantly. Keep up the good work!

    • Rob Strano

      Aug 19, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks for the note and I loved one specific line you typed…
      “I was able to switch my club head to a draw setting”…Think about that comment for a second! As of about 5 years ago you would have never been able to say that. Aren’t adjustable clubheads just awesome…!!!

  3. Steve

    Aug 18, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Do you think that teaching pros are cutting their own throats, Using trackman, flightscope etc. One would think it is only a matter of time that one could go to a golf lab, for lack of better words. Where they could put you on a swing analyzer and the computer could generate what problems there are and ways to fix it. Wouldnt need a teacher, just some kid to put the data in. It happened years ago in the music industry with Pro Sounds, which made working musicians obsolete.

    • Rob Strano

      Aug 19, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      Steve
      Thanks for the note and thoughts.
      I disagree with your future prognostication.
      Golf instruction is an art form and it takes a good keen eye, lot of experience and a person who knows what the influences of the changes are on the person. Also, a great instructor works to build a swing that the player can perform and recognizes all the limiting factors on a non-tour player who loves to play the game. The tech is there to verify only. I do not think the tech is cutting our throats as you say. I have one tour player I coach and we never use the tech…NEVER…I can see what he is doing and dial him in from what I know and see of his tendencies. That is why a cookie cutter coach struggles with some players not being able to make the swing they are coaching. They simply cannot perform the motion! So using a computer and golf tech to cookie cutter a solution simply will never work in golf.
      Also… Not all past players make great coaches but I can tell you that my experience as a player is a huge asset in coaching others to improve. Cannot get that from input plugged into a computer. The best of us will always us the tech but we understand how to use it and when to use it! Thanks again and play great the rest of the year!

      • Steve

        Aug 19, 2015 at 1:31 pm

        Your in the buisness and no more then me. But for the average joe looking to find out swing flaws. I think it would appeal to them. For aspiring elite and elite golfers another set of eyes will help. Maybe i am a tainted golfer, i took lessons and hear lessons being given and it is all cookie cutter. I have watch teachers, teaching a group on a chipping tell ” ok i will be back in awhile”. Really thanks for taking my money and driving away

        • Rob Strano

          Aug 19, 2015 at 3:48 pm

          That’s just brutal Steve…
          Not what happens at my academy with me and my students.
          When I am awake staring at the ceiling thinking about my players games my wife will tell me the next day….”You care more about their games than they do!”

  4. Alex

    Aug 18, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Is it possible for the instructor to just diagnose and make the change without going through the flightscope and video sessions first? I mean, old school.

    • Rob Strano

      Aug 18, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Alex
      Thanks for the comment.
      And the answer is yes and that is what we did in this case. I only ran the Flightscope to show him the evidence that what we were doing was correcting his issue. Kind of like if a tire on your car won’t hold air and you take it in to have then replace it and when they take it off the car they show you the nail in the tread. You know it’s leaking you just cannot see why. This helps the player see the leak and know there are not multiple problems.

  5. vince guest

    Aug 18, 2015 at 5:08 am

    Lee Trevino built his own unique swing around his grip and controlling the relationship between the club face and the back of his left hand.Turned out he knew what he was doing.

    • Rob Strano

      Aug 18, 2015 at 10:05 am

      One time I heard Lee say – “When I want to hit the ball to the right I push it over there and when I want to hit it to the left I pull it over there”
      Same thing we are saying Vince….Clubface and back of LH control
      Thanks for the note and play well

  6. Mat

    Aug 17, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    It’s difficult to make small adjustments to single concepts because it takes a longer time. After you’ve beat a couple hundred balls, you wonder if it’s the adjustment or if you’re tired. Discipline like this is what separates players, and I try to have it… it is a very tough challenge.

  7. OKMrazor

    Aug 17, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    I can’t fault this logic.

  8. TR1PTIK

    Aug 17, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I was having issues similar to that of your student – though exponentially worse – and while I was on the range yesterday I discovered that a small change in my setup and gripping the club a little stronger with my right hand (only) resulted in significantly better driving. I still don’t have the swing that I would like to have, but at least I can go out and shoot a reasonable score. Sometimes, that’s enough.

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Instruction

Kelley: Should a Tour player’s swing be the pattern we copy?

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PGA Tour players are the most gifted golfers on the planet. Their ball striking ability is remarkable to the average, even scratch, golfer. With the time to practice all day, usually perfecting their imperfections in their own swings, why are PGA Tour players’ swings always the model we seek?

Look at the progression and expectations in other sports played recreationally. If you start playing Tennis, you don’t expect to serve as fast and accurate as Rafael Nadal. When joining a gym, do we look and replicate the times and bodies of Olympians? However, in golf, players seek the worlds best trying to emulate them. Examining this idea, could this actually be detrimental?

Let’s start with the speed differential. The average PGA Tour driver club head speed is 113 mph. The average male amateur golfer driver speed is 93.4 mph. The average handicap for the male golfer sits between 14 and 15. Below is a chart from Trackman showing the distribution of clubhead speed among male golfers.

*Trackman research shows there is a direct correlation between clubhead speed and handicap.

Speed is mostly a natural talent developed at an early age. It can be enhanced with speed training, gym work and even lifestyle changes. ?With such a differential in speed?, wouldn’t players first be better served focusing on center contact with the most efficient route to do so? This can include modeling simple looking swings.

Besides the speed differential, the world’s best golfers all have unique swings that have been perfected over time. Take for example the top ten players in the world. Different swings with different match-up moves throughout the motion. They have made it work for themselves with countless practice hours. Usually time the average golfer doesn’t have.

A main example would be Rory McIlroy, often a sought out golf swing among students. Here is a quote regarding his swing swing sequence after visiting the Titleist Performance Institute Center. “At the start of McIlroy’s downswing, his left hip spins violently counterclockwise, as it does for every elite, long-hitting player. but then, and only with the driver, Mcllroy makes a funky move you could not teach. a moment before impact, his left hip suddenly changes direction and jerks back, clockwise, and then rotates again.”

With the average golfer on a time constraint?, golfers could actually look at what the greats do the older they get in their careers. The swings become more simple, using their instincts to get their body in efficient and more teachable positions. This is usually in their set-up then backswing, with less excess movement for an efficient strike. Take for example a young versus older Ben Hogan. (Picture below)

Below is another example of a young Jack Nicklaus compared to an older Nicklaus later in his career.

This is in large part due to the concept that less can be more at times. Unfortunately in golf, all to often players are told to do more with their swing, only to jeopardize center contact even seeking vanity over function.

A concept that could be beneficial is next time you want to work on your swing, focus on efficiency and minimizing the ?motion for center contact and a better face/path relationship. Then you can build. Rather then taking a bit from a Tour player’s swing, understand how your body should move to achieve your desired ball flight. Once you have a foundation, then add speed and your own DNA to the swing.

The argument could be made the opposite should be taught for aspiring junior golfers, especially the way the game as going. This article is intended to open a discussion and perhaps change the view of how the golf swing is being taught based on your skill-set and what you are trying to get out of the game. Also, what may be teachable and not teachable. You can change swings with concepts alone.

www.kelleygolf.com

Twitter: @Kkelley_golf 

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Clement: Why laying up = more power

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You have been there before — you can’t get over the hazard on a par 5 and decide to lay up and take the club you need for the distance and the ball makes it into the hazard after you took this smooth swing that smoked the ball 15 yards farther than you expected? We uncover the mystery right here!

 

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Kelley: Simplify your swing with the hammer drill

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Regardless of your handicap, a simple hammer can teach you how to efficiently address the ball, start the swing and then put your body in a dynamic position at the top. If you can hammer a nail, there is no reason you can’t simplify your swing. This drill can also change the parts in the middle of your swing you have been struggling to change.

To start, grab a hammer with your trail hand as if you are hammering a nail into a wall in front of your body. You will notice how this instinctively gives you a slight tuck of the trail elbow and drops your trail shoulder below the lead with angle in the trail wrist.

Once gripping the hammer, move the weight of the hammer as if hammering a nail. This will give you the feel of the takeaway.

From here, the golf swing is no more then a lifting of the arms as the right arm folds and the body goes around a bit.

From this position, holding your spine angle and placing the left hand on the right hand will pull your body into a coil or “turn”. This places your body in a position to efficiently swing the golf club back down to the ball.

A great way to combine the hammer drill with a golf club is to hold a hammer on the grip of the club or tape the hammer down the middle of the shaft. Start with just your right hand on the club and make slow swings.

Once you have practiced this a few times, the hammer can be removed and this feel can be integrated to a normal golf club. To continue this feel, simply turn the clubhead in as if you are hitting the ball with the toe of the club (below picture). When turning the club like this, the center of balance goes more to the clubhead, helping replicate the actual hammer feel.

What’s great about this drill is that the actual task is driving the technique. Rather than being thoughtful of several technical positions in the golf swing, replicating the instinctive motion of the hammer will put you in the proper positions. This drill will also help you place your focus of attention on the actual club, which is often overlooked.

www.kelvinkelley.com

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