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Golf’s greatest drivers all do this…

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It comes as no surprise that great drivers of the golf ball employ certain fundamentals that help them hit long, straight tee shots. In this article, I offer several fundamentals that, in my opinion, make these players better drivers of the golf ball than others.

Editor’s Note: Mentions of “left” and “right” reference right-handed golfers.  

Alignment and balance

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  • Balance is an overlooked fundamental at address. Golfers should have their weight just over their shoelaces, which allows them to use their torso without losing their balance during the swing.
  • At address, a golfer’s body should be aimed in a way that complements the desired club path — and that’s not always parallel left of the target line. Aiming slightly right or left of the target is OK in small doses.
  • Remember, the direction of the shoulders at address influences the arms. Better drivers of the golf ball tend to error closed, not open.

Head slightly behind the ball

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  • Great drivers have the head positioned just behind the ball at address, giving them the ability to “load” at the top.
  • This head position is great for golfers who tend to fight a reverse pivot.

Full turn to the top

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  • The shoulders need to make a big enough turn to the top so golfers can create maximum club head speed through the ball, but not so much that it causes a golfer’s hips to over-rotate and a loss of balance.
  • A full turn has the shoulders and the left arm working together in harmony; too much left arm movement will cause the club to get too upright, and too much shoulder turn will cause the club to get too flat.
  • The shoulders turn over the top of a solid foundation where the feet are firmly planted and accepting the full rotation of the upper body to the top.

Related: Should you make your backswing longer or shorter.

Inside delivery

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  • The most consistent drivers of the golf ball tend to swing into the ball from the inside (as shown by the blue line).
  • We know that the starting direction of a golf ball begins mostly in the direction of the club face at impact, and its trajectory curves away from the path. Therefore, a golfer’s path must be to the right of the club face at impact so the ball will move right to left.
  • Most players create more speed when the club is swung from the inside.

Related: How to fix your slice with path and face angle.

Right forearm on plane with club shaft

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  • When examining impact, the best drivers of the golf ball have their right forearm and club shaft inline with one another during impact.
  • This inline condition helps the arms to provide the necessary support for the violent impact between club head and ball.
  • Whenever the right arm is off-plane through impact, the club shaft has a much harder time moving in the player’s preferred direction.

Head behind at impact ball with the proper low point and angle of attack

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 10.23.44 AM

  • Having the head behind the ball at impact helps to move the low point behind the ball (2.9 inches for this player) giving this player a positive angle of attack with his driver (2.6 degrees up).
  • Whenever these two conditions are met, it is easier to hit the proper part of the club face at impact, giving golfers the high launch (14.1 degrees) and low spin (1610 rpm) that helps them hit high, flat bombs that run when they land (notice this golfer’s 31.1 landing angle).
  • Not having a low point behind the ball and a positive angle of attack is NOT necessarily a bad thing, but it does makes certain things harder to control at impact such as spin, height, impact point on the face, launch angle, landing angle and others.
  • When the right shoulder is working from the inside, not only is a golfer’s delivery under control, but club head speed can also be maximized. This player had a swing direction of 7.0 degrees (right) and generated 110.4 mph of club head speed.

Related: What you need to know about low point

Face-to-path control

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  • Great drivers of the golf ball have a face-to-path relationship that is consistent and under control through impact.
  • Curvature (with center impact) is created when the face angle and the club path diverge at impact. The photo above shows a golfer who has a has a low face-to-path ratio (0.7 degrees) giving him a low spin axis (5.9 degrees). That creates a very straight trajectory, and tee shots that are findable around the fairway.
  • Remember, more loft means less spin axis tilt and straighter shots. Manage your spin loft and you will find more fairways.

Related: Four signs you need more loft on your driver.

Solid, balanced finish

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  • If golfers can hold their finish without falling over or wiggling around, that’s an indicator that they have made a decent golf swing.
  • Balance is mainly controlled by the efficiency of a body’s pivot. If golfers have a poor pivot or poor sequencing, they usually have poor balance as well.
  • The best drivers of the golf ball usually have great balance.
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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.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. JP K

    Oct 8, 2015 at 5:33 am

    Tom

    I would lead the article with who your target audience is. In this case, slower swinging players <105 mph or so who need to find more fairways would really benefit. But, higher speed swings would result in a flip/rolling mess. It's not a question of hdcp nearly as much as it is target audience. With nearly 1/3 of the readers clicking "shank" while obviously the above could help a lot people tells me your too broad brushed.

  2. AAdams

    Oct 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    balogne…. rubbish. most good ball strikers have a slight over the top movement with a slight inside to out path that exits immediately left as it should once the club has passed through the square zone. NONE of the greats flip or roll the club which is what an inside our path promotes. No great player lays off or drops inside or sling/ropes a hook out there. Sure a player like that wins occasionally but we are talking about GREATS/LEGENDS. Snead pull drew his ball. And arguably the best driver ever was CALVIN PEETE. Not a lot of inside out there at all! He square to left.

    Take a word of advice from Bubba…. “if you can’t beat me,…….then you can’t teach me.”

    • JP K

      Oct 8, 2015 at 5:22 am

      The issue with this site is that they don’t tell you who the article is intended for. For a 105mph+ swing trying to scrape a shot off their handicap this will end your career. For a 90mph weekend warrior who wants to find more fairways, it’s quite helpful. The article shouldn’t say this is for high or low handicappers it should be quite precise (e.g. speed of swing, as well as hdcp). The above is fine for nearly every golfer just not me (or you). The problem is most people are not as knowledgeable as you (or me).

  3. Jeff

    Oct 6, 2015 at 5:11 am

    How do you improve your alignment of the golf shaft and right arm? I am a 6-handicap golfer and my right forearm is well above the ball, and almos parallel to the ground. Mi believe this causes my swing to be a little shallow and susceptible to hooks.

  4. Ben

    Sep 27, 2015 at 8:17 am

    “When examining impact, the best drivers of the golf ball have their right forearm and club shaft inline with one another during impact”

    Do you mean left arm? Even in the photo below the statement, it is more the left arm that is in line, not the right. Please could you clarify?

    • JMcDonough

      Sep 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

      Check the picture again. You should be looking at a Down the Line View.

  5. Up and out!

    Sep 27, 2015 at 2:56 am

    “The most consistent drivers of the golf ball tend to swing into the ball from the inside”

    Well. Not necessarily true about the inside. With our modern, big headed drivers, it’s imperative that you get an upward motion into the hit to get maximum benefits for the dynamic loft you are attempting to attain. Therefore you’d be hard pressed to hit down on the ball from the outside on top of the ball (which is why most amateurs struggle with the big stick). You can’t be slapping down at it, so the “inside” move is how it ends up looking as you hit up on the ball at the same time that you are closing the tow (because if you don’t close the toe with that move, you’ll just bust out high pushes all day and a nice day in the trees).

  6. Roger

    Sep 27, 2015 at 2:48 am

    Tom, thanks for another step by step to Perfect Impact !
    Took me years to eventually by trial and error set up in a slightly closed stance and hit Great Shots….

  7. other paul

    Sep 27, 2015 at 12:45 am

    Well done Tom. I’m pretty sure I agree with everything here. There are a few more things you could have added to the list but they are difficult to show on Trackman and so I understand why they are not included.

  8. gvogel

    Sep 26, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Remember when Tiger used to be a great driver of the ball?

    • other paul

      Sep 30, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      That was before I played golf, so no… ????

  9. joe

    Sep 26, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Interesting numbers with your students….2nd guys driver rolled 62 yards? with 1600 spin…he needs softer shaft lol

  10. shimmy

    Sep 26, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    It’s funny how the (arguably) best current driver of the ball- Bubba- breaks so many of these principles.

    • Large chris

      Sep 26, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      Not really… He’s ranked 156th in driving accuracy and 46th in total driving…

      • larrybud

        Oct 1, 2015 at 12:03 pm

        “Total driving” is a completely meaningless stat.

    • Brian

      Sep 26, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Longest? Most fun? Maybe. Best – no.

      • M

        Sep 28, 2015 at 11:54 am

        Strokes gained driving Bubba is #1 for 2015 .. therefore he is the best

  11. Michael

    Sep 26, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Pretty straightforward ????

    • other paul

      Sep 27, 2015 at 12:43 am

      Yeah it is. Nothing to difficult here. Heard it all before.

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Instruction

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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Wedge Guy: The top 7 short game mistakes

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I’ve written hundreds of articles as “The Wedge Guy” and I’ve made it my life’s work to closely observe golfers and their short games. So, I thought I’d compile what I see into a list of what I believe are the most common mistakes golfers make around the greens that prevents them from optimizing their scoring. So here goes, not in any particular order:

  1. Tempo. Maybe the most common error I see is a tempo that is too quick and “jabby”. That probably comes from the misunderstood and overdone advice “accelerate through the ball.” I like to compare playing a golf hole to painting a room, and your short shots are your “trim brushes”. They determine how the finished work turns out, and a slower and more deliberate stroke delivers more precision as you get closer to the green and hole.
  2. Set Up/Posture. To hit good chips and pitches, you need to “get down”. Bend your knees a bit more and grip down on the club – it puts you closer to your work for better precision. Too many golfers I see stand up too tall and grip the club to the end.
  3. Grip Pressure. A very light grip on the club is essential to good touch and a proper release through the impact zone. Trust me, you cannot hold a golf club too lightly – your body won’t let you. Concentrate on your forearms; if you can feel any tenseness in the muscles in your forearms, you are holding on too tightly.
  4. Hand position. Watch the tour players hit short shots on TV. Their arms are hanging naturally so that their hands are very close to their upper thighs at address and through impact, but the club is not tilted up on its toe. Copy that and your short game will improve dramatically.
  5. Lack of Body/Core Rotation. When you are hitting short shots, the hands and arms have stay in front of the torso throughout the swing. If you don’t rotate your chest and shoulders back and through, you won’t develop good consistency in distance or contact.
  6. Club selection. Every pitch or chip is different, so don’t try to hit them all with the same club. I see two major errors here. Some golfers always grab the sand wedge when they miss a green. If you have lots of green to work with and don’t need that loft, a PW, 9-iron or even less will give you much better results. The other error is seen in those golfers who are “afraid” of their wedge and are trying to hit tough recoveries with 8- and 9-irons. That doesn’t work either. Go to your practice green and see what happens with different clubs, then take that knowledge to the course.
  7. Clubhead/grip relationship. This error falls into two categories. One is those golfers who forward press so much that they dramatically change the loft of the club. At address and impact the grip should be slightly ahead of the clubhead. I like to focus on the hands, rather than the club, and just think of my left hand leading my right through impact. Which brings me to the other error – allowing the clubhead to pass the hands through impact. If you let the clubhead do that, good shots just cannot happen. And that is caused by you trying to “hit” up on the ball, rather than swinging the entire club through impact.

So, there are my top 7. Obviously, there are others, but if you eliminate those, your short game will get better in a hurry.

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