Many good golf swings are ruined by tension
There is an old saying in golf instruction that goes like this: “You have to give up control to gain control.”
From a golf mechanics standpoint, it means that if your grip pressure is light and your arms are relaxed, the club will move more naturally and the golf ball will respond more favorably than if you had more tension in your body.
I see a lot of golfers ignore this idea and squeeze the club very tightly, with lots of forearm tension, and impose their own will on the club in an attempt to make it move a certain way. And more often than not, it’s the wrong way. If you just setup and let everything hang relaxed, the club face will naturally swing open going back find its way back to square at impact.
Let’s look at an example.
Recently, I had my first lesson with a really good player who competed in high school and college on accomplished teams. After graduation he got a job, got married and became successful at something other than golf.
Now, having some time to work on his game, this player wants to improve and be as good as or better than the collegiate version of himself. As we hit some shots and I watched his swing, it became apparent that he tense over the ball. I noticed the veins in the forearms popping out and his hands were squeezing the club. It was like he was gripping a live snake. The result of this was that he “imposed his own will” on the club and it went back dramatically shut with the face of the club pointing too much into the ground.
The outcome was shots that started left and went left. Looking at the data, shots Nos. 5-9 clearly show the face pointing way left at impact. Both the ball angles and spin axis show a heavy left bias.
So what we attacked was his grip and arm pressure, and I explained how that was restricting the club as it went back. The results of the simple changes in these two areas was immediately visible in the ball flight and showed up in the data on shots Nos. 1-4 on the FlightScope screen. Everything we wanted to change improved.
This player’s club went from a left bias at impact to slightly right and his ball angles moved from too far left to slightly right on most shots. Since he was “letting go” with the hands and arms, the club face was able to open and close in a more natural pattern, and he was able to produce quality shots that didn’t start start left and go farther left.
Most golfers can learn from this, and you should learn to relax when you set up to the golf ball. Tension will restrict your club face from working how it should, and it will affect your ball flight, and your scores. So, lighten up!
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Kelley: Recycle old drills to capture that feel
Sometimes it can be beneficial to re-introduce an old swing drill back into your training. Regardless if you felt the drill clicked or didn’t click at that time, you will more than likely notice a difference this time around.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its not the same river and he is not the same man.” – Heraclitus
Let’s apply that famous quote to the golf swing. The first part, “not the same river” can apply to the physical swing itself. Chances are your swing has changed since first learning or practicing the swing drill. You can be more comfortable with the motion, or you could have made swing changes over time, making the drill feel vastly different now.
The second part of that quote, “not the same man” applies to you, yourself. More than likely, your physiology is different today and now at this very moment. Each new day you have changed. Players have gone back to a drill from years ago to find they have discovered a completely different feel and understanding of that particular drill.
For example, here is a baseline drill I have students revert back to on a regular basis. The foot-back drill both cleans up the set-up angles and gets the lead and trail side of the body moving efficiently.
This is a great drill to get the feeling of set-up angles and how the lead and trail side of the body can move in the backswing. However, further down the road, this drill can be used to get the feeling of covering the ball at impact, a multi-purpose drill depending on where you place your attention or how you feel.
As Nick Price once said, “Every player has two to three habits that cause problems, we have to be on the lookout for them.” Developing baseline drills you can revert back to helps these tendencies stay in remission and can help keep the structure to your swing.
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You hear this all the time! When there is no ball, I have an amazing golf swing but when the ball is there, my swing goes into the toilet. Remove that ball from your sight and enjoy some great ball striking!
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Nov 13, 2015 at 6:13 pm
Sounds just like me! Minus the college golf;) Just like your student, when I ease up on my grip & arm pressure, it slows everything down and I’m able to get out of the way of my swing. Great tip.
Nov 13, 2015 at 4:26 am
Many good golf swings are ruined by me.
Nov 13, 2015 at 12:40 am
Great article Rob. I totally agree with tension killing the swing. I am curious- On a scale of 1 to 10, how light should someone hold the club?
Pingback: Is tension ruining your otherwise good golf swing? | GolfJay
Nov 12, 2015 at 4:11 pm
Sometimes a lil “samson” will cure your tense swing. Actually, it will cure alot of things…
Nov 13, 2015 at 12:02 am
I want to talk to Samson
Nov 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm
That’s the story of my life. Great article.
Nov 12, 2015 at 11:27 am
How did you attack his grip and arm pressure? Did you change his grip? Use a larger grip? Swing thoughts? Curious to know what worked for him. I realize everyone is different but would be interested in knowing what helped his situation. Cheers.
Nov 12, 2015 at 1:25 pm
This is such great advice. Not only can these suggestions help to improve your swing and ball flight immediately, it can also help in the prevention of injuries. I’ve struggled with too much tension in my swing for many years (mostly brought on by overdoing grip pressure). Elbow and shoulder injuries resulted. For me – the first step in alleviating the tension was to get properly fitted for grips. Most of us mid-high handicappers simply assume that standard grips are fine. My hand size is a bit larger than average and I discovered mid-size grips with a couple of extra tape wraps was what I needed. I no longer had to “strangle” the club in order to feel I had a secure grip.
Nov 12, 2015 at 6:35 pm
Getting fit for the right size grips seems to be hugely overlooked. I was recently fit for a new set of irons and it appears I’ve been using grips that are way too small for me. I definitely had a tendency to grip the club way too tight, which is alleviated now that I’ve moved to a midsize grip. I feel much more comfortable holding the club and I’m striking the ball solidly much more consistently.