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Dennis Clark: More golf swing myths

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A few months ago, Dennis Clark wrote the popular instruction article “Three golf swing myths that can hurt your game.” Here are five more golf swing myths:

4. Myth: Hitting down on the golf ball causes more spin. 

Fact: It does not: Dynamic Loft, speed, and point of contact on the face control spin. That’s it. The angle of attack technically does not matter.  If you hit down OR up the golf ball, spin will remain the same if the dynamic loft and face contact point and speed remain the same. Nine iron spins more than two iron because of loft, not because the attack angle is steeper.

5. Myth: A club face square to the target causes the golf ball to fly straight.  

Fact: Sorry, just not the case. Read my previous article on the D Plane. A club face square to the path will cause the golf ball to fly without curve (left, right or straight).  It has nothing to do with the target line unless the golf club is traveling at the target at impact. This is rarely the case — perhaps a 3-wood off the ground occasionally.

6. Myth: A draw is hit with the club face closed to the target.  A fade is hit with the club face open to the target.  

Fact:  Please refer to myth/fact No. 2. The golf ball starts in the direction of the face and curves away from the path. So if you want to play a true right-to-left draw, the face should be open (pointing right of target) and the path should be in-to-out of where the face is pointing.  Just the opposite for a fade. So yes, in the Masters playoff Bubba’s face was left of the green and his path had the be extremely inside out.

7. Myth: Wedges go high, two irons go low.

Fact:  Not if they are both struck correctly. In fact, every shot you hit, regardless of the club you hit it with, will go the same height (about 35 yards, or 100+ feet high for tour pros). The reason they look different is the the wedge gets to its apex well before the driver does, but the apex will be the same, all things being equal.

8: Myth: Draws go further than fades.

Fact:  This is in the “yes but” category.  Yes, but only because draws are launched lower.  There is no evidence that left axis tilt (draw spin) runs further than right axis tilt (fade spin) whatsoever.  But the draw is produced by a club face that is closed relative to the path (and therefore slightly de-lofted) and a fade is produced by club face open relative to the path  (and therefore lofted). If they are hit at the same trajectory (which technically can be done) they will go the same distance, all thing being equal. So a draw hits “hotter” because the landing angle was lower.

How do I know all this? TRACKMAN tells me so. If you see ball flight through the eye of this amazing machine, you might never think of a golf swing the same again. It is truly revolutionary and scary accurate.  I see it all day every day and would not teach without it. Our years of “guessing” in golf instruction are over.

Analogy: An X-ray machine versus an MRI machine or 3-D vs 2-D.

Because of golf doppler radar technology, teaching world will never be the same. Every one of my lessons measures, not guesstimates the result of every shot.  Trackman measures 21 variables, ball flight and club delivery, which are all measured to plus or minus a fraction of a percent.  Teachers, don’t leave home without it.

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. 

Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa., and Marriott Marco Island Resort in Naples, Fla. He has been a professional for over 25 years. You can learn more about Dennis on his website, http://www.dennisclarkgolf.com

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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Jooma

    Oct 11, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    A golf ball spin is created only by the angle of attack of a golf club face and the friction between the ball and the club face.
    Steeper angle of attack creates more force therefore more friction resulting in more spin.

    • Justin

      Jun 30, 2013 at 1:04 am

      Sorry, but no. To both. Still believe every new drivet model will grant you x amount of yards, too?

  2. Jooma

    Oct 11, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Draw will ALWAYS go further (assuming that the same force is applied) because the ball is trapped by the club face and thus more force can be transferred to it. Fade or slice is just sliding against the face of the club with the majority of force not being applied to the ball.

  3. James Lythgoe

    Aug 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    For Myth # 8, fades are struck with an open face which effectively adds loft to the club used. Draws are struck with the clubface closed or de-lofted. If you were to hit a fade or a draw with the same amount of loft, both shots would fly the same distance.

  4. James Lythgoe

    Aug 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Adding to Myth # 4 I would say having the back of the ball exposed to the clubface is a big factor in determining spin. Playing in Canada where the ball surrounds the back of the ball, it is very difficult to spin the ball. Go to Florida and the grass lies flat on the fairway so the whole back of the ball is exposed. You can really hit crisp clean shots from lies like that.

  5. Troy Vayanos

    Aug 25, 2012 at 4:28 am

    Some good ones her Dennis. It’s very interesting when you explain them like this compared to a lot of other generic golf instruction out there today.

  6. dennis

    Aug 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    There are no false readings but you have to read all the variables to get an accurate take on it. For example if you get a 4-degree closed face to path reading and right spin axis, you can calculate how much toward the heel the ball was it…

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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