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Your golf swing is more consistent than you think it is

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I need to preface this article about consistency by making one point quite clear: Golf is inconsistent! Pure and simple. If you can’t accept that fact, you might be better served taking up another hobby. Our game is played in such a variety of conditions and playing fields that to expect consistency is an exercise in futility.

That being said, many of my new students tell me on my lesson tee, “My problem is I’m inconsistent.” So I always observe the ball flight, and it is very inconsistent. Left, right, tops, fats… you name it. The golfer’s logical conclusion after hitting those shots is, “I must be doing everything wrong,” and this is one of the reasons we teachers use video and radar in diagnosing swing errors.

Another common exchange at the opening of a lesson is, “I’m working on so many different swings, I don’t know which one to use.” I’ll say something like, “Well, show me an example of the different swings you’re using.” Then I video all the samples.

And do you know what the videos show? Almost exactly the same swing on every single ball hit! If you don’t believe that, I invite you to my golf school in Naples to spend 6 hours with me on the lesson tee one day. And I’m not just talking about high-handicap golfers.

Other than BRAND NEW golfers, every student I have ever taught is unbelievably consistent.

So if the swings are the same, why is the ball flight inconsistent? The simple answer is that the club face and the bottom of the swing arc vary greatly, but almost never the direction of the swing or the motion that caused it. The video below shows just a few examples of something I see every day.

You see, missed shots come in groups or “families.” For example, an in-to-out swing path can cause a push, a hook, a “drop kick,” a shank or a topped shot (usually to the right). ALL are the result of the very same in-to-out swing path. An out-to-in swing path can cause a pull or a slice, often a toe hit, and a topped shot (usually to the left from what we call a “late top”).

Here’s the point, though: rarely does a golfer slice and hook. They might pull-draw a shot and see it as a hook, but it isn’t. Rarely does a player hit the heel and toe. And rarely, if ever, does a golfer get way ahead of the ball on one shot, and way behind it on the next.

It just doesn’t happen.

Your swing motion is remarkably consistent. And by the way, this is good news for those of us who coach and teach. My job would be much more difficult if my students did something different every time. What does vary is the club face angle at impact, however, as golfers use their hands to react to the shot they have just hit. That’s why a slice on one shot and pull draw on the next is NOT a different swing.

The lesson here is to know your swing patterns. It’s important to realize that your swing is in a certain mode — it is a very grooved pattern — and IF changes are needed, the drills and practice focus must be for your pattern. You can’t try every training aid and attempt to incorporate every tip out there, because at least half of them that do NOT apply to you. You may be hitting hooks from an inside-out path and hear a tip about “getting elbow tucked into your side on the downswing,” and there’s a good chance you’ll make the problem worse.

Having explained this concept, there is a requisite caveat. All golfers react to one of two things: the shot they have just hit, or the shot they usually hit. It is not uncommon for a fat shot to be followed by a thin one, simply by pulling away from the ground. So we get a pattern of fat and thin shots. That does not indicate that the swing changed; the only thing that changed was the reaction at the bottom of the arc to the previous miss.

I’ve watched this interesting dynamic closely over many years, and having an awareness of it can help your game. Remember, it will take video to know if you are actually making a change, and I suggest that you change ONLY that which needs correcting.

For more about me and how I teach, visit www.dennisclarkgolf.com or go to my Facebook Page

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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. .

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Seankinni

    Jun 30, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Dennis you are the man! That video is an instant classic! Good stuff man.????

  2. um

    Jun 29, 2016 at 3:20 am

    redrum

  3. Dennis clark

    Jun 28, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Thx to those undaunted souls who agreed to let me use their videos as examples. There is such courage in humility.

  4. Gordy

    Jun 28, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    As someone who has video taped my own swing, and tried to work on ingrained swing flaws. This is a spot on article. Literally, no change from trying to work on things. My position at impact never changes.(I come down steep and I stand up thrusting my hips towards my target at impact) I know enough about a golf swing to tell you what I’m doing wrong. And more than likely how to fix it. However, going from there and incorporating it to my swing is another thing. I am 28 and playing for about 20 years and realize that these bad habits are tough to break, but not impossible. The thing that I’ve realized over the years is that I was ok with having my flaws and trying to work it out on my own and shoot in the high 70’s and low 80’s. So, my journey to playing serious good golf begins tomorrow. I am going to take lessons and actively work on it. Really, what I am doing is seeing what some serious dedication to my golf swing will produce. Hopefully good results.

    • dennis clark

      Jun 28, 2016 at 6:42 pm

      Good for you Gordy! Good luck and keep me posted. remember flaws are only flaws at impact…

  5. Golfrnut

    Jun 28, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    I wish more people would read/listen to stuff like this. This is the same argument used as a rebuttal for getting anyone with a higher handicap fit for clubs. “There’s no sense in it” “Hackers are inconsistent” “No use getting fit unless you are a single-digit handicap” blah blah blah. It’s the same dribble spoken by people who have no idea what anyone’s swing looks like, never seen video, and never seen anyone on a descent monitor that measures all the club data. People don’t go from swinging in-out to out-in every other swing, etc…don’t care what level you play at. Trends and tendencies are common with everyone, no matter what skill level they play at.

  6. Bobalu

    Jun 28, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    I once overheard a local teaching pro comment that the vast majority of mid to high handicap golfers that have played for more than a few years are incapable of making significant changes in their golf swing. They’ve ingrained a faulty swing pattern with little time or mindset to make significant swing changes. I have noticed that virtually every struggling golfer that tells me they’ve made new swing changes- with or without a swing coach- honestly just look the same. Rarely do I see a golfer change their swing pattern, but they do find varying compensations, for example, like aligning too far to the right compensating for their steep downswing and pull hook. On the course, this type of golfer usually proclaims, “Smoked it! What I tell you? I’m back brother!” LOL, gotta love it.

    • dennis clark

      Jun 28, 2016 at 6:43 pm

      True that…

    • Jack

      Jun 28, 2016 at 10:58 pm

      Well I can understand that. Though I feel I have made huge changes, it still looks similar. Though I think having instant replay on the swing really helps, because often you feel like oh I’m swinging so differently, and you’re not even close. Basically it’s gotta feel like a drastic 180 degree change for it to look a little different. But things like a straight left arm, proper shoulder turn, not overswinging, and proper sequencing of the body in the swing, prevent casting the club, those things can be changed. And it sure wasn’t easy. Still got lots to work on. I think many people are unable to make changes one because they can’t see that they are not swinging any different and b they revert back to old habits because it’s “easier”.

  7. rd

    Jun 28, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Yes my swing is consistently hitting my balls left and right and never where I want to

  8. NC Golfa

    Jun 28, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Dennis, Your articles and explanations are simple and excellent. I had a recent series of lessons that did not help. I’ve been playing for 30 years and probably have ingrained a not so great swing. It almost seems based on your article, we should relax and just work with our existing swing and pay attention to the face at impact. Cheers!

  9. Double Mocha Man

    Jun 28, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Not only is it important to be able to adjust your swing within a round it is equally important to adjust your swing over time. Swings are living, breathing entities… not something static. The molecules and cells in our bodies are changing by the minute. There is no way to maintain the same swing… just an approximation.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jun 28, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Do you see considerable change in your student swings from swing to swing?

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jun 28, 2016 at 9:43 pm

        Hi Dennis. I am not an instructor. So, no students. I’m just a 3 handicapper trying to get to scratch. And my swing changes and feels different day to day even though I play or practice about 6 days a week. I try to work with what I’ve got, make minuscule changes and grind. Though I am always looking for the magical combination of swing keys. 🙂

        • Dennis clark

          Jun 28, 2016 at 11:20 pm

          Keep at it man…the joy is in the journey!!

        • Dennis clark

          Jun 29, 2016 at 6:22 am

          Send me a video. I’d like to see it

        • Jack

          Jun 30, 2016 at 3:18 am

          I almost feel like the adjustments are just small differences in timing and contact points. Even the worse swing that hits the sweet spot straight will feel amazing.

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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