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How to take ownership of your golf swing

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A troubling trend I see with golfers today, both amateur and professional, is the lack of overall ownership they have with their golf swing. I have always said that good golfers are like lambs; they follow the lead of their best golfer friend in order to seek out the magic teachings of their guru, instead of getting their own or working with the coach they currently have. In fact, countless PGA Tour players have left their coach for their friend’s coach, the most legendary example being Tiger Woods’ decision to leave Butch Harmon for Hank Haney, who he met through his best frient Mark O’Meara.

Whether you believe Tiger’s decision was a good one or a bad one, coaching switches have stalled the careers of many great golfers, which could have been avoided if they took better ownership of their golf swings in the first place.

The idea of owning of your swing mechanics was taught to me early on by a Golf Machine Teacher out of Memphis named Charlie Long. He introduced me to Homer Kelley’s great work, and without him I would have never made the idea of swing ownership such an important part of my teaching — and I know after reading this, some of you will alter what you do when it comes to instruction, too.

Here’s the concept in a nutshell: Good golfers know what they feel, know their body, and understand their golf swing mechanics and why certain things work and don’t work for them. For the process to be successful, golfers must buy into the golf swing they have, as well as the golf swing they want to have. Because if you don’t own the knowledge of your current swing — its feels, how it reacts under pressure, and what things negatively affect it — then you will be lost on the golf course.

I’ll admit; this process isn’t easy, and you can’t just trust the first instructor you meet. Finding the right coach is something you as the player should take very seriously, since this will be the person you trust to help you get to the next level. I always say that you should have an idea of what shots you need to eliminate under pressure, and what swing flaws you know causes them. That is ownership — you know what you want to accomplish, and you have a good idea of what could get in the way.

Next, I would suggest you sit down with your new potential teacher and explain what you feel and what you think. See what he says. This interview process helps you filter out teachers and swing philosophies that aren’t a fit for you. From there, I suggest your new teacher perform a simple 5-minute swing analysis, with him explaining what he would like to do and why. This is where you have the chance to speak up, ask questions, and eliminate any misconceptions or confusion before you get to work.

My biggest pet peeve is hearing a golfer say, “I took one lesson from this guy and it screwed me up.” If you owned your swing mechanics, you would have never have let that happen. You would have interviewed the teacher and weeded him out within the first 5 minutes.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: [email protected]

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Dave

    Aug 2, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    Very interesting article.

  2. Dropping three / hitting four

    Aug 1, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Tom – insightful article, thanks.

    Is it reasonable to ask a PGA Professional “Hey I’m committed to improving my game and want to make sure you’re the right guy for the job”? If they don’t want to have that initial conversation should we just run for the hills?

    Golf lessons are a big investment — time, money and (ultimately) the quality of our golf game. Just wondering how to approach professionals in those initial discussions.

    • Jay K.

      Sep 4, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      “If they don’t want to have that initial conversation should we just run for the hills?”

      I would. Good teachers work with what you have. I am sure many have a swing in mind, they want you to learn, but the really good ones realize not everyone can do what is necessary to make that swing work. So, they work with what you can do, and teach you how to get the most from it.

  3. MattSihv

    Jul 30, 2016 at 12:57 am

    This is true! I had someone change my entire swing and after two years with the new swing, my game had completely fallen apart. Went to a new teacher, and he immediately got to the root of the problem. We got back to what was natural for me, and started building from there. The improvement has been mind-blowing.

  4. Philip

    Jul 29, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    Very true – I’m in the process of accepting (owning) my swing. I also know what I am doing incorrectly that would take it to the next level, but I finally realized that my body knows more than myself or any golf instructor will ever know about how it wants to work. Thus, I just keep nudging it along – being sure to never try and control (restrict) my swing – just being aware of of what the club head is doing and what ball flight will most likely result. Golf sure starts to be fun when the ball goes in the direction you are expecting, whether it is a great or mediocre swing. I still have a swing coach I like to review my setup and overall swing fundamentals with, but I accept responsibility for the results.

  5. ILoveHateGolf

    Jul 29, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    Boredom alert. You’ve been warned.

    Have taken many lessons from many coaches. Made the ‘take just 1 lesson’ mistake a couple of times early before I committed to getting better. Then I made the mistake of taking 12 or so lessons from a McLean guy who ‘taught’ me to move laterally back 2″ off the ball during my backswing. Learned that what goes back must go forward and was stuck with a sway for years. So I read a lot, mostly conflicting stuff like ‘keep your head still’ and what that nitwit Flick wrote in his (in)famous “Beware keeping your head still!” Golf Magazine article. Took more lessons from a different guy. Stopped seeing him after a $400+ playing lesson and still kept swaying. Decided, like Hogan, to ‘dig my swing out of the dirt’ and after thousands of range balls and 2 Cortisone shots the only thing I dug up was more dirt. Quit golf for 2 years after shooting 93 and 77 in the same day, but am back at it hard again. I have learned plenty over the years, and agree 100% with the idea of ‘owning your swing’. For me it means:
    it’s a swing, not a strike (“ball striking” is a cursed term for me). pulling with the left rather than hitting with the right (I’m RH, and this alone keeps me from lunging at the ball; where were you 20 years ago??). Need to turn all the way through the ball and not stop at impact and start up again. Keep your damn head down, stupid! (I think I need a lesson in positive self-talk.) Keep your grip strong but your pressure light.

    • ILoveHateGolf

      Jul 29, 2016 at 11:53 pm

      And it’s a journey, not a destination. The journey can be and has been mostly fun but not knowing diddly about how you’re supposed to swing and making the same mistakes over and over again is misery. Looking back and realizing most of the lesson guys don’t really know how to make us better was a revelation, as was understanding the folks who experience the most success at Golf Schools are those who cash your ‘tuition checks’. I’d gladly pay a lot of money to a coach who could cut my handicap in half. In fact I offered to do just that to a Trackman joint – with the caveat that if I did what they recommended, practiced 2-3x a week, and played at least 27 holes/wk and didn’t lower my 10 handicap to 5, they would refund my money. Unsurprisingly, no takers there.

      So if you aren’t lucky enough to have played in HS or College, or aren’t a freak with a natural talent, you have to own your swing, do the homework and put in the work yourself while seeking the ‘right’ instructor for you (and depending on where you are in your development, the right teacher now may not be the right one down the road). Good luck. Lord knows in this game most of us need it.

      • Leftienige

        Aug 1, 2016 at 9:45 am

        I had a few lessons from a new pro at my club . He was obsessed that all faults could be cured with a correct grip . After several sessions, and no improvement, I said I’d go my own way for a while . His suggestion was I should come back and see him once a month “To Get my cheque gripped ” .— Freudian slip ?

  6. Mike

    Jul 29, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Finding the right coach to help you fix swing flaws is a road to nowhere. And it certainly will not lead to any kind of “ownership” of your swing.

  7. Mat

    Jul 29, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    And for anyone on here that spouts of about not buying something and “get a lesson” is very much perpetuating the stupidity.

    For what it’s worth, I worked with a coach for a while and stuck with it through two injuries before I stopped. It’s very hard; he’s a great coach, but it didn’t work for me.

  8. Mr. Wedge

    Jul 29, 2016 at 11:04 am

    The process of finding the “right” coach for average golfers is more difficult than people think. Here’s why: 1) There aren’t any good repositories of instructor reviews. So this leaves us to choose based mostly on recommendations from friends, whose swing could be completely different from yours. 2) You have to invest the time and at least 3-4 lessons before you can tell whether you are making progress or heading in the wrong direction. I was always told, a new swing mechanic may feel wrong just because it’s different from the normal. So how do we differentiate that, from a move that is not right for our swing? Takes time to tell. and 3) Because of both #1 and #2, finding the “right” coach can be a very expensive process that just isn’t feasible for the average golfer. That’s why the “3 lessons for $99” at your local golf store are so popular. But that’s also a waste of money, just a smaller amount to shell out at once.

  9. Andrew Cooper

    Jul 29, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Good stuff Tom. I just think that it is difficult for a learning golfer to know what they need out of a coach. The golfer really into seeking perfect technique, could actually benefit from a more feel based coach-and vice-versa. So maybe keep an open mind too.

  10. Scott Shields

    Jul 28, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    I’m a golfing machine guy myself.

    What’s nice is that nearly ANY move can be found in that book as one of the component variations, and quantified. You’ll understand its place in YOUR swing, and more importantly, by understanding your own swing, you can understand how your feelings and mechanics inform each other.

    Good read.

    • 8thehardway

      Jul 29, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      No, it’s not a good read; even with 7 editions under its belt there’s no editing, the format actually impedes comprehension and the overall impression is that whoever inherited the copyright to this work resented the bequest.

  11. 4pillars

    Jul 28, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    I don’t know what happened between Tiger and Butch, but what I have read suggests that there were very serious underlying issues in the relationship, which have nothing to do with his following another golfer to another teacher.

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Instruction

Fixing the shanks: How to stop shanking the golf ball (GolfWRX Explains)

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May you never be concerned about fixing the shanks! But if you’re begging the golf gods for guidance how to stop shanking the golf ball? Ready to offer up your first-born child for the wisdom how to stop shanking irons? Frantically asking Google how to never shank a golf ball again?

Fear not. We’ll get to drills to stop shanking irons shortly that are guaranteed to ingrain the proper feel and anti-shank action, but first, a brief discussion of what exactly a shank is (other than will-to-live crushing).

More often than not, a shank occurs when a player’s weight gets too far onto the toes, causing a lean forward. Instead of the center of the clubface striking the ball—as you intended at address—the hosel makes contact with your Titleist, and—cover your ears and guard your soul—a shank occurs.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded hosel rocket departing your club at a 90-degree angle, you know how quickly confidence can evaporate and terror can set in.

Fortunately, the shanks are curable and largely preventable ailment. While there are drills to fix your fault you once the malady has taken hold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’re trying to understand how to stop shanking the golf ball, you need to understand where the ball makes contact with the club during a shank.

Fixing the shanks

To avoid shanking the golf ball, it’s important to lock in on some keys…

  • Have a proper setup and posture…Athletic posture, arms hang down, neither too bent over nor too upright, weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Keep your grip light and arms tension free…If 10 is a death grip of golf club and 1 is the club falling out of your hand, aim for a grip in the 4-6 range. Make sure your forearms aren’t clenched.
  • Maintain proper balance throughout the swing…50/50 weight to start (front foot/back foot). 60/40 at the top of the backswing. 90/10 at impact.
  • Avoid an excessively out-to-in or in-to-out swing path…Take the club straight back to start, rather than excessively inside (closer to the body) or outside (further away from the body).

The best drill to stop shanking the golf ball

Set up properly (as discussed above), flex your toes upward as you begin your swing and keep your chest high (maintain your spine angle) throughout the swing.

Other than those focal points, keep your brain free of any additional chatter, which only exacerbates shankitis.

(For more advice, be sure to check out what our friends at Me and My Golf have to say below)

Now you know how to stop shanking the golf ball and have the tools to never shank the golf ball again.

Praise the golf gods!

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Cameron Smith’s 3-month Covid-19 training block

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Whilst Covid-19 has presented countless grave health and economic challenges to the world’s population, it has also provided opportunity for many people to focus their attention on projects that they normally wouldn’t have time for.

Turns out PGA Tour players are no different, and in the case of Cameron Smith, we used the enforced break from competitive golf to undertake a very rare, uninterrupted 3 month block of strength training.

Cam plays 25-30 events a year spread across 4 continents and this presents a number of challenges to overcome from a training and programming perspective:

– Varying facilities

– Travel fatigue and jet lag

– Concerns around muscle soreness affecting ability to perform on course

– Physical and mental cost of competing

When combined, these challenges can often render even the most carefully planned training programs redundant. So whilst many golf fans were coming to terms with a prolonged absence of PGA Tour events, I was getting stuck into designing programs that would hopefully elicit the following outcomes for Cam:

– More muscle mass

– More strength

– More power

In a normal season, I’m hesitant to prescribe programs that focus on muscle gain, because the nature of the training volume tends to tighten Cam up (reduce his range of motion), reduce his club-head speed and elicit a lot of muscle soreness…..not an ideal combination for short term performance! But I knew in this case, we could get stuck into some higher volume work because we would have plenty of time to recover from any lost mobility, reduced speed and increased soreness before tournaments started again.

 

Mid March – Program 1 – General Hypertrophy Focus

We decided with the global virus outlook looking dire and the PGA Tour promising to deliver a 30 day notice before resumption of play, we should focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) until the 30 day notice period was delivered. At that point we would switch to a more familiar power based program in preparation for tournaments starting up again.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower focus (legs, glutes, core)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets to failure)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Lower Body Focus (legs, glutes, core):

 

Example Exercises:

 

Mid April – Program 2 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Focus

As Cam was about to finish up his first hypertrophy program, there was a fairly clear indication that there would be no play until mid June at the earliest. Knowing that we had 2 more months of training, we decided to continue with another hypertrophy block. This time increasing the focus on the lower body by breaking down the leg work into 2 seperate sessions and ramping up the training volume.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 4 sessions per week

– 2 x lower body focus (1 x quad focused workout and 1 x hamstring / glute focused workout)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Pull Focus (back, biceps, core):

 

Example Exercises:

Mid May – Program 3 – Power Focus

Once we received confirmation that play would be resuming 11th June at Colonial, we made the call to switch to a power focused program. Moving back to 3 days per week, lowering the volume and increasing the intensity (more weight and more speed in the main lifts).

The idea is to get the body used to moving fast again, reduce muscle soreness to allow better quality golf practice, and supplement the with more mobility work to re-gain any lost range of motion.

We also added some extra grip work because Cam discovered that with the muscle and strength gain, plus lifting increased weight, his grip was failing on key lifts…..not such a bad problem to have!

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower body focus (legs, glutes, core, grip)

– 1 x upper body focus (chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, grip)

– 1 x combined focus (legs, glutes, shoulders, core, grip)

– Volume remains constant (same sets and reps), aiming to increase intensity (either weight or speed) over the 4 weeks.

Training Variables:

Sets: 4 to 5

Reps: 3-5 for main exercises, 8-12 for accessory exercises.

Tempo: X-0-1 for main exercises (as fast as possible in up or effort phase, no pause, 1 second down). 2-0-2 for accessory exercises.

Weight: around 85% of maximum for main exercises, around 70% for accessory exercises.

Rest: 90 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Combined (legs, glutes, core, shoulders, grip):

 

Example Exercises:

 

If you are interested in receiving some professional guidance for your training, then check out the services on offer from Nick at Golf Fit Pro

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What you can learn from Steve Elkington

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When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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