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Let your head follow your body for a better release

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Trying to keep your head down during your downswing or follow through is a key mistake made by golfers of all skill levels. Why is letting your head go with your body so important? To start, your body will simply follow your head, and having the trail side of your the body rotate through the shot is a key component to keeping the club face square to the body; a major move for consistent, straight shots.

A demonstration of how your body follows your head is to imagine someone asking you a question or yell your name behind you. What happens? Your motor skills take effect and you turn and look. Movement occurs when electrical signals are sent by neurons from the brain and spinal cord throughout the body and then into our muscles. If we slowed down and examined the sequence of how your body moved on film, your head would begin the movement, and then your chest and body would follow.

Henrik Stenson

stenson 2

stenson

Anika Sorenstam

Annika

You will see some tour players actually start moving their heads before impact, such as a Henrik Stenson or Anika Sorenstam, two of my favorite downswing moves. Some players’ heads will directly follow their body post impact position. This is a common trait among some of the best ball strikers in the world.

The relationship between the club face and body after impact (where the club face is still square to the body) is a sign that the shaft and body have rotated in the proper sequence and there were no sequence moves or hand timing required to square the club face.

Why does head movement matter if it’s after impact? That’s a common question I hear when I’m working to get someone’s head to release or let go with their body. My answer: When our head doesn’t have the freedom to rotate with the body through the shot, in most cases, our body will stall at impact and the hands will take over.

large-incorrect-1 large-incorrect-2

Think of what happens when a car is going 60 mph, and then the driver slams on the breaks. As the car stops, everything in the car is flying forward. In the golf swing, the car would act as your body, and the objects in the car as your hands. As a result, you will see swings that have a lot of hand action at impact. In some cases, players will flip at the ball, which is a breaking of the wrists. Even the common chicken wing can be seen.

Fix: Look over Left Shoulder Drill

Head_follow_body

A great drill to get your trail side moving around and through the shot is to feel as if you are looking over your left shoulder at impact (if you’re left-handed, look over your right shoulder). You can rehearse this at setup or as you take a practice swing, coming down into an impact position. Practice looking early, just before impact, to make sure your right side rotates around your left, which will put you into a nice tall finish.

Drill: Nose follows the shaft

drill-nose-shaft

Another great practice drill is to hit soft shots with a mid iron, with the feeling of your nose following the shaft through impact. Take a mid iron and swing at 50 percent, focusing on your nose following the shaft around post impact. Make sure your head works around and toward the target, the same way the shaft moves. The head should not move under, where your right eye would fall below your left. This would cause your upper half to fall back and your right shoulder to dip.

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Kelvin is a Class A PGA golf professional in San Francisco, California. He teaches and has taught at some of the top golf clubs in the Bay Area, including the Olympic Club and Sonoma Golf Club. He is TPI certified, and a certified Callaway and Titleist club fitter. Kelvin has sought advice and learned under several of the top instructors in the game, including Alex Murray and Scott Hamilton. To schedule a lesson, please call 818.359.0352 Online lessons also available at www.kelleygolf.com

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. dctheobald

    Apr 1, 2020 at 12:35 am

    I buy this. People that disagree with this theory are either super flexible (lucky you) or confuse head rotation/swivel with a body slide getting the head in front of ball before impact. You can certainly and freely hit the ball without staring it down squarely at impact.

  2. James T

    May 19, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    And a World #1 used to do it when he was on tour. David Duval.

  3. Mike

    Sep 6, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    http://www.benhogangolf.com/mas_assets/theme/ben_hogan/images/content/Downswing.jpg

    See link above. Ben Hogan is well past striking the ball and his head did not ” follow the shot”.
    I rank him as the best shot maker ever.

  4. Taylor59

    Sep 3, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Hogan, Nicklaus and Woods all kept their head down…. if you wana blow smoke bud, go have dart.

    • Kelvin Kelley

      Sep 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      Plenty of other great players kept their head down as well. More then one way to swing a club. I just recommend/teach the most efficient way to swing and easiest on your body. However I have plenty of video of hogans head following his body, depends on era as well, bud.

  5. Mike Davis

    Sep 2, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    I enjoyed the article. I will try using this in a drill format while attempting to help train the hips to clear first. Thanks, Kelvin.

  6. Dave R

    Aug 30, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Great post

  7. Steve S

    Aug 29, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    To me this all depends on your flexibility. Langer is old like me and his head turns a little. So does mine. But I start with it cocked to the right with my left eye on the ball. On my “good” shots I “see” impact as my head rotates up to the left. On bad shots I come over the top and my head is up before impact. It’s all about timing and staying loose and relaxed. Swing “freely, fluidly and fast” as Ron Sisson says…

  8. Bob Jones

    Aug 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    See: Patrick Reed.

  9. Joe Brennan

    Aug 29, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Another helpful tip.. Thank you, I worked on this earlier today and WOW did it help… Please keep them coming…

  10. Tutone T

    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Not buying this either. My left shoulder goes with the head throwing off the impact.
    Staying quiet and letting the arms go past my head before looking up, way better results.

  11. george

    Aug 29, 2016 at 5:21 am

    i ment trevino not trevon

  12. george

    Aug 29, 2016 at 5:21 am

    Just about every good player kept their head down. Quick google picture search nicklaus impact or trevon impact.
    So you got two examples, Stenson and Sorenstam? I’ve got ten proving it otherwise.

  13. vince guest

    Aug 29, 2016 at 4:31 am

    A golf coach called Ron del Barrio uses head movement like this as a fundamental to his teaching. One example on the Seniors tour would be Bernhard Langer who lets his head rotate to the right in the backswing and back to the target in the through swing.

  14. Sometimes a Smizzle

    Aug 28, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Sadlowski and Rory will disagree with you. Head goes backwards just before impact.

  15. Brian K

    Aug 28, 2016 at 9:29 am

    I completely disagree with this article. Henrik or Anica, They are top professional golfer who have skills striking the ball correctly whether their head down or not. But for the amateur? If you teach head moving together, they will move head well before striking the ball, just making poor shot. I have seen and taught hundreds of student and having way better results with head down.
    When majority of pro golfer head down, is it right using the word “incorrect”?

    • jacob

      Aug 29, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      Great article….those who don’t get it don’t fully understand the golf swing

      • Kelvin Kelley

        Sep 3, 2016 at 1:09 pm

        Jacob, glad you enjoyed the article

  16. cgasucks

    Aug 27, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    DJ does it too (but it seems only when he’s on the driving range).

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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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An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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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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