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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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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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