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Squaring the Face of the Golf Club

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The release, perhaps the most discussed term in the golf instruction lexicon, is also one of the least understood. Let’s take a few minutes to define it, clarify it and look at how it might apply to your swing.

Two distinct motions are involved in releasing the golf club: Unhinging the wrists (which have hinged in the backswing) and torquing the shaft to square the face of the club. In this piece I’d like to discuss the twisting or torquing of the shaft, which is distinctly different than releasing the club itself.

Not surprisingly, great players have different ways of doing it, and it is also NOT done at the same time or to the same degree for every player. The video below explains this part of the release, but I wish to elaborate on the concept in the written portion of this article below.

Dennis Clark Quick Tip 1 Squaring the Club Face from Tracy Danbert Tirrell on Vimeo.

Most GolfWRX readers understand the face-to-path relationship in the act of squaring the club face. They also know that ball flight begins mostly in the direction of the club face at impact, and curves away from the path of the club head. But HOW does the club face get to open or closed? That’s less understood.

To put it simply: The more horizontally the club swings, the LESS the shaft has to be twisted. The more vertically the club swings, the MORE it has to be twisted.

In other words if your swing approaches the golf ball FLATTER, it needs less “pronation and supination” of your arms and hands. On this plane, a LOT of twisting hits low, snap hooks that barely get off the ground. Contrast that with a club that comes into impact with with higher hands and the shaft “standing up.” The same amount of twist might very well square the face nicely.

Golfers tend to believe that if the golf club arrives from inside, it will hook. And if it arrives from the outside (of the face of course) it will slice. True, all things being equal. Those things are created by the plane of the club and of course, your grip, and golfers who struggle with squaring the face may very well be ignoring the plane.

A VERY high percentage of golfers are coming into impact too steeply (they have too high of a vertical swing plane), and their swings require a lot of twisting to square the club face. That’s why they use a stronger grip, and it’s good they do. But take the same strong grip and alter the swing to create a swing much lower on the vertical swing plane, and look out left!

Take, for example, hitting on side hills: why does the golf ball fly left from a side-hill, above-the-feet lie and go right from a side-hill, below-the-feet lie? Two reasons: yes, the lie angle of the golf ball is altered with the toe well up on the above-the-feet lie, and the heel way up on the below-the-feet lie. But we also see perfect evidence of the dynamic I am  discussing here. Flatter arc=close(ing) face and upright arc=open(ing) face.

You can try this out in your own swing. If the feeling of a rollover release is causing you to hit low sniping hooks, you will need “quieter” hands through impact. If high, right slices are your problem, it may be the result of a steep plane which requires very “active” hands to keep from blocks or slices.

If you’d like to look into my online swing analysis program, email me or message me on 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. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at [email protected]

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. John Everson

    Dec 14, 2016 at 11:59 am

    This has already been explained before. If you haven’t seen it, read The Release, by Jim Hardy. It was put out earlier this year and goes into detail on exactly these two types of releases. Excellent stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Solo

    Dec 14, 2016 at 2:43 am

    Get a handle on hitting a flipping-shut at the right point of impact. Got it.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 14, 2016 at 8:33 am

      if you come in lower, no flip needed, if you come in steep flip away…

      • Solo

        Dec 14, 2016 at 11:41 am

        Oh, but I think you do, even if you come in lower. What if your left arm is broken and can only do the chicken wing that pulls it away because it’s already in that shape, and normally the handle get way ahead of the head. You’d have to really force that flip with the right side even if you were really flat and was very flat in the swing compared to standard clubs, the clubhead could use some toe-up set up too

        • Dennis Clark

          Dec 14, 2016 at 2:35 pm

          you’re describing flexion and extension, a form of release. (slapping) ala Calvin Peete to cite your example. Pronation and supination (rollover) are not needed, or need to a much less degree, when the plane is flatter. Thx

  3. Dill Pickleson

    Dec 12, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Nice, succinct and very useful article and video. Thanks for that. I have the steep/strong approach with an occasional miss left which is a result of a long history of coming in too flat and resorting to that under pressure. Good to remember….

  4. Arik

    Dec 12, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    If you are thinking of these kinds of things while swinging you are doomed. Golf is an athletic game pure and simple. It takes great hand eye coordination to be consistent. People who start out listening to others get so many ideas in their head they cant make a tension free swing.

    Impact is like trying to grab an apple off a mail box from the back of a pickup truck doing 80mph. Now is that a smart thing to do?

    • knoofah

      Dec 12, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      Your analogy is ridiculous. Take up chess.

  5. Ron

    Dec 12, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Interesting article. My understanding of the terms might be a bit off. The demo in the video, when you showed the more ‘upright’ swing plane, seems to show the swing plane to be dramatically from the inside, which, if you don’t roll your forearms, will of course cause a block to the right. As a player with a more naturally upright swing plane, I know if my swing flattens by the duck-hook that results on my driver. I’ve played with my swing plane without any other changes to my grip or swing to fight that hook and it does work. I’m now playing the tiniest of fades.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 12, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      The inclined plane of the golf club is quite another matter from the direction. Steep is steep regardless of outside or inside. It is still likely to be more open if its more upright. Inside steep is right to right blocks and outside steep is left to right slices. Same principle. Flatter arc into impact= easier to close face and vice versa. Thx

  6. JustTrying2BAwesome

    Dec 12, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Really interesting, thanks. Sounds like this can be a relatively quick adjustment if things start to go sideways on the course.

    How does this explain the phenomena of the predominate miss with wedges being a draw, and predominate miss with driver an open face high push slice? Flatter driver swing would suggest the driver should more naturally square at impact.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 12, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      IIt’s not a phenomena at all really but if it’s YOUR MISS consider loft and lie…10 degrees vs 50 degrees and 45 degrees and 62 degrees lie. And I can show you no end to people swinging ther driver 10-15 degrees more vertical at impact than address.

  7. Andrew S

    Dec 12, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Dennis, You are the first instructor who suggests the correct way. In this case, have a flatter plane. But, also offers a suggestions for the average AM – if you make a mistake there is a way of living with it (roll the hands/arms). Your articles are appreciates. Not every golfer cares to or is able to physically make the correct moves and just wants to have fun. You cover both!

  8. Bryan

    Dec 12, 2016 at 2:23 am

    Great info, thanks for sharing. I’m surprised this article didn’t turn into a golf instructor bashing session with the typical WRX responses: “All golf instructors are worthless, especially PGA members. I’ve met 2 PGA members in my life, but all 27,000 are bad instructors. I’m a 17 handicap and post in the equipment boards all the time and I know way more than every instructor.”

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 12, 2016 at 7:07 am

      LOL…there are some, but for the most part i think readers appreciate our attempts to help. We do this with no compensation and for the good of the game. I’m glad you appreciate it. Thx

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 12, 2016 at 11:11 pm

      LOL

  9. Andrew Tursky

    Dec 11, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    We apologize if you could not see the video in the article as it was originally posted. The issue has been addressed, and we hope it helps.

  10. Dennis Clark

    Dec 11, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Sorry, it seems the video did not come out for everyone. I’ll ask my editor to correct it. Sorry.

  11. C

    Dec 10, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    This article is worthless without pics and diagrammes!

  12. Eric Schafhauser

    Dec 10, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    This is a fantastic article! Enjoyed the perspective on FTP relationship relative to steep and flat swings.

    • Tom

      Dec 11, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      I agree. While reading it, I kept picturing myself doing (committing) the offenses in the article.

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Instruction

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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Instruction

Dennis Clark: Hitting from the turf

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I have seen as much as 4-5 MPH increase in clubhead speed when my students hit form a tee compared to hitting off the turf. Why?  Fear of FAT shots.

First question: Are you better hitting off a tee than on the turf?

Next question: When you play in a scramble and you have the option of dropping in the fairway or slightly in the first cut, do you choose the rough-especially when hitting over water or sand?

The answer to all these the same: Because the vast majority of golfers do not have a bottom of the swing arc safely in front of the golf ball consistently.

Consider a PGA Tour event, Korn Ferry, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, whatever…You might see missed fairways, missed greens, hooks, blocks, etc. but we rarely, if ever, see a FAT shot. They simply do not hit the ground before the golf ball. Of course, there are exceptions, into the grain on short pitches, for example, but they are just that-rare exceptions. On the other hand, go to any golf course and watch average golfers for a while. Fat shots are not uncommon. In fact, they, or the fear of them, dominate most golf games.

The number one mistake I have seen on the lesson tee for over 35 years is unquestionably a player’s inability to control the bottom of the golf swing. I have seen everything from hitting 4 inches behind the ball to never reaching the bottom at all It has been my experience that that hitting fat shots is the number one flaw in most golf swings.

Let’s start with this fact: elite level players consistently reach a swing bottom (low point) some 3-4 inches in front of the golf ball-time after time after time. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the one I’d like to look at today is the position of the golf club at impact with the golf ball.

The club is leaning forward, toward the target, the hands are ahead of the club head, never straight up over it, never behind it-always, always leaning forward is the only way to consistently bottom out in front of the golf ball.   

A player cannot hit a ball consistently from the turf until he/she learns this and how to accomplish it. For every golfer I teach who gets into this position, I might teach 50 who do not. In fact, if players did not learn how to “save” a shot by bailing out on the downswing (chicken wing, pull up, raise the handle, or come over the top, (yes over the top is a fat shot avoidance technique) they would hit the ground behind the golf ball almost every time!  Hitting better shots from the fairways, particularly from tight lies, can be learned, but I’m going to be honest: The change required will NOT be easy. And to make matters worse, you can never play significantly better until you overcome the fear of hitting it fat.. Until you learn a pattern where the bottom of the swing is consistently in front of the ball, the turf game will always be an iffy proposition for you.

This starts with a perception. When first confronted with hitting a golf ball, it seems only natural that an “up” swing is the way to get the ball in the air-help it, if you will. The act of a descending blow is not, in any way, natural to the new player. In fact, it is totally counterintuitive. So the first instincts are to throw the club head at the ball and swing up to get the ball in the air; in other words, it makes perfect sense. And once that “method” is ingrained, it is very difficult to change. But change if you must, if your goal is to be a better ball striker.

The position to strive for is one where the left wrist (for a right-hander) is flat, the right is slightly dorsiflexed, and the handle of the golf club is ahead of the grip end. Do your level best to pay attention to the look and feel of what you’re doing as opposed to the flight of the golf ball. FEEL that trail wrist bent slightly back, the lead wrist flat and the hands ahead. It will seem strange at first, but it’s the very small first step in learning to hit down on your tight lies. If some degree of that is not ultimately accomplished, you will likely always be executing “fit in” moves to make up for it. It is worth the time and effort to create this habit.

My suggestion is to get on a Trackman if possible to see where you’re low point actually is, or perhaps you may just want to start paying close attention to your divots-particularly the deepest part of them. I’m sure you will get into a pattern of bottoming out consistently in front of the ball when you begin to learn to get the hands ahead and the club head behind. And best of all, when this becomes your swing, you will lose the fear of hitting the turf first and be free to go down after the ball as aggressively as you like.

Ok, so how is this accomplished? While many players are looking for a magic bullet or a training aid which might help one miraculously get into a good impact position, I dare say there is not one. It is a trial and error proposition, a learn-from-the-mistakes kind of thing achieved only through repetition with a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. The hardest thing to do is IGNORE the outcome when learning a new motor skill, but you must do it. A couple of things you might try:

  • Start with 30-50 yard pitch shots, paying close attention to the hands leading at impact. Again ignore the outcome, look only at the divot.
  • Hit a TON of fairway bunker shots. Draw a line in the sand 3-4″ in front of the ball and try to hit it.
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Instruction

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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