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Turn, Turn, Turn: For every swing there is a reason

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Slicing and hooking are nothing more than club face (in relation) to swing path issues. If the golf club is coming from inside and the club face is aimed at the target at impact, the golf ball will have left axis tilt, or hook spin. If the club is coming from outside and the face is aimed at the target at impact, the golf ball will have right axis tilt, or slice spin. This is assuming that you make contact in the center of the face, however. Heel hits and toe hits are a different matter entirely.

Many golfers tackle the problem of errant shots by attempting to change the angle of the club face at impact — they take a stronger grip or weaker grip, or they try to change their release. And there’s no question that you need a good grip to play good golf. But changing your grip will only change the angle of the club face at impact. Since physics shows that the club face is responsible for 75-85 percent of the initial direction of the golf ball, changing your grip will only impact the starting direction of the ball, not the curve of the ball. If you want a change in spin axis, you must change the face-to-path relationship.

You are probably asking yourself, “Ok DC, how do we do that? ” Let’s take a look at it in some detail.

An arc, by definition, is a curve. The correct swing arc for the club head is from the inside, to the ball, and back to the inside. (Note: For a right-handed golf, coming from the inside means approaching the ball from the side where he or she stands in relation to the ball). There is a small flat spot at the bottom of the swing, but the club head travels largely on a curve.

Now, to assist you in creating this curve, your body will need to rotate during the swing. The torso turns away from the target in the backswing and toward the target in the downswing. In other words, your backswing turn assists in creating room for you to swing from the inside.  And your downswing turn assists in creating room to swing BACK to the inside.  Notice I said “assist” because it is not a law that the arm swing follows the turning of the body. But it does create room to allow this to happen.

How can this help you with hooking or slicing?

If the club is traveling too much from outside, you need more BACKSWING turn to give you more room to swing from the inside. And if the golf club is traveling too much from the inside (hooking) you need more DOWNSWING turn to give you more room to swing from the outside, or at least straighter into the golf ball. So think “turn away” if you’re slicing and “turn through” if you’re hooking.

This also helps better players fade and draw the golf ball; draws and fades are milder versions of hooks and slices where the face-to-path ratio is reduced. I have my tournament players think maximum turn back, minimum turn through on draws and minimum turn back and maximum turn through on fades.  Again, it reduces or increases the amount of inside, straight or outside path room available. Again this is not a guarantee that the turn assures the path in or out but it does help. Of course, sequencing also plays a big part in swing path; some players turn back well, but open the upper body too soon coming down. This, in effect, defeats the purpose of the turn in the first place.

The only long-term cure for a slice or a hook is a change in the face-to-path relationship.  Focusing on the proper rotation can help in this.

Note: If you read my article “Golf is a Reaction Game” you will remember I said that in order to change your swing habits you need to change your ball flight. And this is where a grip or release change can help. By starting the ball more right or left, you can learn to create a better swing path in due course. But the face is a temporary fix, not a permanent solution. That is what is so invaluable about Doppler radar golf ball tracking systems like Trackman and Flightscope. We know the exact the face-to-path ratio. The only thing left to do is hit it in the center. But that’s another lesson.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum. 

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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]

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. James

    Jun 3, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Great article. Helped me a ton. Thank you!

  2. Scott

    Nov 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I have a terrible swing. All upper body, all arms. No control. I absolutely have “the big banana” shot.

    This article was the first thing that actually made sense to me and worked at the range. First time trying this I was 50-50 between shots at my target and pulls, BUT the ball flight completely changed. This produced a more piercing trajectory with rollout rather than my normal extreme side spin.

    Thank you! Like Austin said, if you make it out to the SF Bay Area I owe you a meal of your choice!

  3. Matt

    Oct 26, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Read this article and decided to try it out on the range. Helped so much! I instantly could move it both ways and hit the ball so solid. So excited to see how it continues to help! Thanks!!

  4. Pingback: GolfWRX.com – Turn, Turn, Turn: For every swing there is reason | Golf Grip Instruction

  5. Austin

    Oct 8, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Dennis, Thanks for this tip! This is one of the best for immediate results. I took this to the course and it works. I hit 11 of 14 fairways when I have been hitting about 3-4 for 14. Had a ton of birdie putts and was working the ball both ways with your help! Thanks so much! If you are ever in Nashville I owe you lunch/dinner! Thanks again.

  6. Anne

    Oct 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    GREAT. THANK YOU

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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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How to stop 3-putting and start making putts

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When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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