Most golfers know their “dominant eye” heavily influences putting alignment, but did you know the dominant eye affects the long game, too? More specifically, it has a major impact on your backswing. Think of Jack Nicklaus and his pre-swing head turn that accounted for his dominant eye.
Since then, however, few other players have made it a priority to make the similar adjustments. Not factoring in your dominant eye can cause poor backswing movements, particularly with the torso, and will cause problems later on during the transition.
First of all, let’s figure out which of your eyes is dominant. For that, we consult Travis Weza from Combine Golf. Follow the instructions below.
“Begin with your arms out, wrists bent at 90 degrees upward and allow your palms to face away from you (like you are telling someone to “stop” moving). Bring your hands together so that your fingers overlap and form a triangular peephole with your thumbs and index fingers. Focus on a small object across the room. While viewing the object through the peephole, first close your left eye. If you still don’t see the object, switch eyes. The eye that sights the target is your dominant eye.”
Now that we’ve established which is your dominant eye, the next step is to understand how it influences your setup and backswing so you can make the proper adjustments.
People who are “Left Eye Dominant” (the ones who sighted the object above using their left eye) must rotate their heads at address towards their rear shoulder and/or bend laterally to the right (for right-handed players) to allow the body to adjust for this dominance. Jack Nicklaus did this perfectly, as you can see again and again in the swing-video montage below — watch how he tilts his head just before he begins the backswing.
If you see the ball in this manner at address, then you’ll eliminate the need to rotate your head during the backswing. Let’s say you set up with a centered head but with a left-dominant eye (as Jack had). What would happen? As you rotated to the top, your head would also want to rotate rightward in order to keep the ball in focus. If you did not allow this to happen, you would greatly restrict your backswing, or you might even lift your head up and lose your spine angle instead.
Jack Grout — Nicklaus’ longtime teacher — understood this and helped Jack to see the ball in a slightly different manner. He simply rotated his head to the right at address to make sure the ball was in the focus of his left eye. This way, his head was already using his dominant eye and was ready to accept the full rotation of the shoulders to the top.
Now, I understand that some players prefer not to do this; if you do not like this feeling of turning your head at address, then you can tilt the spine laterally to the right at address. This will place your head behind the ball and your left eye will be closer to the ball in this setup position. These types of setups will prevent the head from laterally moving to the right during the swing, which causes the backswing to move off plane to the top.
Now let’s check out Aaron Baddeley’s swing from a few years ago.
For a player like Aaron Baddeley, who is right-eye dominant, you can see how his head and spine are in a much different position compared to Jack Nicklaus. It is not an incorrect position, but one that just accommodates a different eye-dominance.
A player seeing the ball with their right eye, as in the example above, will require a much more centered spine at address and a head position that is more centered looking down at the top of the ball, not so much the back of the ball. This type of right eye control will give you a slightly more upright swing if you are not careful. These types of players usually require a bigger plane angle shift from the top, or stronger leg action during the transition to hit the ball from right-to-left. Basically, this position requires a touch more flexibility to achieve the rounded swing, so they will tend to play from a more upright position; it’s simply easier on the body.
I would suggest that most right-eye dominant players play the ball primarily from left-to-right, as this tends to match what their set-up position forces them to do. But it’s not a requirement.
If you are right-eye dominant and you set up with too much spinal bending behind the ball, then you will see a noticeable cocking of the head to the right to compensate for this faulty spinal bend at address. We have all seen this player — it looks like his head is tilted with their chin towards the target slightly so they can “see” the ball better. If you want to center your head and make everything work more effectively, then I would make sure your spine is over the top of the ball and things will work much better overall in the backswing.
Hopefully by now you have at least a basic understanding of how your dominant eye affects your backswing. There is NO perfect amount of tilt, rotation, or centering to accommodate for your dominant eye, however, so please take your time and experiment to find your best position. Just make sure your dominant eye and your address position match and you will be off to the races!
The Wedge Guy: Building a repeating setup (Part 3)
I hope I’ve had you thinking more about your own setup and routine for getting into it for each shot. Today I’m wrapping up this subject about getting consistency that can translate to more consistent impact and results.
As I discussed in the first article in this series, the higher handicap you play to, the more likely you are to be inconsistent in putting yourself in the proper ball position each and every time. I shared with you the results from my friend’s testing with 6-irons, but now we add to the equation that we play this crazy game with an assortment of implements, ranging from a 45-inch driver to a 35-inch sand or lob wedge. Sheesh, who figured out this maddening game? (Makes me think of Robin Williams’ bit on the origin of the game. If you haven’t heard that, Google or “YouTube Robin Williams on golf” and spend five minutes listening to the long version – it will have you rolling!)
But to wrap up, what any golfer can do to improve your golf immediately, is to learn how to set yourself up to the ball each and every time in the exact position that will let your learned swing “do its thing.” If the ball is a little closer or further away from your body — a little further back or forward in your stance — for each shot, you’ll just never achieve any kind of consistency.
Very simply, your best golf can only happen if you build a solid and repeating setup piece by piece.
The basic idea is to put yourself in an athletic position to allow your body to function at its best – knees flexed; feet about shoulder-width apart; upper torso bent over from the hips, not the waist; slight tilt to the shoulders and left arm hanging naturally. And that position of your left hand is the key to setup consistency. I’ll get right back to it.
To build a proper setup, we need to find a point of reference, and that is going to be our golf club. Let’s do this with a 6-iron to start, as that is right in the middle of the iron set. Here are the steps to building a proper setup that you can repeat:
- Set the clubhead behind the with the grip just lying in the cradled fingers of your right hand. Make sure the leading edge is square to the target line, and the sole is almost flat on the ground, with the toe just up a little. The shaft should not be leaning toward or away from the target.
- With the grip still just lying in your right fingers, square yourself to the club while re-checking your target line visually. Begin to “adjust” yourself into position with regard to the club itself, still holding it only with the right fingers. When you are set square to the target line, the butt of the club should be pointing right about at your belt buckle.
- As you adjust into your golf swing stance and posture, you can allow your free-hanging left arm and hand to guide you into position. The club – still resting unmoved behind the ball – should put the upper half of the grip 4-6 inches directly behind and about even with your free-hanging left hand. If you are too far from the ball, you’ll have to move your hand considerably away from your body to get it on the club. If you are too close, the grip will be more toward your body than where your hand is hanging. [This is where everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies. For me, the correct position is one that puts the butt of the grip where I have to move my hand only an inch or so further away from my body to take my hold on the club. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next article on the subject.]
- When you have your left hand in comfortable position, close the gap to bring your hand and the grip together, meeting about in the middle of that space so that your hand can comfortably take its hold on the upper half of the grip. It should be hanging naturally just about even with the inside of your left thigh, and the shaft will take on a slight backward angle toward the ball.
- As you place your right hand in its position on the grip, you will have “crafted” a proper set up position.
- Now, feel this position for a few seconds. Let your body soak this in for a moment. Get comfortable with it. If you feel a little too close to the ball, you can back away an inch or so to feel better. But you do not want to be more crowded than this at address!
Obviously, we’ve covered a lot of ground these past couple of weeks, but I can practically guarantee all of you that if you will increase your focus on your setup posture, it will immediately yield measurable results in your consistency of shotmaking and ball-striking.
Unless you shoot scores that are already too low …
Clark: Let fairway bunkers help you learn
Almost every new player I have ever taught has a misconception of the mechanics of hitting a golf ball into the air. They are victims trying to be intuitive when trying to hit the golf ball-and this part of the game, in fact, most of the game is counterintuitive!
That mentality has slowed more progress in learning the game than any that I know of. The mentality which I am referring to is this: The golf ball is on the ground; I know it has to be lifted into the air. It would seem all too logical to swing UP to help the golf club launch the ball. On the other hand, it is quite illogical to hit DOWN to get the ball up-that just makes no sense! I call this the “scoop” habit, AKA club head throwaway, early release, and probably a variety of other names. I have met very few new players who do not fall victim to this inclination at first. And it is completely wrong,
Every one of them had to be taught the proper ballistics of impact-the golf club strikes the ball and continues downward for several inches before it begins to ascend. The scoop problem is exacerbated if it is not addressed early in one’s playing days. Once the “scoop” method is employed for even a short while, it is very difficult to change it.
There are studies that show “average” golfers (10-19 handicap) actually have a swing bottom (lowest point of the swing arc) that averages two inches behind the golf ball for all shots from the turf, whereas tour pros average is three to five inches in front of the ball (NOTE: “in front of” refers to the target side of the ball).
The only way to accomplish a swing bottom that is consistently in front of the golf ball is first be shown what is required to do it and secondly, develop a sequence that allows YOU to do it. That is why it is essential for every golfer, when first taking up the game, or for those who are in the very early days of playing, to go no further in their learning until this concept has been internalized. This is not to say that it cannot be learned after some years of doing it incorrectly, but it is very difficult, to say the least. In fact, I spend a lot of my teaching day working around “scooping” because honestly, it is futile to try to affect any real change after 20 years or so of playing golf that way.
For parents introducing their children to golf, I cannot state strongly enough that they get the proper guidance on this issue from the very outset.
Let’s talk about a few things that might help…
After one learns to grip the club, get into a balanced posture, position the golf correctly and aim at a target, I suggest learning very short chips or pitches, perhaps no more than 20-30 yards. Learn that the hands must be positioned in front of the head of the clubhead with the shaft of the club leaning “forward” or toward the target. The palm of the rear hand (right for right-handed players) will be facing the ground, the lead wrist (left for right-handed players) will be flat and, most importantly, the right wrist will be dorsiflexed (bent slightly back) at impact.
I cannot say this next part too strongly: I would not have a junior player move on to full swings until they have fully learned this chipping/pitching position!!!
Secondly, there are a variety of teaching aids that can be quite helpful, but the oldest and I still feel the best way to learn the correct method would be to go into a fairway bunker and hit full irons until you can consistently hit the ball first and the sand after it.
Draw a line in the sand, place the golf ball on the line and do whatever it takes to hit in front of that line after having struck the ball. What I like about this practice drill is the instant biofeedback one gets from it. Like everything else in golf there is no one way to accomplish this task. If we look at the top players, we see many different swing styles, tempos, planes, grips, backswing, etc but every single one of them will hit the golf ball first and the sand after it.
Why is the fairway bunker shot so simple for the professionals and so hard for average amateurs? Swing bottom! Becoming one’s own teacher is the most effective learning, bar none! Immediate feedback clearly accelerates learning. So if you are struggling with thin or fat shots from the ground, stop right now, find a fairway bunker, and hit balls until your hands bleed!
The first time you can feel the impact compression from a sufficiently steep attack angle, and hit ball then sand — and later, turf, of course — you will realize what a well-struck golf shot feels like! You will love the feeling and will want to repeat it, believe me!
Clement: How your ball position is costing you solid contact
When you aren’t comfortable over your shot, your brain is telling you that it will have a very difficult time getting you the results that you are looking for or telling you that you are going to end up where you don’t want to be! Ball position is huge in these instances, and you need to know the tell-tale signs before you go ahead and hit the shot anyways!
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