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Should you strive for a flatter transition in your golf swing?

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A lot has been said recently regarding flattening the transition in the downswing. As a teacher for many years, I totally agree that this is clearly what highly skilled players do. Sasho Mackenzie, the great biomechanist from Canada, explains that when the center of mass of the golf club gets UNDER the hand path coming down, we get a much easier squaring of the club face.

There is, however, a difference in the players we see making this move and average amateur golfers. Nothing in the golf swing happens in a vacuum, so to speak. That is, every move has to complement the other moves and balance the equation. So when we see Sergio “laying the club down” (flatten) in transition, it complements or is in sync with the “delivery” he has into impact.

Sergio has Hogan-esque “lag” in his downswing. That is, his wrists stay cocked very late as he approaches impact. with a great deal of forward shaft lean. While this may be characteristic of all great ball strikers, his “flat” action is more pronounced than most. He lays the club down, downcocks his wrists and voila, strikes it solid.

The point here is when the shaft is laid off and flattened in transition, it cannot then be released early. Those who cast, or release early from a laid off transition are staring shanks right in the face, and feeling heel hits with the driver. The reason is the club is being cast out, not down when it is coming in on a more horizontal plane. When a professional flattens it, they then tighten the delivery with hands in and a narrowed arc into impact. This is a huge distinction, and one I feel is little understood. If you are working on laying it down, but are used to an early release, you may accomplish the former, but are asking for trouble on the latter. It has to be released later and tighter after the transition to work.

Another common error I see quite often is the hand path issue. Here I’m referring to to how far from the body the hands move on the down swing. If you are a player who transition steep (too vertical), your miss is very likely the toe of the club. As a result you develop a habit of sending your hands out and away from your center (the distal and proximal, in biomechanist terminology) to compensate for the toe hit and in an attempt to find the center of the face. That swing habit is common and will, at times, compensate for the steep transition.  So you can see why the club will be more likely to hit the heel if it is delivered on a more horizontal plane.

The point here is this: it’s the same theme that I have seen and written about for many years:  Golf swing corrections, if that be your goal, are rarely singular; the come in pairs.  And the reason it can be frustrating is because we have develop two new feelings, not one. Many golfers abandon the effort because the accomplish one without the other.

If, for example, you decide your transition is far too steep, and you flatten it but then cast the club (remember now OUT not DOWN) and hit the heel of the club or shank a wedge, you may say: “Hey, that’s just not for me; or that was WORSE, not better”. And you’d be right, the RESULT is likely to be worse- but maybe not the effort.  If you are committed to a swing change, it rarely comes with a singular correction.

Be sure you know what you’re in for when working on laying the club down ala Sergio, or Furyk, or Ryan Moore, when you are told you’re too steep starting down.  My advice would be to try and work on one thing at at time.  For this particular correction, I have my students ht balls on a sidehill, above the feet lie. This can orient you to a more horizontal swing feeling and then an only then can start to work on keeping the hands, arms and body connected (the “inside moving the outside”) for the completion of the swing change.

One final note on this: I want to repeat that any change is optional based on your current ball striking, not what your video looks like. Phil Mickelson is one of the best players EVER, and his swing starts down as steeply as any club golfer, and he swings his hand path out away from him as a result every time. Let me me ask this question: who among us would change the swing of a 44-time champion and five-major winner on the PGA Tour? Whatever works…

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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Dennis clark

    Feb 20, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    JD it is a vicious cycle and that’s why I caution all my students and readers with IF this THEN that. Grip, aim, posture all preferences. Backswing preference. But what is NOT one day this, one day that is matching your downswing to any or all of the above.

  2. DS

    Feb 20, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    Flat takeaway, not downswing. My personal curse. Add to it a pretty flexible back, and I turn too much, stand up, and my right shoulder (I’m a righty) actually moves back towards the target at the top. I get across the line every time and ‘compensate’ by coming over the top on the downswing. Net – I felt like 1 Year I didn’t hit a fairway. Actually, I hit many – just none my own. Big pulls and huge fades. Unsure of any early/late release but I hit it pretty far. Just not straight.

    I’m working on both a better takeaway and a downswing that is ‘under’ the plane. Such a hard thing to master but making progress, little by little. This is a long way to say “I love the idea of a flatter downswing”, and appreciate the cautionary note about “comes in pairs”, Dennis.

  3. Steve

    Feb 20, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Interesting article, thanks, Dennis. I think the challenge for us mere mortals, is “how” to shallow the club’s angle of attack into impact. I struggle with this owing to a backswing that does not conventionally “set” the club at the top, so I tend to come down steeply. Spent last year, somewhat in vain, trying to shallow my attack and compress the ball better. “Modern” teachers such as G Gankas and Brad Hughes (among others) preach about getting hands and arms out in front, but differ on how to get there. Keeping back to target and leading with lower body are newer teachings that are hard to incorporate, especially for my generation that grew up with watching Nicklaus and learning swing concepts from 30+ years ago. Again, thanks.

  4. Dennis Clark

    Feb 20, 2019 at 8:29 am

    The main reason I wrote this is that MANY players who flatten the transition start SHANKING. For all the reasons listed in the article. Be careful.

    • Benny

      Feb 21, 2019 at 7:17 am

      You guys want a fix to all of this.. go watch “square to square” on you tube. Thats Stricker, Zach Johnson a bit and even Speith a little. No wrist, just cock, lock amd swing. Take the guessing out of it.
      Time and time again people put WAY to much into the issue instead of just playing. Pros, sure this is their life, but hand – eye contact is what humans are good at. Just stay still, stable and swing but make sure you watch the ball off the face..

  5. Russell Ziskey

    Feb 19, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Ha! I have historically had a steeper path into the ball, and played around with laying the club down (with Sergio as the mental model). Great results at first, but then I turned into my alter ego – El Hosel…interestingly have also noticed that sidehill lies (ball above feet) don’t force as much of a pulled left shot for me in stock shots…compensation comes in pairs is the key phrase that is sticking with me…great article

  6. geohogan

    Feb 19, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Ben Hogan dropped into the Slot
    Jack Nicklaus kept the club equally between the arms in DS, as he used a gravity drop

    Both players knew how to use the leverage of both arms equally, letting their torso rotation square the clubface, with release after impact, Level Left.

    • Dennis clark

      Feb 19, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      Hogan late Jack earlier Watson earliest. Lag watson swing and stick it in the ground. Release Hogan’s move and drop kick hook it. The release point is a function of the shaft plane and hand height into impact.

      • geohogan

        Feb 19, 2019 at 9:13 pm

        Hogan and Nicklaus, among others (two, Moe Norman and Knudson), showed us that if we drop into the Slot ie (3 levers in a common plane) then torso will square clubface at impact without release of the hands until after impact if at all.

        Of course using torso rotation to square clubface is one way to swing. Right arm straightening and hitting with the hands are the other ways, where shaft plane and hand height may well be key. After all the latter two methods are so very timing dependent.

      • geohogan

        Feb 19, 2019 at 9:27 pm

        So no surprise in order to rid himself of going left, Hogan learned to drop into the Slot, and let torso rotation square the clubface. No reliance on squaring the clubface within thousandths of a second, with the hands.

        • Dennis Clark

          Feb 20, 2019 at 8:26 am

          Agreed. His whole thing was “how not to hook the ball”, which in the 30s, into early 40s he did plenty of. He became Ben Hogan the legend when he stopped hooking. But some of the things he advocates can cause amateurs to slice. Nothing is for everybody! Tnx

          • geohogan

            Feb 20, 2019 at 11:06 am

            Hogans go to shot was still a draw, but he could fade at will.

            Many things that Hogan stated and wrote have been misconstrued. Any and all details need to be vetted. Opinions dont matter.

            The subconscious does not, not do anything. ie there is no negative intention.
            Dont drink and drive…translates in SC, “drink and drive’

            Dont hit it left into the hazard…translates to ‘hit it left into the hazard’

  7. MG

    Feb 19, 2019 at 11:37 am

    I am self taught and for the last 5 years (until this last year) always shot between 71 and 79 at my home course. I have always been steep in the downswing. To combat this, I would naturally early extend starting on the backswing and then early extend even more on the downswing. The contrast between my head always raising and a tour player like Tiger’s head always lowering in crazy. “Knowing” I should be flattening my downswing, I was able to get rid of my early extension on the backswing and reduce my early extension on the downswing (to me it feels like is gone but when I watch video I still do it). I was hoping that getting rid of early extension would then eliminate my steep transition. Unfortunately the opposite is true. I believe I have been early extending because I have a steep transition. The final result is a nicer looking take away but now with less early extension and still having a steep transition, I hit a ton of shanks. It has ben really hard to play the game for the last year. And I don’t know how I can go back to my old swing. It just doesn’t feel right to do so much early extension now.

    • Dennis clack

      Feb 19, 2019 at 2:35 pm

      Send me a video I’ll ftske a look. V1 app if you have it

    • geohogan

      Feb 20, 2019 at 3:12 pm

      Everyone’s Slot will be unique to their body size, shape, length of arms etc.
      ie neither steep or flat.. just right for you.

  8. JD

    Feb 19, 2019 at 10:02 am

    one day do this, next day do that. Back and forth we go. It’s a viscous cycle.

  9. juststeve

    Feb 19, 2019 at 9:42 am

    Whatever works. What a great concept!

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Instruction

What to look for in a golf instructor: The difference between transformative and transactional coaching

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Golf instruction comes in all different styles, methods, and formats. With that said, you would think this would be a good thing due to there being so many different types of people in the world. However, it is my opinion that the lack of standardization within the industry makes it confusing for the athlete to determine what kind of golf instruction they should seek out.

Before we can discuss what may or may not be the best type of instruction for yourself, first we need to know what our options are. Whether we are taking a “broad-spectrum approach” to learning or a more personalized approach, it is important to understand that there are differences to each, and some approaches are going to take longer than others to reach goals.

Broad-Spectrum Approach

Welcome to the world of digital golf instruction, where tips from the most famous coaches in the world are a click away. The great thing about the internet and social media for a golfer is there has never been more access to the top minds in the field—and tips and drills are plentiful. With that said, with there being so many choices and differing opinions, it can be very easy to become distracted with the latest tip and can lead to a feeling of being lost.

I would describe “internet coaching”—or YouTube and Instagram surfing—as transactional coaching. You agree to pay, either a monthly fee or provide likes or follows and the professional provides very generalized tips about the golf swing. For athletes that are new to golf or golf instruction, this tends to be the first part of their process.

There are people who prefer a more transactional approach, and there are a ton of people having success working together over the internet with their coach. With that said, for someone who is looking for more of a long-term individualized approach, this may not be the best approach. This broad-spectrum approach also tends to be the slowest in terms of development due to there being a lot of trial and error due to the generalized approach and people having different body types.

Individual Transactional Coaching

Most people who are new to golf instruction will normally seek out their local pro for help. Depending on where you live in the country, what your local pro provides will vary greatly. However, due to it being local and convenient, most golfers will accept this to be the standard golf lesson.

What makes this type of instruction transactional is that there tends to be less long-term planning and it is more of a sick patient-doctor relationship. Lessons are taken when needed and there isn’t any benchmarking or periodization being done. There also tends to be less of a relationship between the coach and player in this type of coaching and it is more of a take it or leave it style to the coaching.

For most recreational or club-level players, this type of coaching works well and is widely available. Assuming that the method or philosophies of the coach align with your body type and goals athletes can have great success with this approach. However, due to less of a relationship, this form of coaching can still take quite some time to reach its goals.

Individual Transformative Coaching

Some people are very lucky, and they live close to a transformative coach, and others, less lucky, have had to search and travel to find a coach that could help them reach their goals. Essentially, when you hire a transformative coach, you are being assigned a golf partner.

Transformative coaching begins with a solid rapport that develops into an all-encompassing relationship centered around helping you become your very best. Technology alone doesn’t make a coach transformative, but it can help when it comes to creating periodization of your development. Benchmarks and goals are agreed upon by both parties and both parties share the responsibility for putting in the work.

Due to transformative coaching tending to have larger goals, the development process tends to take some time, however, the process is more about attainment than achievement. While improved performance is the goal, the periods for both performance and development are defined.

Which One is Right for You?

It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your development. If you are looking for a quick tip and are just out enjoying the weather with your friends, then maybe finding a drill or two on Instagram to add to your practice might be the ticket. If you are looking to really see some improvement and put together a plan for long-term development, then you are going to have to start looking into what is available in your area and beyond.

Some things to consider when selecting a coach

  • Do they use technology?
  • What are their qualifications when it comes to teaching?
  • Do they make you a priority?

As a golf coach who has access to the most state-of-the-art technology in the industry, I am always going to be biased towards a data-driven approach. That doesn’t mean that you should only consider a golf coach with technology, however, I believe that by having data present, you are able to have a better conversation about the facts with less importance placed on personal preference. Technology also tends to be quite expensive in golf, so be prepared if you go looking for a more high-tech coaching experience, as it is going to cost more than the low-tech alternative.

The general assumption is that if the person you are seeking advice from is a better player than you are, then they know more about the golf swing than you do. This is not always the case, while the better player may understand their swing better than you do yours, that does not make them an expert at your golf swing. That is why it is so important that you consider the qualifications of your coach. Where did they train to coach? Do they have success with all of their players? Do their players develop over a period of time? Do their players get injured? All things to consider.

The most important trait to look for in a transformative coach is that they make you a priority. That is the biggest difference between transactional and transformative coaches, they are with you during the good and bad, and always have your best interest top of mind. Bringing in other experts isn’t that uncommon and continuing education is paramount for the transformative coach, as it is their duty to be able to meet and exceed the needs of every athlete.

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The importance of arm structure

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How the arms hang at address plays a vital role in the golf swing. Often overlooked, the structure in which we place the arms can dictate one’s swing pattern. As mentioned in the article How Posture influences your swing, if you start in an efficient position, impact is much easier to find making, the golf swing more repeatable and powerful.

To start, I opt to have a player’s trail arm bent and tucked in front of them with angle in the trail wrist. While doing so, the trail shoulder can drop below the lead with a slight bend from the pelvis. This mirrors an efficient impact position.

I always prefer plays to have soft and slightly bent arms. This promotes arm speed in the golf swing. No other sports are played with straight arms, neither should golf.

From this position, it’s easier to get the clubhead traveling first, sequencing the backswing into a dynamic direction of turn.

@peterthomson

When a player addresses the ball with straight arms, they will often tilt with their upper body in the backswing. This requires more recovery in the downswing to find their impact position with the body.

A great drill to get the feeling of a soft-bent trail arm is to practice pushing a wall with your trail arm. Start in your golf set-up, placing your trail hand against the wall. You will instinctively start with a bent trail arm.

Practice applying slight pressure to the wall to get the feeling of a pushing motion through impact?. When trying the drill with a straight trail alarm, you will notice the difference between the two? arm structures.

www.kelleygolf.com

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What is ground force in the golf swing?

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There is no doubt about it, the guys and gals on tour have found something in the ground—and that something is power and speed. I’m sure by now you have heard of “ground reaction forces”—and I’m not talking about how you “shift your weight” during the golf swing.

Ground force in the golf swing: Pressure and force are not equal

With respect to ground force in the golf swing, it’s important to understand the difference between pressure and force. Pressure is your perception of how your weight is being balanced by the structure, in this case, the human body. Your body has a center of mass which is located roughly one inch behind the belt buckle for men and about one inch lower in women. When we shift (translate and/or torque) the center of mass, we create a pressure shift as the body has to “rebalance” the mass or body. This pressure shift can help us understand some aspects of the golf swing, but when it comes to producing power, force and torque are where it’s at.

Pressure can only be expressed in relation to the mass or weight of the body. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can only create 150 pounds of pressure at one time. However, when we direct that mass at a larger object than our mass, all of a sudden that larger mass directs an opposite and equal reactionary force. So now, when a human being “pushes” their legs against the ground and “feels” 150 pounds of pressure, they now get 150 pounds of force directed back towards them from the ground, creating a total of 300 pounds of force that allows them to jump off the ground in this scenario.

If ground reaction forces don’t have anything to do with the “weight shift,” then what do they affect? Everything!

Most people use the same basic ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. However, almost everyone has chocolate chip cookies that taste slightly different. Why is that? That is because people are variable and use the ingredients in different amounts and orders. When we create a golf swing, whether we are aware of it or not, we are using the same basic ingredients as everyone else: lateral force, vertical torque, and vertical force. We use these same three forces every time we move in space, and how much and when we use each force changes the outcome quite a bit.

Welcome to the world of 3D!

Understanding how to adjust the sequencing and magnitude of these forces is critical when it comes to truly owning and understand your golf swing. The good news is that most of our adjustments come before the swing and have to do with how we set up to the ball. For example, if an athlete is having a hard time controlling low point due to having too much lateral force in the golf swing (fats and thins), then we narrow up the stance width to reduce the amount of lateral force that can be produced in the swing. If an athlete is late with their vertical force, then we can square up the lead foot to promote the lead leg straightening sooner and causing the vertical force to happen sooner.

While we all will need to use the ground differently to play our best golf, two things need to happen to use the ground effectively. The forces have to exist in the correct kinetic sequence (lateral, vertical torque, vertical force), and the peaks of those forces need to be created within the correct windows (sequencing).

  • Lateral force – Peak occurs between top-of-swing and lead arm at 45 degrees
  • Vertical torque – Peak occurs between lead arm being 45 degrees and the lead arm being parallel to the ground.
  • Vertical force – Peak occurs between lead arm being parallel to the ground the club shaft being parallel to the ground.

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember ground reaction forces are invisible and can only be measured using force plates. With that said, their tends to be apprehension about discussing how we use the ground as most people do not have access to 3D dual force plates. However, using the screening process designed by Mike Adams, Terry Rowles, and the BioSwing Dynamics team, we can determine what the primary forces used for power production are and can align the body in a way to where the athlete can access his/her full potential and deliver the club to the ball in the most effective and efficient way based off their predispositions and anatomy.

In addition to gaining speed, we can help athletes create a better motion for their anatomy. As golfers continue to swing faster, it is imperative that they do so in a manner that doesn’t break down their body and cause injury. If the body is moving how it is designed, and the forces acting on the joints of the body are in the correct sequence and magnitude, not only do we know they are getting the most out of their swing, but we know that it will hold up and not cause an unforeseen injury down the road.

I truly believe that force plates and ground reaction forces will be as common as launch monitors in the near future. Essentially, a launch monitor measures the effect and the force plates measure the cause, so I believe we need both for the full picture. The force plate technology is still very expensive, and there is an educational barrier for people seeking to start measuring ground reaction forces and understanding how to change forces, magnitudes, and sequences, but I’m expecting a paradigm shift soon.

 

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