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Poor weight transfer (and how we develop swing flaws)

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I recall an old joke about a guy who was lost on a country backroad. He spots a local resident and asks for directions to a certain town. The local responds: “You can’t get there from here.”

Whenever I hear that joke, I think about weight transfer in the golf swing. Yeah, a remote connection, I’m sure, but it works for purposes of today’s story. The analogy is this: A student recently swung to the top of the backswing and asked me how to “transfer his weight to the left foot” (he was right handed). I replied, “you can’t get there from here.”

The reason most players do not properly transfer their weight or “turn through,” is simply because they are not in a position to do so. They literally must move away from the target and head for the trail side.

Here are a few examples of why.

Over the top

As the downswing begins, if the arms and club go out, not down, effectively the player is not swinging at the golf ball. If she keeps going from there, she will not hit the ball, or barely top it at best. This player is swinging at something in front of the ball, or outside of it. Shoulders spin open early, arms/hands go out but stay UP, and now the club head will very likely get to the golf ball LATE. But, and here’s the catch, anyone who plays often attempts to correct this swing bottom problem by reversing course!  The body senses the poor sequence and tries the right the ship by quickly backing up. Or casting. So, we get an out-to-in swing direction but a shallow attack angle! What I refer to a “left field from the right foot.’

When you see the flaw from this perspective, it becomes perfectly obvious why. Because, if the player kept going without a mid stream correction, they might top every shot, mo in an effort to get the ball airborne, the player lowers the rear side, raises the front side and swings UP from the outside. So you do bottom out nearer the ball, but you’ve introduced a HOST of other issues. I’m not saying this is a conscious effort in the less than two seconds it takes to swing the club, I’m saying that it develops unconsciously over time. And the more one plays, the more they “perfect” this sequence. In my experience, this is how most, if not all, swing faults begin. Correcting a fault with another fault. It is truly ingenious, really!

Steep Transition

If the swing gets to the top and does begin down inside, unlike above where it begins down outside the line, or over the plane, but the club starts down on a very steep incline, it is headed for a crash;  keep going from there, and you’re likely to stick it straight into the ground or, at the least, hit it straight off the toe. Again, over time, the player senses this, and develops a motion of “backing up; reversing the upper body to flatten the golf club and get it onto a reasonable incline to strike the ball. I see this day in and day out. The inevitable question is: “Why can’t I get through the shot”? Because…you had to reverse the upper body to avoid an even greater disaster..

These are just two examples involving improper weight transfer. But if we see other swing flaws in this light, I think it explains a lot. For example, “raising the handle,” or “standing the club up,” lower body extension (“humping”), holding on through impact, casting, sending hand path far away from the body (disconnection), all these can can almost always be attributed to something that preceded those flaws. That is, they are rarely the root cause, they are the REACTION to another position or motion. They are “save” attempts.

Here’s another way of describing it: Many, in fact most, steep swings result in a shallow attack angle.  Many open club faces at the top of the swing actually hook the ball, many closed faces at the top of the swing hit slices or at least high blocks, and so on. How do I know this? I have stood right next to golfers for almost 40 years and observed it up close and personal on the lesson tee.

If you are serious about long term improvement, real effective change in your game, you will need to work on the fundamentals that will put you in a position from which you do not have to recover, or execute a “fit in” move to survive. Get a good high-definition, slow-motion look at your swing, get your Trackman or Flightscope feedback and take a close look, in terms of what I’m referring to here. It will be eye-opening to say the least.

I would agree that one CAN learn to live with some save moves and achieve a certain level of success, albeit less consistent in my opinion. In fact, when most people hit balls, that is what they are practicing. As always, it’s your call.  Enjoy the journey.

My online swing analysis program, is always available for a close look at your swing.

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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. .

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. RBImGuy

    Mar 19, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    The solution to how the swing should work is coming

  2. geohogan

    Mar 6, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Swing flaws are the cause of bad weight transfer.

    For a healthy human our subconscious balance system works perfectly to keep us upright.

    When we swing (move our body ) in such a way to jeopardize balance, our subconscious balance mechanism takes over , overriding the golf swing in order to keep us upright.

    EE, goat humping, OTT etc re the result of ignorance of golf swing and ignorance of how the body works, subconsciously. Understand tonus and the mind/body connection and our movements will be in balance.
    Let move, what needs to move.
    Ref. The Hogan Manual of Human Performance: GOLF, 1992

  3. Jeff Martin

    Mar 6, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    It starts with the grip. – Ben Hogan

    • Steve

      Mar 6, 2019 at 4:36 pm

      You described my 44 year swing perfectly: toe hit or over the top with my irons. I’d like to know how to approach correcting it. My current practice technique focuses on starting with my legs and try to hit push draws.

      • geohogan

        Mar 8, 2019 at 11:38 am

        @steve to correct OTT
        simply have one intent from top of the swing(every full swing)
        That intent is to keep the palm of your trail hand facing the sky.
        (waitor holding the tray , ring a bell?)

        Do that every time and you will never have a problem with OTT.
        cheers

  4. Ira Shoff

    Mar 6, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    Small wonder the phrase “golf is hard” goes around. Forget everything you read here and get Byron Nelsons Book “Winning Golf”

  5. Markus

    Mar 6, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    Symptoms vs root cause. All the body language and wrong positions have only one root cause. The payer wants to hit AT the ball, not THROUGH the ball. Wrong task = wrong kinetic chain. Change the focus and everything will fall in place.
    Check out and video tape people throwing the club out to a target. Everybody, even the so called non talents, have body language, positions and kinematic chain like a pro.
    The correct moves are already in our body. Change the focus will change the swing.
    We humans are no puppets, we are not design to consciously control our movements, we are much better following external focus, not internal focus.

  6. KevHat

    Mar 5, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    An “instructional video” that tells you everything youre doing wrong, but no solution. Fantastic.

  7. John f

    Mar 5, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    This guy pretty much just took a YT vid from Monte Scheinblum, paraphrased everything he said in the video, and slapped his own name on the article. smh.

  8. Dj

    Mar 5, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    If you are serious about long term improvement, real effective change in your game, you will need to work on the fundamentals that will put you in a position from which you do not have to recover, or execute a “fit in” move to survive. Get a good high-definition, slow-motion look at your swing, get your Trackman or Flightscope feedback and take a close look, in terms of what I’m referring to here. It will be eye-opening to say the least.

    I completely agree!

    • geohogan

      Mar 6, 2019 at 2:05 pm

      Get a good high-definition, slow-motion look at your swing.. and paralysis by analysis is bound to follow.

      The correct moves are already in our body. Change the focus will change the swing.
      We humans are no puppets, we are not design to consciously control our movements, we are much better following external focus, not internal focus…. Marcus

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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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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