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The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Matt Strube is a certified golf geek who started playing golf later in life. He quickly developed a passion for the game, and in 1997, Matt and his partner wrote atheir honors thesis, ‘The Golf University’, that focused on bringing golf to the masses through specialized golf training programs. In 2012, Matt began working with Tim Overman at Golf in Motion Chicago to train his move and lower his handicap from 24 to 7 in just two-years. Matt has now partnered with Tim to bring simple and effective golf instruction to #AverageGolfers through an online workout style home training program. Matt currently works a day job in the corporate world. Tim Overman is the technical contributor to instruction articles, Co-Founder, and Director of Golf Instruction for True Motion Sports. Tim coaches golfers of all abilities out of his Chicago studio.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Lane Holt

    Aug 22, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    Mr.Strube,

    You are correct . If I told a 15 hdcp to HIT with his hands he would definitely perform as you stated- poorly !. However, I would NEVER tell someone to HIT period ! HIT is a word that I never use to teach. I would tell them that they must teach their external brains ( their hands which are the only connection to the human structure ) to perform a task that is totally foreign to the Human genetic design.
    These facts and truths have been around since 1992 and I have been trying to share this knowledge with those interested. The golf swing is not a natural action . I would recommend you check out Cortical Homunculus . This may give you insight to the Human design.
    Respectfully,

    Lane

    • MattStrube

      Aug 23, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks Mr. Holt, I’ll check it out. Always open to new ways of thinking about things and learning more. Really appreciate your comments. Matt

  2. Lane Holt

    Aug 21, 2019 at 7:32 am

    Mr,Strube,

    Nearly 50 % of our brain is dedicated to our * HANDS* , none to our feet! Our feet seem to perform quite well without our attention. Example , walking, running, etc; .
    Teaching our hands to perform this task called the golf swing in a manner that is exactly opposite to the human genetic design is the key to a successful golf swing. Our HANDS control body movements and our body will always obey the hands.
    The blueprint to a successful golf swing has been laid out for all to learn from, yet we still ignore it!
    Best ,
    Lane

    • Matt Strube

      Aug 22, 2019 at 5:29 pm

      Just saying/teaching/preaching that 50% of our brain is dedicated to our hands doesn’t get golfers better…Proper Training does, and it doesn’t start with the hands, Full Stop.

      Additionally, the other point about what you’re saying depends on the individual’s own feels. , Feel vs. Real combined with Skill Matters a lot. If you tell a 15 handicapper to use his hands to hit a golf shot, you’ll get laid over sod, blocks, pull hooks, toppers, etc. They haven’t developed the 50% of the brain that you’re telling them to use. We see a lot of those types of folks, and they first and foremost need to learn how to move their body properly, full stop. Finally, it’s all about training the right parts of the body, hands, and arms, in the right order.

      • geohogan

        Aug 22, 2019 at 7:56 pm

        I bet Mr Holt can teach the complete golf swing, as Ben Hogan did it
        in less than 30 minutes… its like dominoes when you start with the HANDS!

        • geohogan

          Aug 23, 2019 at 8:09 am

          50% of the motor cortex is devoted to hands by thousands of years of evolution, not be learning
          or teaching by a golf instructors. Its in our DNA our genetic makeup as human beings.

          Cant teach someone how to use a tool, if knowledge of the tool is incomplete.

      • geohogan

        Sep 7, 2019 at 1:10 pm

        https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/news/former-blue-jay-josh-donaldson-praises-current-young-star-bo-bichette-he-has-the-gift-020323584.html

        I took one thing away from Josh when I talked to him the first time I met him and he said your hands and your lower body always have to be in synch,” Bichette recalled, according to Longley. “That’s something since that day (I’ve) tried to do.

        What Josh Donaldson told Bo Bichette is remarkably similiar to what Mr Holt wrote.
        Maybe he also knows that 50% of the motor cortex is about supporting the intent we have for the hands?

  3. geohogan

    Aug 19, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    Balance is an autonomic mechanism to keep us upright.
    Our subconscious knows what it needs to do in order to maintain
    balance as we move 30-40 pounds (two arms and golf club) from one side of our body to the other.
    its genetic pre programming.

    Ground forces are reaction forces to intent to move weight of hands and arms. The specifics of the intent
    determines how the balance mechanism reacts. Golf instructors know the correct intents or they do not.
    If the latter, no amount of repetition or hard work will be successful.

    • MattStrube

      Aug 20, 2019 at 11:31 am

      Yes, balance is automatic, but I would say the opposite with regards to the reaction forces you mention (if I understand your comment correctly, I apologize if I misunderstood). The movement of the golf swing starts from the ground, with the feet, then moves up through the legs and then into the body’s core to rotate everything through the shot (oversimplification). The hands and arms do not move independently of the body.

      • geohogan

        Aug 20, 2019 at 8:19 pm

        With all due respect Matt, putting out my thoughts on the matter.

        Ive been taught that the hands dominate the motor cortex. ie whatever our intent is for our hands
        the body will support, subconsciously. its a survival mechanism in our genetics.
        We consume food using our hands. Balance is a big part of that support.

        Ive also been taught that the subconscious preprograms all our complex movements in fraction of time prior to the actual effort.

        Understanding the above to be true, then is it not logical that our lower body , knowing in advance
        where the weight of our hands and arms are intending to move, the subconscious balance mechanism will
        brace in advance.

        To all external observation it appears the lower body makes the first moves, true.
        If teaching or learning, it makes all the difference if the above premise are true.
        Most teach and most learn one body part a time(internal focus).

        As a result IMO, proficiency at golf is by any measure a tedious and fruitless effort, resulting in diminishing interest in the game.

        • MattStrube

          Aug 22, 2019 at 5:35 pm

          Possibly, but why does every low handicapper lose spine angle and “hump” towards the ball when they use their hands and arms to hit a golf ball? If what you’re saying is true, shouldn’t the subconsciously be able to properly shift into their left side and move their lower body like el Tigre every time? If you don’t train golfers how to use their lower body, then they won’t improve by telling them “how” to use their hands better.

          • geo

            Aug 22, 2019 at 6:43 pm

            It sounds you think you have figured out how to train a person how to balance during a complex all body motion with bodies comprised of over 200 bones and 600 muscles, rather than letting the hundreds of billions of neurons in our brain and thousands of years of evolutionary learning in our DNA do its job.

            Think about how arrogant and foolish that sounds when we have evolved to do that work subconsciously, perfectly.

            Tiger is the poster boy for bad golf instruction, one body part at a time. His swing in 2000 was perfect
            until the long line of instructors began f… with his swing and his body and his balance.

            Golfers loose spine angle , hump the goat and all kinds of other contortions because their golf instructors dont know the correct INTENTION to teach.

            Golfers are either provided with the PROPER INTENTION for use of their hands in the golf swing or if not the correct intention, golfers will suffer from evolutionary genetic tendency that causes all sorts of golf swing issues, not to mention the self inflicted damage to their bodies that will also result.

            As Mr Holt wrote, the brain makes sure the intent of the hands is supported both by the entire body and the autonomic balance system. It is the evolutionary basis of survival for all humans, even golf instructors.

            • geohogan

              Aug 22, 2019 at 6:57 pm

              and to “hit’ with the hands is absolutely the worst intention and cause of the majority of golf swing problems.

  4. GG

    Aug 18, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    I can teach the transition in 30 mins or less like dominoes.

    • Matt Strube

      Aug 19, 2019 at 12:15 pm

      If this is the Real GG, I’m sure you can…mad respect.

    • geohogan

      Aug 24, 2019 at 8:38 pm

      No doubt about it a perfect transition can be taught. What good is a perfect transition if the rest of the golf swing sucks.

      Complex movement by humans is one continuous preprogram, set up by a singular intention,
      not a patchwork of positions to piece together.

  5. Larry

    Aug 18, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Great article!

  6. Cameron Wilson

    Aug 16, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Shout out to Robbie Schremp.

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Wedge Guy: Short iron challenges — and a little insight (hopefully!)

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In my experience, almost all golfers could benefit from better short iron play. The ability to hit it closer to where you are looking with your 8-, 9- and P-irons will do more for your scoring than most anything else you can do. So, why is it that so many golfers just don’t hit the quality shots with these clubs that they do and should expect?

I chose this topic in response to an email from Phillip S., who wrote:

“I’m hitting straight and consistent most of the time but I’ve got a big problem between my 8-iron and everything else below.  I can hit my 8-iron 140-145 fairly consistently every time.  I hit my 9-iron somewhere between 110-135.  My pitching wedge is a mystery….it varies between 85 -125 yards.  No matter how “hard” I swing, I can’t seem to hit my short irons consistent distances.  It’s maddening to hit a great drive followed by a pitching wedge short of the green from 110 yards away.  What am I doing wrong?

Well, Phillip, don’t feel alone, because this is one of the most common golf issues I observe. It seems that the lion’s share of technology applied to golf clubs is focused on the long stuff, with drivers and hybrids getting the press. But I firmly believe that the short irons in nearly all “game improvement” designs are ill-suited for precise distance control, hitting shots on the optimum trajectory or knocking flags down. I’ve written about this a number of times, so a little trip back in Wedge Guy history should be enlightening. But here are some facts of golf club performance as applied to short iron play:

Fact #1. Short irons are much more similar to wedges than your middle irons. But almost all iron sets feature a consistent back design for cosmetic appeal on the store racks. And while that deep cavity and perimeter weight distribution certainly help you hit higher and more consistent shots with your 3- or 4- through 7-iron, as the loft gets in the 40-degree range and higher, that weight distribution is not your friend. Regardless of your skill level, short irons should be designed much more similar to wedges than to your middle irons.

Fact #2. As loft increases, perimeter weighting is less effective. Missed shots off of higher lofted clubs have less directional deviation than off of lower-lofted clubs. This is proven time and again on “Iron Byron” robotic testers.

Fact #3. It takes mass behind the ball to deliver consistent distances. Even on dead center hits, cavity back, thin-face irons do not deliver tack-driver distance control like a blade design. In my post of a couple of years ago, “The Round Club Mindset,” I urged readers to borrow blade-style short irons from a friend or assistant pro and watch the difference in trajectories and shotmaking. Do it! You will be surprised, enlightened, and most likely pleased with the results.

Fact #4. The 4.5-degree difference between irons is part of the problem. The industry has built irons around this formula forever, but every golfer who knows his distances can tell you that the full swing distance gap gets larger as the iron number increases, i.e. your gap between your 8- and 9-iron is probably larger than that between your 4- and 5-iron. Could there be some club tweaking called for here?

Fact #5. Your irons do not have to “match.” If you find through experimentation that you get better results with the blade style short irons, get some and have your whole set re-shafted to match, along with lengths and lie angles. These are the keys to true “matching” anyway.

So, Phillip, without knowing your swing or what brand of irons you play, I’m betting that the solution to your problems lies in these facts. Oh, and one more thing – regardless of short iron design, the harder you swing, the higher and shorter the shot will tend to go. That’s because it becomes harder and harder to stay ahead of the club through impact. Keep short iron shots at 80-85 percent power, lead with your left side and watch everything improve.

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Clement: Easily find your perfect backswing plane with this drill

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When you get on one of these, magic will happen! You can’t come too far inside or outside in the backswing, and you can’t have arms too deep or shallow at the top of the backswing nor can you be too laid off or across the line either! SEAMLESS!!

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Wedge Guy: The top 7 short game mistakes

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I’ve written hundreds of articles as “The Wedge Guy” and I’ve made it my life’s work to closely observe golfers and their short games. So, I thought I’d compile what I see into a list of what I believe are the most common mistakes golfers make around the greens that prevents them from optimizing their scoring. So here goes, not in any particular order:

  1. Tempo. Maybe the most common error I see is a tempo that is too quick and “jabby”. That probably comes from the misunderstood and overdone advice “accelerate through the ball.” I like to compare playing a golf hole to painting a room, and your short shots are your “trim brushes”. They determine how the finished work turns out, and a slower and more deliberate stroke delivers more precision as you get closer to the green and hole.
  2. Set Up/Posture. To hit good chips and pitches, you need to “get down”. Bend your knees a bit more and grip down on the club – it puts you closer to your work for better precision. Too many golfers I see stand up too tall and grip the club to the end.
  3. Grip Pressure. A very light grip on the club is essential to good touch and a proper release through the impact zone. Trust me, you cannot hold a golf club too lightly – your body won’t let you. Concentrate on your forearms; if you can feel any tenseness in the muscles in your forearms, you are holding on too tightly.
  4. Hand position. Watch the tour players hit short shots on TV. Their arms are hanging naturally so that their hands are very close to their upper thighs at address and through impact, but the club is not tilted up on its toe. Copy that and your short game will improve dramatically.
  5. Lack of Body/Core Rotation. When you are hitting short shots, the hands and arms have stay in front of the torso throughout the swing. If you don’t rotate your chest and shoulders back and through, you won’t develop good consistency in distance or contact.
  6. Club selection. Every pitch or chip is different, so don’t try to hit them all with the same club. I see two major errors here. Some golfers always grab the sand wedge when they miss a green. If you have lots of green to work with and don’t need that loft, a PW, 9-iron or even less will give you much better results. The other error is seen in those golfers who are “afraid” of their wedge and are trying to hit tough recoveries with 8- and 9-irons. That doesn’t work either. Go to your practice green and see what happens with different clubs, then take that knowledge to the course.
  7. Clubhead/grip relationship. This error falls into two categories. One is those golfers who forward press so much that they dramatically change the loft of the club. At address and impact the grip should be slightly ahead of the clubhead. I like to focus on the hands, rather than the club, and just think of my left hand leading my right through impact. Which brings me to the other error – allowing the clubhead to pass the hands through impact. If you let the clubhead do that, good shots just cannot happen. And that is caused by you trying to “hit” up on the ball, rather than swinging the entire club through impact.

So, there are my top 7. Obviously, there are others, but if you eliminate those, your short game will get better in a hurry.

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