The Wedge Guy: You can change your stripes
Over my 40-plus years in the golf industry and a lifetime in the game, I have had the opportunity to observe thousands of recreational golfers of all skill levels. I believe the common thread between all of us – from scratch player to high-handicapper – is that we all would like to get better. And in the context of golf, “better” usually means more consistent.
While I am blessed to have been introduced to golf early in life by a scratch player father [I actually do not remember life before golf], I am totally aware that most golfers took up the game much later and are self-taught for the most part. And therein lies the problem that obstructs meaningful improvement for so many.
It is often said that the golf swing is very unnatural – of course it is, because there is nothing else in your life that requires that particular set of body movements. But under detailed “de-construction, I’ve long believed the golf swing is made up of a series of very natural movements that anyone without serious physical infirmities can learn to execute.
As I observe recreational players, it is readily apparent to me that the movement most of them exhibit is the result of a serious misunderstanding of just what the objective is to move a golf ball from here to there. Logic drives this, as you are standing there with a striking implement in your hands, and there is a ball sitting there that needs to be propelled “that way.”
The natural tendency, therefore, is to rely on whatever eye/hand coordination you may possess, wrap that club around behind you somehow, and deliver a blow to the back of the ball, all while controlling the club primarily with your master hand — which is your most developed eye/hand coordination.
Great — it makes sense — but that notion is totally wrong.
At its simplest, the movement required to efficiently propel a golf ball is a learned method of swinging the club, first into the end of the backswing, then through the ball to a full finish. The legs and body core provide the power, and the arms and hands guide that rapidly moving clubhead through the ball into a follow-through. It’s not a “hit.”
Once the swinging motion is learned to some level of repeatability, then you can easily learn how to stand so that the ball will be precisely in the way of that swing. And if you can grasp that concept — the need to evolve your hitting action into a swinging action — you have made the first giant step to “changing your stripes.”
The “secret” is that such a swinging motion is much easier to learn how to repeat than is a “hit” at the ball. So, if you want to make giant strides in your golf – regardless of your skill level – figure out how to evolve your “hit” into a “swing”. And I’ll share that this un-learning and re-learning process is best done far away from the golf ball.
Of course, I cannot help you completely rebuild your golf movement in this blog, but I can share one simple drill will help you “change your stripes” for the 2022 golf season, no matter what level of skill you have attained to date — that is, if you really want to take on that challenge. And that drill is simply this:
Get a club – preferably a short iron or wedge – and place only your lead/upper hand on the grip. This is where a sound, fundamental grip begins, by the way. The handle should be underneath the heel pad of your hand, and the fingers wrapped around it. You should feel control of the club in the last three fingers, not in the thumb and forefinger.
With this hold on the club, begin to move it back and through in short pitch-shot-length swings using only your lead hand. Keep your master hand totally off the handle. That will force you to push the club into the backswing, and then use the rotation of your body core to pull the club through to the finish. As you develop a swinging rhythm, gradually extend the length of the backswing and follow through by allowing your shoulders and hips to turn more, which will then cause your weight to move into your rear leg on the backswing and your forward leg on the follow-through.
Because of this hold on the club, you will feel your lead hand moving through “the impact zone” closer to your body, and you’ll feel the clubhead rotating through impact, also because of this hold on the club.
As you swing the club back and forth repeatedly, your body will find the most efficient way to achieve this movement within the boundaries set by any physical limitations you may have. And that will be pretty close the foundation of a repeatable, powerful golf swing.
At this early stage of learning, don’t even think about a ball or its location in your stance. In fact, let your stance change as it must to allow you to remain balanced as you make these back-and-through swings. Allow the clubhead to swing a foot or more off the floor to get the feel and flow of this new swinging motion, which will feel very different from the “hit” you have always relied upon.
As you get more and more comfortable with this motion, you can then allow the club to brush the floor to move into a proper swing plane. With that figured out, then and only then you can let your master hand return to the club so the motion is more similar to a real golf swing.
Yes, the golf swing is an unnatural movement, but this drill will help you make it much more natural and take the first giant step to “changing your stripes” for the 2022 season.
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Clement: “Infallible” release drill to add 30 yards to your drives
Yes, you heard it here: INFALLIBLE! This drill will end all drills as “the” go to drill when your golf swing is hangin’ on or being too forceful! None of my students in the last month either online or in person, French or English, male or female, have messed this up. Pure Wisdom! And we share it with you here.
Kelley: How a change in awareness can influence your body turn
A simple change of awareness can help you understand how the body can naturally turn in the swing. An important concept to understand: the direction the body moves is the engine to the swing. Research also shows the direction the body turns can be just as important as the amount of turn.
Golf is hard because the ball is on the ground, yet we are trying to hit it forward towards a target. With our head looking down at the ball, it’s easy to place our attention (what we are mindful of) on the ground, losing awareness to where we are going. This can make the body move in all sorts of directions, making hitting the ball towards a target difficult.
But imagine if we looked out over our lead shoulder with our attention to the target and made a backswing. Being mindful of the body, the body would naturally turn in a direction and amount that would be geared to move towards the target in the swing. (Imagine the position of your body and arm when throwing a ball). After proper set-up angles, this will give the look of coiling around the original spine angle established at Address.
With this simple awareness change, common unwanted tendencies naturally self-organize out of the backswing. Tendencies like swaying and tilting (picture below) would not conceptually make sense when moving the body in the direction we want to hit the ball.
A great concept or drill to get this feel besides looking over your shoulder is to grab a range basket and set into your posture with Hitting Angles. Keeping the basket level in front of you, swing the basket around you as if throwing it forward towards the target.
When doing the drill, be aware of not only the direction the body turns, but the amount. The drill will first help you understand the concept. Next make some practice swings. When swinging, look over your lead shoulder and slowly replicate how the basket drill made your body move.
The Wedge Guy: What really needs fixing in your game?
I always find it interesting to watch how golfers interact with the practice range, if they do so at all. I certainly can figure out how to understand that some golfers just do not really want to get better — at least not enough to spend time on the practice range trying to improve.
What is most puzzling to me is how many golfers completely ignore the rationale for going to the range to at least warm up before they head to the first tee. Why anyone would set aside 4-6 hours of their day for a round of golf, and then not even give themselves a chance to do their best is beyond me. But today, I’m writing for those of you who really do want to improve your golf scores and your enjoyment of the game.
I’ve seen tons of research for my entire 40 years in this industry that consistently shows the number one goal of all golfers, of any skill level, from 100-shooter to tour professional, is simply to hit better golf shots more often. And while our definition of “better” is certainly different based on our respective skill level, the game is just more fun when your best shots happen more often and your worst shots are always getting better.
Today’s article is triggered by what we saw happen at the Valspar tour event this past Sunday. While Taylor Moore certainly had some big moments in a great final round, both Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk threw away their chances to win with big misses down the stretch, both of them with driver. Spieth’s wayward drive into the water on the 16th and Schenk’s big miss left on the 18th spelled doom for both of them.
It amazes me how the best players on the planet routinely hit the most God-awful shots with such regularity, given the amazing talents they all have. But those guys are not what I’m talking about this week. In keeping with the path of the past few posts, I’m encouraging each and every one of you to think about your most recent rounds (if you are playing already this year), or recall the rounds you finished the season with last year. What you are looking for are you own “big misses” that kept you from scoring better.
Was it a few wayward drives that put you in trouble or even out of bounds? Or maybe loose approach shots that made birdie impossible and par super challenging? Might your issue have been some missed short putts or bad long putts that led to a three-putt? Most likely for any of you, you can recall a number of times where you just did not give yourself a good chance to save par or bogey from what was a not-too-difficult greenside recovery.
The point is, in order to get consistently better, you need to make an honest assessment of where you are losing strokes and then commit to improving that part of your game. If it isn’t your driving that causes problems, contain that part of practice or pre-round warm-ups to just a half dozen swings or so, for the fun of “the big stick”. If your challenges seem to be centered around greenside recoveries, spend a lot more time practicing both your technique and imagination – seeing the shot in your mind and then trying to execute the exact distance and trajectory of the shot required. Time on the putting green will almost always pay off on the course.
But, if you are genuinely interested in improving your overall ball-striking consistency, you would be well-served to examine your fundamentals, starting with the grip and posture/setup. It is near impossible to build a repeating golf swing if those two fundamentals are not just right. And if those two things are fundamentally sound, the creation of a repeating golf swing is much easier.
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: It’s not all about distance
- The Wedge Guy: Are you really willing to get better at golf?
- The Wedge Guy: Anatomy of a wedge head
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Feb 9, 2022 at 12:05 pm
Yeah, this is why there is an image of Seve doing the upper cut with his trail hand LOL
You guys need to quit “teaching” because you don’t have a clue