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Are you sure it’s your technique?

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There are a couple of common phrases I often hear when meeting a new pupil on the lesson tee for the first time

“I know my problem is a slice because the face is open,” is one. Another popular phrase is: “I should be able to hit it farther. I am just not flexible enough.” Then there’s my favorite, “I keep lifting my head.”

These are all great phrases that every golfer, including me, has heard or said in their golfing careers. The funny thing is that most golfers continue to say them time and time again, year after year and see no improvement. What’s more, each year they go to their golf professional and ask for a technique change, and sometimes that technique doesn’t improve their shot, so they’re back to square one. Here come those sayings again!

So why are golfers not improving?

As a coach, I feel golfers need to understand where their problem really is and what actually needs to be done to change it. There are four reasons why golfers struggle to improve their game and ball striking, shoot lower scores and reduce their handicaps. For me it is not always technique.

The four areas I want to share with you are:

Capture

Concept

Whenever a player tells me they are slicing, my next question will almost always be, “So your ball starts left of target?” This often brings a puzzled look, generally because they don’t know; they see the curve and assume that it’s slice. My advice for any player who struggles with direction is first understand two things: where the ball starts relative to YOUR target and how the ball curves. Once you know this, you’ll understand that the club face is responsible for the initial start direction, and swing direction is more responsible for curve.

Look at the shots below and identify your own shot pattern. Are you naming your shots correctly?

Check out picture below.

Capture

Another example of a concept issue for golfers is how a ball gets in the air. When I ask a player who struggles to get the ball in the air what they think is wrong, they often say, “I didn’t get underneath it.” This is a clear misunderstanding of the concept of how a ball is hit in the air, which often see leads to the technical fault of “flicking” or “scooping.”

Here is the correct answer: A ball on the ground hit with an iron gains height due to the angles created by the loft of the club, a DOWNWARD action of a club, club head speed and good solid contact with some shaft lean.

Check out your club line to help you with this concept:

Concept1Concept2

Place your 7 iron on the ground and notice the natural angle of the shaft. It will lean forward. If it is designed with that in mind, it would make sense that it needs to get to something similar at impact.

 

Concept4Concept3

By changing concept, you could go from the left picture to the right picture. That will help with your ball flight.

So if you know that a downward action helped to create a shot that gets in the air, would you try to “get under it?”

Next time you’re wondering why your golf isn’t improving, don’t go straight to your old technique tips. Find out what needs to happen, whether you or anyone else attempts that shot, and it will have a bearing on your technique.

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Alan is a PGA AA professional working in Cambridgeshire in the UK. As an amateur, Alan got to a +1 handicap, representing Bedfordshire County at all levels. After turning professional at 19, Alan spent three years playing on mini tours. After that, he received the PGA foundation degree at Birmingham University. After starting his own academy at the age of 25, Alan continued to work with golfers of all abilities from complete beginners to elite level, being the head coach for Cambridgeshire’s County golf team. Alan is also a qualified level 3 personal trainer and NASM golf fitness specialist. Currently, he is head professional of Girton Golf Club, building a strong junior development program as well as creating his own golf fitness brand. Alan believes in a full holistic approach to coaching golf rather than teaching the golf swing, with all elements being important to reach a person's goals. alanfletcherpga.wordpress.com www.alanfletchergolf.com

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. JHM

    Oct 2, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Good first article. Look forward to reading more.

  2. Alan

    Sep 24, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Jack, great comment the article is a basic overview. The path and face are relative to each other and the target line. We are also are forgetting the angle of attack plays a part in swing direction. I think players have a confusion on path vs plane. Without being too technical swing path is the direction CoG is travelling through impact. Check out some of Joseph Mayo’s videos on you tube, or by all means feel free to email me for a Skype chat. Thanks

    Thanks for all the comments folks on my first article though

  3. Jack

    Sep 23, 2013 at 12:50 am

    “understand that the club face is responsible for the initial start direction, and swing direction is more responsible for curve.”

    I know there’s been literature written that agrees with this. I’m still stuck in the old school. Please help me understand. So if I swing a straight swing path (not inside out or outside in) and my clubface is open the ball would go right and straight (with no curve)? Seems weird. I usually find that if I do an inside out swing, and keep the clubface neutral it results in a push. I’ve tried doing an outside in swing path and if the clubface is more neutral to slightly open I hit a fade. If I accidentally close the clubface at impact (which is a habit of mine) the ball starts left and curves left. So this new idea baffles me. Please help me understand. Thanks.

  4. naflack

    Sep 17, 2013 at 1:49 am

    the 2 best things that ever happened to my game were 1)watching david duval hit balls with his head turned towards the target and 2)watching a video explaining that lag happens on its own, you cant force it. that was the last time i ever tried to keep my head down or create lag and my push fade disappeared…ive consistently broken 80 ever since.

  5. paul

    Sep 17, 2013 at 12:25 am

    My friend had a 30-40 yard slice. i told him it wasn’t the face angle it was his path. so i put a head cover behind and to the outside and told him to not hit it. he hit 20 draws in a row before he hit a slice, followed by more draws again. he’s a good student.

  6. Tom

    Sep 16, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    this is a great article. Now I have too re-think my set-up..hmmmmm

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The easiest-to-learn golf basic

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My golf learning began with this simple fact – if you don’t have a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, it is practically impossible for your body to execute a fundamentally sound golf swing. I’m still a big believer that the golf swing is much easier to execute if you begin with the proper hold on the club.

As you might imagine, I come into contact with hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. And it is very rare to see a good player with a bad hold on the golf club. There are some exceptions, for sure, but they are very few and very far between, and they typically have beat so many balls with their poor grip that they’ve found a way to work around it.

The reality of biophysics is that the body moves only in certain ways – and the particulars of the way you hold the golf club can totally prevent a sound swing motion that allows the club to release properly through the impact zone. The wonderful thing is that anyone can learn how to put a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, and you can practice it anywhere your hands are not otherwise engaged, like watching TV or just sitting and relaxing.

Whether you prefer an overlap, interlock or full-finger (not baseball!) grip on the club, the same fundamentals apply.  Here are the major grip faults I see most often, in the order of the frequency:

Mis-aligned hands

By this I mean that the palms of the two hands are not parallel to each other. Too many golfers have a weak left hand and strong right, or vice versa. The easiest way to learn how to hold the club with your palms aligned properly is to grip a plain wooden ruler or yardstick. It forces the hands to align properly and shows you how that feels. If you grip and re-grip a yardstick several times, then grip a club, you’ll see that the learning curve is almost immediate.

The position of the grip in the upper/left hand

I also observe many golfers who have the butt of the grip too far into the heel pad of the upper hand (the left hand for right-handed players). It’s amazing how much easier it is to release the club through the ball if even 1/4-1/2″ of the butt is beyond the left heel pad. Try this yourself to see what I mean.  Swing the club freely with just your left hand and notice the difference in its release from when you hold it at the end of the grip, versus gripping down even a half inch.

To help you really understand how this works, go to the range and hit shots with your five-iron gripped down a full inch to make the club the same length as your seven-iron. You will probably see an amazing shot shape difference, and likely not see as much distance loss as you would expect.

Too much lower (right) hand on the club

It seems like almost all golfers of 8-10 handicap or higher have the club too far into the palm of the lower hand, because that feels “good” if you are trying to control the path of the clubhead to the ball. But the golf swing is not an effort to hit at the ball – it is a swing of the club. The proper hold on the club has the grip underneath the pad at the base of the fingers. This will likely feel “weak” to you — like you cannot control the club like that. EXACTLY. You should not be trying to control the club with your lower/master hand.

Gripping too tightly

Nearly all golfers hold the club too tightly, which tenses up the forearms and prevents a proper release of the club through impact. In order for the club to move back and through properly, you must feel that the club is controlled by the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. If you engage your thumbs and forefingers in “holding” the club, the result will almost always be a grip that is too tight. Try this for yourself. Hold the club in your upper hand only, and squeeze firmly with just the last three fingers, with the forefinger and thumb off the club entirely. You have good control, but your forearms are not tense. Then begin to squeeze down with your thumb and forefinger and observe the tensing of the entire forearm. This is the way we are made, so the key to preventing tenseness in the arms is to hold the club very lightly with the “pinchers” — the thumbs and forefingers.

So, those are what I believe are the four fundamentals of a good grip. Anyone can learn them in their home or office very quickly. There is no easier way to improve your ball striking consistency and add distance than giving more attention to the way you hold the golf club.

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Clement: Stop ripping off your swing with this drill!

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Not the dreaded headcover under the armpit drill! As if your body is defective and can’t function by itself! Have you seen how incredible the human machine is with all the incredible feats of agility all kinds of athletes are accomplishing? You think your body is so defective (the good Lord is laughing his head off at you) that it needs a headcover tucked under the armpit so you can swing like T-Rex?

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How a towel can fix your golf swing

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This is a classic drill that has been used for decades. However, the world of marketed training aids has grown so much during that time that this simple practice has been virtually forgotten. Because why teach people how to play golf using everyday items when you can create and sell a product that reinforces the same thing? Nevertheless, I am here to give you helpful advice without running to the nearest Edwin Watts or adding something to your Amazon cart.

For the “scoring clubs,” having a solid connection between the arms and body during the swing, especially through impact, is paramount to creating long-lasting consistency. And keeping that connection throughout the swing helps rotate the shoulders more to generate more power to help you hit it farther. So, how does this drill work, and what will your game benefit from it? Well, let’s get into it.

Setup

You can use this for basic chip shots up to complete swings. I use this with every club in my bag, up to a 9 or 8-iron. It’s natural to create incrementally more separation between the arms and body as you progress up the set. So doing this with a high iron or a wood is not recommended.

While you set up to hit a ball, simply tuck the towel underneath both armpits. The length of the towel will determine how tight it will be across your chest but don’t make it so loose that it gets in the way of your vision. After both sides are tucked, make some focused swings, keeping both arms firmly connected to the body during the backswing and follow through. (Note: It’s normal to lose connection on your lead arm during your finishing pose.) When you’re ready, put a ball in the way of those swings and get to work.

Get a Better Shoulder Turn

Many of us struggle to have proper shoulder rotation in our golf swing, especially during long layoffs. Making a swing that is all arms and no shoulders is a surefire way to have less control with wedges and less distance with full swings. Notice how I can get in a similar-looking position in both 60° wedge photos. However, one is weak and uncontrollable, while the other is strong and connected. One allows me to use my larger muscles to create my swing, and one doesn’t. The follow-through is another critical point where having a good connection, as well as solid shoulder rotation, is a must. This drill is great for those who tend to have a “chicken wing” form in their lead arm, which happens when it becomes separated from the body through impact.

In full swings, getting your shoulders to rotate in your golf swing is a great way to reinforce proper weight distribution. If your swing is all arms, it’s much harder to get your weight to naturally shift to the inside part of your trail foot in the backswing. Sure, you could make the mistake of “sliding” to get weight on your back foot, but that doesn’t fix the issue. You must turn into your trial leg to generate power. Additionally, look at the difference in separation between my hands and my head in the 8-iron examples. The green picture has more separation and has my hands lower. This will help me lessen my angle of attack and make it easier to hit the inside part of the golf ball, rather than the over-the-top move that the other picture produces.

Stay Better Connected in the Backswing

When you don’t keep everything in your upper body working as one, getting to a good spot at the top of your swing is very hard to do. It would take impeccable timing along with great hand-eye coordination to hit quality shots with any sort of regularity if the arms are working separately from the body.

Notice in the red pictures of both my 60-degree wedge and 8-iron how high my hands are and the fact you can clearly see my shoulder through the gap in my arms. That has happened because the right arm, just above my elbow, has become totally disconnected from my body. That separation causes me to lift my hands as well as lose some of the extension in my left arm. This has been corrected in the green pictures by using this drill to reinforce that connection. It will also make you focus on keeping the lead arm close to your body as well. Because the moment either one loses that relationship, the towel falls.

Conclusion

I have been diligent this year in finding a few drills that target some of the issues that plague my golf game; either by simply forgetting fundamental things or by coming to terms with the faults that have bitten me my whole career. I have found that having a few drills to fall back on to reinforce certain feelings helps me find my game a little easier, and the “towel drill” is most definitely one of them.

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