For greater consistency and power, control that right knee
The golf swing’s a funny thing. Sometimes it’s racked with errors, yet somehow, at impact, everything is where it needs to be and the ball shoots off powerfully in the direction you intended. Other times, every shift, angle and hinge is perfect, yet a small misstep on the way to the ball results in shots that can only be described as horrific. In the first instance, Lady Luck is certainly on your side, but as we all know, she rarely hangs around for too long. And the fact that a single hiccup can bring your whole technique crashing down is, to put it bluntly, just the way golf is.
The majority of recreational golfers, and even some better players, suffer from chronic slicing. Anyone who has experienced this problem knows how frustrating it can be and how difficult it can be to overcome.
On September 4, 2004, the golf world lost a true, if not mysterious, legend. His name was Moe Norman, a shy, introverted man mostly known for his unorthodox swing. Standing wide at address with his arms stretched away from his body, his club some 12 inches behind the ball, Norman’s swing was unconventional. It defied all modern teaching. Yet this reticent man held more than 40 course records, recorded 17 holes-in-one and won 24 tournaments.
Like all members of the PGA Tour, I play a lot of rounds with recreational golfers in various pro-ams and charity tournaments. If there’s one thing I notice during these rounds, it’s how inconsistent most weekend players are off the tee. Obviously, the driver is the most difficult club in the bag to hit consistently, due to its long length (most off-the-rack drivers measure about 45 inches) and low degree of loft.
Golf is simple. Check that—golf should be simple. After all, the swing is basically a takeaway and a downswing. Like when you throw a baseball—you rear back then let it go. Then why do millions of golfers have such difficulty making consistent, solid contact? In my opinion, it’s because the golf swing requires coordination of not only all moving parts, but synchronization of the two halves of your body, the left and right.
When it comes to training aids, it’s important to know that they must be used properly and with regularity for improvement to take place. Most importantly, though, is choosing the proper aid for your particular problem. Like a fitted set of golf clubs, the right training aid can bring significant improvement—if it’s right for you. To make sure you choose the one that’s best suited to your problem, it’s a good idea to consult with your pro and discuss his or her feelings regarding what your needs are and what aid would be most helpful.
Sometimes it just doesn’t matter if you have great posture, a perfect spine angle and even a steady head position. As long as you’re standing too far away from the ball, you’re going to have a devil of a time hitting consistent golf shots. In fact, most students I’ve taught tend to stand too far away from the ball for reasons that make sense, such as a fear of shanking the ball off the hosel or hitting a fat shot.
You can’t fire a gun unless you pull the trigger, right? A similar concept also applies to the golf swing, which also usually requires a “trigger move” to get the body moving. Now, not everyone has a trigger, some manage to swing well from a static position to a dynamic position. But for the rest of us who often find confusion when it comes to where to start the golf swing, a trigger move can help you start swinging in a fluid and consistent manner.
Down the stretch, the last thing you want is to find yourself uncomfortable over a short putt. In most cases, the yips comes from the golfer decelerating, the putter then strays offline and well, there you have a missed putt!
Golf is a game of circles, right? The ball is round, the cup is round,the golf swing is somewhat round. So what’s all this business about having a straight spine angle? How does that have anything to do with making successful contact?
If only we could tee up every golf shot. We’d always have perfect lies, where no grass or trees or sand could get in the way of making clean contact with the ball. Of course, that isn’t the case. Between the tee and green, we have to surrender to the course and “play the ball as it lies.” That means adjusting to a number of challenging circumstances, such as plugged bunker shots and awkward stances. For this story, I’ve concentrated my efforts on just those types of lies—the ones you get where you look to your playing partners, throw your arms in the air and say “anybody have any suggestions?” Take time to practice these shots, and you won’t wonder what to do the next time you’re faced with an awkward lie.
So you think you’re a big hitter? Well, consider this. Today’s top long drivers don’t bunt the ball a measly 250 yards off the tee. Heck, a mediocre wallop drops somewhere around the 320-yard range. Frankly, these guys aren’t satisfied with anything under 400 yards when it comes time to winning a paycheck. Now that’s long!
I often long for the days when Slammin’ Sammy Snead and Gene Sarazan played the game, a couple of great sticks with personalities just as bright as their games. Well, fortunately for golf fans, there’s a new kid on the block and he’s brought a unique backstory and stellar game (albeit with a modern flair). His name is Will MacKenzie, or “Willie Mac,” as the 2006 Reno-Tahoe victor is sometimes called.
No matter where you are, where you go, or more appropriately, whom you end up playing golf with, it seems there’s always someone nearby who I like to call “the resident E.O.E. (Expert on Everything).” You know the type. It’s the fellow who knows how to help you increase your net worth and can explain how to install new copper pipes in your house without having to cut drywall. This same guy also watches a lot of golf on TV, and because he hears one or two commentators analyzing someone’s swing, he assumes their advice is well suited for you, too.
There’s nothing in golf quite like making pure contact. If you’ve never felt an absolutely pure golf shot, then you must keep reading, because I’ve got a method that will allow you to achieve this magical feeling! If you have experienced this sensation, then chances are it’s the main reason that you’re hooked on this great game. And if you love golf, I’m sure you’d like to learn to make that pure contact more consistently.
Considering the fact that Jim Furyk is the second best-ranked player in the world and he’s in the top five on the PGA Tour in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation, there’s really no need to take apart and analyze the unorthodox movements in Furyk’s unique but effective golf swing. Instead, let’s look at the good stuff we all can learn from perhaps the most underrated major championship and 12-time winner on the PGA Tour. (By the way, he’s definitely going to win a lot more.) Here you’ll see Furyk near impact as he warms up during a crisp Los Angeles morning at the Nissan Open.
Unlike the full swing, putting requires the utmost in limited and controlled movements. Any swaying, lifting or sliding can cause you to miss putts. The same holds true for your eyes. Any deviation from the golf ball through impact can lead to a variety of mis-hits that affect not only your aim but your distance control as well.
I can’t tell you how many people come to my lesson tee and say, “If I could just get rid of my baseball swing, then all my problems would be solved!” My initial thought is always: I wish you had a baseball swing, because it would help you play better golf.
No matter how hard you work at achieving a technically sound golf swing, once in a while you’ll encounter a small flaw that causes your shots to run amuck. One of the most overlooked and easy-to-fix mistakes golfers make involves the position of the hands at the top of the backswing. For all intents and purposes, you can have a perfect weight shift, a great arm extension, a powerful coil, and the perfect head and spine position, but if you don’t have your hands holding the clubshaft properly at the top of the swing—well, the downswing may as well be doomed from the start.
A plethora of training aids are available today to help improve various elements of the golf swing. From building golf muscles to learning the proper swing plane to adding flexibility, it’s all covered, even putting.
If you're serious about improving your golf game, visiting a top-notch golf school is a great idea. Single-day, weekend and week-long options are available, as well as a full array of facilities including on-site practice ranges, computer analysis systems, clubfitting, and more. Consult our golf school directory and find the program that's right for you.
Too often, I’ve watched golfers set up to the ball correctly with a consistent routine, good alignment and solid posture. But in the last few seconds of the setup, during the moment when the golfer takes a last look at the hole, the setup falls apart, gets cockeyed and the golfer can’t help but hit the ball any which way but straight. Sound familiar?
Part of being a skillful player is “reading” the situation, choosing the right shot and then being able to execute that particular play. Taking into account all your options is important, but most golfers never consider the versatility the game allows. For example, when faced with a bunker shot, most golfers think “blast.” But in some situations, thinking “chip” may produce the better result.
Bad lies are one thing, but there’s nothing worse than a situation where your backswing is completely restricted. The feeling of helplessness can be pretty disheartening. For most golfers, the only play is to chip back into the fairway—a momentum-breaker that’s not going to help you if your goal is to shoot low numbers. But take a closer look—you may be able to knock it near or even on the green if you know this savvy technique.