Four things you shouldn't copy from today's top touring professionals
It’s no secret that you can learn a lot from watching the world’s best golfers. They hit some amazing shots, make incredible putts and hit the ball extraordinary lengths. And while there’s a lot of swing cues we should try and copy from the pros, there are four things I think most amateurs have no business trying to duplicate.
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.
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.
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.
Over the years, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the proper position of the right elbow at the top of the backswing. Some players like John Daly swing with their elbow flying out, while others like Sergio Garcia keep it in, proving that it’s possible to hit great shots with either method. However, my biomechanical studies with PGA Tour pros using the K-Vest, developed by Bentley Kinetics, indicate that the flying right-elbow position favors a fade ballflight while a tucked right elbow promotes a draw.
Elementary tips and do-it-yourself teaching aids for keeping your swing in shape during the off-season
When it comes to posture, the key is to establish your natural spine angle, which will allow the body to rotate freely throughout the golf swing. A good training aid to help improve your posture can be fashioned with a broomstick, sponge, six-inch ruler, scissors, pen and a belt.
If you’re one of the millions of golfers who battles a slice, odds are you compensate for the left-to-right ballflight by aiming to the left. However, no matter how far to the left you aim, the ball still slices to the right—sometimes worse than it did before. On the occasion you do hit it straight, well, it doesn’t do you much good because you were aimed toward the trees or deep rough on the left. Hmm—you’re doing what you think will fix the problem, but it’s only making the problem worse.
Undoubtedly, the most embarrassing tee shot in golf is the drive that pops straight up, barely clearing the tee box. The pop-up is an agonizing mis-hit most often caused by an excessive forward weight shift on the downswing and a club that approaches the ball on a very steep angle of attack. The steep descent de-lofts the clubface to such a degree that the topline of the club effectively becomes the leading edge. The result? Not only a humiliating pop-up, but one of the most hated marks in golf: a scuff on the crown of the clubhead. Yuck.
If you tend to skull your fairway woods, it’s because you’re catching the ball on the upswing, often caused by trying to scoop or lift the ball up. To fix this problem, you have to understand that solid ballstriking is sometimes a game of opposites. To hit the ball higher with a fairway wood, you actually have to hit down—as opposed to up—on the ball.
You’re enjoying a great day on the links, and you have an easy pitch to the last green where a par or even a bogey will give you your best score in a month. Easy pitch, easy swing, stick it close. But instead, some evil dragon maliciously guides your hosel toward your ball, and you shank it right of the greenside bunker. The shot so unnerves you that you proceed to shank a succession of shots around the perimeter of the green counterclockwise.
As an instructor, one of the most common swing flaws I see is the dreaded reverse pivot. This move wreaks havoc on any golfer’s ability to hit consistently good golf shots. One of the best ways to overcome the reverse pivot is to try a drill designed to make it impossible to hold your weight back on your downswing. I call it the baseball drill, or the “Happy Gilmore,” named after the title character in the film who steps into the golf ball the way a field goal kicker lunges toward the ball.
One of the most common causes of bad pitches and chips is the dominant
hand (right for righties) taking over the swing. The result is
typically scooped or thin contact that produces fat or sculled shots.
To alleviate this tendency, learn to make your hands work together by
experimenting with the triple-overlap grip. This technique effectively
takes the dominant hand out of the swing, and promotes a descending
blow, which is absolutely critical to creating crisp contact and
Quick Fixes To Save You From Suffering A Bad Day On The Course
The situation: You’re on the range hitting balls, extremely off line
and not very solid, with only 10 minutes remaining before your assigned
tee time. The remedy: W.O.O.D.—quick adjustments that Work Only One
Day, otherwise known as the “quick fix.” These “Band-Aids” are a
necessary part of the game and come in handy when you don’t have time
to seek out a long-term correction from your teaching pro. The key is
knowing what needs adjusting. If you choose the wrong adjustment,
things could get worse.
In with the new. The swings of today?s top young golfers are vastly more efficient than those used by yesterday's heroes, which begs the question
The trophy cases of the likes of Nicklaus, Irwin, Miller, Stewart and
Trevino are full of championship hardware, but all had swings that
would now be considered old-fashioned. Yesterdays players used a
significant amount of lateral lower-body movement, which placed a lot
of undue stress on the neck, hips and back. The great young players of
today strive for a more stacked position at impact, which is both more
efficient and much healthier for the body.
Most of my students struggle with the slice. Many of these golfers have
serious swing issues, but the majority certainly possess enough talent
and an understanding of the golf swing to keep slices at bay. The
problem is theyre trapped into hitting slices because their setup
facilitates swinging on the out-in path to which all slices owe their
The majority of recreational golfers fail to achieve the balance needed
to excel at golf or any athletic activity. One of the reasons why most
golfers dont swing in balance is that they swing too hard. A rule I
like to impose on my students is Swing as hard as you want to as long
as you finish the swing in balance.
Sometimes golf just isn’t fair. Professional baseball has Spring Training. The NFL and NBA have training camps and a handful of preseason scrimmages. But golf? Well, it’s up to each and every professional to get their game on track on their own and show up ready to compete at the highest level. There’s no organized stretching sessions (Can you see Tim Herron or Phil Mickelson showing up?), no group mental conditioning, no preseason practice tournaments. Professionals are left to prepare by themselves.
As a golf instructor and PGA Tour caddy, I’ve seen my fair share of
golf swings, ranging from the sweet rhythms of the best players in the
world to the herky-jerky moves of the frustrated first-timer. Yet
despite the huge gap in natural ability between the novice and the
professional, I’ve learned it’s not uncommon for the world’s elite
players to struggle with a few of the same mechanics and
course-management issues that a casual 18-handicapper might face during
a round. The swings of touring professionals may be more advanced, but
nobody is ever really immune to the occasional swing flaw or mental
mistake. We’re all human after all.
Match your swing to your body type for maximum performance
Not all athletes or golfers have an extreme body type. Instead, a great
number of players fall into the in-between category, meaning they
have a relatively average build with a solid combination of
flexibility and strength. If you have this type of body, you need to
develop a swing that takes advantage of both attributes, not just one
or the other. This body type is best suited to a Leverage swing.
Old-school golf instruction is full of imagery that was originally
created to help players make what were perceived as the the proper
moves in the swing. In those days, many of the technical aspects of the
golf swing werent completely understood, largely due to the lack of
video technology that exists today. Instead, players mostly relied on
feel, natural talent and repetition to hone their technique and overall
game. Not surprisingly, the average scores of recreational golfers
barely ever improved significantly, other than what was delivered by
technological advances in equipment and golf course conditioning.
Look at the end of your swing to find and fix hidden flaws
Basically, there are only two positions in the golf swing: the address
and the finish. Everything else is a motion and, as such, difficult to
analyze. But the finish is static and allows for serious self-analysis.
If you know what to look for, then how you end your swing can give you
some good ideas of whats going on in your motion.