Sunday, June 1, 2003
Dispelling The Myths
Forget the evils you've learned and get your game on trackThere are a number of reasons why the majority of recreational golfers never seem to get better. Lack of serious practice and playing time are major contributors, as are a lack of proper physical conditioning and improperly fitted clubs. But perhaps the most significant cause of most golfers’ inability to improve is poor instruction. I’m not necessarily referring to what your local PGA professional told you at a recent lesson, but more to what you’ve probably read or heard over the years, maybe from your father or a good friend. Anyone who has played golf at all is familiar with the old adages, “Keep your head still” and “Finish high,” and most of us have tried at one time or another to swing with these things in mind. These error-fueled tips have stood the test of time because, on the surface, they appear sound. Their intended application, however, is all too often misunderstood, leading to poor swing thoughts and techniques that destroy any chance of solid shotmaking. Moreover, many, if not most of the “old sayings” regarding golf instruction are just wrong.
The good news is that times are changing for the better. With the use of modern video techniques, as well as more intense technical analysis, many modern golf professionals have found the truth behind the various myths and have tailored their instruction accordingly. By incorporating the “good” swing techniques and ridding your game of the “bad” ones, I guarantee you’ll be able to develop a more consistent and powerful swing. We’ll discuss six myths here—avoid these and you’ll be on your way to lasting, positive improvement.
Myth 1 "Stay Behind The Ball"
We’ve all tried this one—most likely have done it wrong more than our share of times. The origin of the “stay behind the ball” myth can undoubtedly be traced to some ancient golf instructor’s desire to prevent his student from sliding past the ball before impact. And it’s true, moving laterally in the downswing to the point where your legs are past the ball is bad technique and a great way to hit short, weak shots.
“Staying behind the ball” for most golfers means not rotating enough through impact, and instead, leaning back on the rear foot. This leaned-back position not only puts significant strain on your back, but also causes a ton of problems in the swing, most notably a breakdown of the arm structure and wrists at impact and a high incidence of the dreaded “chicken wing.”
Instead of trying to stay behind the ball, allow your head to lead your upper body toward the target on the downswing and through impact. I know it sounds contradictory to what you’ve probably been taught, but this is the technique most good players use. Not only will moving your upper body forward create a more “stacked” position (your upper body straight above your lower body), but it will also encourage a flat left wrist at impact—a must for solid contact.
Myth 2 “Keep Your Head Still”
This is one of the most misunderstood myths in golf instruction. Yes, most fundamentally sound golfers maintain a certain degree of stability in their neck and head during the swing, but locking them in place, which many recreational golfers attempt to do, is a big mistake.
In fact, the head should move laterally in the backswing (away from the target) and then toward the target in the downswing. If you lock your head in place during the backswing, a number of bad things can and will happen, including the dreaded reverse pivot. In addition, a severely reduced shoulder turn also is likely to occur, limiting clubhead speed and potential power. A lack of shoulder turn will also tend to cause your hands and arms to become too active, forcing the club straight up and off-plane, instead of around your body. Another bad result of locking your head in place is a dropping of your head, which leads to a change in spine angle and an “off-plane” swing.
By allowing your head to move properly during the downswing, a number of good things can happen. Most importantly, it will encourage a free and complete shoulder turn, creating a dynamic, athletic motion. Also, the shoulders will be able to turn on the proper plane because the spine angle achieved at address will have been maintained. Finally, properly moving your head will reduce the need for excessive hand and arm movement during the swing, increasing accuracy and consistency.
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