Sunday, June 1, 2003
Dispelling The Myths
Forget the evils you've learned and get your game on track
Myth 3 “Shift Your Weight On The Backswing”
“Shift your weight on the backswing” is another golf instruction myth that’s often taught—and just as often misunderstood. You do want your weight to move to your right side during the backswing (for a right-handed golfer), but you don’t want your weight to move outside the right hip. Unfortunately, for many amateur golfers, shifting the weight during the backswing entails moving the back hip laterally, away from the target, also known as “swaying.” This move not only tends to create a reverse pivot, but also hinders the proper turning of the shoulders and hips. In addition, a lateral move of the back hip makes it much more difficult to move the body toward the target in the downswing, leading to poor impact and numerous fat and thin shots. Finally, an improper lateral move in the backswing increases the need for the hands and arms to control the club.
The proper way to shift your body weight in the backswing is to turn your back hip in a clockwise direction, behind your body, instead of moving it laterally. This type of move will encourage your body to stay between your feet, increasing both leverage and power. A sharper, more substantial turn of the shoulders also will be possible, which enables the body to move into the ball properly at impact, resulting in longer, straighter shots.
Myth 4 “Coil The Shoulders Around The Hips”
Creating power by coiling the shoulders around stable hips is a great technique if you have the flexibility and balance of Fred Couples. But because the vast majority of golfers in the world simply can’t rotate their shoulders substantially without also rotating their hips, this technique is one that hurts more people than it helps. The most common problem related to this technique is the creation of an overly steep, outside-in swing plane that produces mostly slices and pulls. By trying to create more torque and more power, most golfers actually lose distance, not only due to slicing, but also because of an overall shortening of the swing itself.
My recommendation is to use the entire body to turn against the ground, instead of just using the shoulders against the hips. This technique is much easier and produces much better results. The main reason for this is fairly simple: Body torque is needed most in the start of the downswing, not at the top of the swing. By using your entire body to coil instead of just the shoulders, you’ll increase power and, at the same time, promote an inside-out swing.
Myth 5 “Tuck The Right Arm Close To The Body”
It used to be standard procedure to instruct beginning golfers to keep their right arm close to their body throughout the backswing (for a right-hander). But while this type of swing may look neat and tidy, it limits what you can do with the club. Specifically, tucking your right arm close to your body severely limits the arc of your backswing, which is a great way to reduce power. But a loss of power isn’t the only problem with this technique, as golfers with tucked right arms also tend to suffer from extremely inside takeaways, which can lead to numerous problems, including an over-the-top downswing path. Plus, getting your arms stuck too far behind your body in the downswing makes synchronizing the movements of the arms and body nearly impossible.
Jack Nicklaus is one of the best examples of a pretty good golfer who not only didn’t tuck his right elbow into his body on the backswing, but instead actually let it fly. Not that you need to “fly” your right elbow, but getting it away from your body is a must if you hope to hit the ball with authority. Freeing up your right elbow will greatly increase the width of your backswing, producing a larger swing arc and substantially more speed and power through impact. Your accuracy also will improve, due to the fact that your arms will be more in front of your body, promoting a more on-plane swing.
Myth 6 "Finish High”
The “finish with the high hands” myth might be the worst piece of traditional golf instruction to date. Of course, when you go back and look at pictures of many of the all-time greats like Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer, you’ll see high hands at the finish. You’ll also see big-time reverse-C back positions that have left both players with a lot of pain. But the reverse-C isn’t the only bad result of a high-hands finish. Other major problems caused by positioning too much weight on your back leg at the finish are inconsistent contact and reduced power.
Instead of hands high in the finish, I like to see a significantly flatter position that encourages stable posture and a much more comfortable and healthy position for your back. This more rotational type of finish encourages the hips to turn through impact, which increases clubhead speed and brings the club more on-plane. A proper release of the right side of the body through impact is also more likely to occur, which reduces the need for excessive arm and hand manipulation. Plus, your swing will simply look and feel better with a flatter finish.
Senior Instruction Editor and PGA pro Brady Riggs teaches at Woodley Lakes G.C. in Van Nuys, Calif. Special thanks to model Michael Young.
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