At 46 years of age, you’d think Tour veteran Kenny Perry would be struggling to keep up with today’s young guns. After all, the closer players get to the Champions Tour, the shorter they’re supposed to hit it. Not Perry. As of this year’s PLAYERS Championship, the Kentuckian is ranked 21st in Driving Distance, placing him six spots (and 1.1 yards) ahead of Tiger Woods.
One of the most common swing flaws occurs when golfers take the club too far inside the target line on the backswing. Usually, this move is caused by a backswing that’s controlled by the hips and the dipping of the shoulders away from the ball. And, as you may guess, this move leads to a handful of bad shots, including pushes, topped shots, slices and duck hooks.
Tour rookie Anthony Kim, or AK as he’s also known, has a lot in common with another well-known (#1 in the world) Tour player from southern California. A former Junior World champ and big-time junior golfer, AK earned both Freshman of the Year and All-American honors at The University of Oklahoma.
Without question, two of the most important factors that affect the golf swing are balance and tempo. If you don’t have balance, then you won’t have consistency. And if you lack a consistent tempo, you can kiss control goodbye.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
When I watch a golfer hit a 7-iron, then a driver, he or she invariably amps up the swing speed with the longer club. Surely, the clubhead of the driver moves faster because it’s longer, but it’s because of the principles of physics, not because the golfer is swinging the club with a faster tempo.
The word “release” sometimes causes confusion among high-handicappers. They know they have to release the club, but they’re not sure how or when to do it. Here’s the skinny: A proper release happens naturally when the golfer allows the clubface to square through impact as a result of the proper path and clubhead speed. It’s not a position that you can just put yourself into at impact—you have to arrive at it via the proper sequence.
In any sport, the feet and legs must work together in order for the rest of the body to function properly, and golf is no exception. In a fundamentally sound swing, the feet need to roll from side-to-side to provide power and control. On the backswing, the left foot should roll to the inside, and the heel should stay on or near the ground. During the downswing, the right foot should roll to the inside before the heel gets pulled up for the finish. By maintaining contact with the ground, you’ll create leverage and be better able to swing in control.
Recreational golfers who constantly struggle to fix their swing problems would do well to fix their posture first. Rounding the back, flexing the knees too much and tucking the head down to see the ball are common setup faults that can lead to a poor swing. If your posture isn’t right, you’ll be forced to swing with mostly your arms and hands, creating very little shoulder turn.
In instant prior to completing his backswing, Ben Hogan initiated his downswing with his body and arms, creating a lagging action or “snap.” This move resulted in a type of torque similar to that of casting a fishing pole.
Many amateurs allow their right elbow to move too far away from their body at the top of the backswing, so that their elbow is pointing behind them, almost in the position of a baseball player in a batting stance. This “flying” right elbow at the top of the swing is a frequent cause of a nasty pull or slice.
Let’s assume you get the club to the top of the backswing, positioned somewhere above the right shoulder. You feel on balance, the swing is on-plane, but you still manage to either slice the ball or push it to the right to some degree. Frustrating as all hell, isn’t it?
Currently ranked fifth in the world, Retief Goosen is an elite-level player who has two U.S. Open titles on his resume and the potential to win several more. Known for long, accurate driving and clutch putting, Goosen’s swing is somewhat idiosyncratic, filled with compensating moves that make it less than ideal by modern standards.
Most recreational golfers think the pros are playing a completely different game and that they struggle with totally different mistakes. Of course, touring pros are more advanced than weekend golfers in terms of technique and ability level, but believe it or not, there are some problems that almost all golfers struggle with from time to time.
There’s only one time during the swing when both arms are straight, and that’s just after impact. It’s a key checkpoint that you can use to determine the quality of your swing, since fully extended arms following contact signify that your arms and body are in sync.