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.
Solid short-game performance is key for any competitive golfer, and an absolute must for those fortunate enough to play on the PGA Tour. Jerry Kelly, who ranked 16th in scoring average with nearly $1.5 million in earnings after 15 events (as of mid-July) knows this fact well, as illustrated by his proficiency at saving par after missing a green in regulation (he currently is second on Tour in scrambling).
You hear it all the time, especially during golf telecasts: “Look how still Freddy keeps his head,” or “Jack has made a career out of keeping his head still.” The trouble is, when you put the videotape in slow motion, the heads of good players do move.
Flexibility is a critical element in the golf swing and should play a significant role in determining what type of setup you adopt. In particular, the position of the left foot is strongly impacted by flexibility level. This is key, because left-foot positioning can affect several swing characteristics, including backswing length, hip turn and subsequent torso rotation through the ball.
Cure the majority of your flaws by adopting a rock-solid setup
If there’s one thing a seasoned golf instructor can do, it’s spot a solid setup, even from 50 yards away. One look is all it takes for an experienced teacher to recognize athleticism and balance. The reason why? Any instructor worth his or her salt will stress the fundamentals of a solid setup if solid results are what the student seeks.
In this article, we'll take a look at what I like to call the “get set” position, or what's more commonly referred to as the top of thebackswing. Properly achieving this position supplies the power. Most amateurs make the mistake of never “getting set,” instead shifting into a reverse pivot or simply sliding laterally away from the target. Either of these moves will result in a great loss of power. In order to unload and properly return the club back through impact with balance and rhythm, you must have a good “get set” position.