Mix And Match
Fine-tune four key swing elements to eliminate slices and hooks
The range of ball position for any club is from the middle of the stance to the tip of the front shoulder. Basically, the farther forward the ball position, the more to the left the ball will initially start. This explains why an open-face player needs to play the ball forward, so the ball will start left of target, then fade back. A closed-face player needs the ball back toward the midline of the stance in order to allow for the draw.
Mismatching ball position and clubface position is seriously dangerous business. A fader of the ball will face a long day of high slices to the right if he or she plays the ball too far back in the stance. A square-face player with this same ball position will hit mostly pushes. Conversely, a draw player (closed face) will hit low hooks with the ball played too far forward while the square-face player, who’s otherwise perfectly matched up, will pull the shot.
Turning out your front foot (flaring) delays the formation of the left wall that triggers the release, a good match for an overly shut face where delay is beneficial. Deflaring your front foot makes the release occur sooner and is helpful to the open-face player whose fade has turned to a slice. Foot flare ranges from deflared (foot perpendicular to target line) to max flared (45 degrees to target line).
Foot flare/clubface mismatches are common. The most damaging of these are matching a deflared foot and a closed-face position (severe hooks), an overly flared foot and open-clubface position (push slices), and a square-face position with extremeness in foot flair either way (pulls and pushes).
The more your hips move laterally before they turn, the more time the clubface has to rotate through impact. Thus, a lot of lateral hip action provides an open clubface the time it needs to square up. To prevent overclosing of the shut clubface, the matchup is hips that rotate early with minimal lateral motion.
Common hip action/clubface mismatches are overly active hips paired with a closed clubface (fore left!) and minimal lateral hip action with an open face (fore right!).
The angles of power created during the backswing must be released at impact in sync with the rest of the elements in your matchup string, most notably your clubface position. An open clubface requires a more hands/arms release where the right elbow straightens to “push” the face square. A shut face demands a body release where the hands/arms are very quiet and the right elbow bend is retained to “hold off” the rotation of the clubhead. Mismatch these in any combination and you’ll produce the opposite trajectory and ballflight you’d expect from your typical motion.
What these matchups add up to is a simple credo I teach all of my students: If you want to change your swing, you must change your string. In other words, you can’t simply alter the individual components of your motion—it’s an all-or-none endeavor.
The best way to get matched up is to choose your string, then experiment with each element of that string to find the exact ball position, foot flare, hip action, etc., that fits your body type, strength and flexibility. If you’re committed to improving, experimenting with different foot flares and ball positions can be a lot of fun. String elements are powerful, and slight changes in each can create very different ballflight patterns. Strategically charting the results from changing different string elements will put you more in touch with your game and greatly increase your knowledge and command of the physical dynamics of the swing.
PGA professional T.J. Tomasi is the Director of Instruction at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield, Conn.
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