No matter where you are, where you go, or more appropriately, whom you end up playing golf with, it seems there's always someone nearby who I like to call the resident E.O.E. (Expert on Everything). You know the type. It's the fellow who knows how to help you increase your net worth and can explain how to install new copper pipes in your house without having to cut drywall. This same guy also watches a lot of golf on TV, and because he hears one or two commentators analyzing someone's swing, he assumes their advice is well suited for you, too._Ê
Let it be known, when it comes to golf instruction, the truth isn't necessarily the truth until you hear it come from an actual teaching pro. There are a lot of clich©s in golf instruction, and it's about time to clarify some myths. You have to know that what works for certain touring pros might not work for you or for other touring pros, for that matter.
Fiction: Keep Your Head Still
If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say keep your head still! during the swing, I'd be a very wealthy man. Truth is, holding the head steady can create a lot of problems. On the backswing, a stationary head can impede the necessary weight shift back and through, often leading to a reverse pivot. On the downswing, a steady head (especially if you've been told the other myth, which is to keep your head down) can get in the way of the necessary upper-body rotation through the impact zone. A steady or down head can limit turn, thus causing the body to rise up, lose the necessary spine tilt, and cause you to hit all sorts of inconsistent and errant shots!
Fact: Let Your Head Slide Side-To-Side
First, remember that the head and neck should act as a straight extension of your spine, which should always have a slight lean toward the ball at address and throughout the swing. With the head in the correct position and the backswing underway, allow the head to shift to the side a few inches if necessary—more if you're less flexible—to encourage the proper weight shift. Atop the backswing, it's perfectly acceptable to move your head slightly back of where it was at address. (Sometimes a mirror and tape can help you see this.) Through the downswing, allow the head to slide forward toward the target. This will do the same for your downswing what moving your head back did for the backswing.
Fiction: Go With Comfort
If golf were meant to be easy, it wouldn't be a four-letter word. The same goes with the comfort principle. Just because your grip is comfortable on the handle, doesn't mean it's correct. Often, E.O.Es say the best grip is the one that comes most natural to you. Well, that may be the case for Adam Scott, but for most of my students, the grip is the first flaw that begins a series of bad chain reactions. When a player says his or her grip is comfortable, he or she usually has a grip that's too much in the palm and too little in the fingers. Or, another player might have a decent grip that doesn't match his or her swing.
Fact: Go With What Works
Brace yourself! This may require some trial and error. Begin with a neutral grip, where the V formed by the crease in the index finger and thumb of your gloved hand point toward your right pectoral and your ungloved V points toward your right shoulder (left shoulder for southpaws). This is a good grip for golfers who struggle with a hook from time to time. If you try the neutral grip and you're still slicing the ball, adjust to a strong grip. This means pointing the V of your gloved hand farther away from the target so that your gloved hand shows three knuckles. As for your ungloved hand, keep it the same.
Finally, if you're still slicing, try a very strong grip. This means adjusting your gloved hand the same as you would for a strong grip, but this time, strengthen your ungloved hand by moving the V so it points off your right shoulder._Ê
Fiction: One Ball Position Suits All
Not quite. When Jack Nicklaus mentioned that he used one ball position, he didn't necessarily mean one stance. Instead, he likely referred to one ball position relative to where each club bottoms out, which changes for a variety of shots. Why? A few reasons. First, clubs of different lengths reach the bottom of the swing arc in different places—longer clubs bottom out farther forward in the stance than shorter clubs. Second, longer clubs are, well, longer, requiring you to adjust how close or far you stand from the ball.
Fact: Adjust Your Ball Position
A good rule of thumb is to always assume that with a longer club, it's better to have a ball position that's too far forward than a ball position that's too far back. Begin by first evaluating the length of your club, and with a few practice swings, find the spot on the turf where the club is consistently bottoming out. Then, in the spot just before the bottom, mark your ball position. Do this for each club, and notice how shorter clubs bottom out farther back in your stance than the longer ones.
Fiction: Improve Balance With Better Footwork
This myth is a little tricky. Good footwork is generally a prerequisite for good balance, but sometimes it's possible to have decent footwork while having an unbalanced swing. For instance, some golfers assume that poor balance is due to an improper weight shift. To alleviate the problem, they start from the ground up and assume that a better weight shift is the key to fixing their balance issues. This includes sliding the weight onto the back foot, then transitioning to the forward foot on the downswing. (You've probably heard that one before, right?)_Ê
Fact: Better Balance Is Achieved Through Posture
If you really want to improve your weight shift and overall balance, you've got to start with the correct posture and maintain it throughout the entire swing. Check out the photo. You'll see I've retained my spine angle through impact. That angle (the forward lean of my upper body toward the ball) is vital to allowing my arms to swing freely, as well as to allowing my hips and shoulders to rotate through the hitting zone. If I had bad posture, it would be tough to sync up my moves. In other words, imagine the body as a series of strings. The neck, back, legs and arms all should function like taut rubber bands—firm but flexible. As you initiate the backswing, maintain your spine angle. Do the same during the downswing, and you'll see results fast!
Tom Leese, PGA, is a Master Instructor at the Resort Golf School at Angel Park in Las Vegas, Nev. For more info on how to book a lesson, visit www.angelpark.com.