No matter how hard you work at achieving a technically sound golf swing, once in a while you’ll encounter a small flaw that causes your shots to run amuck. One of the most overlooked and easy-to-fix mistakes golfers make involves the position of the hands at the top of the backswing. For all intents and purposes, you can have a perfect weight shift, a great arm extension, a powerful coil, and the perfect head and spine position, but if you don’t have your hands holding the clubshaft properly at the top of the swing–well, the downswing may as well be doomed from the start.
Over the years, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the proper position of the right elbow at the top of the backswing. Some players like John Daly swing with their elbow flying out, while others like Sergio Garcia keep it in, proving that it’s possible to hit great shots with either method. However, my biomechanical studies with PGA Tour pros using the K-Vest, developed by Bentley Kinetics, indicate that the flying right-elbow position favors a fade ballflight while a tucked right elbow promotes a draw.
Elementary tips and do-it-yourself teaching aids for keeping your swing in shape during the off-season
When it comes to posture, the key is to establish your natural spine angle, which will allow the body to rotate freely throughout the golf swing. A good training aid to help improve your posture can be fashioned with a broomstick, sponge, six-inch ruler, scissors, pen and a belt.
If you’re one of the millions of golfers who battles a slice, odds are you compensate for the left-to-right ballflight by aiming to the left. However, no matter how far to the left you aim, the ball still slices to the right–sometimes worse than it did before. On the occasion you do hit it straight, well, it doesn’t do you much good because you were aimed toward the trees or deep rough on the left. Hmm–you’re doing what you think will fix the problem, but it’s only making the problem worse.
Undoubtedly, the most embarrassing tee shot in golf is the drive that pops straight up, barely clearing the tee box. The pop-up is an agonizing mis-hit most often caused by an excessive forward weight shift on the downswing and a club that approaches the ball on a very steep angle of attack. The steep descent de-lofts the clubface to such a degree that the topline of the club effectively becomes the leading edge. The result? Not only a humiliating pop-up, but one of the most hated marks in golf: a scuff on the crown of the clubhead. Yuck.
If you tend to skull your fairway woods, it’s because you’re catching the ball on the upswing, often caused by trying to scoop or lift the ball up. To fix this problem, you have to understand that solid ballstriking is sometimes a game of opposites. To hit the ball higher with a fairway wood, you actually have to hit down–as opposed to up–on the ball.
You’re enjoying a great day on the links, and you have an easy pitch to the last green where a par or even a bogey will give you your best score in a month. Easy pitch, easy swing, stick it close. But instead, some evil dragon maliciously guides your hosel toward your ball, and you shank it right of the greenside bunker. The shot so unnerves you that you proceed to shank a succession of shots around the perimeter of the green counterclockwise.
As an instructor, one of the most common swing flaws I see is the dreaded reverse pivot. This move wreaks havoc on any golfer’s ability to hit consistently good golf shots. One of the best ways to overcome the reverse pivot is to try a drill designed to make it impossible to hold your weight back on your downswing. I call it the baseball drill, or the Happy Gilmore, named after the title character in the film who steps into the golf ball the way a field goal kicker lunges toward the ball.