Like many full-service teaching facilities, my staff and I at Boyne Resorts use Trackman and other technology like GEARS to help our students get a firm grip on their golf games. These tools help them, and us, find out how all the elements of a swing — club path, angle of attack, clubhead and ball speed — work together to yield great shots. Above all, that means knowing what the clubface is doing at impact, which ultimate gives you the power to shape your golf shots.
There’s a lot of talk in the industry about using the body. I’m afraid for the average player — they’re going to go out and work on the body motions, but it’s like taking calculus before basic arithmetic. The majority of people playing the game and taking lessons are in the advanced beginner to early intermediate range. Their golf IQs are still developing. So I want them to get a feel for the clubface first. When you get more advanced, to a more competitive player, that’s when you start to work on the body, make the hands more passive and control the ball better. But many people try to skip ahead in the learning curve, and they never get better. So I try to get back to basics and teach how to use the face of the club to tell the ball what to do.
A big part of our instruction program is identifying the ingredients of hitting a draw and a fade, and how you can practice them. As you can see in Photo 1, on the far end of the range — a spot designed and built by my mentor, the late, great Jim Flick — I have nice big white target line painted on the ground, with the Trackman lined up directly behind. Then I put a swimming noodle in line with the target to give the player a sense of “seeing” the shot, working on shaping the ball right to left or left to right. It’s a great stepping stone from advanced beginner to intermediate, learning how to use the face of the club.
I use a golf tee in this drill so the ground isn’t a factor — it’s just clubface and golf ball (Photo 2). Learning to curve the ball is important. I am using a 7-iron here, setting up for a draw or fade in relation to the swimming noodle.
To get the ball to start to the right of the noodle and curve back — a draw for righthanders — the path that you swing your club needs to be inside to outside, and the face needs to feel like it’s closing, like a door on hinges. The only contact we have with the golf club is with our hands. So you need to learn how to use the hands in relation to the face.
I’ll start with a square stance in the set-up (Photo 3), and to get the ball to curve right to left, I’ll move the left foot forward and the right foot back, as in Photo 4. That gives you more space to swing from the inside. A lot of times, the club will go where there’s room for it to go. When you start from this position, you’ll feel like you’re coming from the inside, but the face has to turn down and close in the position shown in Photo 5. Most people try to get the face to close by using their bigger muscles, so they end up throwing their right shoulder too close to the ball and target line, and that’s what’s called “over the top” or “outside to in.” So we are going for “in to out” with the face going down.
I take mini-swings, waist high to waist high, trying to get the club to close and rotate. Photos 6-8 show what I mean. From there I’ll look at the target to get a sense of where I want the ball to start and where to end. Then I get a nice little draw pattern. The Trackman is also tracking the spin access of the shot, the shape of it. Technology sometimes scares people, but once they know that a positive number is to the right and a negative number is to the left (as illustrated in the sidebar, via photos taken in our indoor fitting center), they can see their shot shape. In a drill like this the numbers will be exaggerated.
The other shot shape to learn, which most people are good at, is the fade or slice. To get there, the club path is opposite of a draw. I’ll set my body slight open to the target line (Photo 9), and swing the golf club along the body line (Photos 10-12), trying to get a sense of feeling the face still looking at the target after the strike — more of a position like that shown in Photo 13.
The idea is getting the student to understand 1) Why we’re doing the drill and 2) The ingredients of each shot shape will help them get an idea of why the ball does what it does — the relationship of club path and face of club relative to the path. That’s a basic understanding that’s very simple, even though it might sound scary to some.
For more instruction from Brian O’Neill, including video, visit www.brianogolf.com