The Golf Swing

This blog is dedicated to the golf swing. Please feel free to discuss any tips, techniques and methods that you use to improve your swing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Fixing Common Mistakes - Looking Up

Looking Up

Probably the most common swing flaw for most golfers is looking up before the ball has been hit. Looking up to watch your ball will ruin any chance you have of hitting a good shot. If you don't remedy this flaw you'll never play up to your potential. It takes a lot of discipline to keep your head down and still but if you master the impulse to watch your shot you'll start hitting the ball solidly and straight.

If you watch pros when they hit putts, chips or pitches you'll notice they don't look up to follow the ball until the stroke is finished. By the time they look up the shot is well on its way and nothing they do from that point can have any effect on the shot.

On putts try the following the next time you're on the practice green. Line up your putt and hit it the way you normally would. Only this time don't look up to follow your putt at all. Instead listen for the sound of the ball falling into the hole. Start 3 feet from the hole and work your way out. You'll be amazed at how often you'll sink the putt.

On chips and pitches concentrate on the spot where the ball was lying before you hit it and keep your eyes on that spot until the ball is well gone. Only then should you look up to see where your ball has gone. Use the same method for your longer irons and woods. Concentrate on keeping your eye on the spot until the ball is long gone. If you do this you'll see a vast improvement in every aspect of your game.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Fixing Common Mistakes - The Waggle

Every golfer performs a waggle of one sort or another before hitting the ball. The purpose of the waggle is to keep the muscles loose and get the juices flowing prior to hitting the ball. There is no one right way to waggle but there is a wrong way.

You should never do anything during the waggle that will cause you to alter your stance or change your aim. The waggle should get you into a position so that you get a proper turn of the shoulders during the swing. The best way to achieve this is with a one piece waggle.

Try using this waggle before each shot. Keep your wrists firm (don't allow them to break), move the club back and forth by rotating the shoulders not by moving the arms back and forth. Make two or three waggles to get the feeling of bringing the club away from the ball by executuing a proper shoulder turn, then swing. If you do this you'll encourage a backswing that is controlled by turning the body rather than your arms. This will result in a proper coiling of your upper body which means greater torque. This increased torque will lead to greater distance.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Fixing Common Mistakes - The Takeaway

We've looked at how a bad grip and an improper set-up can lead to all kinds of bad shots. If your grip is good and you're setting up to the ball properly but you're still have difficulty the next area to look at is your takeaway.

The Fault - Improper Takeaway

The importance of starting your swing correctly can't be over emphasized. The entire swing takes somewhere between 1.5 and 2 seconds to complete. Scientists have proven that the muscle to brain and back to muscle reactions simply are not fast enough for a golfer to consciously direct the swing in that small amount of time. For even the slowest swinging golfers once they are about two-thirds of the way into the backswing the rest of the swing will be purely reflexive. So what can we take out of this scientific data? It's quite simple really. When you swing the club your actions are under your full conscious control only during the initial takeaway motion from the ball. That means that the beginning of the swing is pretty darn important.


The Cure - Slower is Best

In my opinion it's not possible to start the swing slowly enough as long as the club is swung and not taken away from the ball. By that I mean as long as its part of the fluid motion of the swing and not a conscious effort to take the club away form the ball without the rest of the body taking part in the motion. There are several reasons why.

1) The slower the backswing is started the more control you'll have over the initial path of the clubhead and the alignment of the clubface. Since this is the only part of the swing we can consciously control if you perform this part wrong whatever mistakes you've made will be magnified at impact. The faster you move the club away from the ball the less control you have over its attitude and direction.

2) The faster you start the swing the harder it is for you to coordinate the rest of your body and make a full upper body turn. If your initial motion is too fast the smaller muscles of the hands and arms will react faster than the larger muscles of the shoulders, hips and legs. This will cause your body to get out of sync resulting in lots of ugly shots.

3) The pace you start the swing back on will dictate the tempo and timing of the entire swing. The faster you take the club back the less likely you are to properly complete the swing.

So if nothing else has worked try slowing down your takaway and strive for a full shoulder turn. With a good grip, a proper set-up and a nice slow takeaway you should find that any swing problems you've had should quickly disappear.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Fixing Common Mistakes - Improper Set Up

Yesterday we discussed how a bad grip can lead to poor results. However, if you grip is OK and you're still having problems the next area to look at is the set up.

The Fault - Improper Set-Up

If you're consistantly hitting the ball off your intended target line and the problem isn't your grip than the next most likely culprit can be traced to your set-up. If your body isn't properly aligned to your target line it is almost impossible to bring the club back to the ball on the proper swing plane. The result will be an inside-out or an outside-in swing that will result in either an ugly slice or a big draw.

The Cure - Get into the Proper Position

The best and easiest way to bring the club back to the ball on the proper swing plane is to make sure that your body is in balance and is correctly aligned to your target. Start by placing your feet shoulder width apart and square to your target. The best way to determine where you're aiming is to place the club across your thighs. Where your clubhead is facing is the direction you're aiming. Next, make sure sure your weight is evenly distributed between your feet. Your knees should be flexed slightly. Bend over from the hips and keep your spine straight. Let your arms hang down naturally and place the club behind the ball. Stay loose! From this position you're all set to give the ball a good ride.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Fixing Common Mistakes - Improper Grip

We all go through periods where we're just not hitting the ball right. It can be very frustrating to not be able to hit the ball the same way you did yesterday or last week. When a situation like this arises the best thing you can do is not to panic. The problem usually can be traced back to something as simple your grip, or a faulty take away. So when everything seems to go bad go back to basics and make sure your fundamentals are sound.


Tha Fault - Improper Grip

The way you grip the club has a huge effect on ball flight and your swing plane. For example, if you grip the club with a weak grip, meaning your right hand (if you're a righty)sits too much on top of the club, then your right shoulder is probably higher then it should be and your body is most likely aimed left of your target. This will cause an open clubface at impact along with an outside in swing path. The result? An ugly shot.

The Cure - Remember your V's

Make sure your grip is correct. Put your left hand on the club first, you should be able to see two-and-a-half to three knuckles. Then, place the right hand on the club. The "V's" formed by the thumb and forefinger on both hands should point between your right ear and right shoulder. One very important point to remember, you can't hit a golf ball if your squeezing the club too tight. A tight grip means there's lots of tension built up in your muscles. Your grip pressure must remain loose.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Difficult Lies - The Downhill Bunker Shot

The Downhill Bunker Shot

This is one of the most difficult shots in golf. You wind up in the trap and your ball is sitting on the downslope. You've got to get the ball up into the air or you'll be hitting your next shot from the sand also. Here's how to play the shot.

1) The Setup - The key is to make sure that your shoulders are aligned to the contour of the ground. This means placing more of your weight on your downhill foot (left foot if you're a right-hander and right foot if you're a left-hander). Next, open up your stance and open up the clubface.

2) The Backswing - Pick the club up abruptly when you start your backswing (don't sweep the club back)and cock your wrists. By bringing the club up fast and cocking your wrists you'll create a steep angle of attack. It also will prevent you from scraping your club along the sand or hitting the lip of the bunker on the backswing.

3) The Downswing - The club must come back to the ball following the contour of the ground. In order to avoid hitting the ball thin make sure that your arms are fully extended and sweep the club underneath the ball at impact. The distance you hit behind the ball is determined by the distance you need the ball to travel. Don't baby this shot. Hit it hard and follow through.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Difficult Lies - The Deep Sand Save

Your approach shot has landed in a greenside bunker that's so deep the wall towers over your head. Should you play out laterally or go for the pin? This is a scary shot and one that many average golfers will leave in the trap. However, once you know how to play this shot it's not really that difficult. The correct shot to hit is an explosion shot that flies high, easily clears the wall of the bunker and lands on the green. So let's look at the proper way to hit this shot.

1) The Grip - the proper grip on this shot will have your hands down the shaft so that your right thumb and index finger are wrapped around the metal of the shaft (right-handers). The clubface should be turned wide open and your grip should be on the weak side. You need lively hands to keep your clubhead speed up on this shot. A weak grip will help keep your hands lively. To make the grip weak do the following. Look down at your left hand, you should see 3 knuckles, if you don't rotate your left hand until you do.

2) The Stance - Now that you have the proper grip aim your clubface and your feet straight down your target line. Now open your stance wide by bringing your left foot back to a 45 degee angle from the target line while keeping your clubface straight along the target line.

Your feet should be spread wide, slightly more than shoulder width apart. This will require you to bend a little more at the waist to get the clubface behind the ball.

3) The Swing - The hands need to be extra active for this shot to work. That's why we weakened our grip. On the back swing pick the clubhead straight up with a quick break of the wrists, then bring the clubface back so that it hits about an inch-and-a-half behind the ball. Your swing should be hard but controlled. The harder you hit down on the ball the higher it will fly. It's better to be long on this shot than short because you don't want to hit it again out of this lie. So don't be afraid to use some force on this shot. Most importantly, follow through, don't leave the clubface stuck in the sand or your ball will still be in the sand too.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Difficult Lies - The Bank Shot

This is a difficult spot to be in. You've just missed hitting an elevated green with your approach shot. Your ball has rolled down the hill and is sitting on a bare lie. There's very little green to work with as the pin is cut close to the edge of the green.

Since you're sitting on a bare lie a flop shot won't work because you won' t be able to get the club under the ball. The only real alternative you have is to try to hit the bank shot. What I mean by a bank shot is that you want to hit the ball into the side of the hill, this will slow down its momentum enough so that the ball will just clear the top of the hill on the second bounce and trickle onto the green.

Club and target selection are critical here. If it's a low hill you can go all the way down to a 3 iron. As the height of the hill increases you would move up in iron # all the way up to a 7 or 8 iron if necessary. If you hit the ball too low the ball won't make it up the hill to the hole. If you hit the ball too high it will run way past the pin and maybe even over the green.

This is a difficult shot but it can be done. The keys are to choose your target carefully and make sure you have the right club to get the ball to your target.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Difficult Lies - The Downhill Pitch and Chip

These are tricky little shots that most golfers have a difficult time pulling off. Because of the slope many golfers tend to hit into the ground behind the ball causing a fat shot. The greater the degree of the slope the more likely you'll be to hit it fat. Try the 2 methods I explain below and you should be able to avoid these fat shots.

1) Hit it Square - For this shot you should use either a sand wedge or a pitching wedge. Set up to the ball with an slightly open stance and play the ball slightly back in your stance. Your weight should be more towards the down hill side (your left side if you're a right-hander and your right side if you're a left-hander. The clubface should be square along your target line and your hands even with the ball.

The trick is to move the clubhead along the angle of the slope. Your wrists must remain firm through impact (don't break the wrists). This will cause you to hit the ball flush with a square clubface. Follow through so that your clubface points straight along the target line. The ball will come off the clubface low and fast so land it short of the green and let it run to the pin.

2) The Flop Shot - This is a high risk shot and should only be used if the method above won't work for some reason (like having a bunker between you and the pin). This shot will fly high and land soft.

Use your pitching wedge for this shot and open it up wide. Use a very wide open stance. For this shot your weight should be on the uphill side (right side if you're a right-hander and left side if you're a left-hander). Play the ball in the center of your stance and keep your your hands even with the clubhead. This shot requires lots of wrist action. To hit the ball bring the club up with a quick wrist cock and slide the clubface cleanly under the ball with a brisk downswing. The clubface should pass the hands at impact as the wrists break on the downswing. The ball will pop up high and land soft.

This method is tough and requires lots of practice. But when there's no other altenative it's the shot to play.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Difficult Lies - Ball Below Feet

A side hill lie with the ball below your feet will make your clubface point to the right of the target if you're a right-hander and left of the target if you're a left-hander. So most right-hand golfers will aim left of the target and assume that the ball will drift back to the right and visa-versa for a left-hander. However, it rarely plays out like this because the slope of hill makes it hard to make a full turn without losing your balance. What usually happens is that you won't make a full coil of your body and you'll compensate for this lack of power by pulling hard with your arms. The club will come to the ball from over the top on an out to in swing plane and you'll pull the ball way left.

Once again the key is to maintain your balance throughout the swing. Because of the slope of the hill you'll need to keep your weight back in your stance and crouch down to get your club behind the ball. Take one (1) club more than you normally would. Aim slightly left of your target if you're a right-hander and a little right of the target if you're a left-hander. Make a smooth controlled swing concentrating on making a full coil (get your left shoulder under you chin) on the back-swing and then simply uncoil and concentrate on bring the club back to the ball on your target line. An out to in swing plane will result in a pulled shot that will land well off target and an in to out swing plane will result in an ugly slice. If you bring the club back on your target line the ball will start out left of the target and drift back right to the target.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Difficult Lies - Sidehill Lies

The general rule of hitting the ball on a sidehill lie is that if the ball is above your feet, the slope will tend to move your shot left and if it's below your feet, the slope will tend to move your shot right. However, this rule is not set in stone. Let's take a look at hitting a ball off a sidehill lie with the ball above your feet.


BALL ABOVE FEET

A sidehill lie with the ball above your feet will make your clubface point to the left of the target if you're a right hander and right of the target if you're a lefthander. So most right handers will aim the ball right of the target and let the ball drift back to the left and visa-versa for a left hander. The problem with this stategy is that it will only work if you make solid contact with the ball with your clubface square to your initial alignment. However, gravity tends to pull your body away from the ball. Because of this most people tend to make contact with the ball more toward the toe of the club, which twists the clubface open and sends the ball right instead of right as you would expect.

The key to this shot is to maintain your balance throughout the swing. Your weight should be on the balls of your feet at address and stay there. Use one (1) club more than you normally would. Aim your body and the clubface a little right of the target if you're a righthander and a little left of the target if you're a left hander. Make a simple easy swing 3/4 swing using mainly your arms (that's why we went up 1 club). If you've taken enough club, and maintained your balance, you should hit the ball cleanly on the sweet spot and work its back to the left as you'd expect.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Course Management - Know How You Hit Each Club

You have to know what kind of shot you can hit with each of the clubs in your bag. I suggest that you practice hitting the same shot with different clubs and see which one gets you the best result. It helps to experiment with different clubs also. For example, instead of hitting a 5 iron you might try hitting a 7 wood. Following are a couple of tips on club selection.

1) Don’t use a driver on a narrow fairway. Use a club that will put you safely in the fairway like your 3 iron.

2) Don’t use a driver on holes with out of bounds. Try hitting the 3 wood instead, you'll only lose about 10-15 yards and you'll increase the accuracy of the shot.

3) Don’t use a low number iron or 3 wood in a fairway bunker with a high lip. Give up the yards and make sure you clear the lip. Hit your 7 iron and set yourself up for the next shot.

4) It's usually easier to hit a 5 wood or 7 wood on the fairway or in the rough than it is to hit a low iron. You'll get a higher trajectory on the ball without losing too mush distance.

5) Don’t hit a certain club because every one else is, hit the club that you feel comfortable with.

6) Try to learn the distance you can consistently hit every club in your bag.

If you know how you hit each club and stay with the safe shot you will easily eliminate several strokes per round.

Course Management - Know Your Limits

Try to always remember that you are not a pro. You're not playing golf for a living. You're on the course to have a good time. There aren't hundreds of thousands of dollars riding on your next shot. Just because a pro can pull off an unbelievable shot doesn't mean you can. If the odds of making the shot aren't highly in your favor don't try to pull it off. Instead, take the easier route and get yourself or keep yourself out of trouble. That's where it pays to know your limitations. Here are some useful tips to help keep you out of trouble.

1) Don’t try hitting through the trees. Instead, chip the ball sideways back into the fairway.

2) Don’t try to kill the ball to get more distance it rarely works.

3) Don’t attempt to shave some distance off your next shot by hitting over a dogleg. Take the sure shot and put it in the fairway.

4) Take a nice easy swing on uneven lies.

5) Direction is almost always more important than distance. Avoid trouble by keeping your ball in play.

I could go on and on but you get the point. Recognize your own limitations and play within those limitations. If you do this I guarantee you'll knock several strokes off your score.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Course Management - Tee Box Tips

1) Always be aware of how the tees are lining up. Just because the tees are aligned in a certain direction doesn't mean you have to follow that path. Many times the path the tees are lined up in will lead you into trouble.

2) Just because you're on the tee doesn't mean you have to hit the driver. You should hit the club that will give you the best position in which to play your next shot.

3) Always tee up the ball on the side of the tee box that opens up the fairway, for example, if the fairway doglegs left tee the ball up on the right side of the box.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Course Management - A Plan for Every Round and a Target for Every Shot

Why is it that sometimes you can hit the ball well but don't put up the score that you should? For most of us it can be summed up in 2 words "course management". How many times have you tried to pull off that 1 in a 100 shot. You say to yourself "I can clear that water hazard even though its 250 yards to safely get over it". Or how about "If I can just get the ball through that opening in the tree and put a slight fade on the ball I can get it there". Let's be honest now. What really happens when you try to pull off that kind of shot? It doesn't work! You wind up making triple bogey or worse. You can ruin a good round by trying to pull off a shot of that kind. You're almost always better off taking the safe route.

Course management starts prior to your teeing off on the first hole. You should always have a plan of action before you start the round. But even more importantly you need to have a plan for every shot you take. Pick out a target on every shot and try to hit it that target. And remember bogeys are much better than triple bogeys.