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.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Full Swing - How to Make Good Contact

Most golfers are under the mistaken impression that the toe of the club should be pointing straight up when it is at hip height on the backswing. If you think about it however, in order to do this you have to rotate your hands to the inside. Try it in slow motion and you'll see I'm right. By rotating the hands all you've accomplished is opening up the clubface. Now, in order to get the club back to square at impact you must be in recovery mode on the downswing. More than likely you'll wind up coming back to the ball from over the top in order to square up the clubface at impact.

The proper position for the toe of the club at waist height is a slight tilt towards the target line so that the leading edge of the clubface is the same as the angle as your spine. If you do can accomplish this, both your spine angle and your clubface angle will be square. Now with both angles square at hip height you can achieve a square clubface at the top of your swing which will allow you to achieve square solid impact.

Practice this technique in slow motion bringing the club back just to hip height. Don't rotate the wrists or arms. Wear your glove when you do this drill. The logo on the glove should point out. if the logo's pointing up you've rotated your wrists or arms and opened up the clubface.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Long Game - Don't Let the Long Irons Intimidate You

For many golfers the long irons can be quite intimidating. If you have problems hitting your long irons the problem can probably be traced back to an excess amount of tension in your arms or improper movement of the body.

Most golfers feel the need to take a bigger and longer backswing when hitting these irons. This train of thought however, can lead to excess movement of the upper body. This excess movement can cause you to either pull off the ball on the backswing or pull up on the dowswing. The result of both is a poorly hit shot.

The key to avoiding either of the above is to focus on the angle of your spine and a good light grip. When you take your stance bend at the hips and focus on keeping your butt out and up. Keeping this feeling of having your butt sticking out throughout the swing along with a light grip will allow you to have a tension free swing that will sweep the ball off the ground toward your target.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Fixing Common Mistakes - Keep Your Head Down

It's happened to all of us at one time. You hit an ugly shot and your partner says "you lifted your head". Although your partner was probably right the problem really isn't with your head. More than likely you had too much movement of your body which caused the head to move. We've all been taught that it's necessary to keep your head down or still throughout the swing. What happens, however, is that you become so intent on keeping your head still that it restricts the turn of your upper body.

Rather then concentrating on keeping the head still what you should be concentrating on is the angle between the hips and the spine and the amount of flex in the knees. Straightening either of these angles during the swing will result in the lifting of the head. The change in these angles will also alter the arc of the your swing. Causing the angle of the swing to be too steep and result in poor contact with the ball. Usually a topped shot.

On the other hand, too much bending at the knees or hips during the swing tends to drop the head and upper body and lower the arc of the swing so the club strikes too far behind the ball, usually into the ground.

Therefore, you have to get in the habit of forgetting about your head and concentrate instead on maintaining the angles at the hips and knees from address through impact. If you can do this you shouldn't be bothered again by topped or fat shots.

Here's a drill you can use to get you in the habit of keeping the angles between the hips and spine and the knees consistent. In order to perform this drill it has to be a sunny day. You need to have the sun behind you so that your shadow is cast directly in front you when you are setup to the ball. Take your normal stance and notice your shadow. Mark the point on the ground that corresponds to the top of your head. I like to place a club on the ground. The club should line up parallel to your target line and once again be at the spot where your shadow indicated the top of your head. Now set up so that your shadow is just touching the club on the ground and swing the club (you don't have to actually hit a ball). Keep your eye on your shadow. If you're keeping your head down which means the angle between you hips and spine stays consistent and you're maintaining the correct flex in your knees the shadow of your head should remain relatively consistent with the club you placed on the ground. If it's not remaining along this line than practice the drill until it does.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Fixing Common Mistakes - Inconsistency

If you find that you're the type of golfer that rarely hits back to back good shots then it's time to think about sacrificing some distance on your shots for consistency. By becoming consistent you'll cut lots of strokes off your game. You'll eliminate penalties caused by errant shots as well as those wasted shots trying to recover form bad lies. The best way I know to become consistent is to throttle down your swing. Here's how to do it.

Take a Wider Stance

By taking a wider stance you'll form a more stable base for your swing. This wider base will allow you to develop the tight coiling pattern of the upper body that is necessary on the backswing. It will also reduce any tendency you have to sway. When I say take a wider stance I'm only talking about 2 or 3 inches wider than you normally would set up.

Leave Room at the Top of Your Swing

On the back swing if you have the tendency to bring the club back all the way to horizontal it's time to cut back and bring the club back 3/4 of the way. That's what I mean by leaving room at the top. By bringing the club back only 3/4 of the way you'll find you get the following benefits. 1) The weight will remain on the inside of your right foot eliminating any sway you have in your swing. If at any time in your backswing you feel the weight shifing to the outside of your right foot you're swaying and you need to correct it right away. 2) You'll limit the wrist action in the backswing. Overly active wrists will cause your clubface to open or close at the top. This opening or closing of the clubface has to be compensated for on the downswing. 3) Your clubface has a greater chance of being in the proper position at the top of the backswing (pointing towards the target rather than right or left of the target)

Time the Downswing

On the downswing concentrate on shifting your weight onto your left foot and pulling the club through impact to a full follow through. In the beginning when you try the 3/4 swing you feel the urge to swing hard to compensate for the lack of extension on the backswing. Don't! Swing easy. Practice this for a while and you'll see yourself hitting the ball squarely. Your shots will fly straight and your distance won't suffer much at all. I don't know about you but I'd rather be 220 yards out lying in the fairway than 240 yards out trying to recover from an errant shot into the woods.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Mental Game - First Tee Jitters

Even the pros get nervous on their first tee shot of the day. Many mid and high handicap golfers feel that the first tee shot sets the tone for the day. Nothing, however, could be further than the truth. Your opening tee shot is just one stroke and if you hit a bad shot you have lots of time to recover. Therefore, you shouldn't put any undue pressure upon yourself to try and hit a perfect shot. You have to learn how to keep those first hole jitters from ruining any chance you have of making a good swing. Following are two things that I find help to get rid of the jitters.

1) Make believe you're hitting into a practice net - On most golf courses the first hole is usually wide open. There may some some hazards you need to avoid but typically there's a nice wide opening for you to hit your ball. The key is to block all of the hazards out of your mind. I do this by imagining I'm hitting into a practice net that is sitting right in front of the tee. Make sure you're aligned properly and then take your swing trying to hit your ball solidly into the bullseye in the practice net. What does this do? It eliminates the direction factor. Now you don't have to worry about the direction of the ball. Simply try and hit that bullseye right in front of you.

2) Hit the Ball Short - Most golfers tend to swing harder on the first hole then any other hole. This is a big mistake. A fast swing will tend to yield a poor result. You need to slow down your swing. Make believe you're on the driving range and try hitting the ball 20 yards shorter than normal. You might also try hitting a 3 wood instead of the driver. regardless of which club you use you must Relax and slow down your swing. By trying to hit a shorter shot you will eliminate the pressure you feel to crush the ball and you'll be able to make a nice smooth easy swing at the ball.

Try the above two tips. You might not crack off a 250 yard drive but I guarantee you that you'll you'll hit a nice straight shot that will have you sitting in the short hairs.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Mental Game - Keep The Streak Going

You've just run off a string of four consecutive pars. You start to realize that you are on a hot streak and thoughts about how long you can keep it up start to dance through you mind. On the next hole your streak comes to a screaming halt when you hit double bogey.

In order to become a good golfer you have to learn how to handle a hot streak and keep it alive. Following is the method I use. You might want to give it a try.

Think About the Next Shot - When you're on a hot streak try not to think about how long you can keep the streak alive. Worrying about how long you can keep the streak going is nowhere near as important as the next shot. Picture in your minds eye exactly the next shot you want to hit. Feel it coming off the clubface. See the flight of the ball as moves towards your target. Watch the ball as it hits the ground and rolls. Now your're ready to hit the ball.

One important point to remember is that the next shot is in the future, the streak is in the past. In order to keep the streak going the only important thing is the next shot.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Mental Game - Say It Out Loud

I think it was Winston Churchhill who said that "Golf is a Good Walk Ruined". I don't think I'd go that far but let's be honest you spend a heck of a lot more time on the course walking than hitting the ball. This down time from hitting the ball gives your mind an awful lot of time to wander onto thoughts about anything but golf.

When it's time to hit the ball you have to be able to get your mind back onto the task at hand which is to get the ball from point A to point B via the best possible path. One of the best ways I've found to get my mind back into focus is to say my shot out loud prior to setting up to the ball. I try to realistic about the shot I plan to hit and you should also.

I find that even if I don't hit the ball the way I said was going to, just the fact that I said it out loud gets my mind back into focus and flushes all those other thoughts out of my head. Then, between shots, I can think about anything I want while I'm walking to my ball.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Mental Game - It's Good to be the Underdog

You're a high handicap golfer so no one expects you to play well. That's a good thing because it allows you to look at your mistakes, and you're going to make your share of them, as opportunities. When things go bad don't get upset. I know that sounds ridiculously easy to say but very hard to do. Look at your mistakes as learning experiences then forget about the bad shot or hole and start to concentrate on the shot at hand.

As an example, you've hit an ugly slice into the trees. Does it do you any good to get all upset about the shot? Obviously it doesn't because that shot is history, you can't take it back. What you should start to think about is how am I going to recover. You should also look at it as a chance to surprise your partners by playing a smart shot and escaping relatively unscathed. Hey, you're a high handicap golfer and nobody is expecting you to hit a good recovery shot, so you're in the position to get a good deal of satisfaction by hitting a good recovery shot and turning their expectations upside-down.

The same goes for a series of bad holes, when others expect you to fall apart. Use the opportunity to stick with your shot-by-shot, hole-by-hole approach. Following a string of bad holes with a string of good ones is incredibly satisfying.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Mental Game - To Score or Not to Score

If you're a highhandicap golfer sometimes it's difficult to play a round thinking about scoring since, in your mind you know that you're not going to score well. Therefore, you're usually more interested in your swing than your score. However, if your mind is constantly thinking swing instead of score it will tend to become cluttered with negative thoughts. Especially if you hit a several bad shots in a row. What you need to do is stop worrying about your swing and start concentrating on getting the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible. Your focus should be on moving the ball forward and getting it there using the quickest and safest route.

At the same time you shouldn't let your score control your game. It's usually best to ignore your score otherwise a couple of bad holes in a row can be extremely discouraging and ruin the rest of your round. It may sound contradictory but its actually not. Playing for score means that you're playing to get the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible without worrying about how your swing looks. If you play each shot as they come concentrating on moving the ball forward you'll find yourself in a much position to rebound from those inevitable bad shots and bad holes.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Full Swing - Wrist Action

How come some golfers seem to be able to hit the cover off the ball while others can't seem to get any distance on their shots? It's true that your size plays a role but even the smallest golfer has the ability to hit the ball far. The main reason for a lack of distance has to do with the action of your wrists through the impact zone.

If you're able to make a proper backswing and build up the torque in your upper body that is required to hit the ball far but you still lack the distance you desire then you must learn how to use the wrists. Most golfers either don't use any wrist action or they allow there wrists to break too early in the downswing. It's almost impossible to make the wrists release at precisely the right moment because the downswing happens too fast and the muscle to brain to muscle relay simply doesn't work quickly enough.

The key to a proper release of the wrists is to remain loose. Keep your grip light and keep the tension out of the muscles. The next time your on the range try swinging the club making sure everything is loose and relaxed. Take your normal swing and make sure to remain loose throughout the swing. Your wrists will naturally release through the impact zone. Practice this and you'll find that your shots will fly far and straight.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Full Swing - Begin at the End

The best way to correct any flaws you have in your swing is to begin at the end. What I mean by this is you should work on the end of your swing. That's right the end. It should be your goal to finish your swing properly with your weight fully transferred onto your left side, right foot on its toe, belt buckle facing your target and your hands up by your left ear. Remember, a good finish shows what came before. If your finish is good than the swing that got you there was good and if your finish is bad than your swing was bad. Strive to obtain a good finish on every shot and you'll see those mishits disappear.

Try this drill if you're having problems finishing your swing. Using a 5 iron set up to the ball as you normally would. Now, without swing the club move into the pefect finishing position as I described above. From this position I want you to swing the club back down past the ball and to the top of your backswing and then swing down and thru and hit the ball striving to obtain the perfect finish you started with. You'll probably hit an ugly shot the first couple of times you try this drill but that's OK. Keep at it for a while and you'll start making solid contact and your swing will become nice and smooth and your flaws should disappear.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Full Swing - Learn to Use the Fairway Wood

If you find that you lack distance off the tee then one club you need to learn to use effectively is the fairway wood. A fairway wood will fly low and roll far and can be the difference on those long par fours and par fives.

Two conditions have to be met in order for the fairway wood to work properly. 1) you have to have a good lie and 2) your landing area must be free of hazards. If you don't have both of these conditions met try another club.

Unlike your irons when hitting a fairway wood you want to sweep the ball off the grass. Play the ball in the middle or slightly forward of the middle of your stance. Bring the club back low on the takeaway and keep it going back along the target line as long as possible. Don't pick the club up rather let the turning of the shoulders bring the club up to the top of the backswing. Make a smooth transition at the top and bring the club back to the ball on the same swing plane it left on. If you do this your club will sweep the ball off the grass and send it flying towards your target on a low trajectory with lots of roll and put those long par fours and fives back in play.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Full Swing - The Importance of Tempo

So what's a good swing tempo? The answer is it's different for every golfer. But, when your tempo is good you know it because you're in a groove. You're hitting every club well and you're consistent. It doesn't matter which club you're hitting when your tempo is on your hitting solid shots consistently. Good tempo is the number one thing you can do to maintain a solid golf game. If you feel that your tempo is off here's a way to get it working.

The next time you're on the range place a ball on the tee. Pull out your driver and take your normal grip. Now holding the club with your normal grip walk away from the ball using your normal pace and stride. Walk about 10 steps away from the ball and then turn around and using the same pace walk back to the ball. Once you're back at your ball immediately address the ball, make one waggle and swing. It's important that you use your normal pace and stride when performing this drill because this is the best indicator of your natural tempo. If you normally walk with a slow pace you don't want to perform this drill using a fast pace. Use your natural rhythm. Once you discover what your natural rhythm is try to use the same tempo when hitting the ball. Any time you feel your tempo is off perform the above drill and you can easily get it back.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Full Swing - Over Swinging

One of the main reasons a lot of golfers hit the ball all over the place can be traced back to over-swinging the club. In an effort to get maximum distance on their shots the club is brought back way too far. I'm a firm believer that when it comes to the back-swing less is best. You're not John Daly and your swing shouldn't look like his. The average golfer will hit the ball considerably better with less of a back-swing.

If you find yourself among that group of golfers that's continually hitting shots off target you need to get out of the habit overswinging. This can be a difficult habit to break but the payoff is well worth it.

I like to teach my students to stop the back-swing when their left arm is parallel to the ground. This will make your swing stop short of parallel but that's OK. Your focus should be on getting a full shouder turn. This full shoulder turn when combined with a straight left arm that has remained under control will produce an incredible amount of torque which in turn equates to a large increase in distance and more importantly a shot that remains under control.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Short Game - Hit Them Long

You have 50 feet and a bunker between you and the pin. Don't try to get cute and just clear the bunker so the ball trickles close to the pin. Every now and then you'll pull off that shot but most of the time you'll wind up in the bunker. Always leave yourself a margin for error. Pick a landing spot that is well past the bunker and play to that spot. Depending upon the slope of the green you could still salvage par. Always play smart when faced with a difficult shot. You'll bogey the hole most of the time but you'll also save par more often then you would think and you take double and triple bogey out of the equation.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Short Game - Easy Does It

Easy Does It

Taking a big hard swing with a fairway wood or your driver sometimes produces amazing results. However, when you have a short iron in your hand taking the same kind of swing will often prove disasterous. Swing too hard with a short iron and your body will tend to change position. The result a poorly hit and inaccurate shot. Remember when you have a short iron in your hand you're looking for accuracy. You want to get close. The best way to accomplish this is to swing easy. If you can't make it to your target with an easy swing the answer is simple. Take more club.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Short Game - The Order of Shots

I coach my sons ice hockey team and I always tell the kids if you have the shot go ahead and take it. The same concept holds true on your short game. The type of shot you hit is crucial when you're around the green and depends on several factors. However, the type of shot you hit should be in the following order. 1) The putter - Do you have a clear path to the pin? Are you lying in the short grass? If so use the putter. You'll consistently get the ball closer to the hole. Just remember to hit the ball a little harder to make up for the longer grass. 2) Chip the ball - If you find yourself with rough terrain between you and the flag then the putter isn't an option. Chip the ball and select the club that will get you over the rough terrain and rolling as soon as possible. Lastly, 3) Pitch the ball - You should only pitch the ball if you have a hazard between you and the ball (such as a sand trap or if you have to go up a slope). Since a pitch will fly farther in the air and roll less when it hits the ground it's harder to control and should only be used when necessary.

Remember the following - "More roll equals more control".

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Short Game - Take a Divot

In order to consistently score well you have to be able to hit your high irons. Specifically, the 7 iron through the pitching wedge. These are your scoring clubs. When you have one of these irons in your hand you should be hunting for pins.

If you find yourself coming up short on a lot of your approach shots with these clubs the problem could be in your swing. With your low irons and woods you want to sweep the ball off the grass. If you do the same with your high irons your club will sweep the ball off the turf resulting in a high short shot. Your short irons require a crisp, descending blow. One that takes a divot. This will give you a lower trajectory that stays on target and goes further.

The ball should be played in the middle of your stance. This will guarantee that the club is moving downward at impact. Don't take a full backswing because a long, sweeping swing doesn't produce distance with the short irons. Take a 3/4 swing and concentrate on bringing the club down into the back of the ball. By coming down at a steeper angle you'll have more wrist cock which will result in more distance and a nice divot like you see the pros take when they play. Whatever you do, don't forget to follow through.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Short Game - Change the Club When Chipping

Do you always reach for the same club when you're chipping? Using the same club from varying distances has its disadvantages. The main disadvantage being that you have to change the force and speed of your swing as the distance varies to get the ball to go where you want. An easier and more reliable method is to change the club instead of the force and swing speed.

Start thinking of your chips as long putts. Your objective is to get the ball on the green and rolling towards the hole as soon as possible. If your ball is only several feet off the green and you don't have much fringe to cross there's nothing wrong with using a 4 or 5 iron. As your distance increases from the green progress upwards to more lofted clubs. Using different clubs allows you to keep a consistant swing which makes for better results.