Avoiding the Usual Suspects of Poor Technique
Improper technique early in the swing usually leads to movements that are detrimental to your golf swing. We describe this as “cause and effect’. This month we investigate typical swing flaws that you might experience and give you information to help improve the root cause of these flaws. We also help those, that may combine a few of these issues to highlight the importance of what to avoid!
I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s golf game: it’s called an eraser
– Arnold Palmer
1) UN-ATHLETIC POSTURE LEADS TO AN UN-ATHLETIC SWING
Golf is a sport, and like many sports, the more athletic a competitor is the wider range of movement they should be able to achieve. Now, unlike a 100-meter dash where size, speed, and strength are of the utmost importance, golf we view athleticism in how our posture and movements are maintained throughout the swing. Balance is essential and in an unathletic posture, balance can be put into jeopardy leading to a poor plane, rotation, weight shift, the angle of approach and contact. Try and be as athletic as you can and relate it to other sports that you have played growing up or watch on T.V. like basketball, football, soccer or tennis. All these sports establish even distributed weight on the balls of your feet, yet keeping them relatively flat. Engage the core by bending at the waist arching the back slightly and allowing the pelvis to point more to the ball by sticking your butt out away from the ball. A good rule of thumb is to do this in a mirror with a club and notice if the shaft is almost at a right angle to your spine angle. I generally like to see the shaft plane and spine angle as close to a right angle as you can, with the hands in front of the shoulders. You can practice getting setup athletically anytime and anywhere. After a while, as your posture improves, so will your range of motion.
2) INCORRECT TAKEAWAY LEADS TO POOR PLANE AND PATH
To keep along the line of “cause & effect”, things you do early in the swing can have the biggest effect to what proceeds it. Takeaway is something that has often given players trouble over the years. I like to focus more on taking the club away with the body rather than setting the hands. If the shoulders initiate the takeaway and the club stays centered to the body the club should always stay on or close to plane and the clubface has no reason not to be square to that. Often takeaway issue result with rolling of the wrists, arms pulling or raising too early. As the arms and hands can do so many intricate movements try avoiding this as if you start off with a takeaway too far inside or outside the downswing will be harder to obtain. The downswing is essentially responsible for solid contact and desired accuracy. Try the “Lighthouse” drill to get your arms and body on the same page. I like to call this “Body Centeredness”, where the club (butt-end) remains centered to the body and reduces many incorrect movements of the hands during takeaway, leading to downswing. Takeaway lines are also very useful to highlight incorrect takeaway to promote correct takeaway. Try using either drill to improve how well you start your swing.
3) EARLY HAND ACTIVITY RESULTS IN LESS BODY AND INCREASED HAND AND ARM SWINGS
Like section 2, the hands can affect the takeaway of the club early in the swing. Hands tend to have this effect throughout the entire swing if you let them. This section focuses on how the hands cause many bad outcomes and ways to help prevent these movements. Now when I say hands I agree that the hands are important. They are the sole contact we have on the club, but this doesn’t mean that they need to drive the golf swing as they are relatively smaller muscles. I often see the length of swing determined by how far the clubhead travels. When I’m on the lesson tee I try to reverse the thought process by re-educating the backswing. I state that the backswing is measured by how far the shoulder rotates rather than the club. We see most PGA & LPGA Tour players rotate 90* on average. Many golfers when swinging the club longer think they are getting more power. This tends to lead to a loss an inability to turn and consequently results in swinging with the arms. This can increase the inconsistency of your movement and is detrimental to distance, accuracy, and quality of contact. If we turn our shoulders to somewhere around 75* – 90* and let the arms and hands follow it will result in a more consistent takeaway. If you do this in an athletic posture it can also help the swing plane and eventually increase the potential power increasing carry and distance. Powerful swings come from the bigger muscle groups like the shoulders, hips and back muscles.
4) LOSS OF POSTURE EQUALS LOSS OF CONTACT
Keep your head down? We have heard this phrase for decades. David Duval didn’t exactly do this, nor did Annika Sorenstam and these two golfers where both World Number #1’s. Now I don’t entirely disagree with this statement but it is a little misleading. The raising of the head does play an important factor into loss of posture during the golf swing. It can also influence the ability to rotate, which we now know promotes inconsistent movements. The head is however, connected to the body and if the body losses its ability to stay in a solid golfing posture, then the contact on the ball will be greatly affected. By hopefully starting in an athletic posture you have increased your ease to rotate. Now try using alignment rods to help highlight maintaining a posture to help achieve more consistency in contact and avoid raising or collapsing of the body. You notice in the ‘Shoulder Tilt’ drill how the left shoulder drops during the backswing and right shoulder drops on the downswing. The shoulders rotate around the spine angle and shoulder tilt rotates the shoulders at the same time. Another drill to help maintain the distance to and from the ball is a “Chair Drill”. The “Rear against the Chair” drill can ensure continuous turn and reminds you if you get closer to the ball. Whereas a “Ride the Wall” drill promotes posture and distance from the ball. Practice whichever drill you feel will help you and your swing flaw. Hopefully it leads to better posture and improved contact resulting in better ball flight.
5) LACK OF CONNECTION LEADING TO LACK OF CONSISTENCY
Connection is the essence of using every part of your body together. Connection allows the body to rotate with the club staying centered to it. This also has a major effect to the club’s ability to be on plane. Loss of connection, however, can result in several issues. Plane and path are affected when the arms get away from the body. Less connection can also lead to a lack of rotation. As we discovered earlier, overusing the hands and arms will ultimately result in inconsistent outcomes. Contact tends to also suffer as loss of connection of your arms from your body will result in the toe and heel getting closer and further away from the ball and you guessed it the “SHANK” shot can be the outcome. To help stay connected there needs to be a focus on maintaining posture and keeping the arms the same distance from the body if the setup is correct. The arms should hang down with the hands slightly ahead of the shoulders. The use of towel drills, impact tape and or noodles can reinforce the importance of staying connected. If connection is compromised many undesirable outcomes can occur. Work on these drills so that the body and arms work together so that you can become more consistent and avoid those loose swings or bad contacted shots.
6) A COMBINATION OF POINTS 1-5, PRODUCES AN INCONSISTENT GOLFER
As you have discovered most of the previous points tend to be intertwined. I hope I have address the issue and in doing so addressed the fault in your swing. Practice some of the training exercises and when eliminating the cause, the effects may be lessened or even eliminated. For more help read my blogs or go and visit your local PGA professional and start improving to control these usual suspects.