Cause and Effect
First of all, you have floored me with all the responses to my questions in Tuesday’s post. We’ll be sorting those out and putting them in a pot to name the winners of the free wedges, but most of all . . . THANK YOU! It always pleases me when I get a lot of responses to a post, and this one generated the most immediate responses ever. Was it the free wedges? Or something else that made you all chime in so feverishly?
But on to today’s subject – cause and effect in the golf swing. I have been working with a couple of the local high school kids and the one of the biggest issues I see them struggling with is swing speed. NOT the kind that generates clubhead speed at impact, but the overall pace of their swings, particularly their backswings. To most of them, the game is all about power. They all have watched so much TV golf and heard so much about how far these guys hit it. And they all have bigger, stronger kids hitting it past them. So they naturally try to kill the ball with every club in their bag, not just the driver. And that promotes quick, right hand dominated backswings which leads to inconsistency.
I’ve been trying to convey to them that there is no applied power in the backswing. You don’t hit the ball with that part of the swing – it’s merely a way to get the club into the proper position from which to make a powerful downswing. So the more deliberate you are with that part of the swing, the more likely you are to get in the exact right position to optimize your downswing move through impact. And that advice can be applied to many of the mid- to high-handicappers I observe and advise.
The golf swing can be broken down into three basic parts – backswing, impact zone and follow through. And all of them are cause and effect.
The backswing is caused by the way you hold the club, your stance and posture and your ideas of where the club needs to be at the top/back of its travel. I’m a big proponent of visual golf, and if you have a very vivid, clear picture of where you want the club to be at the end of the backswing, you are more likely to get it there. With any shot – from drive to putt – the backswing should be a deliberate motion to put the club precisely where it needs to be to set up the initial move toward impact. And you don’t win any awards, get any bonus points or gain any distance for getting there quicker.
The initial part of the downswing is caused by two things – your vision of how the club moves through the impact zone, and where you started from . . . the top of your backswing position. Most golfers think that they need to “hit” the golf ball, so the downswing move is too often initiated by a subtle tightening of the right hand and a move with the naturally stronger upper right side to begin the action of “hitting” the ball at the bottom. If you change your notion of impact to a pulling motion of the entire left side through the impact zone, the first move will subconsciously change from a right hand dominated action to a left side action, beginning with the legs, then hips, upper torso and upper left arm. And you are getting closer to proper impact.
The impact zone action is caused by this initial downswing move and the way you envision releasing the club through the ball. If you continue this left side dominance, you can more easily release the club in a rotational motion, rather than an unhinging of the wrists. And longer, straighter shots, with crisper impact will be the result.
Finally, the follow-through is a natural action that reflects the quality of the action through the impact zone. Very few good ball strikers have funky-looking follow-throughs. And a nice looking, balanced follow-through will NEVER result from an improper move through impact.
Thanks again for all the input and feedback from my Tuesday column. We’ll release the winners’ names in Tuesday’s column. Keep the individual questions coming in through the “Ask Terry” link at the bottom of each post. We still give away a wedge every Tuesday. Or more than one!
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.
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This is something I definitely need to work on. I no I am wrong hand dominant. I should focus on right side pulling through (lefthanded). Thanks Terry.
Thanks Terry, I just downloaded an app to compare my swing to that of a pro and I noticed immediately that I am un-hinging the club to early in my downswing and I'm thinking that is because I'm starting my swing with my right arm. If I ever get to actually play golf again, I just know it's gonna be good.
left side, left side, pull with the left side, I can do this
Kurt the Knife says:
'Tis true. Whenever I can get myself to "pull" my left side around my spine, the ball goes straight and far. Problem is its hard to get misself to do that consistently. I just keep trying.
Regarding follow-thru, one of my instructors is fond of saying, "Create a balanced, poised, high follow thru. the stroke might be a disaster but at least you'll look good."
SD Charlie says:
More gold from Terry! You have a way of putting the golf swing into words that are easy to follow, visualize and understand. One tour guy (who hits the ball far, btw) who is a great example is Jason Day. If you watch him on the tee, you can really see how he accelerates through his swing, reaching full speed at the ball. It looks so fluid, it almost seems like slow motion. Being new to golf, I definitely struggle with the same things your high school students struggle with. Rushing the backswing, improper positions, etc. I thought about this recently when thinking about how one holds a bat in baseball, which made me realize that the backswing is not so much part of the swing, but just the motion of getting one's club to the position where you're ready to hit the ball. All of the energy that goes into the ball comes from the moment one swings the club down.
I have recently become more conscious of lightening my grip prior to my backswing, how I am taking the club back, my backswing, shortening my backswing, keeping an athletic stance all the way through, swinging more with the lower body instead of being mostly arms and shoulders, and swinging through the ball instead of at the ball. Doing so has helped me increase accuracy and distance. Not much distance, but a little. It's the accuracy I like the most because it equates to lower scores. Now to improve those pesky chips and pitches to get more ups and downs, birdies and pars.
Great Terry thanks! I've been working on the backswing for a couple of weeks now. I've just started to feel my body in the twist of the hips and slowed down my backswing a great deal to get that feel. I am getting better contact with each swing knowing my swing comes from a better position and feeling it. One of the best helps ever was telling myself before I lift to the backswing is to keep my left arm straight and pushing the club upwards. Makes for a short backswing but it works and, I believe it has helped me get my left to take over the swing more and more. I use the Stack and Tilt when I swing and the follow through for me has been a lot of "tuck your butt under" thinking. My shots are not near as flat as they have been, and I'm getting straighter longer shots.
I agree. My backswing now takes about 3 full seconds and slowing down has made all the difference in solid ball contact.
Love the leftside pulling feel. best tip i ever got serioulsy.
Why is each time I read your column I just want to get out and play :-)
The main reason you got so many responses is that you asked for them. Some people will always chime in when you make statements, but it's always nice to feel wanted. Also, you asked very specific questions, which are always easier to grasp. Can you imagine asking everyone, "How is your swing doing?" Where would we start?
Think about this.... Advice to women: The best way to get men to do something is not to ask for HELP, but to ask for ADVICE. (ie "I don't know what to do. How do you think I should try to get this piano up these 10 flights of stairs?" vs. "Can you help me move my piano today?" In the first example the man starts to dream up fancy configurations of ropes, levers, ramps, hand-trucks, and winches. The second question makes him suddenly remember what time the game is on, and which knee had surgery recently. The question, "Honey, what is the right way to pack the groceries into the trunk?" is music to a man's ears. We want to be smart! Experts! Not dumb lackeys or hulking, knuckle-dragging assistants. Tell us we're clever, not helpful.
I don't know about the rest of you but I really love to "hit" the ball. I think all week about how I'm going to get to "hit" the ball on the golf course. I freak out if you told me I had to pull at the ball. I want to smash it, to crush it, to smoke it, to cream it, to "hit the back of the ball." And I do! I hit the back of the ball with the club and it works fine! I can't get it out of my head; all week dreaming that when I get out on the course I will be able to hit the back of the ball, and nobody can stop me, or make pull through it, or stand in a barrel or staple my left heel to the ground, or throw a bucket of water down the railroad tracks. I mean, can you play golf without hitting the back of the ball? AND IT SOUNDS LIKE "SWOOOON-CH," and really hauls butt toward the hole!
I've never been the best sportsman, not bad but no genius. Recently I've started to think about me game. Don't drive every hole and leave my approach shot within 140. My latest realisation is the backswing and simple physics says that it must come to rest before acceleration in the opposite direction, so why does it need to be quick? I like the fact that my thoughts have been verified by Terry. Will try the pull idea...
Good advice Terry. This has worked for me.
My golf improved a lot when I started taking a shorter backswing. However, it initially messed up my tempo until I slowed it down. Now I take the same time to travel a shorter distance and my tempo is the same as when I used to take a longer backswing.
I concentrate on my left shoulder by pushing it back on the backswing and pulling it through on the downswing. It will take the hitting instinct out of the right hand
I think about where the bev cart girl is and how long it will be until she gets back to the hole I am on.
@Muscle-Ocho - must have been hopiing she was bringing a hot-toddie or some warm brandy with the weather we've had up here... seriously! C'mon Mother Nature, we wanna golf in some decent weather before June, please!
But on topic - I was just working on this on friday at the range trying to things:
- Concentrating on slowing my back swing (this is what usually brings my driver back under control for the most part.
- The other thing I tried that was new to me, was holding my right hand on the club more in my palm instead of my fingers to make pull the club through instead of pushing it with my right hand. I noticed by turning my right hand down a little also helped keep my elbow down better in and through the back and downswing to the release.
i must be doing something wrong. any time my swing starts to become more left-hand dominant, i just cannot get the club face square, and they all start going waaaaaay right. i have to think of it as if my left arm is just along for the ride for me to get the club face square to the target line at impact...
In all honesty, the way I took some right hand out of the swing was by working on a fundamental style of grip - a la Ben Hogan's 5 lessons. I have always had a ten finger grip, with both thumbs wrapped around. That part is fine, but the right hand had the tendency to get way to strong and choke the living chicklets out of the club. By unwrapping the right hand and weakening it, the right wrist, hand, and arm give way to the whole swing naturally, and now the club and the swing can breathe. Of course, this necessitated a rethinking of alignment and ball placement, but now everything is more corrected or trued up - allowing for slight changes in ball placement to have the desired effect. But I still hit the ball, the back of the ball!
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