Two Swing Tips: One Mental - One Physical
Todd used the Ask Terry button to send this in.

Q: Living in the Pacific Northwest, the ground here is soft or soggy for most of the year.

Is there a sole design and/or swing shape that is more appropriate for this type of ground ? The V-Sole seems to address this issue. How about fairway woods and irons ?

A: Your dilemma affects every golfer, since varying turf conditions happen everywhere.

In my own area, when our courses are dry, they get very firm; you can really drive the clubhead down into the ball. But give us ½ inch of rain and this black soil turns to chewing gum, and you can’t get a club out of it.

One of the problems any golfer faces is how to deal with varying turf, and soft turf like you describe is perhaps the most difficult. So, what’s a golfer to do ?

My suggestion is to develop a swing path that takes a very shallow divot almost all the time, even with short irons and wedges. If you work on that, the changing turf conditions will not have dramatic effects on your shotmaking.

And the side benefit is that it is much easier on your joints and muscles than continually banging into Mother Earth.

Another side benefit is that you practically eliminate fat shots by flattening out your swing path through the ball, and thin shots always turn out better than fat ones.

When I was a kid, we learned “thin to win”, and it’s true. Especially with short irons and wedges, a shot hit a slight bit on the thin side typically flies lower, and has extraordinary spin.

So, now that you have this goal, how do you get there ? I won’t leave you without a practice tip.

To get the club moving shallower through impact, you make one physical adjustment and one mental one.

Physically, try moving the ball a little further away from you, so that your swing plane is flatter. But mentally, change your swing focus from “hitting the ball” to “swinging the club through the ball”.

Erase the ball from your focus as much as you can, and just concentrate on making a nice swing through the place where the ball is sitting, with the club just brushing the turf.

You ever notice how your practice swings make much smaller divots than your actual swing ? That’s because the ball becomes the object of your focus and you “hit” at it, rather than make smooth swings like you did in practice.

If you will try to make the ball less of a target, and concentrate on the swing, I think you will find your divots to shallow out and your shotmaking to get much better.
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[ comments ]
Tom Galbraith says:
I agree with Terry that the focus should be on swinging the club through the ball. I spend a lot of time in my backyard practising chipping and find if I concentrate on hitting the ball I can hit it fat and short. My natural swing tends to take little to no divot. For a long time I was practising to take a divot to reinforce hitting down on the ball but have abandoned that idea preferring to concentrate on setup and swing tempo. Trying to take a divot brought more poor shots than it made up for.
Mike says:
Hey Terry,

I'm a lot like Tom, I find my best ball-striking comes from swinging "thru" and not "at" the ball.

I tend to hit down too much and wonder if you can help me hit "thru" the ball more often and "down or at" the ball less often.
wedgeguy says:
Mike, learning to hit "through", rather than "at" the ball is going to take some practice, both mentally and physically. You've got years of experience to "un-learn", but don't let that discourage you. As I said, the first step is to get the ball a little further from you so that you can make a shallower path through impact. If it's too close, you have no choice but to hit down on it. Secondly, when you are at the range, practice making "practice swings", but while the ball is in place. In other words, really focus your attention on the swing, rather than the shot. Do not even worry about where or how the ball flies -- you are learning a new swing path. One very good golfer I know who took almost no divot at all, told me he practiced "blading" the ball. Once he got where he could pick it clean every time, his overall ball striking improved. And anytime you are learning a new swing skill, it's very helpful to swing about 70% speed, so that you can focus on where your body parts are going -- that's harder to do at full swing speed. As you learn the new swing skill at this reduced speed, you can gradually work your way back up to full swing speed.
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