Bearing Down, Tuning In
I’m a great believer that the most glaring error for most golfers doesn’t have anything to do with the swing at all. If you’ve ever hit a good golf shot, then your swing has the capability of doing it more often. You may not be fundamentally sound, but if you’ve made thousands of swings, you probably have a move that is relatively grooved and could repeat itself more frequently...
IF you would only give it a chance.
I am a near-fanatical observer of golfers. I watch how they approach various shots, course management, club selection, shot selection . . . pretty much everything. But what puzzles me the most is how little attention most golfers give to the pre-shot routine, and more specifically, their set-up and ball position. What I see with overwhelming frequency is that the average golfer is terribly inconsistent with their alignment. They aim varying degrees right or left of their intended target line, which seriously affects ball position from shot to shot. Some even aim right and left of the target line inconsistently.
There is just no way your “grooved” swing can repeat itself if the body alignment and ball position is moving all over the place. The golf ball is 1.68” in diameter and even the largest clubs have an effective impact area of only a couple of square inches. So, if you are even an inch or so off in your set-up, alignment and ball position – and most mid- to high-handicappers are off much more than that – you’ve reduced your chances of solid contact significantly.
More importantly, your eye/hand coordination is working overtime to try to get the club on the ball when your alignment and ball position is off. No matter how you set up, you look at your intended target line, so your eyes are “programming” your body what to do with the golf clubhead. Your subconscious mind “knows” that your learned swing isn’t going to produce a shot that goes on that line your eyes have programmed, so it makes adjustments to your learned swing to try to compensate for your alignment error. That’s why golfers who line up right of the target line tend to pull the ball all the way across the line and left. And why golfers who set up left tend to come through impact with the face wide open and hit big slices that end up right.
If you want to hit more good golf shots, regardless of what your swing looks like, just pay closer attention to your alignment and ball position. Bear down and tune in to what you are trying to do with that particular shot.
Pick a spot in the grass about two feet in front of the ball on your intended line, carefully aim the clubhead at that spot, then set up to the properly aligned clubhead. Pay attention to the position of the ball in relation to your stance and/or body core, and then swing away. Consistency in your set-up leads to consistency in your swing and shot outcomes. If you will develop solid fundamentals in the alignment and ball position, this game will get a great deal easier immediately.
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couldn't agree more here, I have almost a 0 chance to hit a draw when the tee box points right and the target is left. I always will hit a push slice, it can really kill rounds, alignment is so simple yet I am awful at it...
This is my fourth season of playing and I have started to notice that, whenever I take a little extra care with my setup, the swing seems easier, the ball goes further and with a better result. Now if only, I could have started playing earlier in my life! One of your best articles yet, Terry. Thanks!
A pre-shot routine needs to be natural, something one goes through without really thinking. I see some players who approach the pre-shot routine like a checklist. There is too much thinking going on and it usually causes problems.
Of course, it takes a while for one to develop an subconcious routine. The simpler the routine, the sooner one learns to follow the process without putting a great deal of thought into it.
I have started doing a pre-shot routine where I square the clubface to my target, set my stance, grab the club and place it on my hips to check my aim, place the club back down, get my grip set properly, waggle, and fire. It has helped a great deal to hitting the ball more on line, and hitting the ball with better contact. And last night I tried your slow down and feel the top of the back swing and follow through for my short shots and it helped tremendously. Of course I need to work on being consistent with distances and such, but it helped me feel comfortable with my wedges and less anxious, and produced better results.
I've always had a pretty set pre-shot routine for my full swings but this past spring, I started doing a pre-shot routine for putting too. That has helped tremendously with my putting.
Hi Terry, I am a newbie to the oobgolf community, and am in the process of trying to learn how to make better contact with my wedges and irons. I am re-visiting such preshot routine fundamentals as setup alignment, balance & tempo, and timing of club release, etc, all in an attempt to shallow out my divot's and make the divot start after the ball's hole side edge. I tend to hit the ball fat more than thin! Your tip about picking out a spot ahead of ball to aim to is one I used to employ, but for some reason had forgotten about. Thanks for the reminder!!
Any chance you could do a topic about how to practice club release timing to improve ball contact, how this could relate to one's divot shape/depth, and how to determine what bounce is best for a particular golfer? I realize that proper bounce could also be affected by the type of course conditions one might regularly play, etc. and this might be an interesting topic to address as well.
It's amazing how many times I see players mis-aligned or someones tells me after the shot that I was mis-aligned. I've gotten better over time and mostly because I have developed a fairly consistant pre-shot routine, but also because I've made an effort to quit thinking about my swing and instead focus on 'taking dead aim'. My only swing thought is 'Smooth swing.' If you're thinking about swinging anyplace but the practice range you're not thinking about your target. Golf is all about hitting your target. Pretty shots are nice but pretty shots that hit their target score birdies. TAKE DEAD AIM!
Great comment Brian. I dont know how many times I have played courses that the tees are lined up into the boondocks!!! When you walk up to a tee ,go to back and see where it is pointing. It is a terrible feeling when you think you hit a great shot and it goes into deep shit because that's where tee is pointing!
Terry is dead on about the mind's ability to adjust mid-swing. The main reason humans have thrived for so long is our natural hand eye coordination and ability to hit moving targets. Very few species on Earth have both.
I read an article on this years ago, ad it showed if golfer's focused on keeping their eye on the ball more than any other thing, their swings improved drastically because the body is so good at the rest. Keeping a stable foundation, therfeore, is key to keeping your eye(s) on the ball. Get a good set up position, and stabilize the lower body and the rest darn near takes care of itself.
Great topic Wedgeguy, one that is criminally underrated. I have always believed that there's only so much wrong you can accomplish during the swing. For the most part your swing is your swing, and it all happens way too fast to really control anything as its happening. I feel it is more difficult to set up to the ball consistently than it is to swing the club consistently and that's why there's so many people out there stinking up the course at any given moment. Also dialing it one's ideal setup is grinding, unglamorous work which is again, why people will always suck at this game.
@hongman: don't try to time your release, please!!! Don't even go down that road.
@mlf16507: I dont get how you are affected by which way the tee box is pointing? Does anyone else run into this problem.
Terry's point is that when you're feet/body are aligned correctly, your grooved swing will pull through correctly, and if the ball is positioned well, you're going to square up the face and get the ball going in the right direction. If you're alignment is off, the motions needed to get the club on the ball will cause an unsquare clubface (push or pull), and/or left right "english" (inside-out path, or outside-in path). In golf - as in some other sports - this motion can be intentional (tennis, ping-pong). If it isn't, it is a great way to diagnose position and alignment issues - especially if you do something consistantly.
Golfers will often align their feet/body to the tee-box - which gets them pointing in the wrong direction. In this case, a straight swing will get the ball off target. The other case is when the golfer aligns straight to the hole, but the askew tee-box subconciously grooves the swing the wrong way resulting in unintended ball flight. It's like trying to lift the ball to get over the water and topping it instead.
The number one thing I see in struggling golfers is a poor swing path - most often outside in (especially in tall players). They appear to think that they need to get the club head directly behind the ball and bring it straight through. The body cannot balance like this, and the club cuts back inside creating wicked slicing spin, often combined with distance-smothering reverse pivot. THE CLUB NEEDS TO COME BEHIND YOU! Much more like a baseball swing, saw. Plus, as Terry points out so well... wherever you position the ball you're going to swing at it - pulling you into all sorts of odd combinations of face/spin/alignment woes. The only way to solve this is to get back to basics: body alignment, ball position. Besides distance, and spin, there is nothing else.
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