I played golf with my grandson (15) yesterday. He is getting the hang of things, hitting the ball long and straight on occasion. Much of the time, though, he hits it fat — ground first, ball second — the opposite of what is supposed to happen. So I did a bit of looking.
Note: he plays left-handed, so this analysis will read backwards for most of you.
I stood behind him and held up a golf club in front of me so it bisected his body vertically as he got into his address position for a rehearsal swing. He shifted a little bit to the left of the golf shaft on the backswing, and handsomely to the right of it on his follow-through. His clubhead brushed the ground just like it should. So far, so good.
I watched again when he stepped up to the ball. Same thing on the backswing, but on the through swing and follow-through, he didn’t move at all. When he finished his swing, his body was still bisecting the shaft, proving that his weight had remained on his left side.
In addition, his swing slowed down a bit. Not much, but enough to be noticeable.
What this means to me that his mind was on the ball. Now there is something for his club to hit, everything changes. He wants to be sure he doesn’t miss it, and that’s what he ends up doing.
Like I said before, there are times when he hits a beautiful-sounding shot that goes long and straight, and you can’t do that by luck alone.
A lot of things go through a golfer’s mind, and on the occasions when nothing much does, we succeed.
But when we think the purpose of the golf swing is to hit the ball, it all falls apart. When we try to get the ball in the air, we don’t. When we try to make sure of contact, we mishit or miss altogether.
There is nothing about having a ball in front of you that should change anything you do with your golf swing.
Yet only the very best players, the low single-digit handicappers and better, manage to play like that. The rest of us remain ball-bound.
There are two cures for this. My grandson applied one on the eighth hole, which slopes upward to the green. With the ball on an upslope, you do not want to swing along the upslope, but swing into the hill. I showed him the difference and he did just that.
The result was him hitting the ball first, the ground second, and he got the cleanest strike of the day and the most powerful, straight shot out of it. Now just do that on flat ground and he’s got it.
The second cure is more difficult, because it has to do with your mind. You need a new conception of the golf swing. You can only get so good by thinking that the swing is about hitting the golf ball, and it will take you along time to get there if you do.
The correct conception is based on the feel of a good golf shot. The best players know before they step up to the ball how it all should feel. Lesser players become aware of the feeling after the shot has been made.
You can start playing this way right now if you want to. There is no rule that says you have to be a 5 before you do. Here’s how to do it: instead of your technique leading up to impact, it should lead you to a satisfying follow-through.