Category Archives: golf swing

My Conception of Golf Technique

Over the years I have sprinkled certain themes throughout my posts. I say them over and over because they work—not only for me, but for everybody.

To save you the trouble of searching for what you might not know is even there, here it all is. This post summarizes my thoughts. If you do all these things (and there aren’t many) you will play better golf.

The Swing

When you’re standing over the ball, think of the swing as one unit from takeaway to finish. Impact is an event like another other along the way—do not give it extra importance.

Swing at a tempo which allows you to hit the ball on the center of the clubface consistently.

Your hands must lead the clubhead into the ball. They must arrive back to the ball before the clubhead does.

Short Game

With a chip and a pitch, think of sliding the sole of the club underneath the ball. Do not hit down on the ball.

With a chip, use one swing and several clubs to regulate distance.

With a pitch, use two or three lengths of swing (your choice) and several clubs to regulate distance.

Putting

Hit the ball on the sweet spot of the putterface.

Let the length of the backswing be the sole distance generator.

Technique is less important than mentally bearing down the hole.

How to Swing the Golf Club Faster

This is a little post.

I have said in recent posts that you should slow your swing down to ensure contact on the center of the clubface. Once you have accomplished that, swing in a way that feels the same, but in less time. Like this:

1. Before you address the ball, feel a fast, smooth, effortless swing in your mind.

2. Hold the club LIGHTLY at address. Relax everything else, too.

3. Think that it is the sole of the club that is moving fast, not your body, your arms, or your hands.

4. Relax even more during the swing.

Remember, though, you do have a red line. The key to distance ishitting the ball on the center of the clubface. Never swing faster than you ability to keep doing that.

Covering the Golf Ball

A few years ago, I published a post about a move that let me hit a 9-iron 145 yards.

This all started when I asked my teaching pro how to make sure I hit the ball first and the ground second. He showed me a move, and I talked about it in that post.

I also said in the post, “I won’t tell you what it is, not because I want it to be a secret, but because it’s difficult to describe, and if you got it wrong it would be disastrous. Besides, your pro should be able to teach you what to do.”

Now, after almost eight years, I’m going to reveal what that move is. It’s very simple to do, but does take lots of practice to get right.

It’s a Johnny Miller move he calls covering the ball.

If you go on YouTube and search for “covering the ball,” you’ll find several ideas about what that term means. One of them is to keep your chest over the ball, i.e., “cover” it, through impact.

I won’t argue with that, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about here.

(Left-handers, in what follows read “left palm” for you.)

I’m going to use Miller’s definition, which is “the act of angling your right palm toward the ground” as the club comes through impact.

Instead of facing the target directly, the right palm FEELS like it is angled slightly toward the ground, hence “covering” it with the palm of your right hand.

You don’t PHYSICALLY turn the palm down to cover it unless you want to hit a great big hook.

What you will get by applying this feeling is a de-lofted clubface which will send the ball farther. And straight. You will also get the ball first, ground second contact that is the key to good golf.

It will take some experimentation to figure out how to do this. I would suggest getting into an impact position with a feeling of the right palm being angled down, but with the clubface still square to the swing path. (Hint: Your hands have to be ahead of the ball.) Then work the swing, always starting in this position, making bigger and bigger swings, slowly, that keep arriving back to this position.

IMPORTANT POINT: DO NOT do this when the ball is on a tee. Ground only.

The Miller quotation is from his book, Breaking 90 with Johnny Miller.

A Few Words About Lag

I was talking with my son last week about golf and his problem hitting the ball straight.

My son said he could hit the ball straight sometimes, but too often hit a huge banana slice, and the conversation went from there straight into talking about lag.

Lag is the Holy Grail of recreational golf. The more the better. Get that clubhead way behind you and whip it into the ball and your tee shot will go for miles.

I’m a right-to-left player, and when I hit a huge slice it’s because I forget myself and do what I just described. Only when I do it, my body gets way ahead of my hands and arms and the clubhead gets left too far behind. It has no chance to square up and comes into the ball wide open. Hello, adjoining fairway.

You see, when you TRY to create lag, creating it artificially, bad things can happen.

Lag is created by the hinging of your wrists, and the flexibility of your wrists in the process.

You want all the lag you can get at the top of the backswing, and maybe starting down. But once your hands get to about hip height on the way into the ball, the lag starts disappearing NATURALLY and the hands lead the clubhead by a few inches.

Trying to hold on to your lag for too long doesn’t work.

Many of today’s touring pros have with their body way out in front at impact, but they get away with it, because they don’t out-swing their arms. We’re not them and we can’t get away with it.

Forget about lag. Just pretend you never heard the word. If you hit the ball with the hands leading the clubhead in the way this drill teaches you , you will have all the lag you need and can use.

How I Hit the Golf Ball Straight

I’m going to tell you about a few key elements in how I hit the golf ball straight. Straight means it doesn’t curve. Accurate means the ball goes where I aimed it, and that’s a different post.

For the ball to go straight the clubface has to be square to the club path at impact.

This can be difficult to achieve, since there is so much time and so many ways for the clubface to get out of whack.

The first thing is for your hands to lead the clubhead into the ball. There I go, beating that drum again. But it’s true. If you try to hit with your trailing hand, the clubface will lead, and it is very difficult then to keep the clubface square.

Leading the clubhead into the ball is only part of what the hands need to do. They still have to stay aligned.

At address, you square up the clubface to the target and assume your grip. That fixes a relation between orientations of the trailing palm and the clubface. That relation stays the same throughout the swing. They will always face the same direction, unless your hands slip. Where that palm goes, the clubface goes. The trick is for the palm not to go anywhere, that is, turn.

Pick up a club and take your grip. Notice the FEELING of your trailing palm being oriented in a certain direction. The ball will go straight if you return that palm to impact with the same feeling of orientation it had at address.

Read that paragraph one more time to make sure you understood what I said.

Hold the club so it is pointing straight away from you, parallel to the ground. Now rotate the club very slightly clockwise. Do you feel your palm is oriented in a different direction?

Go back to neutral and rotate the club very slightly counter-clockwise. Again, you will notice that your palm is now oriented in a different direction.

Of course, the palm IS oriented in a different direction each time you rotate the club, but do you FEEL that difference in your palm? That is the important thing.

What we want is for the feeling in your trailing palm at impact, your neutral feeling, to be the same as it was at address.

The best way to start getting this into your swing is with slow half swings, back and forth. Do not force your palm to stay oriented or guide it, rather let it stay oriented.

It will help if you think of your hands merging into one unit, instead of holding the club with two different hands. I go into this point in more detail in Six Fundamentals, number Two.

An earlier post gives you a different way of feeling your trailing hand, but with the same concept of the address feeling not changing.

Hitting the ball straight (without curvature) isn’t that hard to do if you play attention to these details.

The Slow Golf Swing

This conversation occurred between me and my wife after I got back from hitting a golf ball around the big field near my house with a 6-iron.

Me: I learned something today, for the umpteenth time, and maybe this time I’ll remember it. But I’m never sure.

Wife: And what would that be?

Me: We, and by that I mean every golfer living, wants to hit the ball a long way.

Wife: What’s wrong with that? I would want to do that if I played golf. Which I don’t.

Me: But which you will someday, knock on wood. The thing is, we keep thinking to hit the ball far, we have to hit hard. That means swing hard. In reality, all we have to do is put a swing on the ball, with the distance the designer built into the club, and we get all the distance we need.

Wife: In other words, stop trying so hard to make it happen.

Me: Yep.

Wife: And you’re still learning this after having played golf for how long?

Me: Sixty years this coming June, but that’s beside the point. It just seems natural to want to hit hard, We try not to, but we can’t help ourselves. It’s like we don’t trust the swing and the club to get the job done. It’s so effortless when you do it right that we really can’t believe it.

Wife: So why don’t you just say to yourself you’re going to swing easier, then do that?

Me: I do. And I suppose other golfers do, too. I take the club back easy, but when I finish my backswing and am about to start the club forward, I think, “HIT THE BALL!” and all my self-restraint goes out the window.

Wife: Maybe you could tell yourself something at that point other than “Hit the ball.”

Me: That’s right, and that’s what I did. Right before I started the club forward, I said to myself, “Center of the clubface.” Or rather, I thought that, because it’s quicker to think that than to say it. But it worked out the same. In this shorthand way, I replaced one conscious thought with a different conscious thought. You have to be thinking about something, and it’s just as easy to think about the right thing as it is the wrong thing. What this did is prevent me from adding that little extra something that doesn’t add, but subtracts. Now my swing was slower, but it wasn’t deliberately slow. I let my unconscious mind take over and it made me swing only so fast that I would be able to get that center hit, which is slower than my “hit” instinct wants. But, boy, did it work. Straight, great ball flight, and all the distance I want out of my 6-iron. It turns a power swing into a finesse swing that has power.

Wife: So you finally have it figured out? This time for sure?

Me: Yes, at least until the next time I hit golf balls. When I’ll have to “discover” this all over again. And I’ll come home and tell you all about it like it’s the first time. Again.

Why You Should Slow Down Your Golf Swing

One of the best comments I ever read on a golf forum was to “slow down your swing and learn to live with the extra distance you get.” The reason eluded me until recently.

I got the November 2019 copy of Golf Digest magazine. You know, the magazine that has playing tips every month that work for world-class professionals, but not for you?

Here’s one that did work, and it was from Daniel Berger. He said you’re never going to get the distance you’re due until you learn to hit the ball off the center of the clubface, and he gave us a drill to work on that.

He said to hit balls with your 7-iron (everybody’s favorite club) at 30 percent of your normal swing speed until you start connecting with the center of the clubface consistently. Then move up to 50 percent, then 70 percent.

He also mentioned you would be surprised at how far the ball goes even with those slow swings if you hit the ball on the center of the clubface.

That rang true to me, so I went to the driving range I live next door to. Actually it’s not driving range, but the Oregon State Fairgrounds. It has a big field that is used for a parking lot that is 560 yards long and 235 yards wide. I go there every day and hit a few balls.

So I went out there with a 7-iron and a few golf balls to try this tip, swinging at what I felt to be 30 percent. Slowing down that much is harder than it sounds, but I think I got it.

Wow. Triple wow.

Berger is exactly right. Slowing down the swing makes it easy to get centered contact and when you do, the ball flies off the center of the clubface, and goes farther than you could imagine it would.

I’m working up slowly to a faster speed, but only so fast that I can still make contact on the center of the clubface.

I my Living Golf Book, I define tempo as “the fastest you can swing through impact and consistently hit solid shots off the center of the clubface.” Berger’s drill is a fantastic way to find that tempo. (Yes, I’ll be revising LGB accordingly for December 1.)

Try it. You’ll find that tempo doesn’t have to be very fast to hit shots that go straight (slowing down your swing takes the tension out of it, which is what introduces many of your swing errors) and to a distance I know you can live with.

Hinging Your Wrists

The wrists break, or hinge, in two ways in the golf swing.

Put your palms together with your fingers pointing away from you. Now hinge your wrists so your thumbs point back toward you. This is vertical hinging, which every golfer does.

Set up your hands like you did before and this time hinge your wrists from side to side. This is horizontal hinging, which fewer golfers do.

The complete golf swing must include both types of hinging.

Vertical hinging takes care of itself. That’s why every golfer does it. Horizontal hinging must be deliberately done.

When you take the club back, and your hands get to about hip height or a bit before that, start bending the right wrist (left wrist for left-handed golfers) back on itself.

Don’t do it all at once, and finish the hinging by the end of the backswing in a position that is comfortable. You will feel the bend, but it should not feel forced.

When you begin the forward swing, preserve your gain. Keep that wrist hinge as you start down. Let the momentum of the swing release all hinging as the club swings into the ball.

This is one way of generating club head speed. It’s free, you don’t have to force it. Just enjoy it.

Two Swing Moves Every Golfer Needs

I looked over my blog, which I have been posting to more than weekly since early 2009.  There are 152 posts about the golf swing.  I’m going to give you one more.

This post is something of a distillation of two principles I have written about many times.

It contains all the advice you will ever need about your golf swing.  If you learn to do these two things, your golf swing will transform itself and you will move to a new level of play.  I guarantee it.

First, slow down your swing.  I say in my Living Golf Book that “Your optimum tempo is the fastest you can swing through impact and consistently hit solid shots off the center of the clubface.”   That’s very likely slower than you’re swinging now.

By “consistently” I mean three out of five times.  We don’t need perfection.  But right now I would be surprised if you’re doing that three out of ten times.

The way you achieve this is to slow down your swing.  Try swinging at thirty percent of your normal speed.  You should start connecting with the center of the clubface and hitting brilliant shots with startling frequency.

Now move up a bit to maybe fifty percent of your normal swing speed.  Are you still connecting?   Three out of five times?  If so, go to seventy percent.  If there’s a drop off in shot quality, resist the urge to figure out how to hit the center at seventy percent.  Go back to the swing speed at which you found your greatest success and stay there.

Go back to the place where you make beautiful contact and hit the ball straighter, much more often, without losing any appreciable distance.

Second, swing so your hands get back to the ball before the clubhead does.  Your hands lead the clubhead.  No good golfer fails to do this. No bad golfer ever does it.

Learn how to do this by making half swings with a sand wedge, with only your left hand on the handle (right hand if you play left-handed).  That will give you the feeling of what your left hand and wrist are supposed to be doing as they swing through impact.  Practice this over and over.

Combined with your slower swing, it will be easy to keep doing this when you put both hands on the club.

That’s it:
Slow down your swing to get centered hits
Have your hands lead the clubhead into the ball

Work on these two things.  Don’t get distracted by anything else. Make them your winter golf swing workout.

Now, I didn’t make all this up in my backyard this morning.  You can read about these two things all over the place.  I’ve been talking about these two points for years on this blog.

Teaching professionals have their own ideas about a lot of things, but no teaching professional will disagree with these two.  They might be the only swing universals there are.

And when I get it through my thick head to actually do them they actually work.

My purpose in writing this blog is to point you in the right direction.  I cannot point you in a better direction than I have today.

Two Turns and a Swish

Several weeks ago I described the golf swing in two pieces.  I said if I could describe the swing in one piece I’d let you know.  Well, here it is.

The title of this post is it: two turns and a swish, credited to legendary teacher John Jacobs.

But what does that phrase mean?  That part isn’t so easy.  From Jacobs we go to Jim Flick and his book with the most to-the-point title ever, On Golf.

In this book, Flick makes the clear statement that the golf swing is composed of turning motions and swinging motions.  They are different, and are performed by different parts of the body.  Some parts turn, other parts swing.

The turning elements are the shoulders, torso, hips, legs, knees, and feet.

The swinging elements are the club, the mind, the fingers and hands, the wrists, the forearms, the elbows, and the upper arms and shoulder sockets (in which the upper arms turn).

He makes the key point that the turning elements support and respond to the swinging elements.  Swinging comes first, turning comes second.

Let’s move to Manuel de la Torre, who refines this concept in his book, Understanding the Golf Swing.  He says (writing in broad terms) the hands produce the backswing, and the arms produce the forward swing.

On that second point, he uses the anatomical definition of the arm, which is the upper limb from the elbow to the shoulder.  The limb from the elbow to the wrist is the forearm, and that is not used to produce the forward swing.

How do you integrate these two motions, the turn and the swing?  For the recreational golfer, Flick advises “to let his feet and legs support him and move in response to the swing.” (I’ll assume that applies to women, too.)

de la Torre says the body turn takes place in response to the swing, and says nothing more about it.  As far as the weight shift goes, which you hear about so much, the swing will produce it.

Both instructors are in firm agreement that the underlying concept in all of this is that what is swung is the club, not any body part.  The club.

Let me throw in one idea that helps keep the swing and the turn working together.  Flick calls it, “letting the air out.”  The first move forward with the arms is a gravity move.  The arms begin to drop in response to the pull of gravity.  “Tour players will tell you they want to soften their arms precisely at the change of direction.”

Centrifugal force will build up the necessary speed by the moment of impact.  By not forcing things at this critical instant, the swinging and turning elements integrate.

So there you have it: two turns and a swish (swing).  Part of the body turns, part of it swings.  Get those two parts straightened out and you’re on your way to hitting beautiful golf shots.