Category Archives: golf swing

Unwind Through the Ball

The less you try to HIT the golf ball and the more you SWING THROUGH it, the better shots you are going to get. I keep looking for a way to explain that to myself, and this week’s version is, “unwind through the ball.”

That means, in the backswing wind up, and in the forward swing unwind in the same way, all the way through the ball. Not TO the ball, but through it. Big difference.

It’s like you turn yourself into a giant spring. You wind up the spring on the back swing and you unwind on the forward swing. The unwinding is performed in the same manner as the winding. It is not ease back, then fire through.

I think the reason this is so hard to do is that we want to HIT the ball along way. So it’s really hard for us to swing easy back and easy through. But that’s exactly what I think you have to do.

That will also make it easier to hold onto the angle between your forearm and the club shaft and not let it go too early. That way, the club builds up acceleration without you even feeling it. You LET the club do the work instead of MAKING it do the work.

Before you swing, remind yourself to wind up gently and unwind gently through the ball. Regardless of what you really look like when you swing, picture in your mind how smooth and graceful you must look.

Practice swinging like this in your living room or in your backyard. Than the next time you play, take a practice swing in slow motion that winds up and unwinds through the mall. Then step up to the ball and do the same swing, just a little faster. I think you’ll like what happens.

Fix It Yourself

There was a time not too long ago that my driver was my go-to club. I felt as good about hitting it into a narrow fairway as I did standing over a 6-inch putt on a slow green. But because of my health issues I haven’t played that much in the last five years and and I lost that swing.

So now I’m trying to simplify my swing to to make it easy to perform and easy to remember. Though I hit my irons okay, I hit one duck hook after another with my driver. The ball lands about 120 yards away then rolls into the left rough. You can’t play golf like that.

I changed my grip. That didn’t help. I change my takeaway. That didn’t help. I worked on my turn to square up the clubface. That didn’t help.

One of the things I had done to simplify my swing was to start the swing by pulling the club back with my right hand. I figured pulling something moves it more accurately than pushing it. So I pulled the club back with my right hand rather than pushing back with my left.

That, it turned out, was the problem. It was in the takeaway, but I had been looking in the wrong place.

Two days ago I decided to find out where in my swing my clubface was closing because that is what was causing those duck hooks. Every place I checked the clubface was closed. It got to the point where I saw my clubface had closed no more than two feet after it had been taken away from the ball. And then the solution hit me.

By pulling the club away with my right hand I was not allowing the club to rotate open. I was closing the club face from the very start. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

So I tried doing the opposite and started the club back by gently pushing with my left hand. Problem solved.

The club face remained square and I began hitting drives just like I used to. Straight, up in air, and while maybe not as far as before, the ball still got out there.

I’m telling you this because sometimes it doesn’t take a wholesale change in your swing to correct the problem you’re having. If you just spend time investigating your swing in detail you can find out what the problem is. And if you don’t find it, keep looking.

I have always recommended lessons, but much more often you can figure out what the problem is and find the solution yourself. When your golf is based on knowledge that comes from you, that’s one step closer to owning your swing.

Golf’s Most Important Two Inches

You’re never going to hear the end of this from me. It’s the most important swing fundamental there is. Your hands have to lead the clubhead.

A few weeks ago, I changed it to, the handle moves in harmony with the clubhead. Too wordy.

How about the handle leads the clubhead?

Whatever you call it, you see it demonstrated here by our new U.S. Open champion, Brooks Koepka. His hands got to the ball before the clubhead did. Not by much, only about two inches. But that’s all it needs to be.

Brooks Koepka at impact

If you’re not used to swinging through this position, it feels like your hands are two feet ahead of the clubhead, but they’re not. They’re ahead by just a little bit. But it’s the most important little bit in golf.

Timing the Whoosh

Last fall I wrote about the whoosh–the sound the clubhead makes when you swing it fast. I want to review that, and add on another comment.

Swing a golf club, maybe a 5-iron or longer, without a ball in front of you. Listen for the whoosh. That’s the sound of your club travelling at its maximum speed.

The whoosh gives you an indication of what your clubhead speed is. While you won’t get a precise measurement, obviously, we can say that the higher the pitch, the faster the club is travelling.

And more speed is always better. The Internet is full of pages, and YouTube if full of videos, about how to increase your clubhead speed. But many of them fail to make the most important point. Your maximum clubhead speed has to appear at the right moment. Otherwise, it’s no good.

You should hear the whoosh at or just past where a ball would be. If you hear it before the clubhead gets to the ball, you are releasing the club too early and using up your clubhead speed before you really need it.

Most likely, if that is the case, you’re letting go of the angle between your left forearm and the clubshaft too soon on the downswing. Play with holding on to that angle a little bit longer until you hear the whoosh placed directly in front of you.

This shouldn’t be a big adjustment to make. Just be sure you’re only adjusting your release and not trying to force this to happen. Light grip pressure will help, too.

Be careful, though. It is entirely possible to give up your angle too early and still place the whoosh in the right spot. This is a two-part exercise: retaining the angle and placing the whoosh.

And don’t go expecting miracles once you’ve accomplished it. You only hear, “I tried this and now I hit my drives 40 yards longer,” when somebody is trying to sell you something. If you get 7-10 more yards out of this, you’ve done the job.

Owning Your Swing

It is said that only two golfers have ever owned their swing — Ben Hogan and Moe Norman. Actually, Lee Trevino had a pretty good idea what he was doing, as did Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Bruce Lieztke, and about a hundred other players I could name.

You can own your swing, too. A – it’s not that hard to do, and B – you need to do it to play consistent golf.

By owning your swing, I don’t mean you know what you’re doing down to the gnat’s eyelash. I do mean that when you’re not striking the ball well, you have some checkpoints you can review to get back on track.

The Six Fundamentals are my checkpoints. They don’t have to be yours, but you should know something about your swing along the order of, “I forgot to do this,” and when you get back to doing “this”, the problem is solved.

The goal is to bring the club into the ball on a path toward the target, with the clubface square to that path, on the proper trajectory, and making contact on the center of the clubface.

Everything you do contributes to all that happening, or not. So you have to investigate how to do those four things, one at a time, and also what you do that gets in the way of doing those things.

This takes careful study. It means breaking down your swing into parts that move the club correctly and learning what the feeling of those correct movements are.

Then you develop your own keys — the checkpoints you have to hit to make it all work.

Don’t expect to have this figured out in a few weeks. It might take a lot longer than that, and a few lessons along the way won’t hurt.

But it’s like this. If you hit a really good shot and you can’t explain to yourself how it happened, you have some work to do. And I know you can do it.

How the Fingers Keep the Clubface Square

Ben Hogan, in his book, Five Lessons, called the right thumb and forefinger “potential swing-wreckers.” He even recommended the average golfer practice swinging the club with these two fingers entirely off the handle.

For the advanced golfer, however, he said those fingers were “finesse fingers,” used “for touch in striking the ball.”

Unfortunately, Hogan did not tell us how these fingers could be used in the way advanced golfers use them. I guess he left that to me. So here goes.

The human brain devotes a lot of space to the use of the hands. A great deal of that space is devoted in turn to the thumb and forefinger of the dominant hand, which are used for fine manipulation of objects they hold. The brain can be taught to do amazing things with these fingers.

One of the things they can be taught to do is control the clubface during the golf swing. It works this way.

Press the thumb tip of your dominant hand lightly into the middle of the adjoining forefinger (photo). This is where the handle of the golf club fits into your grip.

Now pick up a golf club, and assume your grip, reproducing the light pressure of the thumb against the finger, but now with the handle in between. It feels to me like I am holding the club with only these two fingers, the rest of the grip being there just for support.

The trick now is to swing the club in such a way that when you return to impact, these two fingers are in the same orientation that they had at address.

You monitor this by feel. Rotate these two fingers slightly to the left. This is a different feeling in those fingers, of the clubface closing. If instead you turn these fingers lightly to the right, this is the feeling of an open clubface.

To make this concept a dynamic reality, make half swings over and over, concentrating on the feeling in the thumb and forefinger not changing at any time. Stop the club at impact periodically to make sure the clubface is staying square. Make longer swings only after you have a firm idea of what you are to do.

Very important point. All these fingers do is preserve the orientation of the clubface. If you try to do anything else with them, such as guide the club, or hit the ball, it’s curtains for that shot. You’ve fulfilled the Hogan prophecy.

There is more to hitting a straight shot than just this, such as swing plane and pivot, but this is one part that is easy to master. Practice this feeling until it becomes automatic and you don’t even notice that you’re doing it.

A Couple of Things

I didn’t post last Sunday, like I usually do, because I could’t think of anything to say. While not having anything to say doesn’t stop some people from saying it anyway, I’m not one of those.

I got out a golf book this morning and started reading through it to see if I could find some inspiration. Which I did. Here are a couple of things that crossed my mind.

1. When you start the club back away from the ball, do so slowly at first, and smoothly. Do not snatch it away. The reasons are, one, that if you take the club back too quickly, you can pull it off the desired plane. Then you have to get it back on plane sometime before you hit the ball, which complicates the swing unnecessarily. And if you aren’t aware that you’re off plane, well, good luck.

The other reason is that jerking the club away makes you reflexively tighten your grip. That puts tension in your swing from the very start which will only build as the swing progresses — something you do not want to happen.

2. Everybody has their own swing. It is based on your strength, your flexibility, your athleticism, your physique, and your basic conception of how to swing a stick to hit a ball. Because of these factors, there are things about your swing that are less than ideal but which you cannot change. These are not swing flaws, these are just you.

There are, however, mistakes you can be making that you don’t have to. They need to be corrected, and they can be. Your improvement will accelerate when you have figured out the difference between your natural tendencies and your plain old errors. Then you can fix what can be fixed and leave what cannot be fixed, alone.

The Mental Forward Press

One of the most difficult things to do is to begin a motion smoothly from a complete stop. In golf, we want to take the club away without a jerk or without putting tension in the body.

At one time, the way to do this was to have a forward press. This would be a slight movment toward the target that the backswing could play off of, hopefully in a rhythmic way.

The trouble with a forward press was that unless it was done carefully, it could get the golfer and the club out of position before the club was taken away, to the detriment of the shot that followed.

Now days we don’t hear much about forward presses. If you watch the professional golfers, you don’t see very many of them with one. I guess that move is out of favor.

But the problem remains. How do we solve it? By having a forward press that is more in the mind than in the body.

This is what I think we should do, ideally: start the swing with a reverse waggle. Instead of taking the club back, with just then hands and wrists, like a traditional waggle, raise the clubhead a bit and swing the club forward, toward the target, by the same amount. Then flow right back into the backswing and come down into the ball.

That makes the swing a three-step movment, not two. It sets you up with perfect rhythm, and keeps you relaxed throughout the swing. Unfortunately, since the club is not next to the ball at the start, it might be difficult to find the ball accurately at impact.

But you can take a practice swing like that, if you want to. It’s not unheard of. Then, address the ball, and do the reverse waggle in your mind, and, following the same rhythm as in the practice swing, take the club into a relaxed, flowing swing.

It’s still a three-part swing. You merely did the first part in your mind.

If you try this, you might find your body responding to the initial mental movment in some way. That’s O.K., just ignore it. Focus on the mental feeling as you get your swing started.

Another benefit of the mental forward press is that it will take your mind off any anxieties you have of the shot you’re about to hit. Anything that helps you in that department is all right.

More on Grip Pressure

Two weeks ago I talked about the importance of having light grip pressure. I wanted to put up graphs comparing the grip pressure of a professional golfer with that of a mid-handicapper, but I couldn’t find them in time for publication.

Well, while prowling around the house a few days ago, looking for something else, I found the book that has the graphs.

So here they are.

The graphs are taken from a paper titled, Evaluation of Golf Club Control by Grip Pressure Measurement, by D.R. Budney and D.G. Bellow, reprinted in Science and Golf, A.J. Cochran, Ed., 1990.

Golfers swung a club with three transducers built into the grip to measure left hand pressure, right hand pressure, and pressure under the left thumb.

The first graph shows the grip pressure throughout the swing of a professional golfer. Notice that in the early stages of the swing, pressure at all places is quite light.

Pressure rose during the backswing in the left hand and thumb, and peaked in the right hand and left thumb during the downswing. Notice the drop in pressure in those two spots at impact.

Left hand pressure reached its peak just after impact.

professional grip pressure graph

The next graph is of an 11-handicap golfer. Pressure is greater from the very start. The patterns of peaks and drops occur at roughly the same places as for the professional golfer, but there is much more pressure at every point.

The amateur golfer is holding the club much tighter.

amateur grip pressure graph

These graphs show that no matter what the grip pressure is at the start, it will tighten during the swing as the club moves faster and faster.

Keeping the pressure light at the start will minimize peak pressure, keeping as much tension as possible out of the hands and arms, leading to a more fluid and controlled golf swing.