Category Archives: golf swing

The Stationary Spine

There are so many things to take care of during the golf swing, how do you keep track of them all? How about here’s another one to keep track of? You’re welcome.

This one is pretty important. It has to do with swinging around a stationary spine. Stationary in two dimensions.

From a down-the-line view, it means keeping the angle of forward bending constant. From a face-on view, it means not having the spine sway back and forth.

Without too much exaggeration, it means imagining your spine is a rod with a fixed tilt that rotates around a fixed axis. I hope that makes sense.

The first part has to with the up and down location of the bottom point of your swing (Figure1). If you raise up when you take the club back, that raises the bottom point of your swing. Now you have the problem of getting it back to where it was you started–not too far back down, and not staying too far up. Who can get that right from swing to swing?

The second part has to with the side-to-side location of the bottom point (Figure 2). It’s real hard to get ball first-ground second contact when the swing keeps bottoming out in a different spot, relative to the location of the ball.

The easiest way to start working on this principle is by hitting 60-yard or so pitches with a sand wedge. It’s a small swing, one that is easy to stay still for. You can ease into longer clubs with bigger swings as you get comfortable with what’s going on with the wedge.

Don’t be rigid (literally!). You can keep your spine in place without putting tension into your back. Think that the spine can move, you just don’t let it move.

The first time I broke 80, many years ago, “rotate around a stationary spine” was my swing thought for the entire round (back in the day when I still relied on technical swing thoughts). Boy, was I hitting the ball great.

I got reminded of this point last week at the range. I wasn’t hitting the ball very well. There was a guy about 40 feet in front of me hitting one fine shot after another with an effortless swing. After enough watching him long enough, I realized he just turned one way, turned the other way with his back staying gracefully still.

So I started doing that again, a feature I had somehow drifted away from, and started hitting the ball like I wanted to.

Let me give you another way of looking at it. Paul Runyan talked about the suspension point of the swing, around which the swing turns. He identified it as the big bone at the base of your neck (C7 vertebrae).

One year at an LPGA tournament in Portland, I stood behind the players on the first tee, so I was looking at their back. I kept my eye on the C8 spot. With player after player, it didn’t move until after the ball was hit and they rose into their finish. It didn’t move up and down, it didn’t move side to side.

It didn’t move.

How Take a Practice Swing

The practice swing is a rehearsal swing. It should be the swing you want to copy when you hit the ball. I’ll show you how to make sure your practice swing is exactly that.

When you swing the golf club it is often true that your mind is not fully engaged. Your body starts moving and leaves your mind behind. It should actually be the other way around. Your mind should move first, and then the body follows.

The way to make that switch is to swing the club twice without a break between the two swings. You make one swing all the way to the finish and with a continuous motion swing club back from there make a second swing to the finish. One motion, two swings. 1,2.

The purpose of the second swing is to let your mind catch up. You will find the mental feeling you have during that second swing to be very different from the one you had in the first swing. You will as a result feel a swing that is not only much different than the first one, but will be the one you want to hit the ball with.

When you have done this step up to the ball, take a quick look down the fairway or at the green. Return your eyes to the ball and without hesitation swing the club away. Because your mind is moving ahead of the body, the body will have no choice but to perform the way the mind remembers from that second part of your practice swing.

Doesn’t this take extra time, though? Everyone says in order to speed up play you should only take one practice swing. Well, you are. It’s just that your one practice swing has two parts. This two-part swing hardly takes any longer than a normal one-part swing. So you’re not really taking any extra time by doing this.

A pro once told me that this extra time, if there is any, will be more than made up for by you hitting better shots which means hitting fewer shots, and that, friends, saves time.

The key point here is that a two-part practice swing lets you find your best swing. It is certainly possible for that to happen with a traditional practice swing, but few people are capable of doing that. Give yourself a chance to get it right by taking one two-part practice swing.

Hit Hard With Your Right Hand

We all know about the three right hands Ben Hogan wished he had. If you don’t, read this post first.

There is nothing wrong with hitting the ball hard with your hands if you can do it correctly. If you know how, then why not?

So I’m going to tell you how.

Lead the club from the end of the backswing into the forward swing with your left arm—the upper arm, to be precise. Keep the left forearm out of it.

Do not rush the forward swing. Start down like you are going to lop heads off daisies.

As you near impact, make sure your hands are coming into the ball ahead of the clubhead. If they are not, what comes next will be your worst enemy, not your best friend.

There is a certain moment when the hands feel like they have passed the ball and that it is too late, you missed that chance, to apply any kind of hit. Actually, that is the moment when you can pour it on with the right hand.

I know that sounds odd, but it’s true. If you hit with the right hand while you have the feeling that your hands are still approaching the ball, that is way too early and the result will be disastrous.

So don’t get excited. Wait until the time is right.

Do not rush the forward swing. That works against this move. What you want is to make your normal swing and add speed with your right hand only at the right time.

Finally, the point is for the right hand to launch into the ball and hit hard, but not so much that it overpowers the left hand. This is what Hogan was teaching you how to prevent.

That is why you have to wait until the last instant to pull off this move, because by then it is too late for the right hand to do damage to what the clubhead is about to do.

There is no body acceleration, no arm acceleration, just your same ordinary smooth swing with a little right hand thrown in right before you hit the ball. Once you find the right timing it will all seem so easy.

When you start learning this move, be concerned only with making contact on the center of the clubface. Don’t be concerned about where the ball goes. Straight will come in time.

How do you know if you hit the ball on the center? By feel. You hit the ball so hard and it feels so soft. There is barely a feeling of anything in your hands. Oh, does that feel good. I know you know the feeling.

There is a different sound, too. Love that sound.

This move works best with the longer clubs. You might be able to take it down to the 5-iron, but shorter than that it doesn’t really add anything.

Practice it A LOT before you try it on the course. A great way to practice it to swing with no ball and literally apply the hit after it feels the club had has passed impact. Actually do it too late. If you do the same thing when the time comes to hit a ball, you will probably have it just right.

Throw the Golf Club

In their book, How to Become a Complete Golfer, Bob Toski and Jim Flick tell this story:

“There was once a pupil at our golf schools who, when he was instructed to release the clubhead through the ball, threw the whole club down the practice range. So we have to be very careful to define what we mean by release.”

Well, releasing the club is one thought, but today’s thought is throwing the club and it isn’t a bad idea. Or, at least, swinging as if that is what you were going to do, but not letting go of the club.

This does four things for you:

1. It gets you off your trailing side and onto the leading side during the forward swing,

2. It guarantees the hands will lead the clubhead into the ball,

3. It gets your mind off hitting the ball and puts it on swinging the club,

4. And because of that, it evens out your rhythm and tempo.

Those are four very good things to have built into your swing because they are the solutions to four prevalent swing problems.

If you would like to give this a try, it is easiest to do at first with a driver swinging at a ball on a tee. You don’t want the ground in the way on this one right now.

The idea is to feel like the function of the forward swing is to throw the club directly at your target downrange, but without actually doing it. Get the feeling of a smooth throwing motion and then try hitting a few balls.

Shawn Clement has a really good, and short (for him) video on this very idea.

So try it out. It’s a different way of thinking about how to swing the club, and maybe something will click for you.

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 is hitting 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.