Category Archives: golf swing

How the Arms Swing the Golf Club

There are many ways to swing a golf club, many movements that can be made to work. Some things that are not optional if a swing is to be maximally efficient. Swinging the arms the right way is one of them.

The arms swing, and they swing from the shoulders. That fact is not as obvious as it sounds.

Stand up and bend over a bit so your arms hang down in front of you. Gently swing them from side to side. Notice how they move freely inside the shoulder joint. That is how arms are designed to move.

Pick up a golf club. Swing it back and forth from about 3:00 to 9:00 while concentrating on the arms moving freely in the shoulder joint like they just did. Your body needs to turn some, too, so let it.

When this exercise gets easy and familiar, move on to making full swings, back and forth without stopping, with the arms swinging freely in this way.

The golf swing is made of the arms swinging, the body turning. This is how the arms swing.

Applying External Focus to the Golf Swing

Making external focus the basis of your golf swing means to transfer the basis of swing movements from the body to the golf club, and from there to the mind. You need to know what you want the club to do and then create a simple, precise, and easily understood image of the club doing just that. Then you use the image to place your unconscious mind in control of the stroke, which directs your body to move the club the way you want it to, automatically.

What we want the club, or more importantly, the clubface to do, is to face the target at the start, move away and back again, and at its return still be facing the target squarely and traveling directly at it. The clubface is the important thing because that is the part that actually strikes the ball. The rest of the club is irrelevant.

You will make a normal golf swing, nothing different there, but you will have an image of something else.

Take the clubface back square and along the ball-target line. As the backswing progresses, imagine in your mind that the clubface as it rises up stays directly over that line and is still aimed square to the target. This will not be so in reality, but imagine that it is, and it will feel like it is.

To get the clubface back to the ball, imagine in your mind you are swinging it along the ball-target line, and the clubface is square to the target, the entire time. Again, this is not reality, but your imagination will make you feel like this is what you are doing.

I know the body cannot move the clubface according to that imagination, but it does not have to. The physical swing does not need to mirror the mental image. The mind and body have different rules and operate in different ways to accomplish the same task.

We all know that feel is not real. You’ve heard that so many times. The physical swing creates a physical feeling that interprets into your mind as … something.

With external focus we do that same thing but in the opposite direction. We start with an image in mind that creates a feeling that is interpreted into your body. The strength of this approach to the problem of swinging a golf club correctly is that it follows an order of events that conforms to how human beings “work.” The mind leads the body.

When we base the swing on a physical movement (internal focus), one swing is seldom the same as the last one, and we can frequently be unsure. But if we have an image of what something outside ourselves is doing (external focus), in this case, the clubface, the image can be identical every time. That leads to much more accurate and consistent physical movement.

All this is not to say, get the right mental image and you’re done. You still need a good grip. You still need good tempo. The handle still leads the clubhead. Etc. Without good technique your mind can’t lead you in the right direction.

In a nutshell, with technique alone, we often swing with the hope that all the separate parts will add up to a well-struck shot. That way works sometimes. The function of the external focus process is to create a unity of technique that produces a swing that works all the time.

The Meaning of External Focus in Golf

The concept of external focus, that is, putting your mind on what the club is doing rather than what you are doing, pays off brilliantly when applied to golf.

I have worked with it for several years and finally spent last summer hitting balls two and three times a day to work it into my golf swing for good.

It makes things so much easier, and so much better.

But it is important that you understand what the concept really means. This video, featuring Vivien Saunders, a champion golfer and legendary teacher from England, explains it.

Watch it several times. She makes key points, but says them only once. The more times you watch it, the more you will understand what she is really telling us.

A relaxed golf swing

Tension has no place in any golf stroke. The opposite of tension is relaxation.

Too many people, including golf instructors, think that to be relaxed is to be in a limp, lifeless state from which no activity can emerge. That is only one kind of relaxation, which is body-driven.

There is another kind of relaxation, which begins in the mind and is transmitted to the body. This is an active relaxation that allows the body to perform with power and precision.

To relax your mind, stand with good, straight posture and get your mind moving by repeating the meditation described on page 15 of The Golfing Self before you address the ball. This should take only a few seconds. Feel your body softening, the tension releasing. Let the air out. This is relaxation by rule of mind.

Apply this to golf by being vigilant at three key points:
– the instant the club starts back,
– the instant you start it forward, and
– the moment before impact.

The goal is to maintain active relaxation throughout the stroke. These are the spots where relaxation can be lost.

How to Square up the clubface at impact

For almost two years, I would say, I have been working on a swing principle I discovered that has to do with keeping the clubface square at the start of the swing.

I’m certainly not the first one to have ever discovered it, but I knew from the first moment that it was true and correct.

For all this time I did not know how to extend that startup principle into the whole of my golf swing. I did not know that I was trying to incorporate that principle into a swing that was not designed to accept it.

Which meant I couldn’t tell you about it.

Now I can.

Instruction books show pictures of how the clubhead should be oriented when you have taken the club back to the place where the shaft is parallel to the ground. These pictures show the sole of the club pointing straight up in the air, perpendicular to the ground.

That is entirely incorrect.

At that point in the swing the sole of the club should be parallel to the axis of rotation of the swing, which is the spine angle. The clubhead taken back parallel in this way will be leaning forward a bit. That looks closed, but it is really square.

The pictures in all those books are showing you how to open the clubface at the start of the swing, which might partially explain why so many people slice.

If you want to confirm this for yourself, get into your setup, take the club back to where the shaft is parallel to the ground, and with the sole of the club pointing straight up and down.

Now stand up straight without adjusting your hands. The clubface is open, isn’t it?

A few weeks ago I came across a video by Mike Malaska which (a) confirmed that what I had found was right, and (b) showed me how to integrate that principle into my golf swing.

This next video of his shows you how to practice this technique, starting at 3:40.

For my entire golfing career I could not explain how the clubface got back to the ball as square as it was at address. All I could say was it’s something that just happens, which is no which explanation at all. On some days it happened for me, on other days it didn’t, and I thought, that’s the just way golf is.

Now I can explain how the clubface gets back to the ball square, and now I’m in control of it happening.

You can be, too. It’s really easy.

Ball First, Ground Second—The Drill

Everybody knows you should hit the ball first, and the ground second. Well, if you didn’t know that, you do now.

That means the bottom of your golf swing arc must be in front of the ball, not underneath it, and definitely not behind it (that’s called hitting fat).

These pictures show what that means.

Here’s an easy drill to learn how to do that. You need to be on a mat, without a ball.

Lay a tee on the mat out of the way of the club path, and pointing to where the bottom of the ball would be. Aim for a spot ahead of the tee and hit the ground with the sole of the club on that spot with your swing.

If you didn’t hit the spot, figure out what correction to make. Once you start hitting the spot, repeat the drill over and over. This is the swing that hits those rockets that make you wonder, How did I do that? Now you know.

You need to do this on a mat for two reasons. You can brush grass tops and think you hit behind the ball when you really didn’t, and more because when you get used to doing this on a mat, you can feel, see, and hear where the club hit the ground.

Golf’s Prime Fundamental

This is a new way of calling everyone’s attention to my favorite subject—the handle leads the clubhead into the ball. I can’t wait to see what the search engines do with that title.

Notice I’m saying “handle” instead of “hands” like I used to. If you think of what the club is doing rather than what you are doing, you are much likelier to get it right.

If you do get it right, and at the right tempo*, you will find the center of the clubface much more often and hit better shots much more often.

Over the years I have given you several methods for doing this. They all work, one is not better than the other. Here, now, is a collection, with links, so you can see them all at once and make your choice.

Try one and if it doesn’t work for you, keep looking. But once you find the one that clicks, keep at it. Don’t go off and try something else. If it works, it works. Spend the rest of your time perfecting it.

Here they are, seven ways to get the handle ahead of the clubhead at impact.

1. Hold the angle – this is my earliest method.

2. The handle moves in harmony with the clubhead – focusing on the club, not on you.

3. The left arm never stops moving – sometimes it does.

4. Throw the club away – or at least swing like you would.

5. The end of the handle moves left – Imagine in the forward swing that the butt end of the club is moving straight across your body toward the target, and let that motion take your swing where it needs to go.

6. Swing the club with one hand – This is a drill really, making a half swing with a sand wedge, with one hand then the other. Unless you are incredibly strong and deliberately want to make the clubhead lead, the weight and momentum of the club will cause the handle to naturally go first. Apply the lesson of the drill to your two-handed swing.

7. Swing the club forward with your arms – Anatomically speaking, the arm is the upper limb between the shoulder and the elbow. That is what is meant here. Think of that meaning of the arms swinging the club forward, a concept championed by Manuel de la Torre.

Gary Player once said something along the lines of, Show me what you think is a fundamental of golf and I’ll show you a championship golfer who doesn’t do it. Maybe so.

Except this one. They all do this one.

* The fastest speed you can swing and consistently hit solid shots off the center of the clubface.

How to Hit Your Irons

With an easy hit. That’s how to hit your irons. Hit ‘em easy. The ball will go straight and land on the spot you were intending. Can you ask any more than that?

Yes, we all want to hit the ball long way. Distance is good. The longer you can hit the ball, the more options you have. The more you get out of the same effort.

But if you’re in the fairway 154 yards from the pin, instead of trying to force the ball up to the green, take out a club that will send the ball that far with an easy swing.

That’s why you have so many irons in the first place. Just pick the one that will carry the ball the distance you need with an easy swing. If you think you have to hit your best shot to get the ball there, you have the wrong club in your hand.

This is all predicated on knowing how far each iron carries the ball. However you determine your iron distances, determine them with an easy swing. If you accidentally (and it will be an accident) nuke one, treat it like the one you chunked 20 yards short. Leave them both out of the calculation.

At the range, use your bucket to find the joy in making one well-struck shot after another. Hang how far they go (in an absolute sense). If they’re well-struck, they’ll go far enough.

While you’re there, make sure you don’t pick up bad habits. If there’s a flag at 150 yards, don’t take out your 145 club to see if you can get that much more out of it. Take one more club and fly the ball 150 yards with a easy swing.

Now what is an easy swing? It is the swing made (a) at the tempo that lets you strike the ball on the center of the clubface consistently, and (b) begins going forward at the same speed that it went back—none of this easy back, then WHAM!

Swing the ball, not whack the ball. Swing easily. The only person who cares what clubs you use is you.

Your Hands Lead the Clubhead – IV

I’ve written often about the hands passing the ball before the clubhead at impact. I feel this is the most important technical matter of the golf swing, and have suggested several ways you can make it happen.

I constantly look for ways to make it easier to do, and more certain. Here is my next iteration. It involves the movement of the end of the handle, that and nothing more.

This new concept takes the onus off the hands to make sure of the leading, and assigns the responsibility to the club itself. The difference in effect is like night and day.

This was going to be a longer post, but everything I wanted to say is now in Bob’s Living Golf Book, sections A6 and H28.

Download the book and read those sections. Please.

Then team it up with a stationary suspension point, make sure your tempo is not too fast for you, and you will have a golf swing that performs beyond your wildest dreams.