Category Archives: golf swing

Simple Mathematics of the Driver

This isn’t going to be a big physics thing. I don’t know enough to write it, and would you understand it if I did?

This is about phonograph records. I know, I date myself, but they illustrate the point perfectly.

If you watch a spinning phonograph record, you would note that the part near the spindle turns very slowly, and the part at the far edge races around the turntable.

That’s because they have to make one revolution in the same amount of time, but with different distances to go.

On a 33-1/3 RPM recored, a spot a half-inch away from the spindle travels at a speed of 105 inches per minute. A spot on the far edge of the record, six inches away from the spindle, travels at 1,256 inches per minute. *

O.K.? So let’s talk about golf clubs. My 7-iron is 38″ long, and my driver is 44.5″ long.

If I swing them at the same speed, the clubhead of the driver, because the driver is a longer club, should be going 17% faster than the clubhead of the 7-iron.

That’s a theoretical analysis. Here is some actual data.

Average LPGA swing speed with a 7-iron is 76 MPH. The ball carries 141 yards at that speed. You can probably hit a 7-iron that far.

That same swing, applied to a driver, becomes 94 MPH, which is roughly 24 % faster. That yields a a carry distance of 218 yards. Add some roll-out and you have yourself a pretty decent drive …

… by swinging your driver the same as you do your 7-iron!**

Where does the extra clubhead speed come from? Why not just 17% faster?

Remember that the golf swing is a dual-lever motion. The arms, swinging from the shoulders, provide the 17%. The club, swinging from the hands to the clubhead, proved the remaining 7%.

But that’s not the point. The point is that your 7-iron swing is your driver swing. Let the design of the club (longer shaft, less loft) do the work.

——

* Scientists used a phonograph record to verify Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. A “clock” on the edge of the record does run slower, because it is going faster, than a “clock” next to the center of the record. The difference is really, really, really small, but it’s there.

** Red typeface is the Internet equivalent of writing something on a large polo mallet and hitting you over the head with it.

A Little Experiment

I like to try different things. Something new. You never know how it’s going to come out. So today I tried something new.

I thought to myself, one reason the golf swing is so hard is that it’s tilted. We don’t have any problem swinging something horizontally, like beating a rug (I know, that’s a dated concept, but its’ still a good image for this purpose).

So I had my 7-iron in hand, and started swing it like as if I were … beating a rug. I wanted to see how my body would move as I beat the rug in earnest. What would be moving, how, and when?

This is what I noticed. My hands and arms did not go first. To wind up my rug-beating backswing, my right hip went back first. That is the first thing that moved.

It took me a few swings to notice that, because I’ve never started a golf swing with my right hip moving back, so I wasn’t looking for it. But my unconscious mind felt that was what I had to do to get a good windup, so that’s what it made my body do.

Then on swinging forward to hit my imaginary rug, the left hip moved first. By a lot. And it moved back. It did not turn.

These two things happened every time, not because I was trying to, but because that is the way my mind wants my body to move.

So, I thought, that’s probably how my mind wants my body to move when I hit a golf ball. Why not try it like that?

So, I hit a few golf balls with my hips doing this new thing.

Result: much greater swing speed than normal with no effort at all, and a ball that went straight, high, and far. At least as far as Wiffle balls go.

Now the ball was on a tee. I tee up the ball when I have swing practice because I just want to work on club path and clubface angle. Trajectory is a skill all its own which I will practice using this technique later.

I’m not saying you should rush out and try this new idea because it would add 20 yards to your drives and lower your score by five strokes.

I’m saying I tried to find out how my body wants to move when I swing a stick at something in the most natural way possible and then try applying that to my golf swing. MY golf swing.

Make your own experiment to find out how your body wants to move and then apply that to YOUR golf swing.

The Essence of the Golf Swing – 1

The golf swing breaks itself down into two basic motions: the body turns, the arms swing. We can hang many details on each one of these two motions, but they are basically it. Today we’re going to talk about the body turning.

To take that little clubhead away from that little ball and be able to reintroduce them to each other, at speed, requires that you can’t be moving all over the place. If the body turns, it needs to be turning around something, and that something must be somewhat stationary.

That something is your spine.

Stand up straight, with your feet a bit apart, and rotate your upper body from your hips. Feel like your spine stays in one place and your torso is rotating around it.

Now bend over from your hips and do the same thing. Turn as far as you comfortably can in one direction, then turn fully in this way to the other side, keeping your spine still. You can let the sole of your foot opposite to the side you’re turning rise off the ground if you want to.

If, when you swing a golf club, you don’t do anything more complicated than this, you will do just fine.

It’s pretty easy to control ourselves in the backswing because all we do is turn away from the ball. The forward swing is the problem because we forget about turning, but think instead of hitting the ball, which makes us think we need to do more than is necessary.

To hit the ball you merely turn in the same manner that you did when you didn’t have a club in your hands. But that is so hard to do, psychologically.

We need a drill that will teach us how to do the right thing in the right way. The right thing is propelling an object way from us as we stand to its side. The right way is by turning.

In Ben Hogan’s book, Five Lessons, there is a drawing of what he calls the “old basketball pass.” “Old” is right, because if you ever see this on the court, I promise you that team’s coach has everyone making two-handed set shots.

Hogan shows a man throwing a medicine ball. Much safer to the furnishings in your house, and just as instructive, is to get a small towel, tie it in a knot, and throw that, à la the picture, while just turning.

Do this over and over to train yourself how to turn through the ball, because that moment is the most important time to be just turning. And all those details will have worked themselves out without you having to bother with them.

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.