Category Archives: golf swing

Weight Shift in the Golf Swing

From time to time you read about shifting your weight during the forward swing.

Stand up with your feet the same distance apart as in your stance. Now turn to your right, keeping your feet in the same place, and “shake hands” with someone standing at your right side, using your left hand. Your can lift your left foot so only the toe stays on the ground.

Now turn to the left and do the same thing with your right hand.

Did you notice that the first time your weight moved to your right foot and the second time your weight moved to your left foot, and that you didn’t deliberately shift your weight, but it just happened?

That’s all you need to know about weight shift.

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.

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 Personal Swing Flaw

I won’t say this for sure, but I’m willing to bet you have a personal swing flaw—one thing that you do wrong, not because you don’t know better, but because it makes sense, or it feels right, or feels good, whatever. It’s wrong but you do it anyway.

You get it fixed, start playing better, and then your swing goes south again, and guess why? You’re doing that thing again.

That personal flaw will haunt you for your entire golfing career. Even touring professionals have one, and they spend time on the range combatting it.

If you have one, and you know what it is (if you don’t know, start looking, because it’s there), what to do?

There are two ways to deal with it. If the flaw is a matter of poor technique, you can create a new technique. If the flaw is the result of a personal tendency, it is easier to build in a compensation than to correct something that would be difficult to change.

I’ll use myself as an example of each kind.

My pet swing flaw is to take the club back too far inside. This results in swinging the club into the ball from too far inside, which leads too often to a duck hook or a weak push.

By taking the club back slower (new technique), I remind myself to take it back straighter and this flaw goes away.

My other flaw is that I do something that makes my hands turn over through impact, leading, again, to right-to-left ball flight that I don’t want. The number of corrections I have tried felt artificial or forced.

I finally solved the problem by agreeing to let myself keep doing whatever that is I’m doing because that’s just what I do, and trying to change it gets me nowhere.

A compensation is in order, then, and the simple compensation I came up with is to open the clubface about two degrees at address.

What I get out of that is a straight shot or a baby draw. The ball doesn’t go way left unless I just lose my head, which happens, but seldom enough that I can live with it.

So there you have it. Two ways to fix a persistent problem and become a better golfer in spite of yourself.

The Suspension Point

[August 2019: I went to the LPGA tournament in Portland, Oregon at the end of the month. I watched every swing with this point in mind: does their suspension point move? In about three golfers it did, but they are ones who launch their lower body into the shot on the forward swing. EVERYBODY ELSE kept their suspension point still. It did not move. Jin Young Ko, Stacy Lewis, Georgia Hall, Morgan Pressel, Jessica Korda, Jeongeun Lee6, Anne Van Dam, Brooke Henderson, Suzanne Pettersen, Gerina Piller, and a host of players I hadn’t heard of, on the practice tee. It didn’t move.]

In order to hit the ball cleanly, the club has to return to the same place it was at address. This means the swing arc can’t be moving around during the swing.

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.

Again, the problem is to keep the swing arc from moving around during the swing. The solution was developed by Paul Runyan and explained in his book, The Short Way to Lower Scoring.

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 suspension point. 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.