Manuel de la Torre Golf Swing

This film was shot in 1990, when de la Torre was 69 years old.

It is so smooth and fluid–a model for you to follow.

BTW, this swing takes ~0.9 second from takeaway to impact. That’s really fast, but he makes it look so elegant nonetheless.

And notice that he never takes a divot. I don’t think he disturbs even one blade of grass.

So you want to know how to swing a golf club? Just do this.

300 Yards? I don’t get it

I was at the range a few days ago. There is a post 300 yards away from the line of tees we hit off of.

300 yards is along way. You don’t really know how far away that is until you’re looking at it.

And yet there are guys who hit the ball father than that on the fly.

Yes, they are strong, they are superior athletes, and their technique if flawless. I know all that.

I guess it’s my imprinting that I can’t shake. When I started the game, 200 yards off the tee was long for your everyday recreational golfer. 250 yards was a Tour drive and the big hitters averaged 265, maybe 275.

I can get 275 on the fly and roll out to 300.

But 300 and more in the air I don’t think I’ll ever understand.

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.

Lawn Maintenance and Your 7-Iron

[Note: I have subsequently discovered that a fairway wood works much better for this operation.]

My lawn has very few dandelions in it because I jump on the blossoms when I see them and pick them off so they don’t go puff-ball on me. Every day I make a tour.

Yesterday, I was in my backyard driving range and the idea stuck me that as long as I had my 7-iron in hand, I could take care of the weeds and get a little chipping practice in at the same time.

I worked just great. Until I got too close to one of the borders.

Last fall I put down a sheet of 9-mil black plastic to cover a spot I want to put new plants in, so nothing would grow in the meantime. I saw a bulge in it and didn’t think that that might be a rock underneath. Which it was.

I got rid of the dandelion blossom right beside it, but I put a serious nick in the clubhead on the followthrough. Fortunately, a little filing smoothed down the rough edges, and the golf ball doesn’t seem to mind, so why should I.

So seriously. Get rid of those weeds with your golf club. Beats bending down all the time. Just make sure your entire arc is clear.

Google Maps and Golf

A few days ago, I got to playing with Google Maps to see how far away different objects in the Fairgrounds field, where I hit golf balls, it being only one block from my house, are from each other. The Internet is such a wonderful thing.

I found a feature that I didn’t know about before which measures straight-line distances. Pull up your map of, let’s say the second hole that requires you to carry the tee shot over a ditch or lay up. How far do you have to carry the tee shot in order to carry the ditch?

GM will tell you, and if I am not the last man on Earth to have found this feature, you’re in for a treat.

With the image of the hole, nice and big, in front of you, right-click on the tee box. A box will pop up with all sorts of features. Left-click on “Measure Distance”.

Right-click on the spot you want to measure the distance to. Another box will pop up. Left-click on “Distance to here”. A graduated line will appear, giving you the distance between the two spots.

This image shows you why I don’t try to hit over the ditch. 633 feet (211 yards) is more than I want to try for. Not to mention, it’s uphill. I can do it, if I really nail it, but how often you really nail it? Besides, this a par 5 and I almost always get par by laying up to the ditch. But now I know.

If you want to get deep into your strategy, you might find holes that you can play better by playing to a specific spot off the tee and finding out what club you would hit to get there.

I’ll let you figure out how to use this tool in places other than off the tee.

The whole point is to perhaps learn how to get your way around the courses you play by hitting manageable shots that play to your strengths.

Three Ways to Hit Better Golf Shots Without Practicing

Do you want to hit better shots without practicing? Well, maybe one small bucket of balls. Here are three things you can do that are guaranteed to improve your ball-striking in just minutes. Promise.

1. Slow down your swing. When you swing too fast and don’t give yourself a snowball’s chance in H-E-double hockey sticks to strike the ball on the center of the clubface. With your small bucket of balls, slow down your swing until you do. Then speed up gradually until you don’t. Then slow back down again until you do and resolve never to swing faster than that.

Slow.

Down.

If you aren’t hitting well on the course, try slowing down. Many times it’s the quickest fix there is.

2. Put the ball farther back in your stance. Maybe just a half inch. Many golfers play it too far forward because it feels powerful to be cranking into the ball from behind. Ease the ball back until you start making real good contact (you will). Then believe it and keep it there.

3. Aim yourself. Lay an alignment stick on the ground behind you. Step up to the ball and aim yourself at a target downrange. Reach back with your club and pull the stick against your heels. Step away from the ball so you have a down-the-line view of how you set up. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts you aimed yourself to the right of the target. Way right. Lefties, you’re likely to be aimed way left.

Move the stick so it is parallel left of the line from the ball to the target and step into your stance with your heels against the stick. That’s what being aimed at your target looks like.

Aim, unfortunately, is not something you can learn once and you have it forever. It takes constant renewal. Go through this process before you hit practice balls at the range or at the course. Every time.

A Few Recent Thoughts

I have read enough golf instruction books to know that whatever you think is the right way to swing a golf club has found its way into print. That doesn’t mean the thing you think is so important is really is right for you, or that it gets along well with all the other swing parts you have assembled. Get lesson to be sure!

When we go to the range we spend too much time hitting balls. On the golf course, we don’t hit balls. We hit shots. So hit shots at the range, too. Visualize situations you might have on the courses you play that are problematic and come up with shots that handle them.

One thing about your setup that does not get enough attention is your posture. When your posture is correct, that is, you’re not slouching, your mind is engaged and full of confidence. One of the biggest problems we have to solve in golf is making a graceful, powerful practice swing, and then stepping up to the ball and not thinking, “Oh, crap! What do I do now?” The way to carry that confidence from your practice swing to setting up to the ball is in having perfect posture.

The golf swing is one unified movement that flows through stages. Movements at these stages, takeaway, transition, impact, and finish, are the most important—especially the finish, which few golfers realize is much more than just where you end up when you stop swinging. There is a lot to be said for starting your swing practice at the finish and working backwards through the stages to address.

It has been two years since I told you what was in my bag. The change I’m making this year is to take out the 16.5* fairway wood and put in a second putter. This is not the first time I have done that. One putter is face-balanced, so I can take it more straight back and straight through for shortish putts. The other putter is my usual toe-balanced putter to be used for longer putts.

Professional golfers can apply their impeccable technique hard and fast to hit the ball unbelievable distances because of their world-class athleticism. We are not so gifted. Though we need to do the same thing they do, hit the ball on the center of the clubface, we must do it according to our abilities. Slow down your swing until this can be accomplished. We will get all the distance we can muster by using finesse, not effort.

Why I Have Blades in My Bag

Blades vs. cavity backs=”game improvement” irons.

There is an article on the GolfWRX site by Terry Kohler about the matter. I was going to write a response, but some guy in the Comments column beat me to it.

What he said is exactly my story. Every word. EVERY WORD.

“I have found that my scores with blade irons are the same or better as cavity backs. Could be because I learned to play with blades nearly 60 years ago because that was my only option. Could be that they just plain look better to my eye because of that old historical tie. Or it could be because I get sloppy with a cavity back relying on that supposed forgiveness. So at this point I simply select a blade because it makes me happy. It makes me think about all the things I need to do to hit a pure shot, and when I don’t I only blame myself. Handicap 9.”

As you know, I play Hogans. Either 1999 Apex or 1989 Apex Red Line.

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.

Little Differences That Make a Big Difference in How Well You Play