This series is designed as a self-help troubleshooting guide. By focusing on the fundamentals related to your handicap we will help you achieve the lowest score and not search fruitlessly for the perfect swing.
In conjunction with our ‘analysis matrix’, we hope to provide the tools for your improvement.
The ‘FUNDAMENTALS’ series includes:
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A HIGH HANDICAP – ABOVE 18
If you have arrived here from the ‘analysis matrix’, we are surmising that you a major swing fault that causes you to lose lots of golf balls during a round. There are a million different versions of good golf swings, some pretty, some not so much. What they all have in common is an acceptable weight transfer and body rotation. This is a fundamental athletic movement necessary in all racquet sports from tennis to baseball.
The picture here is a great angle from which to view Tiger’s swing. It is clear that his shoulders have turned over 90 degrees, before he has even completed his back swing. Without this rotation away from the ball, you not only restrict your ability to create power you will have the knock on effect of creating further swing faults.
Pictured above is a golfer with a reverse pivot. Also termed as ‘hanging back’ his weight has not transferred towards the target. It simplified terms it becomes very very easy to mis-hit the ball this way as well as reducing any power you may create. If you have a big swing fault it is very important to make sure your body is capable of an effective weight shift and rotation by taking a basic golf functionality test, details of which are here: fitness fundamentals.
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A MID-HANDICAP – FROM 10-18
So contact with the ball is fairly consistent and you have some really fun days on the course. But when it goes bad it goes really bad for you. Do you have the same bad shot that always seems to appear at just the wrong moment? Statistically you are very likely to posses the slice pictured below (if a hook is your nemesis, the opposite advice below will apply).
To make the ball fly relatively straight you must gain control of your clubface and club path (otherwise known as swing direction). Other factors are at play here in creating a ‘perfect’ ball flight but they will be discussed elsewhere in the blog for clarity and simplicity. So the main reason a ball will curve excessively is a face that is quite open or closed – to the path – at impact. I like to think of a David Beckham free kick with its exaggerated swerve. To create a similar looking shot as above could require less than ten degrees of a difference between face and path. The margins are small.
(notice that Beckhams foot is still square – it has not flipped or closed over to create his famous hook spin – it is created by a path to the right of the target)
To get to the bottom of your bad shot you must first do a little analysis. The initial direction of the ball in the picture is pretty straight, so we can say this is very close to where the face was aimed. The face was square to the middle of the fairway. The recent introduction of Trackman to golf has proved that the face aim is almost 80% responsible for the ball flights initial direction. So the old cliché that ‘I left the face open’ is not quite true for most slices. If the face was pointed at the middle of the fairway, yet a sliced shot was the result, we can say that the club-path or swing direction was to the left of the face aim as in the image below.
If you begin to try and correct the shot by flipping or turning your hands over, the low pull is a likely outcome. Everything about your swing will be the same as before, except your face aim which will be matched to the bath. The result is two shots that are more than a fairway width apart, both in the rough. It is easy to lose confidence with this irregular pattern. So if we have established that the face is not the culprit, it must be the club path. As this is the most common problem in golf there are 1001 prescriptions and promises of solution. Ultimately to avoid this fault your swing direction needs to be changed to the right of the face aim. The best way is to start by aiming your body to the right hand side of the fairway – the exact opposite of what most actually do. It’s counter-intuitive, but it will affect your path and therefore your results.
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A LOW HANDICAP – FROM 0 – 9
Your handicap is lower than the worldwide average of 14.3, congratulations! But you are here seeking answer’s, inspiration or improvement! Let’s assume that you have a fairly consistent ball flight. You can gain an edge on your competition with distance or better control of your trajectory.
If you don’t currently average about 240 yards you are at a disadvantage to many other golfers in your bracket of handicap. Visit our fitness fundamentals page to see if you have large gains to make in golf specific fitness. Remember and never undertake a training regime without a prior fitness professional consultation.
The X-Factor stretch is a great area of the swing to focus on for distance and also consistency gains. It can be defined as the difference between your hip and shoulder angle in the beginning of the downswing as you shift your weight. The greater the difference of this angle, the greater the coil you create, like creating more stretch on a rubber band. This creates tremendous force and potential for speed. It’s how a shorter guy like Mcilroy (5’10) is one of the longest players on the PGA tour. The video below should create a nice visualisation for you of the hips rotating early towards the target and creating that stretch. More stretch equals more speed.
The second big change you can make to your long game is by controlling your trajectory effectively. If you generally have a very low or high ball flight, there are certain conditions or shots that become very difficult for you. In the picture below we can see Tiger Woods employ a very ball flight at the PGA Championship. This trajectory would give him a great opportunity to stop the ball on a firm green with a front pin position. Below the picture we can see him just before impact of a very low tee shot designed to pierce through the wind or run a good distance on firm fairways. This flexibility allows him to take on every flag.
To alter your trajectory there are two main factors in play. Your wrist angle and weight position at impact. In the above video of Tiger hitting it low, notice how much weight is on the front foot. A significant shaft angle remains which is created by a very limited release as the hands drive towards the target. A common mistake when first attempting to lower your ball flight is creating a much bigger divot – hitting down like this is not very effective. The goal is to reduce the loft on the clubface. In fact Tiger does’t even take a divot with the above swing!
To create height, speed is an advantage, but we would really like to combine this with a shallow angle of attack, maximising the loft of the club. It is important not to hang back and release the club too aggressively when trying to loft the ball high as you will likely hit it fat. Relative to your normal swing you will have a slightly further forward ball position, less of an aggressive weight transfer towards the target and full release of the wrists into a complete follow through.
Overall improving at trajectory control gives you a chance to lower your handicap on those windy days or when the greens become fast!
FUNDAMENTALS FOR AN EXPERT – BETTER THAN SCRATCH
As an expert the best thing you can do for your game is to spend time on a trackman or flightscope. There are a lot of these devices at every tour event for a reason. The primarily gained popularity and credibility for club-fitting purposes, proving the marginal gains that can’t be proven with the naked eye. Most of the worlds top players are personal owners of a Trackman and credit it with the development of their game, most notably Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy. Even with the ‘best’ swing in golf Adam Scott relies on Trackman for keeping his game in shape. So what can it do for you? It does measure everything but for this article we will stick to the most important item. We look forward to doing an extended article on Trackman in the near future.
This is the understanding and definition of the effect that your angle of attack makes on the ball flight. Most players would agree that with a face aim and swing path directed exactly at the target with a sweet strike, the ball would finish there. But no, if your angle of attack is downwards your ball will curve left and vice versa. There are vast expanses of the internet dedicated to this subject but lets just say that because the angle of attack is downward the club is still to reach the bottom of its three dimensional arc as demonstrated in the photo below.
So although the club path is measured as 0, with a downward angle of attack it is still travelling on the arc and therefore to the right of the target thus creating a draw. The implication of this is important in understanding how to effect ball flight. If you have been told to hit up on your driver and tend to miss consistently right with this club only, D-Plane could be the reason. Alternatively if you hook a lot of your low shots in the wind it is likely the fault of not adjusting for the effect a downward angle of attack creates. It is a tricky concept to grasp with the written word and as with all types of learning, your own experience will create that light bulb moment. Enjoy your time on Trackman, optimising your ball flight and lowering that score.