Golf Impact Errors

The Moment of Truth

Impact is the most important part of the golf swing! The ball spends an average of 1/2000 of second on the face of the club, yet it is during this time that it receives it's all-important travel itinerary.  How high; how far; what curvature; spin rate; and ultimately what destination is all determined in that fraction of a second.

The above picture is an ideal impact position.

  • The weight is comforably on the front foot
  • The handle is leading the clubhead into the ball and  the clubhead is travelling slightly down for a ball-first, divot-second strike
  • The head is over the ball with the weight in front of the ball leading to body curve

There are only three errors a golfer can make at impact and here they are:

Head and Weight Back

In this example the head has worked back behind the ball too much and the weight remains on the back foot.  This  golfer scoops the ball off the turf and tends to hit weak, high fades and slices with the occasional pulled shot.  Should a divot occur it is most often before the ball is impacted.  This is a typical what I would call "weekend warrior" swing.

Head and Weight Forward

In this example the golfer has found a way t0 "squeeze" the ball and actually strike it fairly well, however, due to the upper body being positioned in front of the ball, direction is a major challenge.  Divots are quite deep and this golfers' tendencies will be to hit pull draws with the occasional push or flare.  There is not enough body curve in this mid-level impact position.

Head Too Far Back with Weight Forward

This impact position is invariably the demise of the better golfer.  Here the golfer has found a way to attack the ball from the inside while still delivering a downward blow to the ball, yet there is too much of a good thing.  The head hangs back while the hips drive to the target, dropping the clubhead too far to the inside and encouraging the hands to flip through impact.  This golfer will tend to play well with good timing, but should things get nervy they will hit blocks and quick, sweeping hooks.

Analyze your shot pattern on the golf course and start to get an idea as to which of the above categories you fall into.  Get in front of a mirror and work towards improving or tempering certain elements of your impact position.  As you do this remember feel is very seldom real when it comes to golf.  Create the correct look in the mirror and then absorb what that 'look' feels like and take that out to your next practice session.

Additional Resources:

Impact - I Suck At Golf

Golf Swing Impact Position

Golf's Contact Zone

Form vs. Function

Long ago I came to realize that much of modern day golf instruction is based primarily around instructor style preference. Way too much of the information being peddled is form based instead of being function based. Tommy 'Two Gloves' Gainey's win this weekend on the PGATour illustrates that there is more to a golf swing than simply what meets the eye.

In studying the top golfers of all time - no two swings are alike. Who is to say that Ben Hogan's flat plane is better than Jack Nicklaus' vertical arm move? Who is to say that Sam Snead's slight over the top move was better than Nick Price's drop down transition?

Ultimately it all comes down impact and physics - the forces and angles you are causing the club to impart on the golf ball. Impact is the one position in which all of the great players are decidedly similar. From Patty Berg to Annika and Tom Watson to Phil Mickelson - all these players assume a very similar position at impact. If this is the case, which, trust me, it is, then the appearance of the swing should play far less of a role in a golfer's path to improvement.

Here are the elements of a great impact position with irons:

  • the weight is noticeably on the front foot; 80% or more
  • the handle always leads the clubhead
  • the head remains over the ball, while the hips have shifted to the target; this creates what I refer to as body 'curve'
  • the clubhead travels down (downswing) into the ball; this includes fairway woods and hybrids

Here are two short videos to help:

The next time you take a lesson make sure your teacher works towards getting you into a better position at impact. It is the only way you are going to start hitting better, more compressed golf shots.

Maintain Body Angles for Consistency

Have you ever struggled with shots that just don't seem to go where they should? The ball always seems to leak right or hook left. Today's post strives to get at the root cause of why your golf swing is so reliant on timing.

One of the more frequent mistakes I see golfers make is to stand up or lose their body angles through impact - the "stand and deliver" move! The loss of body angles or posture causes the body to stop rotating and as a result the hands now assume the responsibility of squaring the clubface. Remember - if the body does not rotate to clubface square, then the hands will help out. This move is very difficult to time, especially under pressure, and often leads to the hands overworking or flipping through impact. If the hands rotate the clubface too early the shot misses left and if they're a touch late, then the shot misses right.

Consistently straight shots are achievable only when the clubface is being squared via the rotation of the body through impact.

An indicator that you are losing your body angles through impact is that your divots (if you are even taking any) are always deeper on the outside than the inside. They are toe deep. (A big reason why an "active" fitting is not always the best way to go!)

A good method to ensure that the body continues it's rotation through the hit is to work on maintaining your posture or spine angle that is established at address. Hit little pitch type shots with an eight iron trying to feel that your torso stays down over the ball while clearing through the strike. A good feel is to try and sense that the hands are low through impact - they should feel like they are actually lower at impact than they were at address. You may even have the sense that the toe of the club is higher at impact than the heel. Try this DRILL

This is something that all of golf's greatest ball strikers have in common - Nick Price, Lee Trevino and Ben Hogan all did a fantastic job of maintaining their posture through impact. This allowed them to take the hands, and timing, out of the equation - a recipe for consistently good golf shots.

Body Angles | Andrew Rice Golf

Clubs Too Upright, Too Light?

Thanks to reader Chuck for this enlightening article posted by Bradley Hughes from www.bradleyhughesgolf.com:

 FLAT LIE ANGLES -            The Reason and Logic Of The Greats

I know from personal experience in a question asked directly to Lee Trevino that he used clubs that were at least 3 degrees flat in lie angle from the old standard. Doug Sanders also informed me in the interview I recently did with him (on page 2) that he had his clubs flattened down so the toe sat down and the heel would never strike the ground first. If we look at Ben Hogan's club that is in USGA Golf House Museum it is close to 6 or 7 degrees flat in lie angle when compared to clubs of the same length and loft of today.

If flat lie angles were the choice of the game's best ball strikers throughout history then WHY do manufacturers insist on putting upright lie angled clubs in the hands of golfer's today?

  • The upright clubs make the player come steeply into the ball on descent.
  • The upright clubs tell the body stall and insist that the hands flip through impact to try and square that upright lie angled club with the ground.
  • The upright club straightens the right arm away from the body and increases clubface roll throughout the shot making timing a huge problem.
  • Upright lie angles deteriorate the swing by not stressing the importance of swinging the golf club behind and around the body and rotating through impact with the correct body effort and sequence.

Too often we now see golfers throwing the club through impact - pushing the club head off to the right of the target or throwing the clubhead left of the target with their hand roll - flipping the club face over by hand action trying to correct the mistake. Today's clubs should all come with a warning label:     "Swing Deterioration And Poor Mechanics Possible By Using This Club"

 Add the fact that the shafts are too long and the swingweights and overall club weights are too light and it is little wonder we don't see ball striking mastery on any level any longer. Remember: Feedback of the club and the swing is necessary for improvement to take place. That's why golfers are not improving. They don't know the difference between a good strike or a bad strike of the ball because the permieter weighting and large sweet spots don't allow such reference. The equipment golfers are using is NOT designed to help them adjust their swing to the correct efficient motion.

Bradley Hughes

Very well said Mr. Hughes. I have an inkling as to why manufactureres insist on making clubs lighter and more upright...... Firstly, the clubs are more upright as it causes the faders, who happen to be the majority of golfers, to reduce the amount of curvature of their shots. Notice I never said anything about improving their swings - the upright lies in fact encourage these golfers to continue swinging the way they always have. And secondly, the light weight leads to more speed which creates a Wow! factor when they first hit the clubs. The lighter the club the faster you can swing it. You also, however, relinquish a measure of control over the clubhead and a feel for the club.

So the slicer who tries his buddies new 7-iron and hits a straight bomb over the green is amazed as he has never hit the ball that straight and that far before - he simply must have a set!

As with most things it comes down to $$$$! Don't get sucked in and allow yourself to be enticed with new gimmicks. Know your numbers (length and lie) and play something you like the look of and can feel.

Ben Hogan's Secret....

Ben Hogan
Ben Hogan

Many people have claimed that they know Hogan's secret, but I have never heard one that I have bought in to. Something viable that would separate Mr. Hogan from the crowd; something unique only to him. Thanks to my friend Bobby MacWhinnie for pointing this fantastic quote out to me from the book "Ben Hogan - An American Life" by James Dodson:

His real secret, as it were - lay not in the technical jargon as (he) would have you believe, but rather in the rarest combination of an extraordinarily disciplined brain and an undeniable will power fueled by a fierce survivor instinct to prevail against any odds.

Work those characteristics into your game and you may have a secret of your own!

Read more on Ben Hogan's Secret HERE

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Shaft Angle at Impact

All I can say after doing the research for this post is WOW! This is something that is really interesting and I've never really delved into it before. In looking at the illustrations above and the photos below you will see what I am referring to - it is very rare for any golfer to return the shaft/club at impact to the same position it occupied at address (when viewed from down the line).
In fact so rare, that I have only found four golfers who do it more often than not. The amazing thing is that this group of golfers is a collection of some of the finest ball strikers that ever played the game. They are Lee Trevino, who Jack Nicklaus claims is the best hitter he ever saw, Ben Hogan, Nick Price and Sergio Garcia.

I have included the picture of Tiger Woods from 2000 below to illustrate where most PGA Tour caliber players return the shaft to at impact. Notice how his handle is above where it started (on the red line) at address.

Out of the four golfers I have found to get the shaft completely back to the line it appears that Sergio might be the least consistent at always returning the shaft back to the line, but as noted above, he does so more often than not.

Another interesting point to note is the golfers who are very close to returning the club to the line: Vijay Singh and Joe Durant (who has led the Tour in GIR stats 4 times and finished in the top 12 for the last dozen years!). In fact looking at the stats Joe Durant is a much better hitter than Tiger Woods - and consistently so!

Two additional golfers who may get the club onto the line but I was not able to find enough quality footage on were Sam Snead and Moe Norman (I found these images on Moe HERE and it looks pretty close). Certainly no slouches in the ball striking department either!

So, the next time you are reviewing your swing, pay particular attention to your impact position, but more specifically where your shaft is at impact relative to where you had it at address. There's a good chance you'll be above the line (and zero chance you'll be below it!) but do what you can to lower the shaft angle at impact in order to dramatically improve your ball striking and accuracy. Plase check back soon as I will be filming a few drills soon to help you get closer to a truly great impact.

Read Part II of this article HERE

Any thoughts? Any other golfers who you think might get the club to the line? Evidence? Please chime in.

To learn more about better ball striking check out THIS

Speedchain - Dynamic Power for Golf

View the HD video lesson HERE

 The speedchain is a tremendous teaching and training aid for just about any golfer looking to get a sense for what the body should be doing throughout the golf swing. And by now you should all know I am a big fan of getting the body to work correctly. While it may not be the easiest aid to use and "operate" it is superb at communicating the feel of the transition and downswing.

Ben Hogan has long been admired for his dynamic golf swing and the effortless ease with which he drove his weight up onto his front foot.  It often looked like he was "cracking a whip" when he swung a club. Training with the speedchain will get you to sense the hip drive and weight shift - just prior to - the arms and the club completing the back swing. A necessity for delivering maximum power and snap into the back of the ball.

The speedchain is made up of a sturdy grip attched to a length (20') of chain where the links get bigger and heavier as they extend out away from the grip. The weight of the chain forces the body to work as efficiently (correctly!) as possible. I would recommend using or purchasing the XX Strong Model (for all golfers) as the heavier chain limits the amount of whipping in the terminal end of the chain - it just seems a little safer.

Here's a teaching/training aid that is guaranteed to help your swing and as a bonus it offers an excellent core workout as well - I cannot recommend it enough!

FYI - I am in no way affiliated with the manufacturing or selling of the speedchain.

 For more information on Speedchains and purchasing click HERE

View the HD video lesson HERE

 

Ben Hogan's Dynamic Golf Swing

If you have been follwing this blog you more than likely have heard about the 84 degree secret. Let's take a look at how this line applies to the swing of Ben Hogan. It is important to remember that top golfers generally are flush up against the 84 degree line prior to any part of the body initiating the downswing. Some of the golfers are not necessarily all the way to the top of the backswing when they initiated a dynamic downswing, i.e. their hands and arms were actually still completing the backswing while their bodies (hips and legs) had already begun the downswing. Starting the lower body forward while the arms and club are still going backward creates energy or snap in the swing – just like when a whip is cracked.

Read More

Golf Grip: Strong, Neutral or Weak?

The Vardon grip?  The interlock grip?  The ten-finger or baseball gripWhat is a strong grip? Does that mean I must hold the club tighter?  There seems to be so much confusion about what constitutes a good, functional grip that I thought I would address a few issues pertaining to our one and only connection with the club. I must first state that the grip is part of the "fundamentals' of golf.  Well, not really! While the grip and aim and set-up are important to your ability to hit a golf ball, the manner in which you grip the club is by no means fundamental - the grip is not integral.  I have seen far too many golfers with great grips hit poor golf shots and vice versa....

The club should be held primarily in the fingers with the hands kept close together.   I have no preference for the overlap, interlock or baseball type grips.   Success has been had with all of them!

A strong grip is one where both hands are rotated away from the target; a weak grip is one where both hands are rotated toward the target and a neutral grip falls somewhere in between.

 

I am a big fan of a strong grip. It encourages the ball to go further and the hands to lead the club head in to impact. When that happens there is less of a tendency to flip the club face closed.  If you are a hooker of the ball, believe it or not, but a stronger grip might just help you alleviate those dreaded left shots.  It is imperative for a golfer with a strong grip to have quiet hands through impact. Quiet hands are ultimately more consistent than active hands. The vast majority of the greatest golfers of all time employed a strong grip including  Patty Berg, the greatest woman golfer of all time, who had an exceedingly strong grip.
 
 

  The grip pictured above is non functional grip.  In this example the golfer is forced to flip their hands through impact in an effort to square the face - everything is based on timing.  This grip essentially promotes active hands through impact - just what we should be trying not to do. There was only one truly great golfer who used a weak grip (and certainly not to the extent illustrated in this photo) - Ben Hogan. It is important to remember that Hogan struggled in the early part of his career with hooking the ball and a weak grip was one of the factors he implemented to overcome that tendency.

Try to get your grip to fit into a range of acceptability; a range within which it can function.  And in my experience a strong grip is far more functional than a weak one.

 

Setting Up for a Great Impact (Part 2 of a Four Part series)

So often I read that it is important to be "behind the ball".  While this statement is almost correct I would prefer for a golfer to be "over" the ball and this sense initiates with the set up position. The Set-up

 The set-up encompasses ball position, stance width and spine/shoulder tilt.  Let's take a look from the ground up.

With the irons I would like to see the ball played from the middle of the stance - keep in mind, that in order to hit down on the ball, a must, the weight must be in front of the ball.  Notice that I said weight and not body or head!  When the ball is centrally located it is that much easier to hit down on.  As you get to the longer clubs(woods) slide the ball up toward the inside of the left heel.  In the Ben Hogan illustration you'll notice how his ball is not quite in the center but a little forward.  This is due to his pronounced hip slide into impact which still allowed him to be able to hit down on a more forward ball position.

As far as the stance width goes, I prefer a narrower stance than a wider one and here's why.  A narrow stance allows for the weight to get to the front foot easily - that's why you should be chipping and pitching with a narrow stance.  Too wide and you'll have a hard time getting onto the front foot without excess movement.

Head position and spine tilt is the most important factor in the set-up!  I read an article yesterday pontificating about if you tilt away from the target you'll reduce your slice.  Well, you might reduce the slice, but you'll have a hard time making solid contact with the ball.  All the best ball strikers set up as Hogan has here, with the head positioned between the feet, the left eye over the ball and the spine just about vertical.  There should also be a minimal amount of shoulder tilt when the spine is vertical.  Make sure you avoid any excess tilt into your back side as this will make it almost impossible to get "over" the ball at impact.

Set yourself up to get into a great impact!

Things to ponder:

  • Harbourtown and the TPC Louisiana are both Pete Dye golf courses. They look like they are from different planets!
  • Can Steve Stricker finally get the job done on Sunday? It's been a while!
  • Tiger Woods is a great champion, but does he play golf the way it was meant to be played? Does modern equipment let him play the game "his way"? I offer Greg Norman and Nick Faldo as contrasts.
  • I was going to ask, " When will Sergio grow up?" but I'm not sure he ever will.
  • Will Sergio ever grow up?