Downswing Matters...

Most of you have been following me for long enough to know that I believe the location and orientation of the clubhead in the early downswing are vital to an effective golf swing. The appropriate position and orientation of the clubhead will enable you to rotate freely through impact, controlling the face and compressing the golf ball. The following short video will help you understand the value of clubhead position in the early downswing and why it’s so important in building a sound impact position

Where you position the clubhead in the early downswing is integral to your ability to rotate and manage the club face through the impact interval. Better rotation means less flipping and more accurate shots. This matters - big time.

In the following short video you will learn why, even though you may have been doing a better job with positioning the clubhead (shallowing the shaft), your game has not improved. Improper shallowing can compromise the club face angle in the early downswing and actually promote active hands or flipping through impact. Here’s the remedy…

There you have it. Getting the clubhead deeper (more BEHIND you) in the early downswing without compromising the face will produce incredible results for almost every golfer I teach. I suspect it will help your game too. A good place to start is in front of a mirror - create the proper look, don’t worry about exaggerating things, take the appropriate feel from that look and go out and practice. Keep reinforcing in front of the mirror.

A Young Jack Nicklaus

A Young Jack Nicklaus




The What, the Why and the How about "Getting Open" at Impact

What does 'get open' at impact mean? Why is it important to be open with your hips and chest as you approach impact? Now for the million dollar question - how can I do it? Start by taking a few minutes to watch and listen as I address all of these questions here...

What is it?

  • PGA Tour players are on average around 45º open with their hips and around 25º open with their chest at impact
  • Some are more and some are less, but all are open to some degree

Why is it important?

  • Getting the body rotating through impact allows for the hands to play a more passive role, thus allowing for a quieter clubface through the strike
  • Most golfers hit shots off line due to an inability to control the clubface through impact
  • All golfers would like to be more predictable with their ball flight and a quieter clubface through the strike will typically lead to improved control

How can I get open?

  • Get the clubhead deeper/more behind you as you start the downswing
  • Use your wrist angles to maintain control over the clubface and get it in place for a passive ride through impact
  • Observe your lead arm position going up and most importantly, coming down, while avoiding anything extreme
Impacto.jpg

The great golfers pictured above have an uncanny knack at controlling the clubface through impact. I'm convinced that getting the hips and the chest more than less open as the club strikes the ball will help you to become a more consistent golfer

Get to it!

How to Shallow the Attack Angle

I teach far more golfers that hit down on the ball too much more than those that don't hit down enough. If you are one of those golfers that typically takes big divots and hits a low ball flight then stay with me....

I have found this sequence to work nicely with all golfers looking to shallow their attack angle and improve the crispness of the strike. Try the following (with either irons or driver):

  • PHASE 1 - 5 drags over the top of the ball
  • PHASE 2 - 5 low to high pitch style shots, keeping clubhead low in the backswing
  • PHASE 3 - 5 half speed and half size swings sensing an ascending strike (even with irons)

(all shots are struck with the ball on a tee)

Another drill I like to use to help golfers learn to deliver an ascending strike with the driver is what I call the Box Drill pictured below...

Place an empty sleeve box between a teed golf ball and the target as indicated. The box should be approximately a grip length ahead of the ball. On a windy day it might be necessary to use tees to anchor the box in place. This is a costly addition to this drill!

If you can hit shots without running the clubhead into the box then chances are that you're no longer hitting down on the ball and you should see an increase in both distance and the altitude of your tee shots. Keep in mind that as you "upgrade" your attack angle, should you have an adjustable driver, you might need to alter the loft.

Thanks for reading and I hope these ideas are going to help your game. Cheers!

No More Weak Iron Shots

We've all heard the sound. And we've all felt it too. That sense when you literally melt a ball off the clubface and you know instantaneously that you've hit the shot you've been waiting for all day. That feeling is compression! To learn more watch this....

Here is an example lesson where I felt it appropriate to use this drill with a student who was struggling with the quality of his strike and high, weak ball flight in particular. Here is his initial TrackMan data for a typical 7 iron shot...

It's important to be aware that the height of this particular shot was 103 feet! This player's club speed is only a few mph short of PGATour average, yet he is only carrying a 7 iron 145 yards. After working on his compression (spin loft) via the drill illustrated in the video this is what a typical shot looked like in drill mode (note the slower club speed)...

The exact same ball speed with more than 7 mph less club speed! The spin loft, which is not an easy change to make, has gone from 31.1º to a slightly low 24.8º and the height has come down to a more manageable 76 feet. I anticipate that as this golfer works to get comfortable with their new feel they would increase their compression to a more appropriate 26º or 27º.

Before on the left and while doing the Compression Drill on the right

Before on the left and while doing the Compression Drill on the right

Thanks for reading and for greater understanding on what compression really is please read:

 Compress the Golf Ball — Andrew Rice Golf

A Drill For Better Compression

There is so much information out there regarding the golf swing that it's nearly impossible for anybody to sift through it all and decide what could be a game-changer for their game. In this article I've done the heavy lifting for you and trust me, improved wrist angles (particularly in the downswing) can make a massive difference in your ball striking.

In the wrist-centric Laser Beam drill I'd like to see the following:

  • a tee in your glove pointing away from your the back of your hand
  • curl the wrists under, bowing the lead wrist slightly, as you start the swing
  • sense a flat or slightly bowed wrist throughout the back and downswing
  • save your eyes! Point the tee away from your face all the way through impact

If you do this correctly you will sense an improved ability to hit draws and the additional compression will have the ball jumping off the clubface. Give this one a go!

An explanation of Compression 

Compress the Golf Ball

One of the most important aspects of great ball striking is compressing the golf ball. Now, we've all heard that statement and we know the feel of a purely struck shot, but what really is compression and how can we do a better job with it? Let's start by understanding the photograph below. This is a simulated shot where the clubface is just about to reach the back of the golf ball. The red line indicates where the loft or upward face angle is at impact and the blue line indicates the direction the clubhead is travelling during impact. The white line connecting the two represents the amount of compression "experienced" by the golf ball.

The narrower the gap or closer the two lines are the more compression will be exerted onto the golf ball and assuming a decent strike and appropriate launch, the ball will travel further. TrackMan refers to this gap as spin loft and without being too detailed it is the difference between where the face points at impact and where the clubhead travels at impact.

Fredrik Tuxen - one of the founders of TrackMan refers to spin loft as compression itself. To get a better understanding of how the numbers work let me give you a few examples: Jack hits a 5 iron with the face pointing at 16 degrees and the clubhead moving 2 degrees down. Bob swings at the same speed as Jack with his 5 iron and he gets the face pointing 15 degrees up and the clubhead moving 6 degrees down. Jack has a spin loft of 18 and Bob has a spin loft of 21. Both shots are hit well, so which goes further? Jack's does because he has a narrower spin loft gap and thus compresses the ball more than Bob. What spin loft would create the maximum compression? Zero! However, as we will learn spin loft is in large part responsible for the amount of spin imparted on any shot and a golf ball needs some spin to keep it flying in the air. I have found that a spin loft of 11 is very good for a driver.

Some interesting points about compression or spin loft:

  • Hitting down will not increase your compression of the golf ball or the spin on the shot. Invariably this only leads to a shot where the face angle and the clubhead direction both move downward - there is no change in spin or increase in distance.
  • A higher spin loft increases spin and generally slows down ball speed.
  • If you have similar swing speed, but hit your shots far shorter than your playing partners - this is due to a lack of compression on your shots.
  • Shots with a lower spin loft will curve in the air more easily than shots with less compression. That's why it's easier to keep a 7 iron straighter than a driver.
  • Custom club fitting can help to improve your spin loft simply by delofting either your irons or driver.

Now that we really understand what true compression is we can start to look at methods to help us improve our own ball striking. There are two ways we can compress the ball better - deloft the face angle more at impact without hitting down any more or hit down less without increasing the the loft of the face during impact. Ideally we need to deloft the face without hitting down any more. Notice how in the Jack and Bob example I used above - Bob's face was delofted more than Jack's, yet he hit down more and this limited his ability to compress the ball.

To get a good sense of what is required:

  • Get in front of a mirror with a 7 iron.
  • Grip the club and facing the mirror get the clubhead about 3" off the ground two feet back from where the ball would be.
  • Now slowly glide the clubhead through impact while maintaining the 3" space between the clubhead and the ground noticing that as you go beyond impact how much your hands need to stay in front.
  • When you start hitting balls - start small and hit soft shots off of a tee.
  • There should be no ground contact, try to leave the tee in the ground and see how low you can hit these little 7 iron shots.

This is the feel you want! Delofting the face without slamming the club into the ground. And believe it or not this applies to the driver as well. I know it may sound strange and it took me a while to wrap my brain around this, but it is entirely possible to hit up on the ball with the handle/hands in front of the clubhead.

If you have gained something from this article please share it with a friend. Let's be honest, they could most probably do with the help....

Forward Shaft Lean

I love this photograph taken by Robert Beck yesterday at the Open Championship.  It reveals what it takes to hit compressed and penetrating iron shots - forward shaft lean.  If you tend to hit the ball too high with your irons or haven't taken a divot all year this is a fantastic image for you to keep in mind the next time you practice.

Remember these important points to help you get into this position at impact:

  • If you have a weak grip it is almost impossible to get here. Strengthen your grip a touch and that will encourage the hands to lead and hold through the strike.
  • Your weight must be forward at impact - favoring the lead foot 80%/20%.  Drive the hips forward in the downswing with out the head shifting in front of the ball for proper weight distribution at impact.
  • Deloft the clubface as much as possible at impact.  Top players actually launch a 4 or even a 5 iron at a height similar to that which they launch the driver.  Practice hitting low, punch type shots until you can hit the ball at head height.

A few additional articles to help:

Hands Forward at Impact

How to Stop Scooping

Impact Drill: How to Stop Scooping

This is a version of a drill that I have presented many times, but each time I use it, it impresses upon me the importance of a proper strike on the golf ball. In using Trackman I have come to learn that the correct attack angle (an upward or downward hit) with an iron should be anywhere between 2 and 5 degrees down. If you have ever topped shots or alternated between thin and heavy strikes, you are more than likely getting scoopy through impact and this drill is right up your alley.

This drill will get you to do the following through impact:

  • Get the weight shifted onto the front foot
  • Lead the hands ahead of the clubhead
  • Hit down on the ball
  • Take divots in the right place - after the ball!

All you need is a small piece of one of those swim noodles that all the kids like to use in the pool. Secure the strip of noodle into the ground by pressing tees through the center as illustrated. It may take a little experimenting, but eventually you'll find the appropriate distance to line the balls up from the noodle. Before long you should start to see a consistent line of divots occurring on the target side of the golf ball - a positive sign! If you find yourself hitting a few of the dreaded "hosel rockets" your grip is too weak; Essentially you now need to scoop the face in order to square the clubface through impact. Get it stronger!

Some additional drills to help with impact:

Playing Golf in the Wind

One of the biggest mistakes golfers make when playing in the wind is to make full swings. It almost seems as if they try to overpower the wind - that cannot happen! This is a perfect example: A golfer faces a 120 yard shot that is into the wind; they calculate the shot to be playing approximately 130 yards; they pull their 130 yard club and make a full swing; the ball comes down 25 yards short of the pin. The reason this happens is that the harder you strike the ball the more it spins and spin creates turbulence, which leads to lift, which leads to height, which leads to soemthing far less than the expected distance.

Read More

The 84 Degree Secret

The manner in which the body works through the swing is integral to achieving a proper and productive impact position.In fact, body motion is the prime fundamental for striking a golf ball correctly.By pivoting and loading the body correctly in the backswing, you set off a chain reaction that automatically directs your body to where it should be at the moment of truth: impact!

Read More

It's All About Impact - The Book

This book has been written to show all golfers' what style elements they can do without and what functional elements are integral to soundly struck golf shots. What is pretty and what works? Forget about form and focus all your attention on two simple keys that make all the difference in the world.

Read More

A Great Impact Position = Compression

                                                                 

Tiger makes an Impact
Tiger makes an Impact

We have all heard the sound of a properly struck golf shot: the ball squeezing off the face and fizzing toward the target with the divot flying and the ball penetrating the air with a seemingly single-minded purpose.  This is the sound of compression!   This is golf acoustics at it's finest.

The compression of a golf ball only comes from a well executed, subtle, downward blow on the golf ball.  A strike where the face is square and the path is straight.  The easiest way to achieve compression is by getting into a great impact position.  Here is how:

  • Set up with the stance width fairly narrow and the lead eye over the ball.  The ball position should favor a little more back than forward.
  • Remain fairly centered over the ball in the back swing.  Obey the 84 degree secret!
  • Drive the weight (hips and thighs) onto the front foot without getting the head forward of where it started.  This is what I refer to as body curve!
  • Trap the ball by leading with the handle into the hit.  The hands must beat the club head to impact.  With the weight comfortably favoring the front foot this creates the descending strike on the ball which in turn leads to compression!

   Singh

                                     Watson

 

 

 Notice the uncanny similarity between Vijay and Tom in the illustrations.  While they have each already impacted the ball it does appear that the handle of the club got beyond the ball prior to impact as they both achieve the appropriate amount of body curve.  

A recipe for compression!

 

 

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 A great strike on the ball is a necessity when you play a course like the players will face in the 2009 U.S Open at Bethpage Black.  The long and punishing test is designed to expose any ball striking flaws that may exist.

Here are a few U.S.Open notes:

  • Newsday.com has some great up-to-the-minute news and photos - Long Island style!
  • What does Hank Haney do while watching Tiger hit every single shot of the last two weeks?  I think he was in every picture I saw of Tiger.
  • I find it interesting that there have already been four withdrawals.  If my game or body was not in top shape I think I'd stay home too!
  • I predict a winning score of -5 and I predict someone in a red shirt will win!