Making Gains

It seems like just the other day that I embarked on my teaching career, yet it was almost 30 years ago. As a young coach it didn’t take me long to get to a point where I thought I pretty much knew everything there was to know about the golf swing. My how things have changed! I remember saying that one day on Tour we would get to a point where there were no more ‘bad’ or unusual looking swings. Ha! Anyone seen Matthew Wolff’s golf swing?

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When I first started coaching Phil’s backswing would have been too long, Bubba’s feet would have been too active, Jordan could never be successful with a bent lead arm, DJ’s club face would have been impossibly closed and Jim Furyk - well that just had no chance.

Perhaps it’s my experience speaking, but I believe the golf instruction industry has come a long way in the last two decades. We have made more progress in this time than all the years before. Our eyes have been opened to the uniqueness and intricacy of the golf swing and how there truly are many ways to get the job done. A better understanding of the forces and torques that golfers are exerting on both the ground and the club has opened our eyes to perhaps why the players pictured above are successful.

Another important revelation over the last two decades has been the value of skill. Your technique allows you to hit the ball towards your target, but its skill that enables you to adjust the flight, shape, distance and ultimately, the outcome of each unique shot on the course. So many golfers were falsely led to believe that if they simply upgraded their technique/mechanics/swing they would be world-beaters. Technique, no doubt plays a role, but the value of skill can no longer be over looked. The great Seve Ballesteros is a fabulous example of a golfer that relied more on skill, and heart, than technique…

Seve Ballesteros

Seve Ballesteros

I feel that the internet has been an important catalyst in our improvement and understanding as a community of golf coaches. Sound information is out there, if you simply know where to look or who to contact. I cannot overlook the role technology has played either. I know that having the opportunity to teach with TrackMan, SwingCatalyst and K-Motion over the years has served to make me a better informed coach.

We have also improved our knowledge of how people learn and we now know it’s not all about pounding balls and getting your reps in. Sure, we still need to work hard, but we have a better picture of how to effectively take full ownership of changes and better incorporate them into who we are as a golfer.

Are we there yet? Do we have all the answers? As an older, more seasoned coach, I never think I know it all anymore. Our understanding is significantly deeper than it was 20 years, but we still have much to do.

It’s an exciting time to be a coach and a golfer.

A Long Swing or a Short Swing?

The good news is that either one can get the job done, but we cannot view these two very different golf swings through the same lens. There are certain fundamental differences that we must keep in mind. Watch...

For the shorter backswing:

  • Get the wrists, arms and shaft organized early in the backswing
  • The club should favor being laid off at the top
  • The lead wrist should be flat or bowed at the top

For the longer backswing:

  • There is more freedom in the backswing as player has more time available to organize in transition and on the way down
  • The club should favor being across the line
  • The lead wrist can be either cupped or bowed

I do typically prefer slightly longer swings over shorter swings, but above all else I prefer swings that work. If you look at the greatest players of all time you'll see significantly more long swings than noticeably short swings. I have also found that longer swings will typically produce faster club speeds. Never a bad thing!

Keep in mind that these are generalized ideas that have been found to work on the students I have been fortunate to coach over the years. They have also been verified by other coaches and a scientist or two, but they are not set in stone. The objective is always improved performance.

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Is Your Swing Built on Timing?

We've all played those rounds where we have 14 solid holes and 4 holes where it seems as if we've never held a club before. This is a classic indication that your golf swing is reliant on timing. A situation where the face angle at impact is determined by the golfer "manually" inputing clubface closure through the impact zone

Here's Sam Snead taking the handle "around the corner"....

Here's Sam Snead taking the handle "around the corner"....

While there is no one method or technique that allows us to position the face correctly through impact on a consistent basis there are certain elements in the golf swing that will allow us to do a better job of managing the clubface. Watch...

If you can work towards making the "motorboat" curve around the corner you'll become much better at getting the "tube" to fling around - this way positioning the clubface appropriately through the strike will start to become more automatic and your swing will be less reliant on timing.

Here's a clip to illustrate what the hands should be doing as they pass through the strike...

Ideally the handpath should be traveling inward and upward. Get to work on the proposed drills and you'll start to see a decreased reliance on timing and improved consistency out on the golf course. Thanks for reading...and watching!