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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Predictable Draws

Predictability! A word I use every day on my lesson tee. We don't need perfection, although that would be nice, we simply need to predictably launch and shape the ball and we can play the golf of our dreams.

I have found that when a golfer can get the handle of the club traveling inward through the strike managing the club face becomes less of a challenge. Thankfully this doesn't mean that the clubhead is also traveling inward. Watch....

Obstacles to watch for when working towards getting the handle to travel in while the clubhead travels out:

  • The arms drop straight down and in from the top creating a scenario where they are trapped and can only 'exit' outward through impact
  • The handle AND the clubhead both move outward at the start of the downswing. Now they must both travel inward though impact
  • The hips drive forward too much and the handle has no access to work inward through impact

The following sequence of Graeme McDowell illustrates beautifully how to set up the transition and ensuing downswing for exactly what we are looking for through impact

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

To get started with predictable, controllable draws you simply must work the hands in while the clubhead travels out through the strike.

While this is certainly not the only way to get the job done, for slower swing speed golfers (which is most of us out there!) this is the go to game plan. Start in front of a mirror and go from there....

Thanks for reading and if you have a friend who might be struggling with this please share.

If you're interested in join me on a Golf Safari to South Africa this January with your loved one please contact terri (at) andrewricegolf.com or visit www.syncexcursions.com for more details.

How to Shallow the Shaft

For most golfers this is a biggie! If they can manage to get the shaft to shallow or flatten in the early stages of the downswing their chances of drawing the ball, along with a consistently crisp strike are greatly improved.

There are a few key factors to implement that will firm up your ability to shallow the shaft in transition. Watch...

My three important keys are:

  1. A flat lead wrist at the top of the backswing. If you can shoot in the 60's this is not imperative, but it will make the job of flattening the lead wrist in transition and the downswing that much easier.
  2. Get the shaft either straight or laid-off at the top of the backswing. Where you point the handle ultimately determines where the shaft is angled and it's much easier to manage it this way.
  3. Allow the hands to travel out or in front of you slightly as you start down. Be careful you don't over do this, but there are few things worse than getting the hands tucked in behind you in the downswing.
Woods, Trevino, Pettersson and Snead

Woods, Trevino, Pettersson and Snead

In the above image Tiger displays a flat left wrist and a slightly laid-off shaft, Trevino has shallowed the shaft and has a flat lead wrist, Carl Pettersson really gets his hands to travel out at the start of the downswing and Snead follows suit. All positive swing elements to emulate.

I would recommend you start your quest to improve this important swing factor in front of a mirror. Get a feel for each of the three keys by watching them and "seeing" what they need to feel like and then you'll be free to head out to the practice ground.

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The Golf Swing and Time

A common complaint I hear from golfers is that their swings are too fast or aggressive.  They just have a sense that they are quick either in the transition or the downswing. Rhythm and pace are very important elements in the golf swing. When a golfer feels quick the first thing they do is try to 'slow down'...and in an attempt to get some rhythm in the swing they often go overboard and end up slowing everything down a little too much. This can lead to an overly slow start to the swing, which in turn leads to a rapid change in pace during the transition and on into impact.  It is this drastic change in speed that conveys the sense of quickness and aggression in the swing.

The PGATour average time for the backswing is right around 0.75 seconds, with an additional 0.25 seconds for the downswing. Notice that ideally there should be something close to a 3:1 ratio of backswing time vs. downswing time. That means that on average a Tour golfer will strike the ball in about a second from when the swing starts.  Ernie Els, one of the smoothest swings out there, takes just over a second to strike the ball while Nick Price, who has one of the faster swings, takes  around 0.8 seconds.  Far too many of golfers I teach take well over a second to complete just the backswing.  In watching Els or even Price, most golfers believe they swing a whole lot faster than either of those two top players - that is not the case.

Each of the above golfers are able to maintain a good rhythm in their swing because they maintain something close to a 3:1 ratio in their swings.  When a backswing takes over a second to complete the golfer is now faced with a 4:1 or even 5:1 ratio which feels way out of rhythm.

Here are a few pointers when trying to get better rhythm and pace back into your swing:

  • Don't try to speed up your backswing up too quickly - take one pill a day and not the whole bottle...
  • The body should not feel hurried; the wrists and arms will create much of the necessary increase in speed.
  • Try a few shots with the clubhead starting 2-3 feet ahead of the ball and then flow into the backswing in one motion. This gives the club a moving start and gradually increases the pace.
  • Remember that rhythm does not have to be slow...
  • Stay patient and gradually build up to it; try to build the speed in your downswing from the transition.

There are not many ways to track your timing ratio, but SwingCatalyst software does it for you.

Another factor to consider is that the less time your swing takes the less opportunity you have to get your body out of position. This is a very important factor and cannot be overlooked - keep the motion concise and it is more likely to be consistent. Give it a try....

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.

The 84 Degree Secret! (Part 4)

Body position is the most important factor influencing impact and the quality of the golf shots you are hitting. In the illustration notice how Annika's right side seems to form a straight line. From the outside of her back foot all the way up her right side to the right side of her head can be covered with a straight line laying at 84 degrees. This indicates the 84 degree secret.

Mickey Wright

It is quite amazing how many of the top golfers obey this '84 Degree Secret'!

To be clear this is not Stack and Tilt which actually encouraged the golfer to feel as if they are leaning towards the target. Here the upper body remains steady/centered while the body pivots to the top without drifting across the line.

The '84 Degree Secret' is essential to achieving a correct impact as it makes it simple for the golfer to get to the proper hit position. Think of it this way; if you move the upper body six inches off the ball in the backswing, you now have to find a way to get it back to where it started, at exactly the right time, and in one third the amount of time it took to get it out of position.

Keep the upper body centered/over the ball and you will start to compress the ball like never before!

A recap of the last four articles and how they pertain to a great impact:

  • A strong grip allows the handle to lead the club head with the club face remaining square.
  • A 'vertical' set-up where the head is centered between the feet and there is minimal shoulder tilt prepares the body for the proper pivot.
  • A steeper shoulder pivot keeps the upper body centered and allows for a descending attack into the ball.
  • The 84 degree secret! Eliminate lateral motion and keep the head over the ball to make for a simplified transition into the hit.

Should you have any questions or queries please feel free to post a comment!

Things to ponder:

  • Tiger is in for a battle this weekend! Good for golf and good for us.
  • Quail Hollow has the look and feel of a US Open, but trust me it is not even close. There are six holes on the course where I would be thinking birdie! Now the other twelve are a different story......
  • There are over 15 million active blogs available online. Thanks for reading this one!
  • I like what Stuart Appleby said about the 17th at Quail Hollow, "Bad design!" I second that motion.
  • Phil seems to be working out and in better shape, yet how does he always manage to look a little chubby to me? Amy needs to up his shirt size me thinks.
  • Please post a comment - I am heartbroken that there have not been any thus far.........
  • Stay well!