Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Shapes to please

When correct feels contorted and contorted feels correct.

This is the daily battle Im continually faced with every time I step onto the range and begin my assault on the many golfers continually trying to produce position perfect golf swings from casually comfortable address positions. Before I begin my babble and present my thoughts, Id like you to browse through the images below and see what you see, note what you like and accept what's right. Its either left or the right, one is the before and the second is after, all I ask is a simple answer to a simple question. 

Which of the two images present a look of strength, readiness, poise and power? 

Take a look at the images below, each taken whilst presenting myself and golfing ideologies to the many golfers that frequent the Marina Bay Golf Course and driving range on a daily basis. 

Is it the image on the left or is it on the right?

Which of the two looks ready to swing the club, turn the body and shift the body weight into the right? 

What I really like about this little test and precisely why I present such images to all my pupils is that it really doesn't take a trained golfing eye to see which has the greatest potential for an efficient and powerful functioning golf swing. 

Which one looks like a serious golfer?

Lets all agree, the image on the right is by far the most powerful and ready position in which to create a golf swing of efficient grace and powerful beauty. Each of the images you see to the left is quite simply most typical of approximately 90% of the golfers I see on a daily basis. YES, thats most likely you Im talking about, even good players, those capable of shooting in the 60's and 70's have setup issues relative to these images. 

So what do we see on the LEFT?
You can see the shoulders mostly level, the hands are commonly behind the ball or level with it, the spine is very centered (vertical) and the weight is pretty evenly distributed. Although you can't see it from the side view I assure you the shoulders are aiming very much to the left of the target and further left of the feet, knees and hips. 

What you see is a very comfortable and casual position, one that allows the golfer to feel most ready and able to create a golf swing feeling of complete control. Before I intervened, I guarantee you this, they all felt they could ignite a swing of power, one that allowed peace of mind that the golf club was under their complete control and guaranteed a connection with the golf ball that would not make them look like a complete beginner. 

So lets ask the question, 
'What is it that most fills you with FEAR when stood over the golf ball and ready to strike?' 

During your initial stages of development its a simple fear of missing the ball, all you really want to do is make contact and propel the ball forward. Second to this is a desire to lift the ball into the air in a fashion that makes you look like you have enough skill to play a round of golf. Your initial stage of golfing development is one full of fear, anxious and snatching movements, tense reactions to a small white ball with a tiny silver stick. The last thing you want or ever fully believe is the most effective position to overcome all your golfing fears is from a position that feels like your shoulders are aiming to the right, your body weight is hanging on the right foot and your right hand is so numb you would struggle to swing a feather let alone a golf club!!!!!! 

Well this is precisely it, its the feeling you should feel in order to create a swing of grace and connected power. From the moment you first pick up a golf club your single most important goal is to make contact with the golf ball, which in simple terms means you can't miss it, you must make sure you strike the golf ball. You don't care how you do it, you just have to do it in some fashion. So you adopt a comfortable grip on the club and position your body to best accommodate this grip. Nobody ever adopts a sound grip on the club from the word go, it just isn't possible and if anyone ever has then I would love to meet them, as the chances of them becoming professional are more than strong, they would be guaranteed. So the hands take a grip that feels powerful, feels controlling and feels like nothing can stop them from controlling the golf club into the back of the golf ball. The grip in question is one of both hands at least an inch apart on the grip, if not, then the golfer in question has watched with intent, the close proximity of other players hands and seen logic in having the hands close together equals unity and cohesion. 

Well played that golfer! 

Though I would still guarantee the dominant hand, that commonly being the right hand is feeling the most powerful of the two as the fingers of this hand have adopted a position that allow the most contact with the grip. The comfortable result is a gripping with the greatest of tension, tension that is now spreading along the forearms and into the shoulders. The golfer on the left feels ready to control the club and make contact. 

What! May I ask? What is it we are trying to do with the club in order to strike the golf ball?

Thats right, we are trying to swing the golf club to strike the golf ball.
NOT trying not to miss the ball, but trying to SWING the golf club to strike the golf ball.
Swing the golf club through the golf ball in order to create maximum power.
If you were going to punch a wall you wouldn't aim to stop at the wall, you would be looking straight past and through it! Yes, we are trying to swing the golf club through the ball, NOT swing it to a point on the ground where the ball lay and hope we hit it.

In its most simple of terms, the golf swing is made up of three key elements.


A swing of the club with the arms, a turn of the body to support and a shift of the body weight to the right to add power and acceleration to the first two elements. Now if you take one of these key elements away then the golf swing will break down and the art of striking the golf ball is lost. What we are most definitely not trying to do is not miss the ball, as with this motive all you ever do is produce a tense action that creates no real swing, a short turn of the body and a definite reversal of weight shift to the left rather than the right, which ultimately results in the player producing a catalogue of errors that occasionally equate to the occasional airborne shot flying somewhere to the right of the target. 

The golf swing is a swing, not a hit!

We are attempting to swing the golf club away from the golf ball in order to create power that will enable us to fully explode that power into the back of the golf ball and propel it towards a target. Forget about simply making contact with the golf ball and you have entered the highway to all your golfing dreams. 

Take note of the term: SWING - TURN - SHIFT.

In order to complete this task we need to position the body in a fashion that will effectively accommodate  and rhythmically execute these elements without conscious thought or independent reflex actions. In short the body must be aligned, angled and affected with poise. The fundamentals of a great setup will never at first feel natural, they demand work, they require attention and like all long lasting endeavors, once attained, always respected. 

Now you can continue to adopt an address position of comfort and casual convenience for as long as you like, you can attempt to create the terms Ive stated above and force your body into the most efficient powerful positions for the rest of your golfing lives but please be prepared for a golfing life full of pitfalls and dismal golfing nightmares. What feels natural at address will never produce such similar feelings within motion and so never fully become consistent and life long lasting. To create natural, easy feeling movements within the swing, Im afraid the positions you create before the swing must become more uncomfortable before they become natural. The great Ben Hogan once said, the feelings at address must at first feel contrived in order to create a swing that did not. These words have never been more true, and for this teacher stand true and pure as the greatest of teaching tools one has in creating golf swings of sublime rhythm, pure flow and care free consistency.

Back to the images.
The most damaging effect of the address position you see on the left is that of the level and open shoulder position. Born out of a natural reaction to look up and turn to the left as you look down the fairway before you swing. This open (shoulders aiming left of target) position is the what causes the greatest of golfing heartache (many a golfers slicing nightmare). I see this so often I could cry, it feels so natural, I could give every pupil an image of a Tiger and they would all say they felt like they looked precisely like him as he addressed the golf ball. I mean who wouldn't? Surely the address position is the easy part of the game, all you have to do is stand there, no real skill in that is there? Well as you are reading this Id say yes, the skill of the game is most definitely this part and the shoulder alignment has the greatest influence over which direction your golf ball will begin its flight to the target so you had better get it right. But more relevant to this lesson, when the shoulders aim left (which generally positions the weight on the left foot) your ability to produce a full turn to that of around 90 degrees to the target line is greatly reduced. The common result is that of about half the desired turn, the arms then swing much further than the shoulders can control, which can produce an overly long looking club shaft position (club swinging well past parallel to the ground), left arm very much across and tight to the upper body and a well out of sync backswing position. All connection is lost and due to a poor turn the weight has failed to fully shift to the right foot. The resulting downswing becomes a shambolic catalogue of compensations that occasionally strike good looking golf shots but more readily produce frustration and futile anxiety. 

Is this golf?

YES, it really is! 

Seriously hard and ultimately challenging, which is why you love it.

So what kind of shot do the guys on the right play with?

If you consistently aim your shoulders to the left and position your weight on the left foot then you better accept your arms will naturally strive to lift the club much steeper than ideally required for great looking golf shots. The club is desperately trying to swing the club away from your body on the backswing and lift the hands and arms to a much higher position than demanded of a great swing. Try addressing the ball with your shoulders aiming well to the left of the target and feel how much more weight you have transfered to the left foot. Really over do this, exaggerate the feeling then think logically about which direction the golf club is going to be swung, or shall we say lifted??!!!!! See what I mean? Exactly, yes, the club has only one direction it wants to be swung and thats not around the body but much more straight up, on a steeper angle away from the ball. 

The shot pattern you have experienced is one that either flies straight left and going left or a reaction to this is the shot that starts left and slices right due to the hands reacting to the left shot by holding on tight and so producing a clubface that aims right. Alternatively, and aside from the previous two shots though quite common of the under turned shoulder position, is the shot that flies straight right due, the complete opposite of the shot that starts left is due solely on the upper body turning towards the target well before the hands and club reach the ball on the downswing. 

Now over time some of you may of grown tired of starting your golf ball to the left and those of you that have the time to practice six times a week will of begun grooving a swing that delivers the club into the golf ball from the inside of the target line (the bodies side of the ball) in order to eradicate such an annoying issue. What you have done, or should I say tirelessly worked hard on, is a golf swing that goes completely against everything your body is trying to do naturally from the position you have created at address. Im not saying you can't have success with this as Im sure a few of you have. What Im certain of is you will have to work harder than the golfer who addresses the ball on the right as this golfer has comfort within their swing in the certainty that the body is naturally wanting to move into the correct positions without any need to focus serious attention to any relevant position within the swing. This player is simply free to react to the target and trust his body will move into the most efficient body positions to produce the most consistent free flowing and powerful golf swing possible.


Get these key elements in order and flowing naturally without any conscious thought and you have every chance of developing a naturally efficient golf swing one on track to becoming pure and free of compensations demanded of an inadequate address position. 

Practice this.
Develop a consistent routine into your game.
Always begin by aligning the clubface square at 90 degrees to your target line.
This is crucial to presenting the clubface square to the target upon impact.
Position the clubs shaft forward towards the target. 
The shorter the club the more the lean towards the target.
Longer clubs more inline with the golf ball.
Place the hands on the club neutral. (See blog: http://autogenicgolf.blogspot.com/2009/08/hands.html )
Be sure not to disturb any part of the address as you apply the following parts.
Now align the shoulders, feeling the left shoulder more in front of the right, aiming more right.
The right shoulder and arm should feel much softer and lower than left (more so that normal).
Assure the shoulders are angled with the left higher than the right.
The spine angle will be leaning to the right.
This feeling will be most strange, almost leaning to much to the right.
Again the left shoulder must be higher than the right as the left hand is above the right on the club.
So the weight is now favoring the the right foot, not visibly to a friend but you can feel it.
Don't be afraid of exaggerating this feeling of leaning to the right and shoulders to the left.
From here you can now settle the feet into a comfortable position.
I strongly believe, if you follow the above procedure, the feet simply find a comfortable position.
There job is to support and they always react to the upper body.
They simply find the most efficient position to support the strange position adopted above.
The weight should be favoring the right foot by about 60% to 40%.
The spine will be leaning right.
The hands will feel more forward of the ball.
The shoulders will feel to be aiming to the right of the target.

When you get it you will see the left arm and the club forming an almost straight line, the shoulders will angle down to the right and the weight will be favoring the right foot. You will see some pretty well defined shapes and strong lines of what I like to call consistent formations. When you see it, you can believe it.

See how your natural reaction to making a full, wide reaching swing will fit with this address position to create all the correct movements of: SWING - TURN of the body and SHIFT of the bodies weight.

You have it, now go play around with it.

So what's stopping you?
Im afraid the positions you see on the right are far from natural. They feel 'Funny' as one female pupil constantly reminds me every time I see her. They really do not feel natural, if they did then there would be no place for this piece. All I would like to drive home is the absolute bare necessity of a great looking address position, an efficient golf swing is born from an efficient address position, a position that feels far from natural and far from comfortable. It will feel strange, it will feel wrong, it will go against everything your under trained golfing brain understands, but the game is a serious test of trust. Trust oneself and you are on route to becoming the golfer you have always dreamt of becoming. 

When correct feels contorted and contorted feels correct.

Adopt a contorted feel before the swing and say goodbye to that contorted feel within the swing.

The swing is a direct result of what you set before it.

Give up control and you fully gain it.

Enjoy the game ./
Content is written for right handed golfer.
Images taken whilst teaching at the Star Golf Academy, Singapore.
Pupils identities have been concealed for copy right purposes.

No comments: