Applying The Movements in Your Swing
Now you know what to do. Your challenge is to put this together to make is work. Here are some ideas.
Diagnosing Your Swing
If you are an experienced golfer, you may want to take inventory of your swing in terms of each movement. You have a variety of inventory tools, including swing shot results; the feelings and sensations in your muscles and what you see when you are swinging the club; what you can see in a mirror or reflective window; snapshots and videos; and comments from professionals and knowledgeable golfers.
Swing Shot Results
Start with checking your results. Do you hit with power relative to your size and strength? However you hit the ball, are you consistent? If you are inconsistent, is there consistency to your poor shots; for example, does a percentage go in one direction and the rest go in some other direction? Does your ball start out along the intended line of flight? To the left? To the right? At the end of its flight, does it hook? Slice? Do you hit behind the ball? Do you hit the ball thin (i.e. half way up the ball)? Do you hit your shots high? Low? With power or without?
The results can provide information on the club path (straight, inside the target line to outside the target line and vice versa), the club face angle relative to the swing path (square leads to straight along the club path, closed leads to draws or hooks, open leads to fades and slices), weight shift (weight too much on back foot leads to fat shots), weight shift (inadequate weight shift often leads to fat shots), and so on.
Then, analyze your position at the top of your swing. Go to the top of your backswing and then hold the position. You want to ask yourself a number of questions about that position.
- Have you cocked your wrists properly (dorsi flexion and palmar flexion, rather than ulnar adduction and radial abduction)?
- Have you rolled your forearms?
- Is your trailing upper arm pointing down, rather than out?
- Has your lead arm moved across your body and up, but not so far up to be an over-swing? Has your lead upper moved up to your chin (indicating an over-swing)?
- If you have opted for Push and Clear:
- Has your trailing hip joint moved during the backswing?
- Are your trailing leg and foot in a position to start the downswing with a push?
- Are you twisting your spine? Can you feel the stretch in your abdominal muscles and your back? Are the stretching sensations the same that you felt when sitting on a chair and turning your shoulders?
- Is your head in the start position over the ball? Has it moved backward with your backswing? Is your head moving because you are rotating your spine as a result of the forward lean? If your head is staying over the ball in the start position, are you feeling a stretch of the muscles in your sides – a feeling you would get from the spinal tilt?
Now, analyze your downswing, with or without the ball. Take a number of downswings and in each downswing, think about each individual movement in turn. Is there anything you notice, regarding the various movements and your application of them? Can you feel your lead shoulder socket moving backward during impact, for example?
Then, check your finish position. In particular, do you have your weight totally on your front foot, and are you facing the target?
Take a video of your swing. Analyze it from various angles. Look for specific movements; are you performing them correctly? You never know what you will find.
The movement inventory should give you some ideas about what you need to work on.
Practice without the Ball The best way to build the golf swing is to practice the swing (including each of the specific movements) without a ball to distract you.
First, you want to focus on getting in the right position at the top of the swing by initiating all the movements in some sequence, and holding the position at the end of the backswing. After each movement is executed, pause, and then proceed to the next movement. Once all movements are complete, stop and examine the position you are in. You are striving for a sense of how the swing should feel at the top of the backswing.
Use the stop at the top of the backswing to think about how you are going to implement the downswing. Then, start the downswing by completing all the downswing movements at a sufficiently slow pace that you are conscious of each movement. You may even want to implement each movement individually. Practice this routine over and over again, gradually building up the speed in the downswing.
At the Driving Range If you want to make major swing changes, the professionals say that 10,000 swings are necessary to ingrain the changes into your swing memory. That’s 100 trips to driving range at 100 balls per session. If you take a practice swing before every ball swing, you can cut reduce the trips to 50.
Beyond this, be realistic and patient. Use your practice session to learn more about the game, about your swing, about how to hit the ball. Look at your time as an investment for the future, and a quick preparation for the next game.
On every shot:
- Pay attention to foot alignment. It is a foundation for your swing. Use alignment aids.
- Put clubs down along your line of flight. Put markers to indicate your takeaway pattern.
- Take time to line up each shot properly. Place your club behind ball. Line up the club face by looking from the target back to your club face. Try to get the club face perpendicular to the target line. Establish your lead foot position. Put your trailing foot beside it. Look at the target, and while looking at the target, move the trailing foot backwards so that that you feel you have aligned your shoulders parallel to the target line.
- Check your line up process by placing a club along the line of your toes after you have completed the line up process. It should aim at the target.
- Pay attention to ball position relative to your feet. Your ball should be placed relative to the low point in your swing. Iron shots should be slightly behind the low point, so you hit the ball before the ground. Tee shots should be slightly ahead to catch the ball on the up swing. Fairway woods should be at the low point. The low point in your swing will be the net result of the low points of the various rotations created by the swing’s individual movements. However, the dominant low point will be below your lead shoulder joint, which is the rotation centre for the rotation of your lead arm in its shoulder socket. Once you have found the low point, always position the ball accordingly, to ensure consistency.
- Get your setup right. Setup includes grip, wrist angle, knee bend, and forward lean.
Use your swing inventory. If the inventory of your swing has led you to conclude that you need to work on only one or two movements, focus on those movements. If the inventory has led you to conclude that you need to work on many movements, develop a program over several weeks to work on individual movements in priority sequence. Use the golf model to help you prioritize movements. Keep in mind that some movements are closely related (e.g. forearm roll and rotation of upper arms in shoulder sockets, moving shoulder sockets and spinal twist) and can efficiently be practiced together.
A technique for working on one movement is to practice the movement several times by itself in isolation before stepping up to hit a ball, then within a few seconds (while the muscle memory remains), incorporate the practiced movement into a swing.
Putting all the movements together is challenging physical and mental exercise.
Divide each swing into two components: backswing and downswing.
In the backswing, force yourself to swing sufficiently slowly so that you can see and/or feel what is going on.
Work on isolating the various movements in the backswing by applying them individually, rather than trying to apply all movements simultaneously. By isolating each movement, you can make sure you are getting it right. If you get each movement right, your position at the top should be good.
Sometimes, we are so intent on hitting the ball at the top of the swing that we do not give ourselves time to complete some movements. This is particularly true for cocking and uncocking the wrists, and the forearm roll. To address this, put these items at the start of your backswing. There is no “correct” sequence for the movements in the backswing, so develop your own.
Stop your swing at the top. Feel your muscles. Check things out. When you have the backswing right, you can think about the downswing.
In practicing the downswing, select a movement to think about in each swing. You only have time for one or two swing thoughts in the downswing, so do not burden yourself with too many thoughts. Take the swing at half speed. Since the objective is to develop a downswing in which all movements are functioning together simultaneously, cycle your swing thoughts through all the movements in the downswing within your practice session. For example, on the first swing, think leg action based on the ankles. On the second, think upper back (rotating your spine with the abdominal muscles). On the third, focus on moving the lead shoulder socket backward using the muscles attached to the upper arm and shoulder socket.
As your practice session proceeds, if you feel you are doing the movements correctly, gradually speed up your downswing.
Do not become fixed on the results of each shot. Focus on how well you perform the movements, and what you are learning as you go.
Once you have the swing movements in order, work on getting your revised swing to perform well. In performance terms, you cannot expect to hit every shot perfectly, but you can expect to understand why you have a hit bad shot so you do not hit another one. Developing a notebook table with the headings “bad shot result”, “possible causes”, and “solutions”. When you get into a rut where you are hitting a particular type of bad shot, and you figure out the cause and solution, put all this in your notebook table. Over time, your table will catalog your learning experiences, and have a guide so you can identify bad tendencies when they begin to emerge, and correct them quickly.
On the Course
Golf is a game of continually adjusting your swing in response to your experience. No golfer swings precisely the same way, day in and day out or throughout a round or during a practice session, although some players are better at it than others.
Keep a golf diary, and after each round, note:
- The number of greens (and perhaps fringes, where the greens are small) hit in regulation. This is the number of holes in which the golfer gets on par three holes in one shot, or par four holes in two shots, or par five holes in three shots.
- The number of strokes over “par” tee to green. Tracking greens hit in regulation does not take into account poorly played holes, where, for example it may take three or more shots to get on the green on a par three. One way to take into account these poorly played holes is to count the number of shots required to get on greens, and subtract from this number one for each par three, two for each par four, or three for each par five. If you also track putts per round, you would be able to figure out where you lost strokes on each round. For example, if you shoot 9 over par, you might note that you were three under “par” on the greens (i.e. three under two putting every green, or 33 putts) and twelve over “par” tee to green.
- Count the total number of full swing shots in a round, and the number of full swing shots that you would take over if given the chance, and express the ratio of in terms of “takeover” percentage. These “take-overs” reflect the player’s ability. Good golfers would claim “take-overs” that poorer players would find acceptable. Well hit shots that do not get great results, perhaps because the shot was exceptionally difficult in the first place, would probably not be “take-overs”. Bad shots that miraculously get good results would probably be “take-overs”. The “take-over” percentage is an excellent performance measure for the swing.
- Count the takeovers by type of miss-hit e.g. pulls, pushes, slices, hooks, fat, thin, topped, straight but without distance. Note any patterns. Use the patterns to guide your practice sessions.
Your diary will help you to identify areas in need of improvement and common faults. Review and analyzed it over time; it should become a useful tool for tracking improvement.
One problem with beginners is that they have hit so few golf shots in their lives. As a result, they do not have the “feel” of a golf swing, and consequently do not swing consistently. These beginners often end up in front of golf professionals with the hope that one professional lesson can provide the magic advice that will make every ball go straight and far. If you do not swing more or less consistently, simple advice is unlikely to solve the problem. You have to find the balance between hitting enough golf balls so that you begin to hit the ball consistently on the one hand and learning proper techniques on the other. In many cases, without a background of practice to develop consistency, that simple lesson to improve techniques can confuse and make problems worse.
Beginners need a golf program that begins with an understanding of the swing’s movements and how they work individually and together. They need to work on the movements at home without hitting a ball, to hit lots of balls on the driving range, and to get regular feedback from an external source, which could include a series of professional lessons focusing systematically on the movements, or self videos that are studied in terms of the movements, or regular advice from a knowledgeable player.
The Bottom Line
“How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?”
Edward de Vere a.k.a. William Shakespeare