Check out this video comparison on why the average golfer is unable to generate nearly as much swing speed as Rory McIlroy. This video touches on the primary swing fault that leads to a lack of power in the average golf swing.
Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship by blowing away the field last weekend, so I thought I would post a video on Rory’s swing vs. the average Joe golf swing. Online instructors love to analyze pro swings, and I have done that before, but it really does nothing for the average player. This video, and others to come, will address what the pros do well compared to the average golfer.
I just read a post on another golf blog about how the golfer is struggling with their game, and seems to be going backwards. What jumped out at me about the post is that the golfer had no clear, coherent plan for improvement. They typically do what most golfers do, and that is head to the range and hope to hit a few good shots, and if they do, hope to be able to repeat that on the range and then on the course. There was no indication of what they were working on in their golf swing to try and create those good shots.
We should all know by now by watching Tiger Woods struggle with his improvements over the last couple years that it takes a good bit of effort to make a swing change. At the same time, some swing changes are not the right ones to make.
I’ve been in the shoes of most golfers. Growing up, I really had no concept about the golf swing, and when my game would go astray, I would seek the help of my local professional. Fortunately, for me, he was a friend and he would help me at no cost. Unfortunately for me, he did not know much about teaching back then. Usually, he would just tweak my set up or grip, or tell me to turn my shoulders more in the back swing, or unwind the hips hard in the down swing. I create a lot of lag in my swing, which back then was referred to as a wristy swing. We tried taping my wrists together to get rid of that. Wow.
Some of these swing thoughts would work for a while, but I had no new knowledge. Over time, my swing deteriorated and I had no decent instruction…the local pros offered nothing of value. Eventually I gave up the game, save for playing the occasional scramble.
When I decided to start teaching, I went to Dallas to attend Hank Haney’s annual teaching seminar. He was still working with Tiger at the time, and the seminar was an unbelievable bargain. I learned a ton about ball flight and swing plane, and even was lucky enough to get hands on instruction from Hank in front of the other teaching pros. The video analysis of my swing was the gold I took home.
Over time, I studied Hogan more and paid a little more attention to instructors who teach a rotational swing like Hogan’s. This concept made more sense to me, considering the amount of lag in my swing. I had had some success in working on just my swing plane as taught by Hank, but I found it more important to work on what the body is doing. Ultimately, what I have focused on over the last couple years has improved my ball striking to the best it’s ever been. I had devised a plan for myself, stuck with it, and now that I am playing more, I am able to take it from the range to the first tee.
This is what most golfers need to do. When I teach, I confront my student immediately and ask them if they really want to get better, or if they just want tweaks to their existing, awful swing. When I explain all of the causes and effects of their existing move, and how they will never improve with these issues, they sign up for long term improvement. We then start with the basics, and go from there. I write out a game plan for improvement, and then leave it up to the student to do the work. Some will do it, some won’t. That is the nature of the game.
If you really want to improve, the first step is to take ownership of what you are doing, and treat it like a business! Find the best instruction possible, discuss your goals, map out a plan, and get to it. In the long run, you will be a much better golfer, and getting to that point is far more than half the fun!
Some published statistics suggest that the average golf handicap is essentially the same as it was forty years ago. This is in spite of all the new technology in equipment and in the world of golf instruction. How is this possible? One reason is that most golfers, including those who teach the game, do not have an understanding of what makes a good golf swing.
A good golf swing looks effortless
One comment you will often here from an amateur golf when they watch a tour pro or any very good player is that they make every shot look effortless. That is exactly what a good golf swing looks like…effortless.
Indeed, some of the more unusual golf swings on tour, such as Jim Furyk’s or Kenny Perry’s, even Lee Trevino’s, look effortless. All of these players have been great ball strikers with unusual looking swings. With that in mind, the appearance, or shape of a golf swing, has nothing to do with what makes a good golf swing. Unfortunately, that is what most instructors think, and as a result, that is what most amateur golfers think as well.
A good golf swing is one in which there is a clear rhythmic sequence of events taking place. This sequence of events occurs with athleticism and balance. This athletic, balanced and rhythmic swing is what allows a good golfer to repeat the movement over and over again, even as the stakes are high.
A Good Golf Swing Has A Proper Sequence
How can the average golfer, or worse, learn how to develop a good golf swing? First they must learn the proper sequencing in the golf swing that allows the speed of the club head to increase through impact, and allows the club to be square to the intended target line at impact. This sequence has nothing to do with the position of the golf club during the takeaway, or the swing plane, or the grip or set up. This sequence is actually found in other athletic movements, and this is why some professional athletes who specialize in these other athletic movements, excel at golf.
Consider the other sports, or positions in various sports, where those athletes have a higher likelihood of success at golf. Quarterbacks, pitchers and hockey players are more likely to be good golfers than other athletes. I am talking about scratch golfers, not those that can break 80 now and then. Examples of these athletes are former pitcher Rick Rhoden, former quarterback John Brodie who played on the Champions Tour, Phil Simms, Tony Romo, John Smoltz, and hockey players Dan Quinn, Mario Lemieux and Grant Fuhr.
A Good Golf Swing Has Good Rhythm
Have you ever watched a baseball game, or a football game and heard the comment that the pitcher or quarterback “is in a good rhythm?” And we almost always hear that when a golfer is leading a tournament. Good pitchers make pitching look effortless, just like good quarterbacks in a good rhythm make hitting a receiver down field look easy. The funny thing is, just like in golf, these pitchers and quarterbacks look different from one another in how they get the job done.
Think about the movements in pitching and throwing a football. There is a larger or small wind up which results in the back foot acting as a brace, which in turn creates leverage, and then an unwinding of the body that starts with the lower body. This is pretty much the exact opposite of what most golfers do. Most golfers do not create any leverage in the back swing because they do virtually all of the work with the arms, and then they do all of the work in the down swing with the upper body as well. As a result, even large, reasonably athletic and fit people have trouble hitting a driver as far as the average tour pro hits a three-iron.
If you want to begin to build a good golf swing, think of these two athletic movements that most of us have done at one time or another… skipping stones across a pond and throwing a Frisbee. These movements are very similar to that of the golf swing. If you can get your mindset away from trying to control the golf club, and instead focus on developing the proper athletic movements involved in the golf swing, along with good rhythm and balance, then you will be well on your way to building a good, sound, repeatable, effortless golf swing.
It is estimated by top teaching professionals such as Hank Haney that 80% to 90% of all golfers slice the ball with most of their golf shots. Unfortunately, golfers who slice the ball have limited potential for lowering their scores. This is because the slice tends to result in a significant loss of distance, and the golfer usually does not have the ability to control the slice in order to hit accurate shots off the tee and into the greens.
There are two basic types of slice. First, we must define a sliced golf shot. A sliced shot is essentially one that, for the right handed player, curves to the right. For the left handed player, it curves to the left. A shot that only curves a little bit to the right for the right hander is called a fade, as is the case for the ball that curves just a little bit to the left for a left hander. For the rest of this article, I will only refer to right handed players.
The first type of slice is one that starts to the left, and then curves back to the right. This is a pull slice. The second type of slice is one that starts to the right, and then continues to curve even further to the right. This article will focus on the first version.
For a pull slice, the primary issue is that in the down swing, the club is attacking the ball from the outside. In other words, the swing path in the down swing is outside-in. Given that we are standing beside the ball, and the club should essentially be swung on a circular path, the correct path into the ball should be from the inside.
Most amateur golfers attack from the outside for one primary reason…their upper body dominates their golf swing. This is mainly due to their perception that they should be controlling the club with their hands and arms. Unfortunately, conventional instruction has a tendency to make things worse. Quite often, the first thing an instructor will do to try and fix a golf swing is to fix the grip, or the takeaway. In both cases, the emphasis is on the controlling what the hands and arms are doing in the golf swing.
A much better approach is to teach the student about the proper sequencing in the golf swing, and how important it is to engage the lower body, particularly in the transition from the back swing to the down swing.
One way to do this is to demonstrate athletic moves in which the golfer is likely already familiar, and how those moves relate to the golf swing. A couple of these moves are skipping stones across a pond or creek, and throwing a Frisbee. Both of these actions involve a drawing back and winding of the body, and an unwinding motion that begins with the lower body.
Once these moves have been demonstrated to be similar to the golf swing, it is time to begin training the body to move properly in the golf swing. This should be done without a club in the golfer’s hand. Most golfers have a tendency to be tense during a lesson, and particularly with a club in their hands, and the ball on the ground. Because they tend to be focused too much on the result, they then worry about controlling the club. Therefore, when building a better swing to get rid of the slice, and to add power, it is best to train the golfer without the club.
The first step should be in learning the proper foot work and movements of the lower body in the swing. The golfer needs to feel the proper positions, weight shift and pivoting in the golf swing, and then they should train at this work alone at least 10-15 minutes each day. The proper movements are as follows:
- In the back swing, the golfer should allow the hips to turn as much as possible while using the right leg as a brace. At the top of a full back swing, the golfer should feel pressure inside the right heel, inside the right thigh, and in the right gluteus muscle. The right leg should not be straight, and the right knee should still be to the inside of the right foot. At this point in the swing, the hips, for a golfer of normal flexibility, should be turned about 45 degrees to the right from the original address position. Also, the left knee should be angled toward the right knee. If the golfer is hitting a shorter iron, they should not be fully loaded as described above, and the hips not turned as much.
- The next move is initiated by the left knee. It starts to move toward the target, and this allows the left hip to begin to turn to the left. The golfer should then also feel like they are “squishing a bug” under their left heel. This is a term that some instructors such as Geoff Jones like to use to describe the pivoting action of the left leg.
- At the impact position, the hips will be slightly open compared to the original address position and the left knee should still be flexed and the left foot should be firmly planted in the ground. It is not uncommon for the right heel to be lifting a little bit at this point. The right leg should then be angled toward the left, but there should not be much knee bend.
- As the hips continue to turn to the left, the left knee will straighten. At the finish position, the golfer’s belly button should be facing the target, the left foot should be flat on the ground, and the right foot should have NO weight on it. At this position, the golfer should be able to pick up the right foot without losing their balance, since all of the balance and weight should be on the left foot. If someone is standing behind the golfer, they should be able to see the ENTIRE bottom of their right shoe.
It is best to train these movements from a golf posture, with the arms hanging relaxed under the shoulders to start. The golfer should feel the upper body following along with no effort.
This is the first step in teaching a golfer to get rid of their slice. Getting rid of the slice involves improving the sequencing in the golf swing, and learning how to rely more on the lower body. It takes a bit of effort to get these movements, but the pace of improvement is dramatic compared to more conventional instruction.
In part two of these series, we’ll discuss how the upper and lower body should move together in the golf swing.
I have played very little golf over the last ten years, even after I started teaching a few years ago. That is now changing. I’ve come to the realization that I can practice all I want and really not get better if I only play once a month. I joined a semi-private club 30 minutes away this year, a brand new facility, due to its value, and to force myself to play. Well, life kinda got in the way in May and June, when I only played once. My game suffered mightily.
Last week I played three times, and showed signs of improvement each day. During that stretch, I have given a few lessons, but have hit very few balls due to a bad left thumb. Today, I played again, and got back to fundamentals. I recognized that I was getting lazy with my posture. My low back tends to be a little rounded so I got back to trying to keep the spine straighter with better posture. The only other thought to my swing was to fire the hips hard in the down swing. The result was the best ball striking round I have had in years. Now it is just a matter of better distance control with the irons, which has been made a little complicated by longer distance than what I am used to.
This is the process that every golfer goes through. There must be a balance between playing and practicing. For me, I have practiced a ton over the last few years as I have worked on improving my swing. The process began with my lesson with Hank Haney in February 2009, and then continued with my ongoing research. During this time I discovered a process in which I employ in my teaching, and the results for those students who employ it are quite dramatic.
I continue to look forward to making more improvements. As I am 46, my goal is to one day play in the Senior U.S. Open. I never reached my potential at my physical peak, but I am smarter now and continue to hit the ball longer than most of my contemporaries. So, there is the goal!
Set goals for yourself, develop your process, and you will get to where you want to be!
This was an interesting British Open. For some reason, Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s Golf Club produces a top notch winner every year it holds the Open Championship. This year was no exception and the leaderboard was stacked with big names every day of the tournament. In the end, Ernie Els, who has been snakebit as much as any golfer, came out on top when he played clutch golf down the stretch and Adam Scott could not hold onto the lead.
Ultimately, the best ball striker of the week won the golf tournament. Els lead in Greens in Regulation by a wide margin, and if he had putted well, would have won by a wide margin. Fortunately for him, he putted well enough, especially on the 72nd hole.
Questions remain with Tiger Woods game. Again, he displayed a lack of confidence in the driver on a day when the course demanded he hit driver due to the wind. The most telling shot of the day for me in Tiger’s round was when he pulled out a 2 iron on a tee shot on a 462 yard par 4 that was playing dead into the wind. He left himself 240 yards to the green for his second shot. This was at a point when you figured he had no chance at winning, so why not pull the driver? Stunning. Given that the PGA championship will be played at Kiawah Island next month on a course that can stretch to 7,900 yards, and where the wind will likely be a factor, it is hard to imagine Tiger winning there while hitting 2 irons and 3 woods on every tee.
Compare Tiger’s effort to what Els did on 18 when he had to make a birdie. With a quartering wind in his face and from left to right, Els hit a fade over the left fairway bunker that required a carry of 285 yards. This left him a little wedge shot into the green that set up his winning putt. Until Tiger can do this consistently, he is going to come up short in most majors and will struggle at Augusta, where he has not won since 2005. Merion may very well be his best shot next year, since it is not long. Of course, with his ability, Tiger will likely at some point confound us pretend experts!
In any event, it is always fun to watch the Open Championship as it is such a different brand of golf. Compared to the True South Classic which wrapped up today with Scott Stallings as the winner at 24 under, well, there is no comparison. Typical PGA Tour golf can be bit boring to watch as many weeks simply turn into a putting contest.
Ethan Asked: Help with golf swing posture?
I had somebody record a video of my swing but it's not on a computer yet. So until then, I'll just explain as best as I can.
What is the correct golf posture? I'm about a 15 handicap, 16 years old, looking to improve.
When I address the ball, should I have my hands extended "outward" as far as possible, or should they be more "in" towards my crotch? How about my knees? Should they just be a little slightly bent?
I recorded my swing and watched it and it just looks a little weird compared to Tour pros. But everything that I do feels natural.
I bend my knees slightly but they are pretty straight. And my hands just kind of hang nicely down below my shoulders, just so it feels comfortable. But maybe I'm not doing it correctly.
I know all about ball position…I don't need any help with that, it's just posture that I want to improve on.
Also, could clubs that are too short cause your posture to be off? Because I still use junior clubs right now because I don't want to buy an adult set for a few months yet. The clubs are a little short.