Learning how to develop the skill or craft of great ballstriking is by far the toughest challenge that every serious golfer will struggle with at some point in their playing career. It is the one skill area that I spend the most of my time helping my students with in their quest for better golf. So I thought I would devote this entire issue of our e-newsletter to that topic.
One of the most difficult things about the Long Game or “ballstriking” is that so many factors come into play that can have a profound influence on your shot outcome. Balance, Tempo, Mechanics, Setup, Grip and Aim are the main influences, and Fitness and Equipment also play an important role.
How does the average golfer prioritize all of these many influences when attempting to improve his or her own golf swing? Here are a few of my own general guidelines that I use when working with my students on their ballstriking.
The most important principle is to swing in “rock solid” Balance. If your body is making compensations with your arms and legs to keep you from falling over, it will not be performing the proper Mechanics essential to an effective golf swing. A very common teaching fallacy is to start at Setup with your weight balanced over the “balls of your feet”. I cannot tell you how many times I have worked with a student who struggled with poor Balance who was taught this fallacy. In golf your weight should never move toward your toes or toward your heels, but rather should stay centered in the exact middle of your feet, in the toe to heel dimension.
I call this the Vertical Balance Line. If you watch a tour pro from down the line viewpoint, you can clearly see this Line, i.e. they pivot their body in a centered way, so that you do not see any movement of the body toward the toes or heels during their golf swing. So if your feet are ten inches long, your toe to heel balance point is exactly at the five-inch mark, under the arch of your foot.
Your weight should also stay “centered” in the left-right or sideways dimension, meaning you should feel some pressure in the inside to middle of your feet, with that pressure ideally never moving past the middle to the outside of your feet. A little to the outside of the left foot is normal at the Finish of the swing, but only just a little!
By focusing your mind in the Feel sense in the soles of your feet at Setup, and then keeping your focus there until the Finish of your swing, you will be able to sense whether or not you are staying in Balance, in both of those dimensions.
Setup is the second thing I check with a new student. It is one of the few things that the average golfer can learn to do as well as a tour pro and it has a profound influence on the quality of your ball flight. The number one most flagrant flaw that I see is lack of sufficient Spine Angle or bending the torso forward from the hip sockets – not slumping from the lower back! It is simply impossible to Pivot properly if you don't start with the proper amount of Spine Angle – and when I put my average new students in the proper amount of Spine Angle, they always remark at how strange it looks and feels, even though they are now in exactly the kind of posture that their favorite tour pro employs!
Three – I always check the quality of the student's grip position and especially their grip pressure. Probably 95% of my students will grip the club way too tightly. And most will show either a grip position that has one or both hands rotated too far to the left (weak position) or too far to the right (strong position). Either flaw will make it very difficult to achieve a square clubface position throughout the golf swing, (square to the arc or path of the clubhead – NOT square to the target line!).
A good general checkpoint is the “V's between your forefinger and thumb. When facing directly in to a mirror, they should point somewhere between the tip of your right shoulder and a point half way between your right shoulder and right ear, for both hands. A good basic way to check your grip pressure is to hold a golf club with the clubhead pointing straight up towards the sky, your hands at chest height and arms extended, wrists fully cocked. Do not wear a glove for this drill. Then simply lighten your grip pressure until the club slips slightly in your hands toward the ground. Just a tad firmer than this “slippage point” pressure is best for most golfers in all of their long game shots. This is probably two to three times softer than your present overall pressure!
Four – I check the Aim of the clubface to the Target. Most of my students are way off on this very important fundamental. If you place a clubshaft down on the ground from down the line view, you will know that the shaft is pointed exactly to your Target. If you are like most of my students who struggle with Aim, and consistently mis-aim to the right, when you place the clubface at a right angle to that shaft, the clubface will appear to be pointing left of your Target. Trust the shaft on your ground – not your own eyes, and you will soon re-train your Optics to conform to reality.