The start of a lesson I always begin with getting to know the student, their golf game and any goals or task they want to accomplish. The main question I ask is simply, “What brings you here today?” I get a lot of responses, ranging from “I want to lower my handicap by 3 shots before the end of the year,” “I want to be able to play with others and not get embarrassed,” or “I want to swing like my favorite player that I see on TV, they make it look so easy.”
The guys and gals on TV that play for a living do make it look easy. They make it look effortless. They stay on balance, they hit the golf ball a mile, and they have many other attributes we all want in our golf game.
However, for all those who follow professional golfers, it is obvious that they all swing the golf club very differently, as seen in the picture. Those players pictured are some of the best golfers in the world, and yet they all look different at the top of their backswing. From these positions they will all have to find different paths to the golf ball. So what makes their golf game world class? Should we copy their swing? And if so, which one?
First, it would be nice to have the capabilities of how their bodies function during the golf swing. Not all of them look “fit” per se, but believe me, they are “golf fit.” We know this because to compete on the big stage a player has to be able to hit the golf ball a certain distance. If a player can hit it long enough to compete, his body is capable of producing significant power. Power takes strength, stability, mobility, speed and coordination that is developed over years of playing other sports, being very active or training in a gym. One of the reasons we see these different swings on tour is because all the players’ bodies are different. The point should be taken that improving at golf takes getting our body ready to perform, by developing or improving our own deficiencies.
Second, these, and other tour professionals, have developed reliable technique. Sound technique is best described as having all the components in the golf swing match. An example, if a player aims 30 yards right of target, but consistently makes a swing that produces shots at the target, these components match. No need for adjustment, even though they are not considered “standard.” If all the components match there will not be any compensating motions on the downswing. Making all the components match is difficult, and tour players work on getting these components to match every day they practice and play.
However, the third item we can learn from tour players is more important than their technique. Let’s face it, even the tour pros have bad days. Their swing doesn’t feel “on” day-in and day-out. They rely on the skills that they have developed over many years to post a good round on off-days. I do not see amateurs spend enough time developing their skill.
Two skills that are vital to playing better golf are contact point, and club face control.
Contact point is where you contact the golf ball on the club face. In an effort to develop this skill, we must determine where contact is being made to the golf ball. If contact is not on the sweet spot, then first the objective is to get the contact point consistently in the sweet spot of the club. Drills to develop this skill involve taking a dry erase marker and marking the clubface, usually a black marker works best. Then try to hit different parts of the face with each swing. The better we get at hitting the desired quadrant, i.e. high and on the toe, the better we develop feel for how to make contact properly.
There are simple adjustments to make if you are not hitting the sweet spot consistently during a round. For example, if you are contacting the golf ball primarily in the heel of the club, then stand slightly farther away from the ball at address. If you are contacting the golf ball on the toe of the club, stand slightly closer to the golf ball.
Another skill, club face control, is vital to the golf ball not leaving the golf course on any given shot. The club face has the most influence on the golf ball’s starting direction. A good drill to develop this skill is to take an alignment rod or survey stick and put it in the ground 6-10 yards in front of you, directly on the target line. Take a 7-iron and hit shots at 60% speed. Try to start the golf ball right, left and directly at the stick. This will give you a feel for the club face at impact.
There are many other methods to developing skill, the best is by hitting different shots on the golf course. I encourage you not to stand on the driving range and hit ball after ball with no intention to develop skill. Go to the course and try shots from every lie, distance and club to develop the art of playing golf.
Unfortunately, we will probably never be tour professionals. But let’s try to train like the pros on TV by improving our body, matching all the components in our own unique swing, and spending most of our time developing our skill.
Go see your local PGA Professional to find out how you can improve your game while keeping your own unique swing.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titlteist-certified fitter and a Titliest staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.