by Donald Crawley
Contributing Golf Writer and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club
Voted as a TOP 100 Teacher in Golf Magazine, and Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy, Carefree, AZ.
Boulders, AZ (Sports Network) --
One of the most difficult aspects of your golf
swing is to "feel" the correct shape and impact. For example, poor wedge
players hit up on the ball. They are often told to strike down into the ball,
but can't feel or differentiate up from down! Astounding.
Poor drivers of the ball hit down too steeply, maybe even know it, but can't
"feel" the necessary change to hit level rather than down and through the
ball. Sound familiar?
I am going to take four very common swing (or shot) mistakes with which I am
sure you will identify, then I will prescribe a simple practice drill to
provide a correction remedy. Sounds good, right? Let's have a go.
Listen up all slicers! That should get the attention of 80% of the readers.
You slice the ball because the face of the club is open. The effect and
result, which receives a lot of press, is the "over the top swing," meaning
that your shoulders lead the club head in the downswing. Your approach to the
ball is steep. You chop down and across with the face open. Not good. Heck,
it does not even sound good. To help cure this ailment go find an uphill lie.
The ball is on the same level of your feet but the ground is sloping upward.
It doesn't need to be much, just a few degrees will do the job. Perhaps the
back of a teeing area. Aim the club face with the sole flush to the ground.
Adopt the normal routine of grip, aim and stance. The ball position is not
consciously altered as long as the shaft or handle is pointing just forward of
your body's center line. Here's the biggie. Adjust your posture setting your
shoulders parallel to, and your spine perpendicular to, the slope. Your
shoulders are tilted with weight on your downhill foot.
Slowly now...read that again, get the club in your hands and just imagine,
for the moment, that you are the slope.
Swing the club down the slope and turn your shoulders on the backswing. Your
weight is still on your rear downhill foot. Biggie number two. On the forward
swing, resist turning your shoulders from the top. Swing your arms and club
head up the slope, BEFORE your shoulders unwind. The club head will be
swinging level to the slope at impact. Because your hips will encounter a
difficulty to unwind,as well as your shoulders, the hands and arms rotate more
and smoother through impact CLOSING the club face producing a high draw.
So, for all those who tend to slice, find an uphill lie, hit balls, or at
least practice swing, and feel the swing shape change from steep to level, and
the face from open to closed. Piece of cake, and almost time to inquire of
the next tour stop.
Case number two - let's stay with the steep chopper. Your divots are too deep.
You pop up your drives. The short irons are short but, at least, you can hit
them pretty solid. Summary diagnosis...your swing is too vertical, or "steep,"
as I call it. Let's fix this by heading to another slope. A sidehill lie where
the ball is above the level of your feet. You will need to adjust your posture
at address. Aim the club, taking a normal stance, but bend your knees and
straighten your back. Your spine is more vertical than a normal lie. This
adjustment will produce a flatter swing plane...just what you need. The
emphasis on the swing feel is to turn your hips and shoulders more level or
horizontal. Often, a steep swing plane is caused by a steep or vertical hip
and body turn. You tend to tilt rather than turn your torso. Feel to turn and
turn as level as you can. Turn or rotate your shoulders in the backswing,
unwind your hips in the forward swing. Your arms will swing more around your
body on an increased arc from inside to inside. This rounded feeling will
flatten your plane, shallow out your angle of attack, squaring the face
through impact, producing a strong penetrating launch angle and ball flight.
The ball then whistles off the face like a bullet leaving a gun, and Tiger
Woods is becoming concerned.
If you can't find a slope from which to hit balls, at least practice swing
with the club 12 inches off the ground, as if you're hitting a ball off a
super high tee. Who is that guy who has been practicing his swing with the
club at knee height for the last two years? Someone called Tiger, who hasn't
done too badly in shallowing out his shoulders and swing plane.
Number three. You thin all your irons, hate sand shots, pull or pull hook
shots, but love your driver. The higher the tee the more happy you are. You
are a flat swinger. Head to the side of a teeing box where you can practice-
swing with the ball below the level of your feet. The address change will,
once again, be a posture adjustment. Are you seeing the trend of having to
change your posture to help directly affect and change the swing shape feel?
In this case, tip or bend from your hips and let your arms hang as relaxed as
possible. You may feel as if your nose is directly over the ball, and your
weight will be towards your toes. Now flex your knees to center your weight,
be careful not to straighten your back, and keep tipped. We need to feel an
upright or steeper arm swing, something resembling a ferris wheel. Your
shoulders will turn under your chin in a tilting motion. The club will swing
higher over your rear shoulder. As you swing down, keep bent over allowing
your arms to fully release so that, at impact, the shaft and arms are in a
straight line. By steepening your shoulder and arm plane, you will hit your
irons more crisp, get the ball out of the bunker, but still love your driver.
All your fairway shots will be more solid than thin.
The last scenario is for all "chicken wingers." This is one of the few clich?s
that I use. At impact, as described in the last shot at impact, the club shaft
and arms should be straightening. The club has to strike the bottom of the
ball. If you skull chips, top fairway shots and everyone says that you've
lifted your head, you need to get rid of that chicken wing, the bent arm
scooping wrists at impact, that which is the main cause of topped shots.
Lifting your head is an effect rather than the cause.
The last slope to head towards is the downhill lie. Normal grip, aim, stance,
ball position at address but change your shoulder tilt at address. When you
are on a level lie your rear shoulder is lower than the shoulder near the
target. For right-handers, the left hand and left shoulder is higher than the
right hand and right shoulder at address. On this downhill lie you will feel
uncomfortable but correct when you lift your rear shoulder trying to set your
shoulders parallel to the slope. A line drawn from your right to left shoulder
will be parallel to the slope. Do not move the ball back in your stance or
your rear shoulder will drop, a big no-no here.
In essence, your weight will favor the downhill foot and your spine
perpendicular to the slope. Swing the club up the slope feeling upright in
your backswing. The big feel change we are looking for is to swing the club
up and DOWN the slope. At impact your left arm and club should be in a
straight line. The bottom of the club strikes the bottom of the ball. Your
weight is on the downhill foot. Resist the temptation to lean back into the
hill. As you strike the ball, allow your hips to clear and unwind following
through low to the ground. Copy the old great Gary Player, who would walk
after a shot. Walk down the slope as you crunch the ball ridding yourself of
the chicken wing.
In order to change the feel and shape of your swing, head to the slopes and
leave your snow skis at home.
Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door? Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of 29 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980,previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs? Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.
Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002, he won the Southwest Section PGA?s Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.