This process is multi fold
- Learn what YOUR neutral grip is
- The CORRECT ball position for every club
- The CORRECT swing shape
- How far back YOU can take the club
- How to play within YOUR style
You will have many options to choose from and I’ll show you how to find the ones that will work for you. Once you have all of your “components” you won’t need to experiment any longer!
WHERE TO START – GRIP AND POSTURE
While this may be obvious to some you would be surprised by the number of people that work on their swing without starting with their grip. There is only ONE neutral grip for any golfer! That grip is where YOUR arm hangs down from the shoulder socket and the angle of YOUR target side hand. It makes no difference whether you use an overlapping, interlocking, and ten-finger (baseball) grip. What IS critical is the angle the club lies in your hand.
To find YOUR neutral grip, first take your address position, but without a club, and let both arms hang downward from the shoulder sockets with NO TENSION. Most golfers will find that their target side arm hangs somewhere between the middle of the target side thigh to the inside of the thigh (depending on the width of stance and/or the width of the chest). As you look down at your target side hand pay attention to the angle it hangs. Some of you will see two knuckles of the hand, some will see three, and some may even see four. It doesn’t matter how many you see! Whatever the number, this is YOUR bodies way of telling you its natural tendency and that is the neutral angle for YOUR grip! When you place your target side hand on the club it should be at the same angle you just saw.
The club then runs diagonally from between the first and second joint of the index finger to just under the heel pad. Close the fingers and then close the hand with the heel pad on top of the shaft with the thumb to the backside of the shaft. This supplies pressure from the heel pad downward and the last three fingers exert pressure upward. Then take the lifeline of the trailing hand, located between the thumb and heel pads, and place it on the thumb of the target side hand. The lifeline against the thumb exerts the pressure here; the right forefinger should be separated, in a “triggering position”, but with no pressure. It is important to understand that the forefinger and target side thumb both be on the same side and angle of the shaft for the best support. The trailing thumb should be on the target side of the shaft. You never want the thumbs to exert any pressure. Finally, in order for the hands to work together, they must be parallel to each other.
Regardless of the player’s level of golf anyone can get into a posture that looks as good as any Tour Player, it takes no athletic ability to get into a proper posture! For full swing shots, other than a Driver, the inside of the heels should be as wide as the outside of the hips (for a Driver the inside of the heels as wide as the outside of the shoulders). Push the hips sockets back and up so that the pelvis is at an angle, not horizontal to the ground. As you push the hips back, and up, this will lower the chest and place the weight toward the back of the arch of the foot. Simply unlock your knees, you’ll feel a little pressure above the kneecaps, and let the arms hang limply downward from the shoulder socket. There should be NO TENSION in the arms or shoulders. Some players like to tilt their upper bodies slightly away from target as the final set-up adjustment and just because your trailing hand is lower than the target side hand this is acceptable, just don’t overdue it. Now you have YOUR grip and posture.
Ball position is the most misunderstood portion of the entire set-up. There have been many opinions about ball position. Some say one position for every shot, others say move it around depending on the club. All of the guesswork is taken out however if the golfer would set the club at address as the manufacturer designed it. All clubs, except for the Driver, are designed so that the grip end of the club is ahead of the clubhead if soled properly, this means the shaft leans forward, not vertical or backwards! If you address the ball, with say a 5 iron, and the shaft is vertical then even before you swing you’ve added loft and turned it into a seven iron! That same 5 iron is designed to have approximately 8 degrees of forward lean at address. The best players in the world, using that same 5 iron, have upwards of 15 degrees at Impact! This turns it into a 3 iron! Having said that you have the option of setting up to the ball with the shaft vertical as long as you can get into the proper Impact position…the shaft leans forward at Impact!
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER start with the shaft leaning backward! We also need to cover where the ball is located in relation to the player’s upper body, not the feet. The width of the stance changes during the course of a round but the width of the upper body does not. In addition, the target side shoulder socket is the low point of the arc and the fulcrum of the target side arm swing. Therefore the ball with a wedge will be in the center of the chest, in line with the sternum, for full swing shots, the 5 iron under the target side of the chest, and the Driver at the low point, which is the shoulder socket. This could vary depending on whether the player has exceptionally wide shoulders, but for the most part these locations will be fine for irons but the target side shoulder socket IS the LOW POINT and the Driver MUST be played at this location for straight shots! Back of this location produces a fade, with no manipulation, and forward of this location produces a draw, with no manipulation. You may see some players playing the ball back, or forward, of the target side shoulder socket but these players must either change the shoulder location at Impact, by leaning backward with the upper body, or must manipulate the clubface to hit a straight shot.
AIM and ALIGNMENT
As you take your grip you must be sure the leading edge of the clubface square. The leading edge is the edge closest to the ball. Always set the clubface first, perpendicular to the target line, then set your feet, knees, hips, eyes, and shoulders parallel to the target line.
THESE LINES ARE PARALLEL TO EACH OTHER! NEVER AIM YOUR BODY AT THE TARGET! What is the object of golf? To get the ball in the hole with the fewest strokes as possible! To aid in alignment it is imperative that you utilize a procedure called an “Intermediate Target”. The intermediate target is something between the ball and the target. It could be a piece of discolored grass, an edge of a divot, a broken tee, etc. It should be within your peripheral vision, so that you don’t have to lift your head.
MOVING THE CLUB
Because we play golf on an Inclined Plane this dictates that the club MUST move on an arc. That means the club head is only on the base on the Plane Line approximately 2 inches during the swing! It also means that the club always moves in 3 dimensions. The Backstroke dimension is backward, upward, and inward all simultaneously and On Plane. The keyword for Backstroke is “BACK”. The hands and arms control the backward and upward movement of the club. Therefore, if you did not make a shoulder turn the clubhead WOULD NOT move inside the baseline. The shoulder turn moves the club inward, NOT back and up. So if the player just turned their shoulders, without any hand or arm movement, then the club would be inside but not back and up. These two movements MUST work together to achieve the proper sequence. The trailing forearm moves the club on Plane by “tracing” the Plane. The bending, and folding of the trailing elbow also raises and lowers the club and cocks and uncocks the target side wrist. Never raise the arms and club by lifting from the shoulders sockets!
The Downstroke dimension is downward, outward, and forward. Once the player has reached full extension (follow-through) then the club moves again upward, inward, and backward. This completes the 3 dimensional swing.
LENGTH OF ARC
What does this term mean? Simply put, length of arc means how far back YOU can take the club. Some players may be able to take their hands high above their heads in the backswing while others can only get their hands to shoulder height, or less. It doesn’t matter! However far you can take the club and still maintain structure is the end of YOUR swing! You can increase your length of arc by increasing your range of motion. (see your local physical therapist for exercises to increase your range of motion).
LET’S GET STARTED
Before every shot you play there must be a sequential order of events. First of course we have to find our golf ball. Once the ball is located we then must examine the type of lie we have, the distance to the target, the shot shape desired, the wind conditions (if any), how we’re feeling that particular day, whether to play aggressively or conservatively or somewhere in between (this depends on our style), and finally choosing the correct club for the type of shot. We can’t call this a “pre-shot routine” because there is nothing routine about a golf shot! There are always factors to be decided and these factors constantly change. So we would encourage you to use the phrase “PRE-SHOT”. Pre-shot may or may not include a dress rehearsal of the swing, a practice swing. During the practice swing you’re getting a feel for the mechanics involved in hitting the shot and visualizing the ball flight.
ADDRESS AND SET-UP
Once we have gone through our pre-shot we now start the initial mechanical and mental programming procedures. Approach the ball from behind and follow this order for success. Verify these six Impact Alignments.
- Clubface to Target Line
- Grip to Clubface
- Hands to Ball
- the Plane Angle
- Pressure Points
- Position of the Trailing Forearm
Balance, Grip, and Plane Line MUST be verified before EVERY shot!
Now we’re ready to start the backstroke.
Now that address is completed we can start the backstroke. As discussed earlier, this involves two separate movements. These movements are controlled from the waist up. The lower body should be moved by the upper body if the player is flexible enough, if not, then allow it to move freely in both directions.
- The hands and arms … the vertical plane
- The shoulders … the horizontal or inclined plane
At this point I would like to remind you that Address and Impact are NOT THE SAME! The only thing that has not changed is the ball position.
You may use any backstroke procedure you choose and there are basically three that the announcers use to describe them.
- A one piece takeaway…Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods
- A two piece takeaway…Ernie Els, David Duval, Karrie Webb, Anika Sorenstam
- A three piece takeaway…Raymond Floyd, Nancy Lopez
Choose anyone you wish that feels comfortable and natural. What initiates the backstroke? Ask ten different instructors and you will get ten different answers. Some player’s feel it starts with turning the shoulders, some feel it may be the hips, and still others think and feel it’s the hands. I believe it is a combination of the hands, trailing forearm, AND shoulder turn that start the backstroke. Earlier I talked about the role of the hands, arms, and shoulders during the backstroke. They absolutely must work together and synchronous if the club is to stay on plane!
As the club starts back the clubhead must point at the base of the plane line until the clubshaft reaches parallel to the plane line and horizontal to the ground. As the club starts upward then the butt of the club must point at an extension of the base of the plane until it reaches the top of the swing. If you can’t get the clubshaft to parallel, then the butt of the club Must point to the base of the plane line. If you are one of the few that can get the shaft to parallel, then it should be parallel to the base of the plane line.
The hip sequence (how the hips move) for full swing shots is always the same. They Turn, Slide, Turn. A great majority of players think the hips slide in the backstroke (shifting weight). While this certainly is an option it eliminates creating any rotating force of the body. A better procedure would be the one described above and is the option that the majority of the world’s best players use.