Joe French is what I would consider your slightly above average player. He consistently shoots in the mid-80s. He hits the ball an average to above-average distance. He even has days where he can hit as many as nine fairways and 13 greens. However, he has reached the point where it is time to take the next step. It is time for Joe to start consistently shooting in the 70s. With a few changes, I think we can get him there.
You could probably freeze frame at any point in Joe's swing and identify a problem. Even at full speed you could say that he takes the club back too far inside, creates no pivot, crosses at the top, casts during his down swing, comes inside, and then nearly jumps off the ground at impact. Ultimately, making a check list of faults is not going to help Joe. Our job is to identify which problem must be addressed next in order for him to achieve his goals.
Read on to see Joe's swing and the fixes I've outlined for him.
Joe's swing can be seen here as a QuickTime movie. This shows the down-the-line and face-on angles with his driver and 6-iron. I would recommend that you to watch the video, identify what you think is his root problem, and then read on.
Lag has undoubtedly become one of the more popular topics in golf today. It is hard to watch a telecast - especially if Johnny Miller is a commentator - without seeing a super-slow motion video of Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, or any number of other players using lag. So, once and for all, let's address what lag is and then address Joe's swing with lag in mind.
What is Lag?
If you are looking at the illustration above, you can see that each of the three different types of swings have different relationships to a vertical line drawn through the backside of the golf ball.
- Vertical (0° of lag) - For a swing that has a vertical impact, which is common among both tour pros and good amateurs, the shaft of the club overlaps with the vertical line drawn through the backside of the golf ball. This means at impact, the loft of the club has no change.
- Release (negative lag) - For a swing with a release, which is common among mid- to high-handicappers, the shaft of the club is angled away from the target at impact. This means that the player is adding loft to the club at impact.
- Lag - For a swing that has lag, the shaft of the club is angled towards the target at impact. This means that the player is delofting the club at impact.
You might be asking yourself why lag is important. There's a pretty complicated physics-based answer to that question, but the two simplest reasons are: 1) lag maximizes acceleration and 2) lag helps create an optimal launch angle for every club in your bag.
One of the major problems with Joe's swing is that rather than creating lag, Joe is casting. Take a look at the two frames below.
As you can see above, Joe's impact position resembles that of a release rather than lag. Had Joe swung correctly, Joe should have had 2-4° of lag with his driver and 7-9° of lag with his 6-iron. Instead, Joe has -21° of lag with his driver and -15° of lag with his 6-iron. This means that at impact, if Joe was hitting a 10° driver, his driver now has a loft of 31°.
Helping a player create more lag can be incredibly tricky. If a player has mastered all other components of his swing, then he should naturally create lag. However, some teachers view lag as such a swing key that they feel that if their students can master that concept that all other parts of the swing will naturally become better. Confused? So are many golfers, so don't feel bad.
Just to be clear on where I stand on that argument, it is my opinion that once you master a few key components of the swing that you can attempt to attack lag directly. In Joe's case, I believe we have to address his leading shoulder first.
Leading Shoulder at Impact
One of the most fundamental parts of any golf swing - be it with the sand wedge or the driver - is the position of your leading shoulder at impact. With your driver, the ball should be positioned off of your leading heel at set-up with your leading hip and leading shoulder positioned off of the same line. To have the best chance of hitting a ball dead straight with lag, your leading shoulder must be either at or slightly behind the ball at impact.
The position of your leading shoulder at impact with your irons and wedges is slightly more complicated. Regardless of ball position, your shoulder and leading hip should start off on the same line at set up. Again, to have the best chance of hitting the ball dead straight with lag, your leading shoulder should be either at or slightly behind that line at impact.
Joe's Leading Shoulder
Looking at Joe's set up and impact position we can easily see some problems. First, although Joe's set up looks relatively athletic, he is starting with his left shoulder in front of his left hip. Second, Joe's best efforts to get his shoulder behind the ball at impact - which includes his left foot almost coming completely off the ground - were not successful. With these two faults combined, Joe is going to make it nearly impossible to: 1) come down on-plane, 2) create lag, and most importantly 3) hit a straight shot.
To help Joe achieve the proper impact position he needs to make two significant changes.
If I really wanted to start a firestorm, I would advocate for Joe to position the ball for every club in the bag off of the instep of his left foot. I will leave that battle for another day and simply state that at set up - regardless of ball position - your leading shoulder should be in line with the front of your leading hip. While you could start with your shoulder in front of your hip, positioning your shoulder and hip on the same line primes your swing for the proper impact position as well as create more torque during your back swing. Take a look below at my harshly edited version of how I would want Joe to set up with his driver.
There are two different thoughts that I have found successful to achieve this position. You can focus on:
Leading Shoulder & Hip - Try to feel as if you are pushing your leading hip slightly towards the target while tilting your shoulder away from the target.
Head & Hip - Try to feel as if you are pushing your leading hip slightly towards the target as you feel like your left ear is behind the zipper of your pants/shorts.
Regardless of which feel you choose, be sure to check to see how close you are either in a mirror or on camera.
Here is my personal favorite drill to address this problem.
- When you tee up the golf ball, place the label so that it is under the horizon line just barely visible to you when you are set up.
- During your backswing, do not take your eye off of the label.
- During your down swing, do not take your eye off of the label. If you can't see the label, then you shifted your head forward. If you shifted your head forward odds are you shifted your leading shoulder forward as well.
- Check your swing on camera. Do not just rely on the feel alone.
Time Line: If you work on this consistently then this change can be made in two to three weeks time. Be warned though, if you do not focus on this for every single club in your bag then this change can take in infinite amount of time.
Be sure to monitor… Your hips. For many golfers, they feel as if they are swinging up at the ball when they first attempt to make this change. It is incredibly important to remember that you do not sway behind the ball during your back swing and your lower body should continue to move through the ball during your down swing and follow through.
While consistently shooting in the 80s is a huge accomplishment, consistently shooting in the 70s just feels so much bigger. Truth is, it is. Shooting in the 70s takes so much more precision; so many fewer mistakes can be made. Most of all, it takes having a swing which you can truly rely on. Hopefully by making this change, Joe will be that much closer to achieving his goal.
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