We’ve all been there…you stand on the tee and look over your shoulder down the target line. Big trees tightly guard a narrow fairway; it looks like a distant thin strip of runway disappearing into the distance. You need a 4 on the last for your best-ever round, or to win your pennant match or just beat your mates in your weekly four-ball. You’re playing well, but feeling the pressure; just one more good drive. “Don’t let me down now, swing” you mutter to yourself. Then you take the club away. Can you keep it slow and keep your mind quiet? As you change direction you feel your grip tighten a little. “Just try and hit it straight” you think just as you hit the ball…
If this is you then more often than not when you look up the ball will be going off line. Remember that golf course designers try to intimidate us; trees, bunkers and hazards look nice and present the course nicely, but more often than not these obstacles are there to frighten us golfers into hitting bad shots. Consequence is one big difference between the range and the course. Often in practice, players feel very relaxed, as the range is wide open and if they hit a bad shot you don’t have to suffer the consequence of a lost ball or a wipe on the card. Make no mistake, even the best tournament players see the same dangers that you do. A quick watch of the PGA Tour or European Tour this weekend on the TV will give you a host of fantastic players hitting the in the water or the trees. None of us are immune! The major difference is that top players see the danger, acknowledge it and then plan their way around or over it.
Understanding your swing fundamentals is a huge part of being able to deal with the fear you will feel. Realising, for instance, that if you are a right-handed player and your miss is a slice to the right—and your solution is aiming further left to compensate for this—that it will generally make you slice MORE, not less, is a vital piece of information to know.
In much the same way, if you don’t understand that every club ever designed by every manufacturer (with the exception of putters) is designed to rotate through impact and not stay square to the target, then you may just be missing the most important piece of information that most golfers don’t seem to know.
In the lesson photographed here, Amy (like most players) was struggling with a slice and clearly trying to hold the face of the club squarely to the target as she was hitting the ball. (See Photo 1). It seems like a perfectly good plan, right? I forgive you all for thinking it’s a good idea, it does seem logical but it’s just plain wrong. Remember: it’s just not how your clubhead was designed, the engineers wanted you to rotate it as you swing it side-to-side, so some good old multi-tasking is required. Hand, forearm and club face rotation can see a little scary, but it’s a necessary action to ensure that you are not fighting your clubhead through impact. Once the player understands that the hands and arms are rotating whilst the arms are swinging then the magic usually follows immediately. In this case as with so many others that I teach, the feeling of the right hand (For right-handers) ‘rolling’ over the top of the left-hand glove on the through swing (See photo 2) gets the club face closing as we hit the ball, usually then the weak shots to the right disappear. Here we picked up 20m for Amy on her 7-iron and real confidence that will undoubtedly see her improve rapidly over the coming months.
A nice benefit of feeling the arms and club rotating through the ball is shown in the final picture (Photo 3). 99% of the time, when players feel the club rotating through the ball the swing plane on the downswing becomes shallower. As the golfers feels the club ‘closing’ more prior to impact, the fear of missing to the right slowly evaporates allowing the player to come more from the inside prior to impact.
So remember: trying to ” hit it straight” can often be the worst mistake you can make.