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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Breezy Point

Local Golf
September 24, 2017

Athletic Or Mechanical
By Tom Abts


One of my speeches when giving golf lessons is that I want their swing to be more athletic than mechanical.

Does that mean I don't want them to understand the mechanics of the golf swing? No. I want them to understand how the mechanics of athletic motions make a good golf swing.

Golfers need to understand two concepts - the swing and contact.

Contact is best taught by chipping. It's a short stroke that focuses on solid contact ... not a full swing with a lot of motion and moving parts. The most important thing to understand in chipping is that the hands lead the club into the ball. In other words - that the hands and the handle of the club are in front of the ball when the clubhead meets the ball. Most people try to scoop the ball up in the air with their hands behind the ball while the clubhead goes under the ball. That is faulty contact. The loft lifts the ball into the air - not using the club as a big scoop.

Golf club manufacturers build offset clubs to help put the hands behind the ball at impact. But that doesn't really solve the problem. No matter how much offset there is, flipping the club under the ball leads to bad contact. That's why many people don't take a divot with their irons and why they'd rather hit the ball out the rough than off of a tight fairway.

But, many people also take big gouging divots with a faulty swing. In fact, they aren't swinging at all - they are hitting at the ball with their shoulders. The shoulder hit also leads to poor contact - they have to swing from the outside-in. No one ever says why outside-in is bad. It's bad because the clubhead gets to the ball before the hands. Try it and see. Set up at a ball ... and make a super slow-motion swing ... and swing way left of your target using your shoulders. The club will reach the ball before your hands. Stop at impact and look at where you are. Is that a good impact position? Obviously not. Whether the ball goes left or right depends on the position of the clubface. The clubface determines how the ball spins. The ball is not aware of path. The ball only reacts to the clubface. Think about that. Most people have that backward. They think that their stance determines whether they slice or hook. It doesn't. You can hook from and open stance if the clubface is closed when it hits the ball. You can slice from a closed stance if the clubface is open at impact.

The full golf swing is a swinging of the arms. The arms swing up on the backswing ... and swing down and through the ball on the forward swing. The hips need to get out of the way while you swing through the ball to help you finish your swing. If the hips stop or don't open up ... the swinging motion of the arms collapses and the arms can't extend. Try it and see. Do this in slow motion.

To be accurate with your shots ... you need to swing at your target. Rocket science. If you're swinging at the target, whether the ball goes straight or hooks or slices, depends on the position of the clubface at impact.

Your body needs to be aimed left of your target so you have enough room to swing at your target. Most people line up their body at the target. That would only work if the ball was right off your toes and your swing was like a windmill. Because you reach out for the ball with your club, your swing is not a windmill. Not a merry-go-round either ... sort of in between. But it is a swinging of the arms ... not a hitting of the shoulders. The shoulders follow the swinging of the arms ... and the hips get out of the way so that you can swing through the ball.

As you practice chipping ... you develop proper contact. That proper contact is the same contact on full shots. You just make a full swing to get you into the same contact position ... but obviously the full swing hits the ball much farther than a short chip shot ... but the contact is the same.

Remember my athletic or mechanical statement? Well, I want you to feel athletic when swinging the club - not mechanical. Rhythm and timing and feel are very important aspects of the golf swing. The golf swing should be a pleasurable motion. Not a stiff, anxiety filled action.

Let's recap. Line-up enough left of your target so that you have room to swing at your target. Swing your arms back ... then swing your arms through the ball as your hips open up to give you enough room to extend your arms at the target. Develop proper contact by practicing your chipping.

And play golf athletically ... not mechanically!






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