Out Of Bounds – Why People Play Bad Golf

By Tom Abts

You know Dave Letterman’s Top Ten Lists? Here’s my Top Ten Lists for why people play bad golf:

10.) They listen to their friends’ advice
9.) They have too many swing thoughts
8.) They use poor quality golf clubs
7.) They’re too serious
6.) They squeeze the golf club
5.) They can’t chip
4.) They slice their driver shots
3.) They line-up their body at the target
2.) They use poor course management
And the #1 reason for bad golf is:
1.) They try to scoop the ball up into the air

So let’s start with #1. Trying to scoop the ball is by far the main reason most people play bad golf – it’s not even close.

Here’s why it happens: because the ball is sitting on the ground and the player wants to hit the ball in the air to the target, the natural response is to use the club as a scoop to get the ball airborne. Unfortunately, that leads to most of the reasons for bad golf shots. Why? Because that flipping of the wrists to scoop the ball leads to inconsistency and poor contact.

A solid iron shot has the hands in front of the ball at impact. A scooped shot has the hands behind the ball at impact. Think about that. If the hands are behind the ball at impact, the club head needs to be under the ball for a solid shot. What if there isn’t room for the club head to get under the ball? Well, then you get fat shots and topped shots – certainly not solid shots. That’s why most amateur golfers don’t like to play off tight fairways – they’d rather hit the ball out of light rough.

Ironically, this scooping action almost works for a driver off a tee. I say almost, because the scooping action opens the clubface at impact, which obviously leads to a slice. This is the main reason people slice their driver. The wrists need to turn over – not up. The turning over of the wrists is what squares the clubface and gives the ball draw spin. Very few players can draw the ball. Some hook it – but not by turning over their wrists. They hook it with their shoulders – that’s a hook that starts left and goes farther left. The draw with the proper wrist action starts right then turns gently left.

Go to a driving range and look at all of the broken tees right in front of the hitting area. The tees are broken because people are hitting down at the teed-up ball with their driver. This is the type of action they should be using with an iron off the fairway – not a driver off a tee.

Golf clubs are made for hitting a variety of shots. That’s why a driver doesn’t look like a sand-wedge – they are made for different shots. And, they are used in different ways. If you had to hit a shot out of a bad lie, you wouldn’t use a driver. The flat face of the driver couldn’t get the ball up in the air. The driver is made to hit the ball off of a tee. You wouldn’t use a sand-wedge to hit a highly teed-up ball. The lofted irons are designed to hit down on the ball. The teed-up shots are not conducive to a downward swing. People pop up the driver because they have the wrong concept of how to hit the shot. People scoop their irons because they have the wrong concept of how to hit the shot.

You know how you go through times when you can hit your irons but not your woods – and vice versa? Yeah – they aren’t the same swing. The irons are more of a punch and the woods are more of a sweep. The irons you lean into the shot. And for the woods – especially off a tee – you lean back as you as hit the shot.

Usually, the body reacts to the hand action. People who hit shots off their back foot are scoopers. Working on their weight shift won’t solve the problem. Working on their hand action will solve the problem. If you can get a scooper to hit down on the ball, they will not hit off the back foot. They can’t. It’s that simple. People will naturally put their body into the position that correlates with their hand action – not the other way around. Let me say that again. You can not fix the wrong body motions without first fixing the hand action.

The body needs some sort of motion to make a golf swing. You can hit shots without body motion – legs together, or off of one leg, etc – the same way that you can throw a ball without body motion. But body motion makes it easier to swing the golf club or throw a ball. In fact, they are very similar motions. To get the feeling of your golf swing, take a club and throw it sidearm at a target. That is the motion of YOUR golf swing. Use that throwing motion to put yourself in position to use your hands properly for the type of shot you intend to hit.

Every shot begins with the proper concept of how the club should contact the ball. The hands control the club and how the club contacts the ball. The body helps put the hands in the correct position to contact the ball in the correct manner.

People are not robots. People are blessed with hands and a brain. Those gifts are at the heart of hitting golf shots and playing good golf. Enjoy.

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