MYTH #1: KEEP YOUR LEFT ARM STRAIGHT
THE FAULT: Many players are told that they have to keep their left arm straight. However if they take this literally, it can lead to unwanted tension in their body and locking up in the back and shoulders. And this excessive arm tension leads to chunking, topping and a major lack of clubhead speed.
THE FIX: While standing in a safe area, simply practice throwing your club toward a specific target. (Warning: Be careful, as clubs tend to fly left and backwards if you’ve never done this before!)
After about 10 club tosses, take notice of where you naturally set your backswing position and the amount of tension in your left arm. This will yield the true sensation of keeping your left arm straight. The club is naturally extended away from the target, but the arm doesn’t lock up, and the shoulders stay relatively relaxed.
MYTH #2: KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL
THE FAULT: Keeping your eye on the ball is not that important, otherwise how could blind people play golf?
In fact, trying to keep your eye on the ball leads to many bad habits. The act of hitting at the ball leads to fat shots, thin shots, loss of power and the dreaded over-the-top move. Remember, the ball is not the target; the target is the target!
THE FIX: Make some practice chipping swings with your eyes on the target, not the ball. Then make actual chips with your eyes on the target, not the ball. Did you notice a difference when the ball is there? If you felt like you swung “at” the ball, then you’re making the ball the target. If your swing felt smooth and continuous toward the target and you allowed the ball to be in the way, then you’re making the target the target. The goal in golf is to allow the ball to get in the way of your swing.
THE FIX 2: Chip with your eyes closed. Again, make practice swings with your eyes closed. Then hit a series of chips with your eyes closed. Pay attention to if you’re searching for the ball or if you’re simply allowing it to be in the way of your swing.
MYTH #3: KEEP YOUR HEAD STILL
THE FAULT: Many players are told to keep their head still during their swing, which ends up leading to a poor backswing position. It’s true that the head shouldn’t move up and down a lot, but it must move a bit side to side, especially in the backswing. Most players who try to keep their head exactly still end up swaying their hips and getting their club in a position that makes it very difficult to strike the ball solid. The result? Usually a slice.
THE FIX: Try the natural backswing drill. Assume your setup position and fold your arms across your chest. Then simply turn your head back over your right shoulder until you can see an object that’s directly behind you. Do this five times. On the fifth time, without changing your body position, simply turn your head back to see the ball. This is your natural backswing turn. Note that your head has to move a bit sideways to get you into a great position. Once you understand this, getting your arms and club in position is much easier and more comfortable.
MYTH #4: THERE’S ONLY ONE GOOD GOLF GRIP
THE FAULT: Many people believe that there’s only one way to grip a golf club, and that the process of gripping the club is unnatural. While it’s definitely true that your golf grip will influence your long-term success, there are several styles that are effective in gripping the club–the overlap, the interlock and the 10-finger.
THE FIX: Try this natural grip exercise. Simply get yourself into an athletic position and allow your arms to hang in front of you with zero tension. Notice how your palms face inward. Your golf grip is based off this position. From there, move your hands closer to one another so they hold the club naturally. In the black-and-white picture above, I’m demonstrating what most people do when gripping the club. They’re trying to force the proper grip, when they should just let it work naturally. The natural position works with any grip style, be it interlocking, overlapping or baseball.
MYTH #5: FOR SOLID CHIPS, LEAN THE HANDLE FORWARD
THE FAULT: Many people believe that the more you press the handle forward in your chipping setup, the less chance you have of hitting the ball fat. While a bit of forward shaft lean is a good thing in chipping, overdoing it can lead to regularly hitting the ball fat. When you lean the shaft too far forward, your right shoulder will drop, and your center will move backwards. This leads to the club bottoming out behind the ball.
THE FIX: Know where your center is. Your center has the biggest influence on how solidly you’ll hit your chips. If your center is even or ahead of the ball, then you have a much better chance of catching the ball solid.
Shoulder tilt–if your left shoulder is a lot higher than your right shoulder, then you’ll chunk. Try some chip shots with your shoulders more even with the ground. This promotes a more descending blow and solid contact.
MYTH #6: KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN
THE FAULT: Trying to keep your head down creates all kinds of problems, such as an incomplete backswing and poor sequence of motion. It also creates big problems in your posture. To hit a ball well, you have to have an athletic posture. If your head is down, it’ll be in the way of your shoulders, and your thoracic spine will be curved. This completely inhibits your motion on the way back and through.
THE FIX: After you get in your pos-ture, take a clubshaft and hold it behind your back. Ideally, the back of your head, upper back and lower back will all be lined up when you get into your setup position.
MYTH #7: IMPACT IS THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
THE FAULT: Impact is not the moment of truth in the golf swing–it’s the culmination of everything before it. Many people think if they fix their impact position, they’ll fix their swing. The reality is that impact is the result, and the rest of the swing is the process. Golfers who focus on impact miss out on the real moment of truth–truly experiencing the completion of the backswing and the transition into the downswing. Until those change, impact will never get better.
THE FIX: Super-slow-motion swings. Take two super-slow-motion swings (taking more than 30 seconds each) and really pay attention to your swing all the way–especially in the transition area. Usually, unwanted tension in the hands, shoulders and arms shows up in this area, which ends up ruining your swing sequence and destroys impact. After your two slow swings, hit five balls and see if you can keep your attention strong through the swing prior to impact. Until you start feeling what’s messing up your swing, you can’t change it!
MYTH #8: HIT DOWN ON THE BALL
THE FAULT: Golfers are always told to hit down on the ball, but this typically leads to a chopping motion at the ball where the arms outrace the body and the club gets to the ground too quickly. This also leads to the dreaded over-the-top motion.
THE FIX: Make practice swings with your eyes on the target, not the ball. The club should strike the ground naturally on its way toward the target. It should never be forced to the ground. Pay attention to the feel of simply “allowing” the club to find the ground as you swing with your attention on the target.
Dan Martin, PGA, is the head instructor at Rustic Canyon Golf Course in Moorpark, Calif. For more information, visit rusticcanyongolfcourse.com.