There’s nothing in golf quite like making pure contact. If you’ve never felt an absolutely pure golf shot, then you must keep reading, because I’ve got a method that will allow you to achieve this magical feeling! If you have experienced this sensation, then chances are it’s the main reason that you’re hooked on this great game. And if you love golf, I’m sure you’d like to learn to make that pure contact more consistently.
What do I mean when I say pure contact? I mean contact that’s free from any defects or faults. It’s a solid strike that compresses the ball against the ground and takes a divot after the ball is in the air, not before. Achieving this type of contact tends to be difficult for a lot of recreational golfers, but it’s exactly this perfect, pure contact that the pros make time and time again that allows them to play at such a high level. In other words, pure contact is pro contact. Read carefully, examine the accompanying photos and drills, and get to work, and eventually you too can learn to hit it pure, just like the pros.
Ingredients Of Pro Contact
1. Forward Shaft Lean
Forward shaft lean (at impact, the shaft is leaning with the grip end of the club closer to the target than the head of the club) is an absolutely mandatory ingredient for making solid, pro contact. This is a must if you hope to compress the ball (squeeze it between the clubface and the ground) and make your divot after the ball, not before. This is the true secret to pro-style power and control and the element you absolutely must have if you want to hit real golf shots.
So how do you achieve forward shaft lean? There are several movements that are key, and when they happen in the correct sequence, the result is magic. Through contact, your weight must shift onto your lead leg and your trailing shoulder (right shoulder for right handers) has to move toward the ball. A lot of recreational players do the exact opposite by shifting their weight to the back leg and falling away from the ball and the target. This move sabotages any chance of making pro-style contact immediately and promotes weak, glancing blows that often travel on a left-to-right path. Instead, you must make a proper weight shift and create a balanced, leveraged position on your way toward impact. The club must move down first, then outward and forward in the direction of the ball. Your right arm and wrists must maintain their angles and save their power deep into the swing. Think of it in these simple terms: Good players reach maximum swing speed through and beyond impact, while less accomplished players reach maximum swing speed early in the swing, before they come close to impact.
Good Impact. Notice how the shaft is still trailing my left arm just after impact (if you draw a straight line up the shaft it is ahead of my left arm). My weight is on my left leg (right heel is in the air), my right shoulder is lowered, my right wrist is bent, my left wrist is flat and the divot occurred after contact with the ball. The shaft is now vertical, as it should be after a sound, ball-first impact.
Bad Impact. Notice how the shaft has passed my left arm (if you draw a straight line up the shaft, it’s behind my left arm). My weight is still on my right leg (my right heel is on the ground), my right wrist is flat, my left wrist is bent, and the divot has occurred prior to making contact with the ball. The shaft is leaning backward, a sure sign of a scooped-impact position.
2. On Plane
The second key ingredient in achieving pro contact is approaching the ball on the correct plane. The vast majority of players who struggle with impact swing over the plane from outside to in and make a very steep approach into the ball. This type of plane leads to a multitude of problems, including fat and thin shots, as well as a lot of slices and a lack of power. Another big mistake players make is swinging under the plane on too flat a trajectory. This type of approach into the ball produces smother hooks and pushes (depending on the angle of the clubface at impact) and also promotes a chicken wing in the finish. To create pro-style impact, you absolutely must develop an on-plane motion and combine it with the proper sequence of body movements.
3. Clubface Control
You’re not going to make pro contact if you can’t control the clubface through impact. In other words, to make the ball fly in the intended direction, the face must be square at contact. Most amateurs make the mistake of having the face of the club too open at impact, which once again leads to a glancing blow and a loss of contact and distance. It also creates slices and pushes. In the correct swing, the clubface should rotate from slightly open prior to impact to square at impact to slightly closed after impact. It’s the timing of this face rotation that separates the straight hitter from the not-so-straight hitter. Some pros rotate the clubface more quickly than others, but they all do it to some degree.
By placing a headcover behind the ball about a foot and slightly inside the target line, you can learn to strike the ball with a proper descending blow and achieve forward shaft lean. Start with practice swings without the ball, each time concentrating on hitting the turf on the target side of the headcover without making contact with the actual headcover. Once you feel comfortable with this move, place a ball in front of the headcover and try to hit some shots. You should quickly get the proper feel of a descending blow. If you swing with a scooping motion (hitting the ground before you make contact with the ball), you won’t be able to hit the ball without first hitting the headcover.
Controlling the clubface, aka, releasing the clubhead properly, is something that all good players do and most amateur players don’t. To learn to rotate the clubface properly through impact, concentrate on freeing your hand action in both the backswing and downswing. An image I find helpful is to think of hiding your left hand with your right hand as the clubhead passes through impact. With practice, you’ll soon ingrain the proper feel._Ê
Place a tee in the ground on an angle similar to what you see in the accompanying picture. Practice driving the tee down into the ground on the same angle at which it rests at setup, and I guarantee you’ll develop forward shaft lean. If you try to accomplish this with the shaft of the club leaning backward in a scooping motion, the club will slide under the tee and flip it up in the air. Start with very small swings and slowly work your way up to a full motion. Practice this drill until you can do it consistently, and your technique will improve dramatically.
GT Senior Instruction Editor Chuck Winstead teaches at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La._Ê