Let’s (Not) Get Stuck

This is part two of a seven part series documenting my Winter lessons as a bogey golfer trying to improve.  You can read the Intro here: Winter Lessons Series

Lesson Date: Feb 15, 2014

Quick Recap and Progress

Last week, Rob showed me my obvious flip at the ball so it gave me something to work on at home.  I tried working on the drills indoor at home and I find it’s pretty hard to tell- I can always bring the club back with plenty of forward shaft lean if I swing in super-slow-motion but when I feel confident and try to record a full speed swing, I still couldn’t get the hands back in front of my body- it is trailing way too far behind me and now, I see pretty clearly I have to flip at the ball to have any chance at not catching the ball with a wide open face.

The Fault

Today, Rob was a lot more demanding- I guess the pleasantries were over and it’s time to get down to business.  I warmed up with an 8 iron and he started keying on one of my more obvious faults- one which I’ve been fighting since I’ve started this game.

I can’t seem to help but start the back swing with my hands, suck the club to the inside, and feel like my power comes from swinging the club around behind me.  So much so that my elbows is way behind, outside of my torso at the top of my backswing.


Rob explains that I get the hands way too far behind me, and I have a hard time catching up.  He definitely does not like me starting the swing with hands instead of my shoulders- not only does it suck the club inside on the takeaway, it also fans the clubface open right off the back.  From the top of the backswing, I dip my back shoulder down and drop the club underplane on the way back to the ball.  The result is a path that’s too far inside out (6 or 7 degrees from the inside) with a tendency to push slice or  hook.

Rob wants to get me to a better spot at the top first to set up for the transition back down so we worked on going up, and not around.

Suggested Drills

1.  The Takeaway:  Shoulders and not Hands

Rob tries to take my hands out of the takeaway.  He stood face on and put the grip of a club against the back of my right hand and asked me “how would you move this grip straight back?”  I was actually about to flick my right wrist back but realized that move would move it 6″ before I need to engage my shoulder to push it back.  So I kept my wrists as quiet as possible and felt like I’m using my right shoulder to push the grip straight back out of the way, on the way to the top of my backswing.  It feels pretty unnatural but it helped me feel that it’s possible to get the swing started without throwing the clubhead backwards first with the hands.

2. The Top: Go up instead of Around

Obviously, if your swing is too steep already, this is not for you.  I think because of the fact I’m vertically challenged at 5’6 and a half, my swing have always been pretty shallow and very much “around” my back.  I actually feel I get more power from getting my right elbow away from my body and behind me.  Very much the opposite of Vijay and his famous connected arms and towel drill, I suppose.  Rob first tried to tell not to go so far back in my backswing.  I had no control over myself and can’t help but to keep going behind me.

What I really like about Rob is his ability to think of new thoughts for his student on the fly.  When that didn’t work, he suggested something else:

  1. Try to hit pull fades.  This was just not working- I just don’t have enough path and clubface control to do this with a high consistency.
  2. Try to swing the club more up, and less “around”.  This move got me to get way over plane on the backswing that felt even more manipulated by my hands so it didn’t work out so well.
  3. After a few similar hits, he suggests that the right elbow needs to be inside the rib cage.  Leave your elbow on the “front of your shirt seam”, not behind it.  This thought clicked with me alot better.  I naturally kept my right elbow much closer to my body at the top of my swing but I still found it difficult to stop “in time” before everything is way behind me again.
  4. Seeing that I’m not getting it, he backed me up against a clear plastic tarp  (for catching wayward golf balls).  I stood pretty close, maybe only 2-3 three feet away from this plastic “wall” behind me and he had me swing to the top with this “connected shirt seam” feeling.  I scrape the plastic at the top and he asks me to do it again but don’t hit the wall.  Ta-da.  That was it.  It took me about 3 swings to figure out how to move and not hit it.  In my head, I’m moving the club more up, and it feels like I’ve only turned my shoulders 45 degrees behind me but when I look at my reflection against some glass, I discovered I have indeed turned a full turn and was in a solid position.

This new spot feels a bit shorter than my normal swing- it really feels like I’m taking it up to 9 o’clock even though it’s 3/4.  Also I feel like my left arm is more in front of my face, parallel to the target line; versus the past which was more behind me, and over (or outside) my right shoulders.

Session Recap

Overall, I felt like I needed to keep everything in front of my chest alot more than my natural instinct of wanting to pull everything behind me to get ready to deliver more power.  I didn’t feel like I was losing any distance and a clean hit from having hands in front of my body feels very solid.  Even though it was the wall thought got me to finally shorten swing a bit, the shirt seam imagery really stuck with me.  I went home thinking “hm, do I have any golf shirts that had a line right down the seam” that I can use for mirror work?

Overall, it was another insightful session that gave me lots to think about and work on for another week.

More Research

After every lesson, I kind of go nuts looking for more information online.

Here’s my list from this week.

1.  Keeping the arms in front of the body.

I have to fight against my natural instinct to suck the club inside and around my body.  When I first picked up my first club years ago, my takeaway move was to whip the clubhead back to parallel of the target line before really starting any shoulder rotation.  Needless to say, I was a horrible beginner golfer.  Only later did I begin to see how fanning the club open like that puts you into a nearly impossible to recover position.  Here are some more thoughts from online instructors that I follow with great respect:

Shawn Clement describes the issue of getting arms stuck behind the body perfectly at 1.55:

Monte Scheinblum was a long drive champion and a great instructor.  Here’s his thoughts on keeping everything in front of you to avoid getting stuck and possible consequences:

Mark Crossfield with a simple drill on a way too wristy takeaway that I tried at home:

Some Online Articles

From GolfWRX Forum, a thread on getting stuck and flipping has some great insight from a swingdoc80.

Elbow Room article From GolfTipsMag:

Most amateurs are guilty of hinging the elbow backward, an error that moves the right forearm under the swing plane, eventually trapping it behind the right hip on the forwardswing. 

 2.  Check out these DTL swings

Michelle Wie was in contention and I see how tight her elbow is to her body on a DTL view.  Sometimes on the range, I’ll have a image of the elbow tight to the body and try to mimic this position to keep the club in front of me.  Here are some youtube compliations of various pros- the right elbow is very much in front of the body (and shirt seam) and the hands at the top  are no further out then the right shoulder.

Michelle Wie at 1.29:

Tiger Woods at 0.12 from May 9, 2012:

Zach Johnson at 0.07:

Plan of Attack

I actually worked on this alot since my lesson in February.

This might sound crazy but I started practicing with a swing thought of conking myself straight over my head with the golf shaft.  Of course, when I really swing, the club shaft is comfortably over my right shoulder.  The feeling was too restrictive so I thought about swinging it directly into my right ear.  These moves worked somewhat but is very distracting, making me focus on (not) hitting myself (for real) versus trying to hit targets.

The other thought I had was from Rob- to have the left arm “parallel to the target line” at the top.  In reality, it’s a bit further back but in my mind, it feels like I’ve stopped the swing at 9 o’clock.

I’ve had a chance to take my swing out for 4 rounds now and my iron strikes are still a little messy.  Today, I don’t have any hitting myself on the head or lopping off my own ear swing thought.

Instead, I’ve created something even more unintentionalcomplicated for myself!

Here’s a quick drawing of what’s going on in my head…

Keep it left of the belt line.  Don’t break the laser.  I have much fatter arms in real life.

Okay, this latest swing thought is to keep the entire club in left of my center-line or belt-line while I turn to the right.  So I imagine that I’m not allowed to pull my hands to the right, almost like I have a laser beam down the middle of my chest- and if my hands cross this invisible beam, it’ll set off some type of car-alarm.  Yes, I know it’s a wee bit more complicated, but it seems give my brain the warning it needs.  So now, my takeaway is very much a rotate the back shoulder the the right and fold the right elbow more straight up and down to reach the top.  I haven’t had a chance to film this yet but I’m sure in reality, I do break the center line somewhere in the back swing but I do feel like I’m not so stuck anymore, trying to race my arm/club back out in front of my body on the downswing.

A nice side effect of this thought is that if I “trigger the alarm” in my mind, it usually means I also caught myself with a bad takeaway.   With this, I can sense the handsy swings where I fan the club open on takeaway versus the ones where my I relied on the shoulders to do the turning.

The one item I’m still uncomfortable with is that I don’t feel like I have alot of width on my backswing with this move so I might experiment and let my right elbow separate to make it a little more free-flowing and less robotic when it gets warmer.

Hopefully I can work this out of my system where it becomes an automatic move but for now, one swing thought at a time is enough to keep me busy.



4 thoughts on “Let’s (Not) Get Stuck

  1. Pingback: Winter Lessons Series | The Crunchy Golfer
  2. I admire your ability to absorb all that information overload. I cannot handle that much information on one part of my golf swing. If I may say a few things, not to complicate things for you, I think your problem comes from the idea of “golf swing”.

    When we’re told to swing, we swing with our arms. To me, the golf swing is a little more complicated. It is still a swing, but a swing dictated by two fulcrums, the shoulders and the wrists, connected by a rigid left arm. That means, from takeaway to after impact, the left elbow does not break or hinge or participate in the golf swing.

    Yes, the golf swing is a swing, but not a swing as in like a ball at the end of a rope. It is like three metal bars connected to each other by hinges, like a three-part nunchuck.

    I had a similar problem as yours. To fix this, try this drill.

    Step 1: Take your address, without your club, and cross your arms. Make your takeaway with your arms crossed. You should see the big joint of your left shoulder at the top of your backswing. Here you will feel the tension around your hips.

    Step 2: The next step is to take you address again, without your club, but take your normal grip as if you had a club in your hands. Now without turning your shoulders, meaning that they should remain facing front, bring your two hands to your left with your left arm always straight and stretched. Do not bend the left elbow. Your hands should be somewhere behind your head, about as high as your head. Once you have stretched as far left as you can without turning your shoulders, you should feel tension at your shoulders.

    Now combine both steps, pointing your hands left and turning your shoulders at the same time. When you feel the tension at your hips and shoulders as you felt in the first two steps, that’s the top of your backswing and you may swing down.

    So just a few thoughts: point your hands as far left and up as you can with your left arm stretched and straight, and turn your shoulders. It’s not your hands or arms that’s bringing the clubhead back, it’s the turning of your shoulders.

    You’re pro is right, you have to try to keep your right elbow as close to your body as possible. Think of it this way – the closer your right elbow is to your body, the more stored power you will have once you release the clubhead at the ball.

    Hope this helps. Of course, this is not the complete golf swing, but I think this makes a good takeaway.

    • Hi Manuel,

      A sincere thank you for taking the time to comment and give me some encouragement and advice.
      I have been fighting the instinct to snatch the clubhead back and up with my hands for as long as I can remember.
      If I understand the drill correctly- it’s to rotate the left arm so both thumbs point to the left while letting the shoulders turn to bring the clubhead back? This should make me feel like having the right arm covering (on top of) the left arm on the takeaway?

      If you can believe it, I’m actually quite good about only having one common swing thought throughout a practice session or a round to not freeze myself.
      But I think about the game all the time and replay shots and my lessons during the work week nonstop so I hope you feel welcomed as a guest into my unfiltered and messy head from time to time!

  3. it’s to rotate (it’s not rotate. just lift the left arm to your left, hands together, using your upper arms) the left arm so both thumbs (not thumbs, just the hands. imagine you’re holding a pistol with your hands and trying to shoot something up and left – but while you’re doing this, your head remains facing the ball in front.) point to the left (and up) while letting the shoulders turn to bring the clubhead back? Yes, that’s more or less it. But the clubhead goes back because your wrists are passive hinges rather than the active muscles. The wrists naturally break to support the weight of the clubhead.

    The two sets of active muscles in the backswing are the upper arms lifting the forearms, hands and club, and the torso turning your shoulders to the left. The passive hinges are the wrists and joints in your shoulders.

    This should make me feel like having the right arm covering (on top of) the left arm on the takeaway? I don’t think so. Again, your upper arms bring everything up and left, the turning of your shoulders and hinges of the wrists bring the club around and behind you.

    The simplest theory here is that all parts move together. The muscles that move the backswing are the turning torso and the upper arm muscles, the rest are just there for the ride. You shouldn’t snatch or pick the club up with your hands because they’re supposed to be just passive hinges in the backswing. Again, the wrists break naturally the way they do because they’re supporting a club.

    The moment your left arm is as straight and stretched as far as possible, and your shoulders have turned as much as they could, that’s the top of your backswing. You should feel your torso muscles tense, and you really can’t turn anymore, but that’s the stored power you will need to smack the ball.

    Using the left arm straight drill, experiment with the flying right elbow and the right elbow by your side. You will notice that you have more stored power with the right elbow as close to your side as possible. Again, this is not an intentional motion, it is a natural consequence of efficient stored power. Also, you will notice, it is easier to bring your hands up and left when your right elbow is by your side. Here, muscles tense. With the flying right elbow, it’s not muscles that feel the tension, it’s your spine.

    The problem with pros is sometimes they try to fix the symptom, not the sickness.

    Please note that I haven’t described here the correct forward swing (at least what works for me), and I have some comments about your grip, but I won’t mess things up because we’re just trying to make the correct backswing here.

    I hope this helps. If it doesn’t, I’ll try to send some pictures. I tried to paste some pictures here, it didn’t work. you can give me your email address. mine is theoverswinger@gmail.com.

    oh, and if you didn’t notice in my blog, I have an e-book. I don’t know if that will help. it’s https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/271574.

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