As a golfer in Canada, one of the self-imposed statutes is that we have to try to squeeze as many “last rounds” in as possible around Thanksgiving because it it will inevitably snow, and you’re going to regret watching football or hockey on the coach instead of making that one last putt/hitting that one last bomb/striping that one last iron.
This season was a bit of a struggle for me. My short game improved and my driver fairway hits also improved but I was clueless between tee to green. Mid-season, my concerns about lost distance was real as I was starting to go 2 clubs up from my previous season and hitting 6 irons into 145y. Distance is one thing, but I also lost all confidence in directional control as well. Everything was a weak push or fade to the right or massive pull hook to the left. Late in August, I was really struggling to just break 100 and started going through a series of rounds fighting not only the lost distance, the lack of directional control, but also the dreaded hosel rocket.
Back in May
Here I am back in May. I noted then that I had some reverse tilt towards the target at the top of my swing, and there’s too much slide causing my hands to be trailing too far behind me at impact compared to how open my body is already. I was actually scoring well in May and June but my irons were a total mess in the summer months after that.
July to September
By July, what were small problems was starting to get more difficult to ignore. My approach shots, if not skulled thinned, it was either missing on the right with a push or else going way left with a hook. If I’m in the bunker, oh forget it, I would skull it and never got up and down. My wedges eventually started to hosel rocket on my by late August and early September. Nothing will shake your confidence as much as s—-kng the same 54* wedge 3 times from 45 yards out from the green.
My golfing buddy looked at my swing and suggested that I’m really flipping at the ball and coming in way too around and shallow. He took a video to prove it to me and he’s right, I can see my clubface opening up towards the sky almost immediately after impact. I was also way too “around” and shallow where my left arm was below my shoulder line at the top of the swing. He said “try to hit down through the ball, and go much more vertical on the back-swing.” Doing these two simple things actually helped alot. I finally found a little zip back that had been missing in action for 1/2 season so far. I think I went back to the range 4 times x2 buckets that week trying to ingrain this change back into my swing.
By September, the s—k1ng started becoming more regular. It was close to a guarantee with my once trusted 54* or 48* all the way up to an occasional 8 iron. I was at the range with my wife and would hosel rocket 4/5 wedge shots. Or when I finally got it going to the target and thinking “okay, I got it out of my system”, it’ll show up again the very next shot. Argh! Well, she filmed me with her phone and I immediately picked out the problem. I was standing too close. I fact, I can see on video that I back up out of my spine angle and stand up and “backing up” my head away from the ball to give myself enough room to try to hit the ball.
And I have a good idea how this crept into my swing- I’ve been using this item on the range on occasion to feel connected and remove some of my excessive arm motion and reverse tilt out of my swing:
I got it from Amazon here:
Yes, I know I looked ridiculous on the range, but it doesn’t matter- anything to improve! To be honest, I felt I was hitting the ball stronger and longer with it on but it created new problems- the problems I created for myself were directly from over-doing a good thing here. With the training device, your swing feels really restricted. As well, I feel like my arms are sitting directly on my upper chest. This actually pulled my arms too close into my body, with my arms hanging inwards towards my belt buckle instead of hanging straight down and I had to stand closer to address the ball. About a hand width closer, but that was the perfect setup for disaster. The other issue was that you really have to rotate to get any length in the swing because your arms are so close together. So that’s probably what created my more shallow than ever swing that is too around versus up and down. If you have an arm powered “muscle” it out kind of swing, I can see this device being very helpful to shorten your back swing and to help you use your body pivot more. If you have a fairly short, compact swing, be careful with this because it does it’s job very quickly, and I had quickly ingrained a “short” swing feeling that introduced the other issues.
September and October
Okay, so after months of turmoil, the fix was actually fairly simple:
1. Stand far enough away!
I honestly could not tell how close I was crowding the ball. I originally tried to put weight on my heels thinking I was tipping forward. I also tried putting a tee outside the ball to not throw my hands outwards but none of that helped because fundamentally, I was standing just way too close.
Video of yourself is probably the best thing way to see it and believe you’re standing too close. On video, besides the heels strikes at impact, it’s easy to look for for where my head and hands where at address versus impact to confirm the problem. I tried to move back this first just by looking down and trying to judge where my hands are relative to my shoes. I wanted my hands to be outside my shoes but that didn’t really check out properly in the mirror.
After some experimentation, I found what I could do was lock my left arm and line up the clubface closer to the toeside off of center, and then take a shuffle step back on my feet and take my normal address and everything would be nicely centered. It felt really awkward at first to be so “far” away so I had to learn to be comfortable more bent over. From there, I looked for constants that I can use as a simple test- which I discovered to be putting a right hand “thumbs up” between my belt buckle and the grip end will pretty much ensure I was standing far enough away.
2. Don’t twist the club open.
I fixed my push simply but not rolling my hands. This is a difficult habit to break but it’s do-able with some mirror work. Instead of having the toe point to the sky, I try to have the leading edge close to parallel to my spine angle when the club is parallel to the ground on the backswing. I learned this from Martin Hall a couple seasons ago- on the takeaway, feel as if your back right arm is “covering” and always above your front left arm as you start your backswing. That thought really prevents the “fanning”, “twisting” or “rolling open” of the clubface that I’ve fought since I started this game. From what I can see today, the clubface angle is not exactly the same as my spine angle yet, but at least it doesn’t point straight up (or even worst, wide open pointing past 90* behind me during mid-season).
3. Hit down.
This is easier said than done. I’ve been flipping the club so long that I still have to remind myself. I try to visualize coming down through the ball in a very vertical plane. I sometimes visualize that my handle is leaning in front of the ball at impact. The most vivid image I use is to have the clubface hooded at impact as oppose to pointing the sky that I saw in the video. And I try to ingrain this by taking a couple slow swings in front of the mirror everyday.
As a result, I’m finally getting some ball compression, distance, and consistency back. That lovely feeling I had last year with my irons, where the ball zips and rockets straight out in a powerful piercing trajectory is an amazing endorphine pumping feeling that’s almost an addiction I believe all golfers seek out. I started hitting a lot more greens in my last few rounds and getting some confidence back again. With confidence, I can mentally understand a certain club will for sure carry a known distance and don’t try to overswing or go for the fences- the compact relaxed shots are the best ones and also provides better feedback to more confidence. With the harder fairways on the cold grounds in the fall, I’m actually starting to overshoot greens and beginning to go back to a 54* as my stock 100Y shot instead of the 48* or PW I’ve been using earlier in the season! I can finally breathe as I even birdied a 145y slight uphill par 3 with an 8i during my last round this year instead of missing completely with a 6i early in the season.
But alas, golf in Canada must come to an end around this time. Here’s a video from one of the last weekend of playable weather here at practice- I found out that my pushcart’s cup holder can hold my phone fairly steady in the wind. Although I never consciously tried to fix my original problem in May of reverse tilt and being too flippy, I think there’s an overall improvement and am a happy golfer with the small adjustments to my swing cumulating in big changes in my confidence and game!
Here are some some videos and comparisons. Hopefully I can keep this up throughout the winter and be ready again for next season!
2013 versus 2014
I kind of learned to hit the draw by greatly exaggerating the “bump” in the “bump and turn” of the downswing, but again, over-did it to a point where I’m almost lunging forward and then having my hands caught behind my body. When perfectly timed, a small flip in the hands produced a perfect draw with good distance. However, my misses were nasty pull/snap hooks or big pushes and it was ugly!
May 2014 versus Oct 2014
Below was early in May (from the first video above) where I had very weak iron shots. My winter coach really wanted my arms in front of my chest and and not so behind so I think progress was already being made here compared to the screenshot above.
Sept 2014 vs Oct 2014
Below is from September where I was seeing the club face facing the skyward at impact – I seemed to have reverted back to the old ways again of trailing my arms way behind my body again, almost outside of my right hip here!
Finally, the right hand side was from a couple weeks ago- somehow, by focusing more on fundamentals, my body is not so opened anymore, my hands are much more forward than before, and I can really feel what a better shot feel like again!