It’s amazing how powerful images are and their effect on how we behave in golf. I’m talking about perceptions of the swing, not good or poor behaviour on the course!
As golfers we are striking a stationary ball with the objective of propelling it down the fairway; ideally straight and through the air. This thought of making it become airborne and moving forward can easily create the visual impression of applying force to the ball in a forward direction or of trying to make the club somehow get ’under the ball’ to life it into the air. In fact this is the friendly advice offered to thousands of golfers by well-meaning friends and offered in self-talk by the golfers themselves.
The thought of directing the force through the ball is most likely to lead to one of the most common errors I see in golf; letting the shaft pass being in-line with the left arm at impact. When the shaft passes the left arm it makes striking the ball with a descending blow nearly impossible.
The shaft needs to trail the left arm until impact (or even just beyond impact). This will ensure the ball is struck with a descending blow and with power. Oddly, it doesn’t require great strength to achieve this.
In the swing sequence below, I am swinging a piece of rope. There are two things which stand out from looking at this sequence. First, the rope is straight for most of the downswing. Second, the rope is trailing my left arm until just after impact.
The reason the rope is straight is that the free end of the rope is constantly pulling away from me. This means that at impact the rope is pulling toward the ball and the ground; the force is going outwards, not toward the target.
Because the rope is pulling away from me as my arms are swinging down to impact, the rope trails (or lags behind) my left arm. Provided my hands are passive during the swing; in other words, never seeking to ‘throw’ the clubhead to the ball or target, I will be able to achieve this lag.
Achieving this lag seems to be one of the secrets that the pros are able to achieve, however it seems elusive to almost everyone else. Most of the reason for this is because there is a deliberate attempt to manipulate the club with the hands to gain power or accuracy, or both. Ironically, deliberate hand action can rob the golfer of both power and accuracy and certainly take away consistency of ball striking quality.
The key to achieving a swing where you are able to strike the ball with a slight descending blow, is allowing the club to lag behind your hands and left arm until impact. The secret: allow your wrists to act as loose hinges during the swing with zero attempt to ‘use’ your hands during the swing.
Swinging the club correctly like this will immediately feel as though you have given up control of the swinging club…a will feel quite strange. It is this giving up of control which will ultimately lead to you having great control of your ball flight.
Do this and you will achieve consistent quality with your ball striking.