A Great Swing Thought Becomes Permanent

“I found something,” is the vernacular muttered by everyone who’s ever played golf.  The phrase is associated with a swing thought or key that allows for an elevated level of play over a certain period of time.  What if you could make that permanent?   God, that would be awesome. 

I think I have, and latched onto a couple keys to help eliminate my big miss (pull hook), and it’s been working for the better part of three months.  Here’s what happened. 

Usually, a swing thought is temporary.  Many last for a single round and are termed WOOD band-aids (works only one day).  Mine came in parts and were delivered separately.  I found the first half in late February on the last day of a golf trip to Myrtle Beach.  I had been struggling with ball striking the first four days and while warming up for my last round decided to try and get more comfortable at address.  I simply flexed my knees a bit more and set my weight a little towards my heels.  Suddenly, I started to feel more in balance and began hitting it solid.  What happened was that my weight had been shaded too far towards my toes and had been restricting my lower body movement.  With the weight back, my legs and back could re-engage and allow me to pivot, making a more athletic move.  In actuality, I’m probably more balanced between the front and back of my feet, but I feel a heckuva lot more stable at address.  This part has been very easy to implement because it’s pre-shot.   

To eliminate the pull hook, I had to stop initiating my downswing with my arms (pull) and flipping the club with my hands through the hitting zone (hook).  In my experience, you can only work with a maximum of two swing keys per swing (one going back and one coming through).  Any more will create an over-reliance on mechanics. 

The reason players start downswings with their arms is to try and generate power that is not stored.  My solve was to store more power with a more complete backswing – pretty simple.  The thought is to turn my left shoulder behind the ball on every shot and hold the position for a count of three.  The turn completes my power build up and the hold prevents a throw with my arms.

On the downswing my only thought is to pull my shoulders hard and into a 45 degree open position when I make the strike.  This is vital to eliminate the flip because the hands become passive while trailing the shoulders and arms. 

I’ve been using these keys for three months and I still need to consciously think about them, but they are becoming second nature.  When things go well, I compress the ball nicely and it either flies straight or with a baby draw.  I’ve also discovered it’s easier to hit a controlled hook or fade by just varying my stance into an open or closed position and focusing hard on keeping my weight back.  There are lots of positives.  When things go awry, it’s usually because I’m not completing the backswing or not holding my count long enough.    

One caveat:  these are designed to take the left side of the golf course out of play for right-handed players.  Sometimes when I over execute the downswing shoulder pull, I push the ball which is how I want to miss it.  If your stock miss is to the right, try something else.

Play well and let me know how it goes if you try these!     

Do You Tinker With Your Swing?

Ten years ago I wrote this post about the urge to tinker with my game.  Today I’m fighting the same urge after a good round yesterday at The Links of Gettysburg.  Tinkering usually happens when we’re playing well because we get the feeling that we can perfect a certain aspect of our game that would make things so much better.  Do we golfers ever learn?    

Try this quick mental exercise.  Who has the best swing on tour in terms of athleticism and technique?  Rory McIlroy gets my vote.  Why would he ever tinker with anything.  In 2011 he crushed the field in the U.S. Open at Congressional.  In 2012, he was the #1 player in the world, however he tinkered by abruptly switching equipment from Titleist to Nike.  I remember thinking, “What the hell is he doing?”  Predictably, the wheels came off and culminated in his on-course withdrawl at the 2013 Honda Classic.  He was defending champion and was hacking terribly and blamed it on a tooth ache, but we knew the real story.  Fast forward to March of 2021 where Rory was at it again.  This time tinkering with his swing in an attempt to copy the move of Bryson DeChambeau.  He twisted himself into a swing pretzel and was in a bad place for a while.

Rory The Tinkerer. Photo courtesy of The Golf Channel

Be on the lookout for tinkering temptations.  I have an affinity for Martin Hall on Golf Channel’s School of Golf.  Love the guy and he’s a very knowledgeable instructor and entertaining personality, but it seems he has three drills he wants you to try on every episode.  Imagine if you tried them all.  That would be hyper-tinkering.

Martin Hall – Master Tinkerer. Photo courtesy of NBC Sports

What happened to me?  On March 5, I reviewed a curation of lesson feedback from three years of sessions with my instructor.  A recurring drill emerged as we tried to get me to eliminate the pulled shot and effectively take the left side of the golf course out of play.  I put that drill into play and have struck the ball well ever since.  What’s different now is that I’m playing and practicing LESS, but am maintaining my good form.  Clearly this is no WOOD band-aid.  But a couple days ago, I reviewed a swing video my son took of me hitting some wedges in my back yard and didn’t like something in my takeaway.  Bang!  The urge to tinker!  I resisted because the last time I got in tinkering trouble was after watching swing video. 

Rory has started working with sports psychologist, Bob Rotella.  Good move to focus on the mental game and let his natural talent flow.  As for me, no tinkering so far, and I will continue the same simple swing keys that have yielded early season returns.

Are you tinkering?  Hope not but play well even if you do!