In this article, you will be introduced to a few concepts that WILL help you develop your golf game and shave strokes off your handicap. Just as important, we explain WHERE to practice and who to contact for help!
When I started playing golf back in the early 1990’s, I was admittedly a hack. Golf was more about drinking beer with friends and the fun that goes along with making it to the 19th hole.
By the mid 1990’s I started to take golf MUCH more serious and desperately wanted to improve my game. The problem was (is) that I am athletic, tall (6’3) and lanky (~200 lbs) – NOTE: I am not so lanky anymore. Being tall, lanky, and athletic I had a HUGE (long) swing which led to all kinds of control problems, including the dreaded slice!
By the late 1990’s, I was now serious about golf. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours at the range with a couple lessons mixed in (thank you John Shaeffer from Lancaster, PA).
I WAS that guy at the golf course with a stack of magazines. I was that guy with all kinds of crazy “things” laid out on the driving mat, attempting to dissect and reconstruct my swing from scratch.
My progression from hacker to (hopefully) respectability suddenly hit a dead end, as I developed a SHANK – GRRR – first a slice, now “the shanks”.
If you have ever developed a case of the shanks, it’s perhaps the single most frustrating thing that can happen to your golf game.
My case of the shanks got SO BAD and I was SO FRUSTRATED, that I quit playing golf in the year 2000.
After 14 years of NOT playing golf, a neighbor asked me to go play, so I graciously accepted. I actually hit some nice shots but, predictably, my short game was AWFUL. Short games can be fixed with practice, but I hit the ball so surprisingly well that I decided to take golf serious again!
What did we have in 2014 that we did NOT have in 2000? YOUTUBE!
That night after my first round of golf in 14 years, I stayed up ALL night watch golf training videos on YouTube. I learned more in 8 hours of YouTube golf instruction in one night in 2014, than I did for the whole of the 1990’s (not an exaggeration).
QUESTION: What did I learn in 8 hours of YouTube in 2014 that I did not learn in the whole decade of the 1990’s?
ANSWER: Three things; #1) Club face position at impact, #2) Ball spin, and #3) MOST IMPORTANT – SWING PLANE!
If you are an aspiring golfer or someone that simply wants to improve their game, the single most important factor in straightening out your golf shot and ball trajectory is SWING PLANE.
A slice is caused by SPIN! For a right-handed golfer, it’s clockwise ball spin and for a left-handed golfer it’s counter-clockwise spin.
NEXT QUESTION: What causes slice ball spin on a golf ball? ANSWER: An open club face at impact when the the club meets the ball!
NEXT QUESTION: How to solve the problem of an open club face at impact? ANSWER: Please note, I am NOT a golf pro – BUT – I solved my slice problem by focusing on two important swing factors; #1) GRIP and #2) SWING PLANE. Keep reading below for my description of these solutions.
When I started golfing, my father (who was a VERY good golfer) was my first teacher, he was meticulous in everything he did – INCLUDING GOLF.
The first lesson my father gave me was; #1) ball approach and #2) club grip. To this day, I can hear my father teaching me to “have a strong grip, which will help you have a nice draw.” As a result of this, I was programmed to use a strong grip, in which to this day I maintain a neutral-to-strong grip.
It turns out my original ultra strong grip led to some inconsistencies in my swing AND not allowing me to have a “repeatable” results. After my 2014 YouTube session, I loosened up my grip so it’s more “neutral-strong” than “ultra strong.”
The video below is a great tutorial for beginners and intermediates to learn about grip.
Swing plane, for me, was the single most important factor in producing a consistent and reliable swing. The conversation of swing plane is difficult and in many cases counter-intuitive. The concept of swing plane is VERY difficult to understand in writing, but MUCH easier to understand in person – OR BETTER YET, VIDEO (enter YouTube).
The above picture depicts the three primary type of SWING PLANES a golfer has; #1) Inside-Out, #2) Inside-Square and #3) Outside-In.
IMPORTANT: Have YOU or anyone YOU GOLF WITH had a HUGE slice – AND – to compensate for that slice you align yourself your swing TO THE LEFT OF TARGET (for a right hander, or right of target for a left hander)?
On paper and intuitively, it makes sense. If your ball is always “slicing” from left-to-right, then of course you would align yourself to the left of target? THIS WAS FOR ME THE #1 PROBLEM WITH MY SLICE! Aligning yourself and your swing to compensate for a slice ONLY makes the problem worse! The compensating alignment promotes and exacerbates an Outside-In swing AND/OR counterclockwise spin on the ball.
If you look carefully in the picture above at the first one, Inside Out, you will notice one important thing. That important thing is – the club face is striking the ball with what appears to be AN OPEN CLUB FACE – BUT – because of the inside-out swing plane the face is meeting the ball SQUARE! The net result (for me at least) is that with a slightly open face with an inside out swing, THE BALL SPIN WILL BE CLOCKWISE, which in turn will make the ball “draw” (slight right to left movement.)
Since that 8 hour YouTube session in 2014 when I took up golf again, I became laser focused on swing plane. The results are that I no longer slice the ball. While other issues creep into my golf game once in a while, those issues can easily be resolved because I have more control over the ball with the combination of grip and swing plane.
Below is a video from 2016 while I was in Florida practicing my swing at The Suncoast Golf Center in Sarasota. In this video you can clear see my commitment and focus on swing plane.
Throughout this article, we mentioned club face alignment at impact, ball spin, and swing path. These are more-or-less abstract concepts, difficult to visualize UNLESS you are actually doing them, UNLESS you are actually practicing them.
Here is a nice video I found that addresses swing plane. This video I find especially helpful because it addresses that fact that every person is different and every swing is different, yet provides some great tips for addressing YOUR swing plane.
QUESTION: The next thing we need to address is WHERE can you go to practice and, more importantly, analyze your swing?
ANSWER: The Factory in Westland! I have known Rich Sherwood, the owner, since our childhood. Recently, Rich invited me to visit The Factory – AND – I was hooked! It’s the PERFECT place to practice your golf game, it’s;
There is also a golf pro available at The Factory, Willie Pewitt Golf Academy. I spent an entire Saturday at The Factory and learned a lot from Willie. I also watched and got to hang out with Willie and a few of his students. One student in particular had a gleam in his eye as he walked away from his session with a confidence in his golf game that he never previously had in ~ 20 years of golfing.
The Factory’s golf simulator has features built in that evaluated and analyzed my swing, including launch angle, ball spin, club face position and many other “goodies.” The MOST important thing I learned in the simulator and from Willie is the type of ball I should be using to optimize my swing and golf game.
Please stay tuned, I will be writing additional “Amateur Golf Hacks” to improve your game – AND – if you are in the Westland area, and want to shoot a game on a world class golf course at The Factory Golf simulator, give me a call – I am a sucker for a challenging round of golf with good company!