With the September long weekend quickly approaching, the end of the golf season is sadly within view. Although we still have at least one and a half months of good golfing days left, the cool morning and evenings remind us that the season is changing.
As grade school begins, family interests and priorities seem to change, therefore for many golfers their clubs are relegated to a corner in the garage come September. The days are shorter, the leaves are turning color and, of course, the weather has to cooperate for us to even have a chance to get out on the Links. I am not sure about you, but I am not ready to hang up the sticks quite yet.
This of course leads me to my next question. Is it too late in the golf season to take lessons and continue working on your swing? This exact question was asked of me over the weekend and of course got me thinking. At what point do we just go out and enjoy what the day brings rather than continue to work on certain aspects of our golf game and ultimately our swings? Will I forget everything that I have worked so hard to change, therefore starting over next season? After all, it is a long winter.
There is some truth to the fact that not swinging a club all winter long will lead to a little rust as we get back on the golf course next spring. This is guaranteed to happen whether we are taking lessons or not. There is always an element when we get back on to the golf course of being rusty or inconsistent until the muscle memory that you had before starts to kick in.
The whole idea of taking golf lessons is to educate yourself as to the proper technique and then begin to add components to your swing that make you more efficient. Most players have great aspects to their golf swing, therefore a golf professional’s job is to introduce the components necessary to make your body — and therefore golf swing — more efficient.
Ultimately, if done correctly, the player will begin to hit the ball further, straighter and with more consistency. The bottom line is that you are working towards achieving your goals through receiving instruction. Once you achieve those goals you set new goals and work towards achieving those and so on.
This then takes us right back to the question of, is the end of the golf season (September) the correct time to take lessons? As I see it, as long as the changes you need to make to improve your swing are not major changes, then it is fine to take golf lessons at the end of the season. In most cases, a player will see and/or notice an improvement right away. The challenge will be to take that information that you just learned and put it into practice.
This is generally where players have some difficulty because we do not tend to hit the number of practice balls necessary to make the changes to our swing quickly. The swing becomes natural when you no longer have to think about it. This is what we refer to as muscle memory. If you have repeated the swing change enough times properly you never have to consciously think about it, therefore it becomes a natural part of your golf swing. In the next few paragraphs I shall talk about over-rotation in the backswing and a few of the likely causes of over-rotation. A few of these include straightening your trail leg (right leg for right-handed golfers), standing or lifting up and bending the target arm (left arm for right-handed golfers).
The first step is to explain what an over-rotation is. Over-rotation is when the golf club is past parallel (at the top of the back swing the club should be parallel to the ground, pointing towards your target), and therefore pointing towards the ground when you are at the top of your backswing. The best example of this is John Daly. If you have ever watched him hit the ball you will see that he wraps the club so far around him at the top of the swing that it points down to his feet. This seems to work for him, but in most cases will cause inconsistent ball contact.
A perfect ‘book’` backswing is one that has your shoulders turning approximately 90 degrees away from your address position, with your hips turned half as much (approximately 45 degrees). You will have maintained the flex of your right leg (which assists in creating load within your muscles), your target arm (left arm for right-handed golfers) is straight and the golf club is above your shoulder, parallel to the ground pointing towards your target.
The first flaw to over-rotation is the straightening of your trail leg (back leg) in your backswing. Maintaining the flex of your trail leg in the backswing is an important component to creating power and consistency. Straightening the back leg allows you to lose torque throughout your body, creating a loss of power, but most importantly allows you to rotate further than you could by maintaining its flex.
The next common flaw to over-rotation in the backswing is the lifting up of the upper body. Most people will recognize this as lifting your head. At the address position we start bent over. Bending over is important as we have to allow our arms to hang from our shoulder. This can only be done properly if we have a bend in our waist. A properly executed backswing would have you turning to the backswing maintaining the flex or bend in your upper body that you started with. In other words, do not lift the head.
The body is a funny thing as it will take the path of least resistance. What this means is that when you take the club back into your backswing, the body will quite often naturally want to lift up as there is less strain on the muscles or your back in an upright position. This is particularly noticeable for people that have lower back problems or pain. The bottom line is if you stand up or rise in the backswing, your body now has a larger range of motion, therefore it is easier to over-rotate.
Finally, and likely the most common cause of an over-rotation for most players, is the bending of the target arm (left arm for right-handed golfers) in the back swing. In your address position you want to start with your target arm straight. As you turn to the top of the backswing the target arm needs to remain straight. In most cases, golfers tend to bend their target arm, causing the club to go past parallel and creating inconsistent contact with the ball.
One of the main causes of bending the target arm is grip pressure. Gripping the golf club too tight causes you to create hinge by bending the target arm. In the backswing we need to create hinge in the wrists (proper hinge will be 90 degrees between your target arm and the shaft of the club at the top of your backswing) and this cannot be done if you have squeezed the club too tightly.
Awareness is the first step to making any change in the golf swing. If you are not aware that you have a swing flaw then you will never make the change. If you are inconsistent in your ball contact and are interested in making changes to improve your swing, consult your local CPGA professional for his/her assistance. Play well and have a great week.
Scott Bergdahl is the teaching pro at Lakewood Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake