Hitting for consistency

As golfers, our main goal is to become more consistent. Of course, we all want to hit the ball further, but further is not better if we can not make consistent contact and send the ball down the middle of the fairway.

Scott Bergdahl raises his club in order to demonstrate a swing.

Scott Bergdahl raises his club in order to demonstrate a swing.

As golfers, our main goal is to become more consistent.

Of course, we all want to hit the ball further, but further is not better if we can not make consistent contact and send the ball down the middle of the fairway.

Discussing the keys to increased distance is important, but if you can not control the direction the ball travels it is conceivable that the longer you hit the ball the further off line it will go.

Last week’s article discussed eliminating the reverse pivot by ensuring your body rotates rather than moves laterally into the backswing.

As a result, your weight transfers to your back foot rather than your front foot.

Ensuring your body rotates properly gives you a much better chance to make consistent contact with each shot and will send the ball further and straighter than it did before. Most golfers tend to hit the ball with a slice.

A slice is the movement on the ball from left to right (this applies to right-handed golfers . . . right to left movement on the ball for left-handed golfers). To assist you in correcting this ball movement you must first understand the path the club generally takes to create this flight.

There are three paths the club will take. The first is an outside to in, then an inside to out and then finally a down-the-line club path. Ultimately as golfers, we are attempting to swing the club down the line.

By doing so the ball will start towards your target and if your clubface is square at impact the ball will travel straight down the middle of the fairway or to the green.

Most golfers tend to swing outside to in and or as often referred to, over the top. By doing so the ball will be left of target and if the clubface is open (not square) to the path the club is taking, the ball will spin right or slice (this applies to right-handed golfers, the opposite is true for left-handed golfers).

There are many reasons for golfers to hit a slice as the golf swing is made up of many different sequential moves and positions. In this article I will focus on the most common fault that golfers make who slice the ball. This fault is called casting.

Casting is the breakdown of the 90-degree angle between the left arm and the shaft of the club too soon in the downswing. This is generally caused by the right hand (for right-handed golfers) being too tight on the club, therefore pushing the club towards the ball in the downswing rather than pulling the handle down towards the ball.

First of all, we need to discuss grip pressure. Most golfers tend to hold the golf club too tight.

If you start with your hands tight on the handle of the club then in most cases you will not create the proper hinge in the backswing. More importantly, too tight a grip will generally cause a casting motion and as a result the clubface will not be square at impact and the ball will ultimately slice and distance will be affected.

The proper grip pressure is one that will not allow the club to spin in your hands but could easily be pulled out.

Imagine holding a tube of tooth paste with the cap off when trying to understand proper grip pressure.

You want to hold the tube of tooth paste tight enough that it does not fall out of your hands but relaxed enough that you do not squeeze the paste out of it. This grip pressure must be maintained throughout the swing.

The next step is to understand what the club head does in the back and down swings. Understanding this should assist you in eliminating the casting motion.

As we take the club to the top of our backswing, we are attempting to move the club head away from the ball.

Where most golfers make their mistake is that at the start of the downswing they attempt to move that club head back to the ball by pushing with the right hand (for right-handed golfers), therefore causing a casting motion.

At the start of the downswing we want to pull the butt end of the club down towards the ball, therefore lagging the clubhead behind.

It is this concept that most golfers do not understand, and as a result will cause a casting motion.

A drill that you could use to assist in the understanding and feel of the pulling motion in the downswing is one called the overlap drill. Start in your set up position and then take your lower hand (right hand for right-handed golfers) and place it on the left hand. What you have done is essentially made a one-handed grip.

You now will take the club back to the top of your backswing like you would as if you had both hands on the club. Be sure that the club is sitting on your thumbs at the top of your backswing, pointing towards your target. One of the more common mistakes when doing this drill is that players tend to grip the golf club too tightly and do not create the hinge needed to allow the golf club to sit on their thumbs.

From here you swing down through the ball to your finish position.

The overlap drill simulates the pulling motion you need and allows the golf club to release properly through the ball.

In other words, because you do not have your lower hand on the golf club you can not control the club and therefore you can not make the casting motion. When you make a swing with the overlap drill the golf club will travel faster and you may feel it will come out of your hands. This is the way it is supposed to feel and is normal.

Doing this with a relaxed grip pressure and swinging to your full finish position will assist the club to travel down the line better (not over the top) and will send the ball towards your target with less slice.

Scott Bergdahl is the head professional at Lakewood Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake. His column appears Tuesdays in the Advocate.

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