Keep your head down. You are lifting your head. Keep your eyes on the ball.
If you have played a little or a lot of golf I can guarantee that you have heard all three of these phrases — catch phrases that describe and to some degree explain what you need to do to ensure that you hit the golf ball with consistency.
It is true that in many cases golfers tend to lift their head. This is what the golf instructors refer to as vertical management. It is extremely important that you maintain the height that you started with until after you have made contact with the ball. Once contact has been made the momentum that you have created will pull you up to your natural height (if you swing in a relaxed fashion) into your finish position.
The truth of the matter is that those catch phrases that golfers tend to throw out (although true in some cases) can be very damaging to the golfer it is being used on. For example, if a golfer is in fact lifting his/her head (this happens primarily in the backswing) then he/she will generally make inconsistent contact with the ball. Inconsistent contact with the ball can cause many different results such as a loss of distance, topping or thinning the ball, poor direction etc. The bottom line is that lifting your head will cause poor contact therefore create frustration.
Golfers being the insightful, caring and helpful people that they are will tend to offer assistance in any way that they can. This assistance generally comes with an overview of what they notice you are doing wrong during the swing. In most cases (based on feedback by my students) this offering comes in the form of “you are lifting your head”!
The natural tendency of all golfers when they are told that they are lifting their head is to ensure that their head does not lift. Therefore, when they set up to their ball they naturally tilt their head down attempting to ensure their head does not lift. Tilting your head down at the address position seems logical as starting with your head down will ensure that it does not lift throughout the swing.
Although in theory correct, setting up in this position will actually cause you to lift your head. The problem with this is when you start with your head down at the address position you lose the clearance or space between your chin and your chest. This is important as you need space under your chin for your right shoulder (for left-handed golfers, opposite it true for right-handed golfers) to make a full shoulder turn into your backswing.
If you have no space for your shoulder to move under your chin in the backswing then you will lift (raising your head). In many cases, if you lift your head, your eyes tend to lose sight of the ball. The end result of keeping your head down will be even more inconsistent contact. therefore possibly causing you more frustration than before.
In previous articles, I have discussed the swing motion in both the backswing and the downswing. When talking about the swing motion, I am referring to the function of the body. The fact is that the body simply rotates in the back and through swing. It is true that there has to be weight transfer to your back foot and then your front foot during the swing, but it is how you transfer this weight that determines whether you move laterally or rotationally.
The bottom line is that the function of your hips during the golf swing is to rotate. If your hips do not rotate during the backswing then you cause a swing flaw that is called a hip sway (the lateral motion of your hips). If your hips do not rotate in the downswing then you cause a swing flaw that is called the hip slide (a lateral motion of your leading hip towards the target).
Lateral movement rather than rotational movement of the hips in the downswing will also cause what is referred too as ‘early extension’. Early extension is essentially the straightening of the back in the downswing or is often referred to as ‘lifting your head’.
This happens when the hips do not rotate in the downswing and therefore moves towards the ball. This creates all sorts of contact issues but the end result will be inconsistent contact with a loss of power and direction.
There are many reasons why early extension may happen. Assessing the swing flaw is the first step, understanding the cause of the swing flaw is how we go about repairing it and ultimately ensuring your body rotates properly though impact. In some cases it may simply be knowledge or a lack thereof.
Many golfers pick up the golf clubs and begin swinging the best way they know how. We tend to simulate a motion that we see on television or by watching our friends and family. Regardless of whether you have had formal training or not, if you are not getting the results that you desire then it may be time to consult your local golf professional for assistance.
Your teaching professional is trained to develop your golf swing so that your body works as efficiently as possible. We are also trained to determine your body’s limitations to specific physical movements. If your body does not move in a specific way it is up to your teaching professional to determine whether it is knowledge, practice or a physical limitation that will not allow you to make the efficient movement required to send the ball in the correct direction.
If you have the desire to play better golf and would like to get more out of your game then be sure to consult your local CPGA golf professional. Play well and have a great week on the Links.
Scott Bergdahl is the head professional at Lakewood Golf Resort