Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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Hi T.J.,In the last two months I have been working to pick up golf again. I managed to cut down my handicap from roughly 28 to 18, but my swing is pretty inconsistent. When I am not playing well, I tend to shank, dig and come over the top. Can you give me some advice on my swing? Gary W., Moscow, Idaho

Hello Gary,
Your swing is very close to being single-digit quality (assuming your short game is decent), but your diagnosis is correct. Like many players, you start the downswing by spinning your shoulders and this pushes your hands out toward the target line. Pause your swing video where you start down and you can see that your front arm is across the high part of your chest and the shaft is so steep (that is, perpendicular to the ground) that viewed from behind it looks like it’s across your neck. From this position, any attempt to turn through the ball forces your hands farther away from your body and you risk making contact near the neck.  When your front arm is parallel to the ground, the shaft should be just below your shoulder, bisecting your upper arm. Here's what to do to get the feeling, and you can practice it indoors.
First, set up a mirror behind you (facing the target line) and make a practice swing. Swing to the top and stop, then look back into the mirror moving only your head. Next drop the club to when your front-arm is parallel to the ground and make sure the shaft bisects your right arm. Complete your swing by simply turning through the ball -- then do it all again nine more times.
Next, instead of stopping at the top, swing from your setup to the point in your downswing where your front arm is parallel to the ground and stop. Pose in this position while you rotate your head to see how close you are to the correct position. Do this a bunch of times until you get it exactly.
Now comes the fun part: Tape a half-full plastic water bottle to the neck of the club. [See photos below.] You're not going to hit a ball or make a full power golf swing, but if you pose the positions I just described you'll feel the weight of the clubhead in the correct pose and the club will feel very light in the incorrect, vertical pose. This is a great drill to practice during that long winter in Idaho and by springtime "feel" and "real" should be the same. Waterbottle1 In this vertical position, the club's weight is supported by the pedestal of your hands, so it feels very light. From here you'll have to drop the bottle behind you to make solid contact. That's a compensation that's tough to time. Waterbottle2 From here the club feels heavy in a nice, powerful way. All you have to do is keep rotating with no excess moves. Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA
professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You
can learn more about T.J. at www.tjtomasi.com

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