5 swing mistakes recreational golfers make that pro golfers don’t
Editor’s Note: Baden Schaff has been a PGA teaching professional for 17 years and is the co-founder of Skillest, a digital platform that connects golf students with golf coaches across the world for online lessons. To learn more about Skillest and to book a lesson of your own with Baden or with Andreas Kali, head over to Skillest.com or download the app in the app store.
We’ve just had one of the great events on the PGA Tour, the AT&T at Pebble Beach. I love this event not just for the golf course, but also because we get to see recreational golfers play with the best in the world. I’m intrigued by the variations in golf swings and the contrast between how easy the good players make it look and how hard the average players make the game seem. As the telecast moved from player to player, I was struck by one thing in particular: That you can spot the amateurs before they even start to swing. Their setup gives it away. So here are five things you should watch out for as you address the ball that might be a “tell” you’re not one of the best players in the world.
1. Your knees are too bent at address
Bending your knees excessively at address is a golf swing killer. “Sit down on the bar stool” was a traditional piece of advice that we have all had at some stage but it has absolutely no place in either modern instruction or your set up position. Bending your knees a lot feels like it gives you balance but all it does is get you on your heels, flatten your hips and straighten your spine. Consequently it is almost impossible to get over the ball with your top half making it difficult to hit make good contact. If you top the ball a lot this should be one of your check points, straighten those knees!
2. Straight arms at address
A tip that has been perhaps the most pervasive in golf instruction is “Keep your left arm straight” Unfortunately most students have taken this piece of advice to the extreme. They lock both arms and extend them straight down. This can feel like the right thing to do as the rigidity of your arms gives you a sense of control. But it inevitably creates excessive wrist action and prevents your body from moving freely. Ours is the only game where we are taught to keep our arms straight, Baseball? Boxing? Tennis? Swimming? Running? Skiiing? There is no other activity that encourages it. It’s weak and not how are bodies are designed to work. Good players let like their arms hang softly from their body. Yours should too.
3. Shoulders rolled forward
This is very much a consequence of the above issue. When we try to keep our arms straight it pulls our shoulders forward in our body. They internally rotate and give you a look as though you have no neck. This may seem innocuous but it makes your take away almost impossible. As in any throwing motion your right arm needs to rotate externally to generate a lot of force. If you are struggling to hit it hard it could be because the way your shoulders sit at set up. Relax your arms and let your shoulders sit back in your body.
4. Excessively strong grip
We’ve all played with that golfer whose right hand sits so far under the club that it looks more like a claw than a golf grip. These golfers have a very limited range of shots. They struggle in bunkers, can’t hit high shots around the green and really struggle to hit any club that doesn’t have much loft on it (like a driver or fairway woods). This is because they have to shut the club from that initial wrist position. If you are one of those golfers make the change as soon as you can. Your repertoire of shots will expand drastically.
5. Head buried in your chest
Keeping your head down is an age old piece of advice especially if we are prone to topping the golf ball. Unfortunately, when most golfers try to apply this piece of advice they try to do it at the start, during and into the follow through. Good players are not trying to keep their head down, Their chins sit high and out of their chest. This allows the body to turn more on both the takeaway and the follow through. I will often get students to look at the roof as they hit balls. This allows them to turn more in the right direction and provides the space into which your arms swing through impact.
These are just a few tell tale signs to what your handicap might be before you even start taking the club away. The exciting aspect of all of these issues is that they all occur before you add any sort of motion or movement. They don’t require you to sequence your turn, your spinning hips or your arm drop. They are all static positions so you should and have to get it right if you want to look like a pro.
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