A few years ago, I was invited to play the Tobey golf tournament (a tournament for professionals helping dentists). The problem was: the tournament was the very next day. I had never played golf before. I said ‘yes’ and thought to myself: how bad could it be? I went to Golf town and bought some golf attire. I went to my dad’s place and picked up his retirement clubs (Wilson steel shaft clubs – brutal and unforgiving!). I then watched some Youtube videos on how to play Golf. Boy, was I in over my head. The next day, they paired me with the best golfers in the tournament – a bunch of salesreps from Patterson.
Suffice to say: I did not have an enjoyable experience. I made physical contact with the golf ball two (2) times. Yup. Brutal. I hated golf that day. But I hated sucking at golf even more. So I was determined to get better. Real fast. I took lessons, bought the proper gear and golfed as much as I possible could. I’ve had 4 instructors over the years and here’s what I’ve learned:
1. The Ball Gets In The Way Of Your Swing
It’s not about hitting the ball at all. Pretend as though the ball isn’t there. It’s just about having a damn good looking swing (with all the proper mechanics) and letting the ball get in the way. If you keep trying to hit or help the ball, you’re going to screw things up. Focus on your swing.
2. Focus on a Dimple
When you’re looking down at the ball, focus on a dimple. Don’t look or think about anything else. Even when you swing through, keep your head down and keep staring at that dimple. Then, after you’ve made physical contact with the ball, and your right shoulder (if you’re a righty) pushes your chin to look up, then you can look up. But don’t try to look up before then. Don’t try to watch your ball. Let everyone else watch your ball. You focus on that dimple and only when your shoulder forces your head up, then you can see where your ball went.
3. With Your Iron: Hit Behind the Ball
Your hips should be the first thing moving when you’re on the downswing. Then your shoulders. Your arms and the golf club should be the last thing moving towards the ball. So it’s only natural that your hips will be fully twisted, your shoulders rotated, and your hands BEHIND the ball when you make physical contact with the ball. That’s the elastic feeling you get when you’re unwinding. That’s completely different from when you’re driving (see next point).
4. With Your Driver: Hit In Front of the Ball
With an iron, your hands need to be behind the ball when you make contact. With a driver, you need to position the ball a few inches behind your left foot (if you’re a righty) and your swing should bottom out in front of you and make contact with the ball on the way up. You’re almost stretching your hands out to get in front of you when you do make contact. Don’t try to hit the ball when you’re driving as you would with an iron.
5. When In Sand: Hit Sand
If you get stuck in sand, don’t get concerned. You only have 2 options: hit the ball normally if you’ve got a long ways to go OR if you need to just punch it out because you’re close to the pin, do a FULL SWING and hit the sand underneath the ball. Don’t be afraid to hit the sand. And don’t stop when you’re doing so. You can get it out in 1 swing. Remember etiquette: no touching the sand with your club until you’re taking your swing.
6. Less is More
People have a tendency to lean back, swoop down, shift weight and twist, and then lift their bodies up when they’re swinging. But believe me (because I used to top the ball all the time when I did these things): less is more. Don’t move those body parts! Control yourself! I like to think about how good the older men and women are who regularly play and enjoy golf and who have a lot less power than I do but who are better than me: they aren’t trying to do anything fancy with their bodies. They aren’t lifting up or leaning back and then forward, etc. You just need to think about where you start (with the club behind the ball) and do the minimum in order to get back there from the down swing. If you start doing fancy things with your wrist at the top of your swing, you may not make it back to the ball OR you may top it OR you may hit the ground, etc. Remember: control your body and do less!
7. Where’s the Power?
The power that’s going to crush the ball (called your smash factor) is in your legs and hips (and some would also argue in your forearms, but I’m not a fan of that theory). If you can coil and uncoil your body and HIT THE BALL with your BODY, then you’ll have a wonderfully long shot. Your arms can only do so much. Try it: stand up straight and hit the ball. Now try it with your body. See the difference?
8. Maintain Triangles
If you’re using your hips and legs and back to hit the ball, that’s one thing. But you also need your arms, shoulders, wrists to be beautiful triangles throughout the shot. I used to have something contorted which my golf coach said looked like a chicken wing. It took yards off of all my shots. Because I was sabotaging my body from hitting the ball with full force (that’s what happens when you introduce bends in the elbows and wrists). So keep it straight. Make it look like a triangle throughout and you’ll be amazed at how far you’re hitting it. This also supports the golden rule for golf: everything is connected (feet, knees, hips, shoulders, arms, hands, etc.).
9. 2 Feet In Front | Behind The Ball
Your back swing doesn’t really matter. Neither does your finish (so long as you’re finishing). The only thing that determines if you hit a good shot is the 2 feet before and after the ball. What angle were you coming in at? How fast was the club head moving? Was the face open, closed, or perfectly square? This is where you should concentrate on improving your game.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice… Then KILL THE BALL on the course
This one is controversial. I’ve been told by many people: relax, slow down, slow your swing down, have a nice rhythm, etc. But my current coach has the opposite advice (and it seems to be working). Take your time with your practice swings (think: hit 60 balls in 1.5 hours!) but when you’re on the course, try to destroy the ball. Get ANGRY with the ball. Try to rip the skin off that ball. Try to make that “Callaway 2” logo drop. It’s no longer time for thinking; it’s time for action. So get out there and destroy the ball!
Have Fun Out There!