Amazing Golf Swing’s five key skills
“Let’s face it, golfers are pretty spoiled. They’re very spoiled, for the most part. They’ve grown up at a country club, they’ve usually grown up with some money, and they really haven’t had to work for that much in their life. So it’s hard for them to really buy in to college golf, because they’re so used to being an individual, and everything being catered toward them.”
—Josh Gregory, former head golf coach at Southern Methodist University and Augusta State, two-time national champion
A single-minded life isn’t exactly new terrain as far as professional athletes are concerned, but it was still eye-opening to spend a year on the front lines of the PGA Tour and witness just how devoted a golfer must be to his sport—to the exclusion of almost everything else. The player who makes compromises, or who can’t say no to unnecessary demands on his time, is the one who will crack.
I identified five core qualities that almost every successful golfer has in common: Natural talent, inflated confidence, pathological competitive drive, selfishness, and obsession. Without all five, greatness isn’t just difficult—it’s inconceivable.
Five Key Fundamentals to World-Class Ball Striking:
What are the key fundamentals to a great golf swing? Is it a straight left arm, a big shoulder turn, a flat left wrist, a stable right leg, or maybe just a good left hand at impact? There are so many theories and so many books written on this topic that sometimes it seems impossible to decipher the true facts. Here at the Titleist Performance Institute we believe that great golf swings don’t have to look the same. There are thousands of touring professionals on the planet and no two swings look the same. So how do you isolate the key characteristics that make all these swings work? After 22 years of studying great golf swings and testing players in every possible manner, we have come up with five fundamentals that make up every great golf swing.
1. Center Face / Square Face Contact:
This fundamental is hard to debate. Modern day launch monitors and overall club designs show us that the closer you hit the ball to the sweet spot (which tends to be centrally located) the better energy transfer we will get into the golf ball. Off-center hits tend to cause a more tilted spin access and energy loss to the ball and therefore, tend to create more inconsistent flight patterns to the golf ball. Just as an off-center contact can create excessive spin, so can a closed or open clubface contact. The more you contact the golf ball with a glancing blow from a non-square face, the more you will tilt the spin access on the ball. So the first key fundamental found in every great ball striker is their ability to repeatedly find the center of the face and to square the face at impact.
2. Path of Intention = Shot of Intention:
This fundamental allows for the variety of ball flights seen in so many players. Great ball strikers deliver the clubface on a swing plane or path that will create their intended shot. In other words, if they want to hit a draw (right to left for a right-handed golfer) then in general a more in-to-out path with a closed clubface will allows this ball flight to occur. If they want to cut the ball (left to right) then a more out-to-in or square path with a more open clubface will give them better results. Poor ball strikers try to hit shots with an improper path, attack angle and clubface position. It is hard to get repeatable and efficient results when you don’t understand what causes the ball to curve and how it differs with irons from woods.
3. Dominant Rotary Force:
Great golf swings have a high rotational force that dominates their movement. The less lateral (sway/slide) or front to back (loss of posture/early extension) movement that occurs in the golf swing, the more rotational force a player can develop. This rotational force is what makes great players develop such high club head speeds at impact. The more you add other movements besides rotation to the swing, the more chances you have of making different golf swings with every shot. So this fundamental is important for two reasons, maximal speed and power development and balance, tempo, and rhythm are all easily repeated with one primary movement (rotation). By the way, we all know that there needs to be an aggressive weight shift in the golf swing, but it is this lateral weight shift which begins the dominant rotational force into impact. If the rotary force does not dominate the pattern during the downswing, then you are not applying this fundamental skill.
4. Proper Kinematic Sequence:
The most important fundamental for consistent ball striking is the ability to produce a proper “kinetic link”. The basic foundation of any athletic movement is called a kinetic link. This term, used by biomechanists, describes the sequence or chronological series of movements an athlete uses to generate and transfer power throughout their body. In golf, like most sports, the power or energy is created from the ground and passed up through the body to the club head. This transfer of energy from the lower body to the upper torso, from the upper torso to the arms, and from the arms to the club is called a golfers kinetic link.
It is amazing to see how many golfers are unable to produce a fluid kinetic link. Using 3-D video technology, we can measure the patient’s ability to generate power in their lower body and transfer this power through upper torso and arms and into the club head. If we see that a golfer has good lower body speed, good upper torso speed, poor arm speed, and poor club head speed, we can start to make some simple conclusions. It seems that they are able to generate power effectively in their lower body and transfer this energy to the upper torso. The upper torso then seems to create speed or power effectively as well, but is deficient in transferring this energy to the arms and club. Therefore, we should evaluate the connection between the upper torso and arms, or the shoulders, since that seems to be the weak link in the kinetic chain. Evaluating the kinetic link is an essential step in determining efficiency breakdowns in our golfing clients.
5. Good Segmental Stabilization:
This last fundamental is the key to generating power and speed in the golf swing. In order to pass energy from one part of your body to the next, there must be a deceleration of the previous segment so that energy can be effectively transferred to the next body part. A great analogy is the cracking of the whip. In order to create a loud snap at the end of a whip, you must rapidly accelerate the handle of the whip and then quickly stopped or decelerate the handle. It is this deceleration of the handle that allows speed to be transferred to the next part of the whip.
Here are the simple keys for success:
1. Steady Head – the average PGA Tour player moves his head one inch during his backswing and less on his downswing. Since virtually none of them move their heads forwards on the backswing, that means that for every guy who moves it two inches, there’s a guy moving it zero inches. For every guy that moves it three inches, there are two guys who don’t move their head one bit. A relatively steady head is important because it’s efficient to turn our shoulders in a circle. If the circle remains relatively steady, contact with the golf ball becomes easier and more consistent.
2. Weight Forward – Speaking solely of impact numbers, the average PGA Tour player has between 80-95% of his pressure on his front foot at impact. The average amateur has 55%. Oh, some amateurs get to 70 or even 75%, but many will be backing out of the shot and the 75% number comes earlier in the downswing. If we’ve maintained a steady head, then it becomes easier to get our weight forward at impact, and to do so properly . BTW, we have some numbers on the backswing, and while they measure pressure (you can’t really measure “weight” in a dynamic system), they’re surprising. Lots of pressure right at the top of the backswing.
3. Flat Left Wrist – With a steady head helping the golfer to get his weight forward at impact, the third key becomes simpler. Keys 1 and 2 feed into Key 3. Great golfers deliver a good amount (not excessive, but enough) of shaft lean at impact. Though the driver is a specific case (ball position contributes heavily), throughout the set the best players deliver the shaft in such a way that it has not passed the line of the left forearm prior to impact. No good or great golfers “flip” at the ball a significant amount, and a flat left wrist helps to compress the ball to strike it “pure” every time.
4. Diagonal Sweetspot Path – While the first three keys are built to ensure a pure, compressed strike on the golf ball, the last two get down to brass tacks in terms of actually controlling your golf ball. Golf is not played on a vertical or a horizontal plane, but rather, on a tilted plane. We swing the clubhead back, up, and inward. On the downswing we swing the club forwards, down, and out . The “up and in” and the “down and out” account for the “diagonal” nature of the sweet spot path, whether you’re viewing the path down the line or from the player’s perspective. Good golf is not played, contrary to what Johnny Miller says, with the club traveling “down the target line” for more than an instant. Regardless of the plane on which you swing, whether it’s Jack Nicklaus’s or Matt Kuchar’s, you need to learn to deliver the sweetspot to the ball properly.
5. Clubface Control – The holy grail. Even PGA Tour players fail at this more often than you’d think. Clubface control is simply the ability to control the clubface relative to the sweetspot path to produce a shot that both starts and curves as desired. In other words, if you play a pull-cut, you can’t deliver the clubface pointing right at impact. Clubface control begins with understanding the ball flight laws and concludes with applying the principles to your golf swing by learning to control the clubface.