Downswing Matters...

Most of you have been following me for long enough to know that I believe the location and orientation of the clubhead in the early downswing are vital to an effective golf swing. The appropriate position and orientation of the clubhead will enable you to rotate freely through impact, controlling the face and compressing the golf ball. The following short video will help you understand the value of clubhead position in the early downswing and why it’s so important in building a sound impact position

Where you position the clubhead in the early downswing is integral to your ability to rotate and manage the club face through the impact interval. Better rotation means less flipping and more accurate shots. This matters - big time.

In the following short video you will learn why, even though you may have been doing a better job with positioning the clubhead (shallowing the shaft), your game has not improved. Improper shallowing can compromise the club face angle in the early downswing and actually promote active hands or flipping through impact. Here’s the remedy…

There you have it. Getting the clubhead deeper (more BEHIND you) in the early downswing without compromising the face will produce incredible results for almost every golfer I teach. I suspect it will help your game too. A good place to start is in front of a mirror - create the proper look, don’t worry about exaggerating things, take the appropriate feel from that look and go out and practice. Keep reinforcing in front of the mirror.

A Young Jack Nicklaus

A Young Jack Nicklaus

How to Stop Flipping - Guaranteed!

Ben Hogan once said that he despised any ball flight that curved from right to left (a draw!). Having been a chronic hooker of the ball in the early part of his career he knew what it was like to lose shots to the left. It wasn't until he found a way to overcome the dreaded flip through impact that the legend that is now Ben Hogan was created.

If you too struggle with untimely hooks and occasional blocks, you fully comprehend what Mr. Hogan had to overcome. Flippers have to rely on timing to make their shots go straight - the timing of the hand action through impact determines the outcome of each shot. And when impact between ball and face lasts for approximately 1/2000 of a second it's not that easy to be consistent - especially under pressure! The better you play, the greater your anxiety level, the less you control the timing of the flip - not a good recipe for low scores when it counts.

Having studied the swings of Hogan and Snead I found that when viewed from down the line it appears that the clubhead and ball seem to disperse aggressively post-impact. The clubhead moves quickly back inside the target line, while the ball launches straight. It almost appears as if they are trying to hit slices, yet the ball flight is very straight.

Watch the following video to get a sense of what to feel while doing the Anti-Flip Drill:

To practice the drill you will need the following:

  • Two alignment rods - one on the ground just outside the ball and another in the ground just inside the target line and 18-24 inches forward of the ball. Be sure that the one in the ground is leaning away from you (towards the target).
  • A 7 iron with the ball teed up so you can make sure it is in the same location relative to the rod in the ground each time.
  • Start small and slow, making sure you swing inside the rod with the clubhead and keep the face square to open thus launching the ball to the right of the rod.
  • Patience! Give it a few goes and you'll start to get the feel. Feel the clubhead and ball dispersing - one goes left and the other goes right. Remember that you have not been doing this "naturally" and that's why it feels so strange and "incorrect".

Here is the drill demonstrated in slow motion:



How To Stop Chunking the Ball!

One of the most demoralizing, confidence sapping shots a golfer can hit is the dreaded chunk! Or fat! Or heavy shot! Whatever name it goes by, this unfortunate experience will deplete any measure of confidence you might have had. I have had quite a few of you come to me and ask for an article addressing this so here it is. While I have used pictures referring to pitching please know that all of the points mentioned below apply wholly to the full swing as well.

 I find that while there are many reasons as to why a golfer might be contacting the ground before the club gets to the ball the following four points are certainly the lead candidates....

Here the weight tends to get too far back in the backswing due to either lateral slide or sway in the upper body or just simply setting up with the weight too far back. As a result there is no time to get it forward by the time impact occurs and the club bottoms out before it gets to the ball.

  • An excellent drill to aid with this tendency is to practice the towel drill. It involves folding a towel and laying it on the ground 10-12 inches behind the ball. The towel encourages the weight to stay more centered at address and in the backswing, thus shifting the low point of the swing up to a few inches in front of the ball - which means ball first, divot second!

 In this situation the ball is simply placed too far forward in the stance. The more forward the ball is the more difficult it is get your weight in front - notice I said weight and not head - of the ball. If your stance tends to get too open then you very well could have the ball too far forward. In order to strike the ball first here you would need to really slide the upper body forward.

  • A good check point to make sure you're not doing this is to simply start your address by placing your feet together with the ball centered between them (as pictured). Now take a step with either foot and match the size of the step with the other foot - the ball is now in the correct position and you are fully capable of striking it before the ground.


In this example the ball position is good, the body pivots back correctly, but there is simply no unwind through the hit. The chest turns back and away from the target, but never gets around to it on the way through impact. As a result the onus of squaring the face is placed on the hand action (flipping) and any lag is lost. The hands early release and throw the clubhead into the ball at impact, often sticking the clubhead into the ground.

  • A feel to get that body moving is to make sure the chest clears aggressively through impact. David Leadbetter always said that an active body leads to passive hands and this is what you're after. Keep the body unwinding through the hit and you'll start to maintain your lag and compress the ball

Here the club approaches the ball too far from the inside - it is under the plane. This very often occurs due to a backswing that takes the arms and club too far to the inside. Due to the fact that the club is under plane, the tendency is for the hit to be too shallow. The club will often brush the turf before contact and create havoc with the clubface and your timing.

  • An excellent drill (see picture) to improve not only your ball striking, but also your directional control is to make use of an alignment rod that is pegged in the ground at the same angle as the shaft at address. The rod should be 2 feet outside your back foot and just under the shaft at address. Now make swings (slowly at first!) to get a sense for what you need to do to get the club on plane and really start striking the ball beautifully

Additional resources:

How can I stop hitting fat golf shots with my irons? | The Golf Nut

Clubs Too Upright, Too Light?

Thanks to reader Chuck for this enlightening article posted by Bradley Hughes from

 FLAT LIE ANGLES -            The Reason and Logic Of The Greats

I know from personal experience in a question asked directly to Lee Trevino that he used clubs that were at least 3 degrees flat in lie angle from the old standard. Doug Sanders also informed me in the interview I recently did with him (on page 2) that he had his clubs flattened down so the toe sat down and the heel would never strike the ground first. If we look at Ben Hogan's club that is in USGA Golf House Museum it is close to 6 or 7 degrees flat in lie angle when compared to clubs of the same length and loft of today.

If flat lie angles were the choice of the game's best ball strikers throughout history then WHY do manufacturers insist on putting upright lie angled clubs in the hands of golfer's today?

  • The upright clubs make the player come steeply into the ball on descent.
  • The upright clubs tell the body stall and insist that the hands flip through impact to try and square that upright lie angled club with the ground.
  • The upright club straightens the right arm away from the body and increases clubface roll throughout the shot making timing a huge problem.
  • Upright lie angles deteriorate the swing by not stressing the importance of swinging the golf club behind and around the body and rotating through impact with the correct body effort and sequence.

Too often we now see golfers throwing the club through impact - pushing the club head off to the right of the target or throwing the clubhead left of the target with their hand roll - flipping the club face over by hand action trying to correct the mistake. Today's clubs should all come with a warning label:     "Swing Deterioration And Poor Mechanics Possible By Using This Club"

 Add the fact that the shafts are too long and the swingweights and overall club weights are too light and it is little wonder we don't see ball striking mastery on any level any longer. Remember: Feedback of the club and the swing is necessary for improvement to take place. That's why golfers are not improving. They don't know the difference between a good strike or a bad strike of the ball because the permieter weighting and large sweet spots don't allow such reference. The equipment golfers are using is NOT designed to help them adjust their swing to the correct efficient motion.

Bradley Hughes

Very well said Mr. Hughes. I have an inkling as to why manufactureres insist on making clubs lighter and more upright...... Firstly, the clubs are more upright as it causes the faders, who happen to be the majority of golfers, to reduce the amount of curvature of their shots. Notice I never said anything about improving their swings - the upright lies in fact encourage these golfers to continue swinging the way they always have. And secondly, the light weight leads to more speed which creates a Wow! factor when they first hit the clubs. The lighter the club the faster you can swing it. You also, however, relinquish a measure of control over the clubhead and a feel for the club.

So the slicer who tries his buddies new 7-iron and hits a straight bomb over the green is amazed as he has never hit the ball that straight and that far before - he simply must have a set!

As with most things it comes down to $$$$! Don't get sucked in and allow yourself to be enticed with new gimmicks. Know your numbers (length and lie) and play something you like the look of and can feel.