Thursday, July 14, 2011

Swing Objectives and Compensations - Part I

For awhile now I wanted to discuss compensations in the golf swing. A few months ago I was speaking to my instructor, George Hunt ( about the swing over the phone and some things he mentioned really clicked for me and sped up the learning process for me. If you are in Central Florida, I highly recommend you get a lesson from him as he gives lessons 7 days a week and has helped my ballstriking and scoring tremendously.

I’ve discussed compensations before, but as I understand them better, it now makes more sense as to what the objective in swing improvement should be and how to better go about improving the swing.

The swing is a bit like traveling on a car on a track. We want to be ‘on track’ at impact. Technically, it does not matter if we are off track before impact. As long as we can get back on track at impact, time after time…THAT is what matters. For golfers, getting ‘on track’ has to do with the low point, the clubface angle and the path.

We have to remember that the physics part of the game does not play favorites. If we had a Trackman available and it read that a ball was struck in the sweetspot with the same 7-iron and golf ball and the numbers read:

0* path
0* face
-3* attack angle

The ball would fly the same if Richie3Jack was swinging the 7-iron or if Rory McIlroy was swinging the 7-iron. The difference between myself and Rory hitting a golf ball is that he creates ‘better numbers’ and creates those better numbers more often. If Rory happened to create similar numbers with a clubface at 7* closed, he would hit a poor snap hook and hit a much worse shot than I would. That driver he hit dead right at Augusta in the 4th round of this years Masters? Wide open clubface at impact. The ball does not understand pressure, talent, greatness, ineptitude or any other verb or adjective you can come up with. It just reacts to what the clubhead is doing when the two collide into each other.

With that, I find that the best type of instruction tries to figure out a way to consistently get the golfer to be ‘on track’ at impact. Things like ‘staying on plane’ help with the path. Keeping the clubface square obviously helps with the clubface. And the attack angle of the club, influenced by things like right wrist bend at impact, axis tilt, etc, help with the low point.

We must understand that golf IS a reactionary sport.

Where people goof that up is that they think of sports like basketball and football as ‘reactionary sports.’ In these sports we are reacting to the opponent and the ball. In golf, we are reacting to ourself.

The best way I can explain it is with putting (where compensations occur as well). If I address the ball and have the putter face pointing 5* left of the target, I need to find a way to get the putter face square to the target at impact. I am ‘off track’ at address and trying to get back ‘on track’ by impact. Often times when we get off track, like in this example, we ‘react’ to it.

Take Loren Roberts for example. According to SAM Puttlab data, he aims his putter 2* left of the target at address. He then uses a slight cut-across stroke and manipulates the putter face to square it up at impact. Roberts was ‘off track’ at address and then reacted (made compensations) by taking the putter to the outside in the backstroke, then cutting across the ball slightly while opening up the putter face by about 2* to get the putter face square at impact.

The same applies to the golf swing. If are clubface is not square during the swing, we tend to make a reaction in order to square up the clubface at impact. If we are ‘off plane’, then we tend to react to get ourselves on plane at impact. And if we are moving the low point too much, then we tend to react to try and get our low point where we want it at impact.

Obviously, one can have a closed or open clubface at impact and hit it well. And one can have an inside-to-out or outside-to-in path and hit it well. The same with the low point moving around. But, if you have a desired ball flight and you, on some level, understand what impact conditions are needed to achieve that ball flight…when you vary from those impact conditions in the swing, reactions are made to get ‘back on track’ at impact.

PART II Tomorrow