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34 G O L F T I P S

SWING
THOUGHTS
THAT
REALLY
WORK
Think Your Way To A
Better Golf Swing Now
By Brady Riggs, PGA, With Mike Chwasky

Old-school golf instruction is full of imagery that was originally created


to help players make what were perceived as the the proper moves in the
swing. In those days, many of the technical aspects of the golf swing werent
completely understood, largely due to the lack of video technology that exists
today. Instead, players mostly relied on feel, natural talent and repetition to hone
their technique and overall game. Not surprisingly, the average scores
of recreational golfers barely ever improved significantly, other than what was
delivered by technological advances in equipment and golf course conditioning.
Today, good golf instruction should combine an understanding of the
proper mechanics of the swing with an emphasis on creating an athletic,
natural motion. To help accomplish this task, Ive come up with some simple but
effective thoughts that can help your swing become more natural, athletic and
repetitive. Give them a try both during practice and when youre on the course. After
a while, whatever mechanical swing thoughts you might have developed over the
years should be replaced with these simpler, more effective ones. Once your mind is
free from distraction, youll be surprised how much easier it is to make good swings.

Photos By Warren Keating Illustrations By Phil Frank

OLDSCHOOL

GRIP
LIKE
YOURE
HOLDING A
BIRD Like

most golfers, Ive never


held a small bird in my hands,
so this advice doesnt do much
for me. I prefer thinking of the
tension youd apply when throwing
a ballits more athletic, and makes
more sense. Think about itwhen
you throw a ball, you hold it tightly
enough so it doesnt fly out of your
hand when you cock your arm, but
loosely enough to create speed.

HOLD THE TRAY The waiter


position is one to forgetyou
dont want your palm facing directly
skyward at the top of the backswing.
Instead, your palm should be on a
45-degree angle to the ground, which
puts the clubface in a square position
and maintains the width of the
backswing for maximum swing arc.

TO CREATE A
MORE ATHLETIC
Setup
SETUP, IMAGINE
The importance of a solid YOUR SHOULsetup position cannot be DERS, HIPS
deniedif you start out AND KNEES IN
poorly youll have little A LEVEL POSIchance of making a
TION WITH
solid swing. Some key
YOUR WEIGHT
thoughts for a good
SPREAD
setup are stay level
BETWEEN YOUR
and be athletic.
FEET EVENLY.
Many golfers handicap
themselves at the outset by making mistakes
like kicking in the right knee, dropping the right
shoulder or flaring only one of their feet. In
the photo at right, notice how my shoulders
remain nearly level, with the right only slightly
lower than the left. My knees are bowed a
bit outward and both feet are flared. This
is a key for creating an athletic swingone
thats rotational rather than a lateral, sliding
motion that stresses the back and leads to an
ineffective impact position. Equally important
is the feeling of being bouncy in the legs, with
flexed knees and relaxed muscles.

Takeaway
A great thought for a solid
takeaway is all together.
The takeaway becomes a
problem area when the
arms, wrists or hands
move independently of
one another, forcing the
club to move off plane and
jeopardizing the square
alignment of the clubface.
Instead, the arms, wrists
and hands should all move

SHOULDERS POWER THE TAKEAWAY; ARMS MAINTAIN THEIR WIDTH


36 G O L F T I P S

THE GOLF SWING


IS AN ATHLETIC
MOTION THAT
MUST BE MADE
WITH A DYNAMIC
BASE. RIGID LEGS
CANT PROVIDE
THE SAME ATHLETIC PLATFORM
AS THOSE THAT
ARE FLEXED.

At The Top
The obvious differences in the
above pictures are powerful
evidence of what can happen
if the wrong swing thought
occupies the mind during the
backswing. At the left, Ive lost
all the angles I set at address
and any chance to create a
leveraged, dynamic attack into
impact. Notice how much more
athletic I look in the picture
on the right. Both knees are
flexed, my core has dropped
slightly lower and my body is
poised to spring into action.
This position creates a direct
route for my arms and club
to the ball from the inside,
encouraging a more rotational
move with my body all the way
to the finish. The thought of
squatting is key for creating
this type of move.

together as one unit. This


unit should be powered by
the shoulders and back,
making the takeaway feel
like its happening through
a coordinated effort of the
entire body. When done
correctly, the distance the
elbows were apart at setup
remains the same during the
takeaway, eliminating early
mistakes that will have to
be compensated for later.

I encourage my students to
feel athletic and balanced at the
top of the swing. An important
point to remember is that the
backswing is designed to set up
a powerful and consistent attack
into impact. When you think
of squatting (butt toward the
ground), allow your knees to
pivot with your hips as you
rotate your way to the top.
A telltale sign of a strong,
squatted pivot away from the
ball is the backside being close
to the ground and pointing at
the target (see photo at right).
When tension (stiff legs, rigid
muscles are evidence) is
present, the body becomes
weak, powerless and offbalance. Once the thoughts
turn to squatting correctly
in the backswing, the entire
swing becomes significantly
more powerful because youre
able to use the ground to
push against for maximum
leverage. Remember, the top of
the swing should feel heavy
and ready, not light and tight.

Transition
The key thought for a good transition is body
leading arms, and not vice versa. A common
misconception is that the club should stay in
front of the body during the swing. While this
is true on the backswing, its totally incorrect
on the way down. In the photo at right, the
body is getting ahead of the arms and club
on the downswing by moving firstits the
engine thats driving the entire move. This
drops the arms, hands and club down without
losing any angle between the clubshaft and
left arm. If the sequence is incorrect and the
club moves first, the body is taken out of its
leadership role and the club is cast or
thrown from the top (photo below).
This leads to a huge loss in power
and control over the clubs path into
impact. Remember, you want the
club to be trailing the body up to
and past impact. Leave it back in
the transition and youll keep
the proper sequence solidly

A PROPER TRANSITION OCCURS


WHEN THE BODY
DRAGS THE
HANDS AND CLUB
INTO THE DOWNSWING. CASTING
AND A LOSS OF
POWER OCCUR
WHEN THE CLUB
MOVES FIRST.

38 G O L F T I P S

IN A BODYDRIVEN DOWNSWING, THE


CLUB DROPS TO
THE INSIDE AND
IS POWERED BY
THE TURNING OF
THE BODY AND
SOFT, RELAXED
ARMS THAT
LACK TENSION.

intact. From this angle


you can clearly see how
the arms and club are left
back in a somewhat passive
manner as the pivot of the
body forces them down from the
top of the swing. The thought
should be turn and drag, not
hit. Notice how my body remains
ahead of the arms and club late into
the downswing. Its unnecessary to
help the club catch up with my wrists
and hands, as that would only create
scooping and flipping through impact.
Instead, the rotation of my hips pulls the left
leg straight, creating a post to hit against.
Once the arms, hands and club cant be
dragged any farther, they will release
through impact naturally and explosively, as
none of the stored energy on the downswing
was wasted by hitting at the ball.

OLDSCHOOL
SWING A RUBBER HOSE
This is a good thought for the start
of the downswing because a steady
acceleration of the club on the
downswing produces a more
consistent swing path and
facilitates solid impact.
In contrast, grabbing or
snatching the club from
the top in an attempt
to hit at the ball
almost always leads
to inconsistent ballstriking. Remember
to drag the club
from the top, and
your tempo will
improve as well.

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2006

39

Impact
Without a doubt, the worst swing thought
recreational golfers have is to hit at
the ball. The desire to hit at
initiates the use of the hands THE THOUGHT AT
during the downswing,
IMPACT SHOULD
breaking down the proper
BE TO SQUEEZE
sequence of body first,
THE BALL ON
club and arms second.
THE CLUBFACE
In fact, hitting at the ball
AS LONG AS
effectively changes the focus POSSIBLE. THIS
from swinging through
IS HOW GOOD
impact and into the finish to PLAYERS CREATE
stopping or quitting at the
COMPRESSION
ball. What many recreational AND POWER.
players dont realize is that
accomplished players dont think of the ball
as the target, but often try to swing through
a spot located several inches past the ball.
With this as the goal, they actually get the
feeling of the club speeding up through
impact (though this isnt really possible),
instead of before impact. A great way to
eliminate hitting at the ball is to focus
on dragging your arms, hands and the club
past the point of impact with the rotation
of the body, all the way into the finish.

40 G O L F T I P S

OLDSCHOOL
HEAVE A BUCKET OF WATER
This is definitely a great thought for
promoting a solid pivot. In order to
heave a bucket of water past your
body, you must first get the bucket
behind your body (not above your
head), which in turn promotes
a more inside-out attack on the
forwardswing. In addition, the
imagery of heaving a bucket of water
should help trigger your lead leg to
post or straighten as the hips rotate, a
critical and often improperly executed
element of a powerful golf swing.

When it comes down to it, solid impact and quality ballstriking is what every
golfer really wants. Crisp contact that compresses the golf ball on the face of the
club leads to both power and accuracy, plus, this type of impact is what creates
the great whoosh sound that everyone likes to hear as the ball shoots off the
clubface. While it might sound strange, a good thought for creating solid contact
is squeeze the ball on the clubface for as long as possible. This will give you
the feeling of working the entire club, not just the clubhead, through impact and
into the finish. If you struggle with flippy impact and glancing blows that produce
little power, this is the right thought for you.
Simply put, thoughts like through, not to, impact can take your game to
another level. Remember that youre looking for a steady acceleration that keeps
the ball compressed against the clubface as its propelled to the finish. Any
attempt to overaccelerate or whip the club into the ball will produce a glancing
blow. Conversely, steering or quitting through impact will never keep the ball
against the clubface very long. To help facilitate this squeezed impact, your
body must drive your arms, hands and club through the
ball. When done correctly, the relationship between your THE RELATIONtorso and the club should remain constant, as should the SHIP BETWEEN
structure of your arms and wrists. If you manage to keep THE HANDS,
these relationships solid throughout the swing, you wont WRISTS AND
be able to flip the club. Instead, youll discover what
CLUB SHOULD
quality ballstriking is all about, and your full shots and
REMAIN STRUCscores will improve dramatically.
TURED AND CON-

STANT THROUGH
IMPACTDRAG
THE CLUB, DONT
FLIP AT THE BALL.

SKIP A STONE The sidearm feeling


of skipping a stone is a good thought
for the start of the downswing, but
a bad one through impact. Its true
that this image can help get the
right shoulder to drop down on
plane while the lower body rotates
out of the way, both of which are
desirable movements in the golf
swing. However, the sidearm delivery
associated with skipping a stone
can also keep the right side down
too long after impact, inhibiting the
release and overstressing the spine.

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2006

41

Finish
Take a close look at the two photos below. If the photo on the right looks like
your finish, you dont have the right sensation of a proper finish, and Ill bet
youre probably not hitting the ball as well as youd like. The reason the
position on the bottom right looks so hung back and incomplete is that the
body quit working the club too early in the downswing. Notice how far back my
right shoulder is and how my left hip is closer to the target than my right. These
are symptoms of a lateral, sliding type of swing that will produce nothing but
glancing blows and generally poor impact.
In the photo on the bottom left, Im comfortably balanced, with my hips
fully rotated and my right shoulder much closer to the target than my left. This
position indicates that Ive worked all the way through impact and continued to
power my swing into the finish. Golfers who swing the club through the ball
generally have this type of complete finish position. In contrast, players who
hit at the ball very often resemble the photo on the bottom right because
they basically stop the swing at the point of impact.
To develop a solid, balanced finish position (it isnt just for looksthe finish
is often a reflection of the entire swing), your thought should be get the right
shoulder to the target. This image will force you to keep working past the ball
and will change your ultimate destination from the point of impact to well
beyond it. This is how the pros do it; you should too.

PGA professional Brady


Riggs is a Golf Tips senior
instruction editor who
currently works with
numerous top junior, college
and professional players.
Riggs utilizes state-of-theart video technology while
teaching students at
Woodley Lakes G.C.
in Van Nuys, Calif.

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