A TAILOR-MADE POSTURE ENGAGES ‘CORE’ MUSCLES
What you must remember is that the rotation of the body – the ‘pivot’ motion – is the engine that generates your speed. We are looking for ‘core’ rotation, and to enjoy that you have to prime the muscles in your body accordingly. The three-step routine you see above will help you to practise making a good set-up (and this is something you really do have to practice to get right). With the club pulled tight down your back, stand tall, then bend from the hips to create your spine angle before finally adding knee flex. Hold your chin up off your chest and find your balance with your weight towards the balls of your feet – if you stand with your weight back on your heels you will effectively immobilise your lower body.
Take time to fine-tune a good posture. The angles and the balance you create here determine the quality and consistency of your swing.
GOOD POSTURE IS CONSISTENT
One of the questions I often get asked as a coach is how far should you stand from the ball with each of the clubs in the bag. Well, the simple answer is that if you rehearse the posture sequence illustrated above, you will develop good set-up habits that solve that issue automatically. Good posture gives your body the opportunity to function efficiently, whichever club you happen to be using. You don’t ever change your fundamentals. As you create your spine angle, allow your arms to hang ‘loose’ and then bring the palms of your hands together... and that’s where you naturally hold the club. Don’t reach for the ball by pushing your arms further away, just stand a little closer to it as you work down from the longest shaft in the driver to the shortest in your most lofted wedge.
COOL FIRST MOVE? ARMS, HANDS AND CLUB AS ONE
Think about the golf swing as a chain reaction, in which one good move leads to another, and the importance of the takeaway is crystal clear: as the first ‘link’ in the chain – following a good set-up posture – it is vital that you negotiate these opening moves correctly. The first move from the ball sets the path on which the club will follow. And the key here is that the shoulders, arms, hands and the club should all move away together until your hands reach a position outside the right thigh. So it’s very much a ‘one-piece’ type of feel to this point, and it’s important as you move to this position that the hips remain inactive at this stage. While you may experience a gentle ‘bump’ of a weight shift into the right side, the lower body holds its position momentarily before the hips then begin to turn to facilitate the coiling of the upper body.
One final point: you don’t hit the ball with your backswing, so keep it ‘low and smooth’ and build your speed gradually.
EASY DOES IT
Having adjusted his posture, James found that he was in a better position to make this first move count. Previously he had a tendency to move the club away first, which involved his arms working independently in front of his chest (and led to the club being across the line at the top of the swing – as you will see pictured overleaf). In just a few minutes working on this sensation of ‘togetherness’, with a sense of controlling the initial movement from the shoulders, this key first move is much better. A tip I offered James is to feel a softness in the right shoulder – as you relax the right side you rotate more easily into the backswing.
TURN YOUR LEFT SHOULDER UNDER YOUR CHIN
The move to the top of the swing should continue to be smooth as you coil the upper body over the hips and knees. A simple cue here (once you have negotiated the first move away from the ball) is to focus on turning your left shoulder under your chin. Again, this brings us back to the importance of good posture at the set-up, with the chin up off the chest. As long as you maintain that you will find that turning the left shoulder is easy to do (unless you happen to be wearing a bespoke William Hunt suit!).
In this position you are looking for evidence of a full shoulder turn – along with as straight a left arm as you can get. (Some players are more flexible and able to do this than others!). When you check your position, you want to see the hands in line with the right shoulder. The right elbow should feel as though it points downwards and your wrists should have fully hinged. The right knee should be facing forward and still flexed with the weight down the inside of the right leg. All in all, you should feel coiled up like a spring, bursting with energy and ready to unwind.
ARMS AND BODY BETTER ‘CONNECTED’
The beauty of improving the quality of your posture at the set-up is that you reap the benefit of a better body action – and that is something that is going to help James in a big way over the coming months. The inset photo above illustrates James’ tendency to get the club across the line at the top of his backswing, and you can see also that the right knee has straightened and his right elbow is ‘disconnected’ from his body. All of these little quirks lead to inconsistency – and in James’ case losing shots out to the right. By improving his posture and the subsequent moves in the takeaway, James will find that he is able to combine a full shoulder turn with a more compact arm-swing, and so get the club into a stronger position at the top. As a result he can look forward to a more on-line route back to the ball and sweeter, straighter shots.
JOB DONE: THE BENEFIT OF A GOOD FINISH
No matter what you do in your backswing, the quality of your follow-through can often make the difference in recovering a shot. But if you have a poor, unfinished follow-through, you’re asking for trouble. One of the most effective lessons that I try to instil in the players I coach is that if you simply focus on swinging to a full and committed finish, you will actually improve all of the links in the chain that get you there. This is an area of the swing where amateurs really can learn an awful lot watching the pros. In fact, if you were to commit to finishing every single swing in perfect balance, supported chiefly on the left leg with the right foot up on its toe, you will be surprised at how many good shots you hit.
On the range, make a point in between hitting shots of holding and posing a fully rotated finish; hold it for several seconds and let the feeling sink in. Then think about nothing but returning to that position in the swing. You can always tell a good player by the shape of the follow- through. If you end up in balance, rotated and committed, there’s every chance your ball will be travelling towards the target.
FREE UP YOUR FINISH
James is self-taught and has done exceptionally well to get his handicap down to 7. But he is what I describe as a ‘hitter’ rather than a swinger of the golf club. Once the ball is struck his follow-through tends to be something of an afterthought – and so perhaps the most valuable advice I can give him, right up there with lessons on the set-up, is to focus on completing his swing.
Just one thought for James will help him to improve his followthrough: at the finish, he simply needs to reveal all of the studs on his right shoe. Releasing the right knee in towards the left helps to encourage the full rotation of the hips and the upper body, relieving some of the tension that currently exists. As you see here, releasing the pressure in the lower body positively assists James in turning his shoulders on a level plane to the finish, complete the arm swing and the club rests comfortably behind his neck, just below the Trilby!
Practise all these moves at home before you attempt to introduce a ball. If you learn to swing the club freely the ball will be collected along the way. Work on your posture to improve balance throughout the swing. Once you can swing to a full follow-through with perfect balance both the quality and accuracy of your ball-striking will improve. Good luck and keep swinging.