The busy man’s golf swing
Unless you have the time to play three times a week and practise for at least an hour every day, forget trying to swing like Tiger (or Ernie or Louis or Charl) – it’s simply not feasible. Here’s what you can do…
If you have limited practice time available, I suggest using the swing I am going to demonstrate, a method that smoothes out many of the areas where faults occur. I call it ‘The Busy Man’s Golf Swing’, but no less an expert than former US Open champ Johnny Miller has called it “the swing of the future”.
And even Steve Stricker used a version of it to move from 337th in the world to the top five in just three years.
Like all changes, it may feel a little strange at first, but persevere with it and you will see almost instantaneous results.
Just one word of warning – and that word is WYFINWYD. It’s an acronym for ‘What You Feel Is Not What You’re Doing’. By that I mean you may not feel a fault in your swing, even if it’s really bad. Butch Harmon, who is much sharper than I am, calls it “the difference between feel and real”.
So, you will see I have tried to give you examples of what your new swing should feel like, as well as what it should look like. They are not usually the same. (More information on ‘The Busy Man’s Golf Swing’ can be found at www.mygreatnewgolfswing.com.)
The most important aspect of the left-hand grip is to get your left thumb exactly on top of the shaft at address. This allows you to have control of the club at the top of the backswing, the part of the swing where things most often start to go wrong. If your thumb is on top of the shaft at address, it will be where it must be at the top of the backswing – underneath the shaft.
Most amateurs grip the club far too aggressively and yet, by the time they get to the top of the backswing, their hands are almost separated.
To avoid this, put your right hand on the club only when it is in the position shown in this picture – then you will be able to get your two hands nicely compact and operating as one unit.
If you build your grip like this, when you put the club down in the address position you will notice how much more compacted your hands feel.
Most amateurs look like this at address, hunched and unathletic. Most often the cause is that you are standing too far from the ball – Nick Faldo, who is 1.90m tall, once said that he had never played in a pro-am with anyone who stood closer to the ball than he did. Reaching for the ball causes your arms to pull your shoulders forward, hunching your back and giving you a poor starting position.
This is the position you want at address, weight balanced between your toes and your heels, and arms almost perpendicular.
Notice that the ball is not a great deal closer to me than in the previous picture, but that small change has allowed me to stand taller and has kept my back straighter.
This is one area where you have to remember WYFINWYD. This is what your posture must feel like if you are going to achieve the actual position in the previous picture.
Robert Karlsson regularly does a quick ‘prone cobra’ (a yoga exercise in which the arms are extended straight down by your sides and then your thumbs are rotated outwards and backwards) as part of his pre-shot routine.
Because he is really tall, he knows that even a slight hunch in his back will destroy his swing.
No matter how well you understand the principle of WYFINWYD, there is no substitute for seeing your swing on video. One pupil of mine, who had a swing just a little shorter than John Daly, refused to believe she got the club past parallel.
When I showed her a video of herself she was really shocked. I’ll bet the same happens to you.
Here is what ‘The Busy Man’s Golf Swing’ should look like at the most critical stage, the top of the backswing. Please note the angle of the left arm and the club shaft – it should be exactly the same as it was when I put my right hand on the club.
Note also the position of the left shoulder in relation to the right knee, and the fact that my hips have turned, but as little as possible.
If you want to achieve the correct position as shown in the previous picture, you have to feel that your left shoulder is over your right knee and that your hips have not moved.
Your left shoulder will not actually be over your right knee, but it must feel as though it is. Ensuring that your left shoulder makes such a big rotational move to the right will prevent you from making the dreaded reverse pivot.
To achieve this, your hips will have to turn a little, but it must feel as though they haven’t.
This is what most golfers look like through the impact zone, hips fully rotated and right heel off the ground.
So, what’s wrong with that, you might ask, since touring pros are generally in the same position and Tiger is more extreme than anyone else.
These guys spend hours every day honing these powerful and unstable swings, and even with all that work you will have seen how often Tiger’s swing gets away from him.
With the amount of time you have available for practising, this is a recipe for disaster.
Instead of listening to the conventional wisdom, rather try this.
Here’s where ‘The Busy Man’s Golf Swing’ really pays off. Throughout the downswing keep your right heel on the ground and your right elbow close to your side, and you will be in a much more grounded and stable position when you hit the ball.
The results will be many more straight shots and a lot less time searching for your ball in the rough. Wouldn’t that be great?
Richard Lyon is an AAA Class member of the PGA of SA, an R&A certified rules official and a Titleist Performance Institute certified golf fitness instructor. He is a former executive chairman of the SA Seniors Tour and a winner on that tour. He is a founding partner of the Golf Academy at Wits, a part-time lecturer at the Wits Business School and is currently the head teaching professional at Eshowe Hills. For the past eight years he and his wife have run the Ladies & Legends Professional Golf Tour.