• Dave Tutelman, VP of Engineering

Proper Golf Swing Mechanics

Muscle Memory: What to Memorize

In another article, Bob Doyle pointed out that the golf swing is a quite unnatural and an extremely complex motion. The full motion is made up of many elements, such as the grip, the takeaway, the backswing, the swing plane, the downswing, follow through and still others, depending on the instructor. So on what element of the swing is the golfer to focus for muscle memory?

Perhaps the better question is: what elements of the swing seem to be common to the great golfers and all good golfers? A thorough search of much of the published literature on the golf swing, leads to two elements that are not controversial:

  1. A flat left wrist at impact for the right handed golfer, right wrist for the left handed golfer. Most poor or inconsistent golfers have a cupped wrist at impact.

  2. All good golfers keep their heads down and behind the ball, at and through impact. This is the area where they are able to see the ball at impact. Most poor and high handicap golfers do not see the ball at impact. Their heads are already searching for their balls in flight. Their heads, more often than not, come up or are well in front of the ball at impact. This is the area where the PRO-HEAD™ trainer will help you develop muscle memory for a perfect swing.

Let’s look at exactly what this means.

Flat Wrist

Here are two pictures of the “do” and “don’t” of wrist position at impact.

golf swing wrist positioning

The left arm and the shaft of the club should form a straight line. That means the clubhead should still be behind the hands when the clubhead strikes the ball.

If the wrist is not perfectly flat at impact, it is better to err on the side of clubhead farther behind the ball. A cupped wrist invites all sorts of problems. Loss of power of course, but it the least of these ills. Other faults caused by a cupped wrist include high, weak shots, fat shots, thin shots (yes, both fat and thin), pulls, and slices.

Head Down

While everybody talks about keeping the head down, the real goal is to keep the spine axis stable as the body pivots around it in the swing.

In the pictures, the spine axis is shown as a red centerline. A proper swing is a body turn that pivots around this axis. If the axis straightens up toward vertical before impact, it throws off the whole plane of the swing. That is the motion people refer to when they say, “He came out of it,” or, “His head came up.”

The most obvious problem with losing the spine angle is topping the ball. But it is not the only problem. For instance, the pros seldom hit a dead top, the way the Sunday golfer does. The pros can “save” their shot to the extent that they will get the clubface on the ball.

But even they will lose the ball to the right (for a right-handed golfer) if they straighten up. Try this the next time you watch golf on TV. Most of the players you see there have a swing that preserves the spine angle, at least from the top of the backswing through impact. But even the best in the world lose it occasionally. Watch their swing, and note what happens if they straighten up. It is almost always a push or a slice.

Even Tiger has had this problem for the past few years. We know that he has his bad days with the driver, when he is playing from the right-hand rough. If you watch his swing, you can tell almost every time when he is about to say, “Fore right!” Just look at whether his spine angle has straightened up during the downswing. (This was written in mid-2010. He is doing better at this now, but obviously the principle still applies).

Head Behind the Ball

It is as important to a good swing to keep the head behind the ball as to keep it down.

proper golf swing mechancis

In the pictures, there is a vertical red line from the ball, so you can see how the head stays behind it through impact. Actually, the head lunging forward, not the head coming up, is what causes a push or slice when you “come out of it”. But the two are closely related in a real golf swing. If you can keep your spine angle, you are probably also staying back. And if you come up out of the swing, it is likely that you are lunging forward as well. (Well, not always. Some bad golfers have an even worse problem. They straighten up with the weight on their back leg. This sort of a swing frequently results in total disaster.)

This brings us to the challenge of a good weight shift and a straight wrist while keeping the head back. In the picture, you see:

  • First the good news: The golfer made a good weight shift. While the head is still back, the hips have moved forward, in particular the right hip driven by the right leg. This is very apparent in the photo. This “clearing of the right hip” is part of the rotation of the body that makes the swing work, as well as shifting the weight forward without lunging and destroying the spine angle.

  • Now the bad news: The golfer has a slightly cupped wrist just after impact. A lot of golfers do this. It is a challenge to keep the wrist flat while keeping the head back. It requires the hands to continue moving forward through and after impact, because the clubhead will move forward. In turn, this requires even more rotation of the hips, torso, and shoulders than the golfer here shows, to keep the hands moving through impact. What you do not want to do is move the hands forward by bending the left elbow (right elbow for left-handers). This is called “chicken-winging”, and can be the source of problems like topping and slicing.

The PRO-HEAD™ trainer will teach you to keep your head back and your spine angle steady. But it is essential to incorporate hitting balls in your PRO-HEAD™ trainer practice, in order to integrate a good weight shift and a flat wrist. They do not have to be real balls, though that is best. There is still a lot of value to hitting wiffle balls or birdie balls.

pro head 2 golf swing trainer

The Pro-Head 2 Golf Swing Trainer will instill proper golf swing mechanics quick and easy!

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