[Editor's Note: The following article was written by Todd Casabella, Director of Instruction at Grey Hawk Golf Club in Lagrange. Todd is a member of the Professional Golfers' Association of America and a TPI Certified Golf Fitness Instructor.]
Every golfer has been given a swing tip. Whether it’s from your buddies watching you hack it up worse than normal or your neighbor who just watched the golf channel, someone undoubtedly has given you advice on how to hit the ball better. As a golf instructor, one of the first things I do with a new student is to find out what types of thoughts they are bringing to their approach. Sometimes it’s necessary to deprogram the brain before plugging new thoughts in.
Swing tips you hear run the gamut. Almost every golfer has heard “keep your head down”, “left arm straight”, “shift your weight”, “keep your head still”, “stay behind it” and my favorite “take the club straight back”. The intention is good but the consequences of following these tips can be catastrophic for your golf swing or even your health. I’m going to quickly debunk each one.
“Keep Your Head Down”
After you have hit the golf ball, staring at the ground will limit torso rotation, which in turn limits weight shift, shortens the follow through and causes over rotation of the forearms. This makes ball flight short and unpredictable.
“Left Arm Straight”
If you have a good grip and swing the club around your body on the correct path, keeping your left arm straight should happen naturally. If you don’t do these things and try to keep your left arm straight, you’re risking a left elbow injury, creating tension that will inhibit you from making good contact and limiting distance.
“Keep Your Head Still”
You head moves. When the best ball strikers in the world set-up to the golf ball their heads are over their right thigh. When they have completed their swings, their heads are over their left foot. All of them do it. Without head movement there isn’t a weight shift without a swaying of the hips. This leads to lower back pain and unpredictable ball flight.
“Shift Your Weight”
If you’re keeping your head down and still then you will be told to shift your weight, but how? The only way is to sway your hips back and forth. This can create other swing faults such as reverse spine angle, steep shoulder rotation and even a reverse weight shift. It can also cause lower back and hip pain. If your set up to the golf ball correctly and pivoting properly, your weight will shift.
“Stay Behind It”
First, you’re standing to the side of the golf ball. There’s no way you can hit it from behind it. However, shifting your weight into your right side should happen naturally, see above. Moving through the golf ball, you are pivoting on your left leg and rotating towards the target. Forcing yourself to stay back on your right side through the golf ball can cause better players to swing to far from in to out creating an uncontrollable hook. Average golfers will come over the top leading to fat shots and weak pull slices. If you are pivoting properly you don’t have to worry about “staying behind” the golf ball.
“Take the Club Straight Back”
The golf club is swung in a circle around your body at an angle to the ground. What is straight about a circle?
Here’s the best golf tip I ever got. “No one cares what you shoot, just how long you take to shoot it. Play fast.” Great advice. Good luck on the links!