Bump and Run Lose That Banana Ball

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We know it's difficult to find time to practice during the week. When a Saturday or Sunday tee time rolls around, you're hoping to find some spark or productive swing thought that will help you break 100, 90, 80 or whatever your scoring goal may be.
 
With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed toward improving your game. This week it's Scott Sackett, director of instruction at The Rim Golf Club in Payson, Ariz., and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.
Scott Sackett HeadshotSCOTT SACKETT
Director of Instruction, The Rim Golf Club, Payson, AZ; Teaching Professional, McCormack Ranch Golf Club, Scottsdale, AZ

Accomplishments:
- Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers
- America's Best Teachers by State, Golf Digest
- 1997 Southwest PGA Section Teacher of the Year
- Titleist Leadership Advisory Staff
 
Web Site:
www.scottsackett.com
 
Contact: scott@scottsackett.com

Sackett, a former nationally-ranked Bicycle Motocross (BMX) rider who once appeared on a box of Wheaties, believes that the fastest way to improve as a golfer is to work on the fundamentals, specifically your grip, posture and alignment.

'If you get those three things perfect, then you have a chance,' said Sackett. 'And if any one of those three is off, then you have to make a mistake in your swing to hit the ball straight. The golf swing is hard enough to do right, let alone do it wrong.'
 
To submit a question to Sackett or one of our teachers, please e-mail bumpandrun@thegolfchannel.com and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered. 

Speaking of the grip, is there a correct method to getting your hands on the club correctly?
 
Grip the shaft in your right hand, and hold the club out in front of you so the handle is just above your belt line and the toe of the club is up in the air. Then place the grip on a diagonal in the fingers of your left hand, so the V [formed by your thumb and forefinger] points over to your right shoulder and you can see at least 2-1/2 knuckles on your left hand. Now, go ahead and put your right hand on. The nice thing is that once your left hand is on properly, the right hand naturally forms on the grip. Once your hands are on securely, set the clubhead down on the ground.

Any advice for the weekend warrior? Something that may help them drop a shot or two during their Saturday or Sunday round?

If there's one thing I'm always working on with my students, it's to get them lined up properly at address. I’d say 90 percent of all golfers aim their bodies at the target, instead of parallel left to the target. If you aim right, you have to swing over the top to get the ball back to the target, and that’s how you slice the ball.

How difficult is it to explain what 'parallel left' means?

I try and explain it simply by saying the outside railroad track is your target line, and the inside track is your body line. But more times than not, a student will come back to me a week later and they still don’t understand it.

Jim Furyk uses alignment aids on driving range.
Even the game's elite players, like Jim Furyk (above), practice with an alignment aid on the ground.
It definitely helps to practice with a shaft on the ground. This trains your eyes to see the target from a square setup, not closed or open. Do it enough times on the range and your eyes start to look in the same place. Walk 15 yards behind the shaft and you'll get a clearer picture because the farther back you are, the easier it’s going to be to see it.

Once I get people to understand the concept of alignment, and how to set their bodies parallel left to the target, then I get them in the proper setup and posture. The first thing you do is assume your grip and then set the clubface down behind the ball, square to your intended target line. Then step in with both feet and set your feet, hips and shoulders perpendicular to the clubface. Once your feet are set properly, then get in your posture.

One of our readers writes in looking for a quick fix to his slicing problems. He says he can't seem to correct it, no matter what he does. Any suggestions?

No. 1, he needs to get his grip stronger, so both Vs point to his right shoulder. That's where it all starts. No. 2, he needs to make sure he's not aiming too far right at address. Next, I'd get him to tilt his upper body a little more behind the ball at address, so his right shoulder is clearly below his left. Finally, I'd ask him to visualize himself swinging the club from 7 to 1 o'clock on an imaginary clockface (your target line is 6 to 12), which is in to out.

If you're dealing with the dreaded banana ball, take a few practice swings at 40- to 50-percent speed where you’re working on that 7 to 1 path. As you do that, you’re going to start naturally feeling your hands release. When you swing from out to in or over the top, you can’t release your hands, otherwise you’d be hitting a pull-hook. If you start training yourself to swing from 7 to 1, you might hit a few pushes for awhile because you don’t know how to release your hands just yet. But once you get the ball started in the right direction, then your hands will naturally start to release.

Another driver-related question. A 65-year-old man writes in that he's recently dropped a lot of distance with his clubs, particularly his driver. His brother told him it's because he's not creating enough resistance, or torque, in his swing. How do you get that good, strong coil, even if you've lost a little flexibility over the years? 

He could take the right shoe and toe it in a little bit, and then feel like his lower body stays quiet while still making a nice shoulder turn. The last thing he wants to do is open his right shoe up and allow his hips to overturn, because then there’s no resistance.

In a perfect world, you can turn your shoulders 90 degrees and your hips 45 degrees. That’s a good X-Factor. The more you can turn your shoulders and quiet the hips, the more coil you’re going to get and the farther you’re going to hit the ball.

Related Videos from Scott Sackett
  • Grip, Posture, & Alignment
  • Ball Flight Keys
  • Running vs. Stopping Shots
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