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Getting Back to Basics

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Jim Flick  
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Our golf swings are always evolving ' sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Usually problems occur when we attempt to overcontrol the golf club or overpower the golf ball.
 
In attempting to correct these problems, our minds often become cluttered with so many thoughts that we lose sight of whats important in the golf swing. We end up making it more complex than it actually is. We need to return to the domino effect ' making one adjustment that makes the most good things happen.
 
First, we must have clearly in our minds a philosophy which identifies (1) what we want to do with the golf club, and (2) our approach to playing the game. I believe that the simple approach is the most direct and yields the best opportunities for good results and improvement.
 
A simple philosophy. In an attempt to make the ball go to the target, it is the swinging of the instrument and arms that turns the shoulders and shifts the weight on both sides of the arc (i.e., the backswing and the downswing). That is, we should feel how to use the head of the golf club and build our sensitivity around it during the swing, rather than consciously turning our shoulders and shifting our weight.

Grip and grip pressure. The way the fingers and hands are placed on the club is important obviously because its the only place the body comes in contact with the club. Although the grip is not the same for everybody because of the way the hands and arms hang, there are common denominators.
 
With the left hand (for a right-handed player), the grip-end of the golf club should be laid underneath the pad at the base of the hand and run diagonally into the second joint of the index finger, and then the fingers simply close around the club. The thumb should lie to the right side of the shaft (at approximately the 2 oclock position) so that when the arms are swinging and rotating on the backswing, the club rests on the left thumb at the top of the backswing.
 
With the right hand, the club should lie in the middle joint of the middle two fingers and both Vs should be pointing between the chin and the right shoulder. Exactly where depends upon the type of ball flight that were trying to create or eliminate (turn more towards the shoulder for a right-to-left draw).
 
Correct grip pressure is critical. We want our fingers secure but our arms relaxed so that all the joints can work in response to the weight in the head of the golf club.
 
Finding your correct grip pressure is easy. Standing tall, grip the club normally and hold it out perpendicular to the ground. You can hardly feel the clubhead. Now drop it to horizontal. Feel how heavy the clubhead is at this position and then how tight your arms and fingers have become. Now raise the shaft to a 45-degree angle, close your eyes and relax your arms until you feel the weight in the clubhead. See how light it is in your hands? You should have this same constant grip pressure throughout the swing.
 
That will help you feel the weight of the clubhead ' which is critical in creating the squaring of the clubface through impact ' and it will allow the hands and wrists to react correctly to that weight and create the release of the clubhead at the right time in the arc (impact area).

Setup. A correct posture allows room for the arms to hang and swing freely from (not with) the shoulders. To create the best posture, we would ask people to stand tall with their chins up and shoulders back (feel as if your shoulder blades are nearly touching). Tilt the spine to the right slightly, which drops the right hip under (at a lower level than the left hip). Bend from the hips, keeping the legs straight (that puts the weight on the balls of the feet).
 
Unlock the knees so the arms can hang and swing freely. The tilt of the spine varies as to the lie of the ball and as to how you are trying to use the golf club. Tilt to the right more (for right-handers) for a sweeping blow with a fairway wood or driver ' less tilt for irons.
 
Aim. The only thing aimed at the target is the clubhead, and because we are standing left of the target, our body lines (shoulders, hips, knees, etc) will be parallel-left, not converging at the target.

Picture a set of railroad tracks. Facing the tracks, the rail farthest away represents the path to the target, and the near rail represents the lines of the body which are left and parallel to the target line. The two rails dont converge - they actually look as if they get wider at the target.
 
During the practice sessions, put clubs or old shafts on the ground to establish correct aiming habits. Dont forget to use the eyes to track down the target line in front of the ball after establishing an intermediate target to work with a few yards in front of your ball.

Swinging the club. The swinging back of the clubhead with the hands and arms turns the shoulders until the left shoulder gets over the right knee (with your longer clubs). That gets people behind the ball, which is critical to a consistently successful golf swing.
 
Begin the downswing with the arms swinging down from the inside (within an inch or two of your pants pocket). That will improve balance, consistency and sequence of movement ' keeping the body from outracing the club ' something most people have a tendency to do.
 
There are different transitions for some people, but most golfers shouldnt be trying to clear their hips and drive their legs. The hips dont begin to turn until the swinging of the arms pulls them through naturally.
 
The feet and legs are used as support, not as a power tool. Stay turned with your chest and shoulders, but swing the arms back into a normal top-of-the-backswing and then swing the clubhead through, hitting the ball. Use the front-loader drill to give you the feeling. Address the ball and then swing your arms forward into a finished position. Stay turned, but swing the arms back into a normal backswing and then swing through, hitting the ball.
 
Were constantly using trial and error in putting our golf game together, but in general, youll play better with rhythm and feel rather than trying to get into static positions.
 
When I taught PGA Tour pro Andrew Magee, he often made the comment that he played a lot better when he focused on his forward swing and not his backswing. Thats so true. He doesnt play well just because he puts the club into a certain position at the top of the backswing. Andrew plays well because he relies on feel and tempo as he swings the club through.
 
In summary, as you apply these keys, keep these thoughts in mind. Attitude will determine ones final performance level a lot more than athletic talent, so stay positive and enjoy the learning process. And our sensitivity for the use of the golf club and for the game will be more critical to our success than our knowledge about the game.
 
Catch Golf Channel Troubleshooter Jim Flick on Academy Live ' Friday, Jan. 25, at 6:30 p.m. ET.