Random Observation on the Golf Swing & Weight Balancing

InStanceHipDown_igor-ovsyannykov-270958When instructors talk about shifting your weight during the swing, they’re really referring to shifting your pressure – as in the pressure points where you feet connect to the ground. This is why so often you might hear about the swing really starting from the lower body and the feet. Go ahead and Google videos on “foot pressure and the golf swing” and you’ll see what I mean.

When I hear ‘shift your weight’ invariably I try and move my body mass and center of gravity (which usually involves my head) laterally to the left or right – which isn’t comfortable and often makes the small of my back hurt. However, when I try to shift pressure points it’s all about where my weight presses against the ground in term of the ball of my feet and the heels and which foot.

So when I need to shift right, my body stays in the exact same place mostly but my left ankle relaxes and flexes up from the heel so that most of my pressure glides over to my right foot and rests between the big-toe ball and my inner heel. The more my swing goes back, the more the pressure transitions to the back of my right heel and my left foot goes into a mini high-heel position which may or may not also result in my left knee rising – much like a batter winding up to strike the ball. Shifting pressure points back left again is more footwork with a push off the right foot and a slight bend back to the front, while my left heel returns firmly down to the ground bracing itself for me to begin rotating around my left leg as an axis. All this coincides with a similar change in vertical-ness as far as my shoulder sockets go – because we all should be starting off with the right shoulder slightly lower than the left but during the backswing the right shoulder will switch height location with the left in a way that matches what’s going on ‘down-ground.’

But the huge AHA takeaway for me is – it is NOT about moving my shoulders and torso laterally from left to right or really about me feeling a lot of strain in my thighs but rather about this groove and shift between my left and right feet. That’s why the head needs to generally stay in place – even though many great pros like Jack Nicklaus actually move their head behind the ball when swinging through.

Observation #2. Golf is a lot of math and geometry. Golf is so much about circles and straight lines. Every round part of our bodies – from the balls of our feet and our ankle, to our knee sockets and hip sockets, to our arms and elbow and shoulder sockets – needs to rotate and un-rotate in sync to get that straight bone that’s connected to the socket in question to swing groovy and smoothly.

But when I think about the pressure thingy – the analog of the swing being more like bowling & throwing rings true for me. The way I rock before winding up to bowl a bowling ball and how I try to roll the ball onto the wooden floor works better than the image of trying to hit a baseball even if there are many similarities in the wind up and delivery.

Golf swings are also very unique for each individual depending on the measurements between all these round body parts as explained in the article which really shed more light on what my swing should be like. I started measuring myself – my wingspan, my forearm, etc., and I’m beginning to think that mine’s more of a swing that settles below the plain of my shoulders at the apex of the back swing versus above the shoulder line. And who knew? Many pros reach high points in their back swings that are either above, at, or below their shoulder planes as also described in this piece. It was very enlightening. And it makes sense – after all – every one has a different combinations on pant & inseam, neck and shirt sleeve and waist dimensions along with height dimensions. So what works for a tall golfer doesn’t necessarily translate for a stocky or long-armed or short-legged or whatever-dimension-ed golfer.

Now I won’t try to force myself to rotate so much and have my left wrist reach above my ears during the back swing – which is very uncomfortable. Instead I’m going to swing back in a way that more mimics a side-arm pitcher. I feel much more comfortable that way.

Glad to be back after many months away and hoping to get back into a rhythm. Happy Friday.

Royalty Free Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Check it out. THE SWING PLANE EXPLAINED.

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What do I mean “I’m a Width Golfer?”

So I’m walking thru this recycled book store as I often do with my daughter – and, as I often do, I went to the golf book section to see what words of advice I might scan thru and I came across an old book that talked about the Laws of the Swing.  It’s called “The Laws of the Golf Swing” by Mike Adams.  It’s an older book but it talks about body types and various golf swings.

The basic gist of it was – there are three basic types of physics for executing a golf swing and they are based on your body type.  Many other bloggers (like Grateful G) have talked about how there are as many different types of swing set ups and such as there are batting styles or pitching styles or methods of striking a tennis ball etc.

But the reasoning behind it is as follows.  If you’re taller and thiner than you are wide you’re a leverage player meaning you use height to generate power in your swing and your swing plane will be more up-to-down or vertical.  You’ll arc your swing more than others and really reach behind you at the top of your swing.  Think Bubba or other tall golfers.  If you’re medium build you’ll have a different set up that is more fluid and circular.  And if you’re like me – less flexible, shorter than most golfers (barely 5’10.5″), and stockier – you’ll generate more power by swing side-to-side – using your width and generating power laterally or horizontally.  I was a little disappointed to have to come to terms with my body type but I tried some of the methods suggested for figuring out my body type such as folding my right arm with my thumbup and seeing if my thumb touched below, at, or above my shoulder plane – and it rang true.  The tests in the book are pretty simple and quick to do.  Plus I showed my wife the pictures of the different body types and she immediately identified me as the stockier wider type guy.  Welcome to my middle-aged-dom right?

Anyway, as I read on it made sense.  What it meant was I should disregard techniques and advice that try to make me swing very wristy or talk a lot about the top of the swing and such.  I now know that a lot of the advice dished out in Golf magazine or even by pro golfers are for a body type that does not necessarily jive with mine.

I swing best when I swing like I’m doing tug of war with a rope that runs along the the target line.  To go back to the baseball analog – If i were a pitcher I would pitch side-arm versus overhead or even at 10 o’clock.  I much prefer and have better consistency when I cock my right arm at 3 o’clock and limit my backswing so I don’t have very much turn.  If I were a batter, I would swing more like Babe Ruth – like I’m prepping to give someone an upper-cut in boxing – i wouldn’t hit the ball at the bottom of the batter’s box but would do better to swing at a fastball high because my batting plane would be much more horizontal  so I would sway or float backward than forward.

The takeaways for me were to execute a very short backswing, pushing my club away from me backwards-directly opposed to the target with my left arm and tugging it away as well with my right – trying to push the circumference of my swing to create a horizontal oval shape versus an vertical one.  I would bend at the hips and lean forward a little more to get around my somewhat wider chest which prevents me from effectively marrying my hands beyond a certain point during my backswing because to do so sorta forces me off-plane because I’m not very flexible anymore.  So my swing is faster and shorter in length and looks like I use way more chest and arms than most people do but my plane stays consistent and I’m less likely to come over the top of the ball.  It also means, I stand a little wider, have much less arc (even though I finish full swing and have no problem getting the club all the way around), and I place the ball just a little bit farther back than most – closer to center for my irons versus in-line with my left heel.  It also means I need to flare my feet just a little (my left more so than my right) so I can add some turn to my hips beyond what my arms allow me.  And I move my right foot back just a smidge to help clear my hips.

Still taking my lessons, I really didn’t want to add more adjustments to my repertoire and louse things up – but I went to the driving range to practice and I have to admit – the adjustments worked.  I had more consistency and confidence and had a much lower tendency of chunking the dirt early or coming up over the top.  I was striking 80% accuracy towards my target (within a margin of error of some 10-15 feet, aiming at a target 135-150 yards away using my 9 and 7 irons) and had only one shank out of a bucket of 50.  Maybe the first time ever  that has happened to me!!

The biggest thing for me was to consciously not try to overdue my backswing but to stop as soon as my left arm crossed my chest and lay horizontal.  I also became more comfortable bending at the hips so my arms really hung like sausages instead of trying to mimic great erect posture like an Adam Scott or somebody.  Let’s face it, many of those guys on the Champions Tour hang over the ball like gargoyles perched on a roof top more than some 20-something 360 degree swinging arch-angel.

So – I’m pleased with this finding.  It tells me that: 1) I need to filter all those magazine articles and TV shows words-of-advice because often, I imagine, their talking to that younger more agile player than someone like me; 2) It’s worth the effort to keep digging for more information all the time because the more I learn the more likely I am to find suggestions that match me; 3) if advice is going to help me, it should generate fairly immediate and visible results.  In fact, I remember Paul Azinger in one of those very same golf channel shows saying that if you don’t see fairly quick results from a word of advice (assuming you’re following them correctly) then just maybe it’s not great advice – for you.

Net net, my confidence in my swing just went up a notch.  Here’s a picture of the book cover.  Yes – I had to come to terms with the fact that I have a belly, and I’m not so flexible, and my chest gets in the way of my swing – but knowledge is power if you don’t take it personally I guess.  Besides, I’m starting to run again and I should lose 20 lbs in no time – yeah, right.  Famous last words.  Every year, I tell my wife – “Just give me a month and Shazzamo! I’ll be back to my old self !!”

The key to success is self-knowledge sometimes.

And, next to it – another picture from a Paris Golf Poster that I’m thinking resembles my style as a width player.DSCN1264Laws of the Golf Swing

Golf lesson 2b

Also, note to self – keep tension out of shoulders, and finish with elbows pointing down which is much easier if you don’t tense up in shoulder area. I got at standing workstation at work also to help counteract poor posture and muscle tension from sitting at a desk all day.

Some 18 months or more into my serious journey and I really feel like I’ve turned a corner.

Thx guys for encouraging me along and chiming in with your learnings as well

Golf Lesson #2

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Wow. This guy at Los Lagos GC sure is kinda different. Just finished my 2nd lesson. Will write more later but a few quick notes. Marry my right hand to the club n make sure all my fingers are on. Continue focus on holding finish. Think with your heart not your brain. The heart has more neurons than ur brain. It is a better intelligence and starting point for action. Be positive. Let go tension by breathing and thinking with a positive heart. I swung thru every ball with a trajectory that was fairly on target. No slices no chunks but more importantly much less fear and anxiety. I am grateful for my lessons. What a great Saturday. I just might sign up to play 9 or 18 holes by Tax day. And I feel like I am on track to start doing local tournaments by 2016. Who knew the heart was a better place to start any action! Yet it makes perfect sense. When the heart instructs the brain it feels so much more fluid. More later. Peace out.

P.S. the instructor’s name is Mike Flenniken. Every time I leave him I feel like Grasshopper in the old Kung Fu TV show. He really makes me think in a fresh non stressful non body mechanics way. Shazzamo ! Up up and away.

Song List: Sunday – Time Outta Mind

Had a decent day yesterday.  Went to the range with my PW and 7-iron.  Perfect crisp 70 degrees clear blue sky.  Just butter!

It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood

It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood

Took time to stretch – including my fingers and wrists.  With a bucket of 40 balls I’d say 50% had good flight path and fell within a respectable margin of target.  Another 15% were tugged left but hit far and straight.  Another 15% fade/sliced right.  A couple just shanked to the extreme right.  And a good 5-8% were like dead on.  Not too shabby.  I’ll take it for having just introduced a new swing adjustment.  Here’s a quick pass at the gory details for learning’s sake… thinking about it I did a lot better when I finally established the pre-swing routine and when I took less of a backswing but tried to focus on keeping my right elbow close to my right hip, focused on a full follow-thru AND trying to keep my left hand on or inside a line across my toes during the backswing.  I know, that last one sounds weird but that’s my attempt at trying to think my body to swinging inside-out.

What else did I do?

I made sure to swing thru and hold my finish until the ball landed.  I also followed GratefulG’s routine of starting to go thru a routine for each or almost each swing……

  1. stepping back,
  2. finding my line,
  3. finding a very precise target
  4. and then walking up and placing my clubbed down the line with my right hand and my feet together facing the target.

Then I move my left foot over until my left heel lines up with the golf ball and I step back with my right foot until I feel planted.

I was kinda making it up at first but then I got a rhythm going.  If it’s putting I can tell you I’ve got a real good routine for that since that’s much of what I practiced on this winter – but I decided I should try and make one up for irons.  So after set-up, I borrowed from my putting routine – I just stepped back to a parallel line and did 1-2-3 (sometimes 4-5) easy mini swings just to get a feel for when the leading edge would sweep the practice mat.  When I got it close to my left heel without chunking or digging but just swishy – usually that happens in the 1st or 2nd practice if I really just swing like it didn’t matter – I would step back up take one more gaze at my target and then swing with full intent to turn and hold a full finish.  I Don’t know – but it felt good towards the end of the bucket when my consistency started to dial-up.

Steely Dan - Gaucho

Steely Dan – Gaucho

And then – I went home – all jazzed at what I thought was respectable practicing session and ended up practicing my chip shot in the front yard with this new sturdy practice mat.  Work is still crazy but I’m happy I forced myself to get back into practice after a couple weeks off.

And here’s a song list of stuff I was listening to – just for grins…..

  • Time Out of Mind by Steely Dan on Gaucho
  • Sky High by Donald Byrd on Black Byrd
  • I.G.Y. by Donald Fagan on The Nightfly
  • Satellite by Günter on Ganging Up
  • Who Makes Your Money by Spoon on Transference

    Donald-Byrd-Black-Byrd

    Donald Byrd

  • Static Society by King Kooba on OM10 A Decade of Future Music
  • Optimistic by Tom Middleton on Lifetracks
  • III Street Blues by Moonrock on Café Del Mar Volume Series

00.+Tom+Middleton+-+Lifetracks+[FACTOR+19]_a

Spoon

Spoon

Daily Diary: Backswing Practice n Balance

After warming up I was able to connect cleanly with 8 out of 10 swings. 6 swing drove the ball within 10 degrees of desired trajectory – nice straight hits. I hooked two and severely sliced 2 others. I need to continue turning all the way thru the swing and keep practicing bringing my right knee in.

I’m also trying to keep a tempo and to turn on my backswing until my back faces the target or my left shoulder touches my chin and or points to the ball.

I did the balance on one foot thing. Getting better. And I remembered to stretch. One more week and ill schedule lesson number 2.

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