Most people DO NOT understand the golf swing

BACKGROUND

Many years ago, when I decided I was going to get into teaching, I had a lot of preconceptions about the golf swing, and how I thought it was supposed to work. Many of those ideas were completely wrong.  I was actually pretty clueless about the golf swing, so I educated myself. I stood on the range and made different swings to see how things actually worked. Over and over and over again. Every day I found something that mainstream instruction had either largely ignored or had totally backwards.

THERE IS BAD ADVICE EVERYWHERE

Today, I am not clueless about the golf swing. But many prominent people (with much larger audiences than me) unfortunately are. In turn, I often find myself getting frustrated when hearing those people discuss the swing. It makes me especially frustrated for the general golfing public.

For years, I listened to Johnny Miller tell people on TV to try to pull the butt of the club into a wall in front of them.

Terrible!!!!!!!!!!!

I heard Peter Kostis proclaim that golfers should go wide-to-narrow in order to increase power, while at the same time saying that wide-to-narrow was the cause of Phil Mickelson’s inconsistency under pressure.

Awful!!!!!!!! No wonder people feel so clueless about the golf swing!

GOLF IS HARD. MANY ARE MAKING IT EVEN HARDER

I see all sorts of golf tips and instructions given out on the range by teachers and range rats alike, and the simple fact is most of this advice leaves out one important concept:

You cannot zero-out positions and movements in the golf swing.

IT’S COUNTER-INTUITIVE

The golf swing is most often two opposing forces working together. And most actions in the golf swing are counter-intuitive. Two good examples:

  1. to cure a pull hook, you need to create a swing path that is more to the left. (for right-handers)
  2. To cure a slice, you need a swing path that is more to the right (for right-handers)

This is completely counter-intuitive, and a HUGE part of the golfing public (and many instructors) don’t understand it.

You need to have spine tilt behind the ball at impact with an iron to give your arms room to swing, create forward shaft lean (the right way) and hit down on the ball. People argue with me about this every day. I am yet to get a response when I ask them to show me a video of a great player who isn’t tilted behind the ball at impact on a regular iron shot. No one has sent me a video of Ricky Barnes yet.

You need more early club face rotation in the downswing to avoid a hook. Yes, that’s not a typo. When you hit a snap hook your club face is either too far inside, or open, or both. When this happens, the body stalls, and the hands flip to catch the club up the to the rotation of the body. So you need the club to gradually rotate from the top of the swing, in order for the club face to match the path and the rotation of the body. More rotation of the left arm back and through makes this happen.

This is why getting better at golf is so hard. Because the damn game makes no intuitive sense at all.

Feel isn’t real, opposing forces canceling out, and all of this counter-intuitive nonsense makes it hard, especially when making changes to your swing often brings immediate failure.

What makes me mad is that the “experts” are not taking the time to explain this to people. Sometimes I feel like Don Quixote. I don’t want to be presumptuous and say that most of them don’t understand it as well as I do, but I have put in the time, and put these ideas into real trial-and-error situations as both a player and a teacher.

THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY, BUT MANY WRONG WAYS

There is no exact “right” way to swing a club, and that makes it difficult too. Most people like to be told exactly what to do, as opposed to being told what not to do. I have been criticized for spending an inordinate amount of time on video telling people what not to do in the golf swing, as opposed to telling them exactly what to do. I accept this criticism and am working on it, but the reason I do that is no accident. There are a lot of good ways to swing a club, and it’s actually easier to focus on the dealbreakers than on the multitude of good options available. Plus, I am a big believer in the idea that finding your swing is just as much about avoiding the bad stuff as it is about doing what’s right.

On paper, the swing is this simple: Make a consistent swing path, get the club face to match that path and create a decent angle of attack for each club. Of course, in practice, getting there can be an enormous challenge.

HOW I TEACH GOLF

Here is how I focus on making my students better: I find the direction I think an individual should take her/his swing. Then I focus on 3 or 4 basic ideas that will get them there, and finally, figure out how to communicate those ideas to the student in different ways until they get it.

I have produced major improvements in many students working this way. When they finally get it, the common refrain from most of them is something like, “this is about the 20th way you have told me to do this, but I finally understand it.”

I once had a student who was a Division 1 golfer. He was a great player of golf, but his swing had a low ceiling and was preventing him from ever taking a huge leap. This golfer didn’t hit the ball very far. He basically got his upper body in front of the ball, pulled the handle, got disconnected and casted at the bottom to pick it perfectly off the ground. I worked within the limitations of this swing off and on for about 18 months before he finally decided he wanted to take a huge leap and fundamentally change his swing.

It didn’t take that long to drastically improve his swing, but it took him months to get comfortable with it. In the interim, he had days where he hit it 30 yards farther off the tee, straighter and more solid with all the clubs than he did a year ago. And he also had days where he had to hit 5 iron from 150 to whiff it onto the green.

IT’S A PROCESS

And this is why golf is so hard. First you have to make the right corrections, and then you have to grow comfortable with them. Fighting the urge to say “this feels weird, or powerless, or wrong” is a major part of the battle. Because here is something else that is 100% true 100% of the time: if you make changes to your golf swing and they don’t feel weird, you haven’t actually changed anything at all. So don’t feel clueless about the golf swing. Get a clue and understand that it is hard for everybody.

 

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31 Comments

  1. Ron

    I don’t see a self-righteous arrogant jerk. I see a concerned frustrated teacher!
    Glad to see you and your students achieving success. There is nothing like success to create more success!

    Reply
  2. Lukey

    Hi Monte,

    Good piece. I’m pretty much in full agreement as usual.

    Just something slightly off topic. What do you think about the flip? I don’t think you have ever addressed this directly with a piece and a video like you have a cast or early release (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). I was hitting my irons horrible all through the winter and finally caved and went to see my pro. He got me up on the big screen and there it was – a huge pre impact flip that has me hitting anything below a 7 iron hugely fat or when I do catch one correctly, 20 yards shorter than I ever hit in the past. This particular pro comes with a very big reputation and people travel from all over the UK to see him. Therefore I was very dissapointed that being my first lesson and all, he didn’t even bother to comment on my grip, setup or anything else, and instead just had me doing the punisher drill and sent me packing after 15 minutes. I dislike this drill because it only works for chip shops and small pitches and doesn’t translate to a full swing, and I’m guessing you would dislike this drill because it involves holding the release and holding the lag. I am nobody to disagree with a teaching pro, but I really don’t think this is the way to go.

    So often I see the flip labelled as a better player error, usually as a counter to a path that is stuck too far inside and therefore flipping to avoid a block and mostly causing a hook. Speaking from experience, being an over the topper and not a good player, I can say that this is not always the case. So, what would your recommendation be for working on this? I know you advocate a gradual rolling release and so does Tom Watson who’s DVD I’ve been studying and this is what I’ve been trying to work on the last couple of months. I’m driving it very well and hitting the longer stuff pretty good, and I’m even chipping well funnily enough (go figure!), but between 7 iron and 58 degree, I absolutely stink. And these being the scoring clubs, it is becoming very frustrating. As I say, I’ve been working hard on a rolling sweeping release, tempo, trying to stop grabbing from the top and trying to fight the hit instinct but progress is very slow to non existent. What would you have a student in my situation doing?

    Reply
    • Robert Johansson

      This guy, my sisters kid is 21 years old, he been hanging with me from time to time, tried to play a few times, I am finally able to convey what to do to make solid contact.
      He hit 3 inches behind the ball previous range session, in the end of that one I said, wait with the release in fact dont release at all due to the club and its head will do it for you with proper force. He hit one shot 40 yards longer with purity. This is from the next range session and he started to get the hang of the release.

      Reply
      • Monte Scheinblum

        He needs to keep his upper body back longer and get some tilt at impact.

        Reply
      • Robert Johansson

        Yep, work in progress, he never practice except with me from time to time.

        Reply
    • Monte Scheinblum

      I am sorry to say the guy you went to is clueless. the cure for a flip is not to hold on or the punisher drill. It’s to figure out why you flip. Upper body in front, too long of a backswing, hips not getting forward enough, etc.

      It doesn’t happen for no reason.

      Reply
      • Lukey

        Damn, I thought as much. First and last time I bother seeing him then! There’s a rather popular forum where everyone thinks this drill is the answer too! I will keep working at it – I suspect I’m on the right track, it’s just very slow going…

        Reply
    • Roger Troxell

      he wants you to find rhythm!!! And work on your spine angle. Here’s a tip, stand at address as you noramally would. Instead of rotating to the trail side, rotate to a semi finished position, with out changing your spine angle. If you look in the reflection you should see your right shoulder lower than your lead shoulder, this means u maintained your angle and tilt. Then grab a lob wedge And do some flop shots you should easily be able to drop the club past your left hip like the pros and put that “sword in the sheath” Give it a try. Fixed my early release and flipping. I personally brought my handicap down a lot by devoting a tremendous amount of time chipping, and flop shots, if you can master it, the full swing is little more than a change in set up that will allow for a fuller swing. Not a whole lot more, there’s no greater feeling to me than hiting a lob wedge over an obstacle.

      Reply
  3. woody

    “Opposing forces canceling out.” You say, “A good example is to cure a pull hook, you need to have a swing path that is more to the left …”

    –Funny you should say this. I was at the range the other day and pulled one left. So, I said to myself, I know why it went left…I didn’t use enough of my right side. So, I put more right side into the next shot, it balanced-out, and it went straight.

    But, I didn’t work on the path. I worked on what created the path.

    Reply
    • woody

      Note: this is not the same Woody who promised not to clog this blog for a period of no less than a year.

      Reply
  4. Robert Johansson

    I agree fully, golf and a ton of instructors cant teach the swing and if they do you tend to end up doing bad things believing its good for you.
    A few years back, I ended up coaching a golf pro, the things I done was basically to clear up all the garbage he learned at his home club how to swing. He is a good guy, who did what any junior would do, trust the PGA Pro teaching due to they got to know what they do as they are in charge right…(Not)
    A long story shorter, I helped him clean up and added 50 yards to his driver and 30 yards to irons, 2 or so years later he crashed his back. I then tried to get him to change the swing to no avail. This spring he said, ok lets do this.
    In 2 weeks he has gone from the old swing to the new one, hits it longer and farther due to not having to do a impending release or some other compensation during the motion.

    I am not a golf swing guru, I do coaching work and became involved in the golf technical area due to I found it was a mess much like yourself.
    I am able to make a pro change his swing and make it better than a PGA Trainer then something is obviously wrong in the industry. I applied the same ideas for myself, and slowly are building the new swing for summer from ground up.

    Here is the kicker, I helped him re-build his swing in 2 weeks.
    I estimate maybe 2 more weeks before its pure play and go for him and his back is doing all good now. The benefit has been, he is more accurate and straighter now than before and is slowly learning a free release which I would assume you call a power release.
    He hit his spoon 40 yards past a 1 handicap age 22 guy yesterday who also hit spoon as he is 39 years old I guess he does good for an oldie.

    Lot of confusing material in golf, its to much focus on the swing instead of playing great golf.

    Reply
    • Mike Divot

      Tennis players don’t have these swingcrack issues.

      Baseball players don’t have these swingcrack issues.

      Baseball coaches know plenty about hitting technique — and there’s a lot of it — but it doesn’t seem to mess up ball players minds.

      How the hell did golf end up being in the servitude of “swing theory”?

      Reply
      • Robert Johansson

        I assume it has a lot to do with standing still mainly over the ball and its easier if your moving to not think about much than get that ball.

        Reply
      • Mike Divot

        You are right, there’s less time for “swing thoughts” when the ball is moving.

        But in golf instruction, the inmates are running the asylum. How did that come to pass?

        Reply
      • Robert Johansson

        Once the classic swing run the place, nicklaus, snead, Hogan before accident, Mike Austin and others. Then come video and people started doing drills and imitate the Pro´s.
        The real plaque was Nick Faldo and his inability to handle pressure, so he went to a swing guru (Leadbetter) and then won 6 majors, what people dont ask was this, why did Nick Faldo end his career early? He became short, not dynamic due to loosing his athletic swing.

        The only answer to this, create a world class player, who then kick some ass, and talks in media to the youngsters about this mess and tell them he did this due to not listening to swing theory. He played the game of golf. People even golfers are insecure and then to follow the logical make sense and assume as Monte did that those guys knew what they did when they didn’t.

        Reply
  5. The Original Brian

    Great post.

    For me the frustration I have now is I know what to do, I can do it about 60% of the time on the range, and hit perfect shots. Then on the course I like to jam my right shoulder into my right hip and hit a consistent 15 yard push with every club.

    It’ll come around eventually (I hope).

    Reply
  6. Mike Divot

    Monte, you are awesome. Death to swing crack! Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  7. Jason

    I’ve said this before but Monte you have so much in common with Shawn Clement, especially on tilt it’s not funny. You have different ways of explaining exactly the same things, but sometimes it’s all the same. Good stuff and I agree with it all.

    Reply
  8. hank

    spine tilt video would be greatly appreciated. I know this is so true but struggle to consistently implement. When I do, nothing but net.

    Reply
  9. Kevin Kruse

    Hey monte I have a question for you. Have you ever been able to play target golf? Just thinking about nothing else in the world besides the target and picturing the shot in your minds eye? I was just wondering if anyone on this board has gotten to that point I have had only brief rendezvous’ with this special feeling. Do you feel like you are close to getting there with what you have done in the past few years? Or do you always have at least one thought in your head?

    Reply
  10. Jason

    This is all good stuff. With Tennis and Base ball you are already in motion, you may look at the ball but you are target focused, this applies to golf too. Thing thing is that the swing is a dynamic motion starting from a static position. This causes all sorts of problems. You know why there is a forward press, or hovering the club, or a press with the right knee to start the swing? It’s because it’s to have the feel of already being in motion. Monte’s old long drive swing had a forward press. What happend to that Monte?

    Reply
  11. tim

    Jason – I agree with you about the similarities between Monte and Shawn. These guys are the only two instructors BAR NONE that I listen to. I wouldnt consider getting lessons with anybody else 🙂

    Anyway…enough of my man crush! I had exactly the same problems (i think) as you Monte. Vertical shoulder turn coming through leading to massive blocks and even bigger hooks..well damn it if your instruction about a level shoulder turn didnt sort that out!!! Im now hitting it much straighter…however I have to play the ball so far back in my stance so i dont hit it fat (its nearer my right toe then my left and im a RH player). Is that a typical sign that someone is holding the lag a little too much?? I am going to practice releasing from the top when I am back home in a month or so.

    However, having been a massive hooker :0 for the last few years, obviously releasing from the top gives me cause for concern.. Am i correct in thinking that as long as the torso keeps turning then a gradual release shouldnt cause a hook?

    Thanks a lot for this great blog – it has saved my golfing career!!

    Reply
    • Monte Scheinblum

      You don’t maintain your posture and your shoulders don’t rotate properly.

      It’s a sequence you will have to work on little by little.

      Step one, stop lifting the arms in the takeaway.

      Step two, don’t straighten up at the waist/hips.

      Step three, get your right shoulder working down more and around your spine.

      There are little things going on besides this, but if you work on these three things one at a time, your hips will start to work better.

      Reply
      • Eric Brown

        Thanks a lot Monte!
        Im a smaller guy like Cory Pavin and when i bust it I only carry it 240 but I know it can be better if i work on these things!
        been playing 2 years and have broke 80 twice ! Thanks again
        I will sign up for a video lesson in a month once i have worked on this!

        Reply
  12. Aimleft

    Amen brother! I hear people on the range giving “tips” all the time. Basically jsut a bunch of cliches; change grip, head up, hold lag and the like. I bet I could help 90% of golfers by getting them some tilt at impact, getting their shoulders to turn 90 deg to the spine and not sucking the club too far inside.

    Reply
  13. Djura

    I don’t play golf but I’m trying to teach the baseball swing to my son… I find golf had a lot of great content for baseball too… One thing I hear all the time from baseball elites is feel is not real… This is nonsense… If you know what to feel that it’s easy to feel it just like if you know what your looking at than its easy to see it… It’s not seeing of feeling that is not real but do you know what your looking at or what your feeling… Feel is most definitely real but if you don’t know what your suppose to feel than its not real… Said another way, if you don’t know it than you can’t feel it… So are you saying for some feel is not real or for everyone feel is not real… There’s a difference… And saying to get some tilt on impact is easier said than done… All I would say is can you feel yourself to tilt at impact…. It’s a matter of Letting it happen…Hope all is well.

    ~DM

    Reply

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