The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today’s post is going to discuss ball position. It is a much less complicated part of the golf swing discussion, but none the less, an interesting subject. There are two schools of thought concerning ball position. You should keep the ball in the same place, preferably off the left heel for every club in the bag. None other than Jack Nicklaus is the major advocate of this view. The other viewpoint is the ball should be played off the left heel for the driver, but then the ball should be moved back gradually toward the center of your stance, as the clubs get shorter, with the wedges being played right in the middle of your stance.  There is a third view on ball position, by another all time great, which I will get to at the end of this post.

Here is the interesting part.  Both advocate their position for the same reason. They say that their method of ball position allows you to swing the same for every club in the bag. Instruction  to play all shots off the left heel, says that since the ball is in the same position for every club, your swing does not have to change in order to hit the ball cleanly. Instruction  to move the ball back in your stance as the clubs get shorter, says that this is where your arc of the swing will make contact with ball naturally on a descending blow. This way your swing stays the same, and you catch the ball at the proper point, with out making any adjustments of your swing.  So who is right.  I will let you decide on that one, because that is not the purpose of these posts.

Now for the third view on ball position by the great Bobby Jones. He felt that ball position could be one of the things that you could change on a day to day basis depending on how you were playing. He felt this was one method to try to get back on track if you started out with some poor ball striking.  He felt you should play the ball forward in the stance, opposite the left heel as a general rule, but he would move it forward or back if he opened with a few bad shots and magically his game would return.  He would not move the ball position on any particular pattern of bad shots. It would be an instinctive move forward or backward until he just started hitting the ball better. Another method he used to get the feel back in his game was to choke up and down on the club. He salvaged many a round by playing all shots with his hands just an inch or so about the steel line of the shaft. He would wait until the end of the round to go to the practice range to try find the swing issue. He never tinkered with the swing during the round.

Well, there you have it ball position. Another bevy of information on something that should be so simple but lots of view points.  What’s a golfer to do. Next week will be weight distribution of your feet at address. Now that’s a real good one. When I first listed that one I wrote thank God are feet are not bigger or there might be more than the three opinions on this.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

It’s a mid week blog, since I played golf on Sunday and yesterday, during this rough Western Pennsylvania winter.  Today is left heel day. Such a small part of the body, but the golf teaching world wants to talk about it a lot,and has lot’s of ideas. There are three schools of thought concerning that little left heel: 1. It should remain on the ground throughout the backswing. Certainly this is the current PGA tour swing mode.  2.  Its ok to lift the left heel at the top of the backswing but you should feel that your turn is dragging the heel off the ground.  In other words this not something you should consciously do. 3. You should lift the heel off the ground during the backswing. The theory being that this makes the backswing turn easier to do and is a more natural way to play.  So is this true. Should only the very flexible and PGA pros play with their left heel on the ground. Let’s break it down and see what’s really going on with each method. At the end of the post I will go through some very simple drills that will show what is happening.

Keeping your left heel on the ground  is going to do two things when you make a golf swing.  It will restrict your hip turn and it is going to make your head drop just slightly down.  Then depending on how long you keep your right heel down on the downswing your head is going drop even  more.  This head drop is evident in almost every tour players swing when it is analyzed on TV.  What I get a big kick out of, on every good shot the head drop is fine, every bad shot the head drop is too much. Head drop is simply a function of knee flex and heel function.

Raising your left heel at the end of the backswing or feeling like your turn is pulling your left heel up will do three things.   It will stop the slight drop of your head.  It will level your hips by raising your left hip.  It will slightly increase your hip turn but do nothing for your shoulder turn. You will not feel as much of a stretch up the left side at the top of the backswing.   Hip turn doing nothing for your shoulder turn will be discussed in more depth when the hips are discussed.

Raising your left heel as part of your backswing, in other words, start raising the heel as you start your swing will modify the above swing two ways. Your hips will start to turn quicker and your head will drop not at all as you go to the top of the swing.

Now for the drills that shows what is going on.  Both drills are very simple and no golf clubs are required.  First just stand in front of a mirror in natural standing position facing the mirror. Stand fairly erect but not at attention with the arms down at your side. While remaining standing, just flex your knees like you would in a golf set up and what happens. Your head lowers.  Go back to the standing position. Now stand up on your toes with your heels off the ground. Your head rises. Go back to the standing position.  Now as you begin to slowly flex your knees, start to raise your heels and your head will remain in the same position. The second drill is to assume your normal golf address position, no club necessary. With the left heel staying on the ground simply bend your left knee toward the ball as you would on the backswing,  without moving anything else. You will see that your hips turn a little and there is even less turn of your shoulders but they will move a little. Now, just go to the top of your swing with your full shoulder turn while keeping your left heel on the ground, and hold that position for just a second or two. Now raise the left heel.  Your hips will level up and you will fee a slight increase in your hip turn, but your shoulder turn will stay the same.

Some final comments. The group of instructors that advocate lifting the left heel as part of a normal backswing say this is a more natural way for the body to move. If you turn your body to talk to someone, or point in that direction, your heel comes off the ground. They also say if you tried to walk with your heels staying on the ground you would not walk very well or fast. I am not too sure what this really has to do with the golf swing.  This still might  be a good way to swing the golf club I don’t think this is the reason you should to do it.   This heel thing really boils down to the hips and head and what do you think they should be doing in the golf swing.  That’s another subject for another day. The next blog ball position.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today we are going to discuss number 3 on the list:  You should keep your left arm straight though out the golf swing, or you don’t have to keep your left arm straight through out the golf swing. I am still going through things on raising the left heel, but I am just about done, and that will be the subject of next week’s post.  As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, thank God the feet aren’t bigger and we only have two of them because there are more opinions on what to do with them than any other part of the golf swing, with the possible exception of the head.   The left arm is not as near complicated, but is interesting none the less.

There was one instructor that did an experiment to see if allowing the left arm to bend at the top of the swing would affect the distance of the driver.  There were some interesting things about this so called experiment.  First he hit 3 balls each way. Yes 3 balls. Don’t put yourself out. Although he may start a trend. SAT tests can have just 3 questions, or new drugs can be tried on just 3 people and then be approved. How about hitting 50 balls or even a hundred and coming to some kind of conclusion. Better yet have about 50 to 100 golfers of various skill levels swing the two ways, about 50 shots each and see what happens.    Even more interesting was that on his second straight left arm swing, his left arm is slightly bent at the top. Finally he was a little distressed that he lost about 10 yards in distance when he swung with the left arm bent. Since the experiment was pretty worthless I don’t understand his concern. His conclusion despite “his results” was that the left arm did not have to be straight  to hit the ball consistently.

So what about this left arm thing.  If you keep your left arm straight through out the swing, it is going to do only one thing for your golf swing. At the top of the swing it is going to stretch out the left side of your body and back muscles. Here is the little experiment to do. Take your address position and make sure your left arm has a distinct bend of at least 20 to 30 degrees. Now make your backswing and maintain that bend to the top. Now straighten that left arm and you are going to feel a distinct stretch down the left side of your body and back. Now if that is the feeling you want to have at the top of the swing then you better keep your left arm straight.  Any instructor that says it’s ok to bend the left arm at the top, and Bob Toski is one of them, knows that with the acceleration of the downswing the left arm is going to straighten automatically. The advocates of the straight left arm say that it will keep you from over swinging, maintain your swing arc and make you a more consistent ball striker, all false. All its going to do is give your left side a distinctive stretch.  If you think that is important in the golf swing and many people do, then you better keep it straight. If you don’t and many people feet that way too, then bend away just like sipping the beer in golf cart.