Matching club face and path

Dan McCracken – NYC

Some golfers slice, some golfers hook, and others may push or pull the ball.  Some golfers may even suffer from all four of those directional misses. Regardless of what your miss is, all golfers miss their target at times.  The first step to correcting these misses is understanding why they happened. To find these answers, it’s best to get yourself in a simulator and start charting your club face and club path numbers.  These data points tell the story of why your ball flew where it did, so let’s dig in.

Perhaps the best place to start is with this fact that you are not going to hit the ball perfectly straight consistently.  Almost every golf ball struck will have some degree of curvature to it, certainly some more than others.  So with that said, I believe the best players own their curvature so that they can consistently shape their golf ball towards their intended target.  

The data point I like to look at first is the club face angle.  Where the club face is pointing at the moment of impact is the primary controller of the ball’s starting direction.  So if your club face is open you’ll almost always push the ball, and if it’s closed you’ll almost always pull the ball.  Regardless of what you do, it’s only a bad thing if it curves away from your target (or a better way to phrase it for the more advanced player, over-curving your target).  When it comes to which way your ball is curving, we now need to take a look at club path.

The club path angle refers to the direction the club head is moving at the moment of impact.  Golfers tend to swing either inside-out or outside-in. For a right handed golfer, inside-out would mean swinging more to the right which would generally create a hook or draw bias.  Golfers who fade or slice the ball generally swing outside-in, for the right handed golfer this is swinging more to the left. So to figure out how to curve the ball the way we want to, we need to look at the relationship between club face and club path.

The ball flights I generally like to help create with most students would be push-draws or pull-fades.  So if your ball is going to curve to the left, I want it to start to the right and vice versa. The relationship I like to see is about a 2:,1 path to face.  So if your path is 4 degrees inside-out, I want your club face 2 degrees open. Same goes for the other side of the spectrum. The bigger that match-up gets, say 10 inside-out and 5 open, the more curvature you’ll see, but it should still end up pretty close to your target.  To be able to apply your natural ball flight to as many situations as possible, I usually like to see less curvature than more.

There are many variables that go into changing your club face and club path.  You can look at grip, club face alignment, body alignments, ball position, dynamic posture, pressure shift in the feet, take away, hand path, arm structure and many more things.  If you find yourself lost or overwhelmed, that’s what our 5i Golf Pro’s are here for. However if you choose to walk the road alone, remember that face angle controls starting direction.  If your path is left of the face angle, the ball will curve right and vice versa. This knowledge is the starting point to make real change in your ball flight.

You can book a lesson with Dan in NYC by clicking here.

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Ball Position

Matt Brady – Chicago

Ball position is considered a fundamental for many instructors, including myself. But, there are conflicting schools of thought. Let’s clear the air and see which one works for you and why. I was taught as a kid that wedges through 7 iron are played in the middle of your stance, 6 iron through 3 wood is played a ball or two more towards our left foot and the driver is played just inside your left foot or left knee. Other instructors emphasize more of a singular ball position in line with your left ear or the logo on a golf shirt. There are benefits to doing either method. The first method is the variable ball position. Benefits would, this can help ensure more of a downward strike into the ball in the middle of your stance using shorter irons which could help create better and cleaner contact. On the other hand a stable ball position means its a constant in your swing and requires less thinking with one less variable to be conscious of. This could help if you’re still in the learning phase. Now my favorite method or way of thinking was made famous by Jack Nicklaus and republished in Golf Digest in 2010. He thinks about keeping the ball position just left of center with the only adjustment being the width of his stance. It may look like he’s playing the ball in different spots but it’s only because his feet are closer together for short irons and progressively wider as the club he’s using gets longer. These are three very distinct methods of ball position, all have pros and cons. I would encourage any new player or even scratch golfers to play around with these and see what you have the most success with. After all, it’s your golf game, your swing, and your puzzle to put together.

You can book a lesson with Matt in Chicago by clicking here.

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Connection and Efficiency in the golf swing

Matt Brady – Chicago

Connection and Efficiency are hot button words when it comes to the golf swing. If you’ve ever taken a golf lesson or spent time browsing youtube videos, odds are you’ve heard one, if not both mentioned before. Lets define what these mean in very general terms then dive into how they apply to the golf swing.  

Connection is defined as a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else, easy to understand right? In the golf swing this is most often referenced in the relationship between the players arms and their body. Meaning that for most players we would like to see the arms establish and maintain connection throughout the swing from static setup positions to the backswing and through the contact point with the golf ball. There are minor exceptions to this rule, but not as much as you might think. The player that comes to mind is Justin Thomas, he has very high hands at the top of his swing and it looks like his arms come away from his body and they do just a bit. But, one of his first moves to the downswing is to reconnect his arms to his body and maintain that connection through the hitting zone. So, the question begs itself, how do you get better connection through the swing? There are lots of ways and things you can focus on, whether it be the right elbow tucked into your rib cage at address and keeping it close to your body back and through the swing, or feeling your left arm across your chest at the top of the swing. The answer is, whatever helps you get the repeatable ball flight that you want is the correct way to do it. 

The second part of this post is about efficiency, its defined as, achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource. This points us back to the first part of the post. Connection and efficiency, for my money, are very similar when it comes to the swing itself,and you cannot have one without the other. Yes, they can be referring to different portions of the golf swing, but start with the connection piece mentioned above and I hope this helps clear up any fuzzy thoughts you had about these. Lets keep it simple and find more fairways.

You can book a lesson with Matt in Chicago by clicking here.

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Tuning Up Your Tempo

Dan McCracken – NYC

Tuning Up Your Tempo 

Everyone wants a good tempo to their golf swing, but what are you doing to improve yours?  When it comes to playing good golf consistently, I would make the case that your tempo/timing is as important as your swing mechanics, maybe more.  Proper swing mechanics allows a golfer to generate their desired ball flight. Once a golfer is capable of hitting a good shot, the focus then shifts to the ability to repeat that good shot.  When it comes to putting something on repeat, it’s all about timing. If a golfer can improve the consistency of their timing, they can improve the consistency of their ball flight.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “swing smooth” before.  I’m sure you’ve also been told to not rush the club back in the takeaway.  What you might be surprised to hear is that most people suffer from swinging the club back too slow.  Yes, when I see students struggle with tempo it is almost always a result of them swinging the club back much too slowly.  Allow me to explain. Club head speed creates ball speed and distance. The faster we swing the club, the farther we can hit the ball.  In most full swing golf shots, the player is looking to generate a considerable amount of club speed. So if you focus on taking the club back slowly, this puts all the speed generation responsibility on your downswing.  When this happens we create an inefficient tempo. Generally this is the culprit when a golfer mentions they felt rushed or quick during a swing.  A golfer who needs to work overtime to build speed in the downswing will almost always lose control over their arm and wrist structure.  This is how poor tempo can result in poor technique.

The phrase I like to use with students is this: “Free up the backswing.  There is no need to rush, but we want momentum built with our backswing. If we can build some momentum, this will allow us to transition smoothly and control our body through the ball.”  If you’re waiting until you get to the top of your backswing to crank up the speed, you’re most likely in trouble. Controlling your change of direction from backswing to downswing is vital to quality ball striking.  If you are working to create force at this moment, you’ve most likely lost control.

For a long time, working on your tempo meant experimenting somewhat aimlessly with different feelings.  Now, with the help of technology like Blast Motion Golf, we can measure and quantify our tempo. Tempo is the ratio of your backswing time to your downswing time.  By placing these sensors on the best players in the world, Blast Motion learned the average tempo for a professional golfer is somewhere between 2:1 and 3:1 depending on whether they are holding a wedge or putter vs. a driver.  As we see people struggle with their tempo, that ratio usually grows 4:1 and above. Slower backswings resulting in worse shots.  

What we can take away from all this is that we are trying to achieve a balanced and efficient tempo.  If you plan on swinging down fast, don’t swing back slowly. Also, in your search for consistency allow your timing to take center stage.  Consistent tempo generally leads to consistent technique, this does not always prove true the other way around. Whatever comes the most naturally to you will always almost be the easiest thing to repeat.  So own your tempo, keep your transition smooth and have fun out there.

You can book a lesson with Dan in NYC by clicking here.

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Matching Grip to Swing

Matt Brady – Chicago

If you ever taken a golf lesson or watched YouTube videos late into the night, tirelessly working to improve your golf game. Odds are you’ve watched more than your fair share of content about how to grip the club. Were going to cover pressure points so we have a track for success when building a good grip. When establishing a good grip there are a few cool tricks of the trade to help ensure proper gripping. Starting with right handed golfers, I always start top hand (left hand) first, with the goal in mind to feel pressure points on the left pad of your hand, closest to your pinky finger. This goes in tandem with feeling pressure in the left “trigger” finger with the second knuckle on the back of the grip. If done correctly, when you hold the golf club in front of you parallel to the ground, you’ll feel the pinky side pad of your left hand on top of the club, as well as the trigger finger or left pointer finger under the club. Now if you lower the golf club to the ground you should see your middle and index finger knuckles on top of the grip. This would be considered a traditional grip which we’ll dive into the second half of this post. When we discuss lefties this is simply reversed starting with the right hand.

So, we have the top hand on the grip now let’s add the bottom hand closest to the club head. This may seem obvious but ideally the hands mesh well together and create a tight fit. Specifically, for a right handed golfer, the left thumb should mold or mesh under the pad of the right thumb. Again creating a seamless fit that will keep your hands working together instead if separately.

The second part of this post will address your grip and hand position matching your swing and typical shot shape. This section could apply to more experienced players who have a swing that’s repeatable and consistent. But this can also be top of mind if addressing a player with a physical limitations such as lower back issues or stroke victims who only have dexterity in one hand. Harvey Penick, who famously taught many tour players like Ben Crenshaw and who wrote the Little Red Book, said, “if you have a bad swing you don’t need a good grip”. Golf swings are very unique to each and every golfer and the grip needs to match for that reason. One of the most famous examples would be Ben Hogan, who changed from a traditional perhaps strong grip, to a weaker grip because of his tendency to hook the ball left. Now, there are swings flaws that need to be addressed if you’re too far outside of the acceptable variances. But, if your swing is repeatable and your miss is too severe one way or the other sometimes the easiest and most effective change would be a quick grip modification to create more consistency. If a right handed player is hooking the ball consistently the easiest and quickest change could simply be to feel like the back of the left palm is facing the target instead of pointing to the sky. Vice versus, for someone who fades or slices the ball, would be to turn the left hand more on top of the club feeling that it’s pointing at the sky. Now these are very general references and I would always recommend asking a professional opinion with your local club professional.

You can book a lesson with Matt in Chicago by clicking here.

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Match Your Bag To Your Game

Matt Decker – Baltimore

As both a teaching professional and a club fitter, I am in a unique position to observe and influence a player’s game with both equipment and swing changes. Part of my teaching philosophy is the importance of having properly fitting clubs, particularly when the goal we are trying to achieve is improvement. The idea that money can’t buy you a game is a bit of a misconception — clubs that are improperly fit can surely be a detriment to your game. 

We will walk through the important aspects of your bag and see if you identify any areas that may need to be addressed. 

Shaft Weight and Flex

When looking at a player’s bag, club heads may be the first thing I see, but the shaft type and details of the shaft are the first things I look for. Whether it be the material, the weight, the flex, or the profile of the shaft, all of these things should be based on that individual. When assessing a players shaft, I first look at material — steel or graphite? — and try to see if it matches their swing (or, more importantly, if it doesn’t). 

Graphite is no longer just for slower swing speeds; with the technology being used, even the fastest swings in the world can be fit into graphite. The main difference between steel and graphite will be weight. With the traditional steel shaft being around 125 grams, and graphite now getting as low as 30 grams, the player can be set up for failure early in our assessment. 

Shaft weight can do several things to your swing. A heavy shaft can slow down swing speed, create an acceleration issue in the swing sequence, and change the ball flight. The shaft flex can also influence the ball’s flight. A shaft that is too soft or too firm will tend to fly offline more often than one which has been fit correctly. 

Club Head Type

Matching the club head to your skill level and playing style is also very important. With irons, there are now several categories:  game improvement, players distance, muscleback, and cavity back. If you’re a player with a slower swing speed who is an inconsistent ball striker, a larger iron profile, like a game improvement iron, will be more forgiving, launcher higher, and spin less, to help that area of your game. 

For driver heads, you can choose between adjustability, forgiveness, MOI, and ball speed preferences thanks to current technology. Getting the proper model that encourages you to become better by growing with swing changes is significantly preferred over altering numbers to fix problems in the short term. 

Lie Angle 

A club’s lie angle will determine the interaction the club has as it enters the turf at contact. Very often students come in with clubs off the rack and have no idea what the lie angle of the club is or if it is correctly fit for them. If the lie angle is too upright (toe high), the heel of the club may dig at contact, causing the face to close down and the ball to start left. If the club is too flat (toe down), the toe of the club could dig and the ball would start right of target. 

The lie angle is also a contributing factor of centeredness of contact. With an iron that is too upright, the contact may be more towards the heel; with an iron that is too flat, the contact may tend to be more towards the toe. When working on your game, having equipment that can alter the start line of your shots could persuade you to work on something that isn’t a swing flaw, but rather a fitting error. 

Set Make Up

I think there is a common misconception that because the USGA allows a golfer to carry 14 clubs in his or her bag, then a golfer must carry and use 14 clubs when he or she plays. When conducting a pre-lesson interview, I like to ask students which of their clubs is their most favorite and their least favorite. The general consensus is that the favorite club is between a 7 iron and a pitching wedge, and the least favorite is anything longer than a 5 iron. Why? Because in the longer clubs there are multiple clubs that may perform similarly… For example, if a player hits a driver 200 yards, their yardage gaps may not differ by more than five or six yards between some clubs, making a number of clubs obsolete. 

When fitting a beginner, or if there is a financial barrier that we’re trying to stay below, creating a partial set allows for the golfer’s needs to be met while keeping the quality of the clubs at a premium. In other cases, if a student has difficulty with a certain type of club — say a fairway wood — it’s good to analyze if that club is even necessary. Does it hold any benefits for that student, or is it just costing them strokes. 

Staying with fairways woods… If a player has a 3 wood, a 5 wood, and possibly a couple of hybrids, but only hits the 5 wood well, I would recommend that they try playing without the other three clubs. For amateur golfers, the amount of times they may need to hit the ball into a green from that distance would be low, assuming the lie allows for those clubs to be hit in those situations and that it is the right play into the green they would be attacking. 

When students come to me with a goal of improving their game, I often tell them that there will need to be changes in equipment to see results. We don’t need to break the bank, but getting your set up assessed by your teaching or fitting professional can shave strokes off your game. When investing in your golf swing, take some time to make sure that you aren’t losing out due to improperly fit equipment. 

You can book a lesson with Matt in Baltimore by clicking here. 

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Form Follows Function

Practice with Purpose – Dan McCracken

Order of Analysis

When working to improve your golf game, things need to be handled specifically and in an order.  If your main goal is lower scores, then top priority needs to be controlling where the ball goes and not improving the aesthetics of the swinging motion.  With that in mind I am always analyzing things in the following order:

  1. Where/how did the ball fly?
  2. How did the club interact with the ball to create that flight?
  3. How did your body affect the club to create those impact conditions?

Before we dig any deeper, it is important to note that we should always be analyzing patterns and not individual reps.  If you cannot repeat a specific shot (good or bad) then there is no need to dig too deep in analysis. Golf is a game of consistency, not a game of perfection.  Own your swing, learn to repeat it and then you can optimize it from there.  

When showing up to practice your golf game, I believe your overarching goal should be to build confidence as a golfer.  While there are certainly plenty of psychological factors that contribute to achieving that goal, I think a lion-share of it is analyzing mishits and trying to make them better.  As we wade into the vast spectrum of mishits, I like to keep things organized by handling them in an order (based on patterns):

  1. Contact Misses
  2. Directional Misses
  3. Distance/Trajectory Misses

This order also tends to follow the general sequence of how a ball striker improves.  Learn to hit the ball solid, contact misses can negatively affect both distance and direction and as such need to be handled first. Learn to curve the ball in one direction (preferably towards the target).  Learn to control your trajectory and distance. With that in mind even the best players need to occasionally spend time cleaning up their contact.

There is no better way to train for contact than slowing things down and staying aware.  After some time it becomes quite easy to tell if you are catching the ball off the toe, heel, leading edge or if you catch the ground first.  Strike or foot spray on the clubface is also a nice option to chart your contact patterns, as is zoomed in swing video. When trying to fix things, start by ensuring you have the correct ball position, this is vital.  You also need to be sure you are controlling the low point of your swing arc properly in regards to striking irons vs. driver.  

To book a lesson with Dan in NYC click here. 

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