Why is it that some golfers at your club are brilliant around the greens but cannot reliably find a fairway whilst others hit impressive drives but miss hit their chip shots or struggle terribly with half shots?
I recently gave one golfer a shock on a trip to the Royal Palm in Marrakech by asking him how his chipping was – after he had done just one practice swing with a driver!
Good at Driving, Bad at Chipping?
I had never seen him play. He took one full practice swing and I said to him
“I’d say you usually drive the ball pretty well with that swing, probably with a draw, but how are your shots from 20-30 yards? Do you have a problem with those sometimes?’’
The look on his face was a picture of complete disbelief.
‘’How can you possibly know after seeing just one practice swing? I find all chip and short pitch shots utterly impossible and you haven’t even seen me hit a ball yet!
Well, it was quite simple really. Once I had seen this golfer’s practice swing, I could see his swing path and that told me all I needed to know about his pattern of shots and likely strengths and weaknesses.
We talked a bit about why this was happening and I said “You’re probably okay out of bunkers aren’t you” and he replied that if he was going to miss a green then he always hoped it would go into a bunker so he did not have to pitch over it on his next shot!
Your Swing PATH Is Giving Your Shots a PATTERN
This golfer swung on a path that was shallow and ‘’in to out’’. This is great for a driver because we want a sweeping contact – but not so good for a chip or pitch, which both require a slightly descending blow.
Any error in a golfer’s particular swing path gives a PATTERN of shots – not just one consistent error.
Golfers who hook will also sometimes push. They are good drivers but tend to hit their irons fat or thin and can get into terrible trouble with chipping and pitching – in some cases they even get the yips.
Golfers who slice most of the time can also pull or top their shots. Their chipping and pitching can be very good but they drive poorly and often take deep divots with their irons.
Get on the Clock! Mirror Image Path for a Straight Shot
The ideal swing path is nicely illustrated in the above photo of the ”Edward Scissorhands” trick shot where you can see both backswing and follow through at the same time. Both clubs are horizontal and parallel to the target line and the swing is a mirror image.
I call this swing line ‘’being on the clock’’ because the club looks like it is at nine and three o’clock when it is waist high on both sides of the swing.
Trackman studies show that, for most golfers, swing paths are quite consistent but the clubface varies from shot to shot to produce our directional inconsistencies and strike pattern.
It also means that if you are ‘’off the clock’’ then your particular swing path will suit some shots and not others – giving you strengths and weaknesses.
It Is Just Physics
The physics of impact is a good starting point for any lesson. We need to know (or find out by experimenting) what the club needs to do to create the desired shot or flight. This is exactly what you would expect in other sports (e.g learning a tennis top spinner) but sometimes in golf it gets neglected or ignored completely.
Bubba Golf! Complete Freedom
It is not really a new idea but in recent times has become known as Bubba Golf and is a welcome relief from endless analysis of all the moving parts of the swing.
It is also the best way to learn my speciality……trick shots and extreme shot making.
It seems to me that complete freedom in golf is more likely to come from trying to get the ball to do something – rather than consciously getting your body to move through a series of movements.
Bubba Watson learned this long ago but many find it difficult to give up the security of swing thoughts and constant swing fixing. In that regard, he is a breath of fresh air.
Needless to say, if you want to know how exactly your swing path is giving your shots a pattern, go to a good coach who will point you and your swing in the right direction.
Photograph taken at the Royal Palm Hotel and Golf Club in Marrakech – courtesy of Golf Picture Library