Gimme Three Strokes:~Posture Makes Perfect

My transformation from a double-digit handicap golfer to an amateur golf deity is well underway, so in this week’s column I will discuss the first flaw my golf instructor noticed – and improved – in my golf swing: incorrect posture.

Proper posture at address is an element of the golf swing that is often overlooked.

As top-100 teacher Martin Hall suggests, most golfers will set up to the ball quickly and carelessly without taking the time to first check their weight distribution, the right amount of forward tilt or hand position.

Sadly, I am no exception to the amateur golfer’s need for immediate gratification and routinely focus less on my spine angle and more on the beer cart girl. I am a man of weakness, what can I say?

Last week I introduced you to Greg Baresel, the golf-swing shaman I’ve chosen to lead me to the Promised Land. During our first meeting Greg and I determined the current state of my golf swing by use of the Trackman system, which yielded results showing my need to hit more down on the ball while increasing my shoulder rotation through impact. With any luck – and possibly heavenly intervention – addressing those two issues will set me on the path to a single-digit handicap.

This week’s lesson focused on correcting some bad habits I had while addressing the ball. Having played golf for 17 years, I figured I had a pretty solid understanding of what my address position should be prior to making a swing. In fact, my posture was the last thing I thought I would need to correct. After watching me hit a few shots at the range, however, Greg immediately noticed that my shoulders and hips were out of alignment.

Have you ever heard the idea that placing more weight on your front foot at address is a good way to promote a proper impact position? Well, I have, and it ended up being the first major flaw in my overall golf swing.

By use of his trusty digital camera, Greg pointed out that my left shoulder was considerably higher than my right at address. While this starting position is appropriate for a driver, it wasn’t doing me any good with my 7-iron. My excessive shoulder tilt also caused me to under-rotate my shoulders and torso during my backswing, which promoted “flippy” wrist action at the top of my swing. This drove my club past parallel, caused a severe loss of distance in my shots and contributed to an early wrist release prior to impact. Furthermore, my current swing mechanics required incredible timing in my hands, arms, hips and shoulders every time I hit the ball in order to execute an accurate shot.

In other words, I had way too many moving parts in my swing. There was too much room for error. It was time to tighten things up a bit.

As you can see in the video above, Greg had me address the ball in my normal manner just before asking me to close my eyes. He then shifted my shoulders to a more level position so they were parallel to the floor. When I opened my eyes I felt like I was looking at the front of the golf ball; a very awkward feeling, indeed.

The second major flaw Greg pointed out was my collapsing left knee during my backswing. This awkward motion – something I didn’t even realize I was doing until I saw it on video – prevented me from generating the proper torque in my lower body during the swing. To fix this issue, Greg asked that I bend my left knee and lift my left heel while shifting my weight to the inside of my right leg during my backswing. During my downswing, I was told to shift my weight back to my left leg so that I felt like I was driving off the ground to shoot a basketball layup.

After practicing a few slow-motion practice swings with this new lower body action, I discovered my legs operating like two pistons in an engine to generate swing speed and power. I immediately saw an increase in distance on my shots (at least 15 yards) and a downward swing arc onto the golf ball.

My takeaway from this week’s lesson is simple: improper posture at address throws the entire golf swing out of whack. Your body will try to compensate for the ridiculous movements you are forcing it to endure to hit the ball; however, these compensations can engrain bad swing habits that lead to higher scores. I now feel I have more control over my entire swing and can focus on making good contact.