More than anything in golf, I love the sound and feel of solidly contacting a golf ball, and watching it take off like a jet rising into the cold morning air, and seeing it fall at its apex like a butterfly on a blossom. What are golf’s antecedents to achieve this state of near perfection? Jack Nicklaus, in his book, Golf My Way, says fourteen clubs, one swing. The only difference is ball position at address. At impact, hit the ball on the upswing with the driver, and down and through with the irons and hybrids. The key is ball position, as Jack points out in his book . Fourteen clubs, one swing. With the driver, the ball is positioned off the forward toe or instep. With irons, the ball is positioned at the middle of the stance. For both, the upper body coils like a spring resisting the lack of movement in the lower portions in the backswing. The downswing is led by the forward hip. If the head stays steady through impact and the hip rotates out of the way, the hands and arms to deliver the payload, namely the clubhead–on the way up for the forward teed up driver, and on the way down for the middle positioned irons and hybrids. Your belt buckle should be facing the target at the swing’s finish. Ball position for fairway woods is forward of middle, but not quite as far forward as the driver. It’s why these clubs are so hard to hit off the turf: Ball position is neither here nor there, somewhere between hitting on the upswing and the down.
There’s more, of course. This is golf, don’t you know. But those are a few basics that will put you on the right track. The forward arm does need to be relatively straight for the swing to remain measured through impact, but you do have some leeway here with the driver since the tee increases your margin for error. With irons, hybrids, and fairway woods off the turf, the straight forward arm gives you the precision you’ll need to hit the ball at just the right spot on the club face to achieve consistent success.
If you’re a more advanced golfer, looking for more yardage off the tee for the driver (who isn’t?), I’d suggest checking out the cover story in the July issue of Golf magazine. In it, 23 year old Justin Thomas, who weighs in at a mere 145 pounds but hits the ball over 300 yards consistently, explains how to increase your distance, advice he received from his dad when just a little shaver. Justin, good buddy to Jordan Spieth, has won three times so far this year. I won’t reveal all his tips but the one that most impressed me involved increasing flexibility without going to the gym. Without a golf club, he advises bringing the forward shoulder under the chin on the backswing, then pulling the shoulder down and back some then holding and stretching it until your back begins to face the target at the top. That added stretch, once you can attain it in your regular swing, will give you an extra ten yards or more, depending on your limits. Pick up the mag: There’s more.
OK, now it’s your turn. Get out there and experiment on the range. A more consistent swing, resulting in more solid contact, awaits.
Who will win the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, a tough 7800 yard layout in Wisconsin? Probably a long, accurate hitter who can putt. That narrows it down to about 120 players. But I’ll, once again, stick my neck out and make a choice: Rory McIlroy.