It’s one of golf’s not-so-dirty little secrets. The pros all do it but few show you how. So at the expense of vilification from my betters, I will attempt to explain this technique that I’m sure goes back to Tom Morris and son in the bonny town of St. Andrews. The key to compression lies at the heart of the impact zone, that dynamic spot where clubface meets ball hopefully on the sweet spot of the clubface. All before it is preparation; and all after it is follow through. From club to club and swing to swing, the only thing that changes is ball position. Jack Nicklaus said that in Golf My Way. Compression is more relevant for irons than woods since you compress the ball by hitting down on it, causing the ball to rise up the groves on irons at a loft dictated by the number on the iron. With woods you’re hitting up on the ball coming through impact. The former induces backspin; the latter overspin and more roll on the fairway.
To hit down and through the ball, you must transfer your weight rather quickly at the start of the downswing, using a combination of shift and turning of the hips getting the weight over from the right to the left. If the head is kept in place and the core turns with the hips, and the ball is in the center of the stance, you should catch the ball first, pinching it between the clubface and the turf, causing a divot of turf to fly up and away. The ball is then compressed causing it to rise and launch according to the loft of the club and the club speed you impart upon it. This often produces a sound heard round the world, keeping golfers coming back for more despite their scores. Swing speeds vary but that sound emanating from a solid strike does not vary and acts as an intoxicating opioid to the golfer–man or woman, young or old, accomplished or duffer.
Now a stop action camera of a well struck shot is a most interesting sight to behold, particularly at impact. One might think that it would look exactly the same as it did at address, but it doesn’t. As the clubhead strikes the ball, the hands, wrists and arms are ahead of the strike, the head is steady, the left shoulder is slightly raised and the right shoulder slightly lowered, with the weight almost entirely on the forward leg. The left wrist is either slightly bowed or flat and the right hand and wrist is in a position to deliver a very powerful blow into the impact zone (Ben Hogan once said he’d wished he had three right hands!). The arms are not yet fully extended but they soon will be as the strike is complete and they head toward the follow through. At this point of impact, the hands and forearms have not yet turned over in the pronated position they will attain a second or so later. If we could wire together at impact a hundred pros swinging simultaneously, we could probably light a small city!
Hyperbole notwithstanding, that’s the position you want to try to attain at impact. Most amateurs never come close. They scoop it, chicken wing it, break the wrists before impact, fail to shift their weight soon enough or completely enough, and consequently hit the shot fat, thin, topped, sliced, pulled, hooked, or miss the ball entirely. The more accomplished amateurs might do better but still lack the consistency that good golf requires. Why? Because of what doesn’t happen at impact. You can go to any range anywhere in the world and see for yourself what I’m talking about.
There’s a bit more to it, but this should get you tinkering with it. So hie thee hither to a range and give er a go.
My books may be of further help. They are The Mindful Golfer and Golf 360, both available at Amazon.
I’ve been enjoying watching the return of the PGA Tour. Hawaii looks great as do the swings of these experts. I’m not getting much golf in living in the cold, rainy PNW so watching these guys is the next best thing. Hope you’re enjoying it as well.
Jon Pappas says
Thanks Stephen. I find the small punch shot is great way to feel compression. Also, I use it to warm-up. Bennett Valley’s towering redwood trees gives a player lots of opportunity to hone the punch shot compression.
Stephen Altschuler says
Yes, I know those trees at Bennett Valley well, Jon, and have punched out of them more times than I care to remember. You’re smart in using that punch shot to get the feel of compression for it’s a shot of shorter length and slower swing speed that, other than the presence of hovering tree limbs, is easier to pull off than most. Say hi to Jim Knego for me. I’ve had several lessons from him and have included him in my books. A great guy.
Thanks for commenting, Jon.
Phil Russell says
Stephen that was interesting. I must admit I knew of the term compression but never gave it must thought. I do hit down on the ball with my hybrids but now will pay a little more attention to it.
Thanks again. Also Upstate NY as you know gets rain but more snow this time of yr. So I would guess you will start golf sooner this season then me.
Stephen Altschuler says
Thanks, Phil. Glad you found some value in the post. The upcoming one will delve a bit deeper into the issue so stay tuned. Right, I’ll bet you did get quite a bit of snow, and you know what your namesake woodchuck said: six more weeks of winter. Up here, it is rain but the weather is warming and drying so golf is getting closer for us. Just bought a new driver and irons so I’m champing at the bit.
Take care, Phil.