The golf swing is a complicated series of movements that involve just about the entire body. To the uninformed viewer it doesn’t look like an athletic sport but it is. And getting the timing and sequence of those movements right and doing this consistently is a challenge. But I think two keys to such consistency are a straight forward arm and a steady head, both from address through impact.
The important thing is to set yourself up properly at address, after you’ve properly aligned your body to the target, of course. I like a one-plane swing, much like Bryson DeChambeau, but the mostly used two-plane is fine as well. It requires a relatively straight line between my left arm and the shaft of the club–every club except the putter. For irons, the ball is in the center of the stance so the hands are ahead of the ball, in position to strike a downward blow at impact. For driver, the ball is off my left heel so my hands are about even with the ball, allowing an upward blow at impact to encourage more overspin and more roll once it lands.
The backswing starts with the arms, torso, and lower body moving in unison, with my left arm staying straight to the top. With me, because of my age and medical issues, the top is not very high. Think Jon Rahm and Tony Finau today and Doug Sanders and Chi Chi Rodriguez of yesterday. I’d like to go higher with the backswing but just can’t so I stop at the point where the left arm wants to bend. As Hogan pointed out, if the left arm bends in the backswing it breaks the integrity of the measured swing. This is most important with irons since in order to compress the ball properly the left arm must remain straight at impact. Otherwise, you’ll more than likely hit it fat or thin which are a couple of the least satisfying misses in the game. With the driver, you do have a bit of leadway since the the ball is teed up. That’s why U.S. Open champ legend the late Ken Venturi felt the driver was the easiest club in the bag to hit. It’s already airborne at address!
So in order to get a bit more arc in my driver swing, I do let the left arm bend slightly at the top but return it to being straight at impact. At 76, I do starve for more distance (but don’t we all, at any age!).
Importantly, my head, the other key factor, has to remain steady as I bring the club back, so I fix my sight on the ball which helps me visualize keeping the head still. That also helps determine my backswing length because the head will move as your backswing lengthens depending on your level of flexibility. I wish I’d exercised like Gary Player over the years when I see how flexible he is at 85! The more flexible you are, the more distance you’ll generate (provided you hit the ball squarely on the sweet spot). So I swing using my head as the hub and feeling like I’m swinging around it through impact as it remains in place at impact. With the straight left arm, that shortens my swing but keeps me on plane and more able to strike the ball squarely “on the screws.” as we used to say.
So, obviously, each player is different and must determine these parameters individually. This is why there is considerable variation among the pros and particularly among handicappers. You determine all this information in your laboratory: the driving range, where you can test your swing out using varying speeds and ideally use a mirror or camera where you can check out your forward arm and head positions at different stages of the swing (my range, funky though it is, actually does have full length mirrors at a couple hitting stations).
Now, you might ask, won’t I lose distance if I apply these suggestions? You might, but not necessarily. Your swing speed may be slower but if you hit the sweet spot more consistently you probably won’t lose much distance and your accuracy will be improved. Personally, I’ll take the slight reduction in distance for the solid contact I feel and the straight trajectory. I just use more club if necessary. That’s where the mental part of the game comes in which I’ll deal with in a subsequent post.
Apologies for the political post some of you subscribers saw in your email recently. I do also write such a newsletter at breakablenews.substack.com, but sent that post to this golf blog by mistake. Chalk one up to my semi-addled brain spawned by a lousy sleep the night before! I really do like to keep my golf blog non-political. Surprisingly, a lot of you viewed the post and seemed to like it with the exception of one unkind fellow of an obviously different political persuasion. So if politics are your cup of tea, check out my other blog. Thanks for your understanding and continued interest in Golf 360!