If you are fully tuned-in to what ball-flight you want to achieve, your body will make the set-up adjustments that are required to hit the desired shot. Let me explain.
I remember reading in a book, the young Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw (Major Championship winners from the 80’s and 90’s) rushed in to the Pro shop at the golf club in Texas, to ask their local professional – and coaching legend – Harvey Penick, how to hit a high lob-shot to a pin positioned just over a bunker?
Penick didn’t list the half a dozen set-up and swing changes that are ABSOLUTELY necessary to play this shot successfully, he was too smart for that. He gave the young pro-golfer wannabees the best way to hit this and any shot successfully.
He told them to imagine a big tree growing out of the center of the bunker. He told them to try and hit over the tree and land the ball next to the hole. And so the boys went away to practice.
“A successful shot ALWAYS starts with imagining what ball-flight you want to use.” Imagine, adjust, execute.
For the shot in question, the boys would have widened and opened their stances and club-face a lot. In this spread stance, their center’s (spines) would be positioned well behind the ball (the ball would be positioned up near the front heal), their weight distribution would favor the back foot, over the front foot, and they would bend over more from the hips.
They would take the club up and outside the normal takeaway path. They would make long swings, they would come into the ball on a flat path (no hitting down), and their hands would fully release the club through the ball and finish in a high position.
They would IMAGINE the ball flying up into the sky – perhaps even heading towards a cloud that is up high in the background; the ball would come down on the other side of the imaginary tree and stop softly on the green near the pin.
Playing these shots and any shot well requires you to exaggerate your positions. If you fully imagine the swing and ball-flight you want – and importantly – give your body and swing the freedom it requires to stand wide or narrow, to open or close the club-face, to hold off or release the club-face, you will start to tap in to ALL of your golfing ability.
Different clubs and ball-flights require different swings
If you try and swing a driver like you do a 5 iron you’re going to hit some very bad drives. If you try and hit a wedge from 100 yards using a driver swing – which would include a wider stance, flatter swing, and large hip slide, you are not going to hit shots close to the pin.
Your body, arm, and wrist actions, must change for different shots. How do you know what to change?
Let whatever ball flight you desire guide you – it’s how great players play. If you are thinking “technical” you will not be listening to what is really needed to play the shot. If you are thinking about past or future holes you won’t make the swing changes that will let you use the particular swing you need to get the ball flight you desire.
How I started hitting long-irons higher
I had not been hitting my long-irons well of late. What I had not been imagining and or aiming for was, a high booming trajectory. I don’t hit my long irons high – as I’m all of 5ft 7 inches, my swing is going to be flatter than a taller person and therefore impart less backspin on the ball (backspin helps with trajectory).
I had simply got into a habit of standing and swinging as if I was setting up and playing with a higher iron – therefore – my stance got narrow which resulted in less hip slide, my center, weight and head where not behind the ball at impact enough; I was smothering the ball instead of being behind it – as is needed to nip a long-iron off the fairway.
(The release of your right hand changes with how far you are behind the ball at impact; more behind: adds loft, more on top or over the ball: reduces the club-face loft.)
Once I snapped out of this wrong routine, and started imagining a ball flight booming off high up at a cloud, my stance started to change (my stance widened, weight favored the back foot, more lateral slide to deliver the club on the correct angle).
(Note: don’t hang back on your back foot when you transition into the downswing – all good swings with any club require you moving to some degree, forwards. My point is, there are different amounts you can be behind the ball in the backswing and at impact. Different clubs and shots (low or high) require different stance widths, which enable us to come into the ball on flatter or steeper approaches.)
A punch shot for example, would require a reasonably narrow stance and less weight shift (as taught in the Adults Golf Swing Training), you would have the feeling of being more “on top of the ball” at impact – compared to a high long-iron shot or lob shot.
Training for high long-iron play
The other day I wanted to hit 15-20, 4-irons, to test my improved long-iron swing.
It was hot in the sun, and the only part of the practice tee that was shaded was 15 meters directly behind some overhanging trees. I would have to exaggerate my positions to get the ball over the trees (not to a ridiculous extent).
In Tom’s and Ben’s example above, they had to imagine the tree. In my example, I had the trees right in front of me. These scenario’s required different clubs, set up changes and different swings. What did they have in common? An imagining of the ball flight needed, and the freedom to let the body make the changes it needed to be able to swing a certain way to achieve the desired ball-flight.
I hit nearly all of those balls well. I felt much more behind the ball, I was sliding more with my hips (because stance is wider and you need to slide if your stance is wide). I was keeping the club-face from closing much through impact (which helps with preserving the loft of the club-face). I like to think of Lee Trevino’s action for these shots; for me, it works; he’s a shorty like me.
Jack Nicklaus said he “went to the movies” before any shot he ever played. He always picked out the ball-flight he wanted first, and then let his body set up appropriately, which enabled him to make the particular swing that would give him the desired ball-flight.
This process is at the core of how top players feed their swings. The Automatic Golf System Training goes into this further; it is also covered to some degree in The Adults Golf Swing Training Courses (they compliment each other).
If you already have the Automatic Golf System Training, great. If you would like to enroll, do so here: The Automatic Golf System
P.S. Recently, 69 year old American golfer, Rico, shot a 5 under par 67. He credits The Automatic Golf System for getting him back to “feeling and swinging”, and being more focused on the target – instead of getting bogged down with too much focus on technique.
He say’s he understands his swing and what goes into hitting good shots now. Great to hear – coming from a 2-handicapper with decades of experience.