Don’t Let Misconceptions Ruin Your Game

By Dr. T. J. Tomasi
Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

Concepts are so important when it comes to learning your golf swing that I invented an acronym to make it easier for my students to remember – YGSWNBABTYCOWAGGSI. It looks awkward, but it is quite straightforward. It translates to:  Your golf swing will never be any better than your concept of what a good golf swing is. Below I’ve outlined some of the misconceptions held by many golfers – canards that can ruin your game when allowed to roam your brain unchecked.

The shoulders turn around the spine: False. The shoulders are attached to the spine so they must turn with it. If all you do is lift the club with your shoulder tilt, you will never achieve maximum coil.

All good golfers are the same at impact: False. There are similarities, but not sameness. To draw the ball, you have a different set of impact relationships than to fade it or hit it straight. Golfers who hit it low are much different at impact from those who hit it high and so forth.

Grooves cause spin: False. Clubhead loft and how hard you hit it causes the ball to spin. Grooves keep the clubhead as clean as possible so that water, dirt, etc. don’t get between the face of the club and ball.

Hitting down causes backspin: Only if you increase clubface loft at impact as you increase the angle of attack. Otherwise, hitting down doesn’t increase spin.

A slice puts sidespin on the ball: False. The ball spins around its axis, and when your clubface is open to the path, it tilts the axis of the ball to the right (for a right-hander) causing it to spin around a tilted axis. It’s the opposite for a draw – but there is no “sidespin.”

Lag the clubhead through impact: False. Be careful with this cryptic concept. Some instructors tell you to hold the clubhead lag so the wrists keep the clubhead trailing, which is the best way to shank and push-cut the ball. There is, of course, lag during the downswing, but lag is a result of a good swing, not the cause, and the lag is lost through impact. It’s not held unless you’re hitting a specialty shot.

Hit down on the driver like the pros do: Mostly False. Pros vary in their angle of attack with the driver. Most hit the ball 280+ yards with swing speeds of 110 to 125 mph (some even higher. One of my tour players registered 126 mph swing speed.)  But for lower clubhead speeds, like most golfers have (average about 90 mph), forget what some pros do and hit up with your driver, not down to maximize distance.

Note: TrackMan Technology has changed the thinking of many pros who have since changed their approach to the driver based on the finding that to max out distance you must produce high launch and low spin conditions. The best way to do this is to swing up with the driver for high launch while using a less lofted driver for lower spin.

To hit a draw to the target, rotate the forearms — the faster the better: False. Research suggests that better players have the slowest rotation of the clubhead through impact since there is no need to close the face to the target line to hit a draw. For example, to draw a 6-iron to target requires that the clubface be open to the target line but closed to the path of the clubhead; i.e., the clubface is actually looking to the right of the target line at contact producing the contradictory sounding description – “… an open-faced draw.”

The TrackMan numbers that describe the relationship needed to draw the ball to target for a 6-iron are +2 face, +4 path which translates to a 2 degree open face (open to the target line) and a 4 degrees open path, which means the face is 2 degrees closed to the path, so the ball starts on the face line to the right and draws back to the target. If the player over-rotated the forearms in the mistaken notion that he must square the clubface to the target line, the numbers would read – 0 degrees face, path+4, and the ball would start at the target and hook left.

An open clubface at the top causes a slice; a closed clubface causes a hook: Only sometimes – you don’t hit the ball at the top. Research that John Callahan and I did at Keiser University on this topic shows little relation between the face at the top and the face at impact.

Golfers shift weight to the lead foot during downswing, and it stays there through the follow through: Not always true.  Research shows that some good golfers start the weight flowing to the lead foot then reverse the flow into back foot just before impact.

From the top, swing the clubhead directly to the ball: False. Starting down, the clubhead swings away from the target/ball in the opposite direction, so if the target is east, the clubhead initially travels west before it turns the corner and proceeds to the ball. To maintain swing width and generate maximum power, the clubhead must move away from the ball until it turns the corner later in the downswing. It is helpful, concept-wise, to think of the start of the downswing as the “Away Swing” vs. the “To Swing.”

The hips rotate to start the downswing: False. The first move the hips make is a lateral shuttle, while the weight transfers into the lead hip. Only then do the hips rotate. Otherwise, you spin your hips and hit a push-cut, or worse.

The arms and hands drop the club down to slot the club: False. Research at Penn State shows that a muscle in the back (the Latissimus Dorsi), in concert with the scapula, starts the downswing in the upper body by contracting and pulling the lead arm down and across the chest. It may be counter-intuitive, but The Back Starts The Front.

The pressure in the grip should be in the last three fingers of lead hand: False. There are no muscles in the fingers so squeezing with the last three fingers only contracts the forearms and palm muscles which, when done to an extreme, prevents a good wrist set. The majority of pressure should be applied by the fat pad of the trail thumb on the big knuckle of the lead thumb, like a quarterback taking a snap.

Keep your lead wrist flat at impact: True, but a good impact is a result, not a cause, which is why trying to manufacture a flat lead wrist is disastrous. In the non-manipulated swing, the wrist bows because the clubhead is left behind by adhering to the proper swing sequence. When the club squares at impact, the wrist goes flat.

Note: Most research shows that thinking about internal swing cues like club lag and flat wrists, are not nearly as effective as external cues like focusing on the target.

You have 14 clubs, but only one swing: False. Research shows that when the ball is on the ground, you need a different swing (out-to-in and down) than when it is teed with a driver (in-to-out and up). So, it’s much more accurate to say you have 14 clubs and two swings.

If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.