Let's tackle the backswing this week and see if we can get you hitting straighter shots. Don't misunderstand, hitting a slice, fade, hook or draw are important tools in golf. The question is to what degree and if you can reproduce the shot at will. If you can get to a point of hitting relatively straight shots, then you can work on bending the ball.
For now, let's focus on the backswing and hitting straighter shots. In Jack Nicklaus's book, The Full Swing he says the cause of a bad shot can be found in the backswing 99 out of 100 times. If that doesn't convince you how important the backswing is, nothing will. Plus, he mentions we only have mental control over your backswing for the first three feet. The research has been done. Our minds and bodies cannot communicate with each other fast enough to direct the backswing for more than the first three feet of the swing. This has to be the primary reason why golf is so difficult.
Since there's 10 billion ways to swing a golf club, where do we begin? Since I started playing the game I've tried to keep things as simple as possible. What I mean by that is I stay away from whacky things like rerouting the club on the downswing or looping, pronating, cupping, wrist manipulations and other contortions. The fact is, I don't even know what most of that stuff is. Why complicate an already extremely difficult motion the requires predictable and repeatable results? Plus, if we only have mental control over the club for the first three feet in the backswing, how can you expect to reproduce all these contortions repeatedly?
Ok, my backswing is very simple. First, I use a neutral grip. Neither hand is turned in any extreme direction. While in the address position, I visualize the target line and start the backswing (for right handed golfers) with my left hand, arm and shoulder. A one-piece takeaway. Starting from the ball, the club moves from directly behind it to inward and upward, relative to the target line. Once the club rises above my waist the wrists begin to cock. I never force the wrists to cock, it happens naturally due to the momentum of the club. Once I'm about halfway back (waist high), the back of my left hand is parallel with my target line. At the top of the swing, the back of my left hand is parallel with my target line, as well. From this position, as long as you don't do some crazy manipulations on the downswing, you will hit straighter shots. Stay tuned for next week's tidbits and tips.
Sal Martignetti is an independent golf coach and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (603) 986-3376. His free e-book is available at elusivegolfswing.weebly.com.