By: Arlen Bento, WGCA contributing writer
It is not uncommon for recreational players to hit the ball all over the club face, but for an aspiring tour player, solid contact is a must. I have been working with an aspiring PGA Tour player for the last few months, and we are starting to make some major improvements.
There were a lot of tough indoor swing sessions in my studio and a lot of frustrating outdoor practice sessions before the contact points on shots became centered on the club face. Technically, because of a swing path that came from too-inside the target line, a quick hand release was needed to create a straight shot. The problem is that many of the hits were towards the toe of the club, creating inconsistent distances and shapes.
We changed posture, moving slightly more upright, which got the hands at setup away from the body, and we worked on hitting shots from an open stance. We spent a lot of time working on letting the body start the downswing with a hip rotation, trying to avoid the right shoulder from dipping down too much which created the inside approach that required the hands release, which was a major problem. We worked for hours at covering the shot, feeling like the right hip and right shoulder made impact at the same time as the club with some shaft lean at impact.
Indoors, it worked great; path was square, an improvement of 5-7 degrees. The problem was the hand release. Because of old habits, we had a closed club face and a hooked shot almost every time. It is very frustrating for a good player to make a change that is not always rewarded with a great shot, especially when the swing does not feel good since it is different. Even very subtle changes can be catastrophic.
What had to be done is creating trust in the change and getting the player to understand that the end result is worth the effort. For this player, he understood that hitting the ball on the toe, and the inconsistent scores, were all part of his issues. He listened; he understood that to be a real professional player, he had to improve his ball striking and his playing statistics. So we went to work, swinging with an open stance, feeling like the club face never releases, trying to keep the club face square at impact and through impact for a long time, and keeping the shoulders level in the swing.
We worked on my three swing positions: Dead hands (#1) swing at waist level in the back swing; wrist hinge (#2) swing at waist level with grip pointing to the golf ball. We worked on rotating the hips and right shoulder into impact (#3), creating a much more level-plane golf swing and a much improved swing path and impact.
We talked a lot about my coaching swing theory, playing theory, how we were going to get to the next level, and I introduced my driving a boat analogy, which is that the golf swing is like driving a boat: You are always drifting right or left, never really stopping, always moving, floating. The best players keep their boats on a straight line by working all the time at one direction, then bringing it back to the other direction to keep it straight.
Now we have to make it feel good and create confidence in the swing before we can take it out to the course and competition. This is not going to be easy.
Master Teaching Professional Arlen Bento Jr. is a golf coach, golf sales business owner, golf product developer and golf writer living in Jensen Beach, Florida. He is a former professional tournament player and is a national award-winning head golf professional at the PGA Country Club at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, FL. He can be reached via Facebook at www.facebook.com/arlenbentojr or on his blog http://arlenbentojr.blogspot.com or on his business website www.abjgolfsales.com.