How Good Are Your Fundamentals (The Real Fundamentals)? - Part 1
Teaching golfers to lower their scores is something I’ve been doing for 12 years and it is a very exciting time for golf instruction and golfers. I began my career like most teachers where I was a pretty good player, I hoped to play professional but due to injury, illness and lack of talent my path to the PGA Tour was cut short. Still wanting to be a part of the game of golf, I began seeking for why I didn’t possess the talent to get to where I wanted to be and also see if I could help others achieve their dreams. One of the most important facts I found from any high level athlete, not just in golf, is that our fundamentals must be the undeniably strongest part of our game.
Think about all sports that you can watch. The NBA, players dribble the ball so effortlessly between their legs, behind the back, which allows them to move and weave throw opponents. Their ability to pass allows them to add variations to their games so they can pass around any of the challenges that are thrown their way. MLB players catch pop flies, field grounders and make throws to bases and targets with ease so that when they need to, they can make a catch on the dead sprint or throw a ball to first from their back foot, and pull off the highlight reel plays.
Golf is no different. However, we have gone about it all the wrong way. When I first started teaching golf, analyzing videos and pictures of golf swings was the most popular way to learn what a good golf swing should and shouldn’t be. This led me to hear from many places, that the most important fundamentals of the game were simple things like posture, grip, alignment etc… These types of elements were always explained to allow the player to have a good starting point for a successful and repeatable golf swing.
As I continued teaching, newer technologies have now become available such as Doppler Radar, 3D motion capture systems, force plates, sonar technology, EEG and more. I began reading a lot of research and studying a lot of data that began to change my opinion on what really good players were able to do and also find the errors that struggling players had. I found plenty of examples of good players whose aim would aim one direction or the other and vary it from shot to shot. I also found players with weak grips and strong grips. I also found players whose posture would be termed less than ideal based on the previous standards. But what I did start to see is that good players had an understanding of the fundamentals I want to share now, that allowed their swings to be shaped into a repeatable motion that can be performed on the course and under pressure.
Real Fundamental #1 – Low Point Control
The first fundamental that you must understand as a golfer is that the club travels at an angle down to the ground and then it returns back up away from the ground in a shape that looks like an arc. As the golfer, our job is to be able to control where the lowest point of the arc happens. On most shots, golfers need to drive the center of mass (COM) of the club head, below the COM of the golf ball which allows it to get airborne. Most of the time, we hear the phrase to “hit down on the ball,” but I’m not a big fan of a phrase that says to definitively do something with your swing because it may allow you to hit one shot on the range, but it doesn’t allow you to have versatility and creativity on the ever changing conditions of the golf course.
What I like to think is control the low point of the swing, so that if you were to make a practice swing and I asked you to strike the club to hit a specific spot on the ground, you’d be able to do it with ease. Then in the course of a series of swings, we’d be able to switch the swing around to see if we can get the low point to happen at different points. Once we can control the low point without a ball, then we would hit a shot and define exactly where the low point should happen for a solidly struck airborne shot. On shots where the ball is resting on the ground, we’d want the low point to happen just beyond the golf ball so we can ensure striking the ball first and then the ground second, but again, the club begins to travel up after the low point occurs. On the driver, the low point actually happens before the ball, because with the ball on the tee we actually are looking to strike the ball with the club on the upswing.
Controlling the low point is a skill that players at the highest level do with such ease, that it goes over looked when trying to understand what those players do so well. it is a fundamental that needs to be rock solid if we hope to continue to grow as a player and improve our scores in the fastest way possible.
So when you head out to the range next time, start paying attention to low point, and watch your consistency level rise.
Part 2 of this 4 part series will be available next week!