Great shots need good pre-swing prep
By Kim Jeong-kyoo
Proper pre-swing preparation is a prerequisite for a graceful swing that produces solid, powerful strikes. Behind every dynamic golf swing that repeats consistently, even under severe pressure, lies a good pre-swing preparation. The importance of pre-swing preparation cannot be overemphasized.
What needs to be done first for solid contact on the sweet spot of the clubface is to set the correct distance from the ball so the bodyweight is on the balls of the feet.
A good rule of thumb is that the proper distance from the ball calls for a fist-and-a-half gap between the left thigh and the butt end of the grip for the driver, a full fist for a mid- to long-iron and a half-fist for a wedge.
However, a bent posture requires you to stand slightly farther from the ball, reaching for it. An upright posture makes it necessary to stand a little closer to the ball. A wide gap encourages a flat swing and a narrow space an upright swing.
To double check your distance from the ball, check the ball mark on the clubface. A mark on the toe-side of the clubface is the result of standing too far from the ball and dirt on the heel-side is from standing too close.
Your ultimate goal is to get the mark in the center of the clubface, which indicates a proper distance from the ball and correct weight distribution on the balls of the feet.
As the distance from the ball differs depending on posture, so does the club shaft angle vary according to body type, particularly arm length.
With a mid-iron, golfers with average length arms are better standing over the ball so the butt end of the handle points just left of the navel. Golfers with short arms will naturally stand a tad closer to the ball so the grip end of the club points just above it. Players with long arms will stand farther away from the ball so the butt points just below the navel.
A longer club like a driver would slightly lower this position.
Equally important for solid contact is to keep the head up. Burying the chin in the chest at address impedes free, full shoulder turn on the backswing as well as on the forward swing. Imagine a sharp object between your chin and sternum at address. You are left with no option but to keep your chin up so as not to hurt yourself.
Also crucial to clean, firm contact is to avoid hunching over the ball with the back rounded and the bodyweight either on the toes or heels. Slouching inhibits you from turning the spine and making a balanced, rhythmic swing.
Imagine yourself a weightlifter who is on the verge of raising a heavy dumbbell. That helps correctly settle your bodyweight on the balls of the feet and keep your spine straight, not round.
Similarly, picture yourself in a balanced position ready to catch a ball when someone tosses it to you. That will save you from being off balance at address.
An equally effective method is to visualize yourself a goalkeeper ready to guard the goal.
No less critical than a forward tilt of the spine is its side tilt to the right away from the target. The shorter the club, the more neutral the spine will be with the shoulders more level. The longer the club, the more you should tilt the upper body to the right away from the target so the right shoulder is lower than the left.
To encourage balance during the swing widen your stance progressively when you hit a longer club.
Last but not least, avoid thinking too much over the ball. That causes you a lot of trouble. You can easily become paralyzed by excessive thoughts of how to swing. It's always best to have only one simple swing key or preferably none in mind. You need to focus on the target, not on the swing mechanics.
Shut out all lessons you've taken, or rather block out all technical swing keys. To produce purely solid strikes it's imperative to get all the technical thoughts out of your head. Granted, you've been working on technique for ages but don't think about it on the course. Just hit the ball toward the target and let it happen.
Here are two foolproof non-technical keys that can help you make better pre-swing preparation and take your ball-striking ability to the next level.
First, look at a dimple on the inside quadrant of the ball. This makes it easier to hit the ball on the correct path, that is from inside to out, holding a variety of swing faults at bay such as coming over the top.
Second, always be level-headed. You'll play to the best of your abilities when you're unflappable. Of equal importance is not to become pressurized into making pars and birdies to recover lost strokes on the spot. That only impairs your ability to execute a relaxed, balanced and rhythmic swing, let alone make a fluid putting stroke. You are deprived of every chance of achieving your target score.