When It’s Not You; It’s Your Golf Clubs

I’ve been a golf instructor for a long time, but I still get frustrated when I work with golfers who are serious about improving their game, yet refuse to make equipment changes. Regardless of what you may have heard, all golfers need to start and continue playing the game with a set of clubs that fits them properly. They might even need to change to different clubs as their games evolve. For junior golfers, this is especially important, as their bodies often change rapidly.

The price of golf equipment can be a concern for golfers, and I am sensitive to that. I am not suggesting that golfers need to spend $10,000 on new clubs, but it doesn’t cost much to get the basics of loft and lie angle correct. And even changing shafts to get the proper flex, weight and length and can be done for as little as a few hundred dollars. You might not get the latest technology at that price point, but a proper fit is much more important.

Recently, I had a player who came in for a lesson — he was a good player, around a 10-12 handicap — complaining about his propensity to come from outside to inside on his downswing despite increased practice time. So I asked him to warm-up and hit a few shots while I watched his set-up routine, alignments, and overall motion on video and Trackman. Within three swings, it was apparent that his issues had little to do with his mechanics. The problem was his clubs; they were too short and too flat, which was causing him to shift his swing direction too much from out to in.

StickneySlumped
Please excuse the poor-quality photo

This player was very tall, yet he was using clubs that were standard length and had standard lie angles, and that placed him in an out-of-balance address position. He contorted his setup to make the clubs work for him, bending over to reach the handle of the club, while putting his weight too much on his toes and throwing off his center of gravity (CG).

If you remember, he also was complaining about a tendency to come over-the-top. Whenever a golfer’s CG is too much on the toes at address, he or she will tend to pick the club up too much on the takeaway, and/or will come over the top with an outside-to-inside swing path at impact. These two things happen because your body has mechanisms to keep you upright and balanced, thus stopping you from falling down. So whenever the balance centers in your ears and your eyes sense you’re moving too much weight into your toes during your backswing, your body will naturally keep you from toppling over. Therefore, you will tend to move your arms farther AWAY from your body, either at address or from the top, in order to shift your CG back toward the center of your feet.

All this happened naturally without thought for my student. Because his clubs were too short and too flat for his height, he shifted his weight to his toes at address. Then his body decided to “throw the club from the top” so he would become better balanced to finish the swing.

The photo below shows my student with a properly fit golf club (longer and more upright), and you can instantly see the difference. His center of gravity shifted to the laces of his shoes, which created better balance at address and allowed him to perform much better.

StickneyTall

Now back to his lesson.

As stated, he took a few swings and I saw his poor club fitting, so I stopped the lesson. I didn’t say anything, and reached for a club that was longer and more upright, one that put him in the position above. From there, I told him to do me a favor and hit 15 balls with this club making sure he set up in the manner the club asked him to do so by its design. As expected, the first few shots were terrible, but over the next 8-10 shots, his pattern became more repetitive and the over-the-top motion began to fix itself.

Obviously, I was recording the swings on Trackman. When he first started hitting balls, his swing direction was -5 to -8 (from out to in). Afterward, his swing direction improved to about -3, a significant improvement.

So what does this tell us? Obviously, the body is brilliant, and wants to help you play better golf. A proper club fitting can allow the body to move the club naturally, and using equipment that is poorly fit can be detrimental to your mechanics and subsequent ball flight. Therefore, if you do nothing else as a golfer, please get a basic club fitting before you make any purchases. You will thank yourself later.