Golf is one of the few sports where no matter where you go, or where you play, you're likely to find some guy who thinks reading golf magazines and books makes him an expert on the swing… despite the fact that he can't break 100. This trend is why professional golf instruction is so important; it bridges the gap over all these uneducated lessons and golf myths. Instruction myths really hurt the average player, and I'm here to set the record straight.
If your golf swing is based on any of these most popular myths, read up!
1) Keep your head down
We'll start with this classical piece of golf literature. Alright, I understand you want to see where the ball goes… so you lift up early at impact and the result is a topped or skulled shot. So the quick fix is to keep your head down right?
Wrong! Amateurs tend to take this advice to the extreme and start at address with their heads tucked down. Doing this won’t give enough room for your shoulders to clear under your chin on the backswing. This forces your entire body to straighten up at the top of your backswing which straightens your spine angle.
You need to keep you head in line with your spine; your chin should be up and away from your chest. Doing so will allow your shoulders to complete a turn without changing your spine angle.
2) Keep your head still
This myth usually is used in conjunction with telling someone to keep his or her eyes on the ball. Much like putting, stable eyes means a stable head. While this is true, a stable head is not what we want for such a dynamic motion such as the golf swing. A steady head in the golf swing will lead to many problems, for example, a poor weight-shift which tends to lead to a reverse-pivot, a change of spine angle, less power, reduced torque and a whole lot of inconsistency. In short, it's not a good idea.
Although keeping your eyes on the ball is important, you may be surprised to hear, it’s not necessary. Players like Annika Sorenstam have admitted that they don’t see the club hitting the ball when they swing. The truth is, it doesn’t matter where you’re looking… as long as your spine angle remains constant… you will make a solid contact (assuming everything else is right as well).
The truth is… your head should move side to side with the shifting of your body weight. This helps you to really ‘get behind the ball’ and create torque and power on the backswing. On the downswing, your head should slide towards the target with the movement of your body weight to the front leg. If you have golf video software take a look at how your head moves throughout swing (if not, a mirror or window and some tape to mark your starting position will do just fine).
3) Bend your knees
Although I’m sure some people will disagree with me on this one. Bent knees cause more problems than they solve. I’m an advocate of unlocked knees only. Bent knees are unstable and create additional up and down movements that affects the average golfer’s consistency. Furthermore bent knees tend to forces your spine angle to be too upright, leading to poor posture and an upright swing path.
The proper golf setup is one where your spine angle is straight and bent over at the hips (effectively sticking your butt out), your arms are hanging straight down from your shoulders, your weight is balanced, between your stance and your feet, and finally your knees are unlocked. Don’t agree with me? Watch the professionals on the tube.
Now consider this setup with bent knees… this will lower your entire body and straighten your spine. Your hands will now be closer to your body and will have problems clearing your hips and legs on the backswing and downswing (this leads to either an upright swing or the over-the-top move). Not to mention the club will now lie slightly on the heel, leading to inconsistent ball contact. All of which, you would want to avoid.
4) Play the ball from the center of your stance
I have no idea where this myth came from, but time and time again I see people playing every shot with the ball dead center. From a professional standpoint, I find this myth ridiculous… each golf club is designed differently and thus your ball position should change slightly too. As your clubs get lower, they get longer, and they’re lie angle gets lower. This is to ensure that even though the clubs are getting longer, they still lie flat on the turf at address. Furthermore, your woods for example, are designed to hit the ball on the upswing; meanwhile, your short irons are designed to hit the ball on the downswing. So tell me, how exactly can one ball position accommodate all these changes?
The short answer is… it can’t. The longer your clubs, the further forward in your stance your swing arc will bottom out. Remember that for all irons, your swing needs to bottom out after the ball (this ensures you are creating lag as well), for your woods, you should be sweeping the ball off the ground on the upswing. Head to the range and take practice swings with every club in your bag and take note of where each club bottoms out. From there you can develop a better feel for your ideal ball position for each club.
I hope this trip into some of the common myths about the golf swing was enlightening… for all you “believers” out there, I hope this may change your minds.