When you hit a shot with a poor strike (toe or, dare I say it, shank!), do you automatically start re-vamping your swing? Reading this article may change that for you.
I see this a lot on the lesson tee. After a poor shot, I often ask the player what they feel they did. In most cases, the player responds by telling me they made a hugely different move to their normal swing pattern – such as going wildly over-the-top, or massively early extending etc.
About a year ago, I asked a group of instructors what their thoughts were on why this player was hitting the heel of the club. Take a look at his swing
I got answers. A lot of answers in fact. Only one of them was correct – and this was only because the person who answered correctly knew me and knew what underhand tactics I get up to.
It certainly wasn’t my intention to upset people with this exercise – I just wanted to get people engaged and create some out-of-the-box thinking.
As far as I can remember, the post got a couple of hundred comments from people giving their view for why this player was hitting the heel. These ranged from
- Standing too close to it
- Posture too far forwards
- Steep takeaway
- Right arm too straight in backswing
- Hands too deep halfway back
- Across the line at the top
- Cupped lead wrist at the top
- Shoulders too steep
- Over the top downswing
- Swinging out to in through impact
And much more. What were your reasons for why you think this player heels it? Re-watch the video and try to come up with an answer.
So, what was the reason for the heel strike?
Hmm, did you notice anything strange about that last video?
That’s right, this video was of the player hitting a toe shot – the complete opposite side of the face.
I just tricked you!
If you managed to come up with a reason for why the player heeled it, you now have to explain the fact that this player also toed it with the same movement pattern. Let’s take a side-by-side look (left pic is heel, right pic is toe).
Set up is pretty similar.
Nothing discernibly different here in the takeaway
Could be twins
Pretty identical top of the swing
Half way down – nothing to see here officer
Impact – ah, now there we see something different.
The swing is basically identical (on a gross motor pattern scale).
- If you agree with this statement, then it serves to pass that it’s the microscopic changes in the technique which are causing the difference – not some wildly different movement pattern. To which we must ask – how to we improve our ability to control these micro-techniques?
- If you don’t agree and you see some changes in the movement, then you have to remember that these changes were not conscious from the player, but were the result of self-organization around the player’s concept – to which we must ask, how do we improve this?
Let me explain that last point
The Real Why
So, why did this player heel the original shot? Simple…. I asked him to. The very same reason for why he toed the next shot.
His mind was on the task (hit X part of the face), and he responded accordingly. This player has high skill development, and is therefore able to shift his strike around the face at will – something poor players do not typically possess.
What’s The Point Of This?
I know this will get lost on many people – it requires out of the box thinking. But seriously, sit down and contemplate the idea/philosophy behind this.
- I asked this player to hit X part of the face
- He did it successfully
- We have worked on his ability to do this
- His gross motor pattern did not change, yet the strike changed significantly (enough to create a hugely different result)
- All the mechanical reasons people gave for the shank shot were still present in the toe shot – therefore, how much weighting can we/should we give to gross motor patterns as a cause for poor heel/toe strike issues?
We are so conditioned as players/instructors to blame mechanics every time a player hits a poor shot. I have seen commentators blame the poor shots of Tiger Woods to his 8 inch drop in height that he makes. Yet the same commentators used to ignore this drop in height when he flushed it onto the pin and won his majors.
My point? I am trying to get people to realize that, rather than looking at mechanical reasons for strike issues, we can also tap into improvements in coordination of the micro mechanics.
Did this player need a complete swing overhaul simply because he was heeling it? Of course not – he has the ability to shift the strike pattern at will, even with the same overall mechanics.
This is not to say never work on improving swing mechanics (anyone claiming I am saying that will get a quick screenshot of this paragraph). Swing mechanics should be part of the puzzle – but it is my opinion that improvements in skill and coordination can override and improve even the worst movement patterns.
Ok Fine, But I’m Not Trying to Heel It
I’m not saying you are (consciously). What I am saying is that you either
- don’t have an awareness of where you are striking on the club face
- have an awareness, but haven’t developed the ability to change it
- have the ability to change it and the awareness, but are not focusing on it (perhaps your attention is elsewhere)
All of the above can be improved.
We can also link almost anything to a fault. But we must be careful with this practice.
If we were linking this player’s posture, takeaway, top of swing or downswing etc, to the heel shot, how did the player hit the toe with the same issue? Maybe the issue didn’t cause the poor strike – in as much as wearing golf shoes causes us to miss the sweet spot (99% correlation).
Why is this important? Think about it this way – how long would it take you to clean up the takeaway, posture, backswing, top of swing, downswing etc? You might spend years doing those things, and still hit it crappy.
If you want to go more in depth with my philosophies on how to improve strike that go beyond the traditional mechanical approach, click below to check out The Strike Plan.
- Be careful with what you think ‘causes’ a heel or a toe hit. As pretty much every golfer out there has a poor strike pattern/tendency, you could correlate anything to this fault. You could even say that wearing golf shoes causes poor strikes and have a 99% correlation.
- Understanding how the brain organizes movement patterns to achieve an outcome (such as a centered strike) is the next level of golf instruction
- Understanding how to improve the micro-mechanics of the golf swing which make a difference to the outcome
- Did you really shank it because your takeaway was inside? Was your swing even that different to the previous one?
- Build your skill – this player is skillful and can move the strike around the face at will. Coordination skill like this is not achieved via mechanical means, and can even be harmed by a mechanical approach.
One More Point
Many people may be asking, why would I train this player to have an ability to shank it and toe it at will? Well, this goes into some of the research surrounding how to improve, including my own study on how to learn to strike the sweet spot quicker. You can read this study here (click this link).