Grip and stance fundamentally relevant

We have had our share of rain this year. Golfers who never walk but only ride, may have played fewer rounds of golf due to cart path-only restrictions. For the times they have played, they may have been frustrated in pitching and chipping, with the ground being softer. For those hitting behind the ball or hitting these shots thin, I’ve got a few thoughts.

In my golf professional career, I’ve given thousands of personal golf lessons and led countless golf clinics for beginning juniors, ladies and men. In teaching golf, the two main basics are grip and stance – well before the actual swing is taught. These two pieces of instruction are crucial to learning a sound golf swing.

These fundamentals should be taught in that order: grip first; then, stance. Should someone have a good grip and stance, it really isn’t difficult to instruct him to develop a good golf swing that will serve him for a lifetime; however, if someone has a bad grip and/or stance, the player must make a series of adaptations to merely make contact with the golf ball, much less hit the ball well and with consistency.

Aside from hitting intentional fades, draws, high shots and low shots, in golf there are three different areas of the game that must be recognized for slightly different stances: full swing, putting and short game.

At the address position for the full swing, a player’s head should be slightly behind center or belt buckle. This allows the body to drive and turn through the ball at the impact area in the downswing and follow through using the lower body to lead and for power. This stance position will help to create power and speed through the impact area.

In putting, the head should be positioned directly in the center of the body with the player’s nose and chin vertically in line with the belt buckle. During a putting stroke, the player does not want to create any weight shift or lower body motion. The putting stroke should be a pendulum motion with the ball located at the bottom of the stroke for solid and consistent contact.

In chipping and pitching, limited lower body motion is ideal with virtually no weight shifting. This is a touch shot that should be controlled with the upper body. In the address position, I prefer to see golfers with their chins slightly in front of their belt buckles and most of the body’s weight on the forward foot (in relation to the target) with the ball located within players’ feet (depending on the trajectory desired for the shot). This set-up position will help to ensure solid contact with the ball in a descending blow from the club.

When the ground is saturated, it becomes more difficult to hit chip shots with high-lofted clubs, such as a lob wedge. With the softer ground, the lob wedge tends to dig, rather than bounce or skid through the hitting area, as it’s preferred in dryer conditions.

When the ground is soft, rather than making a long backswing with a lob wedge, try a shorter backswing with an 8- or 9-iron or pitching wedge. This shot is made even easier if the club head is kept close to the ground, and the shorter swing or stroke is making a sweeping motion. Be certain that the hands and grip of the club stay in front of the club head throughout the shot. Surely this will be a lower trajectory with these less lofted clubs, but a player may find the ball rolling closer to the cup with a pitch-and-run shot versus the lob shot.

In the next practice session, in all three areas of the game, check head your position relative to body and target. Have a friend check your chin-to-belt buckle vertical alignment, and if you are not in the correct position, make these minor adjustments. At home, a player can practice by grabbing a few clubs in front of a mirror to simulate these three varying address positions. I believe immediate positive results will ensue.

Very soon, I hope, the temperatures will rise to a comfortable level, and the ground will firm up to where we receive a little roll on our drives again. At that time, golfers may be able to drive carts off the paths and onto the fairways to find their balls from the tee shots.

Let’s make 2019 a year for great improvement in our golf games. If you need help, ask your professional for advice.

See you on the first tee!

~ Dave Jennings is the men’s golf coach for Central Alabama Community College.