Saturday, January 14, 2012

Watch the Ball or Keep Your Head Down?

How many times have you heard that old refrain, "Keep your head down?" Likewise, how many times have you heard the contrary advice NOT to keep your head down? Like most advice in golf, it seems that every "fundamental" has its equal share of detractors who will call that fundamental a myth. In other words, for everyone that tells you to keep your head down, there will be someone who says DON'T keep your head down!

Keeping the head down should really be thought of as keeping the eyes on the ball, because your eyes are in your head, silly. So, are we saying we SHOULD NOT look at the ball during impact?

Try this. Take a 6-iron, close your eyes, and try to hit the ball with a full swing. Not easy, is it? You may make contact, but the ball will probably go everywhere but where you intended. Now, professionals can probably do this because they hit hundreds of balls in a typical training day. But we mortal amateurs don't have that skill. Whether we admit it or not, hand-eye coordination is important in golf. (And yes, I'm aware that there are a few pros who look up before impact.)

Looking up too early to see where the ball is going is a big fault of amateurs. I know it has given me problems many times. One must hit the ball before looking up, because looking up too early can cause all sorts of mishits (but mainly fat, topped, or thin shots). The body will tend to follow the head. And looking up early can cause the hands to flip at the ball unconsciously.

Now, I'm one of those guys who likes to putt without looking at the ball, because it helps my distance and direction control immensely. But there's a big difference between rocking one's shoulders to make contact and taking a full whack at the ball with a driver. I will discuss this aspect of putting in a later post, but I just don't equate the two. It's easier to putt without looking than it is to take a full swing without looking; the main reason is that you start off with your eyes focused and staying on the hole, whereas looking up too early in any other shot means your focus shifts mid-swing.

So, keep your head down or keep your eyes on the ball? How about both?! Keep your eyes on the ball (and thus head down) until the ball disappears; then allow your natural shoulder rotation to bring the head (and eyes) up. If you watch some slow motion video of professional golfers, you'll see that most of them do JUST THAT, whereas a common amateur error is to take a peek too early. It's also ESPECIALLY true for green side bunker shots; I lock my eyes onto a spot of sand two inches behind the ball and don't look up until I throw sand.

Don't look up to see where ball has gone until after you've hit it! Watch the ball disappear on the ground before looking up. If you can't remember seeing the ball disappear on the ground in a flash then you looked up too soon.


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