Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Golf Lesson: Laid Off

I recently took some online video lessons with famed teaching professional Bobby Eldridge out in AZ. I highly recommend giving Bobby a shout; he's very good!

To my surprise, Bobby immediately picked up on something I hadn't considered: I was too laid off at the top. In other words, my club shaft pointed well left of the target line instead of more parallel to my target line. This move was causing my pulls, pull hooks, deep divots, and slices, because one unconsciously corrects for this by coming over the top (OTT). This is something that is hotly debated among golfers and professionals, as there have been many great golfers who appear 'laid off' at the top of their swings. Ben Hogan has even been accused of this sin. For clarity, the opposite of being laid off is being across the line, meaning the club shaft points right of the target at the top, and this move supposedly leads to hooks and coming too much from the inside.

It's also important to note that having the club point left of the target doesn't necessarily mean that one is "laid off" in the negative sense. What's important is being "on plane." When you're on plane it's not neccessary to get the club to parallel (reference Hank Haney's 7-Steps book). A better description of being "laid off" is a swing plane that is too flat, regardless of where the club points at the top.

Bobby didn't think so, but from my previous Hank Haney online lesson, I know that I have failed in the past to get a full 90 degree shoulder turn; this can contribute to a laid off backswing. It's easy to comprehend that an incomplete shoulder turn will cause the club to point left at the top.

Now, what I'm describing flies in the face of a reversed loop swing that I've championed before; let's face it, a reversed loop swing is a correction (i.e., defeating a steep backswing with a shallow downswing). It works well for some professional golfers with impeccable timing, and it helped me too (for a while). But because it's a correction and requires timing, it's not easy to do (for me anyway).

As I'm a mere mortal (beginning golfer), how much better would it be if I could keep the club on plane all the way through? This is what Bobby was getting at with my backswing. The correct feeling has more to do with the arms and club staying in front of the chest, back and through. For me, it feels very vertical, but it definitely agrees with Shawn Clement's commentary on the arms "falling down the plane." It seems easier to hold the lag and allow the arcing motion of the club shaft to happen late (more due to arm rotation than shoulder rotation), thereby producing an inside-out club head motion. When I swing down this way, I focus on the inside of the ball, as if that's where I'm trying to hit it (the only way to do that is by this arcing motion with retained lag). Extension back and through seems more natural as well, and a 90 degree shoulder turn is important to get the club pointing down the target line (without the arms collapsing). And as you can see from Clement's explanation, the right elbow-right hip relationship is important too, with the right elbow falling down IN FRONT of the hip--not attaching or crashing into the side of the hip. The hips must rotate to shallow out the vertical motion.

One should feel as if one is pointing the club shaft at the target at the top of the backswing; if the club points to the left of the target, it will be too laid off, which can cause nasty slices and pulls on the way down, depending on the corrections one makes in the downswing. Here are some tests to determine whether one is laid off at the top:

Take a full backswing but stop at the top of your swing. Simply loosen your grip and allow the club to fall on you. If the club is on plane correctly, it should fall on the tip of your right shoulder. If the club falls too much toward your neck or head, your plane is too steep. If the club falls below your shoulder, your swing path is too laid off or flat.

[From Golf Swing Plane Tips]

Wherever your eyes are looking, your hands and the clubhead will want to go. If your eyes are looking at the back of the ball at address, then you are probably trying to square the clubface to the back of the ball at impact. Address and impact are two very different alignments in golf. Focus your eyes on the inside quadrant of the ball at address and your hands will strive to reach your new focal point. By making this small change, you will be well on your way to improving your downswing and obtaining much more manageable misses.

[From Classic Swing Golf School]

Following the takeaway, focus on folding the right elbow up, not out behind you. Your swing should feel much more vertical than before. More importantly, it should feel shorter. That’s a good thing since, whether you believe it or not, a good backswing is only 18 inches long. From setup to the top, your right elbow should move just about a foot and a half, from the center of your torso to just outside the right hip.

[From Golf Tips - Elbow Room]

The key is we have to fight this by trying to keep the shaft as vertical as we can in the transition and down to impact. If we let the shaft fall back it will lay off as much as parallel to the ground or more and also fall more inside. This will cause getting trapped behind the body approaching the ball, causing a big inside out swing path that will hit big blocks. To stop the blocks, big time over rotation of the arms hits big pulls.

[From Laid off at the top of the Backswing…Cures, Tests and Drills - Surge's Daily Golf Swing Tips]

One classic problem is leaving the club pointing left at the top or as we call it laid off. This can be caused by an inability or unwillingness to complete the turn on the back swing. If you only turn your shoulders 45 degrees instead of the preferred 90 degrees, the club will likely be 45 degrees left of target, a major cause of the classic pull or slice swing. Even players who typically do it correctly on the range may find that the tension of the golf course prevents them from completing the back swing and causing an improper path.

[From Club Position]

Think of yourself as a righthanded batter, with a golf ball sitting on home plate. As you move into impact, try to sling the clubhead toward right centerfield. Approaching the ball from inside the target line like this—as opposed to down the target line when you try to hit the back of the ball—relates the shallow arc necessary to make centered contact and compress the ball so it shoots off your clubface like a rocket. At impact, your clubface should strike the lower-left quadrant (the one closest to you) of the ball.

[From How to Max Out your Irons |]

When you reach the top of your backswing, allow your hands to drop the club straight down. If the shaft hits your shoulder, then great—you’re on plane. If the shaft missed your body and the clubhead falls behind you, you’re probably laying off too much and you need to keep your hands and shaft above your shoulder in order to get back on track.

[From No Layoffs! |]



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