Five Key Fundamentals to World-Class Ball Striking
What are the key fundamentals to a great golf swing? Is it a straight left arm, a big shoulder turn, a flat left wrist, a stable right leg, or maybe just a good left hand at impact? There are so many theories and so many books written on this topic that sometimes it seems impossible to decipher the true facts. Here at the Titleist Performance Institute, we believe that great golf swings don’t have to look the same. There are thousands of touring professionals on the planet and no two swings look the same. So how do you isolate the key characteristics that make all these swings work? After 22 years of studying great golf swings and testing players in every possible manner, we have come up with five fundamentals that make up every great golf swing.
Center Face / Square Face Contact:
This fundamental is hard to debate. Modern day launch monitors and overall club designs show us that the closer you hit the ball to the sweet spot (which tends to be centrally located) the better energy transfer we will get into the golf ball. Off-center hits tend to cause a more tilted spin access and energy loss to the ball and therefore, tend to create more inconsistent flight patterns to the golf ball. Just as an off-center contact can create excessive spin, so can a closed or open clubface contact. The more you contact the golf ball with a glancing blow from a non-square face, the more you will tilt the spin access on the ball. So the first key fundamental found in every great ball striker is their ability to repeatedly find the center of the face and to square the face at impact.
Path of Intention = Shot of Intention:
This fundamental allows for the variety of ball flights seen in so many players. Great ball strikers deliver the clubface on a swing plane or path that will create their intended shot. In other words, if they want to hit a draw (right to left for a right-handed golfer) then, in general, a more in-to-out path with a closed clubface will allow this ball flight to occur. If they want to cut the ball (left to right) then a more out-to-in or square path with a more open clubface will give them better results. Poor ball strikers try to hit shots with an improper path, attack angle and clubface position. It is hard to get repeatable and efficient results when you don’t understand what causes the ball to curve and how it differs with irons from woods.
Dominant Rotary Force:
Great golf swings have a high rotational force that dominates their movement. The less lateral (sway/slide) or front to back (loss of posture/early extension) movement that occurs in the golf swing, the more rotational force a player can develop. This rotational force is what makes great players develop such high club head speeds at impact. The more you add other movements besides rotation to the swing, the more chances you have of making different
golf swings with every shot. So this fundamental is important for two reasons, maximal speed and power development and balance, tempo, and rhythm are all easily repeated with one primary movement (rotation). By the way, we all know that there needs to be an aggressive weight shift in the golf swing, but it is this lateral weight shift which begins the dominant rotational force into impact. If the rotary force does not dominate the pattern during the downswing, then you are not applying this fundamental skill.
Proper Kinematic Sequence:
The most important fundamental for consistent ball striking is the ability to produce a proper “kinetic link”. The basic foundation of any athletic movement is called a kinetic link. This term, used by biomechanists, describes the sequence or chronological series of movements an athlete uses to generate and transfer power throughout their body. In golf, like most sports, the power or energy is created from the ground and passed up through the body to the club head. This transfer of energy from the lower body to the upper torso, from the upper torso to the arms, and from the arms to the club is called a golfers kinetic link.
It is amazing to see how many golfers are unable to produce a fluid kinetic link. Using 3-D video technology, we can measure the patient’s ability to generate power in their lower body and transfer this power through upper torso and arms and into the club head. If we see that a golfer has good lower body speed, good upper torso speed, poor arm speed, and poor club head speed, we can start to make some simple
conclusions. It seems that they are able to generate power effectively in their lower body and transfer this energy to the upper torso. The upper torso then seems to create speed or power efficient as well but is deficient in transferring this energy to the arms and club. Therefore, we should evaluate the connection between the upper torso and arms, or the shoulders, since that seems to be the weak link in the kinetic chain. Evaluating the kinetic link is an essential step in determining efficiency breakdowns in our golfing clients.
Good Segmental Stabilization:
This last fundamental is the key to generating power and speed in the golf swing. In order to pass energy from one part of your body to the next, there must be a deceleration of the previous segment so that energy can be effectively transferred to the next body part. A great analogy is the cracking of the whip. In order to create a loud snap at the end of a whip, you must rapidly accelerate the handle of the whip and then quickly stopped or decelerate the handle. It is this deceleration of the handle that allows speed to be transferred to the next part of the whip.