Grooving Your Golf Swing

So what does it mean to have a grooved golf swing?  This is a golf swing that is repeatable and can be executed almost without thinking about the body mechanics that produce it. It’s a golf swing that has been committed to muscle memory.  It’s a consistent golf swing, and for weekend golfers might be considered the perfect golf swing ... sort of golf swing heaven.  So grooving your golf swing is the mental and physical process of achieving a consistent golf swing.

 

For weekend golfers in search of the perfect golf swing it is the dependable consistency of a golf swing groove that motivates efforts to find the perfect golf swing. So what is a perfect golf swing? This is a question asked by weekend golfers all over the world, and the answer surely varies based on the level of play already achieved, but includes the notion of achieving a grooved golf swing.

About The Perfect Golf Swing

One of the most common thoughts that comes up in this conversation is the word consistency. Most week end golfers want to hit the golf ball farther and straighter … and do this more consistently. The more grooved their golf swing is the more they will experience the consistency they are seeking.

 

The discussion usually comes down to a desire to hit longer drives more accurately into the center of the fairway over and over again … consistently. Just swinging harder at the driving range or out on the golf course has probably produced discouraging results. The interesting thing about the perfect golf swing is that it’s never about swinging harder.

 

It’s about developing a subconscious repeatability in your golf swing mechanics.  This leads to better ball striking which inherently achieves more distance and accuracy.  Grooving your golf swing inherently leads to improved golf ball striking consistency.  Improved ball striking leads to reduced strokes on the golf card.

Annika Sorenstam had one of the most grooved golf swings in professional golf
(2)   Annika Sorenstam
A grooved golf swing

Rory McIlroy has a grooved golf swing
(3)   Rory McIlroy
A grooved golf swing

How to Get a Consistent Golf Swing

Maybe you are a relatively new golfer striving to break 100 on a regular basis. Chances are you’ve not yet developed your full swing groove. It’s exhilarating when you break 100, but then you may follow that up with a couple stinker rounds of golf. Too many miss hits, some which may even result in penalty strokes. Penalty strokes can really stress the score card and the golfer quickly. You are what I have referred to on this site as a Level 3 Weekend Golfer.

Female golfer getting started
(4)   Beginning female golfer - Level 3

Male golfer just starting to learn the game
(5)   Beginning male golfer - Level 3

Let’s say you’re consistently shooting in the 90s and actually brake 90 every once in a while. Your swing feels pretty good most of the time, but sometimes you have to really concentrate on it. The moment you get distracted, for what ever reason, you are subject to really bending a drive or totally miss hitting a shot. Sometimes this can lead to a penalty stroke or two causing your stress level to go up. You are a Level 2 Weekend Golfer.

 

Then there is what I have called a Level 1 Weekend Golfer . You feel pretty good about your golf swing and you shoot mostly in the 80s. There is still an occasional round where for some reason you struggle to break 90, and you would love to get a little more distance off the Tee and with your fairway clubs. You’ve spent a lot of time at the driving range getting your swing to where it is, but admittedly you don’t seem to have the time to do that as much as you used to.

Shooting in the 80s is a great achievement for a golfer
(6)   Female Level 1 Golfer
Getting tremendous satisfaction and enjoyment from the game
Shooting in the 80s can be tremendously satisfying
(7)   Level 1 Male Golfer
Getting tremendous enjoyment and satisfaction from the game

 

 

These three golf swing scenarios have different golf swing improvement challenges, but improvement is totally possible if you stop thinking about swinging harder. Instead start relating consistency with the notion of becoming a better ball striker.

Becoming a Full Swing Ball Striker

A good golf ball striker refers to a golfer who excels at making dead solid contact with the ball using the driver and fairway clubs. Their consistent, repeatable golf swing mechanics produces “sweet spot” contact with the golf ball on every full swing shot. This produces maximum yardage and accuracy for the swing speed achieved.

 

Golfers who tend to miss the sweet spot by making contact more towards to heel of the club will tend to struggle with a slice. Those who miss the sweet spot towards the toe of the golf club will tend to struggle with a hook. The ideal is, of course, to hit the ball in the middle of the club face where the club sweet spot is located as often as possible... and the more you can do that the better golfer you will be.  

 

Most lists of great ball strikers will include such names as Lee Trevino, Nick Price, Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Ricky Fowler, and Rory McIlroy. I could list many, many more. Let’s not forget the LPGA has some great ball strikers as well, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie, and Lydia Ko just to mention a few.

Michelle is a great ball striker
(8)   Michelle Wie
A great LPGA ball striker

Ernie Els is a great ball striker
(9)   Ernie Els
A great ball striker on the PGA tour

Most will agree that the best full swing ball striker was Ben Hogan … after he recovered from a serious automobile accident that almost ended his career. It was after his return to the PGA in 1950 that the golfing world started to take notice of his dramatically improved ball striking skills. He spent months in rehab after the accident rebuilding his golf swing in secret practice sessions.

 

The great ball strikers mentioned above all have something in common. They tend to have single plane golf swings. It’s a more natural swing motion and is simpler than the two plane golf swing because there are fewer moving parts. Sometimes referred to as a “flat swing”, many contemporary pro golfers today have embraced the single plane golf swing, or versions of it.  

The Single Plane Golf Swing

Back in the 70s and 80s almost all professional golfers had golf swings that were more of a two plane golf swing by comparison, and this included some great ball strikers such as Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus. They hit thousands of practice shots to perfect the body mechanics of their more upright golf swings which served them well. During this golf era, two of the most notable single plane ball strikers were Gary Player and Lee Trevino.

 

The simpler body mechanics of the single plane golf swing make it easier to properly time the body movements needed to consistently achieve proper contact with the golf club sweet spot. These mechanics put much less stress on the lower back, which explains why some Pros with back problems have gravitated to the single plane golf swing. Fred Couples and Tiger Woods come to mind.

 

The simple explanation of the one plane golf swing is the plane of the back swing and the down swing are essentially the same where as in the two plane golf swing they are not. For right handed golfers, the left arm will be in contact with the chest and more or less parallel with their shoulder line at the top of the back swing.

 

There is a focus on a rhythmic rotation around the angled spine while keeping the head very still during the back swing and down swing. This is followed by a smooth explosion into the ball consistently striking the club head sweet spot. The single plane body mechanics inherently put less strain on the lower back than the body mechanics of the more traditional two plane golf swing.

Ben Hogan had a sweet single plane golf swing
(10)   Ben Hogan
Simple, easy single plane golf swing

The two plane golf swing starts with the golfer’s hands typically closer to the body at set up and standing more erect as the back swing is initiated. This results in the hands being noticeably higher at the top of the back swing and requires a plane adjustment in the down swing in order to make proper contact with the golf ball. The resulting lifting, twisting motion at ball impact puts tremendous strain on the lower back.  The single plane is a more “stress free” golf swing than the two plane golf swing.

 

Ben Hogan is not only considered one of the best ball strikers of all time he also had what might be considered the purest single plane golf swing to ever play the game. He was in a horrific automobile accident right at the peak of his career in 1949. Injuries included broken ribs, severe chest injuries and a broken back.

 

Ben Hogan's golf swing secret
(11)   Ben Hogan
Stress Free Golf Swing

His rehab was a slow process and included long hours of practice essentially in secret. What emerged in the pro golfing world was even an improved Ben Hogan. Some adjustments were made to his golf swing during the rehab that reduced the physical strain on his body. The stress free nature of his rehabbed golf swing very likely helped extend his career after the accident.

 

Ben’s after accident swing adjustment included a swing timing mechanism that I’ll call a “waggle”. It produced exceptional results, contributing greatly to his run on the PGA majors after his accident. He won:

  • 1950 – The US Open
  • 1951 – The Masters & US Open
  • 1953 – The Masters, US Open & British Open.

 

This gave Ben a career grand slam with two Masters Titles, four US Opens, two PGA Championships, and a British Open Championship played at the famous Carnoustie golf course in Scotland.  Carnoustie has long been recognized as one of the toughest golf courses to play in the world.  His Scottish fans at the 1953 British Open affectionately called him “Wee Ice Man”.


Stress


Most PGA golfers in the 50s and 60s were using the more traditional two plane golf swing.  So Ben Hogan was a little different, but the results he achieved speak for themselves.  Fast forward to the PGA today, and we see the single plane golf swing much more frequently.  There is a growing list of pro golfers who have adopted their version of it, including PGA Pros Ricky Fowler, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy just to mention a few.

Justin Rose has a great single plane golf swing
(12)   Justin Rose
A Ben Hogan like single plane golf swing

Graeme McDowell has a single plane golf swing
(13)   Graeme McDowell
A Ben Hogan like single plane golf swing

The same can be said for women pro golfers on the LPGA tour, especially the Asians on the tour. Asian women pro golfers tend to be relatively short … typically less than 5 feet 7 inches tall. The single plane golf swing is more naturally suited for shorter golfers, and I believe this is what we are seeing on the LPGA tour. Plus there is the Se Ri Pak effect on golfers from South Korea which still might be the main reason Asian representation on the LPGA tour continues to be so strong. Se Ri had a strong, athletic, single plane like golf swing.

Lydia Ko has essentially a single plane golf swing
(14)   Lydia Ko (Korean born, resides in New Zealand)
Beautiful single plane golf swing

Mingee Lee has a single plane golf swing
(15)  Mingee Lee (a Korean who lives in Australia)
Beautiful single plane golf swing

But taller Pro golfers do just fine adapting to a version of the single plane golf swing. Michelle Wie of the LPGA, mentioned above, is very tall at 6’1” for the LPGA and Ernie Els is tall at 6’3” for the PGA. Both of them have a effective versions of the single plane golf swing that serves them well.

So what is Best for the Week End Golfer?  

Although it's great fun to watch the Pros swing the golf club, they play an entirely different game than week end golfers do. They have developed their golf swing under constant personal coaching and have hit thousands of practice shots to get where they are. They hit hundreds of shots a week as they tune up for the next tournament. This is just different golf than that played by week end golfers.

 

Most week end golfers are self taught with maybe a few pointers from friends who are better golfers.  It's important that golf swing be kept as simple as possible.  The single plane golf swing is a simpler golf swing than the two plane golf swing.  With fewer moving parts, the body mechanics are simpler.  Once some consistency is achieved it is an easier golf swing to keep tuned up.

Ben Hogan’s Stress Free Golf Swing

Jeff Richmond's Stress Free Golf Swing
Grooving Your Golf Swing

There’s a lot week end golfers can learn from Ben Hogan's simple, single plane golf swing, the one he deployed after his extensive rehab recovering from the horrific automobile accident in 1949.  The changes he made in his golf swing were prompted to reduce lower back strain, and likely helped extend his career. 

 

Many of the Pros Ben competed against in the 50s said there was something different about his golf swing. The most noticeable result was he no longer was fighting to control the tendency to hook the ball which plague him earlier in his career.   Ben became the master of the stress free golf swing.

 

The process of grooving your golf swing has never been easier for the week end golfer who is serious about improving their game.  Will it require some concentration and practice ... of course it will.  But the cost of the added enjoyment and satisfaction from playing the game of golf we love is really ... well priceless.


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