In this chapter I discuss and exhibit common faults of the golf swing as considered from the perspective of Ben Hogan golf swing fundamentals. I do teach a variety of other swing styles, but I'm using the Hogan perspective here because the Hogan swing is simply the best swing of all time. With other swing styles, some of these faults are actually an integral part of the swing so they aren't even considered faults. I don't discuss how to correct these common faults because corrections are dependent on each individual's swing, the swing style they are trying to apply, and the capability of the individual.
The most common thing beginners do when they try to hit a golf ball for the first time is lift the club up high into the air with the arms and then pull steeply back down to the ground. The typical result of this type of swinging motion is a slice, and since most golfers refine this steep arm swing over time rather than learn how to release correctly, it is no wonder most golfers slice.
When the arms swing forward in this upright swing plane, the body tends to slide sideways and the arms pull across the body toward the target. This causes the clubhead to drag through the impact area with an open clubface (if there isn't enough manipulation, or if the manipulation is too late). Surprisingly to some, a hook is also the result of a block-it's an over correction (early or too much manipulation) in an effort to avoid hitting the ball right (for right handers). This type of swing is all about timing!
You've probably heard of the term "block", well this tendency to drag the clubface through impact is it. A block is caused by a series of improper movements that make it impossible to "release" the club correctly. Of course, you won't see the true nature of a block in a golf swing because golfers who block make corrective motions to counter the effects of the block. Basically, they fake a release by manipulating the club. The block and subsequent manipulations are not the ideal way to swing, however, it is possible for a talented golfer to become very proficient at squaring the clubface at impact through the use of various manipulations. The first two pictures show the incorrect body motion that is connected with the block effect.
Manipulations are arm, wrist, and body movements that attempt to correct improper club positions and improper movements. In other words, manipulations are movements that attempt to counteract the block. They can occur at address-a strong grip (anything stronger than neutral); during the backswing-a closed clubface; or during the forward swing-casting and coming over-the-top, flipping (throwing the clubhead into the ball with the hands), and rolling the arms over. Because all manipulations are an attempt to counteract the block, they therefore are all movements that try to close the clubface so it can get square (pointing at the target) by the time it reaches the ball.
A release, as I define it, is the opposite of the block and the necessary subsequent manipulations (you either block OR release, you can't have a combination of the two). There is no tendency to drag the club through impact and therefore the clubface will not be significantly open. Nor will it be significantly closed because without manipulation, a closed clubface is an impossibility. Without manipulation, the hands, arms, and body stay relaxed throughout the swing and with no tension the swing is smooth, with good tempo and rhythm. Squaring the club at impact with a true release is not dependent on timing whereas a manipulative swing (block) is nothing but pure timing. This is why a release (Hogan swing) creates greater consistency and why it holds up better under pressure!
I've only seen one player who released correctly with every club in their bag, and that was Ben Hogan. A few of today's best players on tour come somewhat close to releasing with their short irons, but with longer clubs the manipulations become much more pronounced. Of course, we're talking about golfers who have smaller amounts of blocking tendencies and who have developed phenomenal timing so they can usually deal with their block in such a way that they can still be fairly consistent (but nowhere near Hogan's level!). As an aside, with his physical and mental abilities, Tiger would be untouchable if he could eliminate his block and learn to release like Hogan, but fortunately that is not going to happen. Who would watch a golf tournament if Tiger won every tournament he played?
The last two pictures show how the body must move so it can synchronize with the arms and club, while at the same time create speed and maintain control. It's simple, the body winds and unwinds (also referred to as coil and uncoil). For the body to move this way, the arms must swing more around the body, relatively speaking. The around concept isn't truly correct, but it's a good start for anyone wanting to diminish their block tendencies.
Obviously there is a significant up and down movement to the golf swing because the ball is on the ground and the arms reach up to at least shoulder level during the backswing, so when I speak of swinging around, my point is that the golf swing has more of an around component to it than people realize. There was an old teaching concept where students were asked to imagine they were swinging in a barrel, which I don't completely agree with, but can at least give you a mental image to help the arms and body be more synchronized.
The upright swing plane can have serious consequences to one's ability to improve their golf game. Good athletes with great coordination (timing) who practice a lot can play well with just about any swing, but their potential will be influenced by how much they must rely on manipulation, and therefore timing. A streaky player such as Phil Mickelson is a good example of this type of player-incredible golf talent and short game, but a poor swing for a golfer of his stature that tends to create inconsistency. There are far better swings on tour than Phil's, but he makes up for it with some of the most raw talent and ability out there!
Over the next several pages I discuss some other common swing faults.