Making solid contact with the ball
By Kim Jeong-kyoo
Despite strenuous efforts, it can be difficult to produce good, solid contact with the ball on the sweet spot of the clubface. One of the most preventable causes of less-than-solid strikes is your ignorance of the key elements of pre-swing basics that set the scene for solid impact. Solid, powerful contact requires you to vary your setup position depending on the club in your hands. You need to set up differently for irons and driver.
For crisp contact with an iron, it is as well to position the ball about two inches inside your left heel with the hands slightly ahead of the ball. The hands should lead the handle of the club through the ball for ball-first contact and a divot past the spot where the ball is hit. This is facilitated by setting your hands in front of the ball at address.
Similarly, to promote a more downward angle of attack critical to solid iron shots, you need to assume a neutral spine tilt so the right shoulder is only slightly lower than your left.
Your feet need to be just inside the shoulder width with your arms hanging freely. Too wide a stance inhibits you from hitting down on the ball.
For a driver, you'd better place the ball opposite or one inch inside your left heel. For a wider stance, move your right foot back so your feet are just outside your shoulders. A wider stance encourages more stability and a bigger arc.
Be sure to tilt your spine to the right farther from the target so the right shoulder is substantially lower than the left. That places the hands slightly over the back of the ball and promotes the necessary upward angle of attack at impact. Whenever the ball is hit off the tee, you need to hit it with a level or slightly ascending blow, which requires your hands to be even with the ball at impact or slightly behind it, not in front of it.
No less important than the correct pre-swing preparations is to finish your backswing. Once you've set up properly, focus on completing your shoulder turn, without which it's not possible to swing down in the correct sequence.
To feel a full backswing, take your setup with a 7-iron and then put its shaft on your right shoulder. Then, turn your body away from the target so your back faces it. Now raise your hands in the air by extending your left arm fully. That's exactly where you need to be at the top. From that perfect top-of-the-backswing position, your downswing will happen automatically in the correct fashion.
Do the opposite to feel a perfect finish. Set up, put the shaft on your left shoulder, turn and extend your right arm. That's where you should be for a good finish.
A proper way to start down is to shift your bodyweight to the left toward the target. Together with a sound pre-swing preparation that spawns a proper takeaway, one of the most critical elements of a good golf swing is the transition from backswing to downswing, which should be triggered by weight shift toward the big toe of the left foot.
A common fault committed by weekend golfers during the downswing is laterally sliding their hips too much toward the target instead of rotating them counterclockwise. Overly sliding the hips laterally to the left on the downswing tends to bring about an excessive and premature weight shift to the left heel, which causes a slice and physical injury. This is particularly true with golfers who set up in a bent posture.
For a solid powerful impact, you need to get your hips open as you deliver the club into the ball, which calls for hip rotation. Failing to rotate the hips prevents you from swinging the club on the correct plane, let alone attacking the ball slightly from the inside.
Better yet, rotating or clearing the hips at the initial stage of the downswing helps not only maintain the correct spine angle through impact, but facilitates a proper weight shift toward the big toe on your left foot.
However, if you set up in an upright posture and place your hands high above your head at the top of the backswing, you need to sufficiently shift your hips to the left before turning.
To get the correct feel for a proper weight shift and hip rotation, imagine a soda can under the front of your left foot and picture yourself crushing it as you initiate your downswing. Thinking of crushing the can will allow you to move your lower body forward toward the target in the correct fashion. That also transfers enormous energy into your hands and arms so you can hit solid, powerful shots.