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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Golfing Large

A couple of days ago Ramzi left a comment on one of the older posts. Here's part of it:
My driving sucks big time & I am never consistent in setting up. But when I hit a long one it's pretty long (for Malaysian standards).

So what would you recommend for myself who is:

1. 175cm tall or nearly 5ft 9 inches
2. Wide shouldered - I wear a 44inch jacket for my suit.
3. Weight approx. 220 pounds or 98kg
4. Due to a 'one-piece' gut, i don't have great flexibility, but I've tried my best to point my left shoulder at the ball during the backswing.

Hence, would appreciate any guidance/advice on driver setup for someone slightly chunky like me. Also how do less flexible people start the swing from the ground with their legs?
I suspect this is a problem for a lot of you larger golfers. Obviously I can't tell each of you exactly what to do since I don't know your individual swings, so I'm going to try and give you some ideas on how to find your own way to understanding how your own swing works.

First, there's one question here that I won't answer -- the one about driver setup. That's one that a clubfitter needs to answer. He'll evaluate your swing and give you a club that will make the most of it.

That said, I think we can get Ramzi -- and the rest of you large golfers out there -- hitting the ball a little better.

The big key here is that we've got to help him start getting a more consistent setup.

I'm assuming, given the 'one-piece gut' comment, that Ramzi is slightly pear-shaped -- that is, his stomach is a bit larger than his chest. Add to that the facts that he's an average-height man (I'm between 5'9" and 5'10" myself) and that he doesn't consider himself particularly flexible.

All these things mean that Ramzi, like most of you larger golfers, will have a flatter swing than many golfers his size. His 'one-piece gut' means his arms will always stick out farther from his body than a thin golfer unless he can lean over enough for his arms to hang down without hitting his stomach. That may not be possible.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm very big (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun) on connection in the golf swing. This simply means that the triceps of both arms rest lightly against your chest during the bottom part of your swing -- from waist high on your downswing to waist high on your followthrough. I've done several posts on connection, but I want you to pay specific attention to this one. It's got a video by Jimmy Ballard that demonstrates the key point really well. Since Ramzi's swing will be flatter anyway, this move will work just perfect for him. It will feel similar to throwing a Frisbee™ or hitting a tennis backhand.

That will help him develop a more consistent swing so he can hit the ball more solidly more often. Now all we need to do is increase his flexibility so he can make a good swing with this connected move.

We're going to do that by closing his stance, which means pulling his trailing foot back from a square setup. Here's an easy way to figure out just how much. I'm assuming Ramzi plays right-handed, so he'll be moving his right foot. Obviously a left-handed player moves his left foot back to close his stance.

Go to a practice range. Lay two clubs down on the ground -- one parallel to your target line (this is your toe line for your normal stance), the other one between your legs and perpendicular to the first (this one points at your ball position). You're going to place a practice ball so the club between your legs is pointing at it, and after you've hit it you'll replace it with another one until you figure out where the ball should be every time you set up and you know what the correct setup looks like.

First set up normally and practice that connected swing. Don't worry about getting your shoulder to point at the ball; just make the best turn you can and get used to making good contact.

Then you learn how to adjust. First you move that trailing foot a couple of inches closer to the lead foot -- narrowing your stance -- and then move your trailing foot a couple of inches back from the first club. Now you're aimed a bit to the right (if you're right-handed) and it's easier to make a bigger turn without a strain.  If you've got it right, you should hit a little draw that lands near your target. If that's not what you get, try moving both feet a couple of inches toward the target, which will move the ball position back in your stance a little.

Just keep playing with this until you can get the results you want several times. You shouldn't have to move the ball back more than halfway in your stance at most. When you finally get it right, look at where your feet are in relation to the clubs -- especially your heels, since those are the best indicator -- and use this setup each time you play a normal full shot.

One extra note here: Make sure you keep a little bit of flex in both of your knees while you swing. If your legs get too straight, it'll be too hard for you to make a consistent swing.

Ramzi had one last question: How do less flexible people start the swing from the ground with their legs?

Here's the best answer I can give you, Ramzi: Don't worry about it. Most weekend players worry about this too much. If you didn't use your legs, you couldn't hit the ball at all! If you make a connected swing like Ballard demonstrates in the video I mentioned earlier and keep a little flex in your knees, you'll automatically use your legs properly.

Ramzi, this should give you enough direction to start getting your swing in shape. Let me know how it goes and feel free to ask me any questions you might have. I'm sure the other large golfers who read this blog will be glad to hear from you as well.


  1. Mike, thanks a gazillion for the detailed reply & analysis.

    Analysis leads to paralysis! But one last question, How do you set-up with a closed faced driver (I use a Ping K15). Should I just address it to be closed face (but when I'm aggressive it hooks left) or adjust the clubface at address so thats it square?

    Tennis backhand! I can do that!

    Lee Westwood is my reference point as a large golfer, he has an amazing shoulder turn!

    Thanks once again for your reply & keep up the good work!



  2. Glad I could help, Ramzi. BTW, analysis doesn't have to lead to paralysis. Think about your swing as much as you want -- some people like to think in terms of their position at various points during their swing. But make sure you focus on learning how those positions feel, then try to swing just by the feel.

    It's never a bad thing to understand the mechanics of your golf swing. You just don't want to be thinking about mechanics when you're playing. You want to think about where the ball is going!

    For now, I think I'd adjust the clubface to look square. After your swing gets a little more consistent, go get fitted for a new driver. I bet they'll fit you for a square face.

    And Lee's a great reference model. That 63 he shot Sunday was awesome, wasn't it?