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Friday, September 25, 2009

I Think Golf Digest Got It Wrong…

I’ve debated posting this for a couple of weeks, simply because people are going to say “Who is he to question the experts at Golf Digest?” But I think this is a case of over-analysis that could really cause weekend players some problems; and if by chance I’ve misunderstood the article, then I won’t be the only one.

The September issue (the one with Arnold Palmer on the cover) has an article called This Move Will Cure Your Slice, and it says that “the most significant difference between the two groups [that is, pros and amateurs] comes at the transition: Simply put, the pros tilt their shoulders downward; amateurs turn them toward the target (p.99).” The article then says that there are problems earlier in the backswing, specifically with the way amateurs coil their upper bodies, but that the key problem is in the transition. It then provides a drill to teach you how to drop your right shoulder to start the downswing.

THIS IS WRONG. I agree with them that the shoulder drops slightly on the downswing, but that drop is a reaction to a proper transition, not a cause. For most weekend players, trying to start the downswing with a shoulder tilt will only get them farther out of position and cause them to start the ball out farther to the right. This article is based on how the pros move in the downswing; bear in mind that, with few exceptions, the pros will tell you that they’re trying to eliminate the left side of the fairway because they constantly fight a hook. Most weekend players fight a slice and, especially if you’re following a teacher who advocates a single-plane swing, dropping your right shoulder will simply cause you to push the ball to the right. If you want some bad mojo in your swing, that will give it to you!

NOW LET ME TELL YOU WHAT IS CORRECT IN THE ARTICLE. They are entirely correct that the problem begins with a poor coil and that the key problem is in the transition. I’ll be dealing with the proper way to coil in future articles, but let me tell you that it’s not difficult to coil well; when Carl taught me how to do it properly, it took only one lesson and my banana ball immediately shrank to (on my worst days) a very controllable fade. There are other things that can cause massive slices, even when you’re coiling properly, but dropping your shoulder won’t fix them. Some time spent with my series on approach shots will help; just click on ‘approach shot basics’ in the Category list to find those posts.

So what is it in the transition that causes us to slice? We jerk the club when we start the backswing. I dealt with this problem in both the approach shot series and in the series about how to use a loop at the top of the backswing, which begins here. And this is perhaps the biggest proof that you shouldn’t try to start your downswing with a shoulder move: The jerk from the top IS a shoulder move. Even if you change the direction of that jerk, it’s still a jerk. The proper way to start the downswing is to feel the change of direction and start down smoothly. Your shoulder will then drop without any effort on your part; but focusing on the shoulder is a sure way to get the club off-plane and even increase your slice.


  1. Very good analysis, Mike. I've stopped reading any swing instruction in these magazines. In the 20 years I've been playing golf and reading golf magazines, there have been hundreds of articles just like this. Every month there is some new miracle cure for the slice. It's amazing.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Court. You know, it wouldn't be so bad if the "miracle cure" was the same in any two articles. Given how many of Golf Digest's top teachers teach a one-plane swing, it just amazed me that they would say a plane-changing move was the key move for ALL slicers.