Golf is a game of opposites, which we sometimes forget.
Beginning golfers struggling to get the ball airborne compound the problem by breaking their hands before contact in an effort to help the ball rise in the air. This results in a thin or topped shot. You have to hit down on the ball to make it go up.
A popular pattern of shot-making is the left-to-right slice created by an outside-to-in swing plane. This seems to be the most common swing problem because the player tries to solve the problem by doing the opposite of what he should. His instincts tell him to aim farther left to allow for the slice so he opens his stance and shoulder alignment, instead of closing them.
My suggestion for the slicer is to focus on shoulder alignment. Line up the shoulders square or slightly closed. At address, think of pushing the left shoulder toward your left toes and your right shoulder back toward your right heel. It’s so easy to set up open, which promotes slicing.
I have witnessed slicers re-arranging their stance and changing their grips when their shoulder alignment needs the focus. I have a strong tendency each summer to set up more open as the season progresses. Instead of slicing, I’ll hit weaker blocked shots to the right. I know then that I need to close things up.
Everyone wants to hit the ball farther and many sabotage their efforts by doing the opposite of what they should. They grip it tighter and swing faster on the backswing, usually disrupting their timing and creating a poor shot. When Sam Snead wanted to hit a big drive, he envisioned swinging an axe to cut wood. Take it back slow and smooth and give it everything coming down. Jack Nicklaus thought of swinging longer — not faster — when he wanted a big hit. Just remember: Sometimes you have to do the opposite of what your instincts dictate.
Before the season starts, I would like to address some changes for this season to the Rules of Golf as stated by the United States Golf Association. Rule 18-2b discusses the ball moving after address. There will be no penalty if the ball moves after address “when it is known or virtually certain that he did not cause the ball to move.” If a gust of wind moves the ball after address, there is no penalty and the ball is played from the new position. Also, a player addresses the ball as soon as he grounds the club in back or in front of the ball, regardless of whether he takes his stance.
Scott Stoner is in his 33rd year teaching technology education at Cumberland Valley Eagle View Middle School and has coached the Cumberland Valley High School golf team for 21 years, winning seven championships. He advanced to the Final 64 in the 1979 U.S. Amateur Golf Championship in Cleveland.