Good session with a student on the line yesterday. His normal fade had turned into a slice off the tee and it was costing him a lot of strokes on the golf course. After watching a few swings it was pretty obvious the issue was a “crunch” on the downswing that was leaving the club face open. When he started his downswing his right hip and shoulder would dip down, making it look like he was doing a right-side “crunch” at impact.
Half the battle in addressing swing issues is becoming aware of what is happening. He couldn’t “feel” the crunch, except that he could tell something didn’t feel right at impact. This is a case where video is really helpful. Once he saw himself on video he could put his focus on feeling the crunch. He identified it immediately on his next swing.
The other half of the battle is identifying the root cause of the issue. The symptoms are often easily identifiable, but the real cause can sometimes be difficult to unearth.
We worked for a bit on keeping his head level (with the crunch it tended to move back and down at impact), then tried focusing on maintaining shoulder plane through the swing, then worked on keeping his belt level throughout the swing. All of these swing thoughts helped, provided he could focus on one of them during the swing. But none of these swing areas was the root cause of the crunch.
After working on the swing I like to switch to target practice or simulated play to see which of the swing changes have a chance to stick and be effective. That’s when we discovered the root cause of the crunch.
I had my student self-rate his ability to stay connected to the target all the way through the swing. In other words, how well could he keep a mental picture of where the target was and relate it to a kinesthetic sense of feel during the swing.
On his first few target shots he reported good target connection of 6 and 7. But when I dug a little deeper it turned out a little differently. He was aware of the concept of target, but he didn’t actually have a sense of where it was. Often the clue shows up in how often a student looks at the target before hitting, and how long and deeply they focus on it before hitting. My student was glancing at the target, so he knew there was one, but he didn’t really connect to it. And the crunch was showing up again in his swings.
We spent some time just working on getting connected to the target. We practiced getting into address position, closing his eyes, and then pointing to where he thought the target was. The first attempt wasn’t close – he was 30 yards left. But he got the idea quickly and nailed it on the second attempt. Then we put that target awareness and connection into the next swing.
The result was a straight shot at the target, and no crunch in the swing. The next few swings were the same.
What we discovered was that he had been working hard on the mechanics of getting his club face square at impact to minimize or eliminate his fade. Over time he had fallen into the habit of “ball focus” rather than target focus. He was so focused on getting the club to the ball in a square position that his body was orienting to the ball at impact, rather than orienting to the target. That was creating the crunch, and it was turning into a habit.
By putting together the video to help with awareness, some drills to work on head position, shoulder plane, and a level-hip swing, and the switch to target focus rather than always working on mechanics we could see the improvement immediately, and by putting it together into a nice practice plan he could make sure that the refinements stayed permanent through good practice.