I don’t know about you but watching the final round of the 2019 Players Championship had me on the edge of my seat. Both Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood got off to tough starts early in the round, but it was great to see Rors play the kind of golf he’s so capable of down the stretch of and get the job done. You know what really impressed me the though? Watching Ryder Cup Captain, Jim Furyk, at the age of 48, shoot 67 in the final round and post a number that had the leaders behind him shaking in their boots over the final few holes.
If you follow golf at all you know that Jim Furyk has been one of the most consistent players in the world for more than 20 years. The guy is always on the leaderboard. What is most impressive about Furyk however, is that he does things his way. No swing coach, no TrackMan on the range, no one telling him that his left wrist is too cupped at the top. To you and I, watching Furyk’s backswing looks like something between a guy doing Kungfu and a snake charmer. But you know the reason he is always there on Sunday? He delivers the club to impact in the right spot time after time.
With all the accessibility to instructional articles and videos, it’s easy for the average player to get lost in swing thoughts, training aids and theories. What most of us forget at the end of the day is that the golf swing is just like sex, it’s all about the moment of truth. Truth being the six inches before and after impact. How you get there doesn’t really matter.
So what does proper impact look like? We asked some of the best instructors in the country and what we learned we share with you below.
Impact Is a Reflection of Setup
If you’re a regular reader of our articles here at Golfer’s Authority you know that we stress the importance of setup in the golf swing. The setup is the foundation upon which the golf swing is built, ask any scratch golfer. You can have the most perfect swing in the world but if you don’t set up to the golf ball properly, you’re going to struggle hitting the shots you want consistently.
Irons and Wedges Setup
Though ball position is going to vary somewhat depending on which club you’re swinging, it should be somewhere close to center with your irons and wedges. As a result, your shoulders should be fairly level. With your shorter irons and wedges, you’ll want to make sure your hands are slightly ahead of the ball so that the shaft and your target-side arm (left arm for right-handed players and right arm for left-handed players) form a straight line. Another way to think of hand position is to point the butt end of the club toward your front pocket.
Driver Set Up
The driver is the only club in the bag that you’re actually trying to catch on the upswing and such is reflected in the setup. When you setup to a driver your ball position should be just inside your target-side foot (left foot for a right-handed player and right foot for a left-handed player). The byproduct of ball position is that your spine angle should be tilted slightly away from the target meaning that your front shoulder (left shoulder for a right-handed player and right shoulder for a left-handed player) is slightly higher than your back shoulder.
Once you’ve mastered setup, you’re ready to make a golf swing. Sure, there are some fundamentals that are universal but, just like Jim Furyk, everyone’s golf swing is unique to them. All that truly matters at the end of the day is how you return the club to the ball at impact. So just what does proper impact look like?
If you watch golf on television, you’ve surely noted that the Pros almost always take a divot when they hit iron shots and wedges. This is the result of proper impact that mirrors their address position. The handle of the club is leaning ahead of the golf ball which allows them to compress it against the turf and hit shots that are penetrating and stop on a dime. If you’re having a hard time visualizing just exactly what this looks like, do a YouTube search of your favorite player at impact and you’ll see what we mean.
Amateur Iron Impact Mistakes
If you have trouble striking the ball solidly and often hit shots thin or fat, it’s likely the result of poor impact position. Most amateurs feel like they need to help the ball in the air and hit up on their shots. The result of this is the hands being the clubhead at impact which is the opposite of the position you started in at address with your hands ahead and the end of the club pointing at your front pocket.
One of the things that makes golf such a hard game is that it is a game of opposites. While you would think that you have to hit up on the ball to get it in the air, the opposite is true. To hit your irons solidly and take that crisp divot after impact, you have to think of hitting down on the ball to make it go up. This can only be accomplished when your hands are leading and the six inches prior to and after impact look like your address position.
As we stated in the opening, the driver is the only club in the bag that you’re trying to catch on the upswing. Again, once you’ve set up to your tee shot properly, the only thing that really matters is how you get the club back to the ball.
If you want to turn your driver into an offensive weapon, you’ll want to have the sensation of your upper body staying behind the ball and your hands slightly behind the clubhead as it reaches the ball.
Amateur Drive Impact Mistakes
The majority of recreational golfers have trouble getting their driver in the air. While this can sometimes be a product of lack or strength and speed, more often than not it’s a result of poor impact where they have lost the tilt in the shoulders they had at address. When you hit a driver with this impact position, it’s virtually impossible to catch it on the upswing and make solid contact.
If you need a visual to better understand this concept, imagine a brick wall just in front of the golf ball that you have to break with the clubhead, not your body. This thought should help you stay behind the shot and maintain the proper tilt in your spine and shoulders.
Impact Drills for Irons and Wedges
If you struggle with achieving the proper impact position, the good news is that there are some simple drills you can do to help fix the problem.
Impact Bag Drill
If you’ve watched instructional television shows or read teaching articles, you probably know that an impact bag is nothing more than a bean bag that can absorb the shock of a golf club moving at high speeds. If you don’t have your own impact bag you can use anything from a couple of pillows to a tire.
To do this drill address the impact bag just as you would a golf ball with the bag in the middle of your stance and your hands leaning slightly ahead. From here, just make a backswing and return the club to impact at a decent rate of speed. The bag will stop the club and when you do this drill properly you should notice your impact position looks like your address position. This drill is best done with a short iron or wedge.
Impact Tee Drill
If you consistently hit fat or thin shots, the impact tee drill is the one for you. Next time you go to the driving range, grab a club 7-iron or shorter. Then place a tee in the ground one to two inches behind the ball you’re trying to hit. Your goal is now to make a swing and miss the tee. This promotes hitting down on the ball and if done correctly, you should start to notice more solid contact almost immediately. If you have trouble and keep hitting the tee, it’s a sign that you’re still trying to lift the ball in the air and the clubhead is in front of your hands instead of the other way around. Be patient with this drill. After all, you’re training your body to do the total opposite of what it’s used to doing.
One of the most beautiful things about the game of golf is that no two golf swings are exactly the same. While some swings are a thing of beauty and others make us cringe, the best players in the world all have one thing in common, they return the club to impact in the proper fashion the same way every single time. If you take the time to learn what proper impact looks like and practice some of the drills mentioned above, there’s no reason you can’t start hitting solid shots consistently either.