In a television ad from a few years back, the legendary Arnold Palmer said, “Swing your swing.” It’s sound advice. We all should swing our swing, but likely with some slight modifications to it. Most players could use some advice on how to improve their golf swing, so we asked Eric Chiles, director of instruction at Chaska Town Course, some questions on that subject.
Follow the Path
Fixing one’s golf swing is not a one-size-fits-all type of endeavor — everyone’s swing is different and many factors can affect it. But there are some common afflictions to golf swings, and Chiles says most bad swings can be affected by an open club face throughout the golf swing and a steep, over the top path (or swing plane) to the ball.
“About 85 percent of people [speaking for right handers] come to me with a ball that starts right and curves right or starts somewhere near the target and curves right,” Chiles says. “So, it’s a slice and a push slice.”
But Chiles says that fixing these issues becomes easier once a person understands the physics of the game. The face of the club starts the ball in its direction and the swing path or plane curves the flight of the ball. (“The face sends it, and the path bends it,” Chiles tells his junior students.)
Check the Face
Regarding the face of the club, you are trying to keep it square at impact, and fixing an open face could be as simple as correcting a golfer’s grip. A weak grip promotes an open face, so Chiles recommends strengthening your grip. In addition, a cupped wrist in your backswing can cause problems for the clubface at impact.
“A lot of players will cup their left wrist, which opens the face,” Chiles says. “A lot of golfers have read Ben Hogan’s ‘Five Lessons’ and think cupping is good. It is good if you have a hooking problem. So, cupping and a weak grip open the club face.”
As for the swing path, Chiles says a steep downswing can be the golfer’s reaction to knowing their clubface is open and the ball is going to the right. He likens the hitting of a golf ball to how a ping pong paddle hits a ping pong ball — you move a ping pong paddle from left to right to curve a ball from right to left. The spin created in coming across the golf ball from right to left to correct a slice makes it go even further right.
“They swing over the top and go left in an effort to make it not go to the right and then they end up going even further to the right because the path is what creates the curve to the ball,” he says.
To fix a golfer’s path, Chiles teaches his students where the club head is moving in space, saying most golfers aren’t aware of it until they have played a lot of golf. The idea is to get the golfer to swing more around their body rather than a steep swing.
But the key once you make the change to your swing is to make it stick. To ingrain it into your muscle memory requires a lot of practice and plenty of patience.
“With my lessons, I give a money back guarantee if you’re a slicer and I can’t get you to hit a draw,” Chiles says. “I can get anyone to hit a draw; it’s just the commitment to sticking with it even though sometimes you hit bad shots. So, there definitely is some patience and stick-to-it-iveness that goes along with it.”
Chiles says Palmer was right in suggesting that everyone has their own swing and there is value in finding how to use it. He doesn’t try to make everyone swing the same way; rather he stresses the value of understanding how the clubface and the path affect the golf ball. He says Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar have very different back swings
“Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar’s swings on the way back look extremely different,” he says. “But as they come down in the hitting zone — the ball only really reacts to four things: the face starts it, the path curves it, if you hit it on the sweet spot and the attack angle. And both those guys are almost taking the exact same path into the ball. Their face is almost identical. They hit the sweet spot and their attack angle is very similar, so the golf ball doesn’t know whether Jim Furyk or Matt Kuchar is hitting it, it just reacts to those four things.”
“It’s quite simple really when someone goes from not knowing the physics to understanding what has to happen.”
For more information on Eric Chiles instruction, check out chiliwacker.com.