Golfers who routinely push the ball are often plagued by a “weak” left (lead) side. That's not to say they lack strength in that portion of the body, but that they don't use it properly during the downswing and follow-through.
You may have heard the phrase advising golfers to “hit against a firm left side.” This means that the right leg straightens as the club enters the impact zone, allowing the right side to turn through powerfully. A firm left side also minimizes sliding toward the target, a move which causes golfers to “drag” the clubhead into impact and leave the face open.
If you've got any photos or video of your swing, check the position of your left knee in the impact zone and on the follow-through. If it buckles outward toward the target, you need to firm it up. This also involves rotating the left hip, another key power move.
Achieve that position and say goodbye to your pushed shots.
Stop Pushing with a Strong Front Side
One of the most frustrating things in golf is making the same mistake over and over again. While you obviously want to hit good shots as often as possible, even missing with a little bit of variety is preferable to missing your target in the same spot time after time. It seems like it should be easy to fix one swing mistake if you are consistently making the same error, but nothing comes easy in golf. Even when you are doing the same thing repeatedly in your swing, you may have a hard time making the necessary correction.
That is exactly the case for players who routinely push the ball to the right of the target (for a right handed golfer – a push for a left handed player would miss to the left). It is hard to properly explain the level of frustration that can come along with seeing the ball float out to the right of the target after each swing. Golf is a game that is often frustrating even in the best of circumstances, so you don't need to add another layer to your frustration by piling up miss after miss in the exact same place.
Fortunately, this is a swing mistake that actually has a relatively easy fix. Of course, even 'easy' fixes in golf have a way of being rather stubborn, so you shouldn't expect to have this problem completely solved in just a single day of practice. However, if you take the time to understand the problem and what it means for your swing, you should be able to get on the right track sooner rather than later.
You want to avoid hitting a push for a couple of reasons. First, and most obviously, you don't want to push the ball because a push is not going to end up on target. The ball will be at least somewhat right of the fairway or green (again, for a right handed player), and you will have to use your next shot to get back in position. However, missing off-target is not the only problem with a push. Since the club face is almost always going to be left open to the target when the ball is pushed, you will be adding loft to the club and the shot is nearly certain to come up short. So, in the end, you are left with a shot that is both off line and short of the intended target that you had selected. Obviously, if you are going to post good scores on a regular basis, you are going to need to get this miss out of your game as quickly as possible.
All of the content below has been written from the perspective of a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Your Front Side Has a Job to Do
For players with a consistent habit of pushing the ball to the right of the target, there is a good chance that it is the front side of the body that is to blame. Your front side is the side that is closer to the target as you swing, so, for a right handed player, that means the left side. While your entire body has to work together in order to hit quality shots, it your left side that is going to be asked to make sure the club moves through the hitting area effectively.
If you are like most amateur golfers, this is a point that you probably haven't given much thought in the past. You swing the club with your arms, you use your hands to release the head through impact, and you hope for the best. That might work out some of the time, but your results will become far more consistent if you are able to use your front side through the hitting area to deliver an accurate blow to the back of the ball. Professional golfers are able to use their entire bodies – including the front side – together as one unit to strike solid shots time after time.
When you push the ball out to the right, it is usually because of a soft front side through impact. What does that mean, exactly? Following are a few points that are associated with a soft front side in the golf swing.
- Sliding through impact. This is likely the most-prevalent evidence of a soft front side. Rather than rotating through the swing, your lower body may begin to slide toward the target as the club approaches the ball. That slide is only going to mean bad news for your swing. The golf swing is a rotational move, and it is important that you keep turning all the way through the shot until the ball is well on its way toward the target.
- Bent left knee. Is your left knee in a bend position after you have made contact with the ball? If so, you are almost certainly guilty of using a soft front side in your swing. Your left knee should be straightened out by the time you reach impact, as you are going to be turning rapidly around that left leg. You can't really rotate around your front side while your knee is flexed, so make sure that your left leg has gotten to a straight position by the bottom of the swing. When it does, you will be able to strike the ball with impressive power and your club face will be far less likely to hang open at impact.
- Loss of balance. If you have a hard time holding your finish position after the swing is complete, you will want to look at the possibility that you have a soft front side on the way down through the swing. Many amateur golfers find themselves falling to the left after the swing is complete – if that is the case with you, your front side is almost certainly not doing its job. By rotating around your leg rather than sliding, your balance will improve and the pattern of pushed shots should be eliminated.
The saying 'hit into a firm left side' is one that is popular in golf, and for good reason. When you are swinging down toward the ball, you should feel like you are hitting 'into' your left side. That is a significant contrast from allowing your left side to slide through the ball, which will cause a number of problems, including the push. Find a way to firm up your left side throughout the golf swing – especially as impact approaches – and your ball striking is sure to improve.
Identifying a Push
One of the keys to improving your performance on the golf course is accurately identifying your mistakes. Unfortunately, this is a task that many golfers struggle to handle properly, as there is a lot of confusion among amateurs as to what kind of miss they are actually hitting. Believe it or not, simply having the ability to figure out what kind of mistakes you are making is a huge benefit in the game of golf, as you will then be able to adapt on the fly and make the necessary changes to get your game back on track.
So, with that in mind, we need to clearly define a push before we go any farther with this topic. Is every shot that winds up to the right of the target considered a push? No – definitely not. Rather, a push is a shot that winds up to the right of the target while flying on mostly a straight line. This makes is dramatically different from a slice, which is a shot that winds up to the right after curving from left to right through the air. There is a huge difference between a slice and a push, as the club approaches the ball from a completely different direction when creating these two shots. If you are seeing your ball start out to the right of the target and fly straight in that direction until it lands, you are hitting a push. On the other hand, if your ball is starting left and then quickly curving to the right, you are hitting a slice and you will need to work on different kinds of fixes in order to improve.
In addition to watching the ball fly through the air, another thing you can do to look for signs of a push is to watch your divots. When hitting an iron shot, which direction is the divot pointing after you strike a shot from the fairway? If the divot is aimed out to the right of the target, you are swinging from the inside and it is likely that you are hitting a push. However, if the divot is pointed to the left of the target, you are probably not facing a push in this case. It is always a good idea to look at your divot after a shot in order to learn about the swing you just made, and checking for signs of a push is one of the biggest benefits of getting into this habit.
While it is possible to hit a push with any of the clubs in your bag, this is a problem that is most likely to give you trouble on short iron shots. The release through the hitting area is not as aggressive when hitting a short iron, so leaving the face open at impact is a very real possibility. Also, more players tend to fall into the mistake of using a soft front side when swinging a wedge than do when swinging a driver or long iron. Often, this just comes down to 'guiding' the club through the hitting area. Rather than really turning the swing loose through the shot, some players will attempt to guide the ball toward the hold by getting soft with both their hands and their left side. This is a major problem, and it will make it nearly impossible for you to get the ball close to the hole on short shots.
The fix? Try to make your short iron swing as similar to your long swing as possible. Rather than allowing the club to drag through impact when swinging a wedge, use a firm left side and rotate hard through the shot. You can count on the loft of the club to send the ball the right distance, so trust your yardage and make a full swing on through to the finish. Whether you are swinging a driver, a wedge, or anything in between, you should always be aiming to reach a full, balanced finish at the end of the swing.
Going in Reverse
It can be difficult for some golfers to learn the correct feeling for how the left side should firm up at impact. If you are struggling with this point, one of the best things you can do is to go through your swing in reverse in order to feel the right positions. This might sound a bit weird at first, but it is actually a great exercise to use from time to time on the driving range. Just a few 'reverse' golf swings can do wonders for your technique, and in this case, it may be able to help you eliminate the push from your game.
Since you are going to be swinging backwards in this drill, you don't even need to be at the golf course to work through this helpful routine. As long as you have a golf club and somewhere with enough room to safely swing, you are good to go. Follow the steps below to use this drill properly.
- You can use any club you wish for this drill, so take one from your bag and find a spot to stand and swing.
- Before getting started, you will want to take your normal stance just as if you were going to hit a shot out on the course. If you find it helpful, you may wish to pick out a target for your imaginary shot. By picking a target, you will be able to practice aligning your body correctly prior to starting your swing.
- Once you are settled in to your address position, the next step is to swing forward and up into a balanced finish position. Instead of going back from address, you are going to move forward slowly until you complete the pretend follow through. At the top of the finish, you should be able to hold a balanced position with the club wrapped around your back. Your right heel should be up off the ground, and you should be looking out toward your target as if you were watching the ball fly.
- After holding this finish position for a few seconds, you are going to slowly 'unwind' back down toward the impact position. As you unwind, pay close attention to the behavior of your front side. Hopefully, you will find that you are unwinding off of a firm left side, which features a straight left leg. If you notice your left leg wanting to flex, stop and start the whole drill over again.
- Continue on until you have done the entire swing in reverse and you are back at address. Throughout the whole practice swing, pay attention to the feeling that you have in your front side. Keep in mind the fact that you want to use your front side as a point which can be rotated around aggressively.
- Repeat the reverse swing drill as many times as you would like. If you are at the driving range, you can follow this drill by hitting a few shots with your normal swing.
The effect of swinging down backwards from a finish position is a powerful one, as you will find it nearly impossible to soften your left side while swinging backwards. This move should help you to feel the power of a firm left side, which you can hopefully then use to improve on the technique present in your regular swing.
When you do go back to hitting full shots with your regular swing, don't forget about what you have learned during this drill. Keep focusing on a firm left side, and keep that left leg as straight as possible through the hitting area in order to accelerate the club aggressively. As long as you are able to work your way into a firm left side on the way down, there is a great chance that your pushed shots will be a thing of the past.
Adjusting to a Push-Free World
Now that you have improved the action of your front side in the golf swing, you should be able to enjoy playing without having to worry about the ball consistently being pushed to the right. There may be an occasional push pop up from time to time in your game, but that's okay – no one is perfect on the golf course, and missed shots are inevitable even for quality players. As long as you aren't facing a pattern of pushed misses, you can feel good about the changes you have made.
However, even if your changes are working nicely, you still may be struggling to shoot good scores. How can that be? Shouldn't your game overall improve right away when you stop pushing the ball? Not necessarily. You have likely made some adjustments over the years to deal with your pattern of pushing shots, so you are going to need to unravel those adjustments in order to now get the most from your new swing.
While each player is going to be a bit different, there are some adjustments which will apply to most players in this situation. Review the following list for some ideas of how you might need to adapt your game in order to score your best.
- Figuring out your club selection. When you were hitting a push with most of your swings, you were adding loft to the club at impact and your shots were traveling a shorter distance than they would with proper impact. Now that the push is gone, you may be having trouble adjusting to your new distances. The only thing you can do about this problem is to pay close attention to your shots and make note of how far the ball is now flying. Write down your actual yardage for every swing you make over the course of the next few rounds to get a better idea for your distance profile. After going through this process, you should find that you are suddenly able to do a much better job of picking clubs for your approach shots.
- Missing left. This is a natural issue to run into after you stop pushing the ball. When you get used to pushing the ball time after time, you will subconsciously start to aim a bit to the left in order to play for the push. However, that is no longer necessary, so you are going to have to re-teach yourself how to aim your shots. Work hard to aiming directly at the target with your new swing and you should start to see an improvement in your results.
- Lower flights. In addition to adjusting your yardage and aim, you might also have to get used to a lower ball flight on the majority of your shots. Again, you will be using less effective loft at impact, meaning the ball is likely to come out lower. This isn't going to be a big deal in most cases, but it is something to keep in mind when playing in windy conditions or on firm courses.
It is frustrating to see your ball pushed to the right of the target time after time, but you don't have to accept that pattern as your long-term destiny. Use the advice provided in this article to straighten out your shots and you should be able to play better golf in the very near future.