The “block” is a well-known miss among better players. In fact, it's been called “the good golfer's bad shot.”
A blocked shot sails right of target (for a righty), usually with little if any curve. It's basically a push, but with a different cause from those suffered by less-skilled players.
Golfers afflicted by the blocks usually swing on the preferred inside-to-out path. They often draw the ball, or perhaps play a power fade. When they do miss a shot, it tends to be a block, which has two common causes:
1. The swing path comes too much from inside the target line.
2. The right forearm doesn't rotate sufficiently through impact.
In both cases, the clubface is open to the target line and square to the swing path at the moment of contact.
If your swing path is faulty, it means the club is too far behind the body, or “stuck,” on the downswing. Your swing plane is probably extremely flat, too. The fix requires getting the arms and club farther from the body as you swing down. The sensation of a proper path will actually feel like you're coming over the top.
The simplest cure for this ailment is to stand slightly closer to the ball. If that doesn't work, here's a drill that will help re-route your swing: Basket Behind Ball
If path isn't the problem, a restricted release probably is. Many good players will develop a block because they fear hitting a hook. In fact, blocks typically happen when there's trouble lying left of the target.
While the split-grip drill is usually prescribed to cure a slice, it can fix a block too. Give it a try and get your draw working again.
Stop Pushing! Too Much In to Out?
Consistently pushing the ball out to the right of your target (for a right handed golfer) is a frustrating mistake. A shot that is pushed to the right often feels like a good swing, so it is particularly frustrating to look up and see the ball flying in the complete wrong direction. Obviously, hitting a push on a regular basis is going to harm your scores, and it is going to make the game far less enjoyable. To get back on track and bring your scores down round after round, the push is going to have be eliminated from your game.
With very few exceptions, the push is going to be caused by a swing path that is coming through the ball too far from the inside to the outside. That means that the club is close to your body on the way down, and it is getting farther away from you as it moves through the hitting area. When you combine an inside-out path with an open club face, you get a push. If you were use this inside-out path with a closed club face, however, you would produce a hook. So, if you are hitting pushes time after time, you can be confident that your club face is open to the target line and your swing path is too much from inside-out. By fixing your path, you should be able to correct your club face position and your ball flight should quickly straighten out.
Where some swing faults in the game of golf are a combination of technical and mental errors, hitting pushed shots is strictly a physical problem. If you can identify the points in your swing that are going wrong, and then make the necessary corrections on the range, you should be able to start finding your targets once again. Hitting accurate golf shots requires a combination of a good swing path with a club face that is pointing at the target. If just one of these two elements is off track, the shot will not be a success. Take the time during your practice sessions to fine tune both elements of your swing and you can become the ball striker that you need to be in order to post low scores.
It is important to remember that any changes which need to be made to your swing need to be installed first on the practice range. It is too difficult to make swing changes 'on the fly' while you are playing a round, so set aside some practice time for this specific purpose. Too many amateur golfers try to fix their swing mechanics while they are on the course – and the results are predictably disappointing. It will take some time and effort to fix your swing path to the point of eliminating your push, but you will be happy you invested that time when you get back to the course and are able to keep the ball in play all day long.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Check Your Divots
One of the challenges when it comes to addressing problems with your swing path is that it is hard to see the club moving as it goes through the hitting area. The club should be moving rather quickly at impact, meaning you won't be able to get a great look at the path you are taking through the ball. Without that information, you may not be able to accurately identify the problems within your swing. Fortunately, the golf course actually provides you with all of the information you need – if you know where to look.
Each time you strike an iron shot from the fairway (and usually from the tee), you should be taking a divot out of the ground. Most golfers ignore that divot, expect to pick it up and put it back in the ground. However, that divot hole that you have left at your feet is one of the best ways to identify any problems that might be developing in your swing. Specifically, the direction that the divot is pointing will tell you everything you need to know about your swing path.
One you have hit a shot, stand back and look at the divot in comparison to the target line. Is the divot pointing directly at the target, or is it pointing to one side or the other? If your divot has created a line that is heading directly toward the target, you will know that your swing path is in good shape. However, if the divot is pointing out to the right of your target, you will know for certain that you have swung on an inside-out path through the ball. If you are hitting pushes and you notice this pattern in your divots, the culprit of your poor ball striking will be obvious.
While divots provide important information, you shouldn't overreact to just one or two divots, as you could have made a poor swing that isn't reflective of your typical motion. Instead, make it a habit to monitor the direction of your divots on a regular basis, and watch for patterns over time. A single divot pointing out to the right isn't a major cause for concern, but it is a problem if each and every divot you take is headed that direction. Once you establish a pattern of swinging from inside-out you can then get down to work on improving your technique to remove this error.
You don't want to slow down the overall pace of play while you are checking your divots, so make this a quick habit that you complete right after each swing. It should only take a moment or two to examine the divot, replace it, and move on. Standing there staring at your divot for a minute or two is a sure way to slow down the pace of your round – and annoy the people playing behind you. As long as you are quick and efficient, you should be able to analyze each divot you take without adding any significant amount of time to your round.
It's All About Balance
For many golfers, correcting the path of the club through the hitting area is a tricky proposition. Why? Because while it seems like the fix should have something to do with your hands or your arms, the problem actually lies within the movement of your body. It is the way your body moves throughout the swing, and your ability to remain balanced, that will dictate the path the club eventually takes through impact. Your arms and hands are mostly just along for the ride – if you get your body motion right, the swing will be on track.
Most amateur golfers have poor balance, and they have flawed golf swings as a result. One of the biggest problems with losing your balance in the swing is the fact that it can affect your swing path. As it relates to this article, losing your balance during the backswing or early in the downswing can easily create an inside-out path. You should already be working hard to keep your balance in the swing, but this is just another reason to make that a priority – without balance, hitting pushed shots is a problem that is likely to continue.
When your backswing turns into a downswing, you want to rotate your hips toward the target – and the key word in that sentence is 'rotate'. Instead of rotating, many golfers slide toward the target, which is only going to create problems. As you slide left, your right shoulder will drop and the club will fall under the appropriate swing plane. From there, the club will move dramatically from the inside-out, and you will be left to hit a push (or a hook). Once that slide starts from the top of the swing, your balance will be lost and there will be no way to save the shot. There is nothing that can be gained by sliding your lower body to the target, so you need to work on taking this swing flaw out of your game once and for all (if this is a mistake that you are currently making). Your lower body should be rotating from the top without any lateral slide. As long as you can make that move properly, you should be able to stay nicely balanced throughout the downswing.
Another way that you can lose your balance, and swing from inside-out as a result, is by trying to hit the ball too hard. Golf is not a game that can be conquered with sheer power, so don't stand over the ball with the thought of sending it down the fairway through the use of brute force. The best way to create speed and power in the swing is through the use of good fundamentals from address all the way through to the finish. If you can hit good positions throughout your swing and move the club with a nice tempo, you should be able to strike good shots while consistently staying on balance. This sounds a little bit easier than it actually is, so spend plenty of time on the range working on executing the basics and you should see your distance pick up nicely without swinging any 'harder'.
If you think that poor balance might be at the root of your inside-out swing path, check your finish position for the answer. When your swing is done, are you able to hold your pose up on your left foot with just your right toe on the ground? Is most of your weight stacked onto your left leg, or are you stuck back on the right side? A good finish position will have your weight nicely stacked onto your left side, and you should be able to stand there indefinitely as you watch the ball fly down the fairway. If you are falling back away from the target, or if you need to adjust in order to hold your finish, you are probably losing your balance at some point during the downswing. Work on correcting this problem and you will likely find that your inside-out pattern quickly takes care of itself.
Rushing Can Cause Balance Problems
It is one thing to understand that you need to fix your balance in order to straighten out your swing path – it is another thing to actually make the fix. Do you know what you need to do in order to get back on balance in the downswing? If not, you won't know what you should be working on when you head to the range for a practice session. For most golfers, working on improving balance means working on improving tempo throughout the swing.
Many golfers face the problem of rushing during the golf swing. When you rush, your balance is usually affected because you don't complete all of the steps of your swing in the right order. For instance, you might have your lower body run out from under your upper body before you can finish your backswing, meaning you will be off balance before even getting down toward impact. Or, you could rush your arms through the backswing and your body would never have a chance to catch up. NO matter what it looks like when you start to rush your swing, the result is going to be the same – disappointing shots that miss the target by a wide margin.
There are three common causes of getting rushed in the golf swing. By knowing what it is that usually causes you to rush, you should be able to avoid repeating this mistake during future rounds.
- Desire to hit the ball hard. This goes along with the discussion from above. When you try to hit the ball particularly hard, the natural reaction is to rush through your swing while trying to build speed. In reality, you should be trying to do exactly the opposite. Slowing your swing down is the best way to gain power, as a slower swing will make it easier to stay on balance and keep your mechanics in check. Remember, the only point during the swing when the club needs to be moving quickly is when it gets down to impact.
- Nerves. It is common to rush when under pressure. If you are nervous about the outcome of a particular shot – such as a shot that you have to hit over water or one where several other people are watching – you will probably rush just to get it over with as quickly as possible. Getting over this tendency usually comes with experience, but you can also improve your chances simply by thinking about slowing down. If you notice that you are feeling nervous before a shot, take a moment to take a deep breath and only start your swing when you feel in control and ready to execute properly.
- Lack of confidence. If you don't believe in your swing, you will hurry through it in order to see where the ball is going to go. Doubt has no place in your golf game, as it can take your fundamentals apart faster than just about any other line of thinking. Work hard on the range to establish your fundamentals so you can walk out to the first tee with plenty of confidence in your abilities. When you are absolutely sure that your swing is good enough to get the job done, you won't feel compelled to rush through your motion.
There is no place in your golf game for rushed movements. Everything you do on the course should be even and calculated, as the one way to play the game well is to play it consistently at the same speed. If you are rushing and then slowing down back and forth throughout your rounds, you will never live up to your potential as a golfer. The physical fundamentals of your golf swing are important, but the tempo that you use during that swing is just as critical.
Adjusting to the Fix
One of the challenges that comes along with improving your golf swing is the unexpected side effects that may appear when you make one change. For example, if you get your swing path back on track going straight through the ball toward the target line, you might find that your club face is then out of position. Often, one adjustment will lead to another, and it will take three or four steps before you finally get everything working together the right way. This is the case with many different golf swing fixes, and it will very likely be true of your swing once you get your path straightened out.
After you successfully get your path on track, watch for the following problems to potentially come up in your game as a result of the changes you have made.
- Hitting the ball left. Over the past few months (or even years) you have probably adjusted to your inside-out path by using your hands to 'steer' the ball back toward the target. With a little bit of extra hand action through impact, you can flip the club face closed and turn a push into a draw that will be at least somewhat playable. Therefore, your hands may have learned that they need to make this move through impact. Of course, now that your swing path is fixed, you won't need to use your hands actively at the bottom of the swing. At first, your hands will keep doing what they have been doing and you will hit the ball left repeatedly. Spend time practicing on the range while focusing on using quiet hands through impact. Your hands don't need to save the swing anymore, so just allow them to hang on to the club while you turn your body aggressively through the shot.
- Aiming incorrectly. If you have been pushing the ball for quite a while, you probably have begun to aim to the left in order to play for that push. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do – but you don't need to do it anymore now that you are making a better swing. Work on paying close attention to your alignment before each shot so you can make sure you are set up in the right direction for the shot that you are intending to hit. Old habits die hard in golf, so it will take some concentrated effort in order to get your alignment back at the actual target.
- Distance correction. A swing that moves directly through the ball and toward the target will almost always hit the ball farther than one which comes dramatically from inside-out. If you have corrected your swing path using the information above, you will probably have to quickly adjust the distances that you expect to get from each of your clubs. For instance, if you use to hit your pushed seven iron an even 150 yards, you may now hit that same club 155 or 160 yards. It will take a couple of rounds to dial in your yardages, and it may be helpful at first to write down your yardages in order to remember the changes that are taking place. A pushed shot adds loft to the club at impact, which means the ball will sail higher and come down shorter. Now that you are getting everything squared up, you should be living up to your distance potential.
It is hard to play good golf while hitting a push. While it might not be much fun to take apart your swing until you get your path back on track, that is exactly what needs to be done. By trading your inside-out swing path for one that heads directly at the target, you will instantly be making yourself a better player. Be patient with the process and expect to meet a couple of bumps in the road along the way before you start posting improved scores.