It’s the golf fundamental even non-golfers know: Keep your head down.
Apparently, nobody ever corrected Annika Sorenstam. Somehow, the Swede became one of the greatest female golfers of all-time -- racking up 90 international tournament wins and 10 major championships before retiring in 2008 at age 38 – despite violating this most basic of concepts.
Unconventional move: Head turns toward the target before the club makes contact with the ball
Who else does it: David Duval
Viewed in real time, Sorenstam’s head appears to swivel toward the target well before she’s made contact. In still photos, you’ll notice that her head has indeed turned to the left, with her chin pointing to a spot just beyond the ball. The typical pro’s chin points straight down, behind the ball, or perhaps directly at the ball, at impact.
Why it’s a problem for amateurs: Rotating the head like Sorenstam generally causes the left (lead) shoulder to come up and around as well. When this happens too early, the arms lag behind the shoulders and chest, producing thin contact and an open clubface. Weak, slicing shots generally ensue.
How Sorenstam gets away with it: Sorenstam’s swing is a model of efficiency. Her technique and positions are incredibly simple and sound. In fact, still images show that her head movement isn’t as early or pronounced as it appears to be when viewed in motion – and that’s the key.
Amateurs get into trouble when early head movement pulls the shoulders off the ball. In Sorenstam’s case, her head is simply following the movement of the shoulders. It simply occurs a little sooner in the swing than with most pros. If anything, this creates more freedom as she moves through the ball, resulting in greater distance.
The cure: When it comes to the head, two things can get a golfer in trouble: moving it too early in the downswing and follow-through, or keeping it too still.
If you have a problem of coming up and out of shots, try picking a spot on the back of the ball and focusing on it like a laser through impact. Without a small, defined focal point, your head is more apt to wander off the ball.
Taking the “keep your head still” mantra too literally can have an equally detrimental effect. By holding the head firmly in place, you restrict the natural movement of the shoulders through the ball. Focus on the back of the ball, but keep your neck and shoulder muscles loose. Let your head rotate toward the target as the right shoulder turns through.