Australian golfer Jason Day turned pro at the ripe old age of 18, and wasted little time justifying the hype surrounding him.
In 2007, the 19-year-old became the youngest winner on any PGA Tour circuit, winning the Legend Financial Group Classic on the Nationwide Tour (now the Web.com Tour). Day graduated to the PGA Tour the next year and struggled for a while, then broke through with a victory in the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Classic.
While that’s his only win as of May 2013, Day is well established as a star. He finished second in both the Masters and U.S. Open in 2011, took third at the 2013 Master, and seems poised for bigger and better things. By the way, he’s only 26.
At 6’0" and 190 pounds, Day is a powerfully built athlete whose combination of length and touch makes him a threat every time he tees it up. Let’s examine his action and translate it to your swing.
Day’s signature: His left knee "snaps" and the leg straightens during the through-swing.
What it looks like: Day shares this subtle but crucial move with many of his contemporaries. As his shoulders, arms and clubhead reach impact, Day’s left knee loses its flex and nearly locks into place. The leg straightens, essentially stopping the lateral movement of his hips, which then rotate around the left side. The result: a huge power boost from this sudden thrust.
While it’s tough to see the knee snap at full speed, look at any of the above players in the follow-through and finish positions. Notice that the left leg is straight, rather than bowed toward the target, with the hips pointing at or left of the target and weight balanced beautifully on the left foot.
Why it works for Day: While many of today’s top players swing with minimal lateral motion coming down, Day appears to slide to his left quite a bit. When over-done, this move can cause the upper body to lag, sending shots right (or left, if the golfer flips his hands to save the shot).
By straightening his left leg, Day halts this lateral movement and drives his hips around and through the ball. This also creates tremendous arm extension at impact and beyond. Explosive distance – to the tune of a 299-yard driving average – ensues.
How it can work for you: Integrating the so-called "left knee snap" into your swing requires a great deal of practice. If you’ve been sliding rather than rotating, it may take hundreds of repetitions to properly time the move until it becomes second nature.
That said, the effort may prove well worth it. Many if not most of the world’s best players exhibit this left leg technique to some degree, but it doesn’t require top-flight talent. The key is to start out slowly, swinging lightly and without hitting a ball, and work your way up to full swings and shots.
Here’s a video that will help you learn and master this potent move:
Getting Your Golf Impact Position Right is All about Mechanics
The impact position that you reach in your golf swing is really the only thing that matters. After all, impact is the only point where the club actually touches the ball and sends it flying into the air. If your impact position is wrong, it isn’t going to matter if the rest of your swing looked pretty – the shot still won’t go where you wanted it to. Everything that you do with the goal of improving your swing should boil down to what kind of changes it makes to the impact position.
Do you know what your golf impact position looks like currently? For most golfers, the answer to that question is a resounding ‘no’. Understanding what your impact position looks like right now, and what you need to do to improve it, just might be the most important thing you can work on in your golf swing. While the impact position is the result of all the mechanics and techniques you use along the way, you still need to have a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve at the moment of truth. Only then can you work backwards and fix any mechanical problems that are preventing you from finding that perfect impact position.
As you probably already know, golf ball impact should ideally be right in the center of the club face, which is commonly called the ‘sweet spot’. Making golf ball impact on this point will give you the best possible outcome not only in terms of distance, but accuracy as well. If the club is struck out off the toe or in off the heel, you will lose power and the club will twist through impact – potentially sending the shot off line. A repeatable golf impact position will enable you to find the sweet spot as frequently as possible, which will greatly improve your ball striking performance throughout the round.
Professional golfers work on their impact position far more than amateurs, because they understand just how important it is to their success. Using tools like a golf impact bag or golf impact tape, they can identify problems quickly so they can get to work on solving them. This should be your mindset as well. If there is something about your ball flight that you would like to change, start at impact and work from there until you reveal what it is that needs to be corrected.
Please note that any instruction contained below is written based on a right handed golfer. For those of you who play left handed, make sure to reverse the directions accordingly.
What a Good Impact Position Looks Like
Many golfers path to getting better at the game includes watching the best players in the world play on TV and then copying the positions that they reach in their swings. This is a great plan, as there is nobody better to learn from than those making a living playing golf. It gets tricky, however, when you try to observe their impact positions. The swing happens far too quickly to see the impact position in live action, and only rarely do the TV broadcasts review a swing in slow motion for you to get a good look at the point of impact.
Therefore, you might not have as good of an idea about what a solid impact position looks like as you do, for example, with the top of the backswing. The following points should give you an accurate checklist of positions that most golfers will want to reach at the moment of truth.
- Eyes down on the ball. Okay, so you probably know this one already – but it is still important to highlight. You should have your eyes down on the ball as the club is making contact, which will make it easier to solidly strike the back of the ball with the club face. It is hard to hit something accurately when you are not looking at it, so make sure this fundamental doesn’t get lost when you are working on other parts of your swing. Sometimes golf is about the very basic fundamentals more than anything else, and keeping your eyes on the ball needs to be near the top of the list.
- Weight moved onto left foot. By the time you reach impact, most of your body weight should have transferred onto your left foot successfully. If you are hanging back on your right foot, it will be difficult to make a downward strike into the ball or deliver much power to the shot. This is one of the impact keys that is set up earlier in the swing. By using your lower body properly during the downswing you should be able to easily find most of your weight on your left foot by impact.
- Right arm released. There should be no hesitation with your right arm as you come through the hitting area. A still image of your swing at impact should show the right arm firing through the shot and extending completely so that your elbow is straight. Many amateur golfers get nervous right at the last moment and end up ‘hanging on’ to the shot by not letting their right side fire through the ball. Everything you have done up to this point was intended to position you so that you can swing full-out through the shot and maximize distance – so let that right arm go and trust your swing to produce a good shot.
- Left heel on the ground. Another common error that many amateur players make is getting their left heel up off the ground through impact, likely trying to squeeze every last bit of power possible from the swing. The reality is that the speed you generate is coming from your rotation, and raising yourself up like this will only cost you power. Instead, keep that left foot as flat on the ground as possible and rotate fully through the shot into a balanced finish.
The four points above highlight the main factors that will be present in a good impact position. If you are able to meet these conditions when you make contact with the ball, you will be most of the way toward hitting quality shots time after time.
Analyzing Your Own Impact Position
If you think it is difficult to get a good look at the impact position of another player, it is even harder to get a good look at your own. For that reason, you are going to want to use video in order to be able to get a great look at what you are doing in your own impact position, and what needs to be changed. To get the video, head to the driving range and ask a friend to come along with you. Have them record your swing from two angles – down the line, and face on. Of course, they should always be standing far enough away as to not get hit by your swing. With these videos recorded, take them home with you and load them on your computer or tablet for a better look.
The first thing you want to do is freeze the video as close to the impact position as possible. Most modern smartphones have an excellent video camera built-in, so you shouldn’t have much trouble pausing the recording at just the right spot. With that image in front of you, take a look at your positions compared to the list of the four important items above. How many of those points are you meeting successfully? Are your eyes down on the ball, with your right arm fully released into the shot? It shouldn’t take long to notice any mistakes that you are making.
Once you are done looking at the still images of your impact position, reverse the video a little bit and watch the downswing that is leading into impact. It should then become obvious how the rest of your swing is influencing the eventual impact position. Watch your swing play over and over again so you become as familiar as possible with your own technique and mechanics that are unique to you. Having a great understanding of your whole swing will help later when you go back to the course and try to correct any impact position issues that you may have.
Remember to think about the impact position you are watching on video in terms of the ball flights that you were achieving on the range during that session. Were they shots that you are happy with? If so, then you will want to think of this impact position as a good one, and one that you can repeat time and time again later on. However, if you were hitting poor shots and feel like you can do better, then the impact position you see in front of you is one that needs to be carefully analyzed and fixed accordingly.
The Common Problems
While golf is an endlessly complicated and challenging game, some of the swing faults that amateurs make are incredibly common. In fact, the majority of average golfers share just a few swing mistakes, and correcting those problems can largely set them on the right path toward a better game. This is true of the impact position just as it is throughout the rest of the swing. If you have a problem in your impact position, there is a good chance it is contained within one of the following five points. Not surprisingly, you will notice that the five points below are in many ways opposites of the earlier points found in a good impact position.
- Early release of the club. This is probably the single most common swing fault among amateur players. The ideal position for golf hands at impact is to be in front of the ball, leading the club head through the shot. Unfortunately, many players ‘throw’ the club head out in front of their hands and just drag the club through the hitting zone slowly. The biggest difference between pros and amateurs is often the way that pros use proper golf hands at impact to accelerate the club head. By lagging the club head behind your hands during the backswing – and holding that angle through the shot – you can generate impressive power with relative ease. Take a look at your impact position from the face-on view to ensure that your hands are past the ball when you make contact.
- Eyes looking up early. This is another common problem, and one that can have an easy solution. When your eyes look up from the ball early in order to see where the shot is going, you can ruin your mechanics right at the last possible moment. All of the other good things you have done in the swing can go wasted if you are unable to control the movement of your eyes. To fight this mistake, try drawing a unique symbol on your golf ball and then fix your eyes on it until the ball has been struck. As long as you can watch that spot throughout your swing, this impact position problem should become a thing of the past.
- Hanging on the right side. Controlling your center of gravity and the distribution of your weight is one of the best skills you can develop in golf. When you are able to manage which direction your body is moving successfully, it will get much easier to hit good shots. With that said, you might find when reviewing your impact position that you are stuck on your right side as the club contacts the ball. Not only does this mistake cost you power, but it also makes it difficult to swing the club on the right path through the ball. Often, golfers who get stuck on their right side are the same ones that fight a slice in their swing. If you have hit more than your fair share of slices during your recent rounds, make sure that you aren’t making this error.
- Too far forward. This is a less-common problem, but it can be just as damaging to your swing. If you are sliding your weight from right to left in the downswing, instead of rotating, you might end up too far onto that front side at impact. A frequent result of this error is a pushed shot that flies straight – but well right of the target. Also, you could encounter the dreaded shank from time to time if you are sliding your weight toward the target. Make sure you work on rotation as opposed to lateral movement in your downswing to alleviate this issue.
- Lifting up. The last impact position fault that you should be on the lookout for is lifting up of your whole body as you swing through the shot. Some golfers feel like they can help the ball into the air by raising up at impact – standing on their toes, lifting their head and shoulders, etc. The best way to watch for this problem is to watch the top of your head throughout the swing when you watch your video and see how much it moves around. Ideally, you will be able to keep the position of the top of your head as stable as possible without any dramatic movements up or down during the swing.
If there are any of these five problems currently going on in your swing, you should quickly look for solutions to get your impact position one step closer to being correct. Should you find that you are dealing with more than one of these problems at the same time, start by picking out one specifically and try to iron it out. Once that issue is resolved, move on to the next problem and take care of it as well. Rather than trying to fix everything all at once, work through your swing one piece at a time and only move on when you have made the proper corrections.
Some Impact Position Practice Drills
Tools like a golf impact bag or golf impact tape can certainly help you learn more about your impact position, there are also a few drills that you can do on the driving range to help learn the right positions as well. These drills don’t require anything more than your clubs and some practice balls to hit, as well as a little bit of time and effort.
The first drill is a simple one that just requires one of your wedges – it doesn’t particularly matter which one. Hit ten shots for this drill, while only using your left hand. You only want to try to hit the ball 30 or 40 yards at the most. The focus during this drill is on making solid contact and feeling how you can lead the club head into the ball by getting your hands (or hand, in this case) out in front of the shot. You should feel that your left wrist is mostly flat at impact, and the wedge is moving downward through the ball. Once you get comfortable making solid impact using just your lead hand, put your other hand back on the club as well and hit a few normal shots.
Moving on to the next drill, you will want to switch to a seven iron and get another ten or so range balls ready to hit. Again with this drill you will be modifying your swing to feel a different part of the proper impact position. At address, lean to the left so that most of your weight is on your left foot before you even start the swing. From there, make a half-swing and try to hit the ball solidly as you swing through. During the swing, you should be keeping your weight on your left leg. Use body rotation to move the club and try to hit the shots about 100 yards or so. These shots will likely fly rather low, but that is okay – the only focus is to make sure that you are striking the ball solidly right in the middle of the club face. Again, after you are comfortable with the drill, go back to your full swing and see if you have made any improvements.
The last drill you are going to do in order to improve your impact position is going to require you to go back to the wedge. Hit shots with your wedge while looking down at the ball throughout the swing – and don’t look up even after you hit the ball. The idea is to look down at the spot where the ball was sitting until after the shot has landed. This will require you to modify your follow-through a little bit, and you won’t be able to swing as hard as you would otherwise. Only try to hit shots about half of your normal distance when doing this drill. By exaggerating the idea of keeping your eyes down on the ball, you will notice how much better your ball striking can be just by getting this part right. Note: it is okay to let your head move some as you hit the shot, as long as you keep your eyes down on the spot where the ball was sitting. After hitting some soft shots doing this drill, revert back to your regular swing and hit some normal wedges.
Improvements to your impact position aren’t likely to come quickly or easily. Rather, you are going to have to put in some time and effort in order to correct your technique and fundamentals. By investing the time in taking a video of your swing and reviewing it thoroughly, you should have a good idea of what needs work so you don’t waste your time on the wrong things. With a plan and a good understanding of the fundamentals of a good impact position, you can get to work knowing you will be on the right track toward better golf.