Its probably inevitable that Jay Haas will end up best known as the father of Bill Haas, one of the bright young stars on the PGA Tour. But for now, Jay holds the title as the familys most successful golfer.
After a standout career at college powerhouse Wake Forest, Jay Haas won nine PGA Tour titles from 1978-93. Hes enjoyed even more success on the Champions Tour, racking up 15 wins, including a pair of Senior PGA Championships, in his first seven seasons.
The always steady Haas made the most of what some described as an “old-school” swing. He learned the game from his uncle, Tour great Bob Goalby, but lacked the textbook fundamentals of many of his peers. Indeed, Haas serves as a great example of a player who excelled despite –or maybe because of – his unorthodox methods.
Unconventional move: At the top of his backswing, Haas pauses for a split-second before starting his downswing.
Haas swing actually features a number of unusual elements. He takes the club back well outside the line, for instance, and involves his lower body less than most world-class players.
Haas backswing pause isnt as pronounced as Murphys, but it is noticeable. In fact, some might even call it a hitch between the two sections of his swing.
Why its a problem for amateurs: Most pros actually do the opposite of Haas by starting their lower body moving toward the target while the arms are still moving upward. This subtle, almost imperceptible move creates a fluid, non-stop transitioning motion.
If the average golfer were to pause like Haas, timing the downswing would become especially difficult. Also, most players would lose power by stopping their movement; the flowing, all-in-one-motion transition is recommended to generate and release as much energy as possible on the downswing.
How Haas gets away with it: The secret to Haas success is his first move down from the top – he places the left heel on the ground, rather than starting with the arms and hands. In fact, the pause-at-the-top drill is a great way to ingrain a proper downswing sequence that goes from the ground up.
The cure: If your swing involves a pause, you don't necessarily need to eliminate it. As long as the hesitation isn't too long – a la Charles Barkley – your best bet is to learn to play with it.
The first key is to make a full hip turn and weight shift on the backswing. Ideally, the hips should rotate as much as 45° relative to the target line on a full swing, with the shoulders at 90°. As you finish the backswing, about 60-70% of your weight should favor the right side (for right-handers).
Next, follow Haas example and start the downswing by placing the left heel back on the ground (or pressing down if the heel has not lifted). The left hip then rotates and pulls the mid-section, shoulders, arms and clubs into line.
Learn from the Pause at the Top that Jay Haas Uses for Great Ball Striking
Timing is a crucial element in the golf swing. Players with good timing are able to repeat their swings over and over, sending their shots in a predictable direction. Those who lack good timing, however, struggle with consistency and are prone to producing a wide-variety of ball flights during a given round. As you spend time working on your game and trying to improve the consistency of your ball striking, you would be wise to focus on the timing element of your technique.
Professional golfer Jay Haas is a great example of what beautiful timing can do for your game. Haas is an accomplished touring professional, with 9 PGA Tour wins and 17 Champions Tour wins to his credit. Now 61 years old, Haas turned pro in 1976 and has been a quality pro for the last four decades. While younger golf fans might know him better as the father of current PGA Tour player Bill Haas, Jay has very much established an impressive track record of his own that should not be overlooked.
One of the most-notable aspects of Jay Haas golf swing is the slight pause that he uses at the top of the backswing. As he is transitioning from backswing to downswing, the club appears to pause just for a moment prior to changing directions. In fact, his whole body seems to stop, pause briefly, and then start down toward the ball. The result is a swing that has beautiful rhythm and timing all throughout a round, even under pressure. Where most averages golfers rush through their backswings and try to force the club down to the ball as quickly as possible, Haas is just the opposite – he is in no rush, and the swing builds naturally until all of the speed is unleashed right at impact.
There is a lot that you can learn from the technique that Jay Haas uses in his golf swing. Even if you don't ever incorporate a full pause into your swing like he uses, you can still benefit from the idea of taking your time and resisting the temptation to rush. The ball isn't going anywhere, so there is no reason to hurry. A rushed golf swing is one that will struggle to produce consistent results, and it will be prone to having trouble when the pressure is on. For a swing that is reliable and holds up even when you are nervous, make it a priority to focus on your timing and tempo.
All of the swing instruction that is contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as needed.
How the Pause Can Help
Before you add any new elements to your golf swing, you want to make sure that you actually stand to benefit from the changes. After all, if adding a pause to the top of your golf swing isnt going to make you a better player, what is the point? You need to improve your swing, and your game as a whole, if it is going to be worth it.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which adding a pause to the top of your backswing can help you play better golf. Following are three of the top benefits –
- Preparing your balance. A pause alone wont give you good balance, but it will give you a chance to check on your balance and make sure your body as a whole is prepared for the downswing. If you are off balance at the top of your swing, it will become quite obvious during your brief pause during the transition. If you are swinging fast from start to finish, you might not have time to notice that your balance has become a problem. In watching Jay Haas swing the golf club, it is obvious that his balance is always under control. Thanks to the pause at the top of his swing, he has time to gather his whole body together and get it prepared to start turning aggressively toward the target. Players who struggle with balance problems stand to benefit greatly from incorporating a pause to the top of their backswing.
- Giving your lower body a head start. One of the problems that frequently troubles amateur golfers is the inability to get their legs through the shot before the club gets down to the ball. Typically, and amateur player will force their arms down toward the ball first, never allowing their lower body to get started moving left toward the target. The result is a weak shot that usually misses to the right of the target. When you add a pause to the top of your backswing, you give your lower body an extra moment to get started. That slight head start is all it needs to start the rotation that will power your swing. From there, the arms can simply come along for the ride because your swing will now be sequenced correctly. A golf swing that is executed in the proper sequence can be a powerful thing, and the pause at the top can help make that happen.
- Resistance to pressure. Everyone gets nervous on the golf course from time to time. Whether you are playing a casual round with your friends or you are playing in a club tournament, pressure is not hard to find in golf. If your swing lacks rhythm, you might find that the quality of your shots significantly falls off when you get nervous. Adding a pause at the top of your backswing can help to combat this problem. The pause will give your swing a steady rhythm which will go a long way toward resisting the swing issues that pressure can create. Most golfers move too fast when they get nervous, and the club never has time to get into the right positions. By focusing on your slight pause at the top, you can block out the pressure and make sure your ball striking remains consistent from the first hole to the last.
For most golfers, there is a lot to gain by working on adding a pause at the top of the swing. While the pause that Jay Haas uses is rather pronounced, you could even improve your swing by just including a minor pause as you change directions. Balance and timing will always remain key elements in golf, and using a slight pause is a great way to find both of those in your swing.
The First Steps
As you might imagine, adding a pause to the top of your swing is not something that can be done overnight. It will take some time, and plenty of practice. Only those who are serious about working on their swings will be able to incorporate this chance effectively. If you dont have the time to practice you swing at the range – or you simply dont want to – adding a pause is probably not the best choice. However, if you are a golfer who loves to visit the practice range and work on your technique, the pause has a lot to offer your game.
To get started, you are actually going to head to the practice chipping area of your local golf course, instead of the driving range. You will need one of your wedges, and a few golf balls. Find a spot in the chipping area that offers good lies on short grass so you can focus on your technique without worrying about a bad lie in the rough. Pick out a target that is around 10-15 yards away for this first set of chip shots.
For the first few shots, dont change anything about your chipping motion. Just hit the shots like you would normally, and try to get the ball as close to the hole as possible. Once you have hit five or six shots, go pick the balls up and return to the same position. For the next round of shots, you are going to add a pause into your chipping technique. Move the club back away from the ball as normal, only this time you are going to pause during the transition for just a moment. After your pause, continue on and hit the shot toward your target.
At first, the chip shots that you hit using the pause are not likely to be very good. That is okay for now. Stick with it and focus on making solid contact with the ball on each and every chip. After you have hit 20 or 30 shots using the pause technique, you should be starting to get the hang of it. Most golfers will find that they are actually able to hit better chip shots using this method after the initial period of adjustment. The reason is simple – instead of rushing down to the ball and hitting the shot a little bit fat, they are taking their time and allowing the club to swing into the ball naturally. Many golfers struggle with chipping because they try to help the ball into the air. Using a pause during your chipping motion will eliminate that tendency and make it far easier for you to hit down through the shot properly.
After you have become comfortable chipping the ball with a pause in your swing, move back and hit some longer pitch shots (30 yards or so). The idea is the same – add a slight pause into your regular technique and hit enough shots so that you become comfortable with this method. Since it is a longer shot with more speed in the club head, it may take you a little more time to adapt to this new pitching technique as compared to the chipping.
So why start with chipping and pitching when what you really want to do is improve your full swing? There are two reasons. First, you need to learn what it feels like to hit a golf ball after you have paused during your swing – and it is far easier to learn that sensation on short shots. If you were to simply start out with big driver swings while trying to add a pause, you would quickly get frustrated and give up. Chipping allows for more margin for error, and it gives you a chance to get comfortable with this technique before launching into full speed swings.
The other reason you should start with short shots is because you will eventually want all of your shots around the course to use a similar method. You dont want to use the pause in your full swing only, while still rushing through your chip and pitch shots as usual. A steady tempo throughout the round is crucial, and each of your various swings should mimic the others as closely as possible. Starting out learning to chip with a slight pause is a great way to introduce this technique to the rest of your game.
Making Full Swings
With your short game work out of the way, it is time to move on to full golf swings. Obviously, this will require moving over to the practice range, and you will want to have all of your clubs with you at this time. You only need a small bucket of range balls to hit, as you will be making plenty of practice swings in addition to hitting some actual shots.
Speaking of practice swings, you are going to start out by making a series of practice swings with each of the clubs in your bag. Starting with your shortest club – probably a lob wedge or sand wedge – make a practice swing without hitting a ball. During this swing, you are going to exaggerate the pause at the top by holding your position for a few seconds. Swing up to the top of your swing as normal, hold that position for several seconds, and then complete the swing. Do this with each of the clubs in your bag, moving from shortest to longest, so that you finish with the driver.
The idea behind this drill is to make sure that you have the balance necessary to incorporate the pause into your golf swing. If you find that you have trouble holding your balance during the exaggerated pause that you are using in this drill, your swing probably isnt ready to make this change. Instead, you should go back and work on the other fundamentals of your swing in order to improve your balance. Only when you feel confident that your balance is under control should you move on from this drill to actually hitting some shots while using the pause at the top.
After you successfully complete the drill making practice swings with an extra-long pause, go back to the shortest club in your bag and hit a few shots. This time, dont make an exaggerated pause, but rather just a slight one as seen in the golf swing of Jay Haas. Pause only long enough for your body to gather and get ready to turn to the left in the downswing. You should feel your lower body taking charge of the swing after the pause is complete, as your legs and hips are what need to drive the rotation toward the target. Try hitting a few shots with your wedge before moving up to a mid-iron. You dont need to hit each club in the bag at this point – instead, trying hitting a few shots with one club from each section of your bag (short irons, mid-irons, long irons, fairway woods, and driver). Work your way up and down the bag until you are finished for the day.
While you are practicing using a pause at the top of your golf swing, dont forget about all of your other fundamentals. The pause is just one part of the swing, and you still need to do everything else correctly to hit good shots. Whatever swing keys you happen to use in your own game, make sure you focus on them as well as trying to add the pause at the top. If your normal fundamentals go out the window in an effort to make this change, the end result will not be a good one.
In an ideal world, you would be able to seamlessly integrate the pause into your golf swing and head right out onto the course to reap the rewards. Of course, golf is rarely ideal, and you already know just how difficult this game can be. Most likely, you will have to work hard to build this new method into your swing, and it will require many trips to the practice range before you become comfortable with using the pause at the top of the backswing.
With that in mind, following are three troubleshooting tips that relate to using a pause in your golf swing.
- Topping the ball. You may find that early in the process you start to top some of your shots on the practice range. This is to be expected. By adding a pause to the top of your swing, you have disrupted the timing that you usually use to hit the golf ball. Over the years, your mind and body have learned how to work together to get the ball off the ground and into the air. Even if you dont have a great swing at the moment, you still have some habits that will need to be adjusted in order to use the pause at the top successfully. Topping the ball is a sign that you are using your arms and hands too much in the downswing, instead of turning your whole body through the shot. Work on using your legs right from the top of the swing and you should be able to eliminate the problem of topping your shots rather quickly.
- Hitting a hook. Even if you have never had a problem with a hook before, you might start to hit some on the range while you are working on this change of technique. Adding a pause at the top of your swing creates the possibility that your backswing will become too long – which increases your odds of hooking the golf ball. To prevent this outcome, pay attention to the swinging of your arms in the backswing. When your shoulders stop turning, your arms should stop turning as well. Many amateurs make the mistake of allowing their arms to keep going after their shoulders are done, which puts the club inside of the proper path and can lead to a hook. Tighten up your backswing to straighten out your ball flight.
- Loss of distance. Some players, when they start to add in a pause at the top of their swing, will also stop swinging as hard as they usually do. One thing shouldnt have anything to do with the other. You still want to turn the club loose through the hitting area and apply all possible force into the back of the ball. The only thing that is different is the sequence which gets you to that point. Once the pause is finished and you start your downswing, it should be all systems go for a full release out toward the target.
It is going to take some time to improve your ball striking with the use of a pause, but it can be done. You will need patience, and plenty of hard work to make this technique a successful one in your game. Jay Haas is one of the most-accomplished professional golfers of the last 40 years, so expecting the kind of performance that he produces on the course is not realistic. However, simply by imitating the pause that he has used throughout his career, you stand to improve your own game. Remember to start small when making this swing change by using it first in your chipping and pitching before progressing to a full swing. After a period of practice time has been completed, you should be comfortable enough with you new technique to take it out onto the course and put it to the test.