Flare the left toe: Stop Reverse Pivot With This Practice Drill Video
Allow for a fade:A textbook golf impact position finds the hips open to the target line while the shoulders are square. In extreme cases, a pro's hips may be open as much as 70° at the moment of contact. (Hurts just to think about, doesn't it?)
Older golfers often struggle to rotate or clear the hips as the club enters the hitting zone. This can cause the shoulders and arms to become “stuck” behind the body, resulting in a push or slice. If the golfer tries to save the swing by flipping the hands at the ball, he'll likely hit a low, ugly hook.
There are two simple ways to ease any physical restriction on the left (lead) hip. The first is to flare the left toe about 10-15° toward the target. Here's the second:
1. Set up in your normal position, with the feet aligned parallel to the target line and the left toe flared outward.
2. Pull the left foot back just a touch 6” or so should be plenty to create an open stance.
This pulls the left hip and knee into an open position, giving you more freedom of motion on the downswing and into the follow-through. You'll see increased clubhead speed, and you'll stop blocking shots to the right.
One caveat: An open stance will create an
outside-to-in clubhead path, so make sure to allow for a fade when lining up.
Senior Open Your Stance to Let Hips Clear Through Impact
One of the greatest things about golf is that it is a game that can last a lifetime. Unlike other sports such as basketball or tennis, golf is a game that most people can play well into their retirement years. While the game can wear on your body in some ways, it isn't nearly as physically demanding as most other recreational options. If you enjoy being outside while playing a sport with your friends, golf is a game that you should be able to play late into your life.
Of course, that doesn't mean that your body doesn't change as you age. Father Time is undefeated, and everyone will experience some kind of a reduction in their physical capabilities as they age. The golf swing might not be as hard on your body as running all around a tennis court, but you are still going to have to adjust your swing slightly as you age in order to continue playing at an acceptable level. Hopefully, by making a few tweaks to your swing here and there, you can keep swinging the club nicely as the years go by.
Flexibility is one of the major challenges that is faced by older golfers. It is difficult to remain flexible late into life, and a loss of flexibility can be a serious issue for a golfer. Without the flexibility to make a full turn away from the ball, both distance and accuracy will suffer. You can work on your fitness in order to fight back against the effects of aging, but it is inevitable that some of your flexibility will be lost. When that happens, consider opening your stance slightly toward the target to allow your hips to get through the shot properly.
Getting your lower body through the ball is a key ingredient in a quality golf swing for golfers of all ages. When you are young, it should be no problem at all to rotate your legs through the shot aggressively. Most young people have plenty of flexibility in their legs and lower back, so they can go after the ball will full effort in order to generate power. That plan simply isn't going to work as you get older. To make sure your lower body is still helping you generate speed at the bottom of the swing, give your legs a head start by opening your stance at address. With a slightly open stance and good swing fundamentals, you can continue to accelerate the club head through the ball even if your swing isn't as long as you would like it to be.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
Signs of Trouble
Aging isn't something that happens all at once. Rather, most people age gradually, with a slow diminishing of physical capability taking place over a period of decades. Therefore, it isn't like you can decide one day that you are now 'old' and you need to change your golf swing. Instead, you will start to notice subtle signs that slowly accumulate until you realize that some changes need to be made. While your swing will likely evolve naturally to adapt to your changing physical capabilities, you will also need to take some intentional steps to give yourself the best chance at playing well on a regular basis.
Following are three signs that your golf swing may be showing its age. When these signs start to appear in your game on a regular basis, it will be time to look for swing alterations that you can make to regain some of your prior performance.
- Loss of distance. This is the point that most golfers will pay attention to when worried about how their age is affecting their golf swing. If you notice that you are starting to lose distance for no obvious reason, it may be that your lowered level of flexibility is shortening your swing. Loss of distance isn't only an issue with the driver – it can affect you throughout the bag. When you notice that even your well-struck shots are coming up short of the target, and you haven't made any recent changes to your swing technique, it is a pretty safe bet that aging is to blame for your loss of yards.
- Difficulty with long rough. Getting the club to cut through the rough is something that requires plenty of hand strength and club head speed. As you get older, this will be a task that becomes more and more difficult. Fortunately, most average golf courses don't have much deep rough guarding the fairways, but you may struggle with these lies as you get older when you do encounter them.
- Lower trajectory. This point goes hand in hand with the loss of distance. To get the ball high in the air, you need plenty of backspin on your shots. In order to create backspin, you need swing speed. Therefore, as your swing speed starts to decrease, the height of your shots will come down along with your distance. A lower trajectory isn't always a bad thing, but it might make it difficult for you to stop the ball as quickly as you would like on the greens – especially when hitting long approach shots.
Loss of distance, struggles from the long rough, and a lower trajectory on most of your shots are all signs that your swing may be slowing down due to the aging process. While it can be frustrating to see these signs appear in your game, try to keep your mind focused in a positive direction. By making some smart changes to your swing technique, you can still produce quality golf shots and have fun playing the game you love. There is no reason to give up on shooting good scores, you just might have to change the way you go about doing it.
How an Open Stance Can Help
As you should already know, it doesn't make any sense to make a change to your swing unless it is going to solve a very specific problem. In this case, you shouldn't just start trying all sorts of weird stances and grips until you are able to regain some of your lost yardage – you will only do more damage to your swing that you throw you farther off track. Instead, you should have a clear plan and a reason behind everything that you do.
Opening your stance can benefit your swing in a number of ways. Some of those benefits are directly related to counteracting the effects of aging, while others are simply benefits that golfers of any age could enjoy. In fact, there are plenty of golfers who play from a slightly open stance just because it allows them to make their best swing.
Below are three benefits that you could experience when you switch to using an open stance at address.
- Lower body leading the way. The main reason for older golfers to use an open stance is to make sure the lower body is through the shot by the time the club reaches impact. If you start with a square stance, you might not be able to get your lower body past the ball in time to build up speed properly. When your lower body is stuck behind the ball, your swing will amount to nothing more than your arms throwing the club down toward impact – which is a weak way to make a golf swing. Starting in an open position gives your lower body a head start to get into the position that you need in order to hit powerful shots.
- Setting the impact position. When you arrive at impact, you would like to have your hips open to the target line so they can help pull the club through the hitting area. Therefore, it makes sense to start with your hips open so you can simply try to return them to that position as you make your downswing. If you start square to the target line, you will need to find a new position at impact, which can be challenging for some players. No matter your age, setting your hips open at address is a nice way to simplify the golf swing and make it a little bit easier to feel the correct position for your lower body.
- See the target. Losing flexibility doesn't just effect the moving parts of your swing. It can also make it harder to do simple things, like turning your head to look at the target prior to hitting a shot. When you stand square to the target line, you have to rotate your head significantly in order to get a good look at the fairway or green in front of you. That task is made much easier when you start in an open stance. Standing open to the line will give you a great look at the target, and you might find that you even have more confidence in your swing simply because you can see everything so clearly.
There may be additional benefits to using an open stance that you will find once you start experimenting with this technique. However, at a minimum, you should enjoy some benefit from the three points above. Getting the lower body through the shot effectively is the big point that gives many senior golfers trouble, so getting a head start on that task can be a huge help. With your hips already beyond the ball prior to impact, you will be able to let the club swing down through the shot naturally. This method may not give you back all of the distance you have lost, but it should help to unlock some additional power that is still hiding in your swing.
It's Not All About Distance
When most golfers think about getting older, they picture their drives getting shorter and shorter as the years go by. That is certainly a concern, but you also need to pay attention to the overall quality of your ball striking. You can deal with hitting the ball a little bit shorter, as long as you are still hitting solid shots on a regular basis. However, if you lose distance and you also start to miss-hit the ball regularly, you will see your scores rise in a hurry.
One of the advantages of setting up with your hips open to the target line is that you will make it easier to strike the ball solidly at impact. Open hips are a common sight in good golf swings, from professionals down to quality amateur players. When you look at a still image of a good player at impact, you will always see that left hip turned open and away from the ball. As a senior golfer, you might have trouble getting into that position while using a square stance, but getting there with an open stance is much easier.
Good ball striking is about putting your body in the same position at impact, time after time. Consistency isn't something that most amateur golfers are familiar with, but using an open stance could make you a little bit more consistent from a ball striking perspective. As you practice your swing on the range, you will notice that there is less timing involved when you start with open hips than if you try to get them open during the downswing. Even if you have the flexibility to get your hips open at impact using a regular stance, you could still improve your performance by using this open stance.
To form an open stance, you will need to move your left foot back slightly away from the target line. At first, you don't want to try forming a dramatically open stance – just alter it by a few inches and then hit some shots. There is no golden rule for how open your stance should be, so feel free to experiment with your feet in different positions until you settle on a stance that feels comfortable and gives you good results. So players will fall in love with the feeling of a dramatically open stance, while others will prefer to just have their hips slightly open to the target line.
At the same time you are dropping your left foot back from the target line, you should also open the left foot slightly to make it even easier to get through the shot. Turn your toes a few degrees open to the target so that your left leg won't put up as much of a fight in the downswing. A square left foot position will make it difficult to turn around your left knee in the follow through, but opening that foot slightly will take away that problem. This is another tip that applies to golfers both young and old. The left knee of a right handed golfer can take quite a beating over the years, so turn your foot open to the target and lessen the stress that is put on that joint during your golf swing.
With your left foot dropped back from the target line and also turned slightly open, you should be ready to make some great swings. It is important to remember that you don't have to change the rest of your swing just because you are playing from an open stance. As you start to work on this technique, keep your swing exactly the same for the first couple of practice sessions. Once you have a little experience with an open stance, you can then go on to make some minor adjustments if needed to get your ball flight back on track. For instance, you might find that you need to take the club back a little more to the inside in order to create a proper angle of attack in the downswing. These adjustments will only come with experience, so hit some shots on the practice range with your open stance and learn as you go.
Once you have put in some quality practice time, you will be ready to take your new stance out onto the course. Just like with any other swing change you make, there are likely to be some bumps in the road before you get comfortable with the new technique. Don't expect miracles in your first round – you should just be looking for signs of progress at this point. Does the ball feel better coming off the club? Are you hitting the ball a little bit higher than you were before? Closely track your performance with the new stance and you should see it gradually improve as you spend more and more time on the course.
What About the Short Game?
Hitting the ball better is always exciting, but it isn't going to mean much if you can't get the ball in the hole. The short game is really where your scores are decided, and age is no excuse for poor putting or chipping. You don't need power or even flexibility to hit great short game shots, so you can always work on improving your abilities in this area. With that in mind, should you translate your new open stance to the short game as well?
The answer to that question depends on the type of short game shot in question. For putting, the answer is a definitive no. To make a reliable and consistent putting stroke, you want to keep everything as square as possible in your technique. That means keeping your feet, hips, and shoulders all square to the target line as you set up for a putt. You don't need to develop any power in order to roll the ball toward the hole, so your lower body should play no part at all in your stroke. Your legs should remain stable while your arms and shoulders simply rock the putter back and through. Accuracy is the name of the game when putting, and an open stance will only make it more difficult to hit your lines.
However, when chipping, it is a great idea to use an open stance. Golfers of all ages should hit chip shots from an open stance because it makes the job of getting the ball up into the air much easier. When you chip with your feet open to the target, the club will swing through the ball on a slightly outside-in path – which is perfect. This swing path will pop the ball up out of the grass and allow it to land softly on the green. Also, if you have to chip out of the long rough, an open stance will help you get the club down through the grass and on to the back of the ball. Along with opening your feet, make sure to lean slightly to your left at address to set up for a successful chip shot.
The same thinking applies to hitting sand shots from a greenside bunker. With an open stance and your weight leaning slightly left, go ahead and make an aggressive golf swing down through the ball. Instead of contacting the ball directly, put the club head into the sand a couple of inches behind the ball so that the sand can carry the ball up and onto the green. Your new open stance is perfect for this job as it will develop the steep angle of attack needed to slice through the sand.
There is no reason to give up on your golf game just because you are moving into the 'senior' category. Sure, you might have to make a few adjustments to your game as the years go by, but you can still have fun out on the course while hitting some great shots along the way. During your next visit to the driving range, consider experimenting with an open stance to make it easier for your lower body to get through the shot.