Being short of stature doesn't mean you can't be long off the tee. Ian Woosnam stands all of 5'4”, but the 1991 Masters winner (aka the “Wee Welshman”) could positively pound the ball.
Granted, Woosnam has forearms like Popeye and a sturdy, stocky build. But 5'6” Jeff Sluman doesn't, and he's got more than adequate length.
Bottom line: Height isn't that important in golf. But leverage is, and that's where being short (less than 5'8”) becomes a distinct advantage. Having a lower center of gravity gives you better balance, and it's easier to make a compact, “connected” swing – with the elbows close to the sides and the big muscles working together – than for someone with long limbs.
Here are a few quick tips to make the most of your diminutive stature:
- Get clubs that fit properly: Standard, off-the-rack clubs are made for golfers of average build, around 5'8” or 5'9”. Shorter golfers are often better served with shorter clubs, while the lie angle (how the club sits on the ground) may also need tweaking. If your clubs are too long and/or upright, you'll be forced to adjust away from a swing that's natural for you.
- Set up with a wide stance: When hitting the driver, the insides of your feet should be underneath the outsides of your shoulders. The stance gets slightly narrower with each successively shorter club. This will not only enhance your balance, it will create a wider swing arc for greater distance.
- Learn to hit a draw: Short golfers tend to have flatter (more horizontal) swings, which promotes a right-to-left ball flight for right-handers. This is a good thing, since a draw rolls farther than a left-to-right fade and provides added distance. Here's a video that will teach you the technique for hitting a draw.
Bottom line: Don't sell yourself short just because you're undersized.
Use Leverage to Your Advantage
In golf, you want to use every advantage that you can find. The game is incredibly difficult, even for those who have been playing for many years. There is no such thing as perfect in golf, so every player in the world is constantly hoping to improve on their previous scores. From the best player in the world all the way down to a total beginner, every golfer knows the feeling of trying to find any way they can to make even a minor improvement.
One way to improve your game is to use leverage to your advantage. Making an efficient golf swing is the best way to find power in your swing without having to hit the gym, or even overhaul your existing mechanics. Improving the leverage in your swing can actually be a relatively simple thing, however many golfers are never able to make it happen. Only when you understand where leverage can be found in your swing, and how you can unlock it, will you really be able to live up to your full potential on the course.
The main form of leverage available to golfers comes in the relationship between your arms and the club. When you are able to form an angle between your lead arm and the shaft of the club, you will be creating the potential for energy that can be release right at the moment of impact. That angle is often referred to as 'lag' in golf circles, and it is considered the biggest difference between professional golfers and their amateur counterparts. Simply put, pro golfers understand how to use lag, while most amateurs do not. If you can put lag to work in your golf swing, your use of leverage will increase dramatically, and your shots will leave the club face faster than ever before.
Make no mistake – it is difficult to learn how to use lag in your golf swing. The concept is relatively simple, and it will be laid out below, but actually putting this technique into practice requires considerable effort. As you try to add lag to your golf swing, it is important to know that your game will likely get worse before it gets better. There will be some 'growing pains' along the way, but you will be rewarded for sticking with the process when you eventually gain control over this element of the swing. Lagging the club correctly into the ball is a powerful feeling, and it can lead to the best shots of your life.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Lack of distance is a common point of frustration among many amateur golfers. Despite making a swing that feels powerful and aggressive, the ball just doesn't seem to want to stay in the air very long. So what is the problem? How are the professional golfers able to hit the ball so far with relative ease while you have to work hard just to get past the 200 yard mark?
This seemingly complicated problem has a very simple solution – lag. To hit the ball long distances, you have to lag the club behind your hands. While there are a number of different ways you can swing the club to produce quality shots, there is no room for negotiation when it comes to lag. If you lag the club, you will be capable of producing some powerful shots. If you don't, you will always be a short hitter. In order to add any significant amount of distance to your golf shots, you are going to have to tackle the issue of lag in your swing once and for all.
So what does lag mean, exactly? The word 'lag' refers to the positioning of the club head in reference to your hands. As your hands are moving down toward impact, the club head should be 'lagging' behind. Once your hands get down near the ball, they will start to release the club and the club head will rapidly speed up as it approaches contact. There is a 'whip-like' action that can be achieved when lag is executed correctly, and that action is what makes powerful drives possible. Every time you watch a professional golfer launch a driver 300 yards or more down the fairway, you can be sure they lagged the club beautifully.
The best way to visualize that lag is to look for the angle formed between the left arm and the shaft of the club during the downswing. Look up the swing of your favorite pro golfer online and pause the video when their left arm is parallel to the ground on the downswing. Where is the shaft of the club? Most likely, it is at least pointing up to the sky, and it may even still be wrapped around the player's back. To see a dramatic example of lag, look at the swing of Sergio Garcia. Garcia may create more lag than any player in the game, and watching his swing in slow motion is a great way to understand what this concept is all about. Despite being a relatively small guy, Garcia is able to blast the ball tremendous distances thanks to his incredible lag in the downswing.
If you were to compare the swing video of an average amateur player with that of a player like Sergio Garcia, you would see a startling difference in the downswing. When most amateurs get their left arm parallel with the ground, they have already started to release the club. Therefore, they are wasting potential speed that could have been used down at impact. Holding on to your lag as long as possible is really the name of the game when it comes to creating speed. It might feel uncomfortable to hold on to that angle in the downswing if you are used to releasing the club prematurely, but learning that move can take you to a new level on the golf course.
Checking Your Current Leverage
No matter how far you hit the ball currently, it is a good idea to check on how much lag you are getting in your swing. If you are already lagging the club properly, it would be a mistake to spend time working on improving your lag. There are plenty of issues to work on in any golf swing, so don't waste time trying to fix things that aren't broken in the first place. By taking a quick video of your swing on the driving range, you can analyze your current lag and decide if it needs to be improved.
The easiest way to get a good video of your golf swing is to ask a friend for help. During your next trip to the range, have a friend come along with you and ask them to record a few of your swings. For this purpose, you want to get the video from the 'face on' angle, meaning the person holding the camera should be standing out in front of you (a safe distance away, obviously). This angle will allow you to see the angle that is formed between your left arm and the shaft of the club in the downswing.
If possible, take two different videos – one while you are swinging a mid-iron, and one while you are hitting a driver. Some golfers are able to lag the shorter clubs successfully, but they lose track of that ability once the clubs get longer. By recording video with both a mid-iron and a driver, you will be able to check for any differences between the two swings. Hit a few balls with each club, and take the video home with you for review when you have time to sit down and focus.
As you are reviewing the recording, pause the video during the downswing when your arms reaches parallel to the ground. This is the same spot that you used earlier to review the professional golf swings you found online. Where is your club at this point? Is there a large angle between your arm and the club, or are they forming something close to a straight line. As you should know by now, you are hoping to see a large amount of lag at this point in the swing. If you have already started to release the club by this point, you will know right away that you have some work to do.
While watching your swing video, take a look around at the rest of your technique to see if you notice any obvious problems. Are you keeping your balance nicely throughout the swing? Is your head staying down on the ball through impact? How does your finish position look? Everything in the golf swing is interconnected, so a problem in one area could be leading you to have trouble lagging the club.
By making the effort to record your swing, you will be able to determine exactly how much lag is present in your current technique. With that information in hand, you can form a plan going forward with your game. If you are happy with your current lag, you can check this topic off of your list and move on to other issues. However, if you would like to add lag to your mechanics, the content below should help you in that pursuit.
Gaining Lag – And Power
It is one thing to understand the importance of lag - it is another thing entirely to be able to put it into use. Many golf teachers won't even try to teach lag simply because it is so difficult for players to learn. Instead, they will work on other areas of the game that are easier to master. While it is true that there are parts of the game that will provide you quicker results than working on your lag, no other part of the swing can have such a powerful impact. Dedicate yourself to learning how to lag the club and you could take your game to a level that you didn't even think was attainable.
The first step in the process of learning how to lag the club is checking on the condition of your grip. To lag effectively, you need to have freedom in your wrists, and you will only have that freedom if you are able to hold the club in your fingers instead of the palms of your hands. When grabbing onto the grip of the club, make sure the grip is placed along the base of your fingers so that the fingers on each hand can wrap around the grip. If the club is placed farther back into your palms, your wrists will feel stiff during the swing and it will be nearly impossible to generate sufficient lag.
Once you have the grip of the club properly in your fingers, the next step is to learn how to set the angle in the backswing that you will use to create lag in the downswing. After all, if you never get the angle set in the first place, you will have nothing to 'hold on to' as you come down into the ball. As the backswing begins, you should make an effort to hinge the club up into position using your hands and wrists. By the time your left arm is parallel to the ground on the way back, the club should be pointing straight up to the sky. Work on finding this position over and over again without making a full swing. Start from your normal address position, take the club back to that halfway point, check your position, and start over. This is a great drill because you can work on it anywhere you have room to make a backswing - you don't necessarily have to be at the golf course.
Moving on in the swing, you now need to carry the club up to the top without ruining the angle you have just created. The best way to do that is to turn your shoulders to complete the backswing while your hands remain quiet. Since the angle has already been set earlier in the takeaway, your hands don't need to do anything else - so just let them come along for the ride. As long as you can arrive at the top of your swing with the angle intact and your balance under control, you will be well-positioned to make a great downswing.
The transition from the backswing to the downswing is a crucial moment in the swing for maintaining lag - and it is the moment when the swing is most likely to go wrong. A large majority of amateur golfers use their hands to start the downswing, which is exactly the move that robs you of power. If you allow your hands to take over right from the top of the swing, the angle you created will be gone and your only option will be to drag the club through the hitting area. Obviously, dragging the club through the hitting area is not the ideal way to generate speed, so you need to work hard to eliminate hand action from the top of the swing.
To fix your faulty start to the downswing, focus on using your lower body to initiate the action. Just like the latter stages of your backswing, the hands should stay quiet in the early part of the downswing, so you will need to use your legs to get everything in motion. With a great lower body rotation to the left early in the downswing, you can pull your arms (and the club) into place without having to use your hands at all. This is the way players like Sergio Garcia manage to hold on to their angle as long as they do. The lower body gets everything turning to the left, and the hands just hang on to the club. You will have to fully commit to this move, because it can feel like you are going to miss the ball the first few times you try this technique. If you focus on allowing your lower body to lead the way, you will have a ton of leverage to unleash into the ball when impact arrives.
If you have done everything correctly up until this point, the release phase of the swing should basically take care of itself. As the club continues to accelerate down toward the ball with your angle in place, the force of your body rotation should cause the club to release 'naturally'. There shouldn't be a single point where you consciously decide to release the club - instead, it should just happen as a result of everything else that you have done. This might be the most difficult part of all to understand when it comes to lag. Most players think they need to actively release the club with the right hand, but that just isn't the way it works. Hold your angle, keep your body rotation moving to the left, and the lag you have developed will automatically uncoil itself into the back of the ball.
With the information provided above, you should be able to head to the driving range to work on your lag. Hopefully, you will be able to gradually improve the lag that you create, and your swing will have more leverage as a result. Unfortunately, you might not experience as much early success as you would like. If that is the case, review the following common problems that plaque many golfers who work on this technique.
- Grips that are too large for your hands. Many golfers do not know that grips come in different sizes, and having the right size for your hands is important when it comes to your ability to lag the club. If your grips are too thick, you will end up holding the club in your palms instead of your fingers. Work with a professional club fitter to find a set of grips that will fit nicely in your hands. Once you have the right grips on your clubs, you should find it much easier to create that elusive lag in your swing.
- Rushing the swing. Developing good lag takes time, and rushing through your golf swing is a sure way to limit your success. Allow yourself plenty of time during the backswing and during the transition to create and hold your angle. The only part of the swing that needs to be fast is the moment when the club face contacts the ball – the rest of the swing can build gradually up until that point. Focus more on tempo and rhythm than raw speed if you want to maximize your leverage when it really matters the most.
- Lack of trust. Lagging the club head well behind your hands until the very last second requires a significant amount of trust. Dragging the club into the ball feels 'safer' because you can feel the position of the club head the whole time as it comes down toward impact. Of course, that method will never get you any kind of significant distance. If you want distance, you need lag, and that can be a little bit scary. To get over the initial jitters, work on hitting plenty of wedge and short iron shots on the driving range while learning how to lag. With no pressure and a short club in your hands, you should be able to experience a little bit of success. Moving on from there, you will have the necessary confidence to trust your lag even if you feel a little unsure of the technique.
Leverage comes down to lag. In golf, you really can't have one without the other. If you wish to take yourself to a new level on the golf course, you simply must commit to learning how to lag the club. While it can be a bit of a bumpy ride along the way while learning this challenging skill, the payoff can be incredible when you begin to launch powerful golf shots way up into the air. Stick with it through your early struggles and you will soon see the power of leverage in action in your own golf game.