“Staying connected” is a swing concept commonly repeated by golf instructors. Here's what it means, and how to achieve it:
The connected swing has all parts working in proper order – namely, the hips, torso, shoulders and arms. This unity creates an efficient, well-coiled swing the produces powerful shots with minimal effort.
Many believe the key to the connection is keeping the left arm close to the chest on the backswing and downswing, with the right arm mirroring the same action on the follow-through. Use this drill on the range to connect your swing:
- Place a folded golf towel across your chest and under the armpits.
- Swing easily, keeping the towel in place under the arms going back and through.
- This requires turning the arms, shoulders and chest together. The hips follow on the backswing, then lead the downswing.
If the towel falls during your swing, try going more slowly, making sure the biceps and shoulders work together and the hips rotate behind the shoulders going back, ahead going down and through.
If your arms are too far from your body to hold the towel, that's okay. The idea is to achieve harmony between the arms, shoulders and core muscles.
Connected Golf Swing Yields More Power and Accuracy
Every golfer wants more power and accuracy - that should go without saying. The combination of power and accuracy will allow you to deal with just about any golf course that you encounter. Of course, acquiring that combination is easier said than done. Many golfers go their entire golfing 'career' only able to accomplish one of these two things. Either they can hit the ball long and wild, or they can hit it short and straight. Rare is the player who can blend these two abilities together into high quality ball striking.
One way to work toward the goal of power and accuracy is to improve the connection of your golf swing. Connection refers to the unity between the movement of your torso and your arms as you swing the club through the hitting area. A connected swing is one where the arms and torso arrive at the ball at the same time, resulting in a powerful strike. If your arms are late to arrive at impact, the club face will typically be left open. On the other hand, if your arms are early and ahead of your torso, you will likely pull the ball quickly to the left with a closed club face. Perfect connection isn't always easy to achieve, but it can lead to impressive ball striking when you get it just right.
A connected golf swing is all about timing. All of the best golfers in the world use beautiful rhythm in their swings, and you should be striving for the same goal. Rhythm and tempo are important because they make it easier to repeat your swing over and over again. While it is great to be able to make a connected swing once or twice on the range, it is even better to do it over and over again on the golf course. By focusing a large part of your practice sessions on the timing of your golf swing, you should be able to improve your ability to make a connected swing when it matters most.
The vast majority of amateur golfers are disconnected when they reach impact. Most players allow their arms to drift up and away from their torso at the top of the swing, making it very difficult to re-connect on the way down. Once your arms and your torso become separated during the swing, you won't have much hope of recovering in time for a solid impact. Your best bet is to keep your swing connected from start to finish, ensuring everything is in place when the club face meets the back of the ball.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Three Elements of a Connected Swing
When executed correctly, a properly connected swing is beautiful to watch. The timing looks perfect, and the ball seems to just explode off of the club face – even if the swing itself didn't look that aggressive. When you hear someone say that a player has 'easy power', they are really referring to the great connection that they have in the swing. When your swing is connected, you can maximize the amount of energy that is transferred into the ball, and maximize your distance at the same time. A poorly connected swing is an inefficient one, meaning that you will be losing yardage simply due to faulty technique.
There are three specific keys to watch for when you are trying to develop a well-connected swing. If each of the three elements below are found in your swing, you are well on your way to great ball striking.
- Left arm on the chest. This is the single most important element of remaining connected in your swing. You want to keep your left arm pinned to your chest throughout the golf swing, all the way past impact. The only time when your left arm should move away from your chest is when you lift the club up into the follow through. By keeping your left arm pressed against your chest, your torso can control the motion of the swing. The faster your body turns, the faster the club will move, because the arms and chest are so well connected. If that connection was not in place, the rotation of your body might not accelerate the club as effectively.
- Full shoulder turn. There are a number of benefits to using a full shoulder turn in your golf swing, and connection is one of them. If you were to cut your shoulder turn off short of a full rotation, your arms would likely continue on to the top of the swing, leading to a loss of connection. Ideally, you want your shoulder rotation and arm swing to stop at the same time going back - and that is only going to happen when you allow your shoulder turn to finish completely. Many golfers struggle with this point because they are in a rush to get to the downswing. Patience is important in the golf swing, so allow yourself plenty of time to complete your turn away from the ball. Only when your shoulder turn is complete and your body is resisting any more turn to the right should you change directions and start rotating left.
- Balance. Many of the important aspects of the golf swing come back to balance, and that is the case for staying connected. If you get off-balance during your backswing, your arms and torso may become disconnected in an effort to recover prior to the downswing. Unfortunately, once you lose your connection in the swing, there is little chance of getting it back in time. To help your balance, always stay within yourself and only try to hit the ball comfortable yardages. Many amateur golfers lose balance by trying to swing too hard - don't fall into that trap. Balance is always more important than raw power, so focus on keeping your center of gravity under control and you will be on your way to better ball striking.
If you are able to hit on all three of the points above in your golf swing, you will almost certainly be connected at impact. Each of those points is relatively simple, but it may take some practice on the range to engrain good habits. Keeping your left arm against your chest is key for connection, while balance and a full shoulder turn are points that you should be focused on anyway, because they are common traits in good golf swings. To add power and accuracy to your swing through better connection, the three points above are a great place to start.
Working on Tempo to Improve Connection
Tempo is one of the things in the golf swing that can be difficult to improve. You can check your technical positions in a mirror or on video, but it harder to review your tempo in the same way. Tempo is more about feel than anything else, so monitoring improvement can be tough. However, if you want to make progress on your ability to remain connected in the swing, you will make the effort to sharpen your tempo.
The following drill will help you improve your tempo, which should in turn make it easier to stay connected all the way through impact.
- To get started, head to the driving range with your set of clubs and a bucket of practice balls. It is important that you have your full set because you will be working you way up from the short clubs to the long clubs.
- Take your pitching wedge out of the bag and set aside five balls to hit. Before making an swings, pick out a target on the range that you can use for these shots. This target needs to be well within your distance range with a pitching wedge. For example, if you normally hit your pitching wedge 120 yards, you could select the 100 yard target out on the range. If you hit your pitching wedge around 100 yards, look for a target in the ballpark of 70-80 yards.
- For these first five shots, make slow speed swings trying to hit your pitching wedge to the short target that you picked. If you make a full speed swing, you are going to hit the ball too far and overshoot the target. By focusing on a smooth, slow tempo, you will hit the ball shorter - and keep your swing connected at the same time. Hit each of the five shots at your short target, and pay close attention to the results. Were you able to hit the ball close the right distance? If so, you are on the right track.
- Place another five balls in front of you and keep the pitching wedge in your hands. For these five shots, go ahead and hit the ball with a full speed swing. Use the same target for alignment, but feel free to blast the shot will beyond the distance of the target. The idea at this point is to incorporate the tempo you used in the first swing with your full effort to hit the ball a good distance. If you are able to hit shots on line over and over again, no matter what distance you are hitting the ball, there is a good chance that you are nicely connected.
- After hitting a total of ten shots with your pitching wedge, select a longer club and repeat the process (five short swings and five full speed swings). Feel free to work your way up through as many clubs as you would like, depending on how long you want to practice. No matter how many shots you decide to hit, your last set of 10 shots should be struck with the driver.
Varying the speed of your swings is one of the best ways to confirm the quality of the connection in your swing. It is possible to hit some good shots even while poorly connected if you are swinging at full effort. However, when you dial back the speed slightly, any breakdown of your connection will be quickly exposed. This drill can be used during any practice session when you want to improve how your arms and torso work together in the swing. Hit five softer shots, followed by five full speed shots, and your swing will be in better shape than when you began.
How Golfers Lose Connection
Every golfer knows the feeling - you walk to the first tee expecting great results from your game, only to lose your rhythm right from the start. What happened? How can you go from a great warm up session to lousy ball striking on the course? Unfortunately, this experience is simply a part of golf. Often, the loss of rhythm that you feel out on the course comes down to losing connection. If you can stay nicely connected in your swing throughout the round, you should be able to produce reliable ball flights all day long.
So what is is that causes a loss of connection in an otherwise good swing when you get out onto the course? The following three reasons can all be blamed from time to time.
- Speeding up. Speed is only a good thing at the bottom of the golf swing - the rest of the time, you just want smooth, gradual movement to put the club in position. Many golfers get in a rush as they start the swing, and speeding up is a great way to end up disconnected. This is a mistake that is more likely to occur on the course as opposed to the practice range. On the course, you are excited about playing a round with your friends, and probably a little bit nervous at the same time. Those emotions can lead you to move faster, which is the exact opposite of what you want to be doing. Try to keep those feelings in check by simply focusing on your target and remembering what you have worked on during your practice sessions. With experience, you should be able to set your emotions aside on the course and just execute good swing after good swing.
- Not using enough club. Of all of the possible causes of losing connection, this is very likely the most common. The average golfer bases their club selection on a 'best-case scenario', meaning they pick a club that will only reach the target if they hit it absolutely perfect. This is the wrong way to pick clubs. For example, if you hit your seven iron 150 yards when you hit it completely pure, you should probably be using a six iron for most 150 yard shots. Why? Because you are only going to strike your seven iron perfectly a limited number of times. The rest of the time, that seven iron is going to come up short of the target. Rather than experience that frustration, you would be better off using a six to provide yourself some margin for error. In addition to that margin, choosing the longer club will help you relax and make a good, connected swing. If you know you have to smash your seven iron to reach the green, your swing may come undone and you may lose your connection.
- Poor eye discipline. During the golf swing, your eyes should be trained on the back of the ball. There is no need to look anywhere else during the swing, because the ball really is your target. You are trying to strike the ball cleanly with your club, which will then send the ball toward the fairway or green. Some golfers have a bad habit of looking up early during the swing, leading them to become disconnected in the downswing. This is something that happens far more often on the course than it does on the driving range. When on the course, you are anxious to see where the ball is headed, so it is tempting to look up prematurely. If your eyes go up, your head will go up, and your torso will end up beating your arms to the ball. Refrain from looking up early and you can make it far easier to stay connected when you reach the bottom of the swing.
If golf was as easy on the course as it is on the driving range, there would be far more zero handicap players walking around the pro shop. The reality of the game is that it is far more difficult once the range nets go away and the shots begin to count. Pay attention to the three points above when you make your way from the range to the first tee and you should be able to maintain connection in your swing even when the pressure is on.
The content above should help you to understand how to stay connected in your swing, and why it is so important. There are a few remaining points that should be made on this topic, and they are highlighted below.
- Applies to all clubs. It is just as important to remain connected with your short clubs as it is your long ones. You might be more worried about a big miss with a driver, but hitting a poor shot with a pitching wedge because you lose connection can be just as damaging. No matter what club you are working with on the driving range, be sure that your connection remains a big part of the equation.
- Even applies to your short game. You can't forget about staying connected just because you are playing short game shots. It is easier to stay connected when hitting chips and pitches from short range, but you still need to make sure you are doing a good job with your fundamentals to make this happen. On short game shots, keep your arms in front of your torso and use your shoulders to power the motion. This approach to short shots will enable you to control the speed of the club head nicely, and also to make solid contact on a regular basis.
- The pro miss. Connection is a big topic of conversation among professional golfers because a common pro miss can be traced to losing connection - the block to the right. When watching golf on TV, you may notice that many of the poor shots the professionals hit are missed to the right (for a right handed golfer). Obviously, these players don't struggle with a slice. Instead, they are prone to hitting a big block to the right when their torso turns too fast and their arms can't keep up. If you are making this mistake in your own game, you can feel good about the fact that this is the same miss the pros make - meaning you are close to hitting good shots. Simply slow down your lower body rotation slightly at that block to the right should become a beautiful shot right down the middle.
The connection of your golf swing might not be something that you think about as often as your grip of your stance, but it can have consequences that are just as important to your game. In the simplest terms, connection highlights the relationship between your arms and your torso, When you are well connected, those two units work together nicely and your shots are accurate and powerful. If you are out of whack with your connection, however, all sorts of problems can arise. Hopefully, with the use of the content above, and plenty of practice time, you can rapidly improve your ability to stay connected throughout the swing. Power and accuracy is a rare but winning combination, and you will find that you lose to play golf even more when you can hit long, straight shots time after time.