If you've been around golf for a while then you've probably heard the term “getting stuck” before.
It is certainly more common among amateur and beginning golfers but even the pros occasionally have this problem. The main cause for a golfer getting stuck on the downswing is improper sequencing.
One very notable example is one of the greatest players to ever live, Tiger Woods, who has battled in the past a tendency to get stuck on the downswing. Tiger doesn't hit many errant shots but for a long time, his main miss was to the right caused primarily by his lower body unwinding so fast that the rest of his body had trouble keeping up. When this happened, Tiger had a lot of difficulty squaring the face back up. Sometimes he could save the shot by rotating his wrists faster through impact but this is not a reliable way to swing the club and can often lead to erratic hooks.
If getting stuck is one of your swing flaws then here's a review of the correct downswing sequence:
- The downswing is initiated by the hips unwinding, not the shoulders.
- Next, the torso starts to unwind.
- After that, the arms follow.
- And after that, the club lags behind hopefully carrying a lot of energy with it.
This sequence happens very fast and can be comparable to the action of a whip. Each segment of the downswing builds on the previous. But it is important to note that each segment slows down once the next segment begins to speed up. In other words, when the lower body's unwinding slows down, the torso is then able to accelerate faster. Next, the torso slows down to make way for the arms to accelerate even faster. And finally, the arms then slow down to allow the club head to hit the ball with the accumulated energy.
Although there are slight variances in all swings, this whip like action is found in all good golfers.
If you're having trouble getting stuck, work on developing the proper sequencing in your downswing.
How to Stop Getting Stuck on the Downswing
Getting stuck in the downswing is one of the costliest mistakes as a golfer, yet many players don't even know that this term means. Likely you have heard other golfers talk about getting 'stuck' from time to time, but do you know what they are referring to? If not, you are missing out on an opportunity to improve your game by avoiding this harmful swing error. Getting stuck can lead you to miss your target dramatically, often creating shots that don't even land within the boundaries of the golf course.
The term 'getting stuck' refers to leaving the club stuck to the inside of the proper swing path on the way down, creating a shot that is typically pushed way to the right of the target (for a right handed golfer). While missing right is the usual outcome when you get stuck, it is also possible to flip the club head over at impact in order to hit a quick hook. Whether you miss right or left after getting stuck, one thing is for sure – you won't be happy with the outcome of the swing. It is nearly impossible to play good golf from a stuck position, so you should get right to work on correcting this error if it has made its way into your game.
Unlike many other problems that may crop up in your swing, there is some good news that comes along with getting stuck. Even though you are hitting poor shots, you probably aren't that far away from making good swings. Getting stuck is considered to be a 'good player's miss' because many of the elements of a quality golf swing are already in place when you stick the club to the inside on the way down. If you can correct a couple basic errors while keeping most of your fundamentals intact, you should be able to straighten out your ball flight and start playing better rather quickly.
Along with the physical corrections that need to be made in order to stop getting stuck, you will also need to straighten out the mental side of your game while fixing this problem. Once you get stuck a few times during your downswing, doubts can start to creep into your mind about the next shot that you have to hit. Since getting stuck can lead to such a bad miss, it is easy to get tentative as a result of this issue. Once you get the mechanics sorted out on the driving range to clear up the problem, you will then want to make sure you get your mind in a good place before you go back out on the course. Problems that have been solved on the range have a way of coming back to light on the course if you aren't confident in your fixes. Bringing together the physical and mental components is going to be necessary if you are to make this swing fault a thing of the past.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse all directions as necessary.
How It Happens
Many golf swings that wind up in a stuck position on the way down look just fine right up until the point where they go bad. This is unlike, for example, a swing that produces a slice. When you watch a golfer swing who has trouble with a slice, it is pretty easy see right from the beginning that there are problems with his or her technique. That is not the case when it comes to getting stuck. You can make a great looking golf swing all the way up until your transition, which is where things usually go wrong. Getting stuck doesn't mean you have a terrible swing, it usually just means you are making one big mistake.
So what is that mistake? For most golfers, it is turning the hips out of the way too quickly and allowing the hands and arms to fall behind the swing. When your lower body races out from underneath you during the transition from backswing to downswing, the club will fall too far to the inside and you will become stuck. As the downswing continues, there will be no way for you to recover from this mistake, and the club will stay pinned to the inside all the way into impact. As you are attacking from an extremely inside position, there are only two possible results – the ball is pushed way to the right, or you close the face and hook the ball quickly to the left. Either way, you will have hit a poor shot and you will be lucky to even find your ball to be able to hit it again.
The reason that it can be so tricky to fix this swing problem is that the root cause of the problem is something that you actually want to be doing in your golf swing. It is a good thing to use your legs aggressively in the downswing, as long as your hands and arms don't fall too far behind. If you quit turning your hips simply to stop getting stuck, you will actually do more harm than good. It is important to maintain your hip turn in the downswing, so the key is learning how to use that turn without allowing the club to get stuck at the same time.
It is important that you remember not to lose your aggressiveness once you find that you have a problem with getting the club stuck in the downswing. There are mechanical changes that you can make to prevent the club from falling behind in the downswing, but it is not a good idea to try fixing the problem by simply slowing down your move into the ball. You need to be aggressive and confident to hit good golf shots, so don't give up that trait just because you have gotten stuck a few times. Instead, work on the fundamentals of your swing so you can keep the club in the right place while still turning it loose through impact.
If you watch any golf on TV, you will certainly see a player get stuck from time to time. This is a common mistake among professional golfers, especially those who are among the longest hitters in the game. When you see a pro golfer block the ball out of the right of the target, there is a good chance they got stuck on the way down. Most of the time, they are able to get back on track simply by improving their timing and tempo for the next swing. Watching a pro golfer hit a bad shot due to getting stuck – only to fix it right away and hit great shots later in the round – should give you confidence. It would be a mistake to totally rebuild your swing just because you are getting stuck from time to time. Instead, you should learn from the pro golfers who share in this affliction. Think about what it was that caused the problem, make the appropriate fixes, and get back to hitting great shots.
When It Happens
While it might seem like a stuck swing can come out of nowhere – and sometimes they do – more often they occur as the result of some other circumstance on the golf course. As you gain experience, you might start to notice that you tend to get stuck when specific conditions exist during the round. Understanding when you may get stuck in your swing is a great advantage because you can then take steps toward making sure it doesn't happen at the worst possible time.
Following are three specific points during the average round of golf when you are most likely to product a stuck swing.
- Feeling frustrated. For most golfers, the leading cause of getting stuck is actually an emotional one. If you are feeling frustrated during your round and you take that frustration with you to the next shot, you may wind up getting stuck in your downswing. This is obviously a major problem because you will only become more frustrated after getting stuck and hitting a poor shot, so now you are compounding the issue. This downward spiral has trapped many players, and it takes emotional maturity and experience to get back on track. Frustration can lead to getting stuck because you will probably rush through your swing while you are mad, leading your hips to run out away from your upper body. To avoid this problem, make an effort to leave your frustration behind before hitting your next shot. Let go of those emotions and focus your brain on the task at hand. This isn't always easy, especially in competition, but it is necessary if you are going to play your best.
- Trouble to the right. This one is particularly painful because the mistake of getting stuck will usually lead your ball right into the trouble that you were trying to avoid in the first place. When you step onto the tee of a hole that has some sort of trouble lurking to the right of the fairway, such as out of bounds or a water hazard, you will obviously want to error to the left with your shot. For most golfers, thinking about missing left means they will speed up their lower body to make sure they pull the golf club through in time. Unfortunately, that is exactly the move that can lead you to get stuck. In an effort to speed up your downswing and pull the ball to the left, you will actually stick the club underneath the correct line and the ball will be pushed out into the trouble. To avoid having this happen to you, resist the temptation to make any swing alterations when you face a challenging tee shot. Stick with your standard technique and don't do anything out of the ordinary to 'steer' the ball one way or another. Be confident and trust in your technique to hit the fairway.
- Trying to crush it. Another common point during a round for a player to get stuck is when they are trying to launch a drive down the fairway on a long par four or five. If you step onto the tee thinking about hitting the ball as far as you can, you will run a strong risk of getting stuck. Just as with the point above, it is key to simply stay within your normal swing throughout the round. Even if you are hoping to reach the green of a par five in two, the best thing you can do is make a solid swing and put the ball on the short grass. Swinging extra hard will only lead to trouble, and that trouble often comes in the form of getting stuck on the downswing.
Now that you know when you are most likely to get stuck during the swing, you can watch out for these situations as they arise. Obviously, it is possible to make a poor swing and get stuck at any time during a round, so you always need to stay on top of your fundamentals and your tempo no matter where you are on the course.
Two Keys to Avoid Getting Stuck
There is never a good time to get stuck in your downswing. Even if you can prevent it from happening at the worst possible times, you will still struggle to shoot a good score if you are getting stuck on a regular basis. While it might be impossible to completely eliminate the stuck shot from your game – after all, it still happens to the best players in the world from time to time – you can do your best to limit how frequently it occurs. Not only will your game benefit from no longer missing to the right regularly, but you will also find that your confidence on the course improves as you are not worrying about this frustrating shot.
Below are the two main keys that you should keep in mind when trying to avoid making as stuck swing. These points are relatively basic in relation to some other golf instruction, but they should be all you need to keep the club properly in front of you throughout the downswing.
- Stay connected at the top. You may hear golf teachers talk about 'connection' from time to time, as it is an important fundamental throughout the swing. Basically, the term connection refers to the relationship between your torso and your arms. When those two parts of your body are connected properly, they move together and one doesn't really go anywhere without the other. However, when you get disconnected, either your arms or torso moves out in front of the other. This is what happens when you get stuck in the downswing. Your arms become disconnected (figuratively) from your torso and they fall behind on the way toward impact. So, as your hips begin to turn, they pull your torso to the left and your arms don't come along for the ride in time. You are left with a swing that has the club well behind the rest of the action, and getting stuck is the inevitable result. To steer clear of this outcome, focus on the feeling of having your torso and your arms move together at all times. When the downswing begins, you want to have your hips start the action, but your torso and arms should then follow together as one piece. If you can keep your arms from falling behind, you shouldn't have to worry at all about getting stuck.
- Finish your backswing. Perhaps the easiest way of all to create a stuck swing is to cut your backswing short. If you don't finish your backswing before starting to move toward the target, you will run in to all kinds of problems. When this happens, the hips start to the left while your arms are still carrying the club to the right, and instantly you are stuck in a position from which you won't be able to recover. If you notice that you are frequently getting stuck on swings where you are nervous about the outcome, it is because you are rushing your tempo and not finishing the backswing. Before each shot, make sure your mind is focused in a positive direction about the shot at hand. Clear your thinking and execute your entire swing properly, including allowing yourself enough time to make a full backswing.
If you can keep your arms connected and in front of your torso, and if you can finish your backswing each time, you shouldn't have to worry about getting stuck very often. When it does happen, look first to one of these two mistakes as the probable cause. You should always figure out what it was that caused you to get stuck so you can take steps to avoid making that mistake again.
The Mental Side
Getting stuck in the downswing is a swing problem that has tangible causes which can be fixed. The two points outlined above – staying connected and finishing your backswing – are the physical keys that you need to focus on if you wish to avoid getting stuck in the downswing during your next round. However, beyond those physical fundamentals, you also need to have the right mindset in order to keep your swing on track.
Doubt is a damaging thing on the golf course, as any doubts that you have in your ability or your swing technique will usually be manifested in the form of poor performance. You need to be confident to play good golf, even if you aren't a great player. The challenge is to believe in yourself even when you are facing a difficult shot or a challenging golf course. Often, when a player is feeling unsure of their swing, that doubt will come to the surface in the form of a stuck swing.
Why does doubt lead you to getting stuck in the downswing? It has to do with hesitancy in your arm swing. If you have practiced enough on the range, you should be comfortable using your lower body to fire through the shot. Even when you aren't sure of yourself on the course, your lower body and even your torso will usually do what they have been trained to do on the range. However, the same can't be said of your arms. It is easy for your hands and arms to become tentative when you are nervous, which can lead them to hang back while your body starts to move into the downswing. Even if your arms hesitate for only a split second, that can be enough to put the club in a stuck position.
The answer to this problem is complete and total commitment to your golf swing. Are you going to hit great shots each time to stand over the ball to make a swing? No – of course not. Nobody is perfect in golf, which is part of what makes the game so much fun. You are going to hit bad shots, but you have to be confident anyway. Believe in yourself each and every time you get ready to hit a shot, and the results will work out in your favor more times than not. Whether you are hitting a two-foot putt or a three-hundred-yard drive, confidence and belief is essential to your success.
It's no fun to make a swing that gets stuck on the downswing and sends the ball way to the right (or left) or your target. However, it won't do you any good to get mad about that swing, as frustration will only make it more likely to happen again. Instead, think logically about the shot you hit and figure out what you have to do to avoid making the same mistake on your next swing. Hopefully the content above, along with some practice time on the range, will allow you to greatly reduce the number of times you get stuck in the downswing out on the course.