A connected golf swing is one in which the body and club work to swing in the most efficient manner possible.
In a connected golf swing, the only moving parts are those necessary for the swing. You might even think of developing your swing as designing or engineering your body and club to work like a machine that can consistently deliver solid golf shots. A great model to picture for this is an actual machine that is used for equipment testing, the Iron Byron. Some instructors even use this model to relate to the human golf swing which can be beneficial.
To make sure your swing is connected, it can help to diagnose limitations in your biomechanics. As you age especially, you may find it more difficult to get into the ideal positions taught in the modern golf swing. In his mobility-stability model, Dr. Greg Rose of the Titlist Performance Institute explains that the body works in an alternating pattern of stable segments connected by mobile joints. If that pattern is broken then you will have problems in your swing.
A common example of this is the shoulder turn and especially the ability to rotate the shoulders against the hips. For some, it is very difficult to get a full shoulder turn without getting the lower body overly involved in the swing. So even though the full shoulder turn might exist with this player, the restriction isn't there. A sling shot is a good analogy to help show how and why this is important. I can't pull back and create the energy to shoot the sling shot unless the handle of the sling shot remains stationary in relation to the hand pulling back. Similarly, if your shoulders don't turn against your hips then you can't create much coil which results in less energy that you can transfer on the downswing. For every full shot backswing, you should make the biggest shoulder turn you can maintain while keeping your lower body passive. And on the downswing, remember that the sequence is initiated by the hips unwinding, followed by the torso, followed by the arms and hands, followed by the club head.
Something else to keep your swing more connected is to know where your pivot point is. It is common for golfers to think they pivot around their spine which is true but the point that the club head pivots around is located, for a right handed golfer, on his left sternum. If you grip up to the middle of your driver and let the handle stick out between your left arm and torso, it should rest on this spot. We'll talk more about swing plane in another article but remember that the golf swing is a rotary motion around this dynamic pivot point.
Mechanics to Create a Connected Golf Swing
If you have spent any time studying the golf swing, you have probably heard the term 'connected swing' more than a few times. Having a connected swing is a desirable trait, yet many amateur golfers don't even know what it means to be connected. If you would like to take your game to a new level of performance and consistency, you would be wise to spend at least a little time working on your ability to keep everything connected from start to finish. Most of the pros you see playing on TV do a great job of staying connected, so you should follow their lead and attempt to do the same.
Working on the connection in your swing is one of those things that doesn't seem like it could have that much of an impact on your game – until you see how much your ball flight has improved. It is a subtle point to be sure, but it is one with a powerful impact on your shots. In fact, it is usually the subtle, basic points that are the most important when it comes to playing good golf. There is plenty of advanced swing theory and technique out there today, but coming back to the basics is almost always the right choice.
One of the biggest advantages to a connected swing, and one of the main reasons why it is so important to work on this point, is the consistency that you can gain through staying connected. As you already know, it is crucial to move the club around your body in the same manner time after time, all day long. If there are extra moving parts in your swing that don't contribute to the overall goal of sending the ball toward the target, those parts will lead to unwanted inconsistency. Boiling your swing down to its most basic parts is something that all golfers should be trying to do, and staying connected plays a role in that process. A connected swing looks simple and even 'easy' – which is exactly what you want.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that a connected swing is one which lacks power, either. While the swing might look controlled from start to finish, it can still contain plenty of power when executed correctly. You will be able to use your entire body to put power into the shot when you stay connected, meaning there is likely to be more speed in the swing than it may appear from the outside. The great thing about this kind of power is that you should be able to control it as well – power that comes from a disconnected swing is usually wild and out of control, meaning it is useless to you on the course. Focus on learning how to stay connected and the power that you do produce will be used to send the ball directly down the middle of the fairway.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
As is always the case in golf, you need to understand exactly what it means to be connected before you can try to actually work on it in your own game. Too many golfers rush out to the range to try something new without first really understanding how it is supposed to work. The education in this case is just as important as your actual practice, as you need to have a clear picture of what you are trying to do before you can do it correctly. Take some time to develop a great understanding of connection and you will be a big step ahead before you even get to the range.
The points in the list below highlight the key components of a golf swing that is connected from start to finish. If your swing can match up to most or all of these points, you will be able to know that you are going a good job with connection.
- One-piece takeaway. The one-piece takeaway is the very first part of a connected swing, and it just might be the most important of all. If you fail to use a one-piece takeaway to get the swing started, it will be almost impossible to find connection later on in the swing. A one-piece takeaway is one in which the clubs, arms, and chest all move together to get things moving. Rather than using your hands to hinge the club away from the ball, or using your arms to swing back while your shoulders and chest stay still, everything is going to move together gradually. This is an excellent way to start the swing for a number of reasons, with connection being high on that list. Plenty of amateur golfers come up short in terms of producing a one-piece takeaway, so make sure you are hitting on this point before going any farther.
- Synchronized transition. To move the club from backswing to downswing, you are going to have to make what is known as a 'transition'. In other words, the club is going to have to change directions, and your body will have to do the same. It is during the transition that many golfers lose track of their connection and the swing begins to fall apart. To make sure that doesn't happen, you will want to focus on the way your torso and arms work together to change the direction of the club. You need to avoid making the mistake of allowing your arms (and the club, by extension) to fall behind the rest of your upper body. If your upper body spins toward the target while your arms are left behind, the club will become 'stuck' behind you and connection will have been lost.
- Lower body ahead on the way down. One of the mistakes that is commonly made by players who are trying to stay connected is keeping the entire body 'together' on the way down. That isn't what is meant by the term connected. Instead, your lower should should be racing out in front of your upper body as you move down toward the ball. Allowing the lower body to lead the way is what will enable you to create speed and power in your swing – if you hold your lower body back with your upper body, it will be impossible to hit the ball with any kind of authority. If there is a 'secret' to creating power in the golf swing, this is it – using your lower body to generate rotational speed while your upper body hangs back in a connected unit waiting to attack the ball.
When a golf swing is properly connected, it just looks 'right' – everything is working together, there is plenty of power, and the club is the last thing to move through the hitting area. Of course, it isn't as easy as it might sound to achieve this type of action. You will only be able to perform your swing in this manner if you are willing to put in some practice time working on the fundamentals of connection. In the content below, we are going to get into some of the work that you can do to put your mechanics in a great place for a connected swing.
Mastering the One-Piece Takeaway
As mentioned in the previous section, the takeaway is critically important to your ability to make a connected swing. If you become disconnected immediately upon the start of the swing, there will be almost no way to recover and get yourself back on track. On the other hand, if you do stay connected through the first foot or so of the backswing, you will be well on your way to a powerful, repeatable swing.
To work on creating a solid one-piece takeaway, you don't even need to be at the driving range – anywhere that you have space to make practice swings safely will do just fine. Grab any one of your irons and take the same kind of stance that you would use to hit a typical shot out on the course. When you are in a comfortable stance, start your swing by focusing on turning your left shoulder under your chin. While your shoulders are doing the work of moving the club back away from the ball, be sure to keep your hands and wrists as quiet and passive as possible. Your hands do not need to be involved in the swing at this point in time, and any moves they make will only serve to disconnect your swing before you even make it to the top of the backswing.
Hopefully, simply focusing on this point will be enough to teach you how to swing the club back without any hand action. However, if you are having trouble with this point, you may want to take this a step further by taking one hand off of the club. Removing one hand from the club will take some of the power out of your grip, meaning you will be forced to rely more on your shoulders than your hands in order to initiate the swing. To use this practice technique, make five takeaways with just your left hand, and then do another five with your right. Switch back and forth as many times as you would like before going back to two-handed takeaways.
To check your progress, try pausing your takeaway after the club head has moved about a foot back away from the ball. At this point, the butt end of the club should be pointing directly up toward your stomach, and your hands and wrists should feel just as they did at address. In fact, nothing about the rest of your stance or address position should have changed at all, except for the fact that you have begun to turn your back to the target. By keeping things as simple as possible at this point you will be giving yourself a great chance to stay connected.
Learning the Transition
For the serious amateur golfer, it is often during the transition when the swing begins to come apart. Those who take the game serious enough to take some lessons and learn the fundamentals can usually form a good grip, get into a good stance, and even make a nice backswing. However, it is when the backswing turns into downswing that things can get tricky. Changing directions is often the toughest part of the golf swing, and it is the part that you need to figure out if you are going to stay connected all the way through impact.
The first thing you need to know about the transition is that it is the job of the lower body to get things started toward the target. Most amateur golfers misunderstand this point, as they think that they have to pull their arms down toward the ball to initiate the downswing. That is incorrect, and it can lead to a long list of problems. When the club makes it to the top of the backswing, the first thing that needs to happen is your lower body – led by your left hip – should open up toward the target. This simple action is going to set off a chain of events that will eventually lead to a powerful strike at impact.
Since your upper body has no choice but to follow your lower body once you have started to turn, you will be able to gradually develop speed as the downswing continues to 'unwind'. The power that is being produced by your lower body will make its way up into your upper body, into your arms, and out into the club. The end result is a 'whip-like' effect that causes the club to move through impact with impressive speed and force. It is in this way that professional golfers are able to hit the ball with authority despite the fact that it doesn't look like they are trying very hard at all. The gradual development of speed that happens when your lower body starts the downswing is incredibly efficient, and it won't take much raw strength or effort to create plenty of distance.
When everything goes right with the transition, the golf swing is a thing of beauty to watch in action. The body powerfully moves the club through the hitting area, and the ball is sent rocketing off into the distance. Of course, things don't always go right in golf, and it is possible to become disconnected if you don't execute properly at the top. Most commonly, you will run the risk of losing your connection when you allow your lower body to race out from under you before the backswing is actually finished.
Many players get into the habit of rushing the swing in an effort to get the shot over with as soon as possible. If you rush the swing and cut the backswing off short, your arms and torso won't have a chance to finish what they were doing before you lower body starts moving in the other direction. Basically, your upper body will still be trying to finish the backswing while your lower body is working on the downswing phase, and all sorts of problems will ensue. With your upper body too far behind your lower body, your swing will have quickly lost its connection and the result of the shot is not going to be good.
If you have ever heard professional golfers talk about getting 'stuck' in the downswing, this is exactly what they are talking about. Getting stuck in the golf swing means the club is 'stuck' behind your body as you turn through the shot. From that position, there are only two things that can happen – either the ball will be pushed out to the right due to an open club face, or it will be hooked to the left when the hands try to save the shot at the last moment. Either way, getting stuck is going to lead to bad news.
To avoid getting stuck in the downswing, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete the backswing before starting forward with your lower body. It really does come down to timing and rhythm in this case. You don't need to change anything mechanically to get back on track when you are getting stuck. Instead, you just need to work on your timing to make sure all of the parts of your swing have enough time to do their job. If any one part of the action is rushed, it will have a negative impact on everything else.
The Surprising Importance of Club Shafts
As you may already know, using the right equipment is an important piece of the puzzle when trying to assemble a good golf game. If you don't have the right gear in your bag, you will be fighting against both the course and your clubs – and you don't need to make this game any harder than it already is. You don't have to buy the most expensive clubs on the shelf, but you do need to pick out sticks that are a good fit for you personally.
With that in mind, there is a close connection between the shafts you use and the ability to stay connected in the downswing. If you are using shafts that are the wrong flex, the timing of your swing is going to be affected and you might not be able to stay connected while hitting good shots. This is a problem both when using shafts that are too stiff and when using shafts that are too soft. Many amateur golfers think it will impress their playing partners if they use stiff or even extra stiff shafts, but those same players may not actually need those types of shafts. The two points below highlight how things can go wrong with the incorrect shafts in your clubs.
- Shafts that are too stiff. This is the most common problem, and it is the reason why many golfers struggle to generate power while staying connected. The problem is this – without enough clubhead speed at the bottom of the swing to flex the shaft and create power, the golfer will be unable to hit shots that travel a sufficient distance, even if they are doing a good job of staying connected.
- Shafts that are too soft. On the other side of the equation, it is possible to cause yourself to get stuck simply by using shafts that are too soft for your swing speed. With a soft shaft, the club will lag behind you as the swing starts down, and you will be forced to keep your upper body back with the club while your legs 'run away' out from under you. In the end, the club is wide open to the target line and there is little speed left because you have been forced to slow down in order to save the shot.
There isn't anything pretty about the shots that you will hit when you have the wrong shaft flex in your clubs. Take some time to visit a local club fitter to find out about the process of having your shafts tested in relation to your swing. It might take a bit of time and money, but in the end, having your clubs fitted will allow you to make quality swings that remain connected all the way through the hit.
It is important to keep your golf swing connected as frequently as possible throughout a given round. Even the best players in the world get disconnected from time to time, however, so don't get too down on yourself when you do make a mistake. As long as you come back from that mistake with another connected swing, you can keep yourself on the right track to play a good round of golf. Thanks for reading, and play well!