A common power leak among amateur golfers is found in the transition from backswing to downswing.
The result: Weak slices. No good.
You may know that the right elbow should stay tucked (or very close) to your right side on the backswing and downswing. Here's an easy way to learn and ingrain this crucial fundamental:
- Grab a short iron and start without hitting a ball.
- Swing to the top and note the position of your right elbow. It should be close to your side and pointed at the ground, the arm folded at an angle of approximately 90°.
- As you start the downswing, pull the right elbow straight down. The right forearm should not move outward away from the upper arm.
- Coming into the impact zone, imagine your right elbow passing across your belly.
- The right arm finally begins extending when the elbow reaches just above waist height; the arm is straight at (or just beyond) the moment of contact.
The key is to pull the right elbow down and across the belly while maintaining the angle between your forearm and upper arm. Groove this motion and cast aside those weak slices for good.
Pull Down Right Elbow to Stop Casting Club
Casting the club just might be the most-common problem among amateur golfers. Despite that fact, there are plenty of amateur golfers who don't even know what it means to 'cast the club', or why it is so damaging to the golf swing. If you are a player who struggles with the slice on a regular basis, it is almost certain that you are casting the club to some degree. To get rid of your slice, the casting motion has to go away – it is just that simple.
As you already know, the slice is a shot that is commonly seen on just about any golf course on the average Saturday morning. Countless players struggle to correct the slice, and many never do get over this frustrating ball flight problem. A shot that slices quickly off to the right (for a right handed golfer) is hard to even keep in play, as the ball will usually sail well beyond the edge of the fairway into the rough and beyond. Slicers often have to carry a large number of golf balls in their bag to start a round because more than a few of them are going to be lost along the way.
Obviously, it isn't a lot of fun to play golf while dealing with your slice. In fact, many golfers have given up the game completely due to their inability to get rid of the slice once and for all. To keep yourself out of that category, you need to do whatever it takes to get rid of the slice as soon as possible – and that will likely involve removing the casting motion from your swing. It is hard to hit a slice without casting the club at the top, meaning you almost certainly are making this mistake if you see your golf ball slicing time after time.
In this article, we will get into the specifics of what it means to cast the club, and what you can do to get rid of this error in your technique. If you have been playing golf for a long time, the habit of casting the club likely feels natural and automatic to you by this point. Therefore, you are going to have to work hard to break the casting habit on the driving range before you can ever find success on the course. It is just one simple mechanical change that needs to be made in order to remove the casting action from your swing, but change rarely comes easy in golf. Your old habits are going to put up a good fight, and you will only be successful if you apply consistent and focused effort to this problem. It's going to take some serious effort to take the casting move out of your swing, but it will be worth it in the end.
All of the instructions below are based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play golf left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Breaking Down the Cast
Before you can even attempt to fix the casting action that is causing trouble in your swing, you first need to understand this swing error as accurately as possible. Only when you truly know what is going wrong in your swing can you expect to achieve real results when fixing it. This is at the root of why so many golfers have trouble getting rid of the slice – they don't even understand why they are slicing in the first place.
The casting action involves your right arm moving up and away from your body at the top of the backswing. When the club finishes its backswing movement and stops to change direction, one of two things can happen – the club can drop into the slot (which is what it should be doing), or it can move up and away from your right shoulder (which is a cast). When you cast the club, you immediately put it overtop of the correct swing plane, and you leave yourself no choice but to come into the ball on an outside-in swing path. Even though you still have the rest of the downswing to complete, your fate will be sealed – the club is going to attack from the outside, and you are going to hit a slice (unless you aggressively release the club head, in which case you will hit a pull way to the left of the target).
If the casting action was simply the movement of your right arm up and away from your body, that would be bad enough. Unfortunately, that move usually comes along with a release of the right wrist, meaning you will be giving up any angle that you had created between your left arm and the club in the backswing. That angle is supposed to be released right at the last moment prior to impact, but most casters throw it away during the transition. Therefore, the swing is not only outside of the proper path, but it is also void of any potential power. In the end, the inevitable result is a weak shot that travels off line – which is not exactly the recipe for playing quality golf.
It might help to think about the cast in this way – instead of waiting until impact to straighten out your right arm, it will begin to straighten as soon as the downswing is underway. That is really, in the end, what this is all about. You need to maintain flex in your right arm in order to keep the club on plane and to maintain your lag, but those who cast the club will miss out on this key fundamental. The right arm will start to straighten early, power will be lost, and it will be impossible to find the correct swing path for a solid shot. Anyway you look at it, casting the club from the top of your swing is a major problem that is going to require a solution if you hope to get your game on track.
While you can be reasonably sure that you are guilty of casting if you hit a slice, recording your swing on video is a sure-fire way to confirm that fact. Ask a friend to record a video of your swing while practicing on the driving range. When you watch the video back to review your swing, monitor the position of your right elbow at the top of the swing. When you change from backswing to downswing, what happens to that elbow? Is its first action to move down in closer to your side, or is it moving up and away from your body? If it is moving up, you are guilty of casting the club. You can keep watching the video to see what happens with the rest of the swing, but you will have already seen everything you need. When that elbow goes up instead of down, you are in the category of 'casting', and you will have to get to work on a solution in order to straighten out your shots.
A Whole-Body Problem
So, as you have learned, if you have a problem with casting the club from the top of the swing, you need to learn how to pull your right elbow down in the transition instead of having it move up and away. Simple enough, right? Just pull your right elbow down to start the downswing, and that will be that. Not so fast. Unfortunately, this is where a seemingly simple problem starts to get a bit more complicated. Yes, your right arm needs to be pulled down into the slot to start the downswing, but you will probably need to make some other corrections to allow that to happen. There is a cause and effect chain of events at work here which greatly complicates the picture. Your right arm is moving up instead of down for a reason, so you need to know what that reason is before things can be fixed properly once and for all.
There are actually a few different underlying problems which can lead to the issue of casting the club at the top of the swing. The most-common of those problems are listed below –
- Rushed backswing. This just might be the leading issue that leads to a cast at the top of the swing. The backswing needs time to develop if it is going to work effectively, so you need to give it the time that it requires. If you cut that time short, there will be consequences – and usually, that means the club is going to be cast up over the top during the transition. You need to make sure the backswing is completely finished before you try to change directions. To make sure that happens, think about 'pausing' at the top for just a fraction of a second during your swing. You probably won't actually pause the swing, but just having that thought in your mind will make it easier to drop the club into the slot correctly. Most slicers have short, quick golf swings – break that pattern by making a big turn and taking your time. Even something as simple as a timing change might be enough to help you eliminate the cast.
- Lazy lower body. When you do manage to get through your backswing properly, with plenty of time for a smooth transition, you then need to make sure that your lower body is holding up its end of the bargain. That is, your lower body needs to jump into action and take over the rotational part of the swing as soon as the backswing is finished. When the lower body starts turning to the left as you finish the backswing, your body will be pulled into motion and things will be on track for a successful strike. For most slicers, however, this doesn't happen. Instead, they allow their legs to remain stationary under the swing while the club is cast up and away. When your legs don't move in the transition, the club doesn't physically have room to drop to the inside – there is simply nowhere for your arms to go. By using your lower body, the rest of your body is pulled out of the way and the arms have a clear path down to the ball from the inside. Most amateur golfers think there is some kind of 'secret' to the power that professional golfers are able to create, but there is nothing secret about it – use your lower body, and you can unlock that same kind of speed.
- Poor stance. The problem of casting the club can actually be traced all the way back to your stance. If you fail to get into a proper address position over the ball – for example, if you fail to bend your knees sufficiently – you may have trouble avoiding the dreaded cast. Using a good stance is important for a number of reasons, and making a good transition from backswing to downswing is one of them. Assuming you are able to take a good stance, which includes flexed knees and great balance, you simply need to hold your body in that position as you swing back before transitioning into the downswing. Rather than having to make some kind of correction along the way to make up for your poor stance, make an effort to build a quality address position and cross this point off the list of potential problems in your game.
As you can see, fixing the casting problem is not as simple as just pulling your elbow down during the transition from backswing to downswing. Yes, that is what needs to eventually happen, but you have to lay the groundwork for that move earlier on in the swing. Work on the movements of the rest of your body and the task of finding the slot with your hands and arms will become much easier.
Focus on Your Entire Bag
One of the common mistakes that is made by amateur golfers dealing with a slice is to only think about this issue in terms of the driver. Since your driver will lead to the biggest slice, it is common for players to think that the issue is limited to just that club. However, that is rarely the case. Instead, you likely make the same flawed swing with all of your clubs – you only notice it more with the driver, since the ball is traveling a long distance and has plenty of time to slice. If you are going to play up to your potential, you need to take the casting move out of your swing from the wedges all the way through the driver.
In fact, it is a good idea to work on fixing your slice by starting with some of your shorter clubs. It isn't necessarily going to be easy to fix your casting action by starting out with the driver, since your driver swing is so big and potentially complicated. Instead, get to work on this problem while swinging a pitching wedge, for example. The shorter swing will simplify things so you can focus on the changes that need to be made. Things that need to be improved, such as timing and the use of your lower body, can be addressed at this stage before you start to work your way up into the driver.
Another reason to focus on your entire bag in this process as opposed to just the driver is the fact that you don't want your iron swing to be left behind during the change. As mentioned above, it is very likely that you are currently making the same swing mistakes with all of your clubs. However, if you focus on only the driver during the improvement process, you might find that your iron swing doesn't 'come along for the ride'. Of course, you are only going to reach your goals on the course if you are able to improve your swing with all of your clubs, so take the time to address each of them on the range during your practice sessions. There is no doubt that a swing with a nine iron or pitching wedge feels considerably different from a driver swing, and there is different timing involved as well. By investing practice time in a range of various clubs, you can avoid running into the problem of having two different swings – one for your driver, and one for the rest of the bag.
Improvements in the Short Game
Obviously you aren't going to see any benefit from getting rid of the casting motion when it comes to your putting. The putting stroke isn't long enough to have to worry about casting the club, so putting is set aside from this conversation. However, you might be able to improve other parts of your short game – chipping and pitching, specifically – through the work that you are doing on your full swing.
One of the calling cards of a quality chipping action is keeping the right arm in tight to your side throughout the swing. Although there isn't much of a transition with a chip shot – at least, not like there is with a full swing – you will still benefit from the feeling of keeping your right arm in close to your side. If you can keep that right elbow in tight to your side while swinging the club back and through during a chip shot, you will likely make better contact time after time – and making good contact is essential when trying to chip the ball close to the hole. Whether you are hitting a basic chip and run or trying to send the ball up higher into the air, this fundamental is something that will serve you well over time.
Moving back farther away from the green, learning how to avoid the cast is going to help you hit better pitch shots as well. Many amateur golfers struggle to pitch the ball consistently onto the green, and that is largely because they have trouble making clean contact. If you would like to make better contact, the best thing you can do is to fix your swing path to make sure the club is coming directly into the back of the ball on each shot. By keeping your right elbow down throughout the swing, you will be able to do just that. Instead of letting that right arm get away from you as the backswing turns into a downswing, keep it in tight and swing through the shot with confidence.
You should think about your short game shots from around the green as 'mini' golf swings. The basics of your technique shouldn't change between a 250-yard drive and a shot pitch shot – the underlying technique of delivering the club to the ball is the same regardless. Sure, the swing will look much different, but you are trying to do the same thing with all of your shots – put the sweet spot on the ball in order to send it accurately toward your target. By keeping as much consistency and simplicity as possible in your game from shot to shot and club to club, you will give yourself a great chance to play at a high level in the near future. Golf is always going to be a hard game, but playing your shots in a similar fashion to one another will make it just a bit easier.
Casting the golf club is a big problem, there is no way around it. If you are casting the club in your current swing, you already know just how frustrating it can be to watch the ball slice into the trees time after time. Fixing this problem is certainly possible, but it is going to take some effort on your part. Hopefully, by using the advice included in the content above – along with plenty of hard work – you can straighten out your ball flight in the near future. Good luck!