Golf Things Considered | Avoid the punch and jump combination
Many golfers suffer from the tendency to “peek,” “look up early,” “pick up the head,” or to “come out” of their shot, meaning their posture changes before they make contact with the ball. Most of the time this tendency results in a frustrating, “thin,” worm-burner of a golf shot when the club hits high on the ball—but confusingly, sometimes the shot is “fat” (hitting the ground before the ball) even though the body has practically gone airborne before impact.
So what is going on that the contact can be either thin or fat when the body is clearly rising out of posture early?
What golfers might not realize is that their tendency to come out of the shot is really their instinctive attempt to “fix” the swing, to salvage a decent strike on the ball. Even if they are successful in “keeping the head down” or staying in posture, impact will look like some kind of tragic perc test as the club moves more earth than ball. In other words, there is a root problem that requires the golfer to come up early in an effort to make decent contact. The real solution is to fix the root problem, and then learn to stay down through impact.
Without getting too technical, the original problem has to do with the shaft angle on the way down to the ball: if the shaft gets too “steep”, or vertical, it will approach the ball on an outside-in path (cutting across the ball towards left-field for a right-handed golfer) and be very likely to hit behind the ball. The golfer—either because his awareness of the club-head tells him there is about to be a catastrophic impact with the earth, or because he has experienced the excavation many times before—will instinctively straighten his body posture just before he hits the ball in an effort to “make room” for the club. Sadly, even if he has good enough hand-eye coordination to make solid contact while the body goes ballistic, he is probably about to see a wicked banana of a ball-flight slicing to the right.
So what makes the shaft get too steep? Several things can cause this, but one common cause is an over-reliance on the right arm and shoulder at the beginning of the down-swing (again, talking about a right-handed golfer). Thrusting or spinning the right shoulder, and pushing the right arm makes the wrists un-cock early (similar to the casting motion with a fishing rod) and the club will shoot outward and downward. The club is now heading toward the ball in an overly steep, outside-in manner that will need to be “fixed” by impact.
That is where the lifting of the head comes into play. When the golfer instinctively uses his powerful dominant arm and shoulder to start the downswing, his “punch” makes the club unstable and he then compensates with a “jump” of the body through the hitting area. The golfer might think that lifting the head was the problem, but it was really just the second half of a “punch and jump” or “cast and jump” combination.
There are methods and drills for beating the punch-and-jump move (such as learning to keep the wrists cocked longer on the way down, and neutralizing the right arm by practicing with a glove under it). Unfortunately, there are also more “root problems” that lead to a jump—things like taking the left arm to the outside, away from the chest in the backswing, and leaning the body into the ball. These issues can even make it difficult to hit relatively easy, short shots around the green. The solution will be better shaft angles and balance.
But the real lesson for most golfers is that they might not know the root problem or cause for their poor ball striking. Instead of learning by “trial and error” or by finding a compensation that is worse than the original problem, most golfers would do well to get the help of a teaching professional.
John Rogers is a full-time teaching professional and director of instruction at Lake View Golf Club in Harrisonburg. Check out his website for more on the game of golf – www.golfthingsconsidered.net.