By Steven Zunich
“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” – Arnold Palmer
There are myriad reasons for business professionals to play the game of golf. One huge reason often mentioned among entrepreneurs and business owners is that golf is the best way to get up to seven hours of a potential client’s time, all at once. Imagine how many half-hour zoom calls it would take to get that kind of time with a busy person. And that is IF you can get that kind of time at all. In the zoom meeting scenario, each call with a prospect is time restrictive and the pressure is on to make “measured progress” in those brief moments which seemingly zoom by very quickly. But on the golf course, that same busy person has willingly given you hours of their time in an environment that is conducive to fun, bonding, and a more casual exchange of business ideas. Given such an allotment in a much more relaxed environment, it’s no wonder that so many million-dollar deals are closed on the golf course.
But what if your golf game is not in good shape? Business owners, entrepreneurs and employees hoping to take advantage of networking opportunities have so many demands on their time that it is difficult to stay sharp in what golfing legend Arnold Palmer referred to as the “endlessly complicated” game that is golf. We can all relate to being excited by an opportunity to play a round of golf while at the same time being filled with dread because the last time you played you shot a 97. And to make matters worse, you haven’t picked up a club since then. Well, remember that Mr. Palmer also pointed out that golf is also “deceptively simple.”
Let’s look at some simple things you can learn, self-check, and incorporate to help enjoy the game more, score a little better, reduce your frustration, and free you up to focus on developing relationships with your golfing partners rather than being consumed with frustration about your own game.
Universal Athletic Position
Tennis Return of Serve Position
Hitting a Golf Ball is More Athletic than you Think
Having fit over 1,500 golfers I can tell you that most recreational golfers put themselves in a bad position even before they start their swing. To make consistent impact with the golf ball, whether off the ground or off a tee, a golfer should be in an athletic position with the hands free to make their downswing move to the ball without the body getting in the way. Most golfers stand too upright and have their weight back more toward their heels which forces them to change their spine angle during the downswing. To put yourself into a repeatable position at impact, you have to start in an athletic position at address and maintain that position throughout the swing.
The golfer pictured here is in a great position to rotate around his spine. His hands have enough room and are clear of his thighs. As long as he does not change his spine angle during his swing, he should be able to hit the ball consistently.
To get into the proper address position, follow these simple steps below.
Set Yourself Up for Success
- Stand up straight. Really straight. Feel like a rod is extending up through your spine, exaggerating the feeling of standing up very straight.
- Bend at the hips only while keeping your back straight. At this point you may feel as though you are going to lose your balance and fall forward.
- To alleviate that feeling of falling forward, flex your knees just a bit, keeping your back straight. Do not change the angle of your spine (often golfers will stand up a bit during this step. Don’t do it!).
- Finally, from this position, drop your hands. Notice how much room you have between where your hands are hanging and your thighs. Once you grip the golf club, you are now in the proper golf athletic position to strike the ball consistently. The length of your club will dictate how far you need to be from the ball. Never sacrifice this athletic golf position! If you set yourself up and the club is too long, don’t straighten your spine. Shuffle step back and maintain the proper position.
Congratulations. You have now built the foundation for a repeatable golf swing.
Retain Your Athletic Position Throughout Your Swing
From this pre-swing address position, your hands are free to execute an effective golf swing. You won’t have to change your spine angle in order to hit the ball. Here’s an exaggerated example of what can happen when a golfer starts from a good golf athletic address but changes his spine angle during the swing.
Charles Barkley is a world class athlete and his set up at address reflects this. “Sir Charles” has had, over the years, a full swing version of the “yips”, a state of nervous tension that can impact your swing. While Mr. Barkley’s changing spine angle is an extreme exaggeration of what happens to a lot of golfers, it is important to note that any change in spine position during your swing will make hitting the ball solidly almost impossible. Most golfers who can’t break 90 or have trouble with consistency in their golf swings end up in a less than ideal athletic golf position before impact.
The golfer pictured above has kept his spine at the same pre-swing set-up angle (left image) as it was at address. The front view of the golfer shows that he has basically slipped his left shoulder under the spine while keeping the same angle. He is in a great position from here to start his downswing.
As we see here on the follow through, his spine is still tilted (left image) way beyond impact. The front view shows how his right shoulder has now slipped into position on the follow through, replacing the left shoulder position from the back swing.
Again, most golfers who struggle with consistently hitting the ball aren’t in a good, athletic golf position at some point during the swing, increasing the chances of topping the ball or hitting behind the ball.
Understanding the importance of retaining an athletic position in order strike a golf ball consistently is often step one on the path to a golfer’s game improvement. If you commit to starting with and maintaining an athletic position throughout the swing, a lot of the common problems in the golf swing start to go away.
* Steven Zunich has fit over 1,500 golfers during his five years as a golf club fitting professional. In order to get a proper fitting for his clients, Steven had to help most of these golfers get into a proper athletic set up position, which helped them strike the ball better almost immediately. Many of these golfers would come back to Zunich from time to time for golf fitness “check-ups.”