By Sal Martignetti
The Elusive Golf Swing
Editor's note: Sal Martignetti is a local golf coach. This is the first installment of his column "The Elusive Golf Swing" for the Hometown News. After 23 years of analyzing countless golf swing styles, Sal has much to share with golf enthusiasts of all levels, his unique style of coaching focuses on the motion of the golf swing as opposed to just the mechanics. His in-depth knowledge of sand play, chipping, putting, course management and the mental side of the game will benefit anyone who's in pursuit of a better game.
In the quest to improve our swing and game, this week we will talk about the importance of aim and setup. In Jack Nicklaus's book, "The Full Swing," he mentions that the golf swing is 80 percent setup and 20 percent execution. Think about how astonishing that statement is. We all work so hard at improving our swing when 80 percent of the shot is aiming and setup. He goes on to say, "if you reverse those percentages, you will always be a hacker."
How many times have you gone to the range and hit the ball well, only to get on the course and hit the ball all over the place. I truly believe aim and setup is a big part of the problem. When you're on the course itself, it becomes much more difficult to aim and setup. However, some tee boxes are perfectly aligned with the fairway, like the first hole at the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Golf Course. If you know the course, then you know that this is not the case for the third hole. The tee is aligned to the left of where the green is. This wreaks havoc with alignment and setup. Righties will tend to aim well left of the green. Next time you're on the course, try to notice how you feel when you have shots that are at right and left angles to your target. I think you will notice that you tend to favor one over the other.
How can we improve this setup problem? If you don't have a setup routine, you need to develop one. When I setup to a shot, I first stand well behind the ball and look down my target line. I pick a spot (blade of grass, twig, etc.) three to four feet away from the ball, directly in line with my target. As I approach the ball, I keep my eyes on this imaginary line between the ball and spot. As I turn my body in the direction of my shot, I keep my whole body behind the ball. I simply align the face of the club with the ball and imaginary line. I make sure that my upper body is parallel with this imaginary line. I then move my left foot forward, in order to get the proper ball position in my stance, while adjusting my right foot. If you do this properly, your upper body and lower body alignment will be parallel to the imaginary line.
Once in place, imagine that your shoulders and feet form another imaginary line, creating an imaginary set of train tracks, one rail representing the target line and the other your body alignment.
Don't panic if this sounds too complicated. Once you practice this, it will only take you seconds to setup to a shot. That's your goal. Your setup routine has to be accurate, consistent and easy to implement. Once you're setup and ready to go, you can at least be confident that you aimed properly, even if you miss your target.
You can check to see if you did aim properly by taking your club and laying it across your chest and shoulders while looking down the target line and or placing the club across your feet and check by looking down the target line. I think you will find that most of the time your alignment will be off not to mention that your body alignment will be off, as well.
Sal Martignetti is an independent golf coach and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (603) 986-3376. His free e-book is available at elusivegolfswing.weebly.com.