By T.J. TOMASI
The hardest thing to do is hit the ball dead straight, and most often, even though it looks like the ball is flying straight, it’s hard to see what is actually happening. Most shots have some curve to them, but for this discussion, I’ll describe the combination of mechanics — the swing string — that produces a straight shot.
A golf shot flies straight because there is no sidespin on the ball, only backspin as it leaves the clubface. Think of it this way: The ball has a vertical and horizontal axis that looks like a plus sign: +. At impact, when the clubface is square to its path, there is no axis tilt (the plus sign remains perpendicular to the ground), so the ball rotates with pure backspin and the shot flies straight. Curve occurs when the clubface is not perpendicular to its path at impact, so the axis tilts to the left for a draw and to the right for a fade.
The three strings of swing mechanics all produce good golf shots, but each has a different ball flight — fade, draw or straight. The strings are made of the same seven building blocks: clubface position, ball position, foot flare, aim/alignment, hip action, release pattern/shaft lean and weight flow.
The swing string you need to make the no-tilt straight shot happen is:
 Clubface is square to its path and square at the top of the swing.
 Ball position is neutral; neither way up nor way back in your stance.
 Foot flare is medium, with both feet turned out the same degree.
 Aim/alignment: Clubface is aimed at the target; body is aligned parallel to target line.
 Hip action is at medium speed, between fast and slow.
 Release pattern and shaft lean: Trail elbow is slightly bent at impact; shaft is on plane in pre-finish position.
 Weight shift is a continuous flow from back foot to front foot during downswing.
Hitting a curve ball
By T.J. TOMASI
Assuming center contact is made on the clubface, the ball will fade or draw if the face is open or closed. Here’s how to hit the on-purpose fade.
The key to the curve is no surprise. Good players hit the shot they expect, and while it’s not always perfect, most often when they play for a fade, the ball fades.
Fred Couples is one of golf’s most prominent faders of the ball, and you can see in the left-hand photo below that the toe of his club is pointing at the ground — perfect position for a fade. But you don’t hit the ball at the top of the swing, so there are certain things you can do on the way down to ensure an open face at impact.
The first is a very aggressive rotation of the body to make sure the arms and clubface stay behind the body. Faders are spinners.
The second is a passive rotation of the forearms; faders are also blockers. And the third thing is tilting the shaft toward the target line in the follow-through. Faders have wide elbows.
One more thing you can do to ensure a fade: Align your body open to the target line and your clubface square to it. Faders aim left and swing left.
Insider Takeaway: You don’t try to cut the ball by swinging outside to in — that’s a big slice. The ball power fades because the face is open to a path that is moving left at impact.
By T.J. TOMASI
The tilt and turn is a post-impact continuation of the downswing motion that is absent in the swings of most high handicappers, especially those who have been taught to “stay down.” The correct motion after contact consists of a spiraling up of the upper body as it winds itself around the spine and the forward leg.
When you think rotation, you will rotate. When you think tilt, you will tilt. Neither is exactly correct, so be careful what you think.
If all you do is rotate your body, your club is dragged across the ball at impact, producing pulls and slices. If all you do is tilt, your clubhead comes to the ball too steeply, causing fat shots and shots that fly to the right of the target.
But if you use the tilt-and-turn motion, the final leg of which is the spiral up, you will stay down when you should be down, and unwrap upward into a full release when you should be up.
The unaccomplished golfer who, on bad advice, forces his body to stay down as he swings through the ball, fights the forces of physics, which seek to continue the rotation of a body in motion. Interrupting your rotation by holding yourself down causes flipping of the hands and a flicking of the arms. Instead of spiraling up, you fire and fall back.
In contrast, the good player allows his body, including his head, to unwind upward around his spine after impact, with no restrictions on any part, right side or left. In other words, he achieves a full body release through the ball, neither adding anything nor holding anything back.
To get the feeling of the spiral up, place a ball where impact occurs and start from your finish position. Now simply rewrap yourself to the top of your backswing, then swing back down again and hit the ball, concentrating on the post-impact feeling of the spiral up.
Go with the flow
By T.J. TOMASI
As you swing back to the ball from the top, your pelvis should be sliding toward the target because it leads the weight flow onto your front hip, then it fires toward the target. If you stop your core half-way to the ball, your swing sequence is disrupted, and it becomes impossible to keep your hands ahead of the clubhead, so you release the club early with a weak, slapping action.
You see this in golfers who “stop to hit,” but you don’t see it in good players, who keep their core moving through impact.
Your golf swing is a system for moving force around. Once the flow is in motion, everything that is moving should keep on moving until it can move no more.
How will you know if you keep everything moving in your swing? Make a video of your swing and look for two straight arms.
Both Arms Straight
There is only one time during the swing when both arms are straight, and that’s just after impact. It’s a key checkpoint you can use to determine the sequence and flow of your swing.
It’s impossible to keep your arms fully extended if your core has not done its job. It’s a good idea to pose with both arms straight in the post-impact position with the butt of the club pointing at your belly button. Then make some swings in slow motion, concentrating on keeping everything moving.
Timing is everything
By T.J. TOMASI
Brian, one of the tour players I work with, is a very long hitter. The Trackman system measured his swing speed at 126 mph, and he hits his tee ball well over 300 yards. We worked on his swing for about two years and then it was time for him to compete.
He has done well traveling the world, but it is very difficult to play your best golf in a different country every week. What gives tour players fits is not the motor memory of the swing — the “what” — it’s the “when,” the spot-on timing that arranges the what in a powerful sequence that just keeps repeating.
The danger is that problems with the when often cause tinkering. Brian reported he was not compressing the ball and wanted to know if he should make a change in his shoulder action. He sent a video of his swing, and here’s my email reply:
“No, it’s not the tilt of your shoulders — don’t mess with that. Your shoulders are perfect in that they angle at the ground to allow you to swing upright, which is key. If you swing more horizontal (flatter), it would trap the club behind you as when we first met, with big hooks and pushes the result.
“Have you been doing flex exercises? They shore up the key move where your upper body turns while the lower body stays quiet. This allows your weight to shift naturally, and it’s only near the top that the spine tilts a bit toward the target and down, as a natural response to coil. If you’re not doing stretching, you should resume.
“And it’s not keeping your head still, either. The concept is to stay tall until the top.
“It may be as simple as just thinking about keeping the spine angle/pelvis angle (about 20 degrees) until you arrive at the top, where the angle decreases slightly, then it drops again in a power dive back to 20 then to 0 at impact. Your drop is beautiful, but it must unfold correctly; too much drop too early means a mis-sequence. Work on staying tall, i.e., keeping posture, then your downswing just unfolds.
“Drill: Place a normal drinking straw in your mouth — or something you can see while you swing to monitor your lever. Don’t let the straw drop downward during the backswing. Hit a bunch of easy shots, keeping the straw level, then film yourself with the straw and send it to me.
The many faces of your slice
By T.J. TOMASI
Ninety percent of right-handed golfers aim to the right when they first take up the game, so they are forced to spin their shoulders in an attempt to pull the ball back to the target. The right-to-right slice starts to the right of your target and then inexorably moves more right until it disappears from sight. Of all the slices, this one can leave the playing field the quickest.
Since the ball is flying so far right, it’s an instinctive adjustment to open your stance, aiming to the left of the target. But now the ball starts way left and slices back toward the target (the baby boomer).
Aiming left works until you make a good release and square the face, resulting in a pull way left of target. To correct the pull, you introduce a chicken-winged front arm that opens the face at impact, causing a slice that finishes to the right of the target (the adult boomer).
To fix this, you aim even more left, employ more chicken wing, thus creating the mother of all boomerangs, the nuclear boomer, which starts way left and exits right of target. In a left-to-right crosswind it covers more territory than Lewis and Clark.
This natural evolution of your slice occurs over time, and it explains why there comes a time when you can no longer play your slice accurately because you’re not sure which slice you’re going to hit.
How to fix it
Your task is to start the ball right of target, then by making the changes below, spin the ball back toward target — a draw:
 Aim the clubface at the target, but swing to the right of target. Thus the face is closed to the path and you get a draw.
 Align hips and feet to the right with shoulders slightly closed. Remember, this only works if the face is aimed at the target.
 Move ball back in your stance two ball widths and tee it higher.
 Keep hands on the toe line during takeaway and make sure they are inside the clubhead.
 Starting back to the ball, loop the clubhead to the inside — feel as if you are tucking your hands in your right front pocket.
 Let you forearms rotate through impact to shut the face.
Look good to feel good
By T.J. TOMASI
Assuming the correct golf posture will not only improve your golf shots, it also will affect how you think about your game and yourself. And having confidence in yourself is at least as important as good swing mechanics. As my coach used to say, “If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you do good.”
Correct Golf Posture
Assume your address posture and then use your golf club to check two key relationships that create a perfect setup:
 Flex your knees.
I’ve laid the shaft over my right thigh in the first photo here so it runs to the tip of my foot, creating the correct amount of flex. Too much flex and I’ll have to rise up through impact, catching the ball thin. Too little flex forces the opposite, a drop down and a fat shot. Note that the correct golf flex is about the same as your normal walking flex.
 Perfect balance at address and while you swing.
In the second photo, I’ve taken my address posture and then, while keeping my right arm in place, I’ve run the shaft from the tip of my shoulder through my elbow so it touches the tip of my knee. The shaft should hang straight, and you should adjust your body until your shoulder, elbow and knee all line up.
When I create an athletic posture, it looks as if I could jump across a pit of snakes without even changing my original body posture. I’m so ready to go that I could jump with no crouching needed.
The Takeaway: At high swing speeds, compensations made due to bad posture promote big-time inconsistency. The correct golf posture at address allows me to stay in position so my spine angle and knee flex at impact match address. Because my posture is correct, I feel confident, and that’s a good feeling to have when you’re playing golf.
Good from the get-go
By T.J. TOMASI
My work with countless students has shown that up to 60 percent of all error in the full swing is the result of a lack of attention to the details in setup fundamentals. The foundations of a solid swing, aka the fundamental building blocks, are your grip, stance, posture, ball position, aim and alignment.
When you’re learning fundamentals, don’t pay any attention to the ball flight. Instead, judge your learning effectiveness by how well you match the model of what you’re trying to learn and how consistent you are at remembering to check each element. If you’re learning the setup, find a book that shows a picture of a good address position and repeat it until you can match the model every time. Then go on to the next task.
When you’re working on your fundamentals, it’s an excellent idea to set up a workout station. Use three clubs and lay them on the ground as follows:
Put one club just outside your target line (so that the ball will sit on the ground on the inside of the club in relation to your body). The second club goes parallel to the first club, lying just along the tips of your toes. Place the third club perpendicular to the first club along the point where you want to position the ball in your stance.
Use the first club to check your relation to the target line and the aim of your clubface. Use the second club to check the alignment of your feet, parallel to the target line. Use the third club to ensure consistent positioning of the ball.
You should also hit every shot off a tee while you’re learning, even with your irons. By doing this, your mind is free to focus on what your body is doing, not worrying about getting the ball airborne.
Fundamentals include all pre-swing mechanics, and with enough attention you should be able to set up perfectly since these fundamentals don’t involve actually swinging the club. Your focus should be on the “feel” of the position, not ball flight.
Trigger finger points to great putting
By T.J. TOMASI
Putting on the pro tours demands mastery of a stroke with greater control and a more sensitive touch than the average golfer uses because the greens are so slick and unforgiving. The traditional putting grip in the photo here is where it starts.
The index finger of this player’s left hand is pointing at the ground as a cue to start the putter head moving straight back away from the ball. This helps ensure that his left wrist does not cup more than it started with at address.
The key to this stroke is the right index finger, which is curled into a trigger. This is the feel center, and the golfer gets his go signal as he monitors the pressure point of his right “trigger”finger.
The putting stroke is initiated by a rocking motion of the elbows on the backswing where the left elbow moves downward and the right moves up. On the way to impact, the right elbow straightens a tad, creating a piston-type stroke where the clubface points directly at the target even after the ball is long gone.
This action causes the clubhead to rise significantly because the butt end of the club remains pointed at his belt buckle, where it was at address. This method is great for producing a slight overspin on the ball, which helps it stay on its line.
Match elbow and hip for solid contact
By T.J. TOMASI
The quality of your impact position is determined by the relationship between two body parts: your trail elbow and hip. The trail elbow determines the path of the clubhead to the ball, so if your elbow matches up evenly with your hip, as in the first photo below, your hands can get back in front of your body in time for impact.
However, if your elbow is trapped behind your hip, as the second golfer’s is below, you’ll have an awful time squaring the face correctly.
Here are two cures for a hip/elbow package that is out of sync:
1. A long elbow swing: If your elbow must travel a long distance from the top of your backswing to impact, then your hips need to wait a bit as they make their turn so your elbow can catch up. You can keep the long backswing, but you need to slow down your hip turn.
2. A short elbow swing: It’s just the opposite if your trail elbow doesn’t swing long enough at the end of the backswing. Since the elbow has a short journey to impact, it runs the risk of arriving too early, well ahead of the hip. In this case, you can lengthen your backswing or, if you like your short swing, simply speed up your hip turn. Either way, you’re back in match.
Slow hips and fast elbows are mismatched unless you like to pull the ball way to the left. The fast hips/slow elbow duo isn’t any better because your clubhead will be late for impact, sending the ball to the right of the target.
To swing your best, you need to coordinate your elbows and hips so they match, slow with slow, or fast with fast.
Learn by example
By T.J. TOMASI
You can learn a lot by comparing the swing positions of good and not-so-good players. In the photo at left below is Ryder Cup player Boo Weekley, one of the better ball strikers on the PGA Tour. There are several things to note that are instructive:
1. Because Weekley started his downswing by transferring his weight to his left side, he simply continues the process until the weight is on the outer rim of his front foot toward the heel of his foot.
Compare this to the amateur in the second photo. This golfer is on his toes, a sign that he’s had trouble shifting his weight to his left foot to start the downswing. Weight on the toes triggers the neural program for jumping, and to prevent falling over, he will snap his spine upright.
2. Note also how fully released Weekley’s core is. Boo is thick around the middle, but still makes sure to keep his midsection moving freely through the ball. Remember: The core is the drum major in the weight flow parade.
By contrast, the amateur’s chest, pelvis and shoulders appear frozen. The only body part he used to hit the ball was his arms, and that’s not good enough when you play the very difficult Champions course at PGA National as he and Boo are in these photos.
3. As part of his full body rotation, Weekley keeps his right shoulder chasing his left, assuring that he will not “run out of right arm,” an error the amateur has fallen prey to. When this young player stops his shoulder rotation and simply hits with his arms, the trail arm is also stopped, and that causes the club to wrap around the body.
A few years ago, scientists discovered the mimic gene. It controls our ability to learn by copying, using a major tool — the visual system. The moral: Be careful who you watch.
Get off to a good start
By T.J. TOMASI
Whatever else golf is, it’s a game of geometry. Lines and angles on a four-dimensional playing field relate the golfer, the ball and the target.
The mistake I see most in my teaching is a faulty setup, and that is like beginning a trip by heading in the wrong direction. The first step to a perfect setup is to aim your clubface correctly, and the second is to align your body, and always in that order — aim, then align.
Because it’s your clubface that makes contact with the ball, where it’s pointing at impact determines the direction the golf ball will initially travel. It’s helpful to use the lines on the toe and heel formed by the grooves on your clubface for aiming.
It may sound simplistic, but you must take great care to aim your clubface at the target at address because that’s where you want it looking at impact.
Always set the clubface behind the ball before you take the rest of your set up. Then build your stance around your clubface so that if you extended a line from the leading edge (the bottom part) of the clubface to your toe line, the two lines would be perpendicular.
Your shoulders determine the direction your arms swing, so they must be aligned correctly to ensure that your clubface looks at the target at impact. They should be parallel to the target line because, biomechanically, your arms swing in the direction that your shoulders point. When you’re aligned to the right, if you make a good swing, your swing path will be too much inside-to-outside of the target line.
The alignment of your hips is important because your hips dictate the amount of rotation away from and back to the ball. Open hips (facing more toward the target than strictly parallel to the target line) cause you to underturn on the backswing. If your hips are closed at address (lined up facing away from the target), you run the risk of overturning on the backswing and then not being able to get your hips turned back in time for impact.
To make sure your aim and alignment are correct, lay down two clubs to help you judge your position, one along your foot line parallel to the target line and one behind the ball on the target line. When your body is parallel with the target line, it’s said to be “square” to the target. When your clubface points at the target, it is also square. Begin from a perfectly square stance and then make adjustments based on your flexibility and body shape.
A model swing: the finish
By T.J. TOMASI
Sticking the finish
The gymnasts call it “sticking the finish,” and when you stick your finish in golf, good things will happen. Here is the anatomy of your Kodak Moment:
1. Your weight is balanced on the front foot, with the back foot acting as a rudder.
2. Your hips are perpendicular to the target line.
3. Your shoulders have rotated past perpendicular with your right shoulder in advance of the left.
4. Everything you own — your nose, your belt buckle, your right knee — is pointing at the target.
But while this template is the same for all Kodak Moments, there are variations caused by your body type — how you’re built, your strength, and most important, your flexibility.
Three variations of thefinish position are illustratedin the accompanying photos. But no matter which finish your body dictates, you can memorize it by repeating the “posing drill”:
Close your eyes, swing the club, and pose in your finish for a slow count of three. Open your eyes and make certain you match your prototype. This is your swing’s Kodak Moment, and it should be your goal to nail this position for every swing.
To find out more about which swing you should use, take the LAWs test at www.tjtomasi.com.