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Why Your Practice Swing and Real Swing Aren't the Same

Online Golf Instruction By: Chuck Quinton, Master Instructor • FULL BIO •

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How many of you guys can relate to this? Warming up, setting up next to the ball, make a couple practice swings. Oh yeah, felt good. Looked good. I hope everybody's watching. Look how pretty my golf swing is. it's pretty tidy. Oh yeah, I'm ready. Let's do this.

If you can relate to that guy, perfect practice swings, awful real swing when the ball is there, listen up because I'm gonna explain to you once and for all why that happens. It's very, very simple, but the fix is a long term fix. As you know, I don't do bandaid fixes. The whole reason that you have a beautiful practice swing and an awful real golf swing when the ball is there is because you're not prioritizing the right things in your swing.

For instance, what happens nine times out of 10 when people are doing drills and they're in front of a mirror and they're working on everything, they're just focusing on their movements. I'm focusing on what I feel here and so on and so forth. All the stuff you've heard me talk about. But when I put the ball down, all of that stuff goes out the window and all of a sudden, all I care about is hitting that stupid ball with a stick.

That's not where your focus should be when you're working on something in your golf swing. Your focus has to be the same thing that you were focusing on when you were looking in the mirror, if you were focusing on feeling right shoulder blade, right glute, when the balls there, that doesn't change, you're still thinking right shoulder blade, right glute. I tell my students all the time, I'd rather you chunk it or skull it or shank it or miss it completely and do the movement correctly than worry about what that stupid little white devil's telling you to do.

The ball is irrelevant when you're teaching yourself a new movement pattern. What matters is what you're focusing on. It's getting you in the right positions that will eventually make everything fall into place and make hitting the ball very, very easy. That's problem number one.

Problem number two is power sources. When you're making a practice swing, typically let's say that you swing at a hundred miles an hour. Well your practice swing might only be about 60 miles an hour. So it's way slower, and so you can make these nice, calm, smooth practice swings because you know there's no ball there so you're not worried about the ball, and you're not worried about putting any speed into it. However, when you know that you've got to hit this hard ball with his hard club, you want to put some oomph into it. Your power sources, if they're not in the right place, will cause you to make a horrible, horrible downswing, because all of a sudden you're going to take over with what you think is going to produce power in the swing, which is typically going to be your arms, hands and shoulders. You know by now that it's weight shift and your trunk rotating that brings the club halfway down. It's doing all of the heavy lifting to get the downswing started. But if you go to the top and you don't feel this loaded up, and you feel your arms and shoulders loaded up, well you're going to go right back to your old habits of where you are used to getting power.

The hardest trick with learning rotary swing is understanding that it's not going to feel like you're doing very much work. When you get over that hangup that you don't have to do so much and you get over this little mind trick, all of a sudden the golf swing becomes much easier. You can hit the ball with what you call your practice swing because your power is coming from big muscles that don't really have to work that hard to produce proper club head speed. But if you're just relying on your arms and hands, you're always going to cast the club, which is going to cause you to lose all of your leverage, and you're going to start scooping and flipping at it and doing all kinds of other crazy things because your power sources are in the wrong place.

So, the two main issues when your practice swing and your real swing aren't the same is, A, you're changing your focus, you're focusing on the ball and not your movements that got you in the right positions when you were looking in the mirror. You've got to keep your focus on the movements, what your body is doing. The club and ball will take care of itself as you learn to move your body correctly. And then problem number two or B is that you're providing power from the wrong place in your real swing. You try to hit too hard. You try to do it with your arms and hands and shoulders. And there's not enough power, there's not enough muscle mass there to generate the horsepower required to swing the club with any speed, so you have to focus on trusting your big muscles to help you bring the club down with lag. As you have lag, you've got leverage, and leverage is a multiplier.

So all of a sudden I don't have to swing so hard when my hands are here. All I gotta do is let this leverage unfold. Just like swinging a hammer. And this is a lot of speed available to me with no effort. But if I'm throwing the club from the top and I have no leverage as I get down here, I have to use my body to try and help it out. The whole trick is working through the RST five step stuff in sequence. I know weight shift isn't that exciting. I get it. I'm going to make you eat your veggies first. You've got to learn this core fundamental movements of the golf swing that all tour pros do. Weight shift and core rotation are the engine of your swing, not your hands, arms and shoulders. Those are byproducts. Let your body move those. You'll have more leverage than you know what to do with, and all of a sudden you won't be that guy wailing around at the ball, even though you have a perfect looking practice swing.

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