sherman Finger




The golf swing should be built from the ground, up.  Although it is important to have a well-balanced stance, I would like to discuss the lower part of the golf swing.  If the left arm is viewed as the hour hand on a clock, with the center of the clock being the left shoulder, then at address the left arm hangs vertically, and points to the “6” on the imagined clock face.  If a right handed golfer makes a back swing so that his hands are at his right shoulder, the left arm is parallel to the ground and facing the “9” on our clock.  I feel the best practice with all clubs is done with the left arm only going back half-way, or less.  The golfer using this method will always be able to feel where the club is, where the club-face is, how the swing rhythm is, etc.

The rhythm of the golf swing should be short back, long on the follow through.  The golfer should feel an acceleration of the hands, arms and golf club on the forward swing.  A “9 o’clock” back swing should have a full finish.  The club should make the wind whistle somewhere between the “6” and the “3”.  Hit irons, and woods this way.  You will gain a great deal on confidence in knowing your are aligned properly.  The short swing will promote solid ball contact and consistency.  The game is mostly partial swings anyway.  We all could be better with less than full swings.  Most of you struggle with shots from 100 yards and in.  I see too much practice with full, wild swings.  Shorten your swings and you will be able to practice longer, and a great deal better.


Perhaps the most exciting aspect of golf is the short game.  Almost every shot is a new experience that requires imagination and skill.  The lie of the ball, the amount of green available for landing the ball, wind conditions, and green speed are just some of the variables to deal with.  With such a variety of many shot requirements, we don’t need to vary the fundamentals of the three strokes we use:  the Putting Stroke, the Chipping Stroke, and the Pitching Stroke. The secret to hitting successful short shots is to adhere to the basics of these three strokes, and let club selection determine the height and roll of your shots.

Here is a brief review of the short shot fundamentals.

The Putting Stroke is an arm stroke.  The ball is played off the left heel, so the club makes contact with the ball at the bottom of the swing.  As in all shots, the club is held where the left arm hangs.  You may use a putting stroke with a fairway metal-wood, a putter, or any iron in the bag.  The ball will roll most of the way to the target.  It is simple to learn to purposely “skull” or top the ball with a wedge, using a putting stroke. You are always better off using a putting stroke if you can.

When the grass is heavy around the ball, or there is a sand trap or other obstacle in your way, you will not be able to roll the ball.  If you decide to Chip the ball, the ball is played off the right foot, with the hands held by the left leg.  The weight is on the left foot, and the ball will be struck with a descending blow.  It is important to let your right writs hinge on this chip shot so the club head is above the ball at the top of the short backstroke.  I will use a 6-iron through a lob wedge for this shot.  I will chip when I want the ball to run more than 50% of the distance to the hole.  I will choose to chip rather than pitch if conditions allow.

At last resort, I will Pitch the ball.  This is a high, lofted shot that will spend most of it’s time in the air, and will run only a short distance once it hits the ground.  This is the hardest of the three short shots to master and execute.  The ball is played off the left instep, and a loose, writsy, up-right hand and arm swing is employed.  You should use only a sand wedge, or lob wedge for this shot.  The fundamentals of this swing are similar to those used in sand traps around the green.To review, play the ball by the right foot for a running shot, and off the left foot for a high shot and putt.  Be consistent with your short shot set-up, and you will hit effective short shots. 


I was watching the first PGA Tour event from Hawaii, and heard an interview with David Duvall.  He said that he would play this first event, the Tournament of Champions, but that he would skip the next event, also in Hawaii, the Hawaiian Open.  He said that two weeks playing in the wind would do “damage to his swing”.  I thought this was an unusual comment, and since David was not asked to explain how he could “ruin his swing”, I thought I would try to give you my interpretation of his thinking. 

Most of us would love to spend two weeks in Hawaii, instead of one, and the more golf we play, the better we swing. First, we must understand that great golfers tirelessly work to develop a consistent shot pattern.  Since it is almost impossible to hit a golf ball straight all the time, the tour player either favors a draw (controlled hook), of a fade (controlled slice).  Like the great Ben Hogan, David Duvall is a left-to-right player.

A fade is a very accurate shot because it will only move slightly to the right in flight, and it will land softly.  With the increasing firmness of greens and fairways on the Tour, and particularly in the major championships, keeping the ball from rolling too far is desirable.  A fade will not go as far as a draw, because of the lack of roll.  A draw has over spin, while a fade has more back spin. But here is the “Rub”.  A fade tends to fly higher than a draw, and is thus greatly affected by the wind.  David must change his game when playing in the British Open, and on other occasions when the wind is strong, because a wind-blown fade can be a disaster.  David can play the ball in any fashion required by the course, as is evidenced by his win in last years’ British Open, and his play at Augusta, a “hookers” course. 

But he doesn’t want to change his most reliable ball flight pattern unless it is necessary to do so.  Years ago Lee Trevino said he didn’t like Augusta because it favored a draw, and he had learned to play a fade. We all would be better players if we decided to play the ball with a certain flight pattern most of the time.  Next month I’ll discuss the things that make a ball fade and draw, and explain why certain body types tend to aid in the shaping of golf shots.


The golf ball seems to have a mind of its own, leaving the clubface is unusual, unplanned directions.  However, ball flight laws tell us that the ball will only travel where we have made it go.  When we understand the ball flight laws, we will be able to evaluate our swing, and make corrections.

As a teacher, I hear inaccurate excuses for missed shots from well meaning husbands and friends.  I hear, “You looked up”, or “you swayed”, or “you picked the club up”.  Simple reference to the ball flight laws can stop much of this misinformation.A golf ball that is hit on the club face, will start either on line with your target, to the left, or to the right.  If the ball starts off line, the club must have been facing in that direction.  Once a ball has left the club face, it will fly straight, or curve left or right.  If the ball curves to the left the golf club is closing after impact.  If the ball flies to the right, the club is opening after impact.  The explanation of high or low shots requires a little further explanation.  A high shot will result with a steep angle of decent, where a low shot will follow a shallow approach angle of the club. 

By controlling the club face, ball movement right and left can be controlled.  By working on the angle of approach to the ball, the height of your shots can be controlled.  Ball position at the set up can change where your shots start.  If the ball is moved more to the center of the stance, the ball will start more to the right.  Moving the ball farther left at address will force the ball to start farther left.  Thus, arm rotation, angle of approach, and ball position should be the key factors in your practice if you want develop a consistent shot pattern. We all need to practice with ball flight laws in mind to eliminate our errant shots.  Keep this in mind the next time you practice or take a lesson.