Have you ever hit a thin shot or topped the golf ball, and after the shot a playing companion says, “you lifted your head” or “keep your eye on the ball.” I have given thousands of lessons and I have never given “keep the eyes on the golf ball” as advice. However, I have spent thousands of hours fixing swings that revolve around a player trying to keep the eyes on the ball. Let’s talk about these two myths: why they have some merit but can really influence the golf swing negatively in the long term. During this article a right handed golfer will be used as the example.
The key to hitting a golf ball solid is that the head does not move to the right and the head does not move upward during the back swing and downswing. If a golfer properly rotates with the body, then his head and body will stay the same distance from the golf ball. The key is not to change the swing but to make the swing in a circle/rotational motion. If a player moves to the right or up, an increase in distance from the golf ball will occur. If a golfer increases the distance from the ball, then they have to come back the exact same distance on the downswing. Returning back the same distance on the downswing is a tough task to repeat on a consistent basis.
So, why is “do not lift your head” such a popular swing thought. This swing thought keeps a golfer over the ball for a longer period of time, which is a good thing. Many people use this swing thought on their downswing but have already moved their head off the ball on their back swing. Another negative impact is that golfers stop rotating on the backswing and downswing because they are trying to keep their head still. Rotating in a circular motion while keeping the head and body the same distance from the golf ball is the key to hitting a golf shot consistently in middle of the club face.
Many times, I will give a lesson and on the first swing the student will make sure the eyes never move from the ball. The problem is after the ball is half way to the target they are still looking at the ground where the golf ball was before impact -all because they are focused so intensely on keeping their eyes on the golf ball. Keeping the eyes on the ball will help a golfer for the short term, but in the long term will limit the rotation on the follow through. If the body stops rotating through impact there is no momentum moving towards the target.
Throwing a football, hitting a tennis ball, hitting a baseball and any athletic motion where we want an object to go towards a target with a high rate of speed, our body has to have rotation and momentum towards the target.
An example is throwing a baseball; we step towards the target, push our feet into the earth to move our body towards the target, rotate the body and move the arm towards the target. Imagine throwing a baseball by stopping the body rotation halfway through the motion and then trying to throw the baseball. The baseball would travel at a slower rate of speed than if the body fully rotated before the release of the ball.
The same concept is true for golf. If we stop our body rotation before impact, the arms have to hit the golf ball with no momentum towards the target, and it is harder to hit the golf ball solid. Trying to keep our eyes on the ball will eventually make our body stop rotating through the impact zone. Solid contact with maximum speed happens by rotating the body properly, not the speed in which our body rotates. The max speed is greatly different between golfers, but if your rotation is at a constant rate of speed and the rotation does not stop the ball, any golfer’s maximum speed can be achieved.
Next time, if a playing partner says “keep your eyes on the ball” or “you moved your head,” please remember to go see a local PGA Professional for all your golf knowledge. Do not start a bad habit that could negatively impact your game in the future.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is an active Student Mentor at FGCU; a volunteer with the First Tee program and was presented the 2010 and 2011 PGA’s President Council Awards on “Growing the Game.”