There is a difference between a full shot address position that requires power, and a short shot address position that requires finesse. Knowing how to set up to the ball depending on the required shot is a skill that can be learned by anyone. Set up changes, although simple to accomplish physically, can make a big feel change for the player. If done properly, set up changes can bring elements together correctly without too much thinking during the player’s motion.
When hitting a driver off of a tee, it is advantageous for most golfers to hit up on the ball. If a player’s club head speed is 90 mph or slower, hitting up on the ball adds significant yardage to the shot. While setting up to the golf ball, a certain spine tilt, among other elements, will help the golfer accomplish this “upswing” into the golf ball (as Butch Harmon displays correctly and incorrectly in Exhibit A). For the golfer to get Butch’s spine tilt (in the correct picture), agolfer needs to push his hips toward the target. This will create a spine angle that is tilted away from the target.
While hitting iron shots the spine tilt is tilted straight up and down, or slightly away from the target. There may be a slight tilt because the trail hand is on the club handle lower than the lead hand.
For a short shot, or a finesse shot, it is best to have a slight tilt of the spine towards the target, as seen in Exhibit B. Also notice in Exhibit B that the chest and shoulders are slightly open to the target. The golfer’s shirt buttons are pointed just in front of the golf ball. This set up position helps steepen the club head’s angle of attack into the ball. Finesse shots have such a short swing the angle of attack can be minimal without the preferred spine tilt.
There is not a big shift in weight towards the target with the feet during a finesse wedge, mainly because the lower bodyshould be stable when hitting a finesse shot. If the spine is tilted away from the target, and there is no shift of weight towards the target with the lower body, the bottom of the swing arc will be well behind the ball. This tilt away from the target on finesse shots leads to chunks shots, or the club misses the ground and starts to move upward before impact, which leads to thin shots or topped shots.
Another key to hitting solid finesse wedges is to keep the tilt of the spine towards the target throughout the entire motion, as seen in Exhibit C. What helps many of my students is to feel their head moving towards the target during the downswing. Many students I see have their head moving away from the target during the finesse swing motion. This brings the bottom out point even farther behind the ball. In my experience, increasing spine tilt away from the target in the downswing is the biggest reason for bad short game shots.During any golf motion the momentum of a player must be moving towards the target on the downswing. For a full swing shot, the legs drive the player’s momentum towards the target. During the downswing of a finesse shot, the upper body takes the player’s momentum towards the target.
Tilt your spine towards the target, and slightly open your torso relative to the target at address. Keep your spine tilted towards the target on the downswing by feeling your head move towards the target. Go see your local PGA professional to make sure your spine tilt at address is appropriate for each type of golf shot.
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 also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titlteist-certified fitter and a Titleist staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.