June 7 — With every golf watcher in the universe dissecting Tiger Woods’ coach-less play during last week’s Memorial Tournament, “stuck” is the one word that experts continue to use to describe his flaws.
What is stuck? Woods often describes himself as being stuck, especially after a day of missed fairways and greens, which he certainly had at the Memorial, where he beaned three spectators. So, what, exactly, does being “stuck” in a golf swing mean to Woods and everyday golfers?
New England Golf Monthly decided to ask golf instructor Ted Eleftheriou to help decipher and fix the problem.
In Eleftheriou’s view, Woods club gets “stuck” on the way down because he’s too close to the ball at address, too cramped at impact, and his right elbow is too far behind his club on the downswing.
Cramped stance. Watching Woods’ swing down the line, or from his right side, Eleftheriou believes the golf ace stands closer to the ball than in the past. That causes him to rise up at impact so he can create a path for his arms, hands, and club.
“If he didn’t, he would get ‘stuck’, creating deep divots or an early release of the club head [resulting in a] pull hook shot,” says Eleftheriou.
Let my elbow go! A closer inspection of Woods’ swing from the same angle shows his right elbow getting trapped behind his ribcage on the downswing. To combat that, he has to flair his elbow out a bit toward impact to get around his ribcage. Otherwise, the club head would close too soon and come from an outside path at impact causing yet another pull hook.
Eleftheriou spots another flaw from the same viewing angle: Woods’ club head and shaft appear to be flatter on the downswing than in the past.
“Halfway through the downswing, the club shaft should appear to be in the middle of the ‘V’ created by the arms,” Eleftheriou notes. “[Tiger’s] club head appears to be more on the right forearm [so] his timing at impact has to be much more precise.”
Get yourself unstuck. You may not be Tiger Woods (for better or worse), but you may get similarly stuck making your swings. To help you and Tiger get “unstuck,” Eleftheriou offers the following tips:
- Address. Set up to the ball from the proper distance. With weight balanced, the butt-end of the club handle should be about a fist (lengthwise) from your body, specifically your target-side thigh. Make that two fists if you’re using a wood and driver.
- Arms and elbows. Keep your arms and elbows in front of your chest during the downswing. Practice the position by making half-swings that bring the club back until your arms are parallel to the ground and finish with the arms parallel as well. Focus on feeling your arms drop before your shoulders begin to unwind.
- Tee drill. Modify the previous drill by placing a tee in the ground on the target line, about two feet behind the ball and another about two feet in front. Stick another tee in the grip of your club. Now, without taking a backswing, pause and ensure that the tee in the club points at the tee behind the ball or slightly to the inside (between you and the ball) of the target line. Adjust if necessary, then rotate to the half-swing finish position. The tee in the club should point to the tee in the ground in front of the ball or slightly inside it.
- Half-swing. Now you’re ready to place a ball on a tee and try the half-swing drill without stopping the backswing. If you do it right, the tee in the club should point to the tee in the ground at the finish position. Now you’re ready to try hitting shots with your full swing.
Eleftheriou, by the way, wants Tiger to know that he’s only a text message away should the still top-ranked golfer require assistance from an actual swing coach.
A native of Massachusetts, Eleftheriou learned to love golf as a caddie at Fitchburg’s Oak Hill Country Club. You may reach him at [email protected], or 407-928-3976.