3 Fatal Golf Misconceptions

golfball_leftAs a PGA professional, I’ve given over 20,000 golf lessons to players of all ages and skill levels. With that experience comes lots of different assumptions or misconceptions that my students have about the golf swing. Here are a few common misconceptions or “mis-cup-ceptions” that I hear quite often that cause you to miss the cup.

1. “You have to hit down on chips to make them spin more”

If every one of my students heard this, I could give them short game lessons for life, and I do! The common misconception is that if you want to spin your wedges, or chip shots, you need to hit down on them more. That simply is false.

There is this thing out there that very few people talk about, because they don’t know how to explain it. It’s called “spin loft”.

Basically, it’s the difference between the amount of loft the club has on it at impact (at the point of contact- different subject) and the angle at which the club is traveling at impact (on a vertical plane).

For example, if you have a 56 degree wedge and normally you hit it with exactly 50 degrees (a little forward lean is usually taught for a chip shot based on common PGA Teaching Practices), and you hit down on the golf ball 5 degrees, your “spin loft” is 45.

Fortunately, the optimum amount of spin loft is 45. Once you exceed 45, the ball will slide up the face and you will lose friction, which creates spin.

Using the previous example, if you were to “hit down on it more” and increase the angle of attack, you also have a very high likelihood to decrease the dynamic loft on your club. Essentially your spin loft would decrease, causing the ball to actually launch lower and spin less (assuming you are hitting the ball in the same spot).

Often people hit the ball too thin, or low on the face when they attempt to hit down on it more. To summarize, don’t hit down on it more, have a good amount of forward lean, and hit down on it slightly and you will get your wedges to check up just as you see on TV.

2. “Release the club to hit a draw”

This one really grinds my gears, because, again, it’s a mis-cup-ception. This one is a little difficult to wrap your head around because it’s what teaching professionals and touring professionals have been talking about for years.

The common wisdom is if you slice it, you need to release the club. First of all, I’m not a fan of throwing golf clubs, so I never want to release it (unless you are Tiger Woods).

Here’s the math, in order to hit a draw that falls towards your desired target, the contact point must be OPEN to the target, but CLOSED to the path the clubhead swings on. Notice I didn’t say clubface, the contact point. I understand we all don’t hit perfectly centered shots, so there are a few variables we have to rule out.

If you were to “release” the club, essentially that means that the clubface closes (points more left for a right handed golfer), and the club head path swings more left than it would be if you didn’t release it.

It’s certainly possible to release the club towards the right, but the severity is much less. In addition to all this, you are relying a lot on the timing of your hands to have the face perfectly square to where you want it. There is a lot of clubface rotation (by definition of the release) and it can go from very open to very closed rapidly, often causing wayward shots.

Instead, try to close the clubface prior to contact, but still have the path move out to the right with NO release – and see what happens. I have my students do a few drills I’ve created and they all say the same thing, “I don’t know how this works yet, but it does!”

3. “Work on your short game to lower your scores”

If you haven’t read my previous article on what statistics to keep track of, click here. You can certainly work on your putting and chipping as much as you like, and it won’t hurt your scores. But if you are amazing at getting up and down for double bogey, I will beat you every time we play.

Most high handicap players have a tough time getting to the green in regulation (or their own personal regulation). That is the area you need to work on.

First, tee the ball up and hit your driver a lot, get it to go as far as you can. Make a big turn with your shoulders on the way back, and make sure the clubface is closed to the path on the way down.

Then, work on your scoring irons (7-iron and lower). Continue to make that big turn, and make sure to make contact with the ground AFTER the ball. Do those two things; hit the ball closer to the hole because you are using a shorter club. Laying up with 3-wood on a par 4 will force you to hit 4-iron or hybrid. Being able to use your scoring irons will help you lower your scores, and you will have more fun.

Misconceptions are an epidemic in the golf world, and these are my opinions. However, I have tested my theories and I have gotten a lot of people much better at this game because they understand what is important and was isn’t.


T.J. Sullivan

TJ is a PGA Master Professional in Teaching and Coaching. He recently made the 2020/21 Golf Digest Best Young Teachers and 2019/20 Golf Digest Best Teachers in the State lists. A two time Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year Nominee and has taught over 22,000 lessons in 13 years with GOLFTEC. He also is a six time Outstanding Achievement in Instruction Award winner and a Coastal Carolina University PGM Alumni.

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