A Fresh Look at Forward Shaft Lean
Contributed by Martin Chuck
We’ve all heard the plea “let’s get real.” There is a golf swing topic or if you prefer, an impact dynamic that I’ve wanted to get real about for quite some time now. It’s the fundamental referred to in golf as a forward leaning shaft at impact. I should know something about this topic, as I invented the Tour Striker Training Club.
A traditional starting or address position for most golfers would have the grip end of the club pointed at the belly button or just slightly left of it (apologies for the right handed bias in my references).
Stated simply, a forward leaning shaft at impact is defined as the grip end of the club getting to a point ahead of the golf ball through impact. When golf instructors demonstrate a forward leaning shaft, they often take the grip end of the club and push it so far forward that if you were a bird perched on top of the instructor’s head, you would see that the grip and hands well outside the left foot. If you were to watch this demonstration from a face on view, you might say, “Wow, are you kidding me?”
The difference between the orientation of the shaft at address (vertical to your belly button) and this “posed” impact position frequently demonstrated by golf instructors (shaft forward of its starting position) is defined as “forward shaft lean.”
Sometimes, golfers watch such a demonstration and conclude that they are supposed to actually hit the ball with the hands way forward and the clubhead way back. In actual fact, if performed as such, the resultant ball flight would be low enough to knock the hat off a 7 ft tall Frosty the Snowman standing 100 yards down range in Steve Stricker’s Wisconsin.
This happens because many golfers will pull dramatically on the grip end of the club and leave the clubface wide open at impact. Let’s just say that Frosty’s hat would fall to the ground with slice spin! One additional negative outcome is the dreaded (dare we say it) shank. As Johnny Miller has said, the shank is the first cousin of a slice.
My assertion is this: what the typical “forward leaning shaft” demonstration is driving at is that a forward swing bottom (the unifying theme of IZG and the Tour Striker) requires that your hands move in front of their starting position just prior to impact. What is not always explained by instructors, and thus misunderstood by students, is that during an actual golf swing the clubhead will catch up and match the forward position of the hands. This will produce a classic, pro-like impact position where the left arm and club (radius of the swing) lines up underneath the left shoulder. (This assumes an orthodox ball position falling underneath the logo found on a golfer’s shirt). These photos of Tiger and Rory illustrate the point.
From a face on view, this would appear to be a relatively vertical orientation of the shaft, not a leaning, far-forward position. The shaft would technically be forward of the address position, but wouldn’t (for most normal golf shots) look to be leaning nearly as far forward as commonly demonstrated.
One thing that accomplished players do along with getting their hands and club lined up underneath their left shoulder at impact is to square the clubface so as to avoid the slice and its unwanted first cousin. Good players know that the logo on the back of their left hand and the clubface are essentially the same things.
1) Take the typical forward leaning shaft demonstration for what it is. Not a practical impact position, rather an illustration of where you should direct your hands through the impact zone. That is, forward of their starting position.
2) Realize that ball position is an important factor. Note that IZG promotes a ball position no further back than 4 inches from the left heel. If a ball is played in the middle of the feet or even closer to the right foot, a photo of impact might show more forward shaft lean than would be desirable for most standard shots.
3) Go find a bunker and work on Bobby’s sand drill. Here is a demonstration.
Get your swing bottom in front of the line and you may well forget altogether about a forward leaning shaft. It will be a nice result rather than an awkward “gotta force it to happen” part of your overall swing motion.