Topgolf Chigwell Head Pro Andrew Agnoli debunks the golfing myths that could be harming your high Topgolf score.
I graduated as a PGA professional ten years ago armed with the knowledge earned from the official PGA foundation degree. During this 3-year course, my fellow budding coaches and I were given a 'manual' on how to coach golfers; and having passed, I was sent out to put it into action.
After 10 years and around 15,000 lessons I now realise that the manual was very limiting; much of the information I had learnt would hurt the average player’s golf game, not improve it! So here my aim is to debunk a few of the 'fundamentals' taught on golf coaching courses that could be limiting your potential.
1) Keep your head down/keep your eye on the ball
This classic piece of advice is the absolute, undisputed key to getting the ball in the air…according to most amateur players. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this “fact” over the last ten years I would be writing this from my new private jet; it simply isn't true, and is a myth borne out of rigid, outdated coaching manuals.
Notable examples of players who don’t keep their head down throughout the swing are Henrik Stenson, our Open Champion at the time of writing, David Duval, a former world number one, Jordan Speith (putts looking at the hole) and Anika Sorenstam - who ruled the LPGA Tour for years shooting 59 not looking at the ball. So how have these players won majors if, according to some, they should be struggling to the get the ball off the ground?
The answer is simple; you don’t need to keep your eye fixed on the ball. Keeping your head down will make it harder for you to strike cleanly, and if you do, finishing your swing in balance and getting good distance will be more difficult. Not only that, it can even make it tricky to find your ball as you won't know where you’ve hit it. So next time you top the ball and your playing partner, who has suddenly become a PGA Tour coach overnight, tells you that you should keep your head down, you can politely inform them that they don’t know what they are talking about.
Of course, that’s not to say that you should spend your entire swing avoiding eye contact with the round, white object lying somewhere between your feet. My advice is to get your head to rotate in both the backswing and downswing, making it easier to get a better body turn. This is especially true if you’re an older player with less flexibility or if you want to smash the 'Big Dog' as we call it.
You can see me striking the ball with my head already turned to the target. This allows me to get my hips and shoulders open at impact which is key for powerful shots.
2) There is one correct 'textbook' grip
What is the correct grip? I’m asked this every day – and my answer is there isn't one.
Again, I often hear "my grip is wrong" yet the player hits it straight, or they have a strong grip (normally linked to hooks) and they hit a slice. Your grip is a personal thing, and having a 'perfect, textbook grip' is not vital. Quite honestly if the Tour players all had 'perfect' grips then they wouldn't be anywhere near as good as they are. Players win every week with strong or weak grips, the variation is huge but their grip matches their swing and that's important.
The key is to develop a grip that helps you hit the ball how you want to. My only checkpoint is to make sure you’re using your fingers to hold the club rather than your left palm, otherwise there’s no way you’ll be getting anywhere near the black target. You can see what I mean in the picture below. Getting the club more in your fingers will help you boom drives so far you will be the envy of all your mates.
Another regular question is “have you ever tried to change your grip?”. You only need to move your hand a tiny fraction and it feels like you‘ve changed your whole swing; hitting the ball can become nearly impossible. It feels so uncomfortable, it's like crossing your arms the opposite way (try it, it's a weird feeling).
However, if you want to start hitting the ball further, there’s a simple adjustment you can make. When you’re setting up, just make sure you can see 3 knuckles on your top hand, and watch the ball fly. This is a tactic used by the long drive guys and the pros when they want to boost their yardage.
3) Your Lead Arm Must Be Straight
It’s commonly believed that the lead arm (the left arm for right handed players) should remain perfectly straight throughout the whole back swing, but many players, including myself, can hit the ball further with a slightly bent left arm - using the incline to create more speed and therefore distance.
Don’t take my word for it though; take a look at the likes of Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood , who are perfectly happy hitting with a bent arm. They’re not the longest guys on the tour but relaxing their arm helps them to get the best out of their game; you might not hit the ball further than everyone on the tee line but moderating your swing could help you gain a few extra yards and land in the point zones more often.
In fact, lead arm bending is more likely to be a profitable technique switch for amateurs due to flexibility issues. While most pros have great flexibility and strength, the average amateur doesn’t have time to get up at 6am and bang out a yoga session with their protein shake. Keeping the lead arm dead straight requires a lot of exertion, and if you’re not in tip-top shape, will lead to tensing and tightening up, thus slowing up muscle movement and reducing speed from your swing.
Of course, I’m not saying to bend your lead-arm so much that that it forms an “L” shape as you take it back. Just allow a little give at your elbow, so the arm curves ever so slightly, like a banana.
So, there are three 'fundamentals' still taught by many pros that I believe aren't always the best ideas for your game. Keep in mind we are all different and if you want to be scoring top points at Topgolf or lowering your scores on the course then find your swing and make small adjustments.
Want more pearls of wisdom like these? Book a lesson online with Andrew, or another Topgolf pro.