Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Swing Thoughts: The Overswing

Blustery day on the Hudson River; you can see some whitecaps in the distance.
Ok, so I've been ramping up the practice in prep for the upcoming Brooklyn Open. I went to Chelsea Piers for a short session. Really short--as in not even thirty balls. (There's lots of reasons to hate this place, but one really nice thing about its self-serve ball dispenser system is that you can buy exactly as many balls as you want.)

Like millions of people I struggle with the overswing. It's something I have been working at for almost as long as I have been playing.

Within the psyche of most amateur golfers there is an eternal struggle, between the rational mind which knows that a short, controlled swing produces the optimal combination of precision and force, and the reptilian mind which wants nothing else than to lurch back and deliver a unmerciful, pulverizing death blow to its prey.

Far as I can tell the overswing is simply what happens when the reptilian side wins out. The reptilian part of our brain is mysterious and powerful. It's why making sweet practice swings is so easy when there's no ball or no objective at hand, and why the whole scheme changes so dramatically as soon a ball and an objective are introduced.

The overswing, I believe, is that cause of most of my own golf-related heartache. Squaring the club at impact has never really troubled me all that much, but I am absolutely dogged by various fats, thins and toe-hits. I have gone long periods playing golf entirely off the leading-edge/toe area of the club.

Butch Harmon describes the overswing thus:
My top three tour guys -- Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Adam Scott -- all came to me with the same problem: too much backswing. They'd take the club back too far and then have to rely on super-fast hands to get it in position coming down. When they timed it right, they hit the ball a mile. But when they didn't, they missed too many fairways. Average golfers who overswing don't have the hands to save things on the way down. The result is poor contact and all kinds of bad shots.

I'm a big believer in self-shame as a way to better golf, so let's look at a couple frames of my swing. What's going on here? It's a 7-iron, and I'm actually really trying hard to make a short swing. This is a couple of frames from the top, and the position looks alright by me. The clubface is a bit closed, and the path is a bit inside, but so what. For the most part it's sound enough--if I stopped the backswing here, I'd have a decent position at the top with the club short of parallel and pointing slightly left of the target.

But a couple of frames later the overswing rears its ugly head. The arms have outrun the shoulder turn and the right elbow elevates, putting the shaft parallel to the ground, not to mention well across the target line.

I sought counsel on the internet. I searched for thoughts and opinions on the overswing, of which there are plenty. I tried to find out if there is some basic psychic impulse behind it, that could be somehow tamed or re-calibrated.

But probably the best advice I found came from a rogue instructor and former long-drive champion named Monte Scheinblum. Basically, he urges simple persistence. On every swing you take, make an effort to make a shorter swing. Every swing--on the course, on the range. Just keep at it, take the long view, and satisfy yourself even with tiny increments of progress. And if you persist, in a few months' time people will probably notice your swing looking shorter.

This is just the kind of bare-bones, slap-in-the-face advice I needed. As soon as I read it I realized that I had fallen into the trap of seeking the quick fix. As Mr. Scheinblum suggested, it's stupid to think that a habit ingrained over years could be remedied with some kind of easy solution.

I'll keep working on it, but at this point I have to be careful not to try and force too much change. With the big tournament coming up, probably the most important thing for me is swinging freely.

Any thoughts on overswinging are appreciated.


  1. I, too, suffer from it, although much more so on the driving range as there is an absence of consequence for a mishit. I've concluded that if I'm overswinging, I'm not doing it right.

    The golf swing is complex, but if you're mechanically sound, its much harder to overswing.

    Everyone's swing is very personal. For me, there are 3 things that I know I have to get right in my own swing in order to coil properly and release: real (not fake) shoulder turn, left hip does not breakdown, and right knee maintains flex. If I do those things (and I struggle to do them consistently), then there is proper coil and tension in my lead side that builds up and then my body instinctively knows when to automatically release into transition. If I'm breaking down mechanically and don't have a solid setup, I'll start overswinging in order to feel like I'm generating power, because I'm not creating any coil in my backswing.

    If there's 'slack' in my swing, then I'm all over the place.

    Anyway, not sure if that'll be useful to you at all. People have written billions of words about the golf swing and sifting out the bits that may be applicable to your own swing and swing issues is like rummaging through people's junk at a yard sale. You very rarely find a treasure.

    TLDR version: for ME, overswinging is a symptom, not a cause, of poor mechanics.

  2. I feel like when I overswing (which is of course too often) I can tell that my "hulk" brain has told me to go huge, and the result is often an out of balance finish, and of course the ball spraying everywhere, or the fat shot so uply that the mud sticks in my eye. So for me, to try to calm things down and not look like a goofball, I try to think about a balanced, beautiful finish position. Trying to shorten the backswing by thinking about not going back as far doesn't work for me. The better thought for me is to consider how I want to be in balance, in terms of speed of the body and ball flight desired. The it seems to be more natural.

  3. Also want to add, that if my swing is "on" and I feel am moving in good tempo and I'm finding the center of the club face okay, then getting it "back there" has actually helped me on some days, to stretch out some drives and shots into further lengths. I've felt "go back in inch further" and if I don't wreck the downswing then I get a huge boost in driving distance. I probably math average in the 235 range but GPS measured several in the 290-300 range recently when I have been swinging okay and grooving the impact and having good hands timing. So the long backswing can be okay if my swing is feeling "on".

    Swing thoughts: balance, smooth but accelerate, ball flight

  4. I too like the short 3/4 swing. Seems to work out ok for me. I tend to bring all the power from 9 oclock to 6 Leading hard w/ my right forearm. (I am a lefty). Can be kind of violent at times when I try to crank it a little.

  5. When I say short 3/4 that means compact. A huge back swing will ruin any timing to the ball. For me anyway.

  6. Also - one of my nephews played in a charity scramble and there was a pro long driver guy there doing an exhibition. The guy did not have one of those super long Bubba backswings - it was a compact 3/4 swing, but he had a huge move through the ball and tremendous speed. I saw a little video and it looked kind of weird but worked for him. So guess it is different for everybody.


Don't spam me bro.