I keep thinking about the white tarp.
It’s been about six months since I first teamed up with Ryan Williamson, a New Jersey-based GOLFTEC coach whose primary charge was to find me more yards but who, in the process, also quickly snuffed out my most damning swing flaws. The vicious left shoulder dip. The dearth of turn and torque. The out-to-in swing path. The too-steep descent. This cocktail of cockups typically resulted in an open face at impact and weakish fades.
Many issues to address, yes, but over the course of about five or six lessons Williamson didn’t make it feel that way. As the best coaches do, he kept things simple, mostly with a few setup tweaks:
Lower right shoulder at address
By simply dropping my right shoulder below my left, this position encouraged a more roundabout takeaway. To help me really feel that sensation, Williamson told me to think about pointing my left shoulder toward the top righthand corner of the practice studio. Voila! I was already in a better place to get round instead of steep.
I had long employed a weaker grip (with my right thumb rolled over my left hand and toward the target) as a slice-busting measure. My feeling was that keeping my right hand and forearm in a “locked” position would prevent the clubface from opening at impact. But with a rounder, more in-to-out swing, this grip was, in fact, hindering me. I needed a stronger grip, Williamson advised, to help me release the clubhead at impact. Again, easy fix.
Swinging to “right field”
You’ve probably heard this tip many times: for an in-to-out path, you need to think about swinging out toward right field (for a right-handed golfer) instead of “pulling” your swings toward left field. Lord knows I’ve heard this swing-thought before — you pick up some things after 20-plus years in the biz — but I needed to hear it again. And Williamson wasn’t shy about reminding me.
In GOLFTEC studios, you hit balls into a white tarp that hangs from the ceiling like a shower curtain, as your swing is captured with motion measurement technology and video analysis. Low-tech meets high.
“Think about swinging out toward the top right-hand corner of the tarp,” Williamson told me over and over.
And that was pretty much it: 3 keys. All manageable. No major overhaul. No Bryson-grade physics to process. No moves I couldn’t possibly execute. The results: positive! In short order, I was attacking the ball from the inside and hitting the ball longer — sometimes 30 yards longer. (You can check out the results of my first few sessions with Williamson in the video below.)
In the weeks since, I’ve also had a chance to take Williamson’s teachings to the course. Is my swing radically different? It is not. Do I fall back into old/bad habits? I do. But I also find myself hitting more shots than ever that feel like proper shots — mostly, I’m convinced, because of the “right field” tip.
When I’m struggling to turn the ball over, I often find myself envisioning that white tarp and swinging out toward the top right-hand corner. More often than not, that mental imagery helps get me back on track.
There is still much work to be done (isn’t there always?), but I’ve found a swing-thought that is working for me.
Share my woes? It might just work for you, too.