Many of my students come in for help with their golf swings and a certain level of frustration. As a coach, I feel like my job is to help them hit at least a few shots better so they see the long term benefits of change, as well as categorize for them what the main problem is in their swing. I categorize most issues in the swing in pretty simple bins: contact issues or direction problems. Now while they aren’t mutually exclusive, it usually helps to single one out as the real problem and start there. In a lot of cases, a very common issue is the toe shot, which can create a wild flight pattern and kill your confidence. Let’s look at how to fix it.
The toe of the club is the part of the head furthest from the shaft, and it can cause some seriously crazy ball flight, or lack thereof. Some of my students will get a good scare when they hit balls in my teaching area when they toe one, as it goes off the end of the club and slams into a plastic partition I keep next to the mat for protection. It’s a sound that will wake you up and also make you wonder what happened through impact. First, let’s address the most severe toe shots, which go almost 90 degrees to the right (for a right handed golfer). The first thing we need to look at is the weight distribution at set up; are you on your heels or on the balls of the feet? I like my students to feel athletic and get on the balls of the feet, as weight in the heels can cause you to stay in the heels, which can lead to shorter arms than when you started and when that happens, the club comes closer and you hit it on the toe.
If you are now on the balls of the feet, make sure you have good spacing at address between your body and the ball. I have seen players that get way too close to the ball pull their arms in, and I have also seen players standing too far from it never be able to hit the center of the club. There isn’t one situation that is in concrete, so make sure you have about a hand width between you and the club as a general rule.
As I mentioned before, the toe shot can come from shorter arms at impact than where you were at address, and many times that happens from a lack of body rotation. If the body doesn’t continue to turn through the shot, the arms can be collected inward too much and a toe strike is a result. Just think of it this way: if I told you to throw the club as far as possible, you would almost certainly turn your body through completely so that you could extend your arms and generate as much speed as possible to throw the club. That’s very similar to the golf swing, as you want to have center contact with as much speed as you can generate for maximum distance. So keep the body moving! A great drill for this is simply to hold the club up off the ground a few feet and make baseball swings around the body, concentrating on keeping the body moving and the arms out. I even stand with a pool noodle outstretched and make students turn through and hit the noodle with the club, so that they keep the arms extended. After missing it a few times they get the picture, and the center of the club starts to make contact with the ball soon after that drill.
Finally, another reason for toe shots is a path problem, where the club comes into the ball too much from outside the hands and steeply, causing the handle of the club to raise and the toe to be presented to the ball. This usually causes either a straight ball flight with an iron that goes nowhere, or most often a shot that starts right and goes more that way for the right handed player. When I see this issue with a student they almost always tell me that they feel as if they are “jammed up” through impact. This feel is very accurate, as a steep downswing causes the arms to fold so that you don’t stick the club into the ground too far behind the ball – it’s an instinctual move by the body to help make contact.
There are many ways to fix this, but we need to address the main issue of the path of the club swinging too far outside in first, which can cure a lot of other ills. I like to use a small inflated ball between the forearms, and have students make small swings first. The goal is to feel the ball stay firmly between your arms, the club head to stay more in line with the ball between your arms, and the arms to extend as the body pivots through to the target. Small shots are crucial to success here, as the student needs to feel the correct sequencing coming into the ball. If we can get the sweet spot of the club coming more from the inside of the ball as you turn, the center of the club will line up with the ball and you will feel that wonderful feeling at impact that we all strive for: center contact!
So don’t let the toe shots get you down (or sideways) about your game. Take a look at your set up first, then diagnose from there and use some of my common sense ideas to help you solve the issue. Even better – come in and let ME help you! See you on the lesson tee.