It was a windy day. A two-club wind blew steadily into the faces of the few devoted souls on the range. A perfect day for the knockdown or punch shot, thought Salt.
Salt appreciated the fact that these folks were out in less-than-perfect conditions. Salt assumed that these were not mere fair-weather players, but were more serious about the game. Perhaps they only had this particular time slot available for practice, and they would not be deterred by anything short of lightning or funnel clouds. Either way they were here, practicing, and Salt was pleased.
Jack was one such golfer. He had just a small time slot available to hone his game before his golf vacation next week. He saw Salt and called him over.
“Hi Salt, how have you been? I’m having a heck of a time in this wind. Can you have a look and see if you see anything?”
Salt said sure, he’d be happy to. Jack was a strong player, about a ten handicap, and an excellent ball striker. Salt stood back and watched Jack line up and take a full swing with his seven iron. Jack’s swing was solid, and the shot was well struck. But it went high in the sky, ballooned up in the wind, and ended up twenty yards short of the target.
“It felt good, Salt, but the result was terrible,” said Jack. “I need to keep the ball under the wind.”
“Why don’t you hit a knockdown shot?” asked Salt.
“I never hit them. I end up chunking the ball and getting frustrated. Seems that I don’t have that shot. So I’ve given up trying to hit it.”
A Reliable Knockdown Shot
Salt nodded thoughtfully. Not many players, even single-digit handicappers, could reliably take something off their swings and hit quality shots. Even PGA Tour players struggled with this from time to time. Salt thought it was a shame, a lost art. In his day all good players could work the ball, hit it low, hit it high, and so on. He thought Jack could learn too, because he knew Jack was a very solid ball striker.
“Jack, try this out. Use your five iron instead of your seven iron, and hit it to that same target,” said Salt.
“But my five iron will go too far,” said Jack.
“No, take something off of it so that you don’t go so far,” said Salt, “and put it a little back in your stance”.
“I’ll give it a try,” said Jack.
Jack hit a few five irons that were something like three-quarter shots, but none were particularly well-struck. Some actually did end up a bit closer to the target than before, but none were solid. Jack didn’t accelerate through the ball like he should have, and so his finish was not high, and the shots were not crisp.
Spine Tilt is Key
“Jack, try this for me. On your backswing, keep your spine tilted toward the target, with more weight on your front foot. From this position you naturally will hit a lower, more driving shot into the wind. This is the basic idea behind the Stack and Tilt golf swing. See if that helps you out on this shot.”
“Tilt my spine toward the target? What about my weight shift?” said Jack.
“You don’t want a big weight shift. Just give it a try, I think it will help you out on this shot,” said the persistent and persuasive Salt.
Jack was able to get the hang of this after just a few practice swings. He found that he had a shorter backswing and a more aggressive move through the ball. He recalled a lesson from Justin Rose where he was advocating much the same thing:
“Very good. Now let’s see how the ball flies,” encouraged Salt.
Jack saw results instantly. Instead of the weak and lackluster shots he had been ballooning into the wind, his shots were now crisp, driving, lower shots that pierced the wind with a slight draw and found the target. Jack was accelerating through the ball and had a high finish, as he should.
Jack was amazed at the consistency this simple change to his spine angle on the backswing had made for him. Salt was too, though he wasn’t about to admit it to Jack.
“Salt, this is great, I have never been able to hit a knockdown before, but now it seems I can! That swing thought seems to really work for me.
Salt just nodded. “Keep practicing,” he said. And he wandered down the line, picking up plastic range ball buckets, and looking for someone else who might might benefit from his wisdom.
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