Symptom: You frequently are told to “keep your head down” and “keep your head still” in order to improve your swing, and sometimes even say this to yourself after hitting another poor shot. But what does that really mean, you wonder…
Overview: “Keep your head down” works only for chipping and putting, and is good advice for these short shots. “Keep your head still” is much better advice for pitching and all other full shots.
Why it works (or doesn’t): For long shots, your head stays down (or more correctly, stays still) as a result of a proper swing. The proper swing doesn’t happen because you kept your head down. Conversely, for short shots, actively keeping your “head down” can be quite useful advice.
“Head Down” is Solid Advice for Putting and Chipping
When you putt, it is a very good idea to listen for the ball to drop, which requires your head to stay down. When you chip, similarly, I recommend that you listen (not watch) for the ball to land on the spot you have chosen. In both these circumstances, keeping your head down (and still, of course) is indeed very good advice.
Putting and chipping are short strokes that do not call for a powerful body motion. Furthermore, there is a strong temptation to look up so you can witness, firsthand, the brilliance of the putt or chip you just hit. And that would be a bad idea. So “head down” is good advice for these shots.
“Head Still” is a Brilliant Swing Thought for Full Shots
But for a full swing or a pitch shot, “keep your head down” is not good advice. It is more correct to say “Keep your head still”, but better still to say “swing such that your head stays relatively still”.
The difference is subtle but important: the still head is an effect, NOT a cause, of a good swing. (Similarly, a relatively straight left arm is an effect, not a cause, in a good golf swing).
Actually, in a really good golf swing, the head actually moves back slightly just before impact, to allow the eyes to remain focused on the ball as the lower body rotates.
Watch Jordan Spieth demonstrate this for us — Note his head position relative to the dashed yellow lines at impact — his head is slightly lower and slightly more behind the ball than it was at address:
Have a look at the video.
It is Stupid-Simple to Keep Your Head Still
So how do you, the Occasional Golfer, swing such that your head stays relatively still and channel your inner Spieth? Obviously it is not simple.
One of the best ways to get the feel is to hold a tee in your lips and point it at the ball as you swing. To make it work you will need a good setup, a proper starter move, an elastic left shoulder at the start of the downswing and a throw the stick motion with your right arm through the ball will get you a long way towards your goal. Use the two-ball drill to prevent a casting motion on your downswing.
Do all these things and you will find that you are swinging in such a way that your head stays pretty still, without really trying to keep your head “still” or “down”. And that is the feeling your want! Try it and see!
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