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The Tour Report

December 4 2012

3:47 PM

On the Mark: Check at the top

Live Report Image
Barbour/Getty Images
One distinguishing characteristic of McDowell's swing is a skyward-facing clubhead at the top of the backswing.

ON THE MARK ARCHIVE: Tips from Mark Immelman

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

It would not surprise me at all if Graeme McDowell bought a house and become a member at Sherwood CC in Thousand Oaks, Calif. It appears that he has a torrid love affair with the picturesque venue. Get these numbers: G-Mac has played the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual three times (2009, 2010 and 2012) and is 45 under for 12 rounds sporting a stroke average of a mere 68.25. His record in Tiger’s event of two victories (2010, 2012) and a runner-up (2009) have earned him $3 million.

This year he offset twenty birdies with only three bogeys in four rounds and once again exhibited fantastic control from tee to green. I have always been impressed with McDowell’s determined manner and his positive approach to his game and his craft and there are certainly many things we can learn from watching him play. Among other things it appears that he really understands the nature of his swing and its tendencies and that is the lesson I would like to highlight this week.

G-Mac plays with a bowed lead (left) wrist and, by extension, a closed clubface at the top of his swing. From there he uses an aggressive unwind of his hips and a shallowing of his arm-swing to deliver the clubface on a more in-to-out approach (For the record his practice swing is evidence of his attempt to straighten the path of his swing more). Through impact and beyond he marries the action of his torso and his arms to hold the release of the clubface, in effect opening it, to make it play a little more square to the target-line. His method allows him to hit a penetrating, pretty reliable draw. McDowell uses what I would term a “Closed-to-Open” method.

Now I would not recommend G-Mac’s swing style to everyone. What I would like to reiterate, however, is the position of the club at the top of the swing dictates how it has to be delivered in order to make that “moment of truth” at impact count. Further, having an awareness and an understanding of this relationship will go a long way toward you hitting quality shots more consistently.

Remember always that the face angle has the most profound influence on the direction of the shot. So if you are making adjustments to the top of your backswing, aligning the shaft with the target is certainly important but squaring the clubface is more so.

If indeed you do not want to tinker with the top of the backswing, do bear in mind the situation of your clubface and whether it is open or closed – Open will have the leading edge pointing more toward the ground and closed will have it pointing more toward the sky. If the face is closed (ala Graeme) you will need to incorporate moves in your downswing and through impact that will keep it from closing further or you will hit hooks and pulls. Conversely, if the face tends open you will need to ensure that you release the face more in order to square it through impact. If you do not do so you will more than likely hit slices or pushes.

In summary, whatever you do should point toward impact. Each and every golf swing’s value is defined by how good impact is, not how good the swing looks.

Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.