Want to hit it more like a tour pro? Put these five elements of PGA Tour member Shane Berstch’s swing into yours and you’re on your way.
Beginning his professional golf career in 1994, 45-year-old PGA Tour member Shane Bertsch has a combined 481 starts between the PGA and Web.com tours, amassing nearly $4 million dollars in career earnings and three Web.com Tour victories, his latest coming this past June at the Rust-Oleum Championship in Ohio.
So, when a when a world-class player like this stops by GolfTEC Headquarters to take a few swings as a season warmup (he’s currently two-for-two in cuts made since his visit), we naturally pay attention to see what’s made him so successful.
Considering this, five keys in his swing stand out as elements that, if copied in your own game, should go a long way toward better ball striking.
Key No. 1. A sound grip.
It’s often noted in golf instruction that an important foundation for solid ball striking is a sound grip. Among many variables in the swing a solid grip can aid, this helps control and manage the clubface-to-swing-path relationship, which is a key dictator as to how a shot may curve.
If the clubface is open to swing path at impact, the ball will curve to the right (or slice) for the right-handed golfer, which the majority of amateurs tend to do. Taking a look at Shane in this regard, he conversely has a closed clubface-to-swing-path relationship, meaning he curves (or draws) the ball to the left. A significant factor contributing to this desirable shot shape begins with his grip.
The key I want to point out here is the positioning of the back of his lead (left) hand faces well away from the target (more toward the sky), with his trail hand following suit, which enables him to maintain this closed relationship through impact. As noted in Figure 1, you can see the characteristics of this reflected by the red dot showing his left hand turned to his right – with his right index finger staying underneath the grip – as compared to a common open-clubface-to-swing-path (slicer’s) grip shown in Figure 2 (left), where the back of the left hand is facing the target and the index finger is on top.
Key No. 2. Effective hip turn in the backswing, aided by knee movement.
The best players in the world turn their hips effectively in the backswing to maximize their distance and control. Like other touring professionals, Shane illustrates this nicely, as his hips have tilted and turned in a way that allows him to initiate the downswing powerfully and consistently, resulting in an inside-to-out swing path.
The key to notice here is how his knee movement promotes this turning and tilting, meaning his right knee has slightly reduced in flex and his left knee has slightly increased in flex. This movement not only helps both his hips and shoulders to turn back effectively, but also perfectly sets up a proper sequencing to the initiation of the downswing.
Key No. 3. Starting the downswing with hips and shoulders moving toward the target.
A crucial move Shane shares with other touring professionals is how he initiates the downswing by moving both his hips and shoulders toward the target before anything else, which is VERY important in allowing him to swing inside to out, generate power and contact the ball solidly.
A common motion measurement term we use at GolfTEC when referring to this lateral movement of the hips and shoulders is called “sway” – a motion where we see the vast majority of golfers move AWAY from the target at this point instead of toward, due to an premature opening of the hips.
Are you a player who struggles hitting shots both heavy and thin, and have an outside-to-in swing? Then start moving your hips and shoulders more toward the target to begin your downswing like Shane, and chances heavily point toward a significant improvement in these trouble areas.
Key No. 4: Solid contact from controlling the low point of his swing arc.
Like all good ball strikers, Shane is able to control where his club hits the ground to create consistently solid contact. A key contributing factor to this is the low point of his swing arc being in front of the ball, which allows him to strike the ball first before hitting the ground.
A byproduct of this at the moment of truth is that the butt-end of his grip leans toward the target, as noted in Figure 5, compared to what we see with a lot of golfers who struggle with contact because theirs lean away from the target, and noted in Figure 6.
Key No. 5: Arms stay straight and elbows close together during the follow-through.
Let’s start by looking at the example golfer in Figure 7 who likely struggles with his ball striking.
If you notice how both of his elbows have folded after impact – known as the “chicken wing” – in comparison to Shane’s arms and elbows in Figure 8 which have remained straight, this is vital in understanding how the first four keys have contributed the fifth, which is managing how his elbows and wrists bend in the follow-through. In addition, Shane also controls how much his arms have rotated, which is a big key to consistently managing how much he curves the ball and another likely reason why he’s made a living at the game for so long.
A good visual to note this is in his left forearm remaining almost fully visible, with his left hand mostly covered by the right. This can be compared to a common better-player issue we see, as noted in Figure 9, where there may be too much curve on the shot – a contributor of the “pull-hook” – because of overactive arm rotation. You can see in this example that the arms are straight arms like Shane’s, but the left forearm is now conversely covering the right and the left hand is in view.
The takeaway here is that it’s not only important to keep the arms straight and elbows close together in the follow-through, but likewise manage arm and wrist bends to control the flight of the ball.
Looking at all five of these key elements together, Shane’s positions closely emulate other top players in the world and, if copied, will most likely improve your own swing. So make sure to talk to you local GolfTEC Certified Personal Coach who can help you understand this in detail to play better golf in 2016!