In this exclusive Retief Goosen ball striking tips feature, the South African tells us his keys for sweeter strikes that include how to set a better posture to help you cover the ball through the impact area, how to transfer your weight correctly and the importance of good rhythm.
The first think I look for when I’m playing with or giving lessons to amateurs is posture, and more often than not, it’s poor. It’s like a chain reaction. If you don’t have good set-up positions it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to groove a repeatable and consistent golf swing. Most faults come from incorrect posture. A lot of amateurs have too much bend in the shoulders. That already restricts your tuning if you’re not in a nice, straight position to rotate around your back. If you get your back straight at address, you’ll be able to improve your take away and shoulder turn.
The barrel rule
Weight transfer is another important facet. With golf, I think you have to imagine that you’re inside a barrel. You don’t sway back and forward through the shot, it’s more about rotation. The more you can rotate, the more you can swing around your body to create speed. This is something I always try to visualise when I’m standing over a shot. The golf swing should be nice and smooth and not stop-start, and if you view it as one fluid motion, it should enable you to get better and more consistent strikes on the ball.
Rhythm is quite personal. Players often say to me ‘how do you swing it so smooth?’ and I reply: ‘well, it doesn’t feel like I’m swinging it that smooth.’ I try and keep it smooth through the various transitional phases of the swing, but I am also trying to hit it hard. Everybody’s timing is a little bit different, and you have to find the pace that works for you. Nick Price, for example, has a very quick rhythm, but that was natural for him. Your rhythm should be dictated by the speed at which you can swing and still feel like you are in complete control of the club.
The last thing you want is to be swinging really hard from the top of the swing, as that generally puts everything out of kilt. At the end of the day, you only need to swing hard at the bottom where the ball is. If you try and generate the power from the top of the backswing, you will completely lose your timing. Ensure you keep a smooth and rhythmical transition from backswing to downswing and if you do that, you should be in a position to give it a little extra as you approach the ball.
My thoughts on the downswing are to generate a good, solid contact. I find I can do that by focusing on good technique, but also by visualizing the ball coming off the middle of the club face. If you can bring the club down, under control, and try and hit it out of the middle of the club, the ball will travel. It doesn’t matter how hard you swing the club, if you aren’t hitting it out of the middle, you won’t hit it far and you’ll struggle with distance and accuracy.
Don’t overcomplicate things
Often you can have too many thoughts in your head as you go to address the ball. Sometimes it’s good to forget about the mechanics a little bit, picture hitting the ball out the middle of the club and swing with freedom. Don’t get too caught up in the fundamentals when you’re out on the course. I’ve played some of my best golf when I get over the ball, picture the shot I want to play and just swing. If you’re constantly thinking of technical things, you often lose your timing and rhythm, and if you do that, you’ll struggle to hit the ball out the middle of the club face. Swing the club, play within yourself and don’t try and get too technical.
Balance is key
To be able to hit the ball solidly, you need to know you can swing at the ball relatively hard and maintain your balance on the follow through. In order to achieve this, you need to have your weight on your left side as you swing through the ball and not feel as if you’re falling back on your heels or onto your right foot. A common fault with amateurs is leaning back to far, so the club gets across the ball and produces a slice. Focus on getting your weight right through onto your left foot.
Retief turned professional in October 1990, and since then, he’s spent more than 250 weeks inside the world’s top 10. He won European Tour Q-School in 1992 after three victories on that year’s Sunshine Tour, and claimed the first of his 14 European Tour titles at the 1996 Slaley Hall Northumberland Challenge. He won back-to-back European Order of Merit titles in 2001 and 2002 and claimed two US Opens in 2001 and 2004. In his 23 years as a professional, he’s won 44 tournaments around the world.
Did you know?
The Goose has earned a total of €21,828,884 in his European Tour career, placing him fifth on the all-time list. Only Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington have accrued more money.