Clearing My Hips During My Golf Swing - A Lesson From Jim Furyk


Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in , , , , , , | Posted on Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My fiancee came to visit me in Miami last week which meant I didn't have much time for golf. Not that she doesn't let me play, we just had a lot to do in short amount of time.

Her original reason for popping in was to go see our beloved Chicago Bears play the Dolphins. Which we won! Let me just say that I am one lucky dude that my future wife loves football. AND...on top of that, likes the same team that I do. A match made in heaven.

With our recent engagement it also gave us some time to start planning for the wedding. Being that she lives in Arizona, we have to make the most of the time that we have together to get every thing squared away.

Since I wasn't playing or practicing, I had to get my fix from my golf magazines. In the December issue of Golf Magazine, the swing sequence of Jim Furyk was featured. Furyk probably has the most unique(ugliest) swing that is still effective throughout a round of golf. Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer are known as two golfers who possessed swings which were not very pretty, but still won them many majors and tour championships. Furyk is right there with them.

Before working with Mike Southern, people used to say that I swung the club like Jim Furyk. The truth is that I was the complete opposite of the 2003 US Open champion. I used to start my swing way on the inside and then I would have no choice but to come over the top in an attempt to get back on the proper swing plane.

Furyk, on the other hand, starts his swing over the top and then drops back down to the inside to get back on plane. His timing is impeccable, and as he gets to impact he is back in perfect position to deliver a powerful, accurate strike on the ball.

As I was reading the article entitled Watch & Learn, and watching the video online, the part of Furyk's swing that stuck out to me was at the moment of impact. As he makes contact with the ball, he clears his hips toward the target while his shoulders are still square to the ball. Take a look at this video and if you pause it at frames :33 and :34, you will see what I am taking about.

This is the move that Mike Perpich, Top 100 Teacher says is the key to Furyk's excellent ball striking ability. Perpich also says, that because Furyk maintains his spine angle throughout his swing and clears his hips so well, "this gives him consistent contact that most players can only dream of."

There have been times when I was practicing and I am in the middle of my swing and I am thinking, my hands way behind my shoulders on this one, and then WHAMMO, the most beautiful shot you have ever seen. And then I just kind of stand there confused. Like, "how did that just happen?" Now I'm starting to understand why.

Mike has been working with me on the "whys" of golf. Instead of just telling me to do something, he also tells me why I am doing it. If I make a certain move, then I can expect "this" result. If I make this move, then I can expect "that" result. Understanding why we do things in golf gives us a better understanding of the overall game. To drive this point home with me he gave me this school of thought from Lee Trevino and Ben Hogan...

You can own a swing if you dig it out of the ground -- that is, if you work at it until you understand what you need to do and why you need to do it. You can't buy that knowledge; you have to find it yourself.

He then went on to say...

And the beauty of it all is this: When you start to understand the whys of your swing, golf ceases to be so difficult. To give you a couple of obvious examples (at least, they're obvious to you now), one simple move -- the one-piece takeaway -- eliminated many swing compensations and the associated swing thoughts you needed in order to make them all happen in sequence. And one simple concept -- "toss the ball toward the hole with your stroke" -- gave you so much confidence over your putts that you no longer agonize over pace.

I have always heard instructors say that golfers need to clear their hips, but never understood why. Now I do and maybe I can work the move into my swing a little easier than I would have if someone had just told me to do it.

Another piece to the puzzle is working itself into place. I don't think I will ever be able to put all the pieces together. No one can really. But at least the picture is a little bit clearer now. Have a great round and always hit your target.

*Jim Furyk Slo-Mo. If you pause it between :36 and :37 you will see how much his hips are cleared in comparison to his shoulders.

*I don't have a slo-mo of myself, but if you pause my swing at :21, you will see that besides all the madness that preceded it, my hips are still closed at impact, which rendered an ugly duck hook. You can see why I called my swing, the reverse Jim Furyk. I will get footage of my new swing ASAP:-)

Jim Furyk Images - Fred Vuich/SI

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Comments (8)

  1. November 24, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    Just a quick note to add to your understanding of your swing...

    Jim Furyk clears his hips more than a lot of players do, and this is because he has to. If you compare his setup position to most players, you'll see that his hands are much closer to his body than almost anybody else on any tour. As Perpich points out, his spine and hips function as a unit better than most players; to get that "unity of motion," his hand position demands that he move his hips a lot.

    Most players don't need to clear their hips as dramatically as Jim does, though. In fact, trying to clear them too much can cause you to lean backwards and cause the very problem that Jim avoids! The problem comes when your hips stop turning during your downswing and don't clear at all. It's a matter of degree, and just how much a player needs to clear his or her hips depends on their swing.

    A good key thought here -- one we keep coming back to, beginning with that one-piece takeaway -- is that you want to keep your hands "in front of" your body throughout the swing. You don't want them to get stuck behind you, which causes a push-slice; but you don't want them to "get ahead of you" either, because that causes a pull-hook.

    At the risk of oversimplifying this:

    1) Your shoulders are turned more than your hips at the top of the backswing.
    2) This angle stays almost the same until your hands are near your back thigh on the downswing -- some players describe this as the hips pulling the hands and arms down -- and then the shoulder-hip angle starts closing.
    3) At impact your shoulders are pretty much parallel to your target line and your hips are facing about halfway between the ball and the target.
    4) And at the top of your followthrough, your belly button points toward the target and your shoulders pretty much match your hip position (they "pass" your hips as the club arcs over your shoulders and points down at the ground for your finish).

    If you're not clearing your hips, you're probably locking your knees when you hit the ball. If you maintain a little flex in them until the ball is gone, you'll probably clear your hips naturally. Just make sure that you don't start tilting backwards as you try to clear your hips, and you'll probably find the balance for your swing pretty easily.

  2. November 27, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    The author didn't mention that his hands are so close to his body at address. Just says that he does a good job of letting his hands hang straight down at address.

    I had heard that his hands are close to his body at and you can plainly see it in the picture. I did not know that this was the reason he had to clear his hips so much. It makes sense though.

    Today when I was practicing I experimented with bringing my hands in a little closer when practicing with my wedge just to see what it was like. I pushed some of them to the right. Probably because I was getting my right hand to involved in the downswing. Needless to say, it felt to uncomfortable.

    What I did take away from the article and you mention it as well, is keeping my hands in front of my body throughout my swing. Furyk takes the club back in one piece as well and you can see that the head of the club stays in front of his feet. Anytime I get loopy, I automatically know it's because the club has gone to far inside.

    BTW. Don't worry about oversimplifying your explanations. Like I said, the simpler the better.

  3. November 27, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    Here's a new piece of knowledge to add to your growing understanding of the swing:

    You know that when you set up with your hands closer to you, you have to move your ball position closer to you. But did you know that you need to move it backward as well?

    The lie of your clubs is set so each club soles properly with your normal setup -- that is, so the bottom of the club sits flat, not up on the toe or the heel. The lie changes when you move your hands closer to or farther from your body. Closer hands put it on the toe; farther hands put it on the heel. You probably hit the ball to the right because the toe was hitting the ground first and twisting the clubface a little. If you "get your right hand into it," you're more likely to hit a hook.

    To offset this, you move the ball back in your stance and close the face a little (to keep the sole flat on the ground) when you move your hands closer to you than normal. That delofts the club and encourages a hook, so you'll hit the ball lower and longer than usual.

    It's a bit trickier if you move your hands (and the ball) farther away from you. You don't really have to move the ball forward, but you do have to carry your hands a little higher. Again, that's so you can keep the sole of the club flat; otherwise, your regular hand position will keep the toe in the air and might cause the clubface to flip over and hit duck hooks.

    That's why it's always best to use your normal setup as much as you can -- because that's how your clubs are set up.

  4. November 28, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    I worked on keeping the sole of the club flat on the ground at address. It seemed to help. Hit a lot of solid shots.

    What I do think is that I need to get fitted for new clubs to fit my new swing. To get the sole flat, I had to bend at the knees a little bit more. Not uncomfortable, but maybe not ideal.

  5. November 28, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    Although you wouldn't think it would make a huge difference, changing your takeaway may have changed your setup a little. Assuming your clubs fit your swing before, it sounds like you may be a little more upright now.

    If you go back and look at some of your original down-the-line video, you'll see that you turned your wrists clockwise as part of your bad takeaway when you took the club back. You may have flattened the first part of your swing by doing that, so you set up with your hands a bit lower. When you fixed your takeaway you may have started swinging a bit more upright, and that's affected your setup slightly.

    It's all perfectly normal, Dex. Most players need to have their clubs checked periodically anyway -- your body does change as you get older, you know. Sorry if that bursts your bubble. ;-)

  6. November 28, 2010 at 7:12 PM


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  7. November 29, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    @Mike-That's exactly what happened. As I was practicing to day, I noticed that my swing is a lot more upright. It's much better for keeping my posture the same throughout my swing. When I was loopy, I was all over the place. I found this little golf shop in Downtown Miami over the weekend. They do club fitting there and have a simulator. TOYS! I'll probably go back for visit to see what they say.

  8. November 29, 2010 at 7:48 PM

    @miyabi-Thanks for stopping by. Good luck in all that you do:-)