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On The Mark Podcast: Mark Immelman with Shauheen Nakhjavani
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Shauheen Nakhjavani: Functional Matchups to Straighten Your Ball-Flight
Shauheen Nakhjavani (@shkeengolf) is one of the the leading young minds in golf instruction. Based in Canada, his savvy approach to teaching has garnered him a massive following on Social Media where he shares, videos, insights and tips to help golfers of all skill levels improve. On this podcast Shauheen explains “Functional Matchups” in your backswing and downswing and how you can use them to straighten your slice or hook.
Welcome with Mark Immelman
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Shauheen Nakhjavani is a tribe member! He has been on the podcast with us before. If you have not listened to that podcast, please download that gem as well (Shauheen Nakhjavani on Swing Techniques).
Welcome to Shauheen Nakhjavani:
Mark Immelman: Can you talk a bit about how the partnership with Jeff Smith came about?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: I’ve known Jeff for quite a while, mainly because of social media. We have some friends in common in the industry. Jeff messaged me a few months ago basically saying he loved my work, had seen me around, and wanted to talk to me about a project he started. It is a digital coaching platform that is very informative. Basically a foundation for a golfer who is just starting out and who needs to know what are the important things to get a new golfer started on the right foot, with no bad habits.
Mark Immelman: Speaking of bad habits…let’s dive right in. Here is Average Joe golfer at the club… he hits a slice shot…the ball bends off line….everybody looks at his and says “Well…you lifted your head.” Then the poor guy is trying to keep his head down and still slices the golf ball.
Describe how the slice shot happens, how the hook shot happens, and the relationship that causes these crooked golf shots.
The Big Slice
Shauheen Nakhjavani: [Timestamp: 6:12] The most common that every instructor sees is the big slice. For the right handed golfer, that is the ball that either starts right and keeps going there, or starts straight and leaks way out the right.
The most common reason for the big slice is very simply a wide open club face in the downswing. This is something I see all the time. The golfer can keep his head down, but if that club face is open that ball is going right now matter what he does.
Open club face plays into the role of the wrist angles and the grip. Each of them have a very strong influence on what the club face is going to look like and the golf swing.
If the golfer want to get off on the right foot the first thing he needs to do is look at his hands, arms, and wrists. What are they doing in the swing? Are you rolling the club face open early? Is it starting out straight and then opening it up in the backswing?
These are THE most important pieces that I would suggest any golfer take a look at first and foremost .
Mark Immelman: The average golfer hits the slice shot and everybody says “Well, you came over the top.” Then the golfer in questions tried to make a more on point delivery and comes in a bit straighter, but that slice starts farther to the right.
Speak a little on the path/face relationship as it happens with a slice shot.
Shauheen Nakhjavani: [Timestamp: 7:37]
The curve of the ball is going to be defined by 2 things:
- The Club Face
- The Club Path at Impact
The way the ball is going to curve is going to be between the relationship of the two. If the face is more to the right of the path for the right handed golfer, the ball will curve right no matter what the face looks like. Technically speaking, you could actually have a club face that is pointing left at impact, but if the path is way further left that ball is still going to curve to the right.
Mark Immelman: Ok, 4 golfers have been on launch monitors who hit a slice shot and they see the face looking 1 or 2 degrees left, that would be your reason why, right?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: Yeah, if that ball slices to the right, I would put a lot of money on that the path is further left than the club face.
Mark Immelman: Alright, so then the draw shot or the hook shot (the opposite to the slice) has the face that is closed.
You spoke before on a previous podcast of match ups. I loved your description of how things work together.
Speak of some match up and enlighten us on that please.
Shauheen Nakhjavani: [Timestamp: 9:21] Everything you do in the golf swing is going to have an influence on the path. Either more in-to-out or out-to-in.
Example #1: Inside-Out Path
Let’s say for example that you have a very inside-out path, the shaft is nice and shallow, the club face looks good. We are going to say that the path is +5 to the right (for the right handed golfer). You could actually neutralize that path to be zero without changing the variable that are already in place. You wouldn’t have to touch the shaft. You wouldn’t have to touch the club face. You could let the golfer turn more to the left and all of a sudden that “matchup” combined to equal zero!
I’m going to explain why that is….because everything is connected in the golf swing -the hands are connected to the arms, which are connected to the shoulders, and so forth- the more body wants to rotate. So for the right handed golfer, the more left your body is going to turn, the more the path wants to get to the left.
So, you could have a bunch of variables in place without talking about rotation, that shoot your path way out to the right, and if that golfer rotates he could actually neutralize that outward club path.
Mark Immelman: So, just an adjustment at address could neutralize things?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: Yes, at address you could manipulate things, you could in the middle of the golf swing as well. There are tons of ways to go about it. But you can have 2 different factors, where one is influencing the path to the right, and one is influencing the path to the left, and if you combine the 2, you can hit a dead straight ball-flight.
Mark Immelman: You are just talking about path now, obviously, the face you described in the this instance the was appropriate, the face was square to wherever the golf club was moving.
Shauheen Nakhjavani: Exactly, that is assuming the face remained constant the whole time.
Mark Immelman: Any other examples of a matchup?
Example #2: Grip and Wrist Angle
Shauheen Nakhjavani: [Timestamp: 12:07] The most basic one is the grip and the wrist angle. You see a wide range of different grips on tour. Anything from very strong to very weak. You just need to have the have the grip pair up with the wrist angle to keep the club face square.
Let’s assume that a golfer has a very strong grip. For the right handed golfer that would mean that the glove hand is rotated above the handle and the trail hand is rotated underneath. The lines between the index finger and the thumb are pointing to the right shoulder.
That golfer has a lot more room to turn his wrists into flexion, to bow the hands inward. Because of that, they are likely to have a very closed club face. Strong grips lend themselves more to closed club faces. Neutral grips lend themselves more to open club faces.
For this reason, the person who plays with a strong grip does not necessarily need to bow their hand inwards because they might actually close it too far.
Mark Immelman: Be careful what you are reading in the golf magazine or watching on the golf channel! It is very in style right now to bow that wrist like Brooks Koepka or Dustin Johnson.
If you have a strong grip, you have to be a bit careful. Is that what you’re saying?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: Right. So the person who has a strong grip is probably better off playing with a cupped form of a wrist angle or max neutral. If they get anywhere near that flexible position they will have a club face that is way too closed.
Mark Immelman: In other words, all of these matchups are always directing themselves toward club face alignment or swing path.
Shauheen Nakhjavani: That is absolutely correct. A person with a very weak grip needs to have their wrists very bowed. If they have a weak grip, which lends itself to a very open club face position, and they cup their wrist even further, that club face is going to be wide opened in their golf swing.
I would actually suggest that the person who plays with a weak grip actually have more of a bowed or flexed position on the wrist angle because it will help avoid rolling the club face wide open.
Mark Immelman: A modern day example would be Jordan Spieth.
Fixing that Slice
Mark Immelman: [Timestamp: 15:53] You’ve talked about how the slice happens when the face is opened to path, more than likely, golfers are reacting and chopping across to get the shot functional.
How do we straighten the slice shot using proper matchups?
Lead Arm Depth
Shauheen Nakhjavani: Obviously, the first things we would look at is the club face. We want to get that club face dialed in and get him/her to no longer roll it opened.
There are a few things in play that people don’t really look at in regards to slicing. I would specifically like to talk about a term we call lead arm depth.
- lead arm depth: where the hands relative to the body in the downswing or in the backswing
A golfer who has almost no depth in the swing would be a guy like Justin Thomas. You would see the hands are high, but not very far behind his body.
Then you can look at the opposite extreme, a guy like Jason Dufner or Ricky Fowler, who have the hands way behind them at the top of the backswing. Once they are at the top the hands will be a little more in line with the heels of their feet.
The further behind the body the hands are getting, the more depth these golfers are adding.
Mark Immelman: How is that beneficial as the swing transpires?
Rotation in the Downswing
Shauheen Nakhjavani: A lot of people rotate towards the target in the downswing. The more rotation you are going to have the more left you are going to want to swing for the right handed golfer.
If you have very little depth at the top of your backswing and you rotate really well, your hands are going to kick even further out in front of you than they already are and you’re going to swing way outside that golf ball from out to in.
Mark Immelman: When you talk about rotate, most folks toss out the term rotate and instantly go to the backswing. Your explanation here is rotation back towards the target on the downswing.
Shauheen Nakhjavani: Yes. When you rotate into backswing, your hands what to get more behind you. When you rotate into downswing, your hands want to get more in front of you.
If your hands are already in front of you at the top of your backswing and you rotate really well, your hands are going to be directly over that golf ball, you are going to swing really aggressively out to in, in a slice pattern.
Mark Immelman: [Timestamp: 19:09] Then would you contend, the higher hand golfer would be more prone to hitting a fade shot or a slice shot a little easier?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: Yes, absolutely.
Understanding the Fade Shot
Mark Immelman: Ben Hogan was noted for his fade shot and could deliver it on demand, as did Lee Trevino. They both came from a deeper hand and arm position.
Unpack that for the listen for understandings sake.
Shauheen Nakhjavani: The way I look at depth with regard to the golf swing is I look at them at a certain point in the downswing, which would be when that lead arm (the left arm for the right handed golfer), is around parallel to the ground (position 5).
When you are at that point in the downswing, you are more likely to play one ball flight or the other. You can have really deep hands in the backswing, but if you have a hand path on the way down that goes really far out in front of you horizontally you can still technically play that fade shot all day long.
If you look at these golfers who play the fade, even though they are deep in the backswing, they get their hands more out in front of them on the way down.
Mark Immelman: Case in point: Matt Kuchar or Jason Dufner
Shauheen Nakhjavani: [Timestamp: 20:39] If you look at the complete opposite extreme of that you would see a guy like Rory Mcllroy, who has very deep hands coming down so his hands are very far behind his body.
Mark Immelman: Some of the better golfers talk about “getting stuck” in the downswing and they can’t get the club back to the ball. They are trying to get their arms back in front of them and the next thing they get themselves way too steep on the down swing. Talk about “getting stuck”.
Shauheen Nakhjavani: The most common reason golfers get stuck would be a combination between the hands that are very deep with a club head that is very far behind them and they likely pull their hands even further behind them to start the downswing.
They are actually doing a really poor transition where they are not rotating their body very well and their hands are getting caught even further back. Now they are going to shallow the club really late and are stuck with a path that is too strong in to out.
Help! Not Deep Enough at P5
Mark Immelman: So what about those who are thinking “I am not deep enough at p5 or perhaps I am too high at the top of my backswing.”
How can we go about rectifying this?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: [Timestamp: 22:19] Depending on the golfer, I would look at it in one of two ways. If you pull everything really inside in the backswing too quick and too low, you could actually have a backswing that is too stuck. The only way for that golfer to free themselves up is to shot everything up above them.
If the golfer has this pattern then they are likely to have their hands travel further out in front of them on the way down and will end up slicing it, which is why the backswing is very important.
What I would do with that golfer is get them in a neutral takeaway so they can gradually get their hands behind them, as opposed to doing it too soon.
Mark Immelman: When a golfer is videoing themselves from down the line, talking about lead arm depth, the top of the swing in an ideal world, is there a neutral as to where you like the arm to sit in relation to the chest at the top of the backswing?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: I generally like to see the lead arm right up the trail shoulder. For a right hander, I would like to see that left arm look like it is going right over the right should at the top of the backswing. That would generally have a depth that is fairly neutral. You wouldn’t have the hands too far above, but wouldn’t have the hands too flat and far behind them either.
Mark Immelman: If they were dropping a plumb line down from the handle of the club, where should that sit in relation to their body?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: I would like to see them over the heels of the feet.
Arm Depth on the Way Down
Mark Immelman: [Timestamp: 24:41] Talk about the depth of the arm and how it starts to work on the way down. Should the handle trace where it went back?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: In that type of scenario, it is case by case. Some can get away with a hand path that is a little more out in front of them on the downswing. We see that with Arnold Palmer. You can see the opposite in a guy like Rory, who has the hands out in front of him on the backswing and drops them way behind them coming down.
Depending on what the golfer is doing, we would work on either getting deeper coming down or more out in front of them when coming down.
Mark Immelman: Let’s talk about the person who is not deep enough right now. What kind of drills could you give them to go out on the practice tee?
Drills to Increase Depth
Shauheen Nakhjavani: Best field shield a golfer could have to increase the depth of the lead hand: If we are looking at the lead arm, focus on the area of the arm where your watch would sit. In transition to the downswing, I like to get them to feel like that area is going to press backwards into their chest. Then use the chest to drive it.
If you want the hands back and still rotate really well, you would theoretically have that lead arm feeling like it is pressing backwards into the body– the edge of the forearm would feel like it is pressing into the trail pec — and that would really press the hands behind them and they would improve their depth.
Rotational Drills for Hooks
Mark Immelman: How about the player who gets it a little too deep, the slicers?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: For the people who are hitting the hooks and their hands are getting too far back behind them, I would do more rotational drills.
As we discussed at the beginning the more the golfer can rotate the more they can get the hands in front of them. Often, what you see is when the golfer loads in the backswing it creates certain tilt. They will have the tilt line of the shoulders, where the lead shoulder will be lower than the trail side and that same concept applies to the golfer’s hips. If the golfer looses those tilts, meaning they get the lead shoulder and the lead hip really high really quick in transition, those hips are going to drop way too far behind their body.
They are not pivoting correctly and loosing their tilts way too quick right when they initiate the downswing, they are likely going to have a path that is way too severely from in to out.
Mark Immelman: [Timestamp: 28:25] What about a pivot drill that people can go practice?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: There is one common drill that I actually post often on social media. I would take an alignment stick and actually put it through the 2 front belt loops. I would put a large majority of that alignment stick outside of the golfers leading hip. When they load in the backswing, we tend to see that the alignment stick will point lower to the ground because their hips are working on a tilt and I would have them exaggerate the feeling of having that tilt maintained.
That alignment stick would almost turn around them while still pointing to the ground. It will feel like you are turning on a swivel right toward the lead heel.
Improving the Slice
Mark Immelman: Ok, here is a golfer who has the lead arm thing going on, he never thought he had a closed club face, because no one has ever told him or he is just unaware of it, but he has that face a little too open. He gets the lead arm depth improved, but is still hitting wide slices.
What could he do to get that face beefed up so he can start to deliver a powerful flight?
Shauheen Nakhjavani: If he has a really good club path and rotates really well, but is still struggling with a massive slice I would take a close look at the grip and what it is doing. Their grip may be just too weak for the mechanics and it just isn’t a good matchup for them.
In that scenario, it could really be as simple as a grip change to make the face more closed and work better for THEIR type of golf swing.
Mark Immelman: For me, the hands and the wrists are the tip of the spear. Speak about the wrist alignment some too. Talk about how to get the wrist more extended and more flexed.
Shauheen Nakhjavani: Let’s assume we are dealing with a golfer who has a very neutral grip. What I would do is take a close look at how the wrist is moving, specifically in the take away.
Let’s assume position 2, when the shaft gets parallel. I would look at what is the glove hand doing in the golf swing? I actually use the glove as a training aid often for wrist angles. Use the visual feedback of the logo on your golf glove. In the takeaway, if that logo of your golf glove on that neutral grip is going to point up to the sky really early on, you are going to have a very cupped wrist.
If you want to go for the opposite, and really want to work on exaggerating flattening the wrist out or toward flexion, try to work on exaggerations where the logo of that golf glove points really hard to the ground on take away. That will get your club face super closed.
Contact through Completion
Mark Immelman: The wrists are properly aligned, the arm depth is appropriate, the club is approaching contact, the body is leading, there is decent presentation of the club face…talk about just prior to contact through to completion.
Shauheen Nakhjavani: The more that the golfer has depth of their swing when they are coming down, the more appropriately they can rotate. The hands are actually going to want to go more in and around their body. That will actually stabilize the club face and avoid it turning over too soon.
If the golfer has less depth coming down they are better off rotating less and having the hands and club exit a little more down the line.
Wrap up with Mark Immelman [Timestamp: 37:00]
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