Impact and Beyond

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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There are so many theories out there about the golf swing these days. Every time I turn on the Golf Channel it seems every other commercial is for the stack and tilt method. Not long ago I remember seeing that 1 plane and 2 plane swing infomercial aired seemingly daily. There is Mike Breed on the Golf Fix with his opinions on how the golf swing should go. All of these methods have proven to work for some golfers but how do you know if they will work for you?  

I have been a full time instructor for over 11 years now and have given over 9,000 golf lessons in that time frame. I always ask my clients a number of questions so I know exactly where they are mentally with their swing. The one thing I have learned for sure is this, golfers just want to get better and it can be very discouraging when there are so many different views on how to properly swing the golf club. Golf, in its most simplistic form, is a game in which we strike a ball towards a target. The fewer strokes the better. We have to learn to control our golf ball in order to be successful. Most amateurs are not able to control the ball on a consistent basis – the ball controls them.

One area of the swing we focus on a great deal at the TOUR Academy is the impact zone. Approximately 80% of ball flight can be traced back to the face of the golf club at impact. There are certain dynamics that have to occur at and shortly after impact in order to be consistent.

These key elements are vital in your ability to control the flight of your ball for lower scores.

So how do you ‘the golfer’ apply these dynamics? Well, there are 3 ways to learn this game – verbally, feel and through visuals. No doubt visuals help us understand what has to happen. From there we need to know how to apply it through feel. This is why drills are so valuable.

I have attached a picture of my golf swing a few frames beyond impact.  Key elements occurring are...

1) My spine is still tilted away from the target. 2) I have the majority of my weight on my front leg as evidence that there is air under my right foot. 3) My right knee has started chasing into my left knee. 4) The shaft of the club is an extension of my left arm – this has ensured I haven’t assisted or scooped at the ball at impact. 5) The club face has rotated from a square to the target line position to slightly closed to the target. 6) My left knee has straightened.

Any time we, as instructors, can deal with facts and absolutes the better. I have been implementing ideal impact conditions into my client’s swings for a while now and when done properly, every single person has gotten better.  What a novel concept, hey?

To improve your ball striking, simply rehearse this post impact position in front of a mirror at home without a golf ball. Some of the components will undoubtedly feel different. This is okay. Practice for 5 minutes a night for a week until you are a bit more comfortable with the sensations. Then test drive it at the driving range. Start with little swings with an 8 iron. Feel free to tee the ball up – advice I always give my clients when we are working on a swing change. See how it goes. I promise, if you are implementing the changes correctly, you will only hit the ball better and better.

As always, feel free to email me with any questions. I only want you to accomplish one thing and that is better golf for the rest of your life.

John Stahlschmidt is a PGA member and head instructor for the TOUR Academy at TPC Scottsdale, home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Contact John via email at

Correction: The two photos in last month’s column were reversed by accident. Arizona Golfer apologizes to our readers and John.