Impact(Verb): Your last chance to blow the shot.
Let's think about the golf swing and the impact zone for a moment. Anything that happens after impact really doesn't matter, does it? You can follow through like Tiger, Jack or Phil, but since the ball is long gone at that point, it won't help your shot at all. So the moment of impact is literally your last chance to make or break the shot.
Yet since the impact zone is the area where the club head should reach it fastest speed, is it possible to consciously control it? At impact your legs are driving, your shoulders uncoiling, hips turning, hands releasing, legs pushing off, all at the same time while the club head is flying into this little white ball at somewhere between 90 and 120 mph, with a margin for error of somewhere around 1/4 of an inch! So, does impact "just happen" or do we control it?
Well, kinda both.
Everything you've done up until impact, including your setup, takeaway, transition, and downswing, all add up to you being in either a good or a bad position at impact. If you've done everything correctly , impact is your last hurdle. Execute this maneuver and you're watching your shot soar majestically towards it's intended target. Make one of any number of possible mistakes and you're hanging your head all the way back to your golf cart wondering what the hell went wrong this time!
So how can you tell if your problem is at impact or somewhere prior to impact?
Signs of Poor Impact:
There are some tell tale signs that you may be "collapsing" at impact. (collapsing is allowing your wrist to break down before impact, often causing a "flipping" motion at the golf ball just before impact)
1. First and foremost you're losing distance. It's like trying to hammer in a nail while holding the hammer with just your thumb and forefinger.
2. You're shots don't feel crisp, and you feel like you have to jump on every shot to get it there.
3. Your iron shots lack bite, and kind of just float out there rather than soar!
*Also if your brand new irons feel more like tuning forks after you make contact, that's a pretty good indicator you may have to look at your hands and wrists at impact.
WHAT TO DO:
Take your sand or pitching wedge to the backyard or range. Practice some very short wedges, and flop shots, (5, 10 yarders). Really concentrate on keeping your wrists firm until you are well past the ball. Pay particular attention to the back of your left wrist. (keep it firm & straight.)
A good "thought" to use while practicing these is to feel like your hands are getting to the ball before the club head. (your hands are leading the way.) It's hard to collapse if your hands get to the ball first. Almost the definition of flipping at the ball is the club head getting there first. So work on "feeling" your hands get there first. It works!
Practice these shots keeping the wrists firm until you're a good 18" or more past the ball. If you were flipping at it before you'll notice almost immediately that the ball will jump off the club and the hit will feel much more solid. (Firm wrists and hands also helps improve your center-face contact. So if you're mis-hitting all over the club face this drill may help that as well.)
Now take this drill to the driving range and work on your longer clubs, striving for that same feeling you had with the short wedges. Firm grip and wrists until well past impact, hands leading the way through impact.
Don't Leave Impact To Chance:
When you get to the impact area make a conscience effort to keep the wrists and grip pressure firm.
When I'm having trouble with the crispness of my shots I think only about impact, making sure I give a little extra squeeze of the grip just before impact. Not a gorilla grip, something almost imperceptible. It's almost like I'm making sure I don't loosen my grip, rather than tightening at impact. Again, it's something you want to consciously think about at impact until you start making solid crisp contact again.
Be careful not to become rigid in the process of keeping things firm. We not talking about stiff arms, we're talking FIRM grip and wrists through impact. Not like our friend below.
"Danger, Will Robinson. I suck at golf!"