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Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 1

In Sunday's post about HaNa Jang's swing I promised you a drill to help you learn how players like Jang, Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park -- as well as most other tour players, male or female -- create a lot of clubhead speed at impact. However, players like Jang, Kerr and Park are more accurate than most because of how they make this move.

In today's post I'm going to give you a drill that will help you get the bottom part correct. Next week I'll show you how to add the top part of the downswing. Why am I dividing it up like this? Because this is a different way of thinking about how the club moves during your swing, and it's easier if you take it one small part at a time.

Over four years ago I did a post that included this Ben Hogan video. We're going to adapt part of this drill to help you understand the motion of your arms, hands and club at impact. What we're interested in is the first 28 seconds of this video, the part where Hogan keeps his elbows very close to his side. Here, take a look:



We're going to do this drill a bit differently.
  • First, the key part of our drill is how you move your trailing arm. With your trailing elbow kept close to your side, after you take your address position I want you to take the club back by bending your trailing elbow upward 90° so your hands are in front of your trailing hip and your trailing forearm points straight out away from you AND the club shaft is parallel to the floor. I don't want you to turn your body during your 'backswing'. Keep your shoulders in the square position they are at address and keep your lead arm straight. That means I want you to get in the basic position shown in the Jang photo below. Yes, we are exaggerating this move for a reason.

HaNa Jang entering impact zone

Now this isn't a one-piece takeaway, and the club shaft won't be parallel to your target line. In fact, the shaft will angle out away from you, almost like an over-the-top swing plane. We aren't worried about that because, in an actual swing, your shoulders wouldn't be completely square because your body would be turning. We'll take care of that when we add the second drill next week.
  • When you bend your trailing elbow, the upper part of your lead arm is going to ROLL up your chest a little. Many of you think you rotate your forearms during your swing, but the rotation actually happens at your shoulder. This is vital to getting accuracy when you strike the ball because, when you make your downswing, your lead shoulder will roll down the same amount it rolled up on your backswing. Again, I'll show you how that works in the second drill but it's easier to learn it with this smaller drill.
  • Finally, when you "swing" back down to the impact position, your lead arm will rotate back to its original position and you'll automatically get a little forward weight shift. Don't worry that it looks like an out-to-in swing; like I said, we'll take care of that with the second drill. The important thing is that you learn the feel of your trailing elbow straightening out at impact while it stays close to your side during the downswing.
One very important thing you should learn from this drill is that a large amount of what you've been trying to do during your swing should actually happen automatically. For example, the movement we call a 'release' is actually caused by just bending and straightening your elbows at the right time during your swing.

And yes, I know it feels weird. That's because we've taken this small movement out of the complete motion the full swing makes and exaggerated it to learn how it works. But after we add the second drill and you get comfortable with the full swing, you'll find you can open your stance a little, add a little body motion and get a very nice chipping motion with this. But that will come later

For now, just spend some time doing this little drill and getting used to the feel. It's small enough that you may be able to do it inside. With all the bad weather going around, that's a good thing. And remember, you're learning a new way to think about how your swing works.

Do not underestimate the importance of how you think about your swing. How you THINK about your swing determines how it FEELS, and how it feels determines the MECHANICS of your swing. You'll understand what I mean once we get it all together.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Golf Digest's 2016 Hot List Is Out

Just an update for all you players looking for new clubs this year...

Callaway XR16/Pro Driver

Although the website is featuring the fairway woods on the home page, Golf Digest has posted the 2016 Hot List for all the equipment categories:
  • Drivers
  • Fairway woods
  • Hybrids
  • Game-Improvement Irons
  • Super Game-Improvement Irons
  • Players Irons
  • Wedges
  • Blade Putters
  • Mallet Putters
This time they've just posted photos of the clubs on the main page for each category, and you click to go to a longer review of each club. I only took a quick look but I like this guide much better than the  one they did last year -- more info, easier to read.

Enjoy checking out the new Hot List, even if you're just dreaming about new clubs!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Blair O'Neal's Three-Exercise Core Workout

Since it's so cold around the country I decided to go for another workout video tonight. I really like simple ones, workouts with a minimum number of exercises, so you don't have to spend so much time. After all, most of us don't have two hours to spend in the gym.

So here's a golf.com video from Blair O'Neal with three posture exercises you can do inside the house.

Blair O'Neal

Okay, three core and posture exercises:
  1. Single leg rear lift (activate your glutes!)
  2. Lunges
  3. Dead lifts (the movement but without the heavy weights)
You can strengthen your core and improve your posture while you're watching TV (and maybe Blair). What more could you ask for?

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama

Around the wider world of golf: Esteban Toledo won the Allianz Championship on the Champions Tour; Sebastian Munoz won the Club Colombia Championship on the Web.com Tour; Danny Willett won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the ET; Shaun Norris won the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open on the Asian Tour; Georgia Hall won the Oates Victorian Open on the ALPG; and Ha Na Jang won the Coates Golf Championship on the LPGA.

And in case you somehow missed it, the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in the Super Bowl.

Hideki Matsuyama with Phoenix Open trophy

Rickie Fowler was uncharacteristically emotional after losing to Hideki Matsuyama in an amazing 4-hole playoff. He had hoped that his grandfather would see him win in person. Instead, he saw his grandson in tears.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, it was water of another kind that brought on those tears -- the water hazard at the driveable par-4 17th. An unexpected hard bounce during regulation sent his ball 360 yards into the water behind the green and a pulled tee shot found the water on the left side during the final hole of the playoff.

Admittedly, Rickie's game had been a bit off all day. Had it not been for his scrambling there might not have been a playoff at all.

By comparison, Hideki had a few missed opportunities after an opening birdie but quickly got his game back under control. His bogey-free 67 matched Rickie for score but was much steadier overall. His birdies on 17 and 18 during regulation forced the playoff, and he never really struggled during those final four holes. He has now gotten both of his PGA Tour wins in playoffs.

During the broadcast Johnny Miller suggested that Hideki might very well turn the "Big3 / Big4" discussion into a "Big5" over the next couple of years. If he keeps this up, it might not take that long; this win jumped him up seven slots to #12 in the OWGR.

It also jumped him up to to two Limerick Summaries. Congratulations, Hideki!
They both wasted shots, yes it’s true…
But waste management’s what the pros do!
As Hideki got better
Poor Rickie got wetter
And the man from Japan got Win Two.
The photo came from the Japan Times site.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Quick Look at Hana Jang's Swing

Yesterday Hana Jang got her first LPGA victory at the Coates Golf Championship, an event she lost in a playoff last season after Monday qualifying just to get in the event. In fact, she was runner-up in four LPGA events in 2015. But she was already a major star on the KLPGA with six wins, two of which were KLPGA majors.

And Jang is quickly becoming a star in the US as well, in large part because she's just a fun person. You can learn a little about her in this bio from the Seoul Sisters blog. And according to this ESPN article, she learned to speak English by watching animated Disney flicks. You gotta love somebody who thinks outside the box!

But while Jang isn't tall -- she's only 5'5" -- she still busts the ball a long way. According to her LPGA stats, last year was her shortest year (255 yards, possibly because she was Monday qualifying for so many events) while she typically averages 10-15 yards farther. How does she do it and still hit so many fairways (near 80% most years)?

Here's a YouTube video from 2013, her best year on the KLPGA.



I've grabbed a frame from this video showing a split view halfway down in her backswing, just as she enters the impact zone. I've also grabbed a similar frame from this 2015 video at the CME Group Tour Championship. Here are the two photos:

Hana Jang 2013 swing

Hana Jang 2015 swing

I've isolated this position because I've written about it before as part of a four-post series I did between 11-25-15 and 11-29-15, specifically in this post about Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park getting in this same position. The trick here -- and what I want you to understand -- is that Jang is a long hitter and yet she doesn't have anywhere near as much wrist cock at Kerr and Park at this position. As you can see, the shaft of her driver is NOT parallel to the ground.

It's clear that, while wrist cock is important, it's not nearly as important as most of us think!

In this post about long drive champion Jeff Flagg I included this quote:
WHAT AM I THINKING ABOUT WHEN I SWING? My only real thought is, Right hand and arm drive the swing. That's it. I'm literally trying to make a sidearm throwing motion—like a 3-6-3 double play in baseball. If more golfers swung with the same motion, as if they were skipping stones, they'd pound the ball.
This "bent trailing elbow position" I talked about in the Kerr-Park post and that you can see Jang doing in this one is the same "sidearm throwing motion" Flagg talks about.

I would suggest going back and re-reading the Kerr-Park post (since there's no sense in repeating it all) and comparing it to what Flagg and Jang do. I'm seriously beginning to think this is the position that most speed drills are trying to get you into so you can get distance. I think I know the perfect drill to help you work on it -- once you know what you're trying to learn, that is -- and I'll try to do a post on that next week. This post is long enough already!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Annabel Rolley on the Reverse Warrior Yoga Pose

I know you'll think this exercise is crazy but it's a multi-purpose workout that strengthens and stretches your muscles, plus it increases your endurance. Annabel Rolley calls it a 'Reverse Warrior Yoga Pose.'

I'm not even going to try and describe it. Just watch the video and copy what Annabel is doing. But having tried some specific yoga poses in the past, I can tell you from firsthand experience that something like this can do wonders for you. Because you're trying to stay as relaxed as possible while you do these types of exercises, they let you do an amazing amount of work without hurting you. Over a period of weeks you really will feel a difference.

Go on, give it a try. What have you got to lose?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Rickie Fowler's Four Checkpoints for Solid Iron Shots

Rickie Fowler has already won in Abu Dhabi this year and he's tied for the lead in Scottsdale after the first round. If you've been watching him blast his irons at the pin -- and, more times than not, hit them right where he intended them to go -- and you wonder what he thinks about when he swings, then you might be interested in Rickie's four-point checklist that he gave Golf Digest on how to hit more greens.

The reason this is important is because... well, there's nothing special about it. Anybody can check these four things at any time during their round if they're having problems with their approach shots.

Rickie Fowler flushing an iron

The four tips are:
  1. Make sure your feet, knees, hips and shoulders are square
  2. Check your posture and make sure you're not too stooped over
  3. Avoid overswinging at the top of your backswing
  4. Be sure you're hitting the ball before you hit the ground
These four things effectively check your alignment (1), your spine angle at address and the top of the swing (2 and 3) and your footwork / weight shift (4).

Those are dreadfully simple, aren't they? You may even feel embarrassed to mention them. But in golf, as with most things in life, it's usually the simplest things that trip us up.

And perhaps because they're so simple, Rickie says not to worry about them if your first few shots are good. Why? Because -- and I think this could be a fifth tip -- the fewer things you think about when you play, the better.

We make a big deal of how much Butch has helped Rickie improve his game. But is it really any surprise that Rickie has become so consistent when his approach is this simple?