(PAY ATTENTION, RIGHTHANDERS! Normally I describe things as a righthander, and lefties have to transpose it. But Brian is a lefty and this is his project, so you righties will have to substitute “right” for “left” and vice versa. It will give you an appreciation for what lefties have to go through when they learn the game. But here’s a hint that will help: View the diagrams as if you were looking in a mirror.)
Once you know how the lower body behaves―and the barrel drill from yesterday will teach you that―you’re faced with the more difficult problem of finding out exactly what that behavior feels like to you. This may be the biggest source of confusion in modern teaching, simply because many teachers have a predetermined idea about how it should feel… and that idea is based on their teaching theory. For example, if you’re teaching a lefthander that the left side should drive the downswing, you’re automatically going to describe the lower body action in terms of the left leg “driving” or “releasing through.”
But what if it doesn’t feel that way to everybody?
Here’s my “feel drill,” which I believe will help you identify how the downswing move feels to you. You don’t need a club to do this, so you can do it almost anywhere and as often as necessary until you determine just what you want to feel when you start down.
The setup is pretty simple. Find a door jamb and take your normal stance with your left heel about 6” from the jamb, then make a full coil with your upper body and place your left hand on the inside of the door jamb. It’s alright if your right heel needs to come off the ground when you coil.
Now, all you have to do is try to turn your shoulders back to your setup position. Resist with your left hand and pay attention to which muscles seem to be starting the downswing.
I bet most of you are going to be surprised. I thought the left leg would start the downswing with a push, but I felt the right leg pulling me through the swing. (I’m a rightie, of course, but that’s the “leftie explanation” of what I felt.)
In retrospect, it makes sense. It’s basic physics: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I want the left shoulder to start pushing the club forward, so the right leg starts pulling the body around. That’s the most opposite motion available.
Knowing this is an important part of the puzzle, but it doesn’t give us the full answer to our question. Just what does that pulling motion feel like? Take a look at this diagram, drawn as if I were standing in front of you and facing the doorway:
As you can see, there are several aspects to this movement. The right foot is rolling over to the outside, toward the target, which could feel to you as if it’s digging into the ground. The right knee swings to the right, and it also straightens a little; you may feel one or the other, or both. The right hip moves back (some teachers call this “opening” the hip) and it also moves upward a little. Again, you may feel either or both.
You might feel any one or any combination of these actions. That’s the beauty of this drill: You can use it to help you identify just what combination you’re feeling.
For example, I feel my knee swinging out and causing my foot to roll. Because of this, I want to start my downswing by feeling that action. I don’t have to get technical and watch to see how much they move, or if one moves first, or anything like that; all I need to do is identify the feel of the movement, then… well, feel that when I start down. And if at any time my feel changes (which happens to golfers every now and then), I can just do the “feel drill” again to discover the new feel.
So, use the barrel drill to learn the proper mechanics of your lower body movement, then use the “feel drill” to determine how those mechanics feel to you. Once you do that, you can swing by feel, which is the Holy Grail of golf. You’ll know your mechanics are ok, and you can just focus on the shot you’re trying to make.
These last few posts should have provided enough material to keep everyone busy practicing this week, so I'm going to take a brief break from the series. That will also give you a few days to post comments and let me know if I covered things thoroughly enough. Consider this the first "season" of Project Brian; I'll continue with the second season next week.