Thursday, October 8, 2009

Meet Gary Coilman

This post will look a little silly at first. Stick with me, though; I promise you won’t be sorry.

Yesterday I said that lifting and tilting the shoulders was a major problem for weekend golfers. Today I want to show you how proper coiling helps cure that problem.

Meet Gary!So who’s Gary Coilman, you may ask? He’s the little guy pictured to the left. Should you need to actually see today’s lesson in action, you can recreate him with a couple of popsicle sticks and a piece of cardboard. (Or just a piece of cardboard, if you like, but he won’t hit the ball as far.) The cardboard piece is to help you keep track of where his chest is; you can also make him from just a couple of sticks if you mark the front (chest) side clearly.

And of course, you lefties can make one by just marking the other side of the sticks.

In case it’s not obvious to you, the long upright represents Gary’s spine and the shorter crosspiece is his excuse for shoulders. The crosspiece is at an angle because one shoulder is set higher at address; in the picture above, Gary’s right shoulder is lower than his left because his right hand is lower on the handle than his left. (Yes, I know you all know this from your own setup, but I want to make sure you understand how I’ve applied it to Gary. You’ll thank me later.)

Now, imagine that Gary is an actual golfer. When he sets up, he’s going to lean forward just like you, with his chest facing the ball. If you were a cameraman filming his play for a PGA Tour broadcast, you’d be standing “behind” him―that is, looking down the line toward Gary’s target―and that’s where you are in the next picture. The first image shows him at the top of his backswing, and the second shows his followthrough. (Apparently, Gary totally whiffed this one; but we’ll cut him some slack, as he was kind enough to pose for the picture.)

How Gary's Swing Looks

Here’s what I want you to see. If you compare these views of Gary’s positions at the extremes of the swing to similar views of any good professional, you’ll see that they match. (Granted, most pros will straighten up at the followthrough; you'll need to compare this position to a pro like Laura Diaz, who keeps her spine angle all the way through.) Why is this important? Because Gary can’t move his shoulders at all! He can’t lift or tilt his shoulders; he can only rotate them around his spine.

This is the ideal for a proper coil. If you could do it perfectly, you would never change your shoulder position from setup through the backswing to the followthrough.

In reality, this probably won’t happen. Although most of you can probably duplicate Gary’s move, it may feel very stiff to you, and you’ll just tense up even more than you do now. But you might also be surprised to find that you’re moving a lot more than necessary when you swing. Either way, you should give it a try. (Be aware that moving your hips too much can cause excess shoulder motion also… but trying Gary’s move can help you identify that problem if it exists.)

This is something you can do in front of a mirror, without a club, just to get used to how a quieter shoulder motion feels. You don't have to mimic an entire swing; you just want to feel how your spine and shoulders move during the backswing, so you can do it very slowly. Don’t tense up while doing it; stay as relaxed as you can. Again, what you want to learn is how it feels to keep your shoulders more quiet during your swing. If you relax, you’ll find it easier to move less. In the end, this little exercise will help you relax more during your swing, which will allow you to develop more clubhead speed.

Take a lesson from Gary; you’ll be glad you did. Just eliminating some excess shoulder lifting and tilting during your backswing can make a huge difference in your ability to hit the ball solidly… and that translates to both more distance and more accuracy. (Gary’s whiff notwithstanding…)

Tomorrow I’ll show you how a coil works with a one-piece takeaway.

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