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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Crack the Whip

The first Practice BRAINge image may seem a bit strange to some of you. I've mentioned that you can play a mental round of golf, trying to imagine every aspect of the round as you play. You would try to employ all your senses, and feel all your muscles as you make your strokes. This is one very effective way to literally "play mindgames."

But swing thoughts don't need to be so literal or complex. In fact, designing an image to counteract a specific problem can lead to some unusual mental pictures.

In this one, I want you to summon your inner Indiana Jones and become a bullwhip.

Why a bullwhip?
  • Because many of us get too tense standing over the ball.
  • Because relaxed muscles create more speed, and that means more distance.
OK, here's the image:

A bullwhip is flexible without being a limp noodle. It's got some strength to it, so it won't encourage sloppiness. It's stiffer at the handle and gets more flexible as it moves to the tip. And it only takes a small amount of movement at the handle end to make a lot of movement at the tip. That small movement travels as a pulse, or a wave, or a ripple (choose the one that makes the most sense to you) from one end to the other.

The handle is in the foot closest to the target, the one that starts the downswing. (That's the left foot for a righty, the right foot for a lefty.) The whip stretches up through your body to your shoulders, down your arms, through the hands, and into the club. Of course, the tip is in the face of the club, where it will crack the ball with a snap.

And here's a rough description of how cracking the whip feels:

The small movement of the handle happens when you replant that foot to start the downswing. As the ripple runs up your leg, it successively causes your hip to open toward the target, the shoulders to turn back toward the ball, your relaxed wrists to start down toward the ball (which increases the wrist cock), and finally the head of the club to whip around and crack against the ball. It happens very rapidly, and what you're trying to feel is that pulse of power surging from your foot to the clubhead at lightning speed.

Obviously you aren't going to contort like a whip when you feel this. But what you should feel is a relaxed surge of power that rotates your body through its swing. This is your image; you can direct that energy in any direction you please! You might try using a club (you don't have to actually hit a ball) just to get a clear feeling of how your body is moving during the change of direction and downswing.

Focus on that relaxed power. This image should help you learn not to tense up when you swing.

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