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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Swing and Sweep

(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 any diagrams as if you were looking in a mirror.)

Brian asked me several weeks ago if there was a way to feel the resistance at the top of the swing as strongly as you can with the feel drill. I’m not sure anything could give you a feel that strong short of swinging a steel pipe; however, this post should help you learn to feel the club’s weight better.

A traditional method of learning about the golf swing involves a piece of twine with a weight on one end. Also traditional was the use of a penknife for that weight; I suppose it was something most people carried with them back then. Because you can’t force a weighted string to make a swinging motion by muscle alone, teachers used it to teach students what a true swinging motion feels like.

The drill actually has a lot of applications for learning the golf swing. I spent an entire chapter on it in my book Ruthless Putting, where I used it in tandem with a putter to teach distance control. In today’s post, although we won’t use a weighted string, I’m going to show you how a similar technique can help you learn to feel the change of direction. I call it the swing and sweep. You can use either a short broom, if you have one, or a wedge for this drill.

Take your normal grip on the wedge (or broom handle) and keep your hands, forearms, and shoulders as relaxed as possible without letting go of the club. You don’t have to ground the club and it doesn’t have to touch the floor at any point during the drill, so you should be able to hold it pretty lightly. What you want to do is swing the club back and forth, not letting your hands go higher than waist-high but allowing your shoulders to turn freely. The head of the club will probably go about shoulder-high at either end of this abbreviated swing. Just swing it back-and-forth like a pendulum, and pay attention to what you feel.

You’ll probably notice some unusual sensations, like how fast the clubhead seems to be moving. This is a surprise to most people; they think it’s going to move very slowly, but they end up moving their hands faster than anticipated in order to keep up… which causes the club to pick up even more speed. (I’m not saying it’s going to go so fast that it flies out of your hands, folks – only that it moves faster than you may expect.)

What I want you to focus on during this drill is the end of the backswing, where your hands stop but the clubhead is still moving. Try to feel the pressure on your wrists when the clubhead finally stops going back. This may or may not be easy for you, but keep trying. It’ll come. This pressure is not quite as strong as it is during a full swing, so if you can feel this, you shouldn’t have any trouble with the regular swing.

Since the swing is short and the club doesn’t have to hit the ground, you can probably find someplace to do this drill inside during the winter. You don’t have to spend a lot of time practicing, either; spending 30-60 seconds a couple of times a day would probably be considered working hard. But if you use it regularly for the next few months of cold weather, you should have developed a lot of sensitivity to your swing by spring.

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