Welcome to the world of Jimmy Ballard.
When his book How to Perfect Your Golf Swing first came out back in the late 70s, Ballard was considered a radical. His whole concept of "connection" and right-side power was not accepted by very many in the golf community. Now, of course, in many ways he's actually considered pretty mainstream. Such is the constantly-changing world of golf instruction.
Anyway, if you saw the show you may have recognized some of the things I've covered in this blog, although Ballard covered them somewhat differently. His contention that the elbows should point down toward the ground all the way through the swing isn't really different from Carl Rabito's backswing demonstration using the Perfect Connextion device... or even my own article about "chicken wings" in your followthrough. (The difference between Ballard's contention that the elbow points down and my explanation of the elbow pointing behind you is simply reference points; Ballard is "drawing a line" from the shoulder to the elbow, while I was working from the wrist to the elbow. I stated that in the post.)
The reason Ballard's teachings may seem both self-evident and odd at the same time is simply because Ballard doesn't treat a golf swing as being different from any other athletic hitting motion.
- Would you try to push a baseball bat or a tennis racket as far away from you as possible in order to get a bigger arc? Of course not! If you wanted more power, you'd try to get into the strongest position you could, not the most awkward.
- Would you lean backward, away from the ball, to hit the ball hard with either one? Of course not! You'd move toward the ball.
- Would you flap your elbows out sideways? Certainly not with the tennis racket; you'd keep your elbow pointed at the ground. And while you might set up to hit a baseball with your bent elbow out to the side, you'd probably pull it back down toward the ground during your swing.
The show was possibly the best presentation of Ballard's teachings I've ever seen, and that was in no small part due to Rocco. His demonstrations were some of the clearest I've seen. (And for those of you who paid attention, you noticed that Rocco was also using the patented Stricker deadhanded swing with his iron. Have you realized yet that most of the good iron players use that technique?)
Besides the simplicity of the swing, Rocco also illustrated one of the big reasons I think Ballard deserves some attention. As bad as Rocco's back pain has been, the fact that Ballard's approach to the swing doesn't cause him pain is no small thing.
There are some Jimmy Ballard videos at YouTube. I had already bookmarked one on his basic teaching about connection; now's as good a time to post it as any. It's short:
If you keep your left arm in the "connected" position Ballard talks about, you'll eliminate problems like "chicken wings" and also -- if you're a chronic slicer -- you'll find it easier to draw the ball. I know some players -- Vijay's notorious for it -- place something like a glove between their chest and forearm to make them maintain connection, but that doesn't really attack the problem.
If you can't stay connected during your swing, you're getting in the wrong position during your swing. That means you are doing one of two things (probably both):
- You're leaning backward, which tilts your shoulders away from the target
- You stop turning your shoulders at impact
Your upper body and hips may move a bit more than usual (you're probably not used to this motion, after all), but it won't be a huge motion. Ballard said the hips move about six inches, but I bet you won't move that much after you get used to it. It feels like a bigger motion than it actually is.
When you do this, you should find it very easy to keep your elbows pointed down toward the ground. After you get used to doing it with your "instant club," you can try using a regular club if you get a nice day. Just go out in the backyard and swing the club, trying to duplicate the feel you had in front of the mirror. I bet you're going to be surprised just how natural it feels.
I also hope you're beginning to realize just how important it is to start turning your shoulders early in your swing and then keep turning them until you reach your finish position. That really does eliminate a lot of problems automatically.
So that's Jimmy Ballard's basic concept of connection. I'll come back to it in a later post since it's a helpful way to think about your swing. Hopefully someone will post bits from last night's program on YouTube for reference... or maybe Golf Channel will post it on their site.