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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Hand Position Drill, Part 3

Ok, let's review. We're working on a hand position drill to help improve your swing in a general sort of way. I want it to be useful to players with a lot of different swing styles, and I'm focusing on a basic concept that the late Seve Ballesteros said was very important -- namely, you need to be conscious of your hand position throughout the swing. If you know where your hands are at all times, you can keep track of where the clubface is pointed at all times.

Thursday we worked out a hand position drill for the bottom half of our swing, and Friday we worked out a hand position drill for the top half of our swing. So what's next?

We put the two together, of course... but not the way you might think. At least not yet.

You see, I want this drill to do more than help Dexter eliminate that excess forearm rotation he's dealing with. I want to help him eliminate some of his movement off the ball on the backswing as well. I don't want him to stand like an iron pole embedded in the ground, but I don't want him waving like a weed in the wind either! So initially we want to put this drill together backwards -- that is, we'll start the drill at the top of the backswing. That way, it'll be easier to learn how to start the club back without moving so much.

Here's the drill. Make sure your wrists and forearms are relaxed, and that you go through this is slow motion. This isn't a swing, but we're mimicking a swing. And yes, it will take a couple of minutes to do one repetition because we're building the swing in segments:
  1. Take your normal setup position using a club and the neutral grip from the past posts.
  2. Cock your wrists straight up so the club shaft forms a 90° angle with your forearms. Keep the club cocked like this throughout the drill.
  3. Lift the club up to your "backswing shoulder." Your hands will be just above shoulder height, one arm is straight, and the other is bent.
  4. Turn your shoulders 90° to mimic your position at the top of your backswing. The club shaft should extend over your shoulder at about a 45° angle. Your weight should be pretty evenly distributed on both feet, but you may feel a bit more pressure on the "backswing side." And make sure you haven't inadvertently stood up straight; we want to be in our normal top of swing position, with flexed knees and tilted at the waist.
  5. Keep your shoulders still and slowly lower your hands down to waist high. Both elbows should be straight and your hands roughly in front of your belly button. Pause, then return them to the bent position with as little excess motion as possible. Repeat this action 3 times, then end with your hands at waist high.
  6. Slowly return to your setup position by turning your body and lowering your hands, feeling as if you are leading the "swing" with the back of your lead hand. Pause, then turn back to the halfway up position you started from (i.e., make your takeaway). Repeat 3 times, then end in your setup position.
  7. Slowly make your takeaway to waist high, pause, then continue to the top, pause, return to waist high, pause, return to setup. Repeat 3 times.
  8. From the setup position turn to waist high in your finish (got that? we've changed directions), pause, then return to setup. Repeat slowly 3 times.
  9. Slowly make your takeaway to waist high on the backswing, pause, then continue to the top, pause, return to waist high, pause, return to setup, pause, move to waist high in the finish, pause, return to setup. Repeat 3 times.
  10. Now -- you guessed it -- slowly make your takeaway to waist high on the backswing, pause, then continue to the top, pause, return to waist high, pause, return to setup, pause, move to waist high in the finish, pause, continue to the top of your finish, pause, return to waist high, pause, return to setup. Repeat 3 times.
  11. Congratulations -- you survived the drill! Throw a party and celebrate -- it's Memorial Day weekend, after all!
A couple of days ago I asked you to trust me while we put this together, because this drill seems to violate every fundamental concept of the swing you can imagine. The neutral grip you're using probably feels unnatural to you, you don't rotate the club, you do all your coiling in the bottom half of the swing, you hold your shoulders still in the top half, and now I've got you turning in an exaggerated "plane" that looks more like a bent paper plate because you pull down at the top of the swing and then "backhand" the ball at the bottom. How in the heck is this drill supposed to help you improve your swing?

Now that we have the first incarnation of the drill assembled, I think I can answer those questions in a way that will make sense to you.

A lot of things happen in a golf swing automatically. Many players try to make them happen, and as a result they prevent them from happening correctly. This is a feel drill and it's intended to teach you how the swing feels when you make moves that don't interfere with those natural movements. To do that, I've designed it to eliminate most of the natural movements caused by swinging weights, bending joints, and twisting muscles. In fact, the club itself should feel pretty light throughout this drill because of the consistently cocked position.

In essence, you're making the moves you should make without feeling any of your muscles' reactions that are caused by the momentum and weight shifts these moves create. This allows you to focus on just the moves you should make. When you actually swing a club using these movements (and that's what we'll do tomorrow in the last of these posts, where I'll show you how it works with your normal grip), the natural effects of these movements will cause them to blend together and let the club do what it should. And you'll be able to tell where your hands are "aimed" throughout the swing.

This drill has you moving the triangle formed by your elbows and hands through the entire swing so it stays pretty much parallel to the ground. Yeah, it'll tilt a bit at the top because your elbow bends there, and the club shaft will rotate your wrists as it goes up, but those things will happen on their own without your help, so the swing will still feel pretty much the way this drill does.

It will all make sense tomorrow, I promise. So practice this drill today and focus on where your hands are "pointed" -- it should feel pretty consistent all the way through your slo-mo swing -- and we'll apply it to a real swing tomorrow.

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