Friday, April 27, 2012

Paula Teaches Her Driving Drill

A couple of days ago I posted some quotes from Paula Creamer talking about her attempts to improve her driving. She said she was trying to flatten her driver swing so she could hit up on the ball.

Surprise! Paula actually has a video showing a drill she uses to help her learn the move. (There's no way to embed the video in this post, so you'll have to click the LPGA.com link above to go see it.) But this drill illustrates an interesting aspect of drills that I often talk about here -- namely, that what you try to feel often isn't what you actually do.

First, go look at the video. (It's only a minute long.) Here are a couple of stills from that video lesson:

Two positions in Paula's drill

The top picture shows the move she makes as she hits her ball one-handed off the tee during her drill. The bottom picture shows her trying to duplicate the move as she makes a regular driver swing. Note that there are a number of differences between the two. In the top picture:
  • She stands taller.
  • Her hips don't turn nearly as much.
Not clear in these stills but very obvious in the video, during the drill you see:
  • Less lateral movement.
  • Less shoulder turn.
  • Right shoulder much higher.
  • Right elbow bent much less.
The point is that this drill doesn't really duplicate the actual swing motion very well. That isn't the goal of the drill. What Paula is really after is the feel of how her arm and shoulder move after impact. This drill forces her to make a longer movement past the ball with her right arm and shoulder. Even though she moves differently when she makes a normal swing, the feel she gained in the drill helps flatten her downswing so she can swing up at the teed-up ball.

I know that sounds strange, but it's the same idea as hitting lower shots by stopping your followthrough at waist level. The ball is long gone by the time you finish your swing but, in order to shorten it at the finish, your body has to make changes much earlier in your downswing. And since you're thinking about how you want to finish, your mind automatically changes the earlier part of the downswing so you can stop it at the right time.

That's why some seemingly strange drills help you do what you want, while some drills that seem very logical don't help you at all. Learning how to make a motion can be a very different process from learning how that motion should feel. You need to be clear on which thing you're trying to learn if you want your practice time to be successful.

And in this case, if you're having trouble hitting down too much on your drives, Paula's drill just might help you learn to swing more upward at impact. But before you try it, don't ignore the possibility that there's a simpler reason for your problem:

Make sure the ball is farther forward in your stance than when you hit it off the ground. If the ball is teed up in the center of your stance, you're going to hit down on it no matter what you do.

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