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Saturday, November 7, 2009

The “Feel Drill” Revisited

(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.)

In Brian’s comments on “Feeling the Start of the Downswing” he wrote, “The door jamb drill really lets you feel the strength created by the turning of the front hip against the resistance of the back hand which is pressing against the door jamb - but what I can't get my head around is how to re-create that feeling in the swing, because there isn't really any resistance created by the arms at the top of the swing. How does one get that same feeling of resistance when only holding the club, and not an immovable object like the doorway?”

His confusion is understandable. Recreating the feel of that strong pull without the resistance of the jamb is nearly impossible, because you would need a club so heavy that it would wreck your back… if you could swing the club at all! The “feel drill” was meant to help you:
  1. understand what the start down feels like, and
  2. help you identify how your body feels when you start down properly.
Once you identify how the correct move feels to your body, you need to “tone it down a notch.” The door jamb drill is easy to feel simply because it is such a strength move; when you’re only using a club, the move is less violent. Toning it down is where so many players get messed up because we equate clubhead speed with the kind of physical effort that makes us grunt.

Most teachers these days say it’s better to start out swinging hard and then learn to control the resulting wild swing, so now everybody’s way too caught up in a power game. You may have heard it called “bomb and gouge”―hit it a mile into the rough, then gouge it out with a wedge. I try not to get too dogmatic about most teachings, but that one’s just plain wrong, no matter who’s teaching it. Length and accuracy are not mutually exclusive, so using power techniques that don’t make you accurate at the same time is just doing things the hard way. As a weekend player, you simply don’t have the time it takes to get good at that sort of game. (And it appears that most of the tour players don’t either, given how inconsistent most of them are.)

So, the answer to Brian’s question is “You have to make a mental adjustment. You don’t want the same feeling of resistance, because a club doesn’t weigh that much.”

Yes, Brian, there is resistance at the top of the swing. It’s the pressure your wrists feel when the movement of the club causes it to resist the change of direction. Once you stop trying so hard, your ability to feel this less dramatic amount of pressure on your wrists at the top of the swing will improve. I’ve already written some about feeling this pressure, in both the Single-Plane Loop and Deadhanded Approach Shot series listed in the sidebar, but I’ll be writing more posts about it (both in this series and in the future) simply because it’s the most important point in the swing… and yet it gets little or no attention.

So use the “feel drill” to discover how your body feels when it starts the club down properly, but remember that the actual swing isn’t nearly as stressful to your body. And since you don’t want to be tense when you swing, that’s a good thing.

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