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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Strike of the Kobra

Lydia Ko has a US Women's Amateur and three pro tournaments under her belt... and she's not even 16 yet. She's not a big hitter; she just thinks her way around the course. But she's got a nice solid swing that all weekend golfers can learn from.

I've been looking for video footage and photos of her swing but not having much luck. Her website is supposed to have a swing sequence, but it's being rebuilt. However, I found the following photos at the forums (they're blown up much larger there). Let's take a look at her move through impact:

Lydia Ko at impact
Lydia Ko after impact

Lydia stays connected a la Ben Hogan during the bottom of her swing. That just means that her upper arms stay pretty close to her chest as she turns through. I'll come back to that in a moment.

Notice that she doesn't push her hips forward the way most weekend golfers do. See how her lead hip never moves outside of her lead foot in any of these photos? Her hips are turning because her trailing knee stays flexed all the way through -- her lower body doesn't "lock up" and stop turning. The flex in her trailing knee allows her trailing hip to keep moving. Because of this lower body movement, Lydia stays balanced and has good footwork. It's just a function of staying loose and keeping out of her own way.

Now, back to her arms. Look at the very first photo and focus on her trailing elbow. See how it's still bent? That's why her wrists are still cocked in the lower part of her swing! A lot of you are straightening your elbow at the start of your downswing; that's called casting. That's when you lose your wrist cock.

At the top of your downswing your lead elbow is fairly straight and your trailing elbow is bent; you can see that if you look in a mirror. As you start your downswing, none of that should change. Just let your hands and arms drop from the top of your swing until your trailing elbow is near your side. That's when you straighten your elbow! (And, btw, once your elbow is near your side, you can straighten that elbow as hard as you want and you'll still hit the ball solid. The connection with your body that I mentioned earlier will help keep your arm and club on line.) Just look in the photos and see what Lydia's doing.

Learning to drop your arms like that is hard for some people. It feels as if all the movement is happening at your shoulder joints. But if you let them drop to start your downswing, you're going to make a lot of your swing happen automatically -- your weight shift, your footwork, your balance, the whole thing.

You can learn to strike like the Kobra. It's not about trying to hit the ball hard; it's just about letting gravity take its course.

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