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Saturday, September 14, 2013

How to Hit a Draw for Lefties 2

Welcome back, class! Just to refresh your memory...

Each day will have 2 posts -- one for righties and one for lefties -- and will be identical except for the diagrams and some instructions that will be clearer if I specifically write them for each type of player. The posts will be scheduled one minute apart so both posts will show up at almost the same time. Any of you who have questions can leave them in the comments of the appropriate "handedness post," which should eliminate a lot of confusion. And yes, this is the post for left-handers.

Alright, today we'll learn the "practice" swing we're going to use for the next couple of lessons. You can learn this practice swing right there in your own backyard because you don't need to hit balls in this lesson. Learn this swing at home before heading out to the range; when you go to the range to practice, I don't want you wasting your time.

Yesterday I told you that it's based on a time-tested drill. That drill was developed by none other than Ben Hogan. Here's a short video of Hogan demonstrating his drill on the old Ed Sullivan Show, which was a very popular weekly variety show in the 1950s and 1960s. (Ironically, I remember the show primarily because of a little Italian mouse puppet named Topo Gigio. It was a regular on the show for nearly 9 years, and I loved it as a child. But I digress...) Here's the video -- sorry, my left-handed friends, but Hogan was a rightie:

We aren't going to use all of Hogan's drill. Hogan designed it specifically to teach his swing, while I want you to be able to use it no matter what your swing looks like. Here are the changes we're making, which actually make our practice swing easier to use:
  • First of all, we aren't making a full swing. I don't want your hands to go higher than your shoulders. This will shorten the swing so it's somewhere between a half- and a three-quarter swing. That means that your lead shoulder won't turn all the way under your chin, which will make it easier for you to stay stable over the ball.
  • Hogan's arms separate from his upper body at the top of his swing. (They have to if you're making a full swing.) But I want your triceps -- the muscles on the backs of your upper arms -- to stay in contact with the side of your chest throughout the practice swing.
  • While it's not required, I'd like for your lower body to stay quieter than Hogan's does in the video. Focusing on turning your upper body more will help improve your coil (giving you more power when you swing normally), and it shouldn't be a big strain since we aren't making a full shoulder turn with this practice swing.
Why are we making these changes? When players have trouble drawing the ball, there are a number of things that can cause the problem. By using this practice swing we'll eliminate swing path errors caused by unintentionally changing how your arms are swinging (with your upper arms connected constantly to your body, your swing path will stay very consistent) or tilting your upper body (the shortened swing and reduced turn will make it easier to keep your setup posture).

To work on this practice swing, grab two clubs and head for the backyard. One should be your driver since that's the hardest one to hit a draw with. Once we get that down, drawing the other clubs will seem easy.

Lay the other club down on the ground. This is your aim line, and I want you to grab your driver and take your address position with it. Look at this first diagram to see what we're after:

Initial setup for practice swing

Now just practice swinging your club back and forth like Hogan did. Remember, keep your upper arms in contact with the sides of your chest at all times and don't swing your hands above your shoulders.

See that arrow drawn on your trailing foot? It's there for comparison to the next diagram. If you normally stand with your trailing foot slightly open (like your lead foot) then feel free to do that. Ironically, Hogan is doing the same thing in the video even though he makes a big deal of the foot position shown in this drawing! The important thing is that whatever position your trailing foot is in, you want to move parallel to the swing path line when you drive forward during your downswing. You don't want to move out over the ball or stand up away from it.

After you've done this for a little while and feel comfortable with the practice swing -- connection may be a new sensation for you if you don't usually do it during your swing -- we need to adjust your foot position for a draw. Take a look at the next diagram.

Adjusted setup for practice swing

There's no exact distance that the trailing foot should be moved back, but 3 or 4 inches is a fairly typical amount. And unless you had your toes right up against that aim line club, calculate that new foot position from the trailing foot's original toe position.

See how the arrow pointing from the trailing foot isn't pointing the same direction it was in the first diagram? THIS IS IMPORTANT! It should be in the same relation to the swing path (red line) that it was when you set up in the first diagram. You can get in this position by just lifting your trailing foot and turning your hip away from the club you laid on the ground. (And before you ask, the lead foot's position does NOT change. We still need to get turned toward the target after we hit the ball, and if we change the lead foot we'll make that much harder to do.)

This is one of the places where players trying to play a draw mess up. We want to drive off our trailing foot the same way we normally do... but if we leave our trailing foot pointing straight, the way it was in the first diagram, our trailing ankle, knee, and hip will act differently from normal. We want our move through the ball to feel as much like normal as possible; it's just at an angle now.

Try this version of the practice swing until you get comfortable with it. You shouldn't feel like you're wobbling forward or backward during the swing. In fact, if you angled your trailing foot properly, it should feel pretty much like your normal swing.

Okay, we've got one more thing to think about... your rhythm. If you start down too fast, you can mess up your draw. (Think about all those pros on Tour who try to hit the ball hard and, instead of getting a little draw, hit a big push or push-slice. We're going to stop that before it starts!) This problem is easily prevented by using a simple trick that 3-time major winner Tommy Armour, aka "The Silver Scot" and the pro who Harvey Penick said had a big influence on his own teaching, included in his own instructional book How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time. (Before Hogan wrote Five Lessons, Armour's book was considered by many to be the most important instructional book around.)

To keep his students from changing direction too fast at the top, Armour simply had them count, "One, two, pause, three." It won't take much practice to figure out how fast or slow you need to count in order to swing at your own best speed.

If you take a little time to get this practice swing under your belt before you head out to the range to hit balls, you'll eliminate virtually all the problems that keep you from consistently hitting a draw...EXCEPT for squaring your hands at impact. That's what you have to learn in order to hit a nice little draw, and this practice swing will allow us to focus on that without a dozen swing thoughts in our heads. So even if it takes you a few days to get comfortable with this before you head out to the range to hit balls, it's time well spent. Using this swing will make it much easier to learn the first step -- how to hit a draw on the range.

Which is where we'll take this little practice swing in tomorrow's lesson.

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