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Sunday, March 13, 2016

David Leadbetter's Baseball Drill

I bet many of you have seen the video of Lydia Ko trying to hit baseballs while her coach David Leadbetter watched. (Note that I said she was trying to hit baseballs. Even Lydia Ko can't do everything.) Leadbetter has recommended a baseball swing drill for years as a way to learn how a golf swing should feel.

Here's one of the videos he did that demonstrates that drill. With a club, not a bat.

The concept is pretty simple. Using a 5- or 6-iron, you make baseball swings that are level to the ground, just as if you were using a bat. You gradually 'tilt the plane' until you can actually hit balls, which he recommends teeing up to make it easier.

The reason I'm posting this is because of the 8-part Bent Trailing Elbow Drill series I finished last week. I want you to watch how his trailing elbow works during the drill, and how little that changes as the clubhead gets lower to the ground. (As the clubhead gets lower, his elbow moves farther away from his side when his shoulders are fully turned, but returns to his side at the impact position.)

This isn't exactly the same feel as my drill -- the hands work a bit differently, because my drill was meant to teach you clubface control as well -- but this is a great way to help you get that trailing elbow into a similar position using a motion that most of you have probably tried before. (Even if you couldn't hit any better than Lydia.)

And there's one extra benefit to this drill. It's really hard to watch it -- or even try it -- and continue to believe that the golf swing should be as difficult as we tend to make it. If you can hit balls with this drill, all you have to do is learn to control where the clubface is pointed and you'll have a usable golf swing.

Even if you don't look like Rickie or Rory or Jason or Jordan.


  1. So I'm confused (could be the time change). I thought you were spec'ing a swing that "loaded" the shaft late into the down swing. For example, take Inbee's position at the top and drop her arms straight down to the "HaNa" position -- you have "Hogan's' drop from your loop series with no bending/loading of the shaft until you start your turn through into impact (any of your other loops work just as well according to SwingByte). The metric I look for in my own swing is the bend of the shaft at impact -- if it is toward the target then the clubhead has out raced my hands; if it is straight (as in some Lucas Glover swings) then the clubhead has just caught up to my hands at impact. I can't maintain acceleration all the way from the top; I can from half way down ( and with more clubhead speed).

  2. It must be the time change, JL. ;-) In the third paragraph from the end, I note that the hand action in this drill is different from the hand action in my drill. And in the secod paragraph from the end I note that you'd need to add some method for clubface control, which is part of what causes the shaft to load during the downswing.

    The baseball drill is good for learning the overall flow and feel of a golf swing, and that's all Leadbetter ever promises with it.

    And you're correct about not being able to maintain acceleration all the way down IF you're trying to go full speed from the top. But you shouldn't be trying to. That means you're jerking the club from the top. That's a common mistake golfers make. Acceleration is gradual, and you won't feel the speed really pick up until your hands are near waist high. So the halfway down feeling is correct.

    BTW, did you take a look at Leadbetter's A swing at the link I put in your last comment? The position at the top looked a lot like the one in that old video.

    1. Oops, I meant to reply. Sorry. I read and practiced the A swing when it came out. Worked like all the loopy swings I've tried, but with a different grip and a more aggressive wrist cock -- its rotary nature ends up putting a load on my back for middling distance and accuracy (probably from me trying to protect my back). What I like about the rotary component of Park and Bruen is the reduced stress on my back -- and that the Bruen swing feels almost exactly like throwing a rock sidearm.

      But my problem is that I came late to golf in my 60's and I studied way too many swing theories in order to get up to speed. I spent a couple of months on each method to ingrain the motion, so now I have not only voices in my head trying to help my swing, but ingrained motor skills that jump into the swing at random points. Recently I've realized that I need to pick a swing and just play it. I may give Brandel Chamblee's new book a read, but that's it -- no more tips or theory (don't worry, I'll still read you for the limericks).

    2. No prob, JL. And if it makes you feel any better, I also spent time trying a lot of different swings, just to test what my instructor Carl had taught me and make sure it was the best way for me. It didn't harm me at all -- in fact, I now have a better grasp of what will and won't work for me, so I don't waste time now on tips that won't help me.

      (BTW, I suggested you test the A Swing simply because of the position it put you in at the top. Personally, while I understand the concepts and have talked to folks who really like it, I can't even hit the ball when I try it. Everybody's different.)

      Your time trying different swings should have taught you that, for the most part, every swing has a handful of things in common. My absolute basic list of fundamentals has 3:

      --> a one-piece takeaway, because an inside takeaway generally leads to an over-the-top swing;

      --> you reach the highest point of your swing before you start your downswing (over-the-top swings are generally still moving upward when the downswing starts); and

      --> your trailing elbow stays bent from the top of your backswing until your hands are around waist high, because you lose power if you don't.

      Those will pretty much guarantee you'll come into the impact zone in good position to hit the ball solidly and with control. The way you work your hands to aim the shot can vary, but you'll still be close if you can do those three things.

      And there are other things you can do that will improve your ability to hit the ball farther or straighter, but you'll still be close if you can do those three things.

      My advice would be to pick the swing that feels best to you, that's easiest for you to repeat without pain. There's almost always a way to 'tweak' a comfortable swing so it works better.

      And remember, there's no perfect swing. Each has strengths and weaknesses, and the key to success is realizing that you can't do everything. The legends are the guys who accepted the limitations of their swings and simply learned how to get the most out of them... and sometimes that has more to do with strategy than with technique.

      I'll try to help you if I can. You know you can always post a question or email me.

    3. Thanks for the axioms. An update on the baseball swing. I went back to make sure I had really tried it; I used a real baseball bat and I discovered that my flying elbow comes from how I hold the bat upright at the "top". Leadbetter holds it like he had the club on top of his trail shoulder and then extended his hands away from his body (Tom Watson recommends that method for finding the end of backswing position). But I've always held the bat upright -- in fact Jimmy Bruen would look like a batter if he stood upright. When I do the baseball swing with a club, my elbow rotates into the seam of my shirt as I come into the hitting area, trailing wrist bent through to impact.

      I'll keep working on this because all the wheels come off as I try to ratchet the arc down to contact a ball on the ground (rather than waist high).

      Thanks again for the help.

    4. Yeah, sometimes it's amazing how just a small change in address can make such a big difference in how you naturally move the club.

      Here's a thought: It sounds like your arms and shoulders may be a bit tense when your elbow flies at the top of your backswing. (That's natural, since a baseball bat is much heavier than a golf club.) Instead of trying to consciously muscle the club down to the ball, see if you can just let your arms "fall down" to the ball as you swing through. Since you've got gravity to help with the downward part, maybe that will let your arms relax and simplify the muscle movements enough that your trailing elbow will straighten on its own so you can get the club down to the ball.