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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Some Thoughts on Cotton's Tire Drill

Yesterday I posted an old video of a lesson from Henry Cotton. The video focused on a drill that involved hitting an old tire with an iron. Cotton said it was to strengthen the hands and forearms for better ballstriking.

I have some thoughts on the drill and why you might want to try it. Here are several segments from scenes in the video, each showing a student hitting the tire. In each photo, the club is either making contact with the tire (2) or is bouncing off after contact (1, 3). These guys are really pounding those tires!

Various views of the Cotton drill

You'll notice that in the most vigorous hit (1), there is no reverse pivot. Although the student isn't shoving his hips forward, the way most modern instructors say you must (slide and turn!), he is clearly transferring his weight to his lead foot. That's not as clear in the other two photos because of the viewing angle (plus the student's stance is narrow), but there's no way the tire in the last photo is lifting off the ground if the student is moving backward.

NOTE: "Using the ground" doesn't have to mean that you shove your hips toward the target. If your legs and hips are letting you apply force toward the target, you're using the ground. Just look at how strong the first student's stance is as he pounds that tire!

One very important thing you should pay attention to -- in all three shots -- is that the upper part of the lead arm is close to the chest. This isn't something the students are trying to do; it's just the result of using the hands and arms to hit the tire solidly.

Many of you struggle with "chicken-winging" or just having your lead arm separate from your body at impact. The reason is that you aren't turning your shoulders into the shot. You can see that turn in all three photos. Again, using the hands and arms to hit the ball is creating that turn. The students aren't consciously trying to make it happen; it just does because IT HAS TO.

And in the last two photos, you can clearly see that the wrist of the lead hand hasn't flipped over. Instead, it's either flat or slightly bowed. That's also a consequence of using the hands and arms to hit the tire.

All of these things happen AUTOMATICALLY when the students actively use their hands and arms to hit the tire.

When my instructor taught me a tire drill many years ago, he didn't teach me to hit the tire hard. Rather, he used the tire as if it were an impact bag, to teach me to square up the club at impact. (It worked, by the way.) But it's clear that Cotton's tire drill will do this as well, as evidenced by the bowed wrists at impact.

As I said in yesterday's post, you need to ease into this drill or you could hurt yourself. It's a strengthening drill, so you have to give it time to work. (In the section of the video where I found the last two pictures, you can hear Cotton tell his students to start gently.) But it's pretty clear that this drill could teach you a lot of correct swing motions without you needing to obsess over mechanics. I plan to work with this drill myself, simply because I like the concepts it ingrains.

And, as I also said yesterday, it just looks like a lot of fun!


  1. A great drill with one serious drawback. Impact sound can be heard throughout the driving range. Note how Henry Cotton would take his students into the middle of a field. Tried the drill at home but neighbours were not ammused ;-)

    1. True. It's not something you'd want to try in a housing development where people live close together. Could try wrapping the tire in an old blanket though; might muffle the sound enough to use the drill in a less crowded neighborhood.