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Sunday, September 29, 2019

David Ogrin's Axe Handle Drill (Video)

Former PGA Tour winner David Ogrin has a neat drill to help you stop topping your fairway woods. I'm going to help you understand how it can help you... and how to avoid hitting slices with it.

The chopping motion of this drill may seem a bit counter-intuitive to you. While you can see how it will help you learn to measure the distance to the ground -- and thus allow you to hit down on the ball more consistently without hitting it fat -- you may wonder if you're going to hit wild slices this way.

It's a logical question. To get that chopping motion during your downswing, you have to uncock your wrists down the target line. And if you do that, aren't you opening the clubface too much?

One of the problems of using any drill is that the full range of motion you use while performing the drill often isn't explained because, to the instructor, that range should be obvious to the student. But if it isn't, the student -- even when that student is a Tour pro -- can focus too much on only one part of the swing, and then fall into other errors.

Let's make sure that doesn't happen with this drill!

The chopping motion is exactly the same when you make your swing as it is when you just tap the ground behind the ball -- that is, the club is moving vertically in front of your body. If you drew a line across your shoulders, the club is moving perpendicular to that line. It's obvious when you're just tapping the ground.

But it's doing the same thing when you make your swing. The difference here is that your shoulder line has turned 90° from that original 'tapping' position. Your lead arm extended outward when you made your shoulder turn, and you have to let it return to the position it had when you started your backswing. This is why so many players practice with a glove tucked in their lead armpit -- it helps then maintain that original connection between upper arm and chest.

If your upper arm returns to that connected position, your shoulders will continue to turn to their original address position. That means the 'chopping' motion is still moving perpendicular to your shoulder line and not down the target line. And that means the clubface closes as you hit the ball, so you don't hit slices.

I know this sounds a bit strange and, as I said earlier, counter-intuitive. But that's because we are only thinking about our arm and hand motion and not the motion of the clubhead. The clubhead is traveling on an inclined plane -- that's a pure Hogan basic of the swing -- and if you think about it, you'll realize that the clubhead can only travel on that plane if the clubhead moves farther away from you than your hands do. The closer the clubhead gets to the ball, the farther out from your body it MUST move.

Think about that. Simple physics says that, unless you let that lead arm disconnect from your chest as you hit the ball, your hands have to gently close the clubface as it nears the ball. At impact, the clubface should be as square as it was at address. If it isn't square, you did one of two things:
  • You pulled your trailing elbow in closer to your body on the downswing than it was at address, or
  • You let your lead elbow rise higher away from your body than it was at address. (That's what happens when your lead arm disconnects.)
In fact, if you'd like a drill to help you feel -- in an exaggerated way -- how a proper downswing should feel, here's what you should do. As you reach the lower part of your downswing, intentionally straighten your trailing elbow and bend your lead elbow as you swing from waist high to impact. Do it SLOWLY! This is only to help you learn how the squaring motion works, how returning the clubface to its square address position feels.

Once you get the hang of it, you can try to work a less exaggerated version of that feel into your practice swings on the range. This isn't something you want to have to think about when you're actually playing a round, and you don't want to incorporate a big version of this feel into your swing because then you'll start hooking the ball too much. This is just a way to gain an awareness of where the clubface is pointing at impact, which is key to improving your ballstriking.

Again, we're not really trying to make this motion as we swing on the course. If we do, we'll tighten up our muscles and cause problems. We just want our upper body to return our arms to roughly the same position they were at address. (I know it won't be exactly the same. But at the speed we'll be moving at impact, it will feel close.) But your body rarely makes a motion your mind can't understand. We just want to teach our minds the basic concept and then let it figure out how to apply it.

Try my drill if you dare. It might revolutionize your game without making any major change to your swing.


  1. When you say to straighten your lead elbow I can imagine straightening it where the elbow is pointed down the target line and the club face remains wide open. I can also imagine a straightening where you feel like the elbow is pointing at the ground - a supinating action. This twisting of the arm definitely closes the club face for me. But I don’t think just straightening does. Can you elaborate more on this part of your tip? It seems like it is so close to addressing a huge issue of mine - coming into impact with an open club face.

    1. I should have been a bit clearer, Ryan, but I've talked a little about this in the blog before and just forgot that many readers haven't seen those posts. (The exact problem I mentioned early in this post!)

      Your lead elbow should always point down at the ground at impact, not toward the target. (When it points toward the target, you get a 'chicken wing.') Think about how you address the ball -- your lead elbow is close to your side and your forearm extending toward the ball. That's the same position they should be in when they return to the impact position.

      Too many players believe their lead arm twists at the forearm and wrist to square the club, but that's incorrect. The rotation actually happens at your lead shoulder.

      Imagine that your upper arm is held tight against the side of your rib cage as you start down. If we were to liken it to a door, your upper arm would be the door jamb, your forearm would be the door and your elbow would be the hinge. This is how most people automatically swing a baseball bat or a tennis racket because they swing their arm on a plane parallel to the ground.

      But once they pick up a golf club, since the swing plane is now tilted toward the ground, they completely change the motion. To use the door analogy, you still want to slam the door at impact, not rip the hinge off the door jamb. Think about some of those weird 'swing jackets' that players like Padraig Harrington practice with. They're trying to 'keep the hinge attached' at impact.

      Hopefully that image helps. If it doesn't make it clear enough, let me know and I'll devote an entire post to the topic.

  2. Hi Mike, the door analogy isn't really clicking for me. I'm having a hard time visualizing what you are saying.

    When you say the rotation happens at your lead shoulder, do you mean your upper arm rotating (i.e. rotating your tricep into your chest)? Because that is how I am interpreting this - forearm stays quiet, but that rotation of your upper arm (initiated by the shoulder obviously) to get that elbow pointed down (or toward your body) is how to square that club face.

    I have actually had a long-standing problem with an open club face at impact and after looking at myself on video, I see that my previous corrective action has been to cast the club with my right hand to try to square it that way. A couple years ago I heard of the "elbow down at impact" tip and tried that and was amazed at how I could square the club face with no right arm motion at all. However, I started overdoing it and hooking it, so I have kind of backed off this recently.

    Are you familiar with the Impact Snap training aid? I have one and it seems to also engrain the elbow down approach as well.

    I think there could be a lot people could learn if you did a post dedicated to this subject as it seems like a very common problem amateurs have.

    1. No problem, Ryan. Give me a few days to get things together and I'll do a post on the topic. I'm always glad when readers ask me questions that I can handle in a post because, that way, I know I'm posting things that players need.

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