When was the last time you hit a tennis ball with a racket? Whether it has been a while or you happen to play tennis regularly, I'm willing to bet you do a few things without even thinking about it that can help your golf game tremendously. I'll bet you instinctively try and hit the ball over the net by hitting the ball with your elbow pointing down when the racket meets the ball. Now, if that's hard to visualize, go ahead and grab a tube of tennis balls and a racket, then hit a few balls up and away from you as though you need to get the ball over the net. Try and hit the ball so it clears the net just barely. You don't want to lob it way in the air.
For me, when I hit a forehand in tennis correctly, I don't hit the ball with my right elbow flaring out or away from my body. If anything, my elbow is pointed down and close to my side, and I rotate my body through to add more power and control through the hit. Check out the pictures above to see what I mean.
How can this motion of a forehand in tennis be so helpful to you? Well, the overwhelming majority of golfers slice the golf ball to the right, losing distance and accuracy. Without having the knowledge of the proper adjustments needed to correct their slice, a golfer's most common attempt to compensate for their slice is to bring their hands, arms and elbows well away from their body on the downswing and swing their clubpath too far to the left on the followthrough. This is commonly referred to as the "over the top move." All this does is produce even bigger slices to the right and big pulls to the left, depending on the direction the clubface is pointed at impact.
Now back to our forehand in tennis. To transition this feel into your golf swing, as a drill, take your golf club in your right hand (right-handers) and hold it a little bit above the ground. Imagine a ball is coming at you, and hit a forehand! Let your instincts take over. Make several swings like this until you can really feel that forehand hit.
You'll begin to notice that you're keeping your right elbow close to your side and pointed down on the downswing and into impact. Remember, good tennis players hit the ball with their whole body, not just their arms, and they do it by rotating through the hit. Do the same in your golf swing, and let your instincts take over.
If you're struggling with big slices and pulls to the left, try this drill the next time you practice, and think of every ball you hit as though you're hitting a forehand in tennis. This will take your mind off your golf swing and, hopefully, help you hit better shots with improved mechanics.
Boyd Summerhays, PGA, is a former PGA Tour player and the Director of Instruction of the McDowell Mountain Learning Center at the McDowell Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. To contact Boyd or for more information, go to summerhaysgolf.com.