You can’t get your body in the right position at impact if you don’t have the right body to begin with. Turn the page to learn more.
No matter what new driver, shaft or even golf ball you choose to play, nothing will help you hit the ball farther if you don’t have the right set of swing mechanics. In other words, you still have to know how to swing a club faster and with more clubhead speed. Your new gear won’t do all the work for you.
Speaking of work, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re capable of making a powerful swing in the first place. I’ve put together a short list of my favorite exercises and drills to help you develop better swing mechanics, as well as strengthen and add flexibility to your body. After all, you may know the right way to swing a club, but if your body is holding you back, what’s the point? Read on, and get ready for more power!
FEEL YOUR LEGS
It’s common for long hitters to have powerful legs, and it really helps in the transition from the top of the swing into the downswing. Power hitters know that the key is to shift the weight from the right side to a rock-solid left side.
You can practice strengthening your outer quadriceps using a tension band as I’m doing here. It’s simple. Stand on the band and shift your forward leg (your left) toward the target to simulate a weight shift. The tension you feel in your outer quad and gluteus signifies what muscles should be involved in the transition of your golf swing.
Another great drill to strengthen and build better lower-body mechanics is to do the Step Into It Drill. Start by simply making a regular golf stance (I prefer not hitting a ball and just clipping a tee, by the way). Then, from your normal stance, lift your left foot and place it by your right foot. Take the club back to the top of your backswing, then place the left foot back in its original position at the same moment you start your downswing.
Practicing this drill, you’ll quickly sense how your weight drives not only toward the target on the downswing, but also down and into the ground. Rehearse this drill a few times, and when you’re ready, hit a few balls. I’ll bet you immediately feel more power in your golf swing.
What does a “rock-solid left side” mean? It means that, through the downswing, your body weight stays behind the golf ball. Any excessive sliding or swaying from side to side is a big no-no; it not only robs you of power, but it’s also hard on your body. Instead, think of your left leg as a concrete post. Once you shift your weight to your left side on the downswing, stay firm and strong on that left side.
GET GOLFER SHOULDERS
Notice anything unusual about my shoulders? Yep, my right shoulder naturally rests a little below my left! Call it the product of 25 years of competitive golf. I’ve actually developed some shoulder tilt that helps me hit longer tee shots.
What does that mean? Simple. Long hitters know that the secret to power is to hit high up on the golf ball with added loft and reduced spin. Now, you may not have the kind of shoulders I do (I have a chiropractor appointment this afternoon), but at the very least, you can stretch and loosen your abductors to make it easer to have some spine tilt in your swing. The stretch is simple. Hold the club above and away from you, and tilt to your right side. Do this as far as you can, and hold, release and repeat.
THE POWER SQUAT
If you really want to nuke the ball, consider what it means to squat before you hit. But before you do that, I want you to think of rebounding a basketball. You probably know that to rebound the ball with a big jump, you have to squat down before you leap up. Why? Because it helps you better leverage your body against the ground. The more force you apply down, the higher you’ll jump. To see what I mean, try leaping off the ground without squatting. It’s impossible, right? Now, squat and feel your legs pressing against the ground.
In the golf swing, there’s a moment where you should squat, as well. Tiger is a master at leveraging the ground and squatting as he begins his downswing and holds it almost to the very moment of impact where he “snaps” his left leg straight. Try this in your golf swing and see if it adds more distance to your drives. Squat, then snap!
The backswing and the forwardswing are two separate axes. The backswing is a more lateral rotation, where the shoulders and your core turn away from the golf target, both on relatively the same spine angle you had at address. Your downswing, however, is where things get tricky. Your impact position is nothing like your setup position. In fact, it’s not even close! At impact, your body is turned open and you actually make contact more on the side of the ball, instead of the ball in front of you at address. This impact position reflects a downswing that’s more inclined than you are at any point during the backswing. You can see what I mean in the photos above. I have to drop my right shoulder and hold my spine angle as I lean to my right side.
This is critical. The added incline of my shoulders is what helps me swing the club more from an inside-out path, which is desirable for straighter, more consistent drives.
Let’s look at what happens if I make a downswing on roughly the same axis that my backswing is on. As you can see (above), I’m likely to come into the ball too flat and from outside in, causing a whole slew of ugly tee shots.
Instead, the correct downswing axis is steeper and more vertical. In the above pic, notice how the club is coming into the ball on a steeper path. This is necessary since I’m hitting the ball from my left side and not face on as I was at address.
The trick is to let the right shoulder drop and point the butt of the grip at the ball. This will help steepen your downswing and prevent you from swinging over the top and from outside to inside the target line–which, may I remind you, almost always results in a slice or smothered hook.
THE X FACTOR
Jim McLean got it right when he said that power comes from the difference in turn between the hips and the shoulders. In essence, the greater the angle between your hips and shoulders, the greater torque your body has to unwind and unleash force into the golf ball. I like to think that it’s not just at the top where the X Factor comes into play. At impact, the hips should outturn the shoulders, further indicating that the body has built-in resistance that helps make it easier to swing the club faster.
Try the drill I’m doing in these photos. Hold a club and lift and turn both legs, one at time, holding the club as best you can in front of you with your arms extended. It will seem difficult at first, but with practice, you’ll ingrain a powerful X Factor in your swing and be on your way to longer, more powerful drives.
Zach Allen, PGA, teaches at DeBell GC in Burbank, California. He recently was awarded “Southern California Teacher of the Year for the Metro Section.” Visit zachallengolf.com.