Connect With The Ground!
Most golf instructors agree that the best way to become a better golfer is to start from the ground up. It’s not something most golfers think about, but in reality, the ground is critical to helping create more power. To illustrate, think of a car. What makes it go? Here’s a hint. It’s not the engine or the tires. It’s the ground. If you take a car off the ground, the wheels have nothing to push against as they rotate forward.
Same goes for the golf swing. If we don’t have stable footing on the ground, any chance at hitting a shot with power and control is vanquished. You need the ground to press against as you whip the club through impact.
To get a better feeling for the ground beneath your feet, do what I’m doing here. Hop off the ground and come to a squat. Do this repeatedly until you start to feel your body pushing into the ground and your legs and trunk flex as you land back on the ground. This sensation will help you get connected with the ground and get ready to make a powerful swing.
Seriously, we make a point in virtually every issue of Golf Tips and in our Golf Instruction Annual to reinforce the importance of wearing good golf shoes. Why? First, you need traction to leverage your body effectively against the turf. According to some of our instructors, many of their students ignore the importance of good footwear, and their feet move, slip and slide all over the place during the golf swing. When this happens, power leaks like a sieve, and so does any chance at hitting consistent, repeatable golf shots. So find a pair of golf shoes that have ample traction, and look for models with dual-pod soles. Dual-pod soles have two halves: the toe section and the heel section. By separating the two, weight can be transferred from heel to toe more effectively during the golf swing.
And finally, don’t neglect comfort. You want a comfortable pair of golf shoes, but that doesn’t always mean you need the softest, thickest layers of cushioning. In some cases, lower-profile, firmer soles with ample arch support are more comfortable than soft, mushy shoes with less stability. Shop around and see what works best for you. And don’t dismiss the newer, spikeless golf-shoe trends. They too have great traction, stability and comfort.
Lower Body: Stable Going Back
Let’s start at the beginning, okay? Too often I see some of my short-hitting students swing with an inefficient backswing. They tend to do one of two things incorrectly. First, they sway off the ball, as illustrated by the small photo to the lower left. This not only makes hitting consistent shots more difficult, but also offers a false sense of power, since the body doesn’t really coil very much. On the other hand, some golfers have tried to adopt a popular trend that some Tour players are doing, which is to rotate back and place most of their weight on their forward (left) side. And while this can be effective for a Tour player, many amateurs exaggerate it and, as a result, prime themselves to make the dreaded reverse pivot on the forward swing.
Instead, the correct backswing is to rev up power by coiling the body back and over the right leg. There’s no need to sway or artifically shift the weight to the right. With a strong coil of the upper and lower body, this will happen automatically.
And as for rotation, consider this ratio: For every degree you can turn your shoulders back, make sure your hips go half as far, and nothing more. This will create the torque you need to make a more powerful swing.
You Know Your knees
By keeping your knees separated on the backswing, you can really get a feel for what it means to make a backswing by coiling the upper body against the lower body, and the lower body against the ground. This also helps prevent you from swaying too much. To practice, I like to use a simple playground ball, and place it just inside my knees. As I swing back, I can really feel what it’s like to rotate my waist and upper body. On the downswing, I let the ball drop (as you can see here). By doing so, I can fully rotate through the shot and into the finish position.
Give this a try, and if you don’t have a playground ball, try a basketball, pillow or seat cushion. They work just as well.
Lower Body: Stable Going Through
Some of the more common power leaks on the downswing come from an overactive upper body, meaning the arms outrace the lower body, and your body weight stays stuck over your right leg. Or, you slide the lower body too much, causing a very steep downswing into the ball (left photos.”
The correct way to transition into the downswing is to make sure you rotate, not slide or hang back! This means leading with a slight shift and a lower-body rotation toward the target as the hands drop down. As you can see here (see photos below), the stick on my left side shows I’ve made my way to my forward side by rotating, not sliding. I also haven’t hung back on my right leg. This is how you stack your impact position for real power.
UPPER Body: Hold Your Triangle
If you watch some of the longest hitters on Tour, you’ll see many of them swing with their arms in front of their sternum. When they do so, they create a triangle, as you can see here in the photos.
So what? It may seem simple, but check and see if you’re maintaining a triangle. Check your setup, midway through your backswing and the top of your swing. If you can make a triangle, it means you’re making a big, full turn with your body. If not, you might be faking a big backswing by simply laying your left arm across your chest and not rotating much at all.
DRILL! Sync It Together
A great way to practice holding your triangle is to take the playground ball again, put it between your elbows and rehearse your backswing. This helps you get a better feeling for a circular, body-driven swing, not a handsy, arms- driven up-and-down golf swing.
Manage Your Trunk
Like most golfers, you want to make as big a backswing as you can to maximize your power. And let’s say you managed to not slide or sway your lower body. That’s great, but you have to do the same for the upper! Try not to drift the upper body too far away from the golf ball. Doing this not only robs power, but also makes hitting consistent shots a lot more difficult. Instead, try to keep your head stable just behind the ball as you swing.
Also, it’s not uncommon to see golfers try to lift the club up by lifting their entire body upward. As you may have guessed, this is a big mistake. Keep your spine angle, meaning the upper-body lean toward the ball, intact as you take the club back and as you swing through. Any lifting or pulling upward will only make it more difficult to hit longer, straighter tee shots.
DRILL! Don’t Drop The Ball
Unless your name is Davis Love III, a flying right elbow is going to rob you of rotary power. To help stay more connected, use that playground ball between your elbows. Make a backswing, and don’t let it fall. You’ll see what I mean with just one try.
When you hear someone say you need to “extend more effectively,” what do you think that means? Truth is, telling someone to extend their arms better is a little misleading. Reason being, no matter how hard you try, if you’re not rotating the body through the downswing, you’ll never have any luck at making a full extension of the arms!
Check out the two photos to the right. The key to my ability to extend my arms through the hit (which adds a lot more power than the dreaded chicken wing, lower right) is my body rotation. Just before impact, look at how open my hips are. And through impact, my hips and upper body are nearly facing the target. This makes extending the arms through the shot a breeze. My left leg is also rock solid, making it easier for my upper body to rotate.
Give it a try yourself and work on extending your arms more effectively. Only, don’t focus so much on your arms; pay more attention to how effectively you rotate through the hit. You’ll hit better shots!
When it comes to becoming a better driver of the golf ball, it never hurts to take a few extra steps and get your body into better shape. Our favorite training aids to help golfers build strength, better balance and flexibility include heavy-weighted clubs and resistance bands. But if you can’t get your hands on those, grab a couple clubs and make a few swings holding two or three clubs at a time. Heavy-weighted clubs not only build strength, but also do wonders for loosening up tight muscles and help you get in a relaxed state before you swing. Once you get loose, grab your driver, flip it upside down (grip it on the shaft by the clubhead) and swing it. It will feel incredibly light, but don’t let that throw you off. Swing it so it makes a “swoosh” sound above where a ball would be. This also will help loosen you up, and it’s a great way to work on your tempo and keep that clubhead accelerating through your swing.
DRILLS TO CONNECT: Trunk And Arms
Need a quick drill to get the upper body to rotate more effectively? Simple. Grab your towel and make some three-quarter swings from your knees. You’ll immediately get a better sense of what it feels like to turn your upper body. Also, it’s a great way to work on your tempo and timing. Once you get a feel, go ahead and hit a few.
Lower Body Upper Body
Use the force! Exercise bands such as this one are a great way to build power and strength. But make sure you use them correctly. Here, I’m using a power band affixed below my left foot. (Hop onto golfgym.com to get one.) As I swing back, I can feel added resistance in my trunk and legs. There’s no doubt a few minutes a day of this exercise will add more strength and power to your tee shots.
Rick Sessinghaus, PGA, teaches at Chevy Chase CC and is one of the most popular teachers in Southern California. For more information on his unique teaching perspective, visit ricksessinghaus.com.