Although there are many different swings, there are only two kinds of golfers: those who live in climes that allow year-round golf and those who don’t. For those who must suffer through months of frost-covered greens, watching wedges and irons collect dust, we feel your pain. However, there’s no reason why you can’t use the between-season time to prep your game for when the gates of your home course reopen to the rites of spring. On the following pages, PGA professional Barry Goldstein gives his recipe for keeping your swing warm until the first thaw, with a series of innovative and effective indoor drills. A native New Yorker who has suffered through his fair share of blizzards and storms, Barry knows a thing or two about helping his students make the most of their time away from the game. Paired with our indoor instruction, former LPGA Tour player Debbie Steinbach, who teaches year-round in the desert Shangri-la of Palm Springs, Calif., offers up her own schedule of must-have full-swing and short-game drills. For those of you lucky to enjoy a winter playing season, Debbie’s tips will keep your game razor-sharp. Lastly, Senior Instruction Editor Brady Riggs breaks down the hows and whats of videotaping and analyzing your swing. Putting yourself on video is an excellent way of finding swing errors that may not necessarily show up in your ballflight. If you’re stuck indoors, a video lesson is a great way to keep your motion intact and, with a little work, make it even better.
Practicing your swing indoors can be more helpful than you think.
In fact, I believe you can improve more without a ball than with one. When you’re not actually hitting a golf ball, you’re less occupied by results. Rather, you become more in tune with what your body does, and if your body is moving correctly, the ball will take care of itself. So have a little faith and put the following drills to use over the next few months. Most of the exercises can be augmented by a heavy club, like the Matzie ASSIST or the Momentus, which are also good for building strength.
This winter, pick up a molded training grip at your local golf shop, and simply grip and regrip the handle, paying attention to how the correct grip feels and the orientation of your hands, fingers and palms. You can do this while watching TV, or, better yet, attach the grip to an old club and make practice swings. It’s an easy thing to do that will make a huge, positive difference in your swing.
Though it seems simple, this drill can keep three major swing flaws at bay.
During the off-season, I recommend that my students swing a heavy club three times a week. It’s a great way to keep your body loose and flexible, and to ingrain two important full-swing needs: dropping the club into the slot and finishing with a full release.
Warm up with 20 swings using your normal motion. Don’t stop at your finish and restart from address. Instead, keep the club moving back and through. You should feel how the momentum of the clubhead, not your body or hands, pulls the club into and through the hitting zone into your finish.
Now, grip the club with only your left arm. Place your right hand over your left bicep to ensure a complete, left-arm-only motion. As you move from the top into the downswing, concentrate on executing a lateral, forward shift of weight while allowing your left arm and hand to drop toward the ground. This will help ingrain the all-important Magic Move. As you move through the hitting zone into the followthrough, let that left arm extend. If your left arm isn’t extended postimpact, then it’s chicken-winged, and that spells tons of shotmaking misery.
Use the same setup for the right-arm-only swings. With your right-arm swings, focus on lengthening your right arm through impact and, as it swings past impact, try to shake hands with the target–that is, keep moving your right hand down the target line. At the finish, check that the butt of the club points at the target.
All good golf swings feature a full release of the hands.
Grab a videocassette with your left hand, palm down, and make mock hip-high to hip-high swings. Focus on how your left hand rotates from palm down in the downswing to palm up in the forwardswing. Turning your left palm to the sky past impact will help you rotate your forearms properly and improve your extension.
A good way to feel your release and make it occur more naturally is to swing with a split-hand grip (again, a weighted club will only work to augment the key sensations). Set up in your standard address position and make your everyday swing. As you move through impact, you’ll find that with the split-hand grip, you must rotate your right arm and hand over their left-side counterparts in order to keep the club on-plane. You should also notice how the split-hand grip forces your weight forward on the downswing. After several split-hand swings, move back to a normal grip, but this time, swing with your feet together. Feet-together swings effectively take your lower body out of the equation and place more emphasis on the arms and, more importantly, the hands.
Exaggerate a specific feeling in order to make that feeling stick.
Golf is a game of feels. Therefore, it helps to sometimes exaggerate a specific feeling to make a change in your swing and, more importantly, make that change stick.
If your downswing plane is too steep and you’re hitting fades and slices, find a spot at your driving range that features a noticeable uphill lie. Practice hitting balls with the ball above your feet. This will force you to swing on a much flatter plane. A flatter swing plane will reduce your tendency to slice and help you to produce a right-to-left ballflight.
_ÊIf your swing plane is too flat, and you’re hitting draws or hooks, do just the opposite. Find a sloping lie with the ball below your feet and make your swings from there. When the ball lies below your feet, your swing will need to move on a more upright plane. Making your downswing plane more vertical will lessen the occurrences of deadly hooks.
Adjusting your swing plane isn’t an easy task, so take advantage of the lies at your driving range to exaggerate the feeling of the swing changes you wish to make. Once you can feel the change, it’ll be easier to swing from a level lie and maintain the adjustment.
Make An Impact
Among other benefits, swinging into an impact bag can help change–that is, improve–the timing of your release.
If you’re fading or slicing the ball, then you’re probably not releasing your hands quickly enough. Practice swinging into the bag so the clubhead strikes the impact bag with the toe portion of the club first. From this toed-in position, you’ll train your muscles to square up the clubface sooner. After 10 to 12 swings, hit a few practice balls and you’ll likely see a favorable change in trajectory.
If you’re hitting a lot of hooks, make impact with the heel portion of the clubhead. This will slow down your release action at impact and help you regain the feeling of what square is.
An exercise that effectively helps to ingrain the proper downswing positions and build some power into your motion is called the Pump Drill. Assume your normal setup position and take the club up to the top of the swing. From there, slowly move the club to three-quarters down and then to a position that’s parallel to the ground. At that point, pump the club back up to the top. Move the club slowly to help you achieve the proper positions. Pump the club three times, then swing through to the finish. As you feel more confident that you’re in the right spots, you can speed up the pumps until you’re moving at your normal tempo. Make sure to keep your right hip back, away from the ball, and your right knee flexed. This is a great drill that helps you slot the club perfectly and deliver it on the correct, power-rich path.
Tear It Up
This power-enhancing drill teaches golfers that it’s okay to take a big divot. Taking a divot means you’re aggressive though the ball at impact and beyond. Therefore, when you practice, take power divots! Not only take a divot, but also throw in a good grunt, similar to what a tennis player emits when returning a backhand for the winning point.
Kids do this all the time when they hit balls on the range. They swing with wonderful and reckless abandon. More importantly, they swing. Rarely are they concerned with positions and angles. And, for the most part, kids don’t have a problem with acceleration. As a strong, healthy adult, why should you?
Line up 10 golf balls and hit each one with 100 percent effort. Make a grunt with each impact, and get used to taking a good, healthy power divot. If the ground is too firm and you’re afraid you’ll injure your wrists and hands, move over to the rough.
If you want to enhance your power, start by making a concerted effort to do so!
Use a mirror to check your finish fundamentals:
A good, balanced finish should have the right shoulder positioned so that it’s even or slightly ahead of the left foot.
A straight back not only promotes good balance, it’s also much easier on your body than a reverse C.
At the finish, the knees should be even, indicating that you’ve turned fully, with your belt buckle facing the target.
The right foot should be pulled up into the finish position by the rotation of the body in the release.