Contrary to dysfunctional (albeit entertaining) “Tin Cup” mentality, when things start going sour you don’t need to practice with nine different swing aids hanging from various parts of your body. In fact, most swing aids – especially ones that require clips, carabiners, belts, engines, or dangling apparati of any kind – will likely only confuse you and make matters worse. (However, if your goal is to provide some laughter and an entertaining sideshow to everyone on the range, by all means, get a few rolls of duct tape and get at ’er.) Most golf instructors would agree: the simplest swing drills that are typically the most effective. Introduce too many moving parts — too many nuts, bolts, screws and straps – and you’re bound to go bonkers.
Interestingly, one of the best swing aids is something every driving range has thousands of. Golf balls. Besides their most obvious use (if you’re unsure, grab a couple pops, watch Tin Cup, and call your friendly neighborhood golf pro in the morning), golf balls can be utilized to stop a variety of swing faults. Here are a few of my favorite drills (using golf balls) that can help.
Trail Foot Anchor
If you struggle with a lateral slide or sway (rolling over and getting weight on the outside of the trail foot at the top of the backswing – Photo 1), this drill can work wonders. I’ve used it to help students stabilize their trail side at the top of the swing and get into a better position behind the golf ball (Photo 2). Simply place three golf balls under the outside of the trail foot (right foot for right-handers – Photo 3) and start hitting half shots, working your way up to three-quarter and full shots as you get used to your new “anchor.” This drill will help stabilize your right side at the top of the swing and eliminate the dreaded slide by keeping the weight on the inside of the trail foot. It will also shorten your backswing (a good thing), and facilitate much more efficient use of the lower body.
Interestingly, golfers who slide laterally on the takeaway often develop a reverse pivot (sometimes called a “death move”). And this drill can also help you make a good turn to achieve the proper – and much more powerful! — upper body position behind the golf ball.
Standing on Golf Balls
Unnecessary motion — sliding, lifting, altering the spine angle, etc. — is the downfall of the average recreational player who experiences inconsistent contact. If you struggle with poor balance and way too many moving parts in your swing (especially altering the spine angle, as in Photo 4), try hitting half and three-quarter shots while standing on golf balls (Photo 5). I guarantee you will be forced to keep your body quieter as swing.
Hitting golf shots while standing on golf balls will also help you develop good knee flex, hip flex, and a consistent spine angle throughout your swing (Photos 6 and 7). You won’t be able to make full swings with a full weight transfer and finish. No worries. The point is to keep yourself in balance and to eliminate “extra” motion that will wreak havoc on your ball striking. If you can hit 10 solid shots in a row with this drill you pass with flying colors.
Achieving the proper path and plane is the ultimate goal for any student of the game. And this simple three-ball drill is as simple and easy as it gets. Simply place three golf balls in a row, approximately two inches apart, and swing at the middle ball (Photo 8). The goal is to only contact the middle ball (Photo 9). If your path is too much from the inside (a common fault of players who develop a hook) you’ll also strike the inside ball. If your path is too much from the outside, your tendency is to come too much from the outside (a common fault of slicers), and you’ll risk hitting the outside ball. This easy drill will help you develop a strong swing path — and a better swing plane — that will have you hitting it straighter and more solid in no time.
Bocce (With Clubs)
The ancient Italian lawn bowling game of bocce can be played equally well with golf balls and clubs. Not only does it make practicing social and fun, but it mimics the pressure-filled moments you encounter during every round. I’ve been playing this game with friends and students for years and it never gets old. (Perhaps that’s why it’s been around for hundreds of years!). And it can be played equally well on the practice putting green or with wedges in the short game area.
The premise of the game is simple. Simply putt out (or pitch out) “the jack” (the target ball that you take turns hitting towards) and alternately shoot for it. The traditional game is played with each team (two or four players) getting four balls each (each team should play different colored golf balls) that are played to the jack on each “round.” Only the closest team scores (Photo 10 – white is positioned to score one point and can add another if he/she putts it inside the nearest yellow ball. The bright yellow ball is the jack). The first team to 20 points (or whatever number you choose) wins the game. Regardless of the outcome, any weaknesses in your short game will be exposed!
Andrew Penner is a golf writer, photographer, and CPGA Teaching Professional at McKenzie Meadows GC in Calgary, Alberta.