In golf, there are the haves and the have-nots. The haves are blessed with an uncanny ability to achieve the perfect plane through the impact zone, regardless of what occurred before it. Indeed, the ability to get it all right on the way down is a puzzle very few golfers have been able to solve.
The legendary teacher Harvey Penick believed the ability to recover was rooted in the Magic Move, in which the player's weight should shift to the left side while bringing the right elbow back down to the body. This remarkable sequence of moves invariably presents itself in the swings of the game's best ballstrikers.
Do you own this move? If so, you're probably a pretty good player. If you don't, follow along in this article and you'll find the key to unlock the magic hidden in your swing.
Keys At The Top
The key to unlocking the magic is to transition from a wide backswing to a narrow downswing (slotting the club) and ultimately achieving a wide, powerful release. It all starts with a takeaway that establishes the critical wide elements at the top, most important of which is maintaining the width between the hands and right shoulder established at address.
The secret to Harvey Penick's Magic Move is to transition from a wide top position to a narrow downswing. This slots the club and puts it on the perfect delivery plane. If you're narrow at the top (left), that is, hands and arms too close to the right shoulder, you can't get narrow on the downswing. You can only cast the club outward.
A wide backswing not only allows you to achieve the Magic Move and unleash stored energy, it also guards against weak impact positions. If you fail to achieve width on the backswing, you'll be forced to start your downswing with an outward motion. This will restrict your impact position and, more often than not, cause your clubhead to race ahead of the hands through the hitting zone.
In order to help you find the magic, think of your golf swing as a one-and-two motion. Your backswing is the one, your transition is the and and impact is the two. The and (your transition) is the magic, which is what's missing from most amateurs' swings. An easy way to build this and into your motion is to create a wide backswing.
A wide backswing enables you to transition into your downswing and strike the ball like magic. Practice the Brush The Ball Drill to help develop a wider backswing. As you brush your clubhead toward the second ball, refrain from lifting or picking the club off the ground. Your shoulders and your arms should work in sync to move the club in a low, brushing motion. A key element to brushing the clubhead is to keep the wrists or elbows from hinging during the first moments of the takeaway.
Brush The Ball
Place a second ball six inches behind your clubhead on the target line. Then, simply brush this second ball away to start your backswing. To do so, you'll need to turn more with your shoulders and resist the temptation to pick up the club. One key is to keep your wrists from hinging (right) or your elbows from folding.
As you swing to the top, retaining width is an absolute must. As you complete your takeaway, brushing your clubhead away from the golf ball, stretch to the top of the backswing. In other words, use your shoulders to complete your turning motion so that the muscles on the left side of your torso (for a right-handed golfer) are taught and loaded. Now you're wide.
Of course, the downswing is an up-and-down motion as much as it is an around motion. Therefore, as you turn your shoulders, your hands and arms should lift the club skyward. Be careful here. If you focus on simply lifting your club upward, you'll lose width. The key is to maintain the width between your body and hands that you established at address throughout the backswing.
The Drop The Glove Drill is a fantastic exercise that helps you not only create width on your backswing, but ingrains the sensations that should help you retain that width all the way to the top of the swing. If you stretch to the top properly, the glove, placed under your right arm at address, will drop.
Drop The Glove
It's crucial that you follow a wide takeaway with a wide backswing through to the top. A good exercise to ingrain the sensations of a wide backswing is the Drop The Glove drill. Place a glove under your right arm at setup. The key is to allow the glove to drop by maintaining width in your swing.
If your backswing is too narrow, the glove will stick.
Wide To Narrow To Wide
How does a wide backswing relate to creating the Magic Move? Good question. The answer: A wide backswing creates a narrow downswing! If your arms and hands are extended in a wide position at the top, they can move into a narrow position to start the downswing. Penick's Magic Move is exactly that–moving from wide to narrow. Your hands and arms can't drop into the slot position if they're extended at the top. In fact, they can only do the opposite, that is, extend outward. This swing flaw is a huge no-no. It causes casting, an early release and all types of impact misery.
If you're wide at the top, you can get narrow on the downswing. That's magic. More importantly, when you go from wide to narrow in the transition, you can achieve a wide, powerful, full release of the club. Narrow backswings lead to wide downswings, which lead to narrow, weak and restricted impact positions.
Another good drill to ingrain backswing width is to position a towel as shown (this represents your left arm). As you turn your shoulders to complete the backswing, use your right arm to keep the towel taut. The feel created is what you're looking for: The right hand and arm work to extend your left arm.
Unlock The Magic
For the best results, think wide to narrow to wide. Create width in your backswing by brushing the club away from the ball without breaking your elbows or wrists. In my own practice and play, I envision a paintbrush at the end of my shaft, and try to lay a coat of paint on the grass behind the ball. I can't stress how important it is to create width from the moment you set the club in motion. (The Towel Drill, right, is another good exercise to ingrain the key feels of a wide backswing.)
Your ultimate goal is to use this width to get narrow on the downswing and find the slot. If you can execute this Magic Move, you'll not only hit shots with power and accuracy, but you'll eliminate a good majority of your most damaging swing flaws. Poor impact, a lack of power, an early release (the clubhead racing ahead of the hands through impact), casting, topping the ball and many others are errors that result from transitioning from a narrow backswing to a wide downswing. Work on the key: widening your backswing. Only then will you be able to unlock the magic in your swing.
Sweep The Grass Drill
To create needed width in the backswing, it's important to do so right from the beginning. Envision a paintbrush at the end of your shaft. In taking the club away, try to paint the grass behind the ball. It's a great visual that really works.
Instruction model and PGA professional Tim Brown teaches at English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans, La., home of the PGA Tour's Compaq Classic.
PGA professional and Senior Instruction Editor Chuck Winstead is the Director of Instruction at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La., and English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans.