by Mike Angelo National Golf Schools
One common swing fault that I see with both high and low handicappers is an improper turn or pivot. Whether its over rotation of the hips (no coil), hip and knee sway (weight goes outside the trail foot), reverse pivot with origins with bad advice like keep your head down, loss of spine angle, or an incomplete turn caused by the “hit impulse” (so anxious to hit the ball a long way they do not finish the backswing and make a complete turn). With an improper turn it is difficult to have a consistent reliable swing and be a good ball striker.
George Knudson said that it is difficult to do something if you don’t understand what you are trying to do, and change is not easy. After identifying the type of incorrect turn or coil, to get the proper feel for the turn, I have the client do “the phone booth drill.” They setup in a good athletic stance with their chin up and their hands out in front as if they are touching the front wall of a phone booth. Starting with their shoulders they turn away from the target and place their hands on the trail side wall (back to the target). They turn back to the target side wall turning their shoulders slowly and place their hands on the target side wall. (chest to the target)
Another way to feel the correct pivot is “the hand shake drill.” from a good set up the student puts their right hand out to shake hands with someone in front of them. Slowly, they turn to the trail side to shake hands with someone on their trail side. (back to the target) They return through impact to shake hands with someone on their target side. (chest to the target) Another variation of this drill is turning your shoulders to talk to someone behind you.
For the student that has a reverse pivot I use several drills to get the shoulder under the chin and the feel of a proper weight shift. Golfers who listen to bad advice like “keep your head down,” or ” keep your eye on the ball,” or “keep your head still,” tend to have a reverse pivot. (too much weight on the target foot at the top of the backswing). After demonstrating the proper chin position in a good setup (apple or fist under the chin) I have the student do one of three drills, “the shaft over the shaft drill,” “the butt end in the bellybutton or chest drill,” and “the reverse hands drill” to get the feel of the correct turn or pivot.
To do “the shaft over the shaft drill” a club shaft is placed on the ground inside the trail foot pointing to the target line. While holding a second shaft or club across chest with crossed arms, the student makes a turn until the shaft is over the shaft on the ground. (back to the target)
The “Jimmy Ballard drill” is placing the butt end of a club in your belly button or the middle of your chest while placing your hands down the shaft with a good grip. You make a backswing with your arms and hands in the power triangle and continue back to a finish. Think back to the target- chest to the target.
I like the “Rick Smith drill.” It gives you a good feel for the proper take away and turn while you get a good stretch and extension. From a proper set up, grip the target arm wrist with the trail hand palm up. Keeping the target arm supple but straight, the trail hand pulls the target arm back slowly until the target shoulder is under the chin and parallel to the ground. Hold this position for thirty seconds and slowly return to the set up position. Repeat this several times.
While the student is doing a drill I place training mirrors in a front view and trail side positions. I have them observe themselves while I observe the student’s spine angles and knees to make certain that they are not swaying or straightening. If they have a knee sway I have them toe their trail foot in, pigeon-toed to lock the knee. For hip sway I stick a shaft in the ground touching the outside of the trail foot. The student makes a swing without touching the shaft. Other training aids that can be used for knee sway are a Foot Wedge and a Power Leg Strap that attaches to the target foot and below the trail knee locking the knee in place. Golfers are amazed at how much their ball striking improves with the restrictive swing with the strap.
A student favorite is “the club on the shoulder drill”. From a good set up, the student places the club shaft on the back shoulder by first cocking the wrist upward and bending the elbows resting the shaft on the back shoulder. The student may raise their elbows slightly at this point and make a complete turn. At the top the student raises the club up off the shoulder and completes the swing. Be careful! Most students lose their spine and knee angles at the top. Other favorites are striking golf balls while balancing on one or two feet. This also helps with balance. One fix, many cures.
The drills that I have discussed so far will help with ingraining the proper turn or coil, but do not help with the golfer who has the hit impulse. They are so anxious to smack the ball a long way that they start the downswing before they finish the backswing. This destroys the sequencing of the downswing. A drill that helps with proper sequencing is the “stop at the top drill”, (Bob Miller or Nancy Lopez drill). After making a controlled backswing the golfer stops for a second at the top of the backswing to allow the proper sequence of the downswing to start from the ground up. It permits the knees, hips, and torso to start the downswing producing the proper lag for the arms and hands that squares the clubface and generates greater clubhead speed for greater distance and better ball striking.
Each individual golfer is different. They all learn in different ways. A good teacher has a variety of teaching aids, demonstrations, and drills to teach or correct swing flaws. Remember what George Knudson said. First, “it is difficult in life to do something if you don’t understand what you are trying to do”, and second, “change is not easy”.