This post is part two in a series that describes, in detail, how a recent hard-won breakthrough in my rebuilt golf swing came to pass.
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Oh, to master the half swing
A half swing is a take-away that goes back to a point where the club head points skyward and the handle points to the target line. I only saw Pete Black perform this not-too-big-not-too-small swing a few times at my lesson. He insisted my handle be square to the target line every time I went back. Just to take the club back correctly became a major obstacle. I struggled for weeks with this thing and did all the usual things wrong – starting with a wicked sway to the right – certain death to a swing. Then there came flying right elbow, reverse pivot, over the top, flip, early release, outside to inside swing path, and so much more.
The result of any combination of these swing errors? Too many fat, bladed, severely sliced or generally off-line shots, not to mention the resulting criss cross of divots. I’d do it right a few times, think I had it, then a scud shot or two or five or ten in a row. My especially ugly shots I named ‘scuds’. The worst were the ones that plodded along the ground and knocked my target alignment stick out of position. Heart breakers.
I should make it clear that it wasn’t Pete Black who told me all the things I was doing wrong. He only told me what I needed to do right. It was Andy Proudman and Pierce Ward mainly who, through their Me and My Golf videos, separated out all these swing faults and gave verbal and physical demonstrations on what was going on and how to fix it. They’re good at explaining the why as well.
This slowly began to click in my brain, followed by my muscle memory. In several videos, there is footage of Andy performing a pure, half swing. Man, talk about smooth butter. He makes it look soooo easy. I knew I needed to emulate that. I googled how to put youtube videos in slow motion so I could watch Andy perform his gorgeous half swing over and over. (I still watch it over and over – in slow and regular motion. The whole video, Great Lag Drill For More Power, is exellent. The half swing starts at 3:07). I also often refer to another lag drill video. Here, Andy does even less than a half swing.
I can’t run until I can walk.
In other words, I realized that until I could finish even a tiny chip shot in perfect balance, I wasn’t going to finish a half swing, never mind a full swing in balance. I had tried quarter swings on the range several times and couldn’t balance those either. By being in balance, what I mean is that at the end of my shot I am turned toward target, rear heel up, weight on forward foot with club brought to a vertical position left of target in front of me, after a proper follow-through.
Between the feet, please
Meanwhile, all along, I’d been performing body rotation drills many times a day in my home. I grab any old object for this – a balloon, a pencil, a coaster, which I liked because I could hinge my wrists with the flat coaster. At first I struggled miserably with shoulder rotation but a video by Rotary Swing (also a very good source) helped me to realize it isn’t so much a matter of flexibility but technique.
Now I’d like to talk about the body rotation drill that I do every day. There is a lot of possible variation in this drill. Hands crossed at shoulders, hands on hips, golf club held horizontally behind your neck, arms outstretched, gripping a golf club or a pretend golf club, etc. The important thing is that the body makes two level turns, first away from target and second toward target, and the center of gravity never goes beyond the outside of either foot.
My own personal body rotation sequence drill starts with the address position. Sometimes I am in posture – sometimes not. Posture is better of course, but I get lazy sometimes. Anyway, then I rotate the shoulders and arms in one beautiful piece all the way to 90 degrees, so my back faces target. My lower body pulls naturally so that my left hip has turned only 45 degrees. Then with my left hip I initiate a level turn back the other way and swing my body around to finish facing target. I hold this position. My right heel is up and I am balanced.
The entire motion takes place between my feet. Pete Black kept telling me that golf is played between the feet and I am finally starting to understand what this means. I did this drill every day for weeks. I still do this drill every day. It is probably one of the single most valuable drills I’ve yet discovered. I think I remember hearing Pete Black tell me to do it a thousand times!
So, yes, this drill, along with a few other practices, have brought me to my swing breakthrough, which started about three days ago. I’ve given birth to a baby swing! I will feed it and it will grow. And just like a newborn baby, I have to treat it like the fragile thing that it is. I certainly can’t get distracted while I’m keeping care of it.
In part three I will explain what is actually happening with my newborn swing, what it looks and feels like. It is really quite exciting.