Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thoughts on Proper Impact Position and a Long Forgotten Drill

I was over at and a poster asked the message board who was happy with their impact position and what they did to achieve that.

While I'm not completely satisfied with my impact position, I do believe it has improved by leaps and bounds and bounds.

First, let me give my background again. I used to have a college golf scholarship at Coastal Carolina University. After graduation, I turned professional and played some mini-tour events. No, I wasn't the next great thing that somehow never made it. I was/still am a "baby flipper" who timed the flip pretty well (back then) and got by with my good (and at times exceptional) short game. I then quit the game for about 8 years and recently got back into the game after an 8 year layoff. Now my goal is to pretty much eliminate the flip so I can hit the ball better and more consistently and that will allow me to have more fun out there on the course (I'm not looking to be the next Ben Hogan, but it sucks when you're inconsistent out there).

I've read plenty of golf instruction books, magazine articles and videos. The one thing I am CONVINCED of is that the MOST IMPORTANT part of the golf swing is NOT the GRIP, ADDRESS POSITION or SWING's pivot.

I'll say it again. PIVOT.


It's not saying that those other things are not important, but if you can't pivot right then you're casting and/or flipping. Or as Lynn Blake calls it...public enemy #1 for a golfer.

That's probably my one gripe with a lot of the TGM instructors. While they are correct about getting a flat left wrist at impact, I believe that having "the mind in the hands" is focused too much upon by the TGM guys. If you can pivot properly you have greatly increased your chances of getting that flat left wrist and proper impact position. If you haven't properly pivoted, you have almost no chance of keeping a flat left wrist and getting a proper impact position.

We've all seen successful golfers with unique swings, like Miller Barber's flying right elbow, Freddy Couples' outside to in swing while keeping his head still, Moe keeping the clubhead way behind the ball at address and keeping the right foot perfectly on the ground until way after impact. But all of those guys, from Jack to Jim Furyk all had at least pretty good pivots.

One of the keys I look for in the swing is where the belt buckle is at impact. If you watch most of the tour pros, their belt buckle is facing near the target at impact. And the longer they are off the tee, usually the more the belt buckle has turned towards the target at impact. Bubba Watson is a perfect example

So I tried and tried and TRIED to figure out how to get the hips facing the target at impact. Unfortunately, it didn't work. Then I came across this video by Brian Manzella and this explained it a little better for me (Brian is a TGM guy as well, but one of the few that doesn't get bogged down with forcing the hands into the right position and instead focuses on the pivot)

Brian's "zipper" swing thought and keeping the zipper in front of the hands started to work for me, but I still wasn't quite there. I then noticed that I was still coming in a bit too steep and the hands were still a bit too fast. And then I started to catch that in reality my ARMS were moving too fast as well.

Well, what happens when your arms (particularly the left arm, if you're a righty) moves too fast? You're essentially releasing the #4 power accumulator (the left arm and left shoulder) too soon. And when you release any of TGM's power accumulators too soon, you lose power.


For starters, releasing a power accumulator too soon usually means you're flipping. Also, if you're releasing the #4 power accumulator too soon...IMO...this gets you too steep and the club starts covering the left arm half way down on the downswing instead of covering the right arm and taking that shallow path to the ball at the halfway down point of the swing.

The best drill I know for holding the #4 power accumulator release point is the "connection drill." Essentially, take quarter or a golf glove and stick it under your armpit. Then swing the club and do not allow the quarter to fall out of your armpit until AFTER you are halfway through your FOLLOW THROUGH. The drill was invented by Sam Byrd and used extensively by Jimmy Ballard and Ben Hogan. Today, most people forget about the drill and if they use it it is for the takeaway. But it's a great drill for:

- the takeaway
- the backswing plane
- the downswing path
- extension after impact.

TGM talks about almost "blasting the left arm off the chest" on the downswing. But you cannot do that without a proper pivot. So then I started to think that with the golf swing and the only way I could "blast the left arm off the chest" was get to the top of the swing and immediately turn the zipper towards the target BEFORE I move the hands, wrists and ARMS down even a millimeter.

When I videotaped my swing I noticed a better impact position. A better extension through impact (although it still needs work). My hips were facing more towards the target at impact. My right shoulder on the shoulder plane at impact (before it was under the shoulder plane at impact). Better lag. And now my clubshaft was covering the RIGHT arm at the halfway down point of the swing.

I was now hitting shots that felt PURER, went STRAIGHTER, LONGER, and had a far, far F-A-R better trajectory. No more balloon shots. Although I still hit the ball too high, it's not unreasonably high anymore (and I'm 6'4" tall and have an old set of clubs that help me hit the ball too high).

Even still, I would occasionally have some problems. Mainly, after years and years of flipping, I still had a tendency to want to flip the hands through impact. But now I could feel it...particularly with the right index finger. I then realized another drill that works (although it's been around for awhile, but mine is with a twist).

First, keep the connection drill going. Grab a glove or a quarter and put it under your left armpit. Now, take your grip...however, remove your RIGHT THUMB and RIGHT INDEX FINGER off of the grip.

Now try to hit some chip shots with your left side connected and your right thumb and index finger off the grip. You can also try to take some chip shot strokes at an impact bag (the bag should be aligned outside of your left shoulder). The ONLY way you can chip that ball or hit that impact bag is:

1. You subconsciously grab the grip with your right thumb and index finger and flip through


2. You pivot PROPERLY.

From there, you can move to pitch shot swings and then punch and then the full swing. As long as you stay connected and keep the right index finger and thumb off the grip, you have to pivot those hips to properly hit the ball.

That's pretty much all the "connection drill" gets the golfer to understand how to properly pivot by most importantly rotating those hips around enough. Like I staed in my previous post, Sam Byrd was a pro baseball player who got the connection drill from his days as a baseball player. And one part where the baseball swing and golf swing are alike is that the golf downswing and baseball swing both need to be started with a rotation of the lower body.

Now, golfers and baseball players go about it differently with their swings, but notice how the baseball player is staying connected with his left arm and his hips have properly cleared. Is that much different from Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan or Moe Norman? I don't think so.

It's sort of amazing to me how the left side connection drill has gone by the wayside and is often misused (for improving the takeaway instead of improving the pivot). I also think that while a lot of Jimmy Ballard's methods are no longer used by today's pros (Ballard teaches a big move off the ball on the backswing then a big move foward on the downswing...more of a shift back and shift through instead of a rotary style swing), he still has an uncanny knack of improving the play of golfers, including tour pros by just preaching the left side connection drill.

A good thing never dies and its long overdue that the left side connection drill be brought back into the foray of instruction drills (but now with a twist of keeping the right index finger and thumb off the grip).



Anonymous said...

Hey Richie where do i sign up and play as mich golf as you do i must have dine something wrong back in school.
ps i envy your lifestyle

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Again a gentle post. Because of your crony

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