Golfers often forget that they hold a massive amount of instinctive intelligence. They usually interrupt this with their own adult and analytical ways of learning things, breaking down their swings into a million pieces and trying to build them back up again.
What I have found as a golf instructor is that there is a massive amount of free technique in an intention. What do I mean by this? If I were to ask you to change your intention of how you hit the ball, I can often make 10 changes in your technique… without you even thinking about it.
During my years of teaching, I was lucky enough to come across this drill very early on. I have become better at adapting it to different players for a whole host of varying faults. I have also used it to set more golfers on a better path than I can count, and I want to share it with you today.
Hold the club up at chest high and flip it so it looks like an axe. Then, imagine there is a big nail in front of you. Without thinking about how to do it, swing back and strike the imaginary nail. Repeat this move a few times being as instinctive as possible.
Place a club on a bucket as shown below. Repeat the same process, imagining the club as your nail. Swing back and keep your intention on the nail. Don’t hit the club of course, but swing the club back and toward the nail as if you were going to hit it.
Now, drop it down to ground level. Imagine the nail is through the ball (I actually own a ball with a nail driven through it so people don’t have to visualize it). Flip the club the correct way (with the face facing where you want the ball to start) and repeat the feeling. Your mind will want you to go back to all the analytical thoughts about your swing, but don’t let it. Keep that instinctive focus on the nail.
What this drill can fix and improve
I have seen incredible swing changes with students in the space of one swing, simply by working with this intention. And the best part is they are not thinking about swing changes; the movement is responding to the intention, just like movement is supposed to work in nature.
With this drill, I have seen improvements in:
- Swing plane
- Club face control
- Strike quality
- The grip
- Wrist movement
- Weight shift
- Head movement
I could make the list longer, but you get the point. Sure, the drill may not be a perfect representation of what goes on in the swings of elite golfers, but it gets pretty close. And it can make years of hard work on your swing fall into place instantly.
There is a lot of science that supports this drill, too, from the areas of your brain you are using when doing the drill to the actual performance you get on the range and the golf course. There is a lot of motor learning research supporting the benefits of what we call external foci, a focus on something external to your body, like a nail as opposed to internal foci such as arm movement, shoulder movement, etc.
It is also great to get overly analytical people to simplify their mindset. Being overly analytical myself, it has certainly benefited me as well.
The No. 1 goal of golfers is to achieve consistency on the course, and this drill will help you get on that path. Not only does it influence mechanical consistency (I have never seen someone take the axe back wildly off-plane, but it allows a player to play and learn with one singular thought that can stay the same from day to day).
This is opposed to how most golfers think, varying thoughts from swing to swing, and it removes the uncertainty about how much of a swing though or feeling golfers need to apply on a particular swing or day.
I know a lot of advanced readers on GolfWRX may balk at the simplicity of this idea, but I urge you to try this drill before you dismiss it. I’ve found that golfers who know a lot about the golf swing may actually benefit more from this drill than anyone.
Editor’s Note: Adam discusses these principles and much more in his book, “The Practice Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Golfers,” which is available on Amazon.