One sunny, late winter afternoon I was doing some housekeeping on the Carl’s Golfland driving range in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I came upon a young lad and his father working diligently on the youngster’s swing. I sensed some frustration and anxiety from the pair as I approached. The two of them greeted me warmly and asked, “What is your go-to drill?”
I am a man of some experience. My grey locks betray my youthful enthusiasm for the game of golf and all that goes with it. I shared with them an ancient and simple, yet tried and true, swing drill. It’s one I practice in some form on nearly every full shot.
Mind you, I am not a PGA Professional and if your game needs help then please seek out one of these fine teachers. My ability was certainly formed by men and women who were called to golf instruction. I have played golf all my life with great passion. Some principals of the game are timeless and applicable to golfers at every stage of development. Yes, even you!
The Two-Penny Drill is simple, easy to remember, effective, and it can be used on the range or with a slight modification during play. This drill is familiar to my son, my dad, my wife and my friends. I recently introduced a friend to this simple exercise who is reporting great results. So, how does it work?
Place a penny about a foot in front of the ball directly on the target line. Place another penny about a foot behind the ball, again, directly on the target line. Address the ball as normal. Take your normal swing focusing on brushing away the penny on the backswing AND on the follow through. Very simple. Very effective. This is a timeless tip passed down through the ages and through the great individuals of golf.
Horace Hutchinson wrote a book entitled “Hints on Golf.” An easy read, this book is perhaps the earliest collection of tips related not only to the physical aspects of golf, but also the mental and social elements of our game. Hutchinson’s work was first published in 1886 by William Blackwood and Sons.
One key quote from this book remains timeless: “Now, the great secret of all strokes at golf…is to make the club travel as long as possible in the direction in which you wish the ball to go.” Mr. Hutchinson is not alone in this school of thought. Arnold Palmer, arguably the most influential person ever to touch the game of golf, gave similar advice nearly a century later.
The King said, “Begin every swing smoothly and without breaking your wrists. You have to take it straight back in one piece as they say. Strive to do this for the first 12 inches the clubhead moves, and you’ve got the swing practically licked. Starting the club in this way gets your whole body into the act, from feet to shoulders.”
Mr. Palmer further advised, “One way to achieve maximum distance while sweeping the ball away is to fully extend yourself, both on your backswing and on your follow through….It is the full extension that (1) helps me fully stretch the big muscles of my body and legs and (2) flattens out my clubhead arc in the hitting area so that it is travelling at ball height for maximum distance before and after impact.”
In an effort to further validate my simple drill, I consulted with Dick Bury, a PGA Professional since 1956 who still teaches three days a week at Carl’s Golfland. Mr. Bury confirmed that the Two-Penny Drill is not only legitimate, but also simple and universally applicable. Mr. Bury added that golf instruction can become very complicated to the beginner with the advent of advanced golf analysis technology. In short, Mr. Bury fully endorsed the Two-Penny Drill.
As our conversation continued, we concluded that with a slight adjustment, the simple Two-Penny Drill could teach a developing golfer to hit a fade or a draw. Simply place the front penny about one half inch to the right and the back penny one half inch to the left to learn the draw. To learn that sweet baby fade simply reverse the adjustment.
Try the Two-Penny Drill to hit more solid shots and to learn to draw or fade the ball. This simple and effective tip can also be taken to the course. While in competition you cannot use your trusty pennies, on nearly every shot I look for an imperfection in front of my ball about a foot away — either straight through or offset to move the ball.
The Two-Penny Drill will quickly become your go-to drill when things go awry or when you sense the need to get back to the basics, as we all feel from time to time. Bring a few pennies with you as occasionally you will get it just right and blast one on to the range. Be sure to reset your pennies prior to each swing. Play well and always remember my friends, golf is fun!