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The Most Important Drill in Golf

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First, let me say that I hate blanket statements in golf instruction. There are so few absolutes in the golf swing, which is why recommending one thing for all golfers is usually one of the most detrimental things you can do as an instructor. With every rule there is an exception, however, and I believe this drill to be that exception.

A ton of golf instructors, commentators, and average golfers have noted throughout golf history that there are hundreds of different combinations of golf swings that can produce world-class results. Even today, it is very difficult to find any commonalities that hold true, for all, or even a large percentage of PGA Tour players. I am here to tell you that much smarter scientists and biomechanists than me have discovered a very important commonality. Based on this commonality, I believe this is the most important drill for every golfer.

Article 5

This picture always amazes me, and it’s proof of why function is so much more important than form in the golf swing. It always keeps me grounded as an instructor, and even as a player, to not always sweat the minute details of form. I know for a fact that all the golfers in the photo can hit the same shots when necessary despite the differences in their swings. When I was on tour with TrackMan, I saw all sorts of players hitting the same exact shot and delivering the same exact club path and face angle at impact. They were doing it in a multitude of ways, however, and none of their full club numbers were exactly the same. Having said that, there is one commonality between them all.

So, what is the drill? All I want you to do is to figure out how to hit straight shots with your non-dominant hand on the club. If you’re a right-handed golfer, use only your left hand. If you’re left-handed golfer, use only your right hand. All I want you to accomplish is to start the ball on line. Distance does not matter. I know this sounds really easy, but I know the first time I ever tried it I thought it was almost stupid. Boy was I wrong.

What you will find out pretty quickly is that this drill is not easy. Almost all golfers who first try it will either struggle making contact or always start the ball way right of the target line. There is some pretty in-depth science about why this happens, but I will try and explain things in the simplest terms possible.

Article 3

In the swing sequence above, I’m demonstrating what happens when a golfer first tries this drill. The club face is open throughout the downswing and even more open at impact, which causes the ball to start significantly to the right of the target. There are a couple of reasons why this happens. When swinging with only my left hand, I don’t have enough strength to rotate my forearm or left wrist in time to square the club face. So when I pull the butt end of the grip down toward the golf ball in transition to try and create power, the club face remains open and the ball starts right.

Article 4

Now, look at my second swing above. The ball started on target and was hit well. Hopefully, you notice quite a difference between these two swings. As you can see at impact, the club face is square and the ball therefore starts on target. You may be asking yourself, what is the trick?

In the second swing I am creating passive torque to help square the clubface. I know… I probably just lost you. What is passive torque? Well, in simple terms, I am creating a relationship between the club’s center of mass and the force I am applying to the grip that naturally helps square the club face up at impact.

For all of you familiar with this topic, I may not be saying it 100 percent accurately, but I want to try and describe it in a way most golfers can understand. If you are looking to fully understand this relationship and how it happens, I suggest you look up the work Dr. Sasho MacKenzie has completed. In the frames below, you can see a better representation of what the club head and shaft are doing differently in the two swings.

Swing #1

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As you can see in Swing #1, I start to pull the butt end of the grip down toward the golf ball at the top of the backswing. This begins to steepen the shaft and open the club face through the transition. At this point, I do not have the strength with only my left hand to square the face, so the club face remains open and the ball starts right.

Swing #2

Article 2

In Swing #2, you can clearly see that in early transition the club head and shaft shallow while the club face remains square. I am accomplishing this by relaxing my left hand and feeling like the left wrist bows in transition. Now that I have created passive torque, the club head wants to line up at impact and the face is square. It’s important to note that just because I am creating this look or relationship does not mean I am going to only hit draws. Plenty of drawers and faders of the golf ball create this relationship. Just look at Ben Hogan or Lee Trevino if you don’t believe me.

So why is this important?

According to the research from Dr. Sasho MacKenzie, all but one PGA Tour player he has measured has this relationship in the early transition. That means it’s very difficult to be a world-class ball striker if you don’t create this relationship in the early downswing. That’s why I believe this drill to be the most important drill in golf. Even if you already have this relationship, I think it is helpful to revisit this drill in your practice. I would compare it to taking a daily multivitamin. It really can’t hurt you, even if you’re eating all the right foods.

The vast majority of golfers I see on a regular basis have no concept of this motion, which is why I consider this drill to be something than can help everyone. It’s a blanket statement I can get behind. This drill is easy, fun, and it won’t cost you anything to practice. And most importantly, it can be a game-changer.

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PGA Member and Golf Professional at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, NC. Former PGA Tour and Regional Representative for TrackMan Golf. Graduate of Campbell University's PGM Program with 12 years of experience in the golf industry. My passion for knowledge and application of instruction in golf is what drives me everyday.

50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Mr. Divot

    Nov 29, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I wonder who ‘the one’ guy on tour is that didn’t have this relationship? Bryson perhaps?

  2. Steve

    Oct 23, 2017 at 11:29 am

    This actually has a bit of “gravity golf” intuition to it. Possibly, that is one of those styles that not so many people liked, but that basic structure really helped me understand pitching and chipping. Some days, it even shows up as a great full swing. “Passive torque” may be too abstract to explain, and I would not say that all of David Lee’s analogies made sense to me; however, drills like the one suggested here, are founded on a useful premise: the body likes to conserve energy, so the brain will find more efficient ways to deliver the club head to the ball (but, only when it sees a need to do so, and that will really only happen when we are in a position of weakness).

  3. SheaM

    Oct 22, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Great article Hunter! Just wonding your thoughts on using the trail arm in the drill compared to the lead side/ In my experience teaching this drill with the trail arm will allow the club to drop into the correct position on the downswing and maintaining a square club face. Just wondering your thoughts on lead arm VS trail arm for the drill?

    Thanks

    • iblak

      Oct 22, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      no because only the left arm is learning the feel so you don’t wanna get the right hand into the feel zone and messing up the drill.
      left arm only but mebe doing the drill with the right hand only but not together.

      • SheaM

        Oct 22, 2017 at 9:31 pm

        I am suggesting using the trail arm only, which in my experience is a stronger way to teach players to deliver the club to impact with a square club face

        • Hunter Brown

          Oct 25, 2017 at 8:00 am

          Its great to use the trail arm only. I just think its important to use both. Trail arm might be a good place to start as it is easier to square for most players but at some point they also need to figure out how to square the face with the lead arm only as well.

  4. yobro

    Oct 22, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    WOW!!!! Here’s the best drill for right hand swinging::::
    http://www.golfwrx.com/473818/a-great-drill-to-learn-the-proper-release/
    Put the two instruction articles together and your golf swing woes are solved, permanently!!!!
    This stuff is gold… GOLD!!!!

  5. Andrew Cooper

    Oct 22, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Hunter, i agree learning to hit decent shots with the weaker hand is a good exercise, but looking at the two sets of photos it looks like you’re going from one bad place to another, i.e. from steep and out, to inside and underneath?

    • iblak

      Oct 22, 2017 at 9:22 pm

      so how do you educate the weaker left hand to do its share of the work in the full swing?

      • Andrew Cooper

        Oct 23, 2017 at 7:23 am

        I’d suggest taking the last two fingers and thumb of the lower hand off the grip. That way you’ll still have some support from the right arm, which will make it easier to avoid the weight of the clubhead pulling you into bad places. And obviously start with small shots off a tee and build up from there. Definitely need to be wary of injury trying to hit shots one arm only-A club is heavy when being swung- it’s not designed to be used with one arm only.

  6. bogeypro

    Oct 22, 2017 at 11:42 am

    I can’t only imagine how brutal a lesson with SteveK must be on someone…. lighten up man. Hunter, I like this idea for trying to give someone the feel of what should be happening. My son is left handed and swings a baseball bat and a golf club right handed, but throws left handed. All the drills about throwing side arm, etc means nothing to him. It would be like trying to get me to throw side arm pitches left handed…it would feel wonky. So, trying to find drills that give him the right feel is difficult.

    • yobro

      Oct 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      Okay, dad …. tell your baseball son to do this drill and assure him it will make him a better golfer. After all it makes eminent sense to swing a golf club one-handed to get the ‘feel’ of the golf swing.
      Father knows best, because this golf tip is on a golf forum. Go for it and watch your son blossom into a great golfer.

      • bogeypro

        Oct 23, 2017 at 8:55 am

        Thank you for adding nothing to the discussion.

    • SteveK

      Oct 22, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      So you believe that this conscious drill will help your baseball son to ‘feel’ what is happening. Now, how does he make it automatic without consciously thinking about in during the golf swing? How many conscious repetitions must he do to embed the ‘feel’ into his unconscious mind?
      Ask Hunter that question!

      • bogeypro

        Oct 23, 2017 at 8:57 am

        You offer alot of criticism, but never any swing advice of your own. You don’t add anything to these discussions. How about you post some links to some of your writings on the swing so we can see how you teach.

        • OB

          Oct 23, 2017 at 4:50 pm

          You obviously don’t know about Motor Control & Learning science that explains how the brain and body learn movements through the conscious and unconscious mind. It’s all there if you need swing advice.
          Perhaps you should hit the books before you hit the ball…. because basic knowledge of the sciences is the start of basic learning of the golf swing.

          • David Kopf

            Nov 8, 2017 at 10:56 am

            @OB, what resources would you suggest for learning more about Motor Control & Learning?

  7. SteveK

    Oct 22, 2017 at 1:26 am

    Hunter…. what is your take on The L.A.W.s of the Golf Swing by Adams et al ….. where they classify the optimal golfswing style to body shape and structure?
    Surely a stout golfer’s swing is vastly different than a slim golfer’s swing….. and your one-arm drill must be adjusted for different body types.

  8. Ron

    Oct 21, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    This drill is perfect for anyone who struggles with coming over the top, casting, or too active with their dominant side. Your non-dominant arm should do most of the work in your swing. The dominant arm is there just to add speed and power. But the problem is that most people take over with their dominant side and with that comes all the swing flaws I mentioned above. I can’t advocate enough for this drill. It has worked wonders for me in the past. Word of caution, take it slow at first and grip down an inch or two. Also use a PW or other short iron. YOu can gradually work up once you’ve gotten the hang of it.

  9. SteveK

    Oct 20, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    “So, what is the drill? All I want you to do is to figure out how to hit straight shots with your non-dominant hand on the club. If you’re a right-handed golfer, use only your left hand. If you’re left-handed golfer, use only your right hand. All I want you to accomplish is to start the ball on line. Distance does not matter. I know this sounds really easy, but I know the first time I ever tried it I thought it was almost stupid. Boy was I wrong.”
    ——————–
    You”re wrong on two counts….. one on doing the one-armed/handed drill, and two on the Motor Learning & Control aspects of teaching your brain this stupid drill.
    If you only use your non-dominant left hand you only involve the right side of your brain’s Motor Cortex, and the left side Motor Cortex is not only idle, it’s confused when you try to add your right hand to the swing. Kinesthetic training is clear on that point. Try again, Homer.

    • Hunter Brown

      Oct 21, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Hey Steve, thanks for taking the time to read and provide constructive criticism. I was happy to see I didn’t have to sort through anonymous childish put downs and dismissive rhetoric to get to your point. Also you are probably correct this drill does not necessarily teach you the mechanics of this movement with two hands on the club however it absolutely teaches you the concept of the motion so you can then apply that to your full swing. Understanding can only be positive right?

      • MB

        Oct 21, 2017 at 9:46 pm

        No, you are completely wrong and just as immature as the others as you can’t take the put downs so you reply with:
        ” I was happy to see I didn’t have to sort through anonymous childish put downs and dismissive rhetoric to get to your point.” and “Understanding can only be positive right?”

        But you’re not understanding and just as dismissive as anybody else, because you know you’re wrong but can’t admit it.

      • SteveK

        Oct 22, 2017 at 1:09 am

        No, Hunter, you can’t learn the full swing with this ‘drill’; you only learn to uncontrollably lash out a golf club with one arm and that’s it. Sorry, but that’s the brutal truth.
        Swinging the arms is only about 10% of the golf swing and the other 90% is what happens from the soles of your feet/shoes up to your shoulders and in your head.
        Golfers want to believe that arm swinging the club is a ‘golf swing’ and they ignore the function of the rest of the body because their body is usually non-athletic and they don’t want to train their inadequate body because training hurts and is not ‘fun’.
        So, is understanding the brutal truth a positive thing or not golfically correct?

      • MK

        Oct 22, 2017 at 7:04 pm

        Hunter. Appreciate this article. Some of these tards probably still think/teach that the end all be all is to swing inside out and release hard with the right hand. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of ignorance when it comes to the golf swing there.

  10. Dennis Mcmahon

    Oct 20, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    After trying this drill i strengthened my grip to having 3 knuckles showing. I was able to achieve the goal of the drill with less effort.

  11. Jeff Lebowski

    Oct 20, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    I understand that using only one hand creates the proper torque. However, how does one transition from this drill to full swings? Does the drill correct your mechanics unconsciously? At some point I would like to swing using both hands.

    • SteveK

      Oct 20, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      Good point … see my above comment on this stupid drill… potentially injurious too.

    • Hunter Brown

      Oct 21, 2017 at 9:51 am

      Hey Jeff I like where you are headed here. This drill really just teaches you the concepts and gives you greater understanding of how the club head and shaft need to react in early transition. When applying to full swings video your swing and see if the shaft shallows while the club face remains square. You can accomplish this by flexion (bowing like hitting the throttle on a motorcycle) in the lead wrist and external rotation of the trail arm/shoulder (think losing at arm wrestling or skipping rocks). Hope this helps when moving to a full swing!

      • SteveK

        Oct 22, 2017 at 1:18 am

        Sorry, but there is no way this single ‘drill’ can be kinesthetically transferred to a two handed golf swing because the right and left brain hemispheres of the Motor Cortex must work together to produce a golf swing. Training only one side of the brain and leaving out the other side is simply wrong when both sides must be utilized.
        Now, if you told up to train both arms separately and then tried to meld the two together into an arm swing, that might fly…. but only winging one arm is deleterious to the complete golf swing … and the brain…. believe it.

        • MK

          Oct 22, 2017 at 7:07 pm

          Can u even break 80 dude? Seriusoly bud, relax. If you ever want to become a better player, or hit better shots you have to understand controlling the face. That’s what this whole article is about.

          • iblak

            Oct 22, 2017 at 9:25 pm

            you must be operating with only half yer brain by swinging with yer left arm only.

  12. TeeBone

    Oct 20, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    The clubface squares up very naturally and easily when swinging with only the lead arm, as it takes no more strength than to be able to hold onto the club to allow the left wrist to roll back. It is actually improper right arm participation that inhibits the clubface from returning to square. The researchers of “Search For the Perfect Swing” found a greater tendency to hook, not slice, when swinging the left arm only.

    • SteveK

      Oct 22, 2017 at 1:23 am

      Right on, TeeBoner ….. your comment is the only other legitimate comment on this topic thread…. next to mine.
      What do you think about doing single arm swings for both the left and right arms and then attempting to blend them together into a proto-swing?

  13. ted

    Oct 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Very..very interesting! I will for sure try this. Would this help with 2 other issues i have? weight transfer and my out to in swing?

  14. Aot

    Oct 20, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Total and utter tosh.

  15. yoyo

    Oct 20, 2017 at 11:46 am

    What length irons would this be best practiced with when just starting them?

    • Hunter Brown

      Oct 21, 2017 at 9:52 am

      I would start something light like a wedge

    • yobro

      Oct 22, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Just use a 5/8th inch diameter steel rod 18 inches long with a golf grip and you will get a decent workout. A lightweight golf club is too awkward for one armed swinging…. unless you believe swinging a golf club will get you closer to a golf swing.

  16. Chris

    Oct 20, 2017 at 11:38 am

    +1

  17. Steve

    Oct 20, 2017 at 11:36 am

    “Now that I have created passive torque”

    passive torque?

  18. David Ciccoritti

    Oct 20, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Would this work if you’re a LH golfer with right hand dominance?

    • painter33

      Oct 20, 2017 at 11:09 am

      That was going to be my question too. I play right handed but am left handed – the opposite of Phil Mickelson and Mr. Ciccoritti. In essence, my lead arm is my dominant arm.

      • Ian

        Oct 20, 2017 at 12:42 pm

        +1

      • SteveK

        Oct 20, 2017 at 5:11 pm

        Curiously, tennis star Pete Sampras who is right handed, swings his golf clubs left handed. Why, you ask?
        Because his tennis backhand stroke is done with his dominant right hand and he just transferred that skill to golf.

        • MikeC

          Oct 22, 2017 at 9:13 pm

          To SteveK: What about Tiger Woods? If you classify the best putter as the person who consistently made the most important putts that mattered then he is clearly the greatest putter of all time. His favorite putting drill which he’s done countless times: The right hand only drill. Wouldn’t this also violate the left/right sides of the brain theory? Clearly it worked for him. It trained him to release the putter when he transitioned from a hold release to more of a full release stroke in about 1999. I think there is so much we don’t know about the brain so to try to hold to these absolute truths is foolish.

          • OB

            Oct 23, 2017 at 4:54 pm

            Yes, but it took Tiger 10 years of solo practice before his putting stroke was established securely. It’s not something you can learn on the practice green by doing it a few times before you go to the first tee.

      • BCKnoll

        Oct 21, 2017 at 4:46 pm

        add me to the list of a LH playing from the right side…….using extensor action seems to place my right arm as dominate……..

    • Hunter Brown

      Oct 21, 2017 at 9:53 am

      absolutely!

      • SheaM

        Oct 22, 2017 at 8:34 pm

        Great article Hunter! In my experience I teach this same concept using the golfers trail arm. I find that this allows the club to drop into the correct position while still keeping the club face square. Just wondering what your thoughts are teaching with the trail arm vs the leading arm?

        Thanks

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Trackman Tuesday (Episode 2): Driver Loft

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Welcome to Episode 2 of Trackman Tuesday. In this weekly series, I will be using Trackman data to help you understand the game of golf in a little more detail and help you hit better shots and play better golf.

In this week’s episode, I look at driver loft. What effect does driver loft have on your shots and how important is it, really?

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How Far Away from the Ball Should You Be at Address?

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How far away from the ball should you be at address? This video is in response to a question from Tom McCord on Facebook.

In this video, I look at the setup position. I offer a simple way to check your distance from the ball at address with your driver, irons and wedges.

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Tour Pros Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up

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You want to be better at golf, more consistent and longer off the tee. I am sure a lot of you would love to stop hurting. You would like these things with minimal work, if possible. You also want them yesterday. That about sum it up?

In the next 5 minutes, you’ll learn about the one thing that solves these problems for good. Before we dive in, though, I want to tee up three stats for you from my research.

  1. PGA Tour players can jump between 18-22 inches off the ground while LPGA Tour players can jump between 16-20 inches off the ground. Long drive competitors can often leap 30+ inches off the ground!
  2. Elite-level golfers who drive the ball 300+ yards can shot put a 6-pound ball more than 30 feet with less than a 5-percent difference in right-handed to left-handed throws.
  3. Elite golfers in the world can hurl a medicine ball with a seated chest pass just as far in feet as they can jump in inches (ie. a 20-inch vertical leap and a 20-foot seated chest pass).

What do these numbers have to do with you and your game? More importantly, what do these stats have to do with solving your problems? Let’s start by telling you what the solution is.   

Objective Assessment and Intelligent Exercise Prescription

Say that three times fast. It’s a mouth full… But seriously, read it two more times and think about what that means.

It means that before you act on anything to improve your health or your game, you need to objectively assess what the problem is and get to the root cause. You should use quality objective data to arrive at intelligent health and golf improvement decisions based on the long-term likelihood that they will be successful. We can’t just select exercises, swing changes or training aids based on what is hot in the market today or what the latest celebrity was paid big bucks to sell to us.

There is a reason why the infomercials you see today on Golf Channel will be different in 2 months. The same gimmicks run out of steam when enough people realize that is what they are… gimmicks. When looking to achieve your goals of playing better golf and/or having less pain, don’t just grab for the quick fix as so many golfers today do. 

We are in the information age. Information from quality data is power. Using this data intelligently, you can fix problems in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hopefully, I am giving you the power to make a meaningful and lasting change in your game. I’m sorry to say that most amateurs will not be hitting 300+ yard drives despite what the latest marketing ploy will have you believe. But, if you know what tests you can do to measure the areas that affect your distance off the tee, you can at least gain insight into where your biggest return on your time investment will be. 

This is where working with a golf fitness expert can be so valuable to you. Not only can they help you interpret your results from the tests, but they will also be able to prescribe you the most effective means to move closer to 300 yards from where you are right now.  

If you have a problem with your car not accelerating as fast as you would like or not being able to reach top end speed on the highway, I hope you take it to the mechanic and don’t just look up quick fixes on YouTube to see what you can do on your own. The reason you pay the mechanic to fix your car is because that is what they do all day. They will get it done as quickly as possible. More importantly, they’ll get correctly so that the problem doesn’t pop up again in 2 weeks.

A golf fitness expert is no different. Use them for their expertise and knowledge. Once you have a diagnosis of what is holding you back and a plan to correct it, you are on your way and won’t have to waste any more time or money trying silly quick fixes that never stick.

The three statistics mentioned earlier represent numbers measured across the globe by industry leaders and at our facility 3-4 times per year on hundreds of golfers each time. Our facility has thousands of data points. With this much data comes the ability to draw conclusions from objective assessments. These conclusions drive the intelligent implementation of successful solutions directed at the root causes of problems for thousands of golfers around the globe.

The first three statistics have an R-value of over 0.85 in correlation to clubhead speed. Translation: if you perform well in the first three tests with high numbers, you are very likely to have a high club speed. Further, if you improve in any of those three tests relative to where you started, you are almost assured to have a higher club speed than when you began (assuming swing technique and equipment is relatively unchanged).  

Keep in mind that in statistics, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. But when the R-value is that close to 1 and anecdotally you have seen the results and changes we have, you put some weight behind these three tests. So:

  • See how high you can jump
  • See how far you can shot put a 6-pound medicine ball
  • See how far you can chest pass a 6-pound medicine ball from a seated position

Doing so will give you an idea of how much power you have in your lower body, total rotary system and upper body respectively. Train whichever one is the worst, or train them all if you want. Rest assured that if you improve one of them, you will more than likely increase your swing speed.  

By doing these assessments and addressing the one or two weak areas, you will improve with the least work possible. Sounds about what you were looking for, right? If you are able to identify where you need to improve BEFORE you buy whatever is claiming to fix your problems, you will save lots of money and time. You will actually start to improve with the least amount of work possible and in the least amount of time possible.  

What’s next? After completing the assessment tests, start working to improve them.

  • Coming Soon: Lower Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Upper Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Rotary Power for Golf
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