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Get your arm swing and pivot in sync

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One of the largest problems most golfers face is the hands and arms not moving in sync with their pivots. This causes all kinds of issues with both how they will pivot and the ball flight that will result.

I see far more golfers whose arms move too slow than too fast. When this happens, multiple issues arise. I will discuss these first, and then will discuss a drill and some ideas designed to address these issues.

When the arms swing too slowly, two general things will happen: The arms will end up too far behind the pivot (common with better players) or the arms won’t work down or forward fast enough and will be carried too far out by the pivot. These moves create two different results, but the root cause is the same. As a compensation, many golfers will either pull their arms across their bodies in an effort to get their arms back in front (the case of arms being too far behind the pivot), wiping across the ball and steepening the angle of attack. The other common compensation when the arms don’t work down and forward soon enough is to dump all their leverage in an attempt to reach the ball and get their path more in-to-out. If this sounds like you, I have something I want you to try.

This is a drill to train you to keep your arms more in sync with your pivot and working faster, which has the other benefit of helping you hit the ball farther. I want you to make some swings with both arms straight from side-to-side about hip-high to hip-high. The key part of this is I want you to set/cock the club fully, but do it without bending your arms. The majority of golfers over-bend their trailing arm in the backswing and the leading arm in the follow-through. This drill will force the club to stay in front of you and teach you to separate cocking the lead wrist and folding the arms. The sensation while doing the drill will be that it is very army, but if both arms stay straight while doing it, the club will stay in front of you and you will pivot back and through.

You can’t swing the club with your arms straight without turning — it’s not possible. The turn will happen subconsciously. The goal here is to swing the arms while keeping them straight and set the club from hip-high to hip-high as fast as possible. This drill is done without a ball, and meant to be done with speed once you feel comfortable with the motion.

Once you feel comfortable doing it without a ball, I want you to go hit balls while maintaining the same feel while keeping your arms below chest-high. If you were to film these swings, I expect the trailing arm to fold slightly in the backswing and the lead arm to fold slightly on the through swing.

The wrists will cock the club slower and later than it feels (it will be very gradual). I also expect the swing to be longer than you feel like it is and the ball will go farther than you expect it. The body will pivot back and through, but it will be doing so as a reaction to the arms swinging while extended. The faster the arms swing, the faster you will/can pivot and the farther the ball will go. This will create a shorter, more efficient and more in-sync swing allowing for consistency and hopefully lower scores.

Golf Sync 2

Golf Sync 1

Above are examples of a golf swing that has both arms are extended with the club setting in backswing and through the ball. The arm swing is in-sync with the pivoting of the body.

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I currently teach at Hidden Hills Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla. I began teaching golf in 2001 and have had PGA Tour teaching credentials since 2009. I have been lucky enough to work with players on the PGA, Web.com, LPGA and Symetra tours as well as top amateur and collegiate golfers, including multiple NCAA national champions. I've had two students in the last two years graduate from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour. I am constantly trying to push myself to learn as much as possible about golf and many other areas of life.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Alex Richardson

    Apr 11, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    This is a big problem of mine the last couple of years. It often takes me many balls at the range to get in “sync” and then I seem to lose/forget the correct feel the next time I go and have to start all over again. It’s been a big problem and I can’t seem to fix it. Hopefully this will help.

  2. Rich Hill

    Aug 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Dear Dan
    I am a 79 yr old lefty “golfer” and have had a slice problem ever since! Local pros did not solve it ; tightening grip, changing grip, etc. but your drill of using straight arm has now given me a little right pull. Great that I can work with! Also longer drive with much less effort (that I can live with too)! Thanks so much!!!!

    Rich

  3. tom stickney

    Feb 15, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Dan–

    If the arms and body are out of sync you do indeed have a problem…check out Homer Kelley’s thoughts on this in The Golfing Machine.

    PS: Just between us instructors: Power Package Loading Action– full sweep for this type of golfer. 🙂

    All the best; keep up the good work!

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Instruction

A shockingly simple drill to hit the golf ball farther

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One of the biggest requests I get on the lesson tee is for more distance. Everyone wants to hit the golf ball farther. Obviously. That being said, there’s many things that go into producing distance, such as…

  • Swing Length — how long is the swing or how long does the club stay in the air before hitting the ball?
  • Swing Width — are you at full extension at during the swing or do you get soft arms?
  • Impact Point — the horizontal and vertical point of contact that influences gear effect, launch, and spin rate.
  • Spin Rate — how much backspin does the ball have?
  • Height — how high is the ball in the air?
  • Launch Angle — what is the angle of the ball off the face during impact?
  • Ball Speed — how fast does the ball leave the blade?

But one thing remains true: if you want more distance, then you must swing faster with all of the above being maximized for your current swing speed. So how do you create more speed? Simple — set up the drill as shown below.

Use between 6-to-10 balls and swing 100 percent all out with no regard for where the ball lands. Then repeat the drill and make your normal speed swing and you will find that your clubhead speed will slightly increase. Do this drill 5 to 10 times per practice session and you will train yourself to swing faster.

However, it’s up to you to figure out how fast you can swing yet maximize the qualities listed above so you can maintain consistent contact.

Remember, you don’t have to get complex to solve your distance problem. Try this first and see what happens!

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Your Body Is Your Most Important Piece Of Equipment; It’s Time For An Upgrade

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Clubs, balls, shoes, mental training, lessons. Golfers are always searching for the next thing that is going to transform their game. If a product has promise, golfers are like addicts; they must have it… regardless of the price. What’s usually ignored, however, is the most important piece of equipment for all golfers: their body, and how their physical conditioning pertains to golf.

Everything becomes easier by getting in better “golf shape.” You will likely hit the ball farther, have better energy and focus, fewer aches and pains, improved ability to actually implement swing changes and the durability to practice more.

When trying to improve your physical conditioning for golf, it would shortsighted not to mention the following requirements:

  1. Discipline: There will be times you don’t want to train, but should.
  2. Patience: Small, incremental progress adds up to big improvement over time.
  3. A Path: Make sure you use your time and effort efficiently by having a training plan that matches your goals.

If you can adopt these principles, I am confident you will be very happy with the return — even more so than the latest driver, putter or practice aid.

I like to compare having a well functioning body to a painter’s blank canvas. By ensuring you have adequate coordination, motor control, mobility, stability, strength and speed, you have the basic tools necessary for a high-performance golf swing. Of course, you will still need to develop a functional technique and specific skill level that matches your goals. On the flip side, if you are deficient in these areas, you are like a dirty canvas; your options are limited and you will need to make compensations to achieve anything close to the desired outcome. In simpler terms, movements that are universally desirable in the golf swing may be very difficult or impossible for you based on your current physical state.

Earlier, I mentioned the term “appropriate training,” and now I am going to discuss one of the ways to identify what this means for you as a golfer trying to use physical training to support a better golf game. The TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Movement Screen is a great start for everyone. It is a combination of 16 exercises that are used to assess your current movement capabilities, identify limitations and provide you with your “Body-Swing” connection. The “Body-Swing” connection is a term coined by TPI that illustrates the link between physical deficiencies and potential swing tendencies based on its “Big 12” model. The Big 12 swing characteristics that TPI has identified are as follows:

  1. S-Posture
  2. C-Posture
  3. Loss of Posture
  4. Flat Shoulder Plane
  5. Early Extension
  6. Over The Top
  7. Sway
  8. Slide
  9. Hanging Back
  10. Reverse Spine Angle
  11. Casting
  12. Chicken Winging

It’s important to note these as tendencies rather than flaws, as great ball strikers have demonstrated some of them. When done excessively, they make high functioning swings more difficult and may make potential injury more likely. Rather than going through all 16 screening exercises (which would be a very long read), I have selected five that I feel provide a lot of useful information. They can often broadly differentiate the playing level of golfers.

1. Static Setup Posture

There is a lot of debate in golf instruction about what is the correct way to assume posture for the golf swing. Some prefer more rounded shoulders akin to what was common in years gone by: Jack and Arnie being good examples. Others prefer a more extended thoracic spine (less curved upper back): Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are good examples. I’m not a golf instructor and clearly both types can hit great golf shots. I am more concerned with the lumbar spine (the lower back, which doesn’t seem to get as much attention when the setup is being discussed).

Note the difference between the spinal curvatures of Jack and Rory. I’m OK with either as long as the lower back is in a biomechanically sound position (explained in video).

An overly extended or arched lower back (which I demonstrate in the video) creates too large a space between the alignment rod and my lower back. This is a common issue I see, and it can lead to a lack of pelvis rotation, a lack of power due to the inability to effectively use the glutes and abdominal muscles and lower back discomfort. Cueing a slight posterior tilt (tucking the tailbone underneath you) often makes a noticeable difference in pelvis mobility, power, and comfort.

 2. Pelvic Rotation

Pelvic rotation is essential for X-factor stretch, the ability to increase the amount of separation between the pelvis and torso during transition (moving from the backswing into the downswing). This is often referred to as starting the downswing with the lower body/hips (while the torso is still rotating away from the target or is paused at the end of the backswing). It is critical for effective sequencing and power production. Increasing the separation between your pelvis and torso on the downswing increases what is known as the “stretch-shortening cycle” of your trunk and torso muscles, which is like adding more stretch to an elastic band and then releasing it. If you cannot separate pelvic rotation and torso rotation, it will be extremely difficult to be a good golfer.

In the video below, watch how Rickie Fowler’s pelvis rotates toward the target independently of his torso. This increases the elastic energy stored in his muscles and tendons, allowing for big power production.

 3. Lower Quarter Rotation

The Lower Quarter Rotation Test shares some similarities to the Pelvic Rotation Test, but one key difference is that it doesn’t require nearly as much motor control. Many people fail the pelvic rotation test not because of a mobility limitation, but because they can’t control the different segments of the their body and perform the action they want (motor control issue). The Lower Quarter Rotation Test, on the other hand, does not require anywhere near as much control and therefore looks more directly at the internal and external rotation mobility of the lower body. People who struggle with this test are more likely to sway, slide and have reverse spine angle.

DJ Top of backswing.jpg

I’m confident Dustin Johnson would do OK on the Lower Quarter Rotation test. Look at how well he can turn into his right hip.

 4. Seated Thoracic Rotation

This one usually resonates with golfers, as “getting a full shoulder turn” is something that golf media and players like to talk to about regularly. I think most people understand the concept of a sufficient shoulder turn being important for creating power. Restricted thoracic spine rotation can stem from a few different causes. A common one is excessive thoracic flexion (rounder upper back). To test this for yourself: 1) try the test in the video hunched over and 2) with your spine as long as possible. You should notice you can rotate farther when you sit extended.

5. 90/90 External Shoulder Rotation  

Many popular golf instruction pages on social media talk about the importance of shallowing the shaft in transition and trail arm external shoulder rotation. I understand the reasoning for this in terms of swing technique, but something that needs to be taken into consideration is whether golfers actually have the ability to externally rotate their shoulders. This is often not the case. Two interesting trends I have noticed with golfers and external shoulder rotation:

  1. A larger percentage of U.S. golfers compared to Irish golfers (the two countries I have worked in) tend to have much more trail arm external rotation available. This is mainly due to throwing baseballs and footballs in their youth, which doesn’t happen in Ireland.
  2. Shoulder external rotation, shoulder flexion, and thoracic extension really seem to reduce as golfers get older compared to other movements. Please take note of this and put some exercises into your routine that promote mobility and stability in the thoracic spine and scapula, as these are the foundation for sound shoulder mechanics. Thoracic extensions on a foam roller, relaxed hanging from a pull-up bar and wall slides with external rotation are some exercises I like to use.
MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Toronto Blue Jays

I think this pitcher would have enough external shoulder rotation in his golf swing.

I hope this article gave you some more understanding of how learning about your body and then working on its limitations might be beneficial for your golf game. If you have questions about the TPI Movement Screen or are interested in an online evaluation, please feel free to e-mail me.

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Let’s Talk Gear: Frequency and Shaft CPM

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When it comes to fine tuning a golf shaft and matching clubs within a set, frequency and CPM play a critical role in build quality and making sure what you were fit for is what gets built for you.

This video explains the purpose of a frequency machine, as well as how the information it gives us relates to both building and fitting your clubs.

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