Practice small for big results
When you think of working on your technique, most people think big changes in body movement. Changing how your body pivots, how your hips move, the top of your backswing position etc., are all typical things which golfers work on. I would call these things “macro techniques,” as they involve big-scale changes.
Macro techniques are usually difficult to do, as they often require complete re-training of the big-body movement patterns you have built up over the years (sometimes referred to as gross motor patterns). Not a lot of people look at the micro techniques of golf though – the small variations which can make a massive difference, such as where you strike the ball on the face, club face position at impact, contact point with the ground, etc.
An example of this is a player who makes very similar looking movement on video camera (macro technique) yet the club head comes through impact a couple of centimeters too far away from the body and they shank it (micro technique).
Most people think that they have to change the macro techniques to see an improvement in the micro techniques, but this is not always true. Often times, we see big improvements in the macro technique, yet we still shank it because we hit the hosel (through not controlling our micro techniques). On the flip side of this, I have seen some great positive changes in macro technique as a result of focusing on the smaller areas of technique, such as strike awareness.
Practice drills for micro technique
Below I have three of my favorite drills for improving your micro technique game. You can build a high-quality game from these drills alone.
- Spray paint a line on the grass perpendicular to your target line (as long as you are allowed). Place golf balls on the line, and proceed to hit the balls, making sure to take a divot. Look at the divot after each shot – the aim is to try and strike ball first, then make a divot, by first contacting the ground on the white line, or slightly forward of it (target side). Having the line there is great feedback for you to note improvement.
- Take a dry erase market pen and draw a dot on the back of the golf ball (where your club face will contact the ball). Proceed to hit the ball from a clean lie, and you will be left with a mark on the club face. The aim is obviously to work out how to hit the middle of the sweetspot, but this drill is massive for awareness and feedback. You may spot some things you didn’t realize before, and you will build up a great feel for controlling the club head
- Try to control the shape of the ball by focusing on getting the club face into a different position at impact. Place a sleeve of balls on the ground in a way which you could hit the middle ball in the box. Work on swinging back and down (don’t hit the balls) and get a sense for how the club could hit the box toe first (closed face/more left) or heel first (open/more right). Then try to hit different shapes by producing this feeling at impact with a real ball. The ball flight is your feedback here (combine it with the sweetspot drill for maximum effect)
How to practice these things
The great news is you don’t have to know how to do these things, it is enough just to know that you do them. You are equipped with an amazing computer in your head, and given the right goals and awareness, it is capable of teaching itself. Just make sure you get quality feedback by using the divot, the mark on the ball or the ball flight, etc. Allow your body to figure out the most efficient way for you to produce the desired motion, and practice variants of the drills. For example try to hit the divot from different ball positions in your stance, or practice intentionally hitting the heel and toe of the club. See my last article on experimentation for more information http://www.golfwrx.com/68121/boost-your-practice-regime-with-experimentation/
As with most things in life, balance is key. If all you did was focus on improving the bigger parts of your technique, you might have a good overall movement, but you may lack the skills which turn a player from good to great. Likewise, if you simply focused on the smaller things, you may develop great skills and get close to achieving your potential with your swing, but likely your potential will be limited by the poor macro movements you possess.
So in your practice regime, make sure you strike a balance between working on the big things in your movement, and the small things which will make a real difference to how you hit it. They tend to feed into each other, but make sure you don’t ignore the small techniques. Often, when there is a problem in your play, it is not that your macro technique has changed much, but the small techniques just need a little tweaking to get you back on path. After all, wouldn’t it be easier just to tweak a small thing than to produce a radical swing overhaul every time things went a little awry?