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Nail your swing path with this drill



In my article Practice the Nail Drill to improve your swing without thinking about it, I explained a drill that I’ve found to help resolve swing issues in an instinctive and external way. In this article, I want explore this concept more in depth as it pertains to hitting golf shots so you can expand your skill set even more.

Swing path

All swing paths are not created equal. It’s not uncommon for me to see a player with a swing path of 10 or more degrees from either outside or inside (as measured by Trackman).

While most people are busy focusing on the symptoms of a poor swing path by focusing on things such as elbow movements, shoulder movements, club plane, etc., I find a lot of these things can clear themselves up with a proper understanding of impact. Wild changes in technique are not necessarily better, of course, but I can quite readily make vast improvements in people’s swing paths. I have seen 15-degree shifts in one swing just by having students focus on what I am about to tell you. I’ve also found that most of the body pattern symptoms immediately dissipate as a result.

Just yesterday, I took a golfer who had been struggling with a chronic slice for 15 years and allowed him to hit his first draws using this idea by shifting his swing path from 10 degrees left to 4 degrees right of the target. As a result, he:

  • Tucked in his right elbow better on the downswing.
  • Showed more external rotation of the right arm on the downswing.
  • Shallowed his club plane dramatically.
  • Improved the sequencing of his entire body.
  • Improved his weight shift.
  • Improved his release.

He had spent years trying to work on these swing issues directly to no avail, and in one lesson we were able to improve them with only a single thought!


Movement responds to our intention. This is one of the reasons golfers can make the movements they desire in practice swings, as the swing is the intention, but put a ball in the way and they go back to their old habits — because their intention has changed. So what better way to improve movement than to change our intention with our strike directly. Using the visual of a nail through the ball, we could angle the nail more to the right or more to the left depending upon which swing path we desire.

For example, if you want to feel like you swing more in-to-out, why not angle the nail as shown below?

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.12.34 PM

If you suffer with a slice, this idea can certainly help you get to a more neutral swing path.

If you suffer with hooking the ball, or if you want to work on fading the ball more, you could visualize the nail as shown below:


Try not to overdo these ideas too much, as wildly offline swing paths can cause issues. Most pros will be within about 6 degrees of their target (swing path) when hitting different shape shots. I recommend, however, that golfers explore extremes in practice to improve their creativity and procedural understanding.

An important note: To hit a fade or a draw, the club face needs to be pointed between the nail direction and your target at impact. For example, if you swing 6 degrees in-to-out, your club face needs to be about 3 degrees to right of the target hit a draw, and vice versa for a fade.

Ball position and swing direction

Swing direction changes will also have an affect on where our club first contacts the ground. As a result, when you change the angle of the nail in your mind, you may need to change the ball position correspondingly.

As a general rule:

  • If you are trying to hit the nail more to the right, place the ball more right (back) in your stance.
  • If you are trying to hit the nail more to the left, place the ball more left (forward) in your stance.

With some practice, you will probably discover this out instinctively. You’ll probably also see that it is very difficult to hit a nail angled to the right when the ball is really far forwards in your stance. Test it yourself.


After a bit of experimentation, try and go back to calibrating a square swing path, as shown in the picture below. Use the feelings gained from your experimentation to guide your way to your ideal swing path.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.13.02 PM

Start slow, build up

Start the drill by hitting chip shots, before moving to pitch shots and gradually adding more speed. Higher handicappers might want to even tee the ball up slightly so it allows them to experiment without fear of the strike.

The most important thing to remember is to keep your intention on the nail and not so much the mechanics involved. We all instinctively know how to hit a nail in different directions, and when we go back into our old thought patterns and think about positions and mechanics our old habits often creep back in — especially on the golf course!

Adam discusses these principles and much more in his book, “The Practice Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Golfers,” which is available on Amazon.

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Adam is a golf coach and author of the bestselling book, "The Practice Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Golfers." He currently teaches at Twin Lakes in Santa Barbara, California. Adam has spent many years researching motor learning theory, technique, psychology and skill acquisition. He aims to combine this knowledge he has acquired in order to improve the way golf is learned and potential is achieved. Adam's website is Visit his website for more information on how to take your game to the next level with the latest research.



  1. Jayw

    Jul 6, 2015 at 4:01 am

    Adam, thank you for this practice drill. I personally like to see the different ideas that are presented to help us golfers improve. I recently took some video lessons and they were teaching me to exaggerate the inside out swing in practice. I like your idea to visualize the nail. I’m going to us it in my practice. Thank you.

  2. Steve

    Jun 28, 2015 at 10:01 am

    I love that the site is deleting the negative comments. And only allowing positive comments. Like Matt’s comment that Tom Duckworth responded too, mmm what happened to Matt’s comment? Good way to see all opinions.

  3. May be typos

    Jun 28, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I need a nail drill for cleaning the grooves

  4. raj

    Jun 28, 2015 at 3:22 am

    Great article. It’s useful to have something simple to think about on the course other than body mechanics.

    • Adam Young

      Jun 28, 2015 at 5:41 am

      Definitely Raj – One simple thought that you can keep consistent throughout the round, rather than searching for the secret every other shot.

  5. Ben

    Jun 27, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Great article Adam. Take no notice of the haters, for those of us that coach day in day out we know what works well with golfers and what doesn’t and this intuitve style that you talk about here certainly works. With statistics showing these days that scores are getting worse and more people are giving up the game, maybe more people should be open to trying a different approach for improving their golf.

  6. John Grossi

    Jun 27, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Adam, that drill you reminded us of a few weeks ago has helped me greatly. I’m now reading your book and find it very helpful. Thank you for your articles. I understand they help promote your new book, but I think they are helping many others on this site.

  7. I like it , this makes sense to me

    Jun 26, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    This is great, easy to follow.

  8. Tom Duckworth

    Jun 26, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    I get it, nice drill. Why all the hate mail hey Matt if you don’t like something just shut up and move on.

    • Steve

      Jun 26, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      I quess your advice, doesnt apply to you.

  9. Al

    Jun 26, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    I’ve struggled so long with all golf instruction until I threw it all out but the most basic fundamentals in favor of “feel” and just getting the f out of the way of letting my brain do it instead of trying to make it happen.

    I struggled to drive it 220 from the Whites (in ANY direction), last week I hit the longest drive of my life (cold, a few practice swings), a pretty little draw, 257, close as I could tell.

    I played the hardest side of my course in 3-over a couple weeks ago when I usually feel like breaking bogey is a pretty good round for me.

    I remember telling my club pro when I started golf I’d be happy to shoot bogey, to which he instantly replied, “Wanna bet?”

  10. Steve

    Jun 26, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Is this guy serious? You just wrote an article about nails that shanked big time.
    Now you are writing another one about nails. Maybe you should be a carpenter. Again stealing from other teachers, Nick Bradley, without giving credit. We get it you love Nick Bradleys book. Have a original thought, not someone elses idea that you rehash over and over. What a joke

    • Adam Young

      Jun 26, 2015 at 3:07 pm

      Hi Steve – which book is this from by Nick Bradley?

      I actually got this drill when I worked at the Cranfield Academies 8 years ago. Not sure who those guys got it from.

      • Steve

        Jun 26, 2015 at 4:41 pm

        7 laws of the golf swing.

        • Adam young

          Jun 30, 2015 at 7:09 am

          Not sure if you have read the book steve. I purchased it to make sure. There is nothing in it about hitting a nail.

          There is a picture of a grip with a nail through the hands, showing unity of the hands. Maybe that is what you saw.

  11. cb

    Jun 26, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Hey Adam, great two articles on this drill. I came across this drill in golf forums a few years back and will always go back to it. One thing I did to help with the transition from hammer to golf club is I found an old adams 1 iron on ebay and bent it even more strong so it was around 12 degrees. I know its not 0 degrees like a hammer, but I have found that it helped me with the transition from drill to golf swing.

    • Adam Young

      Jun 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      Great stuff CB. There is a training aid out there called the Golf hammer – it’s a mallet with a golf grip attached. Although your 1 iron is a nicer transition to real golf.

  12. Christosterone

    Jun 26, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Yall are super into nails…

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