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You can learn to hit a draw

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For many golfers, the most coveted shot in golf is the draw, that beautiful shot that starts down the right side of the fairway and curves back to the center.

And I’ve got good news, even for you slicers it’s not that hard of a shot. Even if you’ve never hit a true draw, you can learn to do it time after time. You just need to understand why a draw happens, and how you can achieve those circumstances at impact.

The very first thing to understand about hitting a draw is it involves two things — the position of the club face and the direction of the swing, which need to work together.

You see, the golf ball curves as a result of the clubface’s direction relative to its the path, not relative to its target line. So even if the clubface is open to the target line, a ball can still draw as long as the clubface is closed to the direction of the swing.

Yes, it seems complicated, but what it basically boils down to is that if you hope to hit a draw, you have to hit the ball from the inside. And the clubface has to point slightly left of your swing path, which means that you’re going to have to release the club.

To do this, first you have to see the inside.

Get a good visual in your mind what the inside is and where it is. The inside is defined as the area between you and the target line. The golf club must arrive at impact on that side of the target in order to hit a draw. See a path approaching the target line from your side of the ball.

When I play, I like to think of the target line as a wall; you might visualize something else, but I suggest thinking of it as something you can not hit.

A good swing arrives from inside that wall and exits after impact back to inside the wall. So if the idea is to “stay inside the wall,” the very first thing you need to do is give yourself some room to swing from the inside. And the best way to do that is to turn your shoulders in the backswing and get the hands and club behind you. That will give you some room to swing from the inside.

If there is no turn, and the hands and club swing simply swing above you, you are too close to the wall and will have no room to arrive from the inside.

One word of caution on this point: I am not suggesting that you pull the hands and club too far in behind you (from there, you will have to come out and crash into the wall). I am saying that the shoulders turn and the hands swing up over the rear shoulder. So if you slice, or you cannot draw the ball, the first thing you should concentrate on is a good full shoulder turn in the backswing.

Now that you have created some room from the inside, you can take advantage of it by getting the arms and club down from that area. The sequence will be: Turn, swing down, turn.

You probably understand what turn means — turn behind the ball, and turn through the ball — but the “swing down” part might baffle you, so let me explain, because it’s very important.

If the shoulders open too early on the downswing, which can happen when a golfer focuses too much on “turning” during the early portion of the downswing,” a golfer has no chance to hit the ball from the inside.

He or she will be forced to move their hands outside, which creates a hand path that is horizontal, not vertical, which is needed for a draw.

That’s why many teachers advocate having their students “keep their back to the target” during the downswing, or simply try keeping their shoulders closed a little longer on the downswing to keep the arms coming from the inside (see the Sergio video to see what I mean by getting the arms to fall, not push out).

The other key component to the draw is getting the golf club on a plane from where you can release it into impact. 

In the Sergio video, notice how he “lays the shaft down” to get onto a lower plane to enter impact. When the golf club is on a very vertical plane, the face is often left open, and there is a reverse rotation of your hands and arms into impact, which drastically opens the club face.

A good drill to feel this is to hit balls from a sidehill lie with ball well above the feet. You will feel a more “baseball-like” swing from the inside, which gets the shaft to “lay down.” This gets it under the arms, which is critical to face control.

That’s why it is not enough to simply hit from the inside, because if the shaft is too vertical and the hands come in high, it is difficult to feel the proper release on the lower plane to control the face. My favorite golf scientist and researcher, Dr. Sasho Mackenzie describes it best:

Starting the club below the swing plane generated positive angular momentum about the longitudinal axis of lead arm resulting in the club face completely squaring at impact. Starting the club above the swing plane generated negative angular momentum resulting in the clubface remaining significantly open to the target line at impact. Minor deviations (less than 5 cm) of the club from the swing plane can significantly affect the longitudinal rotation of the club, and thus a golfer’s ability to square the clubface. The results also suggest that the club can rotate through 90 degrees, about the longitudinal axis of the forearm in order to square the clubface for impact without a muscular torque producing supination.”

Those terms are more technical than I communicate to my students, but basically what Dr. Mackenzie is saying is this: turning and releasing from the inside is the key to drawing the golf ball.

Finally, a few considerations about set up: If you struggle to hit a draw, you may want to favor a slighly back ball position and a slighly stronger left hand grip. Also, be sure that your upper body is tilted a little to the right (if you’re a righty).

If you still can’t hit a draw, you can even try closing your shoulders and cocking your head a little to the right, which might help help you see and feel the inside. This is considered setting up “strong” on the inside, and I suggest it for all those who want to learn to draw the ball.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at [email protected]

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Martin

    Apr 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Would a player with a one plane backswing still has to “swing down”? Or is this much more important for a two plane backswing?

  2. Dennis Clark

    Apr 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Thx T&R,

    It’s a feeling of patience more than anything. Just keep the back to the target a nana-second longer. That magical, imperceptible pause is the key!

  3. Turn & Release

    Apr 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    This is great article. I don’t find this complicated at all. You paint a perfect picture of “the inside”. It makes perfect sense to me. Do you have any hints on something I can “feel” during my swing, or during a practice swing? Again; great stuff Dennis! Just seems to click when I read your articles.

  4. D Sgalippa

    Apr 6, 2013 at 5:48 am

    “a ball can still draw as long as the clubface is closed to the direction of the swing”

    Substitute “can still” with the word “will” and that should be the end of the article. Everything else written overcomplicates, or misleads the average golfer.

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Instruction

What you can learn from Steve Elkington

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When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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Dennis Clark: Hitting from the turf

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I have seen as much as 4-5 MPH increase in clubhead speed when my students hit form a tee compared to hitting off the turf. Why?  Fear of FAT shots.

First question: Are you better hitting off a tee than on the turf?

Next question: When you play in a scramble and you have the option of dropping in the fairway or slightly in the first cut, do you choose the rough-especially when hitting over water or sand?

The answer to all these the same: Because the vast majority of golfers do not have a bottom of the swing arc safely in front of the golf ball consistently.

Consider a PGA Tour event, Korn Ferry, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, whatever…You might see missed fairways, missed greens, hooks, blocks, etc. but we rarely, if ever, see a FAT shot. They simply do not hit the ground before the golf ball. Of course, there are exceptions, into the grain on short pitches, for example, but they are just that-rare exceptions. On the other hand, go to any golf course and watch average golfers for a while. Fat shots are not uncommon. In fact, they, or the fear of them, dominate most golf games.

The number one mistake I have seen on the lesson tee for over 35 years is unquestionably a player’s inability to control the bottom of the golf swing. I have seen everything from hitting 4 inches behind the ball to never reaching the bottom at all It has been my experience that that hitting fat shots is the number one flaw in most golf swings.

Let’s start with this fact: elite level players consistently reach a swing bottom (low point) some 3-4 inches in front of the golf ball-time after time after time. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the one I’d like to look at today is the position of the golf club at impact with the golf ball.

The club is leaning forward, toward the target, the hands are ahead of the club head, never straight up over it, never behind it-always, always leaning forward is the only way to consistently bottom out in front of the golf ball.   

A player cannot hit a ball consistently from the turf until he/she learns this and how to accomplish it. For every golfer I teach who gets into this position, I might teach 50 who do not. In fact, if players did not learn how to “save” a shot by bailing out on the downswing (chicken wing, pull up, raise the handle, or come over the top, (yes over the top is a fat shot avoidance technique) they would hit the ground behind the golf ball almost every time!  Hitting better shots from the fairways, particularly from tight lies, can be learned, but I’m going to be honest: The change required will NOT be easy. And to make matters worse, you can never play significantly better until you overcome the fear of hitting it fat.. Until you learn a pattern where the bottom of the swing is consistently in front of the ball, the turf game will always be an iffy proposition for you.

This starts with a perception. When first confronted with hitting a golf ball, it seems only natural that an “up” swing is the way to get the ball in the air-help it, if you will. The act of a descending blow is not, in any way, natural to the new player. In fact, it is totally counterintuitive. So the first instincts are to throw the club head at the ball and swing up to get the ball in the air; in other words, it makes perfect sense. And once that “method” is ingrained, it is very difficult to change. But change if you must, if your goal is to be a better ball striker.

The position to strive for is one where the left wrist (for a right-hander) is flat, the right is slightly dorsiflexed, and the handle of the golf club is ahead of the grip end. Do your level best to pay attention to the look and feel of what you’re doing as opposed to the flight of the golf ball. FEEL that trail wrist bent slightly back, the lead wrist flat and the hands ahead. It will seem strange at first, but it’s the very small first step in learning to hit down on your tight lies. If some degree of that is not ultimately accomplished, you will likely always be executing “fit in” moves to make up for it. It is worth the time and effort to create this habit.

My suggestion is to get on a Trackman if possible to see where you’re low point actually is, or perhaps you may just want to start paying close attention to your divots-particularly the deepest part of them. I’m sure you will get into a pattern of bottoming out consistently in front of the ball when you begin to learn to get the hands ahead and the club head behind. And best of all, when this becomes your swing, you will lose the fear of hitting the turf first and be free to go down after the ball as aggressively as you like.

Ok, so how is this accomplished? While many players are looking for a magic bullet or a training aid which might help one miraculously get into a good impact position, I dare say there is not one. It is a trial and error proposition, a learn-from-the-mistakes kind of thing achieved only through repetition with a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. The hardest thing to do is IGNORE the outcome when learning a new motor skill, but you must do it. A couple of things you might try:

  • Start with 30-50 yard pitch shots, paying close attention to the hands leading at impact. Again ignore the outcome, look only at the divot.
  • Hit a TON of fairway bunker shots. Draw a line in the sand 3-4″ in front of the ball and try to hit it.
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What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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