By Brad Gallagher
Director of Instruction
The sport of golf is one of the most difficult sports ever invented. It challenges a person’s physical ability, endurance and mental toughness. To me, that qualifies it as a sport, not just a game. The level that a person plays the sport at doesn’t matter as long as they enjoy their time playing and practicing. It can be extremely frustrating but when you hit a shot that feels perfect it makes it all worth it. The shots that feel perfect don’t seem to come often enough but they are worth striving for.
When we practice we tend to call it hitting golf balls. As in, “Let’s go to the driving range and hit some balls”. I tell my students that we are not trying to hit the golf ball; we are making a golf swing that the ball is getting in the way of. We want to feel like we are swinging through the ball, not at the ball.
When we swing (hit) at the ball, we usually tense up and our body stops shortly after impact which means that our body started slowing down way too early in the downswing. Think about a pitcher in baseball trying to stop his arm immediately after the ball comes out of his fingers. The speed and accuracy of the pitch would not be very good.
Finishing a golf swing does not necessarily mean that the golf club finishes around the back of the head though. The finish of the swing depends on the length of the backswing in most cases and the amount of energy produces by the big muscles. The club should come to rest when its momentum has been used up.
Let’s think about the pitching motion in baseball and how it relates to the golf swing more than the hitting of a baseball does.
Whether a pitcher starts with a wind-up or from the stretch the first objective is to load their weight onto the trail leg. The right leg and arm are on the trail side of the body for a right-handed pitcher and golfer while the left leg and arm are on the lead side for a right-handed pitcher and golfer. The opposites are the case for a left-handed pitcher and golfer.
Once the weight is loaded onto the trail leg, the next movement is to drive the weight to the lead leg. The weight shift in the golf swing is much more subtle but the legs are moving similarly and in the same direction. As this is happening, the pitcher’s trail arm and shoulder are not tense and he is not squeezing the ball tightly. The fingers are only holding the ball firmly enough to keep it from slipping out. Once the lead leg hits the ground, the trail side of the body drives toward the catcher until after the ball has been released.
A good drill to attain the feeling is to actually throw a ball a few times with the same motion a pitcher would use. Then get a short iron and try the step drill. As you start your backswing lift your lead leg and bring it toward your trail leg. Tap the ground with your lead toes next to your trail foot. Step toward the target with your lead leg to start your downswing. When your lead leg hits the ground drive your trail side through the ball.
If you try to start your downswing by pulling the club down with your arms at the same time your lead leg is still moving toward the target, you will not be able to finish the weight shift and you will lose your balance. Let your arms and club follow your legs and you will generate much more clubhead speed than your arms can ever produce on their own.
The proper grip pressure and being able to maintain the same grip pressure throughout the swing is extremely important to allow your body to do the work in the proper sequence.