The hope is that I can start the spring at square ten, but I can’t say it’s always worked. I’m not sure my current list will help anyone else, but it might be interesting to at least compare notes.
No less than Harvey Penick said slow swing rehearsal in front of a mirror without a club was key to improving your swing.
Keep both shoulders in their sockets while swinging. I know some anatomy expert is going to go after me on that one. All I know is that as you swing you can hold your shoulders ‘in tight’ or relax them and let them stretch out a bit.
At least that’s the way it feels. I makes a lot of difference in consistency. It also keeps my arms in front of my body and makes ball/clubface alignment at impact more consistent. I’ve heard this was the secret to Babe Ruth’s power.
Keep the left arm straight from takeaway to well past impact. If I bend the arm I lose consistent contact because the width of the arc of the swing changes. This is equally important for chips as well as full shots.
The takeaway has to be slow and controlled, especially the first 18 inches. It also has to be wide and not inside. Said another way, keep the distance between my left elbow and my torso the same through the entire backswing. I have a tendency to take the club ‘inside’, and that’s the kiss of death.
Don’t get too flat on the backswing, particularly with irons. Keep the club mainly above the ball and not too far behind it. When I get flat I start hitting the ball both left and right.
Keep the grip light so that the wrists can hinge (thumbs point towards the sky, back of the left hand and wrist are flat). When my swing starts to wobble, the tendency is to grip the club too tightly in order to manipulate it. Bad things happen when I do that and distance suffers considerably. It’s not as easy as it sounds to keep the left arm straight with the wrist hinge flexible and the grip light.
Keep the right leg bent slightly through contact. I have a bad habit of straightening my right leg on the backswing. I can’t tell you how much contact suffers when I do that.
Don’t let the lower body sway, particularly in the backswing. Make sure the hips resist the torso as I turn my back to the target. Sometimes in an attempt to keep the swing arc wide I end up swaying instead.
This is a big one for me; make sure the left wrist gets to vertical (not pointing at the sky or the ground) on the downswing by the time the club is waist high. When I don’t do this, my left wrist is likely to be tilted slightly toward the sky at contact. I don’t ‘cover’ the ball and the clubface at contact is open and pointing slightly up, just like my wrist. This is a sure formula for pushes, loss of power and worse.
Keep my hips and shoulders aligned at setup. I got into some poor setup habits this year and I ended up aiming right when I thought I was dead on. I also had my hips/knees going one way and my shoulders another.
I started practicing with two clubs at right angels on the practice tee to get myself back on track. Jim Furyk says he never hits a practice shot without an alignment aid because it’s the easiest thing in the world to start drifting. Jim, I’m now a believer!
IN GREENSIDE SAND:
Setup open to the target and swing across the body and not towards the target. If you hit shanks out of the sand, this is probably why. I’ve known this for a long time, it’s just mentally hard for me at times to swing one way when I want the ball to go another.
CHIPPING AND SHORT PITCHES:
Keep most of my weight on the left foot (I’m right handed). There’s no time for weight transfer in a short swing and this will help you from chunking them because your weight is behind the ball. It also helps insure a descending blow, which is what you need to get the ball up.
Unfortunately my putting was all over the place this year, sometimes great, sometimes horrible and too often not that good. I do have a couple of things to start with this winter. Keep the shoulders level. Find a consistent rhythm both back and through. Grip the club lightly! I know I don’t consistently hit the ball in the center of the putter so I’ll try to work on this by putting rubber bands on each side of the sweet spot to train myself to be more consistent.
If anyone else has some real gems you’ve uncovered for yourself during this past season, send them in – particularly for putting!