I’m a single-digit handicapper, I drive the ball well, short irons are OK, short game is above average. When it comes to mid-irons and long irons, I seem to be fading all of my shots, that’s if I’m playing poorly. When I’m on, I usually have a draw. I have a good swing but sometimes it’s too long and I pass parallel. Can you give me a drill for this past-parallel flaw and advice on why I sometimes do not release my clubhead when I’m playing poorly? Jamie N., Seattle, WA
These are great things to work on. Look at Greg Norman, John Cook, and Tiger Woods (before he hooked up with Hank Haney)–they’re hitting the ball longer than ever, while shortening their backswings considerably over the past couple of years. And all the best players in the world release fully with their arms through impact.
As far as swinging past parallel, I think you should be less concerned with where your club goes at the top and more aware of your hands and arms. If you hear the terms “connection,” “one-piece takeaway,” or the “triangle,” these are all ways of talking about attaching the small parts (arms and hands) to the bigger parts (shoulders). Notice the connected triangle formed by the shoulders, arms, and hands of a good golfer at address, and how that triangle is there at impact, and you’ll see the importance of keeping your upper body together as much as possible during the backswing.
The goal is to turn your shoulders completely, let your wrists cock fully, yet still have the club short of parallel and your hands to the right of your head at the top. Done properly, that leads to a full, but paradoxically, shorter and more controlled backswing. Here are some drills to get the feel:
- From address, take the triangle formed by your shoulders, arms, and hands back in one piece. It won’t really, but feel like your sternum (breastbone) points directly at your hands all the way up to the top of your backswing.
- Keep your hands and arms in front of your upper body at the top. Don’t let them get behind or to the side. In other words, your hands should not be behind your head at the top, with your left arm laying across and against your chest.
- Make sure your arms and hands stop at the top exactly when your shoulders do. Everything stops at the same time.
Now, my guess is that you’re not releasing your arms properly because of tension. So when you’re playing poorly and you start cussing–it’s a well-known fact that swearing creates tension–you’re tighter grip and/or shoulders are causing you to block the ball out to the right.
For those of you who don’t know, releasing means that when your right arm is parallel to the ground after impact and halfway into the follow-through, you should see 3 things: 1) your right arm should be straight, 2) your forearms (near your watch band) should be touching or very close to touching, 3) the fingers and most of your left hand should be showing below your right. To get to this position, try these drills while staying as relaxed as possible:
- Roll your forearms counterclockwise on the way down to the ball. Turn them as soon as possible from the top. Think of turning your forearms and not your wrists–wrists can move in so many ways that even the best in the world try to leave them out of the picture on the downswing.
- Try to touch your forearms together by your watch band, when your right arm is parallel to the ground just after impact. Keep two things in mind with this one: a) if your forearms don’t touch that’s okay, as long as they’re close; b) if they do touch it’s only for a tiny fraction of a second–don’t try to hold them together into the follow-through.
- Imagine hitting a pin-pong ball left-handed, backhanded, and with topspin. Keep your upper left arm against your chest, and think of rotating your left forearm.