Use these five drills to improve your consistency.
I have this saying: the more you practise the good habits, the more the bad habits die. It’s how I trained growing up, and it’s a big reason why I won four consecutive Minnesota State High School Golf Championships and went on to play professionally on the LPGA’s Symetra and Canadian tours. I’d like to share some of those good practice habits with you so that your consistency will improve. On the following pages, I’ll walk you through five drills that build on several of the most important fundamentals in golf – things like how to take the clubface back square and how to make the proper pivot. I’ve had great success with these drills as a coach, and I promise that if you work them into your practice routine, your ball-striking will get better. Note: if the drill calls for you to hit shots, get the hang of it with a pitching wedge before moving on to longer clubs. – with Dave Allen
Propel your swing with a good pivot
What’s a pregnant woman like me doing throwing a medicine ball [above]? Don’t worry, it was fairly light. I use it to train my students to make the proper pivot and forward motion needed for a repeatable swing. Too many golfers get fixated on the ball, instead of focusing on the target, and get stuck on their back foot too long. Instead, think, Coil back, clear and toss through.
If you have access to a medicine ball, give this drill a shot: start by getting in your normal golf posture while holding the ball in front of your stomach. Then coil back and turn through, throwing the ball against a wall or to a partner. You should have the feeling that your hips and torso are rotating towards the target and that your arms are extending as you release the ball. The forward momentum of the toss should carry you into a full finish.
Another exercise to put more athleticism and efficiency in your motion is to make some medium-length swings using your core muscles to power the movement. End each swing with the club pointed toe up and the grip pointed at your baby [photo, previous page]. Sorry, pregnancy humour. This will help keep your club and body connected throughout the swing, improving your path and ability to square the clubface. Engage your core and try to add more speed and momentum with each pass while keeping the length of the swing concise.
Coil like a spring
The length of your backswing is not nearly as important as feeling fully wound. The more you’re able to coil your body while remaining in a stable posture, the more momentum and clubhead speed you can generate on the downswing. In addition to having a stronger wind-up, your hands and arms will be more behind your torso and in a better position to correctly deliver the club to the ball on a path inside the target line.
To get what being “fully coiled” feels like, take your normal stance and lay a club down on the ground midway between your heels. Then place your pitching wedge across your upper chest in line with your shoulders. Now mimic a backswing, turning your shoulders in posture until your back faces the target and the grip end of the wedge points to the club on the ground. Bonus points if you can get it past the club like I am here [below].
What you should feel is that the muscles across your back are really stretched and the trail hip and glute are flexed. This drill will help you hone the feeling of a powerful, complete backswing. It’s really beneficial to go back to this drill or to think about it in those nervous moments on the course when tension starts to shorten your swing.
Get control of the face
One of the most common flaws I see among amateurs occurs on the takeaway – they roll the club to the inside and fan the face open, a bad position that usually leads to crooked shots.
To take the club back with the face in a much better position to hit the ball straight, try this drill: swing back with your pitching wedge until the shaft is parallel to the ground. Now check the position of the clubface like I am here [left]. What you want to see is that the angle of the clubface matches your spine angle, meaning it should be tilted slightly towards the ground as if looking at the ball.
This slightly closed look puts the club in position to strike the ball with a square face. You won’t have to make any hectic compensations during the downswing to make that happen. To groove this move, check the clubface on a rehearsal swing when the shaft is parallel to the ground, and then try to recreate that position as you hit a short wedge shot. Then keep repeating this two-step process until it feels automatic.
Use your feet to improve flexibility
So many of the golfers I teach, particularly senior men and women and those who have desk jobs, have limited range of motion in their pelvis. That can become a major power leak if you don’t make adjustments.
An easy way to create more mobility in the pelvis and train a better motion is to make some half-swings with your pitching wedge, picking up your lead heel on the backswing and trail heel on the downswing [right]. You might recall that legends such as Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan would lift their lead heel to facilitate a greater turn off the ball. Bubba Watson does it, too. It’s an effective way to regain flexibility lost by time or inactivity. And lifting the trail heel helps encourage a more natural transition on the downswing. It helps you plant your front heel back down and properly shift into your lead leg, so you can rotate your body around it and rip the ball.
Baby on board
Golf is a great way to stay active while pregnant. My mum played well into her pregnancy with me, and at the time these photos were taken last year, I was less than four months away from giving birth and still playing once or twice a week. Being pregnant does create swing challenges, however. Besides dealing with the baby bump, there is more of the hormone relaxin present in the body, which causes muscles to become looser, especially around the pelvis. As a result, the hips have a tendency to sway or slide – a common amateur problem that makes it hard to hit solid shots.
This drill can help: start in your golf posture with your hands dangling and facing each other a few inches apart. Keeping your lead hand still, stretch your trail hand and hip up and back as far as you can while staying in a balanced posture [above]. This is similar to the feeling of stability you want as you take the club back.
Detlefsen Dahl, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, is at the West Bay Club in Estero, Florida.
Photographs by Jensen Larson