Kevin Na might be most remembered as the tour pro who couldn’t hit the ball. Witness several “whiffs” on tee shots a few years back, when he would get stuck on the downswing and pull up just before impact, purposely missing the ball. TV commentators called it the driver yips.
“I just wasn’t confident in my swing mechanics,” says the 32-year-old native of South Korea. Na knew something had to change, so he returned to teacher Don Brown in California, whom he started with at 15. Student and teacher went to work, and three years later, the results are impressive.
Na credits a combination of new learning and overcoming old habits. For instance, he was taught as a kid to swing out to right field, an outdated concept they’ve worked to erase. “He has the opposite problem from the average golfer [who cuts across the ball],” Brown says. “I simply want him to keep his arms following his body through the shot.”
Brown says Na’s work ethic has made the difference. He has eight second-place finishes to go with a victory at the Las Vegas event in 2011. After three top-3s in late 2015, Na is ready to win again. – Roger Schiffman
At address and starting back, Kevin Na is the epitome of balance. “Both side to side and front to back, he finds his centre,” says his teacher, Don Brown. “But I would like to see a little wider base.” Brown says amateurs should take note: “Kevin’s trunk and arms start together. That promotes consistency.”
Winding The Spring
Brown doesn’t use the term “turn” to describe body motion as he thinks it promotes the right shoulder coming over and around on the downswing. “Kevin winds his shoulders, then unwinds them,” Brown says. “His lower body is very stable, knees staying flexed. He has really refined his backswing.”
Quiet At The Top
Notice you can see the butt end of the grip, indicating that Na chokes down for control. “There’s a reason a baseball bat has a knob,” Brown says. “It’s so you don’t grab it at the end.” Brown notes that LPGA star Lydia Ko does the same. He says it keeps the club quiet at the top, no “bouncing” of the shaft or clubhead.
No Balking Here
Making a free-flowing downswing is no longer a problem for Na. “Notice his head position has changed from the previous photo,” Brown says. “He tilts back a little, which allows him to hit up on the ball.” Brown says he’d like Na’s right knee to stay back a little longer. “I want him to keep that stability with the lower body.”
Staying Behind It
At impact, the clubface is dead square. “That’s the most important thing in golf,” Brown says. “Kevin does it by moving his arms and body in sync and having his left wrist flat at impact.” For lower-body support, Brown says, “I like the back heel to stay close to the ground at least halfway through the downswing.”
All Together Now
According to Brown, most golfers would improve if they tried to swing the arms past the body. Na stays behind the ball and pushes up through impact, which boosts his swing speed. Brown says Na keeps his arms on his trunk better than he used to. “His arms follow his body through, and he’s picture-perfect at the finish.”
32 / 5-11 / 76kg
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