I’ll fix your slice: by maintaining softness and a slight bend in your left arm, you can literally throw your slice away – Cover Story – golf swing
I recently was examining swing sequences of some of the greatest players in history. Knowing that some of these players favored a draw as their standard shot while others preferred a fade, I sought to identify swing features within each group that would explain their respective ball-flight tendencies. Something profound emerged that I think will benefit all golfers, especially those cursed with a wicked slice.
What I found was this: Virtually every accomplished fader of the ball–from Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods–displayed a straight left arm at the top of the backswing. Conversely, those who preferred a draw–players like Arnold Palmer and Bobby Jones–maintained a slight bend at the elbow.
This discovery is great news for most slicers, as they tend to do by accident what intentional faders do on purpose. In this article I’ll explain why the dynamic works, and how a simple swing change will make a powerful draw your standard shot.
THIS IS THE LOOK THAT FAVORS A HOOK
Forget the adage, “keep your left arm straight.” By creating a slight bend at the elbow on the backswing, you are in position to swing the club down from the inside, creating speed with your arms and hands as opposed to making a ponderous move with your shoulders. The bend in your left arm allows you to “throw” the club down with tremendous speed. You also can square the clubface with little physical effort. The action is much like that of tennis players executing a two-hand backhand. By keeping the left arm soft and bent, they can achieve terrific speed and pinpoint control.
GO FOR AN EARLY SET
The trend on the PGA Tour these days is to create as much width as possible early in the backswing. Several top players, Tiger Woods included, extend their arms and club as far from the body as possible (below), to widen the swing arc and create maximum speed later in the swing.
What works for these fellows can be disastrous for the slicer. “Getting wide” promotes tension at the top of the backswing and requires extraordinary strength and flexibility to begin with. It causes you to start the downswing by rotating your right shoulder out and around in an over-the-top motion. Swing back naturally and go for an “early set.” Begin cocking your wrists and folding your right arm early in the backswing (right). That sets up an easy “throw”–and a right-to-left ball flight.
AS IN ALL SPORTS, THINK `TURN BEFORE YOU THROW’
The bent-left-arm method will work only if the rest of your body is in position to allow the arms to swing down freely. That means you need to make a full turn with your shoulders. Rotate the shoulders fully, and you’ll create enough space for the arms to swing down along the correct inside path.
A full turn is easier said than done, especially if you aren’t supple to begin with. Try this exercise when warming up: Grasp your left arm at the elbow with your right hand and turn as far as you can. When you reach your limit, pull your left arm farther back with your right hand. Do it gently at first so you don’t pull a muscle, then gradually increase the pressure. Once you’ve achieved a 90-degree shoulder turn, you’re good to go.
Don’t confine this drill to the golf course. Do it while watching TV or standing around the kitchen. Your flexibility will increase dramatically within a week.
HOW YOUR LEFT ARM INFLUENCES YOUR RIGHT
Although the left arm is the focal point of my technique, it’s important to note that the right arm plays a key role, too. And the right arm’s position at the top of the backswing, and its subsequent ability to release, is determined by how straight the left arm is at the top. The two arms work together.
Let me explain further. The straighter you keep the left arm, the less your right arm bends at the elbow. Referring again to Tiger Woods (a fader, remember), because his left arm is so straight at the top, his right arm is not bent much at the elbow. That means less of a “throwing” action on the downswing, and a greater chance of hitting the ball from left to right–a slice.
What you, the slicer, wants is greater bend in the left arm at the top. That creates a more dramatic bend in the right elbow, and a greater ability to “throw” the arms and club down from the inside. Think of a baseball pitcher: Before he releases the ball, his throwing arm is bent a great deal at the elbow. That’s closer to what you want in your right arm.
MASTER THIS DRILL, AND YOU’LL PRODUCE A DRAW ON DEMAND
The stage is set, and you’re ready to kiss that banana ball good-bye forever. From the top, simply shift your weight to the left and then throw your arms and club down into the back of the ball, forgetting about your shoulders entirely. The first move down should be relatively slow and relaxed. Don’t force the issue. Through impact, let the clubhead track straight down the target line and let the momentum of your arms pull your shoulders into a full, relaxed follow-through.
The anti-slice drill pictured above will help you tie the whole package together. Start by teeing a ball for a full driver shot. Next, place a second tee in the ground six inches in front of the ball you’ve teed. Now take a second ball in your right hand and throw it at the forward tee. What happens? The right arm straightens because of the natural throwing action, and if I were holding the club with both hands, my left arm would straighten, too. And obviously, I’d be “throwing” the clubhead straight down the target line, producing a long, strong draw.
RELATED ARTICLE: I TRIED IT: `It was easy to see I was releasing the club too early.’
I thought it would be really simple to throw the ball down and hit the other tee with it, but it was hard to do. The first five or six I threw hit way behind, so it was easy to see that I was releasing the club too early. Once I got the feel of it, I could tell that the drill helped me keep my hands out in front of my body. My arms felt like they weren’t outracing by body. The drill helped me hit a pretty little draw.
Miller’s comments: To make your new swing click even faster, make some practice swings to impact, then freeze and note the position of the clubshaft and clubface. The shaft should be at a 90-degree (perpendicular) angle to the horizon, and the clubface should be square or slightly closed. This will ingrain the sensation of the impact conditions that will produce a draw every time.
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