Hit Your Driver Straighter Than Ever!
I take a unique grip and make a shorter backswing than most of the guys on Tour. Follow my lead and you'll enjoy the same payoff: more fairways and a lot more birdie chances.
By Anthony Kim, Ryder Cup Star
As you can guess, the Ryder Cup was a breakthrough event for me, but I really didn't do anything special. Regardless of whom I was playing against or the format of the match, I focused on making the same swing that got me to Valhalla in the first place moves I beat into my muscle memory at an early age on the ranges of Southern California. I've always been a bit smaller than my competitors, so my swing emphasizes squeezing as many yards out of my driver as possible. But that's just half the story: my primary concern is accuracy it's not very often you make birdie from the rough. Copy my accuracy keys on the following pages (and heed the advice provided by my coach, Adam Schriber) and you'll hit drives that consistently find the fairway.
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Make the longest club in your bag shorter for more control
The most obvious quirk in my technique is that I choke way up on the grip about two full inches. And I choke up with every club in the bag. I started doing this out of necessity: I have a short torso and long arms, and if I took a "normal" grip I'd be too far away from the ball. Over the years, however, I noticed that the choke gave me more control especially with the driver and I've never looked back.
SHORTER IS BETTER
Since the choke automatically makes the club shorter, I sacrifice some distance. But it's less than you think 10 yards at the most (and I still average 300 yards off the tee). So I have to hit 7-iron into the green instead of an 8-iron. Big deal. I'd take a longer iron from the fairway than a shorter one from the rough any day. You saw the benefits of this strategy during the Ryder Cup. The guys who consistently hit fairways and greens were the ones who won points for their side. When you're accurate, your opponent feels it.
MY COACH, ADAM SCHRIBER, SAYS: "When I first started working with Anthony, he had already worked the choke into his grip. And I've seen no reason to change it. His Smash Factor (ball speed over clubhead speed) is excellent. You can try using it for more control on tight driving holes, but it's also a good way to hit in-between shots. Take three clubs onto a par 3 and adjust for distance by choking down, not by changing clubs. It's a great way to increase your imagination and add shots to your arsenal."
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One more thing on my choke grip: it holds up well under pressure. That extra bit of control works great when the stakes begin to rise, like when you're in the final pairing on Sunday. Anyone can hit great shots on the range. The key to winning is hitting them when the pressure peaks, and the choke is a good way to make sure you don't fold underneath it.
MY GRIP: Choking down gives me control and confidence.
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NORMAL GRIP: Gripping at the end of the handle works, but today's clubs are long enough that you don't have to.
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A shorter backswing will keep you on the short grass
Whenever I'm playing in a pro-am, I'm amazed at the length of most amateurs' swings it's like they've spent three months at the John Daly School of Driving. Over-swinging is a death move for me. I can get away with swinging the club to parallel and beyond from time to time, but on Tour, time to time means a string of missed cuts.
I'm more comfortable making a three-quarter backswing, with my hands stopping at shoulder height and my club way short of parallel. I knew from an early age that I wouldn't be able to generate power with my arms alone on account of my size, so I don't swing them back as far. Instead, I focus on turning my upper body as much as possible and keeping my legs stable, like I'm holding my hips back. So even though my arm swing is short, I've built up resistance between my upper and lower body, and that's where my swing power comes from.
ADAM SCHRIBER SAYS: "The best backswing for you is the one that sets up your best downswing. Anthony has incredible torsional flexibility, and he takes advantage of it by resisting with his legs and turning his shoulders more than his hips. This stretches his torso muscles, a move that can be a big power source for anyone's swing."
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MY BIG MISS
I'm very flexible, which is good because it allows me to turn my upper body without turning my hips to create energy. But it also makes it easy for me to overturn. When you see me on the course in this position, I'm not playing my best.
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I could make a bigger backswing, but it wouldn't give me any extra power. What's important is that I create coil (notice how far my shoulders have turned compared to my hips).
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Here's how you can rip it out there with a choked grip and a short backswing
When you swing down from the top using only your arms, it's easy to get off plane. The secret to swinging on plane and with power is in your legs. I start my downswing with my lower body, which pulls my arms into action. You can see how I squat from the top (notice how my rear end "sits down" as I begin my downswing in the sequence at right). I feel like I'm pushing my body into the ground, making a strong connection between my feet and the turf. As I do this, my arms fall naturally, with my left arm hanging close to my chest.
SIT AND SPIN
After sitting down, I turn as fast as I can through impact, using the ground as leverage and getting my weight over my left foot. It's a burst of energy at the bottom of my swing, which is why when I lift weights I only do "explosion" exercises, not high-repetition sets. You only need to be fast through impact.
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AT THE TOP: I'm coiled and in control. Then, to start my downswing...
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...I literally push into the ground. Notice the "squat" look to my lower body as I start down. This connects me to the ground so I can use it for extra leverage and power.
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ADAM SCHRIBER SAYS: "Anthony does an excellent job of 'using the deck,' or interacting with the ground, to create leverage in his downswing. It's a difficult concept to teach, but a good way to feel it is to make your backswing and downswing while standing on an unstable surface, like two balance discs (available at most golf stores). You'll learn pretty quickly how to train your lower body to use the ground for leverage, stability and power like Anthony does."
HIP ACTION I hold my hips back on my backswing, but turn them loose on my downswing. BALANCE POINT My left foot stays in contact with the turf. It's the center-point of my swing through impact.
BALANCE POINT My left foot stays in control with the turf. It's the centerpoint of my swing through impact.
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