Ask the Top 100: Shorten your backswing
Help me, T.J.! I cannot for the life of me stop taking the
club back too far and breaking my wrists. Any drills or solutions for
this near-fatal malady?Dave B., Charlotte, NC
Dear Dave,Here's a question for you: Do you have a friend with a red noodle? I know that sounds personal but here's why I ask.
I'll bet it's not your wrists that are the problem - you're most
likely bending your right elbow too much at the top of your swing. When
you let it fold past 90 degrees your hands get too close to your head,
and in golf, your hands should only get close to your head when you put your hat on!
So back to your friend with a noodle -- the kind kids float around on
in the pool. Stick a long shaft into it and have your friend stand
facing you chest-to-chest with the noodle positioned so that you'll hit
it if you overswing at the top. Take a few test runs in slow motion to
cement the teamwork. If you hit the noodle -- stop -- go back to your
address, and do it again. Soon you'll condition yourself not to
over-fold your trail elbow.
You can speed up the process by adding one more element -- instruct
your friend to whack you upside the
head with the noodle every time you mess up. Red is a good color because it doesn't show the
blood. Dear T.J.,What should be my first move starting down from the top? Is it lowering body or should I drop my hands first? Jake M., San Jose, Calif. Hey Jake,Actually, the answer is both. During the swing, some things must happen at the same time, while others happen one after the other -- you should take care not to confuse the two. In this case the two moves happen together, which is why so many players struggle to get it right starting down. Here's a tip to work on: Your hands drop as the pressure moves to your front hip. But note that the hip turn can't start the downswing or you'll spin out. Instead, start your downswing with a shift without turning.
Your hip is a ball-and-socket joint formed by a meeting of the thigh bone and the pelvis and it does its thing (rotation) when pressure is placed in the joint. In the golf swing this creates an axis of rotation. The rule is that you start the downswing by shifting "into" your front hip. There are not many non-negotiables in this game, but one is to position your weight on your front side coming to the ball.
Wait until you're "in" your front hip and your hands have slotted to make the majority of your chest/hip turn. The poor player plays from high-to-low while the good player plays from low-to-high. This means the good player saves the majority of his body rotation until after the hands drop low while poor players turn much too early, keeping their hands high and unslotted. Hey T.J.,I am a 10-handicap and generally am pretty happy with my game. My big trouble has always been the driver. I cannot consistently hit it straight. I think I swing down too steep and too fast. As a result I hit down on the driver and it takes a divot in front of my ball. The result is that I cannot follow through as my club grounds out. This results in massive power loss and a sliced drive. Any suggestions would be appreciated.James C., Chatham, Ontario OK, James, a review of this question is in order: you're a happy 10 who hits his driver straight, but so fat he can't follow through? You must draw a crowd off the first tee -- a full power driver that travels a total of about seven yards -- with a slice. How's your relationship with the superintendent?
Here's the quick solution -- and it better be quick before you go for your rotator-cuff surgery.
Let me introduce the concept that from the top of the swing the clubhead doesn't swing directly down to the ball but moves in the opposite direction -- away from the ball. This away-not-down concept is not only one of the most counterintuitive moves in the swing but also one of the most crucial. Who would have thought that you start the downswing by swinging in the opposite direction from where you want to go?
All good players do the "away" part first from the top of the swing while almost all bad players do the "down" first. The former produces a shallow, indirect route to the ball while the latter produces a steep, direct route.
So you don't swing up on the ball and you don't swing down on it - you swing "away from it."
Here's an "away" drill:Using just one-third power actually let the club fly out of your hand when your left arm is halfway way down so that if you were aiming east, the club would fly west until it hits the ground. Over-the-toppers such as yourself fly the club south toward the target line.
(Note: Make sure you have a lot of room in the backyard for this one.) Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher T. J. Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. He is one of the most published professionals in the world. You can learn more about T.J. at www.tjtomasi.com