To speed up your improvement, try practicing in slow motion

April 3, 2013

While speaking to a corporate group recently, I stumbled over the word philanthropist when describing my mentor, Mr. Arnold Palmer. Actually, butchered might be a better word. To deliver it cleanly, I needed to slow down, start again, and break apart the word into individual syllables.

The process of learning any kind of complex motor skill — especially the golf swing — is best achieved through feeling it out, like syllables of a word in slow-motion rehearsal. In my recently released book Mentored by the King, I reference The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, in which Coyle shares one of the common denominators found in every training hotbed: super slow-motion practice.

He recommends viewing a YouTube video clip featuring the legendary Ben Hogan practicing in "Super-Slow-Motion." If you have not yet seen this, check it out. You will swear the film is running in slow motion. Rest assured, the waves rolling onto the shore in the background verify the clip's authenticity. Hogan's daily practice routine consisted of this form of deliberate "chunking" as he programmed his mind and body to move precisely. Conditioned in his new habit, he could then pour on the speed while remaining in full control.

Tour pros understand the great value of doing isolated drills for skill development. However, most amateurs are more interested in hitting balls in full-swing speed and with a head swimming with ever-changing swing thoughts. To use the great wisdom taught to me by Mr. Palmer, "Perfect your swing slow and short before attempting to go fast and long."

Scenario 1

Jenn Hong is an LPGA pro whom I began working with this season. She has been trying to improve her impact position. Her fault is that she has the tendency to release the clubhead early and add loft at impact. This flaw can cause great difficulty with iron play and when driving into the wind. I suggested a need to improve her leg action to create ground reactive force that will in turn establish more lag into the delivery position.

I gave Jenn an isolated slow-motion drill to establish the feelings. She diligently went to work drilling with the intent of rewiring her paradigm.



The photos below compare her before and after, just 30 minutes into doing the drills. Her ability to make this quick improvement is because she slowed down so that she could feel the difference between her new and old ways. Once she conducted the drill a couple times, she then tried the new feel as seen below. What the drills have begun to change is seen in the longer lag of the club and the improved spine-angle relationship to hip rotation.

Before the drills, Jenn was what we call a high-right-side drifter. This causes several impact inconsistencies. Notice in the "after" comparison below how her shoulders and arms are in better alignment to her foot-line at impact due greatly to improved footwork, leg action and lower center of gravity through impact. Jenn's left knee remaining flexed and outside of her left hip allows the right hip to lower into a perpendicular position with the spine angle improving rotation and consistency at impact, as seen on the right.



Scenario 2

Just recently I began coaching a 9-year-old girl named Kou Xin who for the past year was training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. My first impression of her swing was "Wow!", as her technique was one of the most disciplined swings that I have seen. Nearly every shot she hit was solid and on line.

I asked her to share with me some of the training drills that she has been using on a regular basis. She said, "Before I can hit a ball with full motion I must do 10 swings like this." She then demonstrate a six-position slow-motion swing. Each time she would shift to the next position, announcing, "One," then "Two," and so on, until arriving at a perfectly balanced six position. She then did the follow-up drill of swinging super slow without stopping, striking a ball solidly for 10 more reps. Then it was time to turn on the speed with a well balance and synchronized motion. [Watch Xin's drill here.]

I have always been a big believer in developing the swing in sections with slow speed before turning up the speed, but watching Xin hit balls cleanly and precisely off the sweet-spot every time certainly validates the importance of training correctly over just hitting balls. I hope you learned from this lesson that when you slow down, you also calm down. And when you calm down, you will find that things you want to happen come much faster and easier than ever before. The goal should be to work slow and short before attempting to go fast and far.

Until next time, happy golfing!