More than anything else, players come to my golf schools wanting to learn one thing: how to hit the ball farther. I tell them they have to “plug their power leaks.” On the following pages, I’ll focus on three areas where you probably lose power in your hands, in your right arm and in your knees – and I’ll show you how to turn off those leaks and turn on at least 10 more yards of power off the tee.
To make the most of your 10 minutes, we suggest you read this article first, stretch and warm up ahead of time and relax. Soon you’ll be hitting the ball farther.
1. They lead the race for power
Imagine a line extending straight up from the ball. Your hands and the clubhead are in a race to that line. To hit with power, your hands must win that race.
An ideal alignment at impact occurs when the left arm and the clubshaft form a straight line — a “line of compression.” This assures that your clubhead is still accelerating into the impact zone. Ideally, your left wrist is flat or even slightly bowed at impact. Conversely, when the clubhead wins the race to the ball (“clubhead throwaway” or “casting“), you lose power. Here the left wrist is bent at impact and the clubhead is actually slowing down. This is the greatest power leak of all.
2. The slow-motion drill:
Check your hand positions from the top of your backswing, start forward in super slow motion. Make sure your clubhead lags behind as your hands drop. Stop halfway down. Here your hands should be near the invisible vertical line drawn up from the golf ball, while the clubshaft is still parallel to the ground, the wrists fully cocked. At impact, the hands should lead or be even with the clubhead. Then release and complete your finish, still in slow motion. Repeat 10 times.
1. Wide takeaway for power
The action of your right arm is crucial to long driving. In fact, a sidearm throw shows exactly how your arm should work in golf, and how it must follow your body in the forward swing. First, your arm needs to be relaxed at address. In throwing, the arm swings back in a wide arc, as the front leg steps toward the target. In golf, pull the club away with the right arm for a wide arc and a strong position at the top, and let your weight shift to the front leg just before the arm reaches the top. You’ll feel your arm being pulled forward. Right elbow leads the hand down
The right arm is being pulled – it’s not independently pulling. It works like a whip. In both the throw and the swing, the right elbow leads the hand for much of the time. On the downswing, the right arm drops and narrows, coming near the body, the right elbow moving in front of the right hip. Your body must be the leader. The proper chain reaction is (1) shift your weight, (2) rotate your hips and (3) release your hands and arms, with your arms always a step behind your body. The right arm will stay bent until just before impact.
2. Arm straightens into impact
It requires patience to allow your body to lead the forward swing. Many players want to hit at the ball with their hands and arms from the very top of the swing. But a “power move into impact” requires that you wait. In both the throw and the swing, it’s only after the weight has shifted and the hips have rotated that the right elbow extends and the relaxed wrists and hands release the thrown ball or the swung clubhead toward the target. The ball will explode off the club after you’ve created this right-arm “whip.”
3. Relax and release
If you throw a ball sidearm, straight down the fairway, your right arm will make the perfect move to hit the golf ball. You can even practice throwing a club down the fairway – an exercise I sometimes do with professional players. One LPGA pro threw the club up and behind her head the first time she tried it, so be careful! After she improved her club-throwing, she started hitting the ball longer. In the finish of both a good throw and a good swing, your weight will be on your left leg, your right shoulder closer to the target than your left.
1. Keep your base strong and flexed
Powerful driving begins from the ground up. Like other world-class athletes (see Pete Sampras’ forehand or Ken Griffey Jr.’s home-run swing), top golfers generate power by making a huge shoulder coil above a braced lower body (photo left). If you have weak, loose or overactive knee action, you’ll have slack in your coil – a major power leak.
Proper knee action starts with your knees slightly braced inward at address. During the backswing, your back knee stays flexed and the back leg accepts the weight shift. Don’t feel your weight on the outside of your leg, but right over it. Minimize front knee action, so your hips can’t over-rotate on the backswing. Controlled hip turn plus big shoulder turn equals a powerful coil — and at least 10 more yards.
2. Retain flex, minimize knee action
A common mistake is shown in the small photo above:
The left knee points out and behind the ball early in the swing, the left heel elevating too far and too soon. This activates excessive hip turn, and you twist instead of coil, killing power. Often in this position, the right knee straightens, as well, causing a reverse hip pivot and improper weight shift — another power killer. What you want to do, instead, is keep your back knee firm but flexed and limit your front knee action in order to limit hip turn. Remember: Knees control hips. And a big shoulder turn over a limited hip turn adds up to a powerful position at the top. Left knee doesn’t cross the shaft
This is one of the most common power leaks: Both knees slide away from the target on the backswing (small photo above). This makes your weight shift to the outside of your back foot, so your back leg cannot form the brace you need to coil against. As a result, there is no differentiation between your hip turn and shoulder turn to create torque.
A good drill to fix this problem is to place a club on the ground as shown above. Without a club in your hands, make an imaginary swing. At the top of the backswing, your left knee should still be in front of the club, not behind it, and your shoulders should far outturn your hips — the “X Factor” that is a major secret of power.
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