Sunday, January 23, 2011

Technique - The First Skill Set

Here are the Technique components that will need to be developed in a golfer who wants to become a great tournament player.  Each of these is a facet of the swing or of producing ball flight that will lead to consistency, control, and power.  We will talk a bit about the structure needed for each component.

  • stability
  • balance
  • swing plane
  • angles
  • impact position
  • sequence of motion
  • power/speed
  • flow
  • short game technique
  • distance and trajectory control
  • solid putting from routine to execution
Lorena with a very stable base allowing a full shoulder turn.
A golfer's lower body will be a major component of good stability in a golf swing.  The connection to the ground is important for a golfer and coupled with strength and balance, it will deliver a base from which to make powerful golf swings.  The lower bodies job is to allow the upper body to turn freely while quietly offering a bit of resistance to the turn.  This allows the muscles to stretch and prepare to fire.  Many people teach that the lower body should be quiet, but there are many great players who have a stable base that moves with the swing.  Here is a video of one that I love:  Jimenez  If you taught Jimenez to keep his feet flat and his legs still, he would lose his rhythm and flow.  He moves as gracefully as a dancer and loses no stability for his movement.  His lower body still provides a good base and good resistance to his upper body swing.  This is once again a warning to choose a coach who will allow you to be an individual.  If you have the feet of a dancer, don't allow someone to tell you to quiet them.  Use your strengths. 

The next factor of stability to look for is to have a strong frame and to use the frame and core to stay centered during the golf swing.  I have used this picture of Paul Casey before, but I love that a picture can exude strength and balance as this one does.
Good posture, wide shoulders at address and strong core muscles are the things that create the frame and keep it in place through rotation. 

The final area of stability that is important to teach is to support small muscle movements with big muscle movements.  Young players need a stable base and a strong frame to swing around, but they also need good angles and tension in the connections.  Here is what I mean by that.  Whenever you swing the club, your arms should work in relationship to your shoulders and chest.  If you swing the club without making a good turn or by lifting the club, your swing will be unstable.  Instead, the club is stable and on plane because the hands are firmly on the club, the arms stay in the shoulder joint, the shoulders rotate as the chest rotates and the biggest muscles in the body are supporting the smallest muscles in a chain of movements.  By saying there is tension in the connections, I mean that the wrists stay firm, the elbows stay firm and the arms don't lift away from the shoulders.  Here is a shot of Ernie Els perfectly supported at the top of his swing. 

Balance and stability seem to be very connected in a good golf swing.  When I talk about balance, I mean both the balance of the body as you rotate and swing and the balance of the club as you swing it on plane.  Balance is a skill that is developed and constantly improved.  When I was coaching I learned that fitness earned with balance was superior to using machines that supported the body through the lift.  Learning to balance a bar while squatting develops the balance and strengthens the body.

Balance in a golf swing is a matter of having a center at all times.  The center isn't static, but dynamic.  In martial arts, the "hara" is the center.  It is a point just below the belly button and signifies the energy of the artist as well as the center.  If you take a quick look at Ernie, you will see that he has moved to the right of the ball, but he still appears to be very centered.  If you had to put a fingertip on his center, I bet it would be a bit inside his belt buckle.  No matter what sport he was playing, he would be ready for action from this position.  Golf is just like any sport.  Great balance is a great asset.  Great balance doesn't mean a lack of movement, but instead means that movement happens gracefully.  Who do you picture when you picture balance?  An ice skater or perhaps a ballerina?  These performers know where there center is at all times and keep their bodies in line with that center.  Great balance in any athletic move including golf requires a center and strong lines supported by that center.  If a teacher wants you to be better balanced by moving less, you are on the wrong track.  The amount of movement is rarely the problem in poor balance.  Instead, it has to do with stability, having a dynamic center and using the lines of your body to support you as you move.  Tomorrow, we will talk about some of the other technique skills on the list.

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